September 15 was Batman Day, so we thought we’d take a look at some of the more bizarre and head-shaking moments in the long comic and cinematic history of The Caped Crusader, a.k.a. The Dark Knight, a.k.a. The World’s Greatest Detective, a.k.a. (spoiler alert) Bruce Wayne.
What a bear!
In a 1977 Batman comic book, Batman investigates some potential malfeasance at the Gotham City Christmas tree lighting ceremony. When he gets there, he finds out the rumor are true: a gigantic bear has decided to call the tree home. Does Batman work with animal control to coax the bear out of the tree, offering it salmon, berries, and honey? Nope—Batman goes right up to the bear and punches it in the face. That rightfully gets the Christmas bear pretty angry, and it fights back. While that would just about do in any regular human (or make them run away as fast as their feet could carry them), Batman accepts the challenge and attempts to wrestle the bear. And then the tree itself comes to life to make it a tag-team match, siding with the bear. Somehow, Batman defeats and escapes both angry bear and angry tree. (And in the end, it all turned out to be a mirage cast by a human villain.)
Batman’s rights holder D.C. Comics, has published a series called Elseworlds, imagining its famous heroes in alternate universes and histories. In a 1989 issue, Bruce Wayne and Batman are suddenly traipsing around late 19th century Gotham, where he has to fight off the one guy more fearsome than the Joker: Jack the Ripper. In another, he joins forces with Harry Houdini to fight crime. And then there’s the issue where Batman is re-imagined as 17th century, shark-fighting pirate named Leatherwing.
The enduring popularity of Batman means there’s been a constant stream of Batman action figures hitting toy stores over the past 40 years or so…many not tied to any particular movie, TV show, or comic book plot line. There are a lot that just don’t make sense, then, such as Deep Dive Batman (the hero wears a bright yellow suit—negating his need to hide in the shadows) Slalom Racer Batman (dressed in white and blue and outfitted with skis for some reason), and the parachute-outfitted Sky Dive Batman.
Action! (Never mind.)
The fourth big-screen Batman movie, 1997’s Batman & Robin was so critically trashed and did so poorly at the box office that plans for a fifth movie in the franchise, Batman Unchained, were scrapped. Screenwriter Mark Protosevich penned a script that would have featured the Scarecrow (Nicolas Cage) poisoning Batman (George Clooney) with a “fear toxin,” that caused him to hallucinate himself standing trial before all of the previous movies’ defeated villains, including the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler. Rock star Courtney Love would’ve costarred as Harley Quinn, daughter of the Joker and out to avenge her father’s death by killing Batman.