Comicbook: Batman: The Cult

"There's something very scary going on out there."

The Deacon broke me, Robin. He starved, drugged, and tortured me... brainwashed me. Blackfire convinced me his twisted outlook on life was right. I just wasn't strong enough to resist him.

Batman: The Cult is a 1988 four-issue mini-series written by Jim Starlin, illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, colored by Bill Wray and edited by Denny O'Neil. The series tell how a man, Deacon Blackfire, has created a secret underground cult in order to take over Gotham. He also kidnaps, drugs, and converts Batman in order to use him against the very city he swore to protect. After being missing for over a week, Robin (Jason Todd) infiltrates Blackfire's cult, rescues Batman, and escapes Gotham. After regaining their strength and upgrading their arsenal, they assault the cult-controlled Gotham to put an end to Deacon Blackfire's reign of terror. Facing Blackfire in an arena, Batman beats him into submission and turns the cult against him, resulting in Blackfire's death at their hands. With Blackfire dead, the cult quickly disbands, with Gotham returning to normal.

This graphic novel provides examples of:

  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Literally, where he and Robin literally machine-gun masses of cultists with Tranquilizer Darts.
  • Big Bad: Deacon Joseph Blackfire.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Than most Batman stories of the era.
  • Blood Bath: Blackfire claims bathing in buckets of human blood is the secret to immortality.
  • Break the Badass/Brainwashed: Deacon Blackfire turns Batman by torturing and drugging him. It's implied this is how he got most of his followers, given how quickly the cult breaks up after he's dead, and how most former members had no idea what they'd been doing under his command.
  • Crazy Homeless People: It's not their fault, though.
  • Cult: To be expected with a name like this. Essentially, Deacon Blackfire's cult believes him to be a messiah who was sent by God in order to help them change their ways and save them from destruction. In turn, they believe they're saving Gotham by destroying it, like a modern telling of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Dark Messiah: Deacon Blackfire.
  • Disposable Vagrant: When it becomes apparent that the homeless of Gotham have seemingly disappeared, one cop comments that he doesn't care where they went, just that they're gone.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: Blackfire tries to get Batman to kill him in front of the cult for this reason. Batman instead beats him 'till he gives up, at which point the cult rips Blackfire apart.
  • Heroic BSOD: Batman has one after escaping from Blackfire's cult.
  • Horror: Part Psychological Horror, part Survival Horror. It makes Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth look like a children's movie at times.
  • How We Got Here: The first issue opens with Batman already held captive by Blackfire, with flashbacks showing how he was taken prisoner.
  • Killed Off for Real: Blackfire stayed dead after the story. The closest he ever got to coming back was as a Black Lantern. At least as far as the universe, pre-Flashpoint is concerned, as he makes his return and New 52 debut in Batman Eternal.
  • Lock and Load Montage: A terrific page of close-ups as Batman and Robin don their uniforms with Robin asking "we ready to boogie?"
  • Make Sure He's Dead: At the end, Batman sets fire to Blackfire's totem to destroy it and make sure that it can't be used if it's indeed mystical.
  • Militaries Are Useless: The Gotham National Guard is sent underground to deal with Blackfire's cult but are wiped out as they were scattered in three-man details who are easily overwhelmed in the tunnels.
    • A later attempt by Delta Force to enter the now-occupied city results in them being gunned down by snipers, and any armored assault made difficult with all the entry ways into Gotham blockaded.
  • No One Could Survive That: Done to Batman when he escapes into the sewer. Fortunately, Robin knows better.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Batman's defeatist attitude claiming there's no way to stop Blackfire is enough to leave both Robin and Alfred visibly disturbed.
  • Rogues Gallery: Notably absent. Outside some brief hallucinations of the Joker and Two-Face, none of Batman's Rogues Gallery make any sort of appearance, the story focusing more on Deacon Blackfire and his cult.
  • Sanity Slippage: As Batman's sanity breaks down, his hallucinations become more and more deranged.
  • Sinister Minister: Blackfire.
  • Tranquilizer Darts: Batman and Robin use hundreds of them during their return to Gotham. They even use them in rifles and turrets. Of course they all cause Instant Sedation.
  • The Unreveal/Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never made clear if Deacon Blackfire's just a con-man or something more. When records of a man named Blackfire show up from fifty years ago, it's hypothesized they could be for this Blackfire's father.