The conversation surrounding the new live-action Titans show on the DC Universe subscription service has been dominated by one phrase in particular: “F*** Batman,” uttered by ex-Boy Wonder Dick Grayson aka Robin, played by Brenton Thwaites.
It’s a justifiably memetic moment, all things considered but, despite the abruptness and the shock sparked by the trailer, the F-Batman lifestyle has been alive and well in the DC Universe proper for decades. Sure, Bruce Wayne might be one of the most popular superheroes of all time, but in fiction that’s not always the case. In fact, Bruce has been inspiring his fellow heroes to go for cold blooded owns at his expense for years. So in the true F*** Batman spirit, we’ve compiled a list of 10 memorable attempts made at dunking on the Dark Knight.
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We start our list with maybe the least successful attempt to own Bruce Wayne in the history of comics: that time Guy Gardner got himself knocked out with one punch from the Dark Knight after running his mouth a little too aggressively about how he’d be a better leader than Batman. The exchange happened in Justice League #5 back in 1987 and has since became something of a DC Universe meme at Guy’s expense. Hey, at least he tried to step up to the plate, even if he struck out completely (and literally).
Talia gets the rare honor of having the first double entendre on the list. After her torrid love affair with Bruce that resulted in a (formerly non-canonical) son, Talia made it her mission to espouse some of the most complicated Batman-owns in comics history. Not only did she send said son to distract and throw Bruce off balance by raising hell in Gotham City, she also planned a convoluted cloning scheme with a super villain turned spy organization, all designed to bring the Dark Knight to his knees. Kind of. Maybe. Talia’s history with Bruce is full of complicated, confusing, difficult to parse motives so there is definitely the argument to be made that she’s never actually wanted to see the Batman ruined, but at the end of the day “raising a child in secret out of spite” is something that definitely deserves a spot here.
The “One punch!” Guy Gardner meme came full circle back in 2005 with Green Lantern: Rebirth. Following Hal Jordan’s return from death, Bruce was his typical skeptical self — something that Hal had decidedly run out of patience for. Rather than indulge Bruce’s callous inquiries about the legitimacy of his resurrection, Hal opted for the much more utilitarian approach: clocking Batman right in the jaw and knocking him cold with — you guessed it — one punch. In fairness, Bruce was being a total jerk and Hal did just come back from a whole ordeal, so this wasn’t so much an own as it was a totally deserved comeuppance.
Barbara’s entire career as a superhero in Gotham started in true Batman owning style when she decided it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission… and then promptly decided forgiveness was overrated, too. Babs invented her take on Batgirl on her own, independently of any of Bruce’s wishes or rules and basically inserted herself into the newly formed family by sheer force of will. This attitude would carry on even through her Oracle days when she, on more than one occasion, decided to either pack it in entirely and leave the city or strike off on her own. One of the best examples of Babs embodying the f*** Batman mood is the entirety of 1997’s No Man’s Land event where she becomes one of the city’s very last lines of defense following Bruce’s mysterious disappearance and the city’s descent into chaos.
Wonder Woman very rarely feels the need to engage in the petty squabbles of Man’s World but that doesn’t mean she’s not going to put her foot down when she needs to — sometimes literally. Bruce and Diana’s long history together has had no shortage of personal conflicts but one of the most memorable took place in Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, an original graphic novel that would serve to kickstart legendary writer Greg Rucka’s run on Diana’s solo series back in 2002. In the story, Bruce tries to put himself between Diana and her sacred duty to uphold an ancient rite invoked by a fugitive from Gotham. Spoilers: it doesn’t exactly go as planned for Bruce, proof positive that no amount of tactical planning or preparation can stand up to the power of an Amazon on a mission.
Typically the Flashes are some of the most easy going members of any team when it comes to stirring up drama amongst their fellow heroes but even traditionally good natured superheroes have their breaking points. Wally West earned himself a spot on this list for a truly cold-blooded Batman own on the heels of Identity Crisis in 2005’s Flash #217. Following the death of Tim Drake’s father, Jack Drake, at the hands of the first Captain Boomerang, Batman traveled to Keystone City to confront Wally for not keeping tabs on his rogues. Things got physical pretty fast when Bruce pinned Wally to the wall in full intimidation mode — but Wally was having none of it. In a chillingly cool display of confidence, Wally reminded Bruce point blank that the only reason the Dark Knight was able to touch him at wall was because Wally let him. Ouch.
Don’t pretend like you didn’t see this one coming from a mile away. Jason Todd’s entire post-resurrection existence has been in service to one big, on-again-off-again Batman own and he’s never been shy about broadcasting that fact. Some of his attempts are more successful than others but the most gut wrenching of all has to be the original: the ultimate reveal in Under The Red Hood that his quest for murderous vengeance wasn’t because of his own death, but because Bruce didn’t seem to care enough that he was killed to do something about the Joker. It’s one part brutally honest own and one part emotional gut punch, earning the Red Hood a spot near the top of this list.
Arguably the most well known Bat-own you’ll find on this list, Bane actually got his start in comics designed from the ground up to be the perfect anti-Batman machine. The events of Knightfall in the early 90s centered around Bane concocting the perfect Bruce Wayne destroying plan, right down to figuring out who he actually was, how to get into the Batcave, and how to beat him hand to hand (or, well, knee-to-spine) in a fight that resulted in Bruce being taken out of the picture for months. Sure, Bane was a villain at the time so getting the better of Batman was kind of his job, but since then he’s evolved into an on-again-off-again anti-hero so we’d be remiss to forget him.
Far beyond the now infamous Titans trailer, Dick Grayson has been living the Batman-owning lifestyle for decades. By and large, the candy coated “holy shark repellent, Batman!” Boy Wonder is a figment of the 60s pop art explosion and not actually the truth in terms of actual ongoing comics. That’s right: Dick Grayson has been known to execute some truly cold blooded dunks on his fellow heroes and Bruce Wayne is no exception. In fact, while he may still be popularly considered the happy-go-lucky ex-Robin, Dick’s modern identity was largely predicated on one massive “screw you, Dad!” outburst. As established after the DC Universe was rebooted in Crisis on Infinite Earths, the break up that inspired Dick to go off and become Nightwing was less than amicable. Dick spent the majority of the 80s with his New Teen Titans trying desperately to prove that he didn’t need Batman around and, quite frankly, never would. The retroactively told Nightwing: Year One expanded upon those feelings by exposing just how bad the original Batman and Robin split was: Dick didn’t actually leave by choice, but was brutally fired for a mistake in the field — a moment that would go on to inspire decades of teenage rebellion from Dick and lay the foundation for the gold standard of flipping Batman the bird. Turning in scale mail underoos for a bodysuit with a giant popped collar and a naval-deep v-neck might not be the most hurtful Bruce Wayne own in the DC Universe but it’s definitely the most theatrical.
The single greatest Batman own on our list comes from a dark horse candidate: Stephanie Brown, former Robin, ex-Batgirl and current Spoiler who infamously kickstarted the War Games event (that tragically resulted in her death) just to try and prove Bruce wrong. That’s not the reason she ranks so high, however — though it does add some much needed context. Stephanie spent the majority of her career as a vigilante being toyed with by Gotham’s finest, being taken in and unceremoniously pushed out based on whatever arbitrary Batfamily drama was en vogue at the time. She finally got her sweet, sweet revenge during The Return Of Bruce Wayne story arc which featured, well, Bruce Wayne returning from “death” (not actually death, more time traveling purgatory — long story) and making the rounds to check on all of his official and unofficial wards as they kept up their duties in the city. Steph was a bit less than pleased to be surprised by Batman’s “resurrection,” especially after her recent promotion to Batgirl had given her some new perspectives and, rather than greet him with shock or relief, she took his reappearance as a chance to land a perfect surprise slap right across his face. Her success n the moment even surprised her so you know it was good.
For our thoughts on the first three episodes of Titans, check out the video below: