Who Is The Batman Who Laughs?
It’s Bruce Wayne.
Hopefully, those of you looking for the short answer are satisfied. But if you want to dive a little bit deeper into the history and hysterics of the Batman Who Laughs, stick around. We’re going to explore not just the origin of the Batman Who Laughs*, but his plan, and how he thought he could beat Batman.
*sometimes referred to as just “Laughs” in this article
Earth -22 Bruce Wayne
The Batman Who Laughs started life like most Bruce Waynes do. He lost his parents in the alleyway after watching Zorro in theaters. He used bats, the very thing that scared him most, as a symbol to become the Batman. He fought crime in Gotham and amassed his own rogues gallery. He had many Robins as sidekicks, and even had his son Damian Wayne.
And just like the Bruce Wayne we know and love, this Bruce Wayne fought against The Joker. But on Earth -22 of the Dark Multiverse, one thing was different. The toxic chemicals that turned The Joker insane were slowly but surely killing him. And the Clown Prince of Crime wanted to go out with a bang! So, after learning Bruce Wayne’s identity, he killed off the rest of Batman’s rogue’s gallery as well as Commissioner Jim Gordon, and began destroying the town. The Joker used a toxin to temporarily paralyze Batman and make the hero watch helplessly as he bombed a hospital and even killed the parents of a rich young kid, just like Bruce’s own origin story.
This was all too much for Batman, and he overcame the paralyzing toxin and finally killed The Joker. What he didn’t know is that The Joker had engineered his heart to release an insurmountable dose of a unique chemical mixture — a different version of The Joker toxin that wouldn’t quite kill you! It would simply drive you just as insane as he was. The Batman slowly became The Joker, and killed the whole Justice League and even all of his Robins.
For a while, he ruled over Gotham. Soon enough, the world. But that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to take over the Multiverse. And to do it, he needed to make a perfect deadly serum that would drive everyone to madness. To do this, he needed blood from the happiest Bruce Waynes from across the Multiverse. He had almost all he needed.
There was just one Bruce Wayne between him and his ultimate goal: Bruce Wayne from Prime Earth.
Prime Earth Bruce Wayne
Prime Earth Bruce Wayne had met the Batman Who Laughs before, and as we all know, any Batman with enough preparation time can defeat almost any foe. But defeating himself is another feat entirely. He tried to prepare as best could, but when he started finding the ravaged bodies of Dark Multiverse Bruce Waynes strewn across the city, he knew that he simply couldn’t prepare well enough.
Funnily enough, The Joker of Prime Earth wasn’t prepared to lose Batsy either. He knew he had to infect Batman with the Joker Toxin in his heart because in his mind, Batman wasn’t prepared to do what it takes to defeat The Batman Who Laughs. Batman needed to think like Laughs to defeat him. So, The Joker infects Batman with the aims to drive him mad. Batman thinks quick, and with help from Alfred, injects himself with nearly every anti-venom and anti-toxin available to him. He was biding his time, hoping we wouldn’t go absolutely insane.
He held off for quite some time, and the battle went back and forth with Batman losing and gaining his insanity in mere moments. He eventually uses the insanity to his advantage as a tactic in the larger war, then comes back to himself and fights for his sanity all over again. But he says it loud and clear more than once in the series: He is the Batman Who Laughs. Even if it’s only for a moment.
The Batman Who Laughs needed the blood from happiest Bruce Waynes in the multiverse. Every single Bruce Wayne that was truly happy gave up their role as Batman. They protected their city in other ways, whether it was as the mayor, the commissioner, a prison guard, or just a philanthropist business owner. And according to The Batman Who Laughs, each of their Gothams was a better version without Batman. Batman is the reason for all the chaos. Batman is the ultimate reason for Gotham’s downfall.
Throughout the comic, Alfred keeps a monitor on how infected Bruce really is. He checks at what percent the toxin has infiltrated his body. And eventually, Bruce Wayne is 100% infected by the Joker Toxin. In that moment, the shackles of sanity are broken and he is truly happy — or at least that’s what the monitor says. But somehow, despite all of the toxin taking over him, he holds on. Some last shred of goodwill, if not sanity. Some drive to defeat The Batman Who Laughs keeps him going.
Laughs sees the impossible: a Bruce Wayne who gave up his happiness and sanity just to protect his city and the world he loves. This Bruce Wayne never gave up hope through everything, and held on to his core principles despite everything and every other Bruce Wayne in the Dark Multiverse being crushed by the weight of their decisions.
This Bruce Wayne defied all logic or reason. He stood out in the Multiverse. He was the best Batman of them all.
What’s your favorite Batman Who Laughs moment? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!