|“||To win you need to adapt, and to adapt, you need to be able to laugh away all the restraints. Everything holding you back. You see… a Batman who laughs… is a Batman who always wins.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs|
The Batman Who Laughs is a supervillain in the DC Comics universe. He is a "Jokerized" version of Batman who originated from the Dark Multiverse. He is the team leader of the Dark Knights and their goal was to help their master Barbatos plunge the Multiverse into complete and utter darkness. This course of action makes them enemies of the Justice League. He serves as the secondary antagonist of the event Dark Nights: Metal and the main antagonist in The Batman Who Laughs six issue mini-series.
The Batman of Earth -22 was drugged and captured by the Joker who went on to destroy Gotham City. The Clown Prince Of Crime killed Batman's entire rogue's gallery, murdered Jim Gordon by dissolving him, set the city alight by blowing up various buildings, and had his goons line up families so he could kill the parents and infected their children with Joker toxin, all in front of Batman. The Caped Crusader eventually managed to break free of his bonds in a murderous rage and brutally beat the Joker before snapping his neck, killing him.
Two days later, Batman explained to Superman that the reason Joker went so far was that he was dying from the chemicals that transformed him many years ago. However, although Joker succeeded in making him break his "one rule", Batman refused to let that turn him into a monster like the clown wanted. With the GCPD and Arkham Asylum in ruins, Superman had the "Jokerized" children quarantined at S.T.A.R. Labs while Batman returned to the Batcave to begin running some tests. Superman mentions how one of the children nearly tore a doctor's throat out, and then Batman laughs, surprising both of them.
Three days later, the whole Bat Family besides Robin were in the Batcave going through some very vigorous training. Nightwing knew that something was troubling Batman and the Dark Knight revealed that he was exposed to a new strain of nanotoxin that had been inside the Joker's heart and was released when Joker was killed. The toxin slowly rewrote Bruce's mind to become more like the Joker's and create the perfect fusion of the two: a Batman with Bruce Wayne's orderly mind and the Joker's madness, which led the Bat Family to deduce they were training to fight Batman. However, Batman claimed that the real reason why he brought them to the cave was that they would be the first to notice the symptoms and warn the other heroes...something he cannot allow to happen, before suddenly revealing a pair of machine guns and shooting the Bat Family dead.
One week later, Batman had killed the entire Justice League aboard the Watchtower except for Superman and his family. Batman told the Man of Steel that he intended to use all the weapons they have confiscated over the years against the world just because he wants to since he no longer feels he has to hold himself back anymore. Superman responded that the world would rise up to stop him, but this claim just added to Batman's amusement. The Bat then revealed his new family of Jokerized Robins, among which was his son Damian Wayne, before exposing Superman to a strain of Black Kryptonite, claiming to have done the same thing to Supergirl previously, causing him and his son Jon to kill Lois Lane in a berserk state before dying themselves as part of the side effects.
Eventually, the world fell to Batman after he brought down all manner of opposing forces, ranging from armies to gods. Bruce believed he could not sink any lower until he met Barbatos, who showed him the nature of the Dark Multiverse and the existence of the central Multiverse above it. Batman was then tasked by Barbatos to locate his counterparts on other Earths to form a group of Dark Knights, which he will lead as The Batman Who Laughs, and aid in the deity's conquest of the central Multiverse.
Dark Nights: Metal
The Batman Who Laughs appears when Barbatos sends him to bring the Red Death of Earth -52 as a member of the Dark Knights, informing him that he could make a home for himself including the other former superheroes of the Dark Multiverse into the multiverse. After they defeat Cyborg in the Watchtower, The Batman Who Laughs elaborated the reason they were summoned into and it was due to a great ringing and that they were needed there to help save the world.
After Barbatos and the Dark Knights arrive on Prime Earth thanks to the Court of Owls, The Batman Who Laughs takes control of Gotham and rules over it from Challengers Mountain. In order to cause chaos, The Batman Who Laughs gave unique cards made of Cosmic Metallurgy to several enemies of Batman. They were The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Bane, Mister Freeze, and Firefly. The cards the supervillains received allowed them to manipulate reality itself. Due to this advantage, they take over and ruled over different sections of Gotham.
The Batman Who Laughs later confronts Superman, who alongside Wonder Woman escaped their imprisonment on the giant tower in Metropolis, and explains that although he is Bruce Wayne, he decided it was better to let Arkham's inmates rule the city. Superman tries to get him to see reason but to no avail when The Batman Who Laughs tells him that his version of Superman said the same thing before he murdered him and his family. While The Devastator fought Superman, The Batman Who Laughs explained how each world in the Dark Multiverse is formed through the fears and hopes in the minds of beings from the Multiverse and uses Destroyer's history as an example. He also revealed that each member of the Dark Knights had killed their version of Superman (which could indicate Bruce's fears or his hidden desire). Superman tries to fight them but is unable to due to the Dark Knights consisting of dark matter, making his punches ineffective. However, the Flash is able to save Superman before The Destroyer can kill him and they escape the Dark Knights by going through a portal.
The Batman Who Laughs along with the rest of the Dark Knights attacked the Oblivion Bar and killed Nightmaster. While the Oblivion Bar is burning, The Batman Who Laughs gets The Dawnbreaker to play a song on the jukebox and works despite it's on fire. As they are listening to the song, Superman breaks the barrier between the Phantom Zone and the Dark Multiverse, confident Kendra was wrong about it being a trap. When he takes stock of his surroundings, he sees a dark tower shaped like an S, in which Superman realizes at that point it was a trap.
Then, three decrepit Supermen subdue him, and he hears someone ask him why he came which is then revealed to be Batman, who is almost completely drained of life. Superman explains that he got his message, but Batman reveals that the message he picked up was Barbatos deceiving him all along. The real message from him was actually hidden in the song from his last vision. The notes from the song "the Super Sons" played were ordered in the reverse of his emergency code as a warning not to come for him. As The Batman Who Laughs toasts over Superman's defeat, it is revealed that the final component needed to complete Barbatos' plan was the energy stored in Superman's cells. As Batman becomes engulfed in dark energy, he states that Barbatos was right about everything leading back to him in the first place and that everything will now be submerged in total darkness.
Eventually, the Dark Knights successfully capture all members of the Justice League and took them to Challenger's Mountain in Gotham City, where Barbatos resides. The Batman Who Laughs mocks the league by comparing them to the same superstitious and cowardly criminals he once fought. However, Cyborg gains a multiversal upgrade from the Mother Box built within him and uses it to free the leaguers (and other heroes) before transporting them all to Hypertime. Barbatos expresses his displeasure for this turn of events and berates The Batman Who Laughs, telling him that despite his team's preparations for every scenario, Cyborg's new upgrade brings an unknown element into play. But The Batman Who Laughs is not worried since as long as they have teams like the Suicide Squad and Teen Titans at their mercy, the league would return.
Sure enough, after coming up with a plan of their own, the Justice League re-emerged and split up in an attempt to find Nth Metal, which is deadly to those from the Dark Multiverse. Unfortunately, the Dark Knights had expected this and used the heroes to locate the metal before ambushing each of them. The Batman Who Laughs attacks Wonder Woman at the Rock of Eternity after she found Hawkman's mace (which is made of Nth Metal) and tells her it was pointless to keep fighting, as the universe was now deep enough in the dark for Barbatos’ nightmarish armies to invade their world. Although he is sure that Wonder Woman will continue to fight nevertheless, saying that she'll probably die in doing so. Undeterred by the villain's words, Wonder Woman and Kendra pushed through Barbatos' forces and helped recover a metal from the Forge of Worlds even more powerful than Nth Metal: Element X, a metal made from possibility. Barbatos saw that the tides of battle had suddenly turned against him and contacted The Batman Who Laughs to commence their backup plan.
Within his own Batcave, the Batman Who Laughs has finally removed the bandages on the mystery man's face, revealing him to be the Over-Monitor. The Batman Who Laughs explained his plan: use a machine to combine positive matter (the Over-Monitor) with antimatter (the Anti-Monitor's astral brain) and dark matter (the Batman Who Laughs), resulting in nothing but darkness. However, Batman showed up and defeated his Rabid Robins, leaving the two of them alone.
At first, Batman gets the upper hand, until Who Laughs pulled out a gun and shot him in the gut. He revealed that it was the very same gun that killed Thomas and Martha Wayne and that he kept it as a memento to remind him that moral codes always hold you back and get yourself and others killed. Batman told him to pull the trigger, and Who Laughs complies...
...only to get shot in the back by a "BANG!" flag gun. That's when Batman revealed he wasn't talking to him. He was talking to the Joker, who calls him "the Batman Who Talks". At first, the Batman Who Laughs thought the Joker was here to kill two Batmen with one stone, until the Joker reveals he and Batman are here to team up to fight against him (on the grounds that they never speak of this to anyone).
The Batman Who Laughs fought the two off, telling them that he knows them both too well, but the Joker, as he sliced off his fingers with Batarang switch blades, revealed the evil Batman's weakness: he may be able to prepare for everything, but only for everything that Bruce Wayne can come up with, and what's the one thing Bruce wouldn't think would happen? Batman and the Joker teaming up. So now, probably for the first time since his "transformation", the Batman Who Laughs had no idea what's going to come next. As Batman escaped from the collapsing Challenger's Mountain with the Over-Monitor, the Batman Who Laughs just laughed even as the Joker continued to assault him while the Batcave started to collapse on the two of them.
After Prime Earth and the rest of the Multiverse was restored to normal by the Justice League, it was revealed that The Batman Who Laughs survived his battle with the Joker and had some how remained on Prime Earth. He continued to oppose the heroes of this universe by usually working alongside other villainous organizations, such as The House of Conquest and the Legion of Doom.
The Batman Who Laughs Mini-Series
Upon stopping a smuggling operation in Gotham, Batman (of Prime Earth) discovers that the smugglers were transporting the body of a deceased Bruce Wayne out of the city. Batman examines the body closer and deduces that it belonged to alternate version of himself who lived a happier life after retiring from vigilantism. From this, He knew that The Batman Who Laughs has resurfaced in Gotham City and told Alfred to drive him to an unspecified location. Meanwhile, security guards at Arkham Asylum were fighting against another version of Batman known as The Grim Knight who slaughtered them and almost everyone in the building. He opens the door to the Joker's cell where the Clown Prince of Crime greets him and asks if he has arrived to kill him. The Grim Knight tells him no before stepping aside to reveal someone who was: The Batman Who Laughs. Visible nervous, Joker attempts to make a deal with Laughs, who responds by impaling him in the head with a sickle.
Later after the massacre, it's discovered that the man killed in Joker's cell was an imposter and the real Joker's whereabouts are unknown. Batman explained to Commissioner Gordon what he knows about The Batman Who Laughs and tells him that he believes the madman's accomplice, The Grim Knight, was someone that Laughs snuck into their world during the events of Dark Knights: Metal and has kept hidden until now. However, Batman doesn't understand why he waited to use him and also where the death of the alternate Bruce Wayne fits into their plot, so the Dark Knight decides to find the Joker; the only man twisted enough to help unravel the scheme.
The imposter in Joker's cell had a number of aliases that all contain words meaning happiness in different languages except for an extra letter added to each of them. Together, these extra letters spell out "Sang" which alluded to an old Gotham comedy club expression meaning to be at the high point of one's career; where they are the happiest. Batman deduces that the happiest moment in Joker's life would lead him to the Batcave and returns there to deactivate the cave's underwater defences. Sure enough, the Joker emerges from the water, waiting to get inside the whole time.
Batman tells Joker he is safe from The Batman Who Laughs, but Joker branches a trick handgun and says he doesn't want to be safe before fatality shooting himself in the chest. Batman rushes over to Joker demanding to know why he did that, only for him to realise that the clown was releasing the same toxin from his heart which created The Batman Who Laughs. Joker told his arch-enemy that to only way stop Laughs is to become him and seemingly dies from his injury. Batman then became exposed to the toxin and starts going through a similar transformation as his Earth -22 counterpart.
The Batman Who Laughs was once much like Prime Earth's Batman except that he ended up killing his version of the Joker. After doing this, Bruce was exposed to a nano-toxin that slowly transformed him. It rewired his mind not only to think more like Joker but also twisted his moral core into something evil. However, despite these changes, Bruce still managed to retain his orderly and logical aspects of his mind as well as his highly keen and calculating intellect. Thus he became someone with Batman's tactical genius and Joker's lack of morality.
The Batman Who Laughs seems to have a fixation on winning and believes he can always do so against his opponents because he had shed the self-imposed rules that restrained him from using more cruel and lethal methods in the past. Indeed, without his code holding him back, The Batman Who Laughs has been able to adapt to various situations and triumph against all sorts of remarkable odds. Laughs can also be quite arrogant, having already destroyed his own world and gaining knowledge from many others.
Powers and Abilities
The Batman Who Laughs has all the training and experience of the Prime Batman. Plus he already possesses all information about the strengths and weaknesses of pretty much every superhero and supervillain in the DC Universe, as he had already killed them in his own reality. He also has knowledge from various other worlds he has visited and can adapt to almost any situation. Couple all this with the fact that those born in the Dark Multiverse are extremely resistant to attacks by those from the central Multiverse makes The Batman Who Laughs immensely dangerous. Luckily, Laughs does have a few weaknesses of his own. He is highly vulnerable to both Nth Metal and Element X. Also, despite how different he has become, Laughs is still Batman and can be caught off-guard by situations Batman is not prepared for.
|“||Don't be the victim who drowns. Don't sink with the rest. Be active. Rise up, … reclaim the light, … and be the one who does the drowning.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs talking to The Drowned.|
|“||Stop me if you've heard this one… worlds will live, worlds will die… but imagine if your every fear, each bad decision, gave birth to a malformed world of nightmare. A world that shouldn't exist. And desperate as it fights to survive in the light of the true multiverse far above… these worlds are doomed to rot apart, and die, because they are wrong at their core. Welcome to the Dark Multiverse. Home to stories that should never be… It's all one big cosmic joke, except no one on this side is laughing. …well, almost no one…||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs explaining the Dark Multiverse.|
|“||I know I'm not exactly the Bruce you were hoping for. But I am Bruce. We all are. Let me remind you of a story we have in common. On my world, I developed ways to eliminate the Justice League… then they found out and were so disappointed in me. I betrayed their trust. It was a dark time for the League. But in all honesty… I was holding back. Now imagine if seven Bruce Waynes put their heads together… what horror they could be capable of. If they were to… say… develop separate murderous Batcaves meticulously designed with each of you in mind. So I hope you appreciate our work, because… you're going to die here. Ha. Ha. Ha.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs.|
|“||You know I am something twisted and wrong, and that terrifies you.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs to The Riddler.|
|“||It was simple, really. Killing my world. No matter what they threw at me-armies of villains, alien tyrants, the wrath of god-they were all just problems to solve. One by one. Methodically. With precision. And blood.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs.|
|“||I think he understood on some level. The Joker. Not entirely, of course. He was too single-minded for that, but he saw the potential. He saw that the two of us were incomplete without the other. He knew that we needed to evolve into something new, together. Something more. He used to call me a bat-king, ruling over my dark kingdom. And what is a king, really? It's a powerful card. The highest valued face card in the deck. Not infallible, to be sure, but potent. And the joker card? On it's own? It has no inherent value. It's defined by what is played against. Dangerous in its potential more than anything. But if you hold the two together in a hand, they can hold nearly any value. They can shift and adapt to any threat they face. And so can I.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs.|
|“||Take a good look Bruce. What do you see? You've never fought someone with all your training. Your discipline. See it yet? I'm not him in a batsuit. I'm you. You. How you are supposed to be without the codes. Without the rules. Except one. BATMAN. ALWAYS. WINS.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs to Batman of Prime Earth.|
|“||You hear that? People think of birth as loud, and death as silent. Things start with a bang, end with a whimper, but I'll tell you a secret. See, endings...endings are the loudest of all.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs.|
|“||I'm not mad. Just open-minded.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs.|
|“||You're standing on the edge right now, Lex. You could be the ultimate version of yourself. Let go of what always held you back, like I did. The universe isn’t destined for you. But you can still take it.||„|
|~ The Batman Who Laughs talking to Lex Luthor.|
|“||He's not the Joker, Jim. He's Batman. He's me. Joker has points to prove—to me, to the world. The Batman Who Laughs...he's not here to prove anything. He's here to win, to kill anything and everything that's a threat.||„|
|~ Batman describing The Batman Who Laughs to Jim Gordon.|
- In Dark Knights: Metal issue 6, the Batman Who Laughs' fingers were amputated by the Joker. But during his appearances in comics since then, he still has them.