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Nightmare Fuel: Batman
The Dark Knight has been up against some truly terrifying moments, no doubt in part to his extensive Rogues' Gallery. Below are but a smattering of the scariest moments.
Heavy spoilers for several comic series below. Non-comic books examples for Batman belong on those appropriate pages.
The iconic image of the Joker going insane for the first time; see the image for the work's page to learn why.
Several of the Joker's expressions are deeply unsettling. Not just his smile, but also his eyes - Brian Bolland's art really seems to portray just how insane the character is. The Joker's face as he goads Commissioner Gordon during the torture sequence will send shivers down your spine.
In the special collectors' edition hard cover, there is a second story about a man who's talking to a camera about how he plans to kill Batman. The mood of it is just chilling he talks about Batman, he talks about how he's a normal ordinary guy as casually as how he intends to just walk up behind Batman after he's stopped a bad guy and just out and out shoot Batman. Any actual worries can be dispelled completely since it's a one-shot (hah!) story, but still it never shows him getting stopped or anything it just ends with him going out to act out his plan.
Brian Azzarello's Joker is full of nightmare-inducing sequences including skinning a man alive, rape, torture, the Joker crying on a hooker-like Harley Quinn, and much, much more. The comic's narrator becomes so horrified by the Joker's world view that he ends up committing suicide to escape.
Right after The Killing Joke was published, we had A Death In The Family, where the Joker showed everybody that The Silver Age of Comic Books was over the hard way by brutally beating the second Robin, Jason Todd, with a crowbar in front of his mother. As if that weren't enough, he then leaves them both in a warehouse that blows up just as the battered Jason manages to untie his mother, killing them both. The fact that it was drawn with the bright colors of the Golden/Silver ages, but added just enough shading to look realistic, only made it worse; you've never seen blood this scarlet. And he does it all with that smile on his face.
The way Robin's mother reacted: turning away with an uncomfortable mixture of disgust and denial, and lighting up a cigarette. Post-Crisis Jason was never a nice kid, but this is the kind of thing that screws anyone up.
The way that Mad Hatter is hinted at being a pedophile.
One of the most morbid portrayals of Two-Face is this comic. I mean, the man is portrayed as rather pitiable in it, but it's somewhat horrific to see him having to rely upon cards instead of his coin to the point of having to use them whether to decide to go to the bathroom or not. It's sad, yes, but also extremely scary.
The Scarecrow: Walking and dragging his pitchfork on the hunt for Batman, singing a little nursery rhyme, those dead eyes beneath the mask...
The twisted flashbacks of asylum founder Amadeus Arkham; who had to slit his own insane and sick mothers throat; and eventually goes insane himself.
As often is, the Joker. The way that he has high heels, long fingernails, and he slaps Batman's ass. The way that he is drawn, pale skin contrasting with the dark tones, surreal art that frequents between detail and everything being blurred makes it among the most terrifying ways the Joker is drawn ever. Don't believe me? Take a look yourself.◊ Above all the creepiest thing about him though? What he says, does, and how he says it. He doesn't have speech bubbles at all, he has demented blood red letters splattered all over the page in all caps; it really gives you a feeling about how he talks and his manner. How he talks about stabbing eyes out, divine madness, men who are pranked into thinking that their wife gave a safe pregnancy and then the doctors and nurses yell "April Fool's, your wife is dead and the baby's a spastic!" while at the same time blowing a guards head off. This is one of the scariest portrayals of the character.
Batman and Gordon hear this horrific moment where Joker brings forth a hostage named Pearl to the phone. Even if it turns out to be a joke.
Joker: We have SO many friends here, sweetheart. Say hello to Pearl. Pearl: Oh Buh-bat-bat Bat Ohhh... Joker: Such a crybaby, isn't she? ["skrit skirtch" noises are heard over the phone] Gordon: What that noise? Can you hear it? Scratching. What's he doing? Joker: Pearl is nineteen years old [scratching noises continue] She just started to work here in the kitchens here to earn some extra money. Pearl wants to be an artist, don't you, Pearl, darling? Pearl: Uh-huh... ohhhh... [scratching noises continue] Joker: She just drew me a beautiful house. She drew it with this pencil [big scratch noise] The one I've just sharpened. Open you eyes WIDE, Pearl! Beautiful... blue... oh... Batman:JESUS, NO! Joker: You have half an hour. And bring a white stick.
As unbelievable as people find it, the No Man's Land storyline had quite a bit. First, the very premise: Gotham freaking City, mostly destroyed, then cut off from the rest of America, all laws, and all support, while the wackos run free. Add multiple references to cannibalism, constant moral ambiguity, and the Joker doing classically barbaric Joker-things like kidnapping babies and inciting insane cops to shoot their own, and you have horror that's near impossible to laugh off.
People wanting to actually stay in the prison that was being run by Lockdown.
Oh, about Joker's plan to kidnap babies? It's because he wants to kill them all off on New Year's, just to destroy the fragile spirit of the people of Gotham City. And let's not get started on what he does to Commissioner Gordon's wife.
In Scott Snyder's run on the 2011 reboot of Batman, we're introduced to an Ancient Conspiracy in Gotham. One who knows Gotham better than Batman. This, in of itself, isn't particularly terrifying. However, the more Batman investigates, the more he discovers just how powerful they are. And then they capture Batman himself, drug him and start to drive him completely insane in an enormous maze beneath Gotham. Seeing someone as cool and collected as Batman raving and terrified is shocking.
Death Of The Family: The Joker is back. He got his face skin back, and used a belt on it to wear it like a mask most grotesque. He got it from the police station, and turned off the lights and killed a load of cops. He seems to be re-enacting his biggest crimes from before, like poisoning the river and paralyzing Barbara Gordon. His motivation this time is to get rid of the Batfamily and Batman's network of allies. Why? Because he thinks that Batman has grown soft and weak thanks to them, and that Batman would be better off without them. Not only that, but it turns out that he knows about the location of the Batcave, broke into Wayne Manor to take Alfred hostage and torture him, and he knows all the secrets of the Batfamily. When a guy like the Joker becomes The Chessmaster and knows your secrets, you're really in trouble!
In the end, arguably the scariest thing about Death of the Family, is that the Joker doesn't actually kill anyone. He does bring it about in a metaphorical sense however by turning everyone's trust away from Batman and breaking up the Bat-Family, with all of the horrors and Break Them by Talking he inflicted on them. It further shows why he is the most personal and horrifying enemy of Batman as he has left him even more alone than he already was.
One Catwoman arc has Joker tag Catwoman with a pie containing a radioactive tracer, which Joker then uses to play a cat-and-mouse game with her. She's the mouse. He's chasing her with missiles. The scary part isn't that she's being traced, though that too is genuinely terrifying. The scary part is that the missiles aren't aiming for her. They're aiming for all the innocent bystanders, effectively making poor Catwoman a walking danger zone. Catsy said it best herself:
"It's like some kind of childhood nightmare."
An alternate version of Two-Face's backstory is presented in Batman: Jekyll and Hyde. Two Face was, as a child, accidentally responsible for the death of his older brother Murray, though his true innocence is up for debate. The implication is that said dead brother's spirit is inhabiting Harvey's body, responsible for the evil side of his personality.
Batman Incorporated #8. The entirety of Damian's death scene. Despite it arguably being a Dying Moment of Awesome, it was also a Rasputinian Death as Damian went through a lot of torture trying to appeal to his Mother's better nature before finally getting stabbed through the chest.
In The Man Who Laughs, we see the effects of the Joker venom from Batman's perspective. Even though he gets better soon (as it's all part of a plan), the loss of sanity is terrifying. And you can't help but wonder if he was ever fully cured...
Post-Crisis Joker in general is not fun for anyone with a fear of clowns.
The Joker in general. In his very first appearance, he utilizes his horrible Joker Venom. Chronologically-speaking, even when you read a goofy Silver Age story where he's pulling some harmless heist, you're still looking at a Monster Clown with spree-killings on his criminal record.
Part of what makes him so scary is how random he is-he can be a harmless jester pulling elaborate pranks one minute and without warning try to poison the whole of Gotham. The worst part is that the Joker doesn't seem to notice any difference; pin-balling from Harmless Villain to crossing the Moral Event Horizon is as easy as breathing for him.
Speaking of Scarecrow, his great-grandmother was one scary old lady. If you were wondering why her great-grandson turned out the way he did, some very creative child abuse was involved.
The Riddler. Yeah, go on, laugh. Nerdy guy who can't even throw a punch, right? Just leaves stupid clues and makes it easy for Batman to catch him, right? Go read "Dark Knight, Dark City" (Batman #452-#454), which has, among other things, Riddler forcing Batman into slitting a baby's throat.
Professor Pyg is what would happen if David Lynch created a Batman villain. He's a middle aged man with a pig mask and butcher clothing and he's terrifying. In his first appearance, he has a bunch of Dollotrons (human zombie dolls) hold a criminal accomplice down so Pyg can make him one as well and tells said accomplice that he'll then help Pyg do the same to the man's niece. Then, in the third appearance, he gives a tied Robin (Damian Wayne) a very odd and disturbing Motive Rant that seeps quickly into a Villainous Breakdown, all while dancing with power tools to "sexy hot" disco music. Robin simply responds as he breaks free, "You just redefined 'wrong'."◊
The Dollotrons themselves are deeply disturbing, being regular people who have unwillingly undergone a process of creation that is not entirely revealed, but is implied to involve brain surgery, genital mutilation, and mind-altering drugs. They are also given a fleshy doll-like mask which is permanently attached to the victim's face.
Batman's code against killing suddenly becomes terrifying:
Young Miscreant: I'll blow her head off! I swear I will!
Batman: ...And I swear that if you harm that woman at all, I'll make you pay! I will break and twist things within you. You can't conceive of the pain I can cause. It's pain that will go on forever. You won't escape it... BECAUSE I WON'T LET YOU DIE.
James Gordon Jr. is one of the scariest new villains in recent comic book history. Completely separate of his heroic family members, James Gordon Jr. is an unrepentant psychopath and Serial Killer through and through. Part of what makes him so terrifying is that he can pull off a feeling of normalcy but there's always a sense that there's something wrong with him. Then we understand how vicious he truly is when we see him dismembering a man who stole his glasses a decade before. His psychological mind games are brutal and reminiscent of The Joker in ways but without any comedy factor. For example, driving knives into his sister's paralyzed legs, letting her know that they're in arteries and also saving her by blocking them from bleeding it, and then proceeding to pull one out.
Then there's his ultimate plan. Taking a drug designed to curb sociopathic tendencies and induce some empathy and reversing the effects, in order to drug every infant in Gotham to turn them into sociopathic killers like him. Even worse, he may have succeeded.
One particularly creepy, but rather unknown, adversary of Batman is Jane Doe. She is, as quoted by one of her personas, "a cipher, she's incomplete, her life is empty, so she covets the lives of others. She takes their lives so she can have their lives." In short, she learns people's traits, kills them, then wears their skin and acts like them. If that, and what's really under her skin doesn't unnerve, it's also worth noting she's primarily responsible for turn Warren White into The Great White Shark, who would go onto be one of Gotham's most feared mob bosses.
Batman himself is this in All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder. Unlike his dark but heroic counterparts in most media adaptations and comic books, this Batman is psychotic, violent, unstable, bloodthirsty sadist who KIDNAPS Dick Grayson and forces him to become Robin against his own will, verbally and physically abuses him, in order to prevent him from grieving over his parents' deaths, even slapping the boy in the face and gloats that he is going to put Dick through hell with sadistic smile on his face, which is Nightmare Fuel in itself. He also leaves Dick to fend for himself in the Batcave, by eating rats and then when he finds out Alfred fed him a proper meal, he threatens him. Alfred is closest thing Bruce currently has to a father. He also takes really creepy and borderline pedophilic interest in Dick, watching him before he became Robin. And as pointed out in Linkara's review of the comic, Batman sounded like he was going to kidnap Dick Grayson even if his parents were alive and possibly would have killed the boy's parents himself if the assassin didn't do it first. And that's not all. He murders criminals in various cruel and shocking ways, like he throwing a Molotov cocktail that engulfs several of criminals with flames and also attacking corrupt police officers with sadistic joy. And if Linkara's observations are anything to go by, it is implied that Batman was involved in an incestuous relationship with or sexually abused by either of his parents, giving him a Freudian Excuse.
Damian's face as he is about to engage the 99 Fiends. The immediate snapping of a hellhound's neck as he proceeds to cut the limbs off of several of his opponents doesn't help either.
There's a reason Victor Zsasz hasn't been in any animated adaptations.