Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
This week we're looking at just some of the people who have stepped up and carried the heavy burden that comes with being Batman, and how that mantle comes with a responsibility and a level of expectation that not everyone can live up to.
Batman of the 31st Century (Brane Taylor)
Created by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang & Charles Paris (Batman #67)
In the year 3051, Brane Taylor and his nephew took on the mantle of Batman and Robin, inspired by archival footage of the Dynamic Duo from the 20th century. However, when Robin broke his ankle, Brane went back in time to recruit Dick Grayson to be his partner to help defeat the evil villain Yerxa.
Brane Taylor returned to take Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman following an accident that left Wayne with a broken arm. In order to throw off any suspicion, Taylor took Wayne’s place as the Batman of the 20th century to investigate a case already underway and almost outed himself as an imposter to Vicki Vale before Bruce Wayne could return to the role.
Brane Taylor has only appeared in small snippets of visions of the future since then. He was seen working alongside Robin, Superwoman and Kent Shakespeare to help defeat the time-travelling villain Epoch, and in a more grim possible future, Brane Taylor and Robin were the only resistance to the robot hordes of Fura in a Mad Max-style Gotham City.
Azrael (Jean Paul Valley)
Created by Dennis O'Neil & Joe Quesada (Batman: Sword of Azrael #1)
Jean-Paul Valley was raised unaware of his destiny in the religious cult The Order of St. Dumas from birth, and trained via subconscious conditioning to one day take up the mantle of Azrael. When his father died, he passed on the identity to his son who travelled to Switzerland to meet with The Order of St. Dumas, and while there ended up teaming with Batman.
Azrael became a member of the Batman family and when Bruce Wayne’s back was broken by Bane, he asked Jean-Paul to take over as Gotham’s Batman. While initially a successful and effective replacement, his conditioning led him to become more erratic, aggressive and violent, both to criminals and supposed allies.
Jean-Paul Valley crossed the line when he chose to let the supervillain Abbatoir fall to his death, and Bruce Wayne returned to Gotham to force Valley out of the role. By this point, Valley’s conditioning had taken over his mind, and he believed himself to be the superior and permanent Batman, but Wayne was able to coax out the true Jean-Paul’s personality and save the hero.
Following this, he returned to his identity as Azrael and helped Gotham through the “No Man’s Land” crisis, before establishing a base of operations in the nearby village of Ossaville. Despite his efforts to be a hero, Azrael was killed in a fight with his two fiercest enemies, Biis and Scratch, and although his body was never recovered it did turn up animated by a Black Lantern ring during Blackest Night.
Nightwing (Dick Grayson)
Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson & Bob Kane (Detective Comics #38)
After ousting Azrael as Batman, Bruce Wayne asked his first ward Dick Grayson to take the mantle for a short period of time. It was during this brief initial stint as Batman that Grayson was able to confront his own issues with the villain Two-Face, and became much closer with the then-current Robin, Tim Drake.
Grayson took over as Batman again following Batman’s apparent death at the hands of Darkseid’s Omega Effect, and took Bruce’s son Damian on as the new Robin. Together they fought new and colorful villains such as Professor Pyg and The Flamingo, and although their relationship was initially rocky they developed a great respect for one another.
It was eventually discovered, thanks to the investigative work of Tim Drake, that Bruce Wayne was not dead, but rather lost in time. The Justice League and the Time Masters rescued Wayne, who returned to Gotham to help his sons in their final battle against Dr. Hurt, who was actually Bruce’s satan-worshipping ancestor Thomas Wayne.
Upon Bruce Wayne’s return, Dick Grayson stayed on as the Batman of Gotham City as Wayne took the franchise global as part of Batman Incorporated. He did eventually return to the Nightwing identity, but still fills in on occasions when Bruce Wayne and Batman need to be in the same room.
Batman of the 853rd Century (Identity Unknown)
Created by Grant Morrison & Val Semeiks (JLA #23)
In the year 85,265, Pluto has been converted into a prison planet for the Galaxy’s most dangerous criminals, but a rebellion saw the criminal Xauron rise to power and slaughter thousands of the planet’s guards, as well as their spouses, in front of their children. One of these children vowed to never let such a tragedy happen again and, inspired by the legends of the Batman of the 20th century, he began training to take on the symbol of fear and justice.
He travelled the galaxy to learn and train, just as his predecessor had in their own way, and returned to Pluto with his sidekick, Robin The Toy Wonder. Batman became the de factor warden of Pluto and was invited to join Justice Legion Alpha, the galaxy’s premier superhero team.
Along with the JLA, Batman travelled back to the late 20th century to invite that era’s Justice League of America to join them in a celebration of heroism in the future. However, Starman of the Justice Legion betrayed the team, leaving both JLAs stranded in the wrong timeline.
The future Batman worked with his present-day counterpart in the Batcave to solve the crisis at hand, and upon their victory both teams traveled to the future to celebrate the return of Superman Prime from the heart of the sun and the resurrection of Krypton.
Batman Beyond (Terry McGinnis)
Created by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm (Batman Beyond S01E01)
Terry McGinnis took over the role of Batman in the near future, years after Bruce Wayne’s own retirement due to old age and poor health. Although inititially reluctant to train a new Batman, Bruce Wayne took Terry on as an apprentice and gave him his training in the field, constantly in contact from the Batcave.
Terry worked alongside Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Barbara Gordon, and his more analytically minded friend Max to take down new and unique criminals such as Blight, Curaré, and Ten. He also later joined the Justice League alongside Static, Warhawk, and an aged Superman.
When The Joker mysteriously returned to Gotham without seemingly having aged a day, Terry discovered that the villain was actually Tim Drake, the former Robin. As Robin, Drake had been kidnapped and brainwashed by The Joker into his own sidekick, and although rescued, implanted with a microchip that would cause the adult Drake to undergo a transformation into The Clown Prince of Crime.
It was later discovered that Terry McGinnis was — through very complicated means — Bruce Wayne’s son. Amanda Waller decided that the world would always need a Batman, and used nanotechnology to overwrite Terry’s father’s DNA with that of Bruce Wayne, so that any child would be biologically Bruce’s.
The Three Ghosts of Batman
Created by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert (Batman #655)
Following Batman’s time in an isolation room as part of an experiment that saw him imagine the death of Robin, Doctor Simon Hurt attempted to recreate Batman in three different ways. Years later, Bruce Wayne forgot all about the experiment until the men Hurt trained to take his place began showing up.
All police officers recruited into the scheme, the first was Officer Josef Muller, who was deemed an unsuccessful replacement and abandoned. One day, seemingly out of the blue, Muller showed up in a Batman costume, beat The Joker half to death, and shot the criminal in the face before being taken down by Batman.
The second recruit was known only as Branca, and had been injected with daily doses of Monster Serum and Venom, eventually becoming a hulking madman. He wore a combination Bane/Batman suit and was kept placated with a regular stream of television, fast food and prostitutes. Although Branca defeated Batman in their first clash, he was taken down by the combined efforts of Batman and Robin.
The third recruit was selected after Hurt realised that trauma was a driving factor, so he had Michael Lane’s entire family killed by satanists. Lane became a devil inspired version of Batman, and almost defeated The Caped Crusader when he gave Batman a heart attack and took him prisoner. Lane was eventually rehabilitated and became the new Azrael, an ally of Batman.
Robin (Damian Wayne)
Created by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert (Batman #655)
In a possible future, Dick Grayson was killed by The Joker, and in response, Damian returned to the lethal methods of crimefighting he was trained in by the League of Assassins. This caused him to clash with his father Bruce Wayne, and saw Damian exiled from the Batcave, until he learned the value of justice over vengeance and became the new Batman.
As Batman, Damian fought against a new breed of supervillains, including Professor Pyg and Jackanapes — an intelligent gorilla in a clown costume raised by The Joker — but maintained an antagonistic if not outright hostile relationship with GCPD Commissioner, Barbara Gordon.
One of his fiercest villains, 2-Face-2, stole The Joker’s joke book and rained down Joker Venom on the people of Gotham, turning them rabid. Batman defeated 2-Face-2, rescued his hostage, a baby named Terry McGinnis, injected him with an apparent antidote for Joker Venom and took off to Arkham Asylum, the last same place in the city.
Unable to control the outbreak in Gotham City, The President (under advice from Doctor Hurt) launched a nuclear weapon that killed everyone inside the quarantine, including Damian. This grim vision of the future is witnessed by Bruce Wayne on his jaunt through time, causing him to attempt to bench Damian in the present, which ultimately led to his rebellion and death at the hands of The Heretic.
Commissioner James Gordon
Created by Bill Finger & Bob Kane (Detective Comics #27)
Following the apparent death of Batman in a battle with The Joker deep underground Gotham, Wayne Enterprise’s rivals Powers International worked with the Gotham City Police Department to create a new Batman that works alongside the police. Although multiple healthy young recruits auditioned, the responsibility ultimately fell to the forty-year-old former marine with a smoking habit, James Gordon.
The former Commissioner was hesitant to take the role, but was augmented by a power suit nicknamed “Rookie” which could be controlled from inside or remotely by a team at Powers HQ. As Batman, Jim Gordon had frequent clashes with heroes that had strong relationships with the previous Batman, including Superman and Jim’s own daughter Batgirl.
Jim Gordon’s fiercest challenge came in the form of Mr. Bloom, an anarchic supervillain who spread his seeds throughout Gotham to grant regular people the power to rise up and take the power back. In their final conflict, Bloom was defeated by the combined efforts of Jim Gordon and a returned Bruce Wayne, who had previously forgotten all about his time as Batman and was living a peaceful life with his first love, Julie Madison.