The Dark Knight Retires: Gotham Knights and 12 Other Times Where We See a World Without Batman


As long as Gotham City stands, Batman will always be there keeping the forces of darkness at bay. Or not? Gotham Knights presents a version of the DC Universe in which Batman appears to have died, leaving his former companions to continue their war on crime.

Nevertheless, this is not the first DC story that shows us a world without Batman. Over the years there have been many comics, shows, and movies that have explored what happens when Bruce Wayne is killed in action or just stops being Batman. Here are the most important ones every Bat-fan should know about!

Batman Tierra-2

In the classic DC multiverse, Earth-2 is home to the original Golden Age versions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, as well as their children. In this world, Batman marries Catwoman and quits the superhero business, leaving an adult Dick Grayson to continue the fight. Bruce and Selina’s daughter, Helena, becomes the Slayer, and Bruce ends up meeting his end in a battle to the death against a magically empowered criminal named Bill Jensen.

DC later introduced a new version of Earth-2 as part of the New 52 relaunch. In this world, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman sacrifice their lives to protect the planet from Darkseid’s forces. The mantle of Batman passes first to Bruce’s estranged father, Thomas, and then to Dick Grayson.

The Dark Knight Rises

There’s probably no more iconic take on the “Retired Batman” trope than Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Rises. In this universe, the heroes of the Justice League are middle-aged and forced into retirement by the American government. But even at 60, Bruce can’t spend long wallowing in alcohol-fueled misery before resuming his war on crime. Throughout history, Batman faces Two-Face and Joker one last time, destroys the Mutant Gang and recruits a new Robin named Carrie Kelley. Bats even manages to put up a decent fight against the Man of Steel before faking his own death.

Miller has continued this saga through various spin-offs and sequels.

The Fall of the Bat (Batman: Knightfall)

DC made headlines in 1992 by taking down the Man of Steel in the pages of Superman #75. It was inevitable that they would apply the same formula to the Batman franchise. The 1993 Knightfall crossover pitted Batman against Bane, a villain every bit as cunning and determined as the Dark Knight himself. After systematically wearing down his enemy, Bane defeats Batman in single combat and breaks his back.

However, this is only the beginning of this dark chapter in Batman’s career. Bruce hands over the mantle of Batman to Jean-Paul Valley, formerly the fanatic mercenary Azrael. The new Batman soon defeats Bane, but he soon proves to be an even greater threat to Gotham City thanks to his unstable mind and violent methods.

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Over the course of subsequent stories, Bruce manages to heal his broken body, reconnect with his inner Batman, and ultimately challenge his successor for the right to wear the cowl.

Batman: Prodigal Son

As soon as Bruce Wayne returned to his old job, he quickly passed the mantle on to Dick Grayson in Batman: Prodigal Son. As Bruce leaves town to find his superhero groove again, Dick gets a crash course in acting as the Dark Knight and rounds up the villains still on the run after Bane’s attacks. This story is also notable for cementing the bond between Dick and Batman’s third Robin, Tim Drake.

The New Batman Adventures

The Batman Animated Series tackled its own version of the retired Batman story in one of its final episodes. In “Chemistry”, Bruce becomes so infatuated with a woman named Susan Maguire that he proposes to her and abandons her late-night antics. Is love a force powerful enough to drown out Bruce’s obsessive need to beat up criminals?

Of course not. It turns out that “Susan” is a plant creature created by Poison Ivy, who is busy targeting Gotham’s wealthy elite in hopes of stealing her fortunes. Bruce comes to his senses and leaves Susan to drown in a sinking ship. Even for Batman, that’s tough.

Batman Beyond

The Batman Beyond animated series offers one of the most chilling accounts of what happens when Bruce Wayne grows too old to be Batman. The series premiere reveals what takes place decades after the events of Batman: The Animated Series. Even with the help of a new high-tech suit, Bruce leaves him when his heart begins to fail and he finds himself almost resorting to a gun to protect himself from him.

Twenty years later, the elderly Bruce finds a worthy heir to the mantle of Batman in the young Terry McGinnis. Although, as fans would find out years later in Justice League Unlimited, Terry becoming Batman was anything but a chance encounter.

Batman: The Battle for the Hood

DC did the unthinkable in 2008’s Final Crisis, with Batman losing his life in a confrontation with the all-powerful Darkseid. Although by the end of the series, it became clear that Bruce was not dead, but had merely been thrown back in time by Darkseid’s Omega Sanction. However, as far as the Justice League knew, he was dead and missing.

This twist sparked a crossover called Battle for the Hood, in which numerous heroes and even a few villains compete for the right to become the new Batman. That responsibility ultimately falls to Dick Grayson, who teams up with Batman’s son Damian to form a new Dynamic Duo. Even after Bruce returned, Dick would spend another year sharing the role of Batman before finally returning to his Nightwing identity.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy sees Batman at the beginning, the height, and the twilight of his career as a hero. The Dark Knight Rises, from 2012, is inspired by the comic of the same name by Frank Miller, and the crossover Knightfall. Bruce has given up being Batman and become a recluse after his empty victory at the end of 2008’s The Dark Knight. But when a terrorist named Bane threatens Gotham, Bruce dons the suit again and resumes his crusade. .

As in Knightfall, Batman underestimates Bane’s threat and ends up with a broken back from his troubles. But Bruce pulls himself together and climbs out of a literal pit, eventually returning to Gotham just in time to save the city from nuclear annihilation. The world believes that Batman sacrificed his life in the process. Instead, the film ends by revealing that he faked his death and that he now lives a life of quiet anonymity with Selina Kyle.

But Gotham must always have a Batman, and the film’s final shot shows crusader cop John Blake as the new Dark Knight. Too bad we’ll probably never see a fourth part.

Batman: Superpesado

Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison said that all Batman writers should give the Caped Crusader a birth and a death before finishing their work. For Batman of the New 52 writer Scott Snyder, that death came in 2014’s Batman: Endgame, which culminates in Batman and the Joker dying in each other’s arms in the depths of the earth.

Instead of Dick Grayson donning his cape and cowl again, Snyder and artist Greg Capullo turned Commissioner Gordon into the new Batman. Along with a Bat-mecha nicknamed “Rookie”, Gordon becomes Gotham City’s first government-sanctioned Dark Knight in Batman: Superheavy.

Over the course of that story, readers learn that both Bruce and the Joker survived their apparent deaths thanks to a reservoir of a mystical chemical called Dionesium. Both are restored to health, albeit with no memories of their old lives. But when a new villain named Mr. Bloom threatens the city, Bruce has no choice but to put his brain back together and become Batman once more. At least he has gotten himself a new suit.

Batman ‘66 Meets Wonder Woman ‘77

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 not only gives us the superhero television crossover we’ve always dreamed of, but also reveals what happens to West’s Batman after his series is cancelled. It turns out that even this happy-go-lucky Caped Crusader ended up on a rough patch.

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When a middle-aged Bruce meets Diana Prince in 1977, he reflects on his latest failure as Batman. The Joker, who went from being a folksy prankster to a homicidal lunatic, eventually discovered Batman’s secret identity and attacked Wayne Manor. Alfred died of sheer fear, causing Bruce to lunge at his enemy and kill him. All in all, a surprisingly bleak ending for this incarnation of Batman, but at least Bruce is able to find redemption through his association with Wonder Woman.

the arrowverse

Kevin Conroy finally got the chance to play a live-action Bruce Wayne in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

For years, it was a major point of debate whether the Arrowverse really did have a Batman. That mystery was finally solved with the introduction of Bruce’s cousin Kate Kane in 2018’s Elseworlds crossover. Turns out there was a Batman in this universe, but he mysteriously disappeared years ago. Eventually, viewers of Batwoman learned that Batman went into exile at some point after apparently killing Joker.

Sadly, Batman never appears in the Batwoman series aside from a couple of flashbacks and a bunch of references. The closest the series came to an actual Bruce Wayne appearance was during 2019’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, where Kate meets a very twisted version of her cousin from an alternate universe.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths

The new DC game is the latest in a long line of tales about Batman giving up his war on crime.

It seems that the DC Universe cannot go more than a few years without being hit by another Crisis. The Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths of 2022 is the second crisis that results in the apparent death of Batman. He, along with nearly every other member of the Justice League, is wiped out in a battle against Pariah early in the crossover. The death of the Justice League forces younger heroes like Jon Kent and Dick Grayson to fill the void and defend Earth from one of its greatest threats.

Unsurprisingly, at the end it is revealed that these heroes are not dead, but trapped in false realities designed to keep them out of commission. Dark Crisis isn’t the first time Batman has been temporarily out of commission, and it certainly won’t be the last.

How do you think Bruce Wayne’s story should end? Let us know what you think of these classic Battales in the comments.

If you want to know more about Gotham Knights, check out IGN’s full review of the game and find out why it features a very different version of Harley Quinn.