These ridiculous Batman stories prove that the Dark Knight isn’t always dark!
Batman is not only one of the all-time great superheroes, he’s also one of the most versatile characters in comics. Batman can be the dark brooding hero of Neal Adams and Frank Miller, or the more lighthearted and campy Caped Crusader from the ‘60s. Modern movie fans typically only get part of the picture, from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Ben Affleck’s more recent turn in the DC Extended Universe movies. But Bruce Wayne’s alter ego doesn’t always have to be so grim and gritty. Occasionally, he can even smile!
The LEGO Movie hilariously mocked Batman’s persona, and the success of that film led to The LEGO Batman Movie this month. Will Arnett is back as the LEGO Batman, and the Chris McKay film is drawing upon all eras of Batman. Even the goofy ones.
While there are plenty of lists about the best Batman stories, or the greatest adventures of the Dark Knight. We’re getting ready for The LEGO Batman Movie’s release by celebrating Batman at his most ridiculous. You don’t have to wait until February 10 to laugh at Batman, you can start right now!
1. Batman #66 – “The Joker’s Comedy of Errors”
When Batman #66 was released in 1951, it probably wasn’t considered to be a very memorable story. Basically, the Joker got enraged when one of his criminal schemes failed on a public scale, and he vowed to make Batman suffer the same kind of humiliation. Remember, this was back when the Joker was largely tamed, so he wasn’t quite as murderous in the ‘50s. It’s all pretty harmless.
But what makes this issue so hilarious in hindsight is everyone’s obsession with the word “boner.” It was everywhere in this story. Joker’s screw up was called “the boner of the year,” Joker swore that Batman will have a boner of his own, Commissioner Gordon worried about the Joker’s boner… and it just kind of kept going on like that. We’re not sure if this issue’s overuse of “boner” was meant to be so funny, but it’s hard not to smile or laugh while reading it.
2. Detective Comics #241 – “The Rainbow Batman”
Believe it or not, Detective Comics #241 has one of the most famous covers in Batman history: The Rainbow Batman! This issue was published in the late ‘50s, which turned out to be a very strange decade for Batman. For this story, Batman took to wearing many different colored costumes for seemingly no reason. Although if it published today, each of the Rainbow Batmen would get their own overpriced action figure.
It turned out that Batman’s bizarrely-colored costumes were just an elaborate scheme to draw attention away from Robin and protect the secret identity of his young ward. Although there were probably much easier ways to accomplish that, you have to appreciate Batman’s total commitment to the gag. It’s honestly not that far from something that the LEGO Batman would do.
3. Batman #147 – “Batman Becomes Bat-Baby!”
If you read enough old Batman comics, you’ll soon realize that there are a lot of things in the Caped Crusader’s history that he would probably rather forget. Like the time in Batman #147, when the title character was turned into Bat-Baby. And he yet still fought crime… as a four-year-old child with the strength of an adult.
You may be wondering how this happened, but does it really matter? Some strange ray hit Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, and the next thing you know, he’s wearing kids’ clothing and he’s back to terrorizing criminals. The really amusing joke here is that the bad guys were actually terrified of Bat-Baby. It’s a pretty dumb story, and yet, we’re still laughing.
4. Detective Comics #356 – “The Inside Story on The Outsider”
Remember the time when DC killed off Batman’s loyal butler Alfred, and then brought him back as a supervillain? If not, don’t worry. Chances are good that most of our readers were born after 1966. But this tale is totally true. Alfred died saving Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s lives, and he eventually returned to life as the Outsider, a mutated menace bent on killing his former surrogate family… for reasons.
The Outsider’s threat was actually built up over a few issues, which was unusual for the time. But when Detective Comics #356 came around, it revealed that Alfred was the Outsider all along! The saga of the Outsider is also one of most convoluted tales in comics, and that’s saying a lot. The short version is that it involved a convenient Alfred lookalike to explain the dead body seen in the earlier story of his demise, and a pretty easy cure too. By the end of this issue, Alfred was pretty much back to normal and serving Wayne Manor again. And DC only brought up the Outsider a few times after that before pretending that it never happened.
5. Batman #219 – “The Silent Night of the Batman”
If you want to read a really good Batman Christmas story, try Lee Bermejo’s Batman: Noel, which was a riff on A Christmas Carol. Batman #219 had… shall we say… a different approach to the Dark Knight’s holiday spirit. In a short story called “The Silent Night of Batman,” the title character joined some policemen and sang Christmas carols with them while making their way through Gotham City. It’s not even a really bad story, and the creators’ hearts were probably in the right place. But a singing Batman is just too funny to take seriously. Especially when he’s got backup singers. And did we mention that Batman had a Christmas epiphany? Because of course he did.
What are your favorite silly Batman stories? Let us know in the comment section below!