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Batman Gambit / Batman

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Batman: The shale held up by those sagging timbers has been shifting for decades. All we had to do was taunt [King] Tut with our silence. This caused him to raise his voice three decibels above high C, which caused the cave-in, [causing a shale boulder to drop on his head,] which, of course, returned him to normalcy.note 
Robin: But suppose something went wrong. Suppose Tut didn't raise his voice, what then?
Batman: I prefer not to think about those things, Robin. They depress me.
Batman (1966), "I'll Be a Mummy's Uncle"

As both Trope Namer and a prolific practitioner, Batman gets an entire section to himself.


  • In The Man of Steel, Batman has one ready to keep Superman from immediately apprehending him for vigilantism before having a chance to see the good he does. It's brilliant, it's specifically tailored to Superman's strengths and weaknesses, and (especially the key detail revealed at the end of the issue) it says a lot about how Batman sees the world; Batman's Exact Words are that if Superman touches him, it will set off a bomb hidden "somewhere in Gotham City", which will kill "an innocent person."
    Batman: It's a touch Machiavellian, I admit. But my end justifies my means.
    • On the last page, Batman reveals that the bomb was in his utility belt the entire time. The only life at risk was his own.
    • In Infinite Crisis, a battle between the Modern Age (Kal-El) and Golden Age Superman (Kal-L) has Kal-L put through this scenario as he relives Kal-El's history. He calls Batman's bluff and takes the bomb before getting Bats to start being friendly.
  • Since the mid-1990s in Comics, Batman's gambits seem to consistently get hijacked by other people — with disastrous consequences. The JLA arc "Justice League of America: Tower of Babel" (the former page image) is an example of this. It's somewhat masterfully combined with a second Batman Gambit specifically designed to keep Batman diverted while his stolen contingencies are being used against the rest of the League: Ra's Al Ghul steals Bruce's parents' bodies from their graves and dangles them above a Lazarus Pit.

    While the League ultimately overcomes Batman's contingencies, they do so only by cooperating and remembering what they know about each other, something they probably wouldn't do under the kinds of circumstances Batman prepared the contingencies for. And the weakness in the hijack? All Batman had to do to stop it was to pick up the phone and listen to the rest of the League for more than two seconds. It's no wonder Ra's is grinning so much when he does The Reveal.
  • Mad Love, as seen in the main page image. Harley actually manages to outsmart Batman and place him into a death trap situation where he can't think of any way to get out by himself, since Harley took away all his gadgets and tools. His last-ditch effort is to convince her that the Joker wouldn't believe she actually killed him. To prove it, she brings the Joker to Batman... right where he wants him, because Joker's ego would never let anyone else kill Bats, and thus would ruin Harley's plan just to prevent her from having the honor. After Joker realizes what he's done, Batman rubs it in further by pointing out to the Joker that he never came as close to killing Bats as Harley just did.
    • This all started because Harley nailed a Batman Gambit on Batman. She pretended to be betraying Joker by giving his plans to his worst enemy, on the condition that Batman protect her from her boyfriend's wrath. Then she rigged a robotic Joker decoy to attack her and Batman at the rendezvous point. Batman did as he had promised - he tackled Harley to shield her from the bullets. If he had not done so, she would never have been able to get close enough to him that she could stick him in the back with a needle full of sedative. No wonder he was impressed.
  • An example of this failing spectacularly comes from Batman as well, in the Wargames arc. Spoiler, after being fired as the latest Robin, sets into motion a plan of Batman's which should, theoretically, end up with him in control of all of Gotham's gangs via a proxy, in order to show Batman that she is as good as any of his proteges. The whole plan hinged on the fact that he was supposed to be present at a meeting between all the heads of the gangs via one of his aliases, Matches Malone... and Batman never told Spoiler that he was Matches Malone. Spoiler went and set off the plan without telling him, and due to his absence, none of the gang leaders knew who called the meeting and all of them started to think the others were setting them up, making them paranoid and trigger happy and ultimately take each other out, leaving a power vacuum that sparked the out of control gang war.
    • This story arc in itself is the result of an earlier failed Batman Gambit backfiring spectacularly. The reason Bruce never told Spoiler he was Matches Malone, or other important information like that? Making her the new Robin in the first place was a Jerkass ploy to force her predecessor, her on-and-off boyfriend Tim Drake, into returning and taking the Robin mantle back from her, either out of jealousy or because he feared for her safety because she wasn't ready. Tim didn't take the bait, and Batman fired Spoiler because she wasn't good enough. Because Batman hasn't taken her seriously or trained her properly as the new Robin, as he never intended her to be in the first place.
  • In the Hush storyline, Batman finds himself facing off against a mind-controlled Superman, and is clearly physically outmatched. His solution is to have Catwoman dangle Lois Lane off a roof, and give Supes the choice of either saving her or continuing the fight. This trick would never work if he didn't know full well that even a brainwashed Clark would never let Lois die, and that Catwoman is just amoral enough to threaten an innocent woman without actually meaning it. He may even have predicted that Lois' struggles would cause her to fall, adding an element of urgency to the situation.
    • Batman even managed to set this up without hinting overtly at Superman's secret identity. He simply tells Catwoman that Supes cares about the people who work at the Daily Planet. There are three people there at the time, giving her three options; Lois, Perry White, or Jimmy Olsen, any of whom Clark would gladly lay down his life for. It was Catwoman herself that decided Lois would be the best target, so she had no idea she was dangling Superman's wife from a ledge.
  • Darkseid had one for when Batman attacked him: he predicted that Batman would succeed in finding his way back to his own time, so he set things up such that when it occurred, Batman would bring with him a weapon capable of killing the JLA. Batman eventually countered with a plan of his own, hence the fail condition.
  • This is how Bane was able to break Batman during Knightfall: by busting everyone out of Arkham, he knew that Batman would tear himself apart trying to recapture everyone. And while he didn't recapture everyone,note  it was more than enough to wear Batman to the point where he was helpless against Bane.
    • Batman turns this method against Bane himself in I Am Bane: Bane ends up having to go through the whole of Arkham as Bruce is hiding inside, slowly but surely wearing Bane down for the final confrontation.
  • Stephanie Brown pulls one on her dad, the Cluemaster, in Batman Eternal, leading him on a high-speed chase and into the hands of the cops. However, as he's ranting and raving at how "his people" own the Gotham City Police Department, the cops reveal that he's six miles out of Gotham and is now in the hands of the State Police, who are free of Gotham's corruption.
  • In Justice, the plot to bring down the villains turns heavily on this, including fooling them with Exactly What I Aimed At and Identity Impersonator. The linchpin of it was not Flaw Exploitation but Virtue Exploitation, with John Stewart realizing, the moment the ring was in his hands, what his role in the plan was. Hal Jordan in fact reflects on how this shows the villains why he's the designated back-up for the ring.
  • In Emperor Joker, Batman is still able to do this to the Joker, despite suffering the horrific torture of being continuously killed and resurrected. The Joker probes Batman's mind to figure out how to break Superman's spirit. Batman lets the Joker know how much Superman cares for Lois, knowing the Joker would send her into the Superman sitcom to be killed, and that this would only spur Superman on more strongly. This is the only time throughout the story that Batman smiles.
  • In Dark Nights: Metal, the demon Barbatos needs someone to release him using an extremely specific sequence of events, even though it's almost impossibly difficult and there are multiple warning signs that pursuing that path is a truly awful idea. So he sets it in the context of the solution of a grand mystery, and lets Batman's own flaws - his obsession and zeal for the truth and unbending will - do the heavy lifting, giving him the door he needs.
  • In The Hiketeia, he tries this on Wonder Woman but it gets him a boot to the face. More specifically, he tried to invoke the Hiketeia ritual and have Diana become his protector so she couldn't stop him from taking a young woman he's been pursuing who is already under her protection. Diana then reminds him that she has the right to refuse and proceeds with said boot to the face

Fan Works

  • In Marvel/DC: After Hours, Batman shows once again why this trope is named after him. Despite naturally not knowing about the events of "One More Day", he is able to piece together enough clues to know how to use Peter's Deal with the Devil to convince the Joker he's given up and force Mephisto himself to save the day.
    • In another episode, Spider-Man and Reboot!Spider-Man are arguing inside Pete's head, threatening to tear his mind apart. Batman then has Professor X lay guilt onto both personae, knowing that they would blame themselves and then comfort each other, telling each other "it's not your fault", reconciling the personae.
  • In Lex Marks The Spot, Lex Luthor has gotten a brainful of Xander Harris and embarked on a campaign of money-powered world-changing with a side of trolling the Justice League. One element thereof was giving himself a copy of PlasticMan's powers — shortly afterwards, the League ended up shooting off his arm and holding it for study. Batman was curious about how Lex's arm would behave now that it was detached from him, so he asked Flash and Plastic Man to repair the medbay and warned them not to touch it. He would have just sent them in blind, but J'onn felt that was manipulative, so he made Batman tell them that there was a piece of Plastic Lex in there... which made it certain those two dorks would start playing with it. Especially since it soon after Batman started studying it, it turned into a sleepy frog with a top hat and cane.

Films - Animated

  • Batman: Under the Red Hood indicates that he taught this to his sidekicks as well. Red Hood hatches a plan that's dependent on the assumption that, when pressed hard enough, Black Mask would free The Joker from Arkham. Which is exactly what happens.
  • The Joker pulls one against Batman himself in The LEGO Batman Movie. He surrenders and is imprisoned in Arkham, depending on Batman to realize he's up to something, steal the Phantom Zone projector from Superman's Fortress of Solitude, break into Arkham, and send him to the Phantom Zone, the one place where he can't harm anyone. This allows the Joker to persuade the other villains trapped there to aid him in defeating Batman, and escape with the help of Harley Quinn, who had infiltrated Arkham ahead of time to retrieve the Phantom Zone projector.

Films - Live Action

  • Ironically, it's Joker who uses numerous Batman Gambits in The Dark Knight. This is perhaps the most obvious when he is in prison and goads one police officer to try and beat him up, overpowers the officer, and uses him as leverage to get his phone call. The call he makes is to the cell phone that blows up the station. If, at any point along the line, the police had acted differently than he'd anticipated, none of this would have worked.
  • From The Dark Knight Rises:
    • Bane's plan to trap the police force in the sewers after he takes over Gotham City is entirely dependent on Commissioner Gordon reacting in the manner he does.
    • Additionally, Bane's robbery of the Stock Exchange and the escape; it is dependent on the police not blocking one route and also raising the vehicle barriers so that he and his men can use them to jump over a few police cars. Also, Bane himself escaping is dependent on the Batman showing up at a specific time and the police shifting their attention from him to Batman.

Video Games

  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Joker scares a medic during the intro while 4-5 guards are pointing rifles at him. If a guard had panicked, Joker would've either died or been seriously injured. Later, Joker escapes after being put into handcuffs, his hands still in front of him no less, after he's removed from the gurney and Batman is told to stay behind.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Bane asks Batman for help with destroying all of the Titan containers in the city. They agree to take six each. Batman holds up his end of the deal but Bane tells Batman he will be keeping his six. Batman then locks Bane up and destroys the remaining containers, telling Bane that he knew he couldn't trust him so he used him to get all the Titan in the same place.
    • For Joker, it's poisoning Batman. Talia probably wouldn't have gotten involved, meaning Harley would've gotten the cure to him. Also, it's incredibly lucky that Batman started keeling over while underground and not while gliding through the air or dealing with enemies.
      • Ironically, this could've worked if Joker hadn't made one screw up: after he poisoned Batman, he knocked him through a window, leaving him unconscious at least long enough for him to have the window boarded up. If Joker had just let Batman out through a door or something, he could've been cured.
    • Ra's Al Ghul wanted Batman to kill him and take over the League of Assassins, which the latter refuses to do. He could've suggested that Batman kill him and then place his corpse into the Lazarus pit that was right behind him.
  • In Batman: Arkham Knight, Batman defeats both Scarecrow and the Joker disease by letting the disease take over him completely, so Scarecrow's toxin would affect his inner Joker instead. He then drives away the weakened disease/Joker with his iron will, and thus Scarecrow's toxin managed to destroy the one thing Batman actually feared. Due to him being calm about the whole thing, it's pretty clear it's what he was hoping to accomplish.

Western Animation

  • In Superfriends, despite the show being Denser and Wackier, Batman still pulls it off twice in the same episode, against the same villain. Said villain was using an amulet that could cause Rapid Aging or reverse aging. After using it to turn Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman into kids, he threatened to turn Batman and Robin into "feeble old men". Batman's response was "just try it!" and he did, missing Batman and hitting the three de-aged heroes behind him returning them to adulthood. In response, the villain turned the amulet on a guy he had previously aged, turning the poor guy to dust in order to cover his escape. Batman - now realizing his dependence on the thing - put the dust in a canister, then put that inside a mannequin wearing a Batman costume. When the villain tried to do the de-aging thing again, he zapped the victim's remains, restoring his body and true age. (And was easily disarmed of it by said former victim.)

  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • The episode "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" (based on an earlier comic story) had Wormwood, a Villain Of The Week with a penchant for death traps, abduct a businessman and force him to hand over bonds- Batman needs to find the bonds and figure out who hired the criminal, and to that end he attacks and threatens Josek, a known crime boss with ties to Wormwood. Josek seems to retaliate by hiring Wormwood to... steal Batman's cape and cowl. Wormwood agrees, but his curiosity is piqued, and he asks why Josek wanted Batman's cowl and cape in the first place. Josek says he'll tell if Wormwood explains what he did with the bonds and who hired Wormwood to do the job, a condition that Wormwood refuses. However, he goes through with the attempt to steal Batman's cape and cowl. After several attempts, Wormwood places Batman in an inescapable deathtrap and apparently outwits him when Batman is forced to concede. Batman turns out to be wearing another mask underneath his cowl, but since that has nothing to do with the contract Wormwood lets Batman live and flees. Upon handing the items over to Josek, Wormwood again asks him why he wanted Batman's cowl and cape, and again the crime boss insists that Wormwood tell him who hired him for the previous job first, and where the bonds are. Wormwood concedes - he was hired by an agent of a foreign government, and the bonds are in a secure locker which can only open with a key that Wormwood is carrying. And then...
    Wormwood: Now, what will you do with the cape and cowl?
    Josek: (chuckles) I am going...
    Batman: To wear them!
    Wormwood:(gasps) You're not...Josek?! You were playing...playing me for a fool!
    Batman: From the day you first walked in here.
    • He pulled another impressive one in the episode "Almost Got 'Im". Disguised as Killer Croc during a poker game with Joker, Poison Ivy, Penguin, and Two-Face, he brought up the subject of who's come closest to killing him, knowing that Joker would talk about their last encounter and reveal what he did with Catwoman, who had saved him.
    • Batman can't take full credit for the one in "The Joker's Favor" (he did help Charlie Collins pull it off, though, by simply doing nothing and watching as Charlie did it); Charlie told Batman that the Joker would just escape again, and invoke He Who Fights Monsters as a way to bully the Joker into giving up all the info he has on him and his family. Both Charlie and the Batman knew that the villain's pride would be too much to let a guy like Charlie do him in, so he panicked and complied.
    • Happens in the episode, "Joker's Millions". A wealthy mob boss named King Barlow dies naming the Joker as the sole inheritor of his fortune. Even his henchmen couldn't figure it out because they thought Barlow hated the Joker. As it turned out, he only left the Joker a few million dollars, which he knew he would foolishly go through in a matter of weeks before the I.R.S. would come to collect. The rest of the money that he supposedly left was fake, leaving the Joker flat broke and potentially facing tax evasion. Of course, the Joker could just reveal that he had been tricked and was not given the amount of money that he was supposed to, but that would mean swallowing his pride and admitting he had been had and become the laughingstock of the underworld, thus bridging between this trope and Xanatos Gambit.
    • In the episode "Lock Up", several higher-ups, as well as Bruce Wayne, are investigating Arkham security officer Lyle Bolton on suspicion of unnecessary brutality after several of the inmates protest against him. note  However, Arnold Wesker, Jonathan Crane, and Harley Quinn are all too scared to testify against him when they have a chance to say something. Bruce, sensing something was wrong, proposes that they extend Bolton's contract for another 18 months. Scared of having to face that, the inmates suddenly have a change of heart and reveal what Bolton has been doing to them. Bolton becomes enraged and shows his true colors and he loses his job.
    • Done by the lesser-known villain The Clock King in the episode of the same name. He lured Batman into a trap at a bank that was filled with toxic gas and sealed Batman inside a vault with a device that would suck out all the oxygen in the vault, making the gas mask useless. In addition, the vault's door was strong enough so that Batman would not be able to burn through with his torch in the 15-minute time limit until all the oxygen was removed. And just in case THAT was not enough, to prevent Batman from deactivating the device, the Clock King rigged it with a vibration-sensitive bomb. However he left Batman a tape recording where he explained his entire trap, allowing Batman to use the tape to hoist the bomb to the vault door and use it to blow up the door.

  • Justice League:
    • Batman pulls a particularly brilliant one, outwitting what essentially amounts to the Injustice League and getting them to undermine their own plans and betray one another... all while immobilized in a full-body restraint system in the basement. He proceeds to tell The Joker that he could've escaped at any point he wanted, but only stayed around to keep an eye on him.
    • In "Wild Cards," when he talks to Harley Quinn suggesting that the Joker's likely more interested in the girl he's standing next to on TV while he sends Harley out to do the grunt work. She refuses to turn on the Joker and seemingly knocks out Batman then returns to the Joker to talk things out. Joker promptly slaps her aside, quickly realizing that it was all Batman's plan to get her to return to base and lead him to his headquarters, which is just what happened.
    • There's also a double Batman Gambitboth carried out by! Justice Lord Batman tries to convince our Batman to join the cause, but Bats ends up reversing it.
      • During the same episode, The Flash is imprisoned with the rest of the good Justice League, and Justice Lord Batman is told to guard them. Batman says he can't think of an escape plan, because Justice Lord Batman has thought of everything he'd ever think of. So the Flash speeds up his own heart, faking a heart attack, knowing that something happened to this universe's Flash and that Justice Lord Batman wouldn't want to see him die. It works, and he knocks out Justice Lord Batman when he comes to help him. As he's freeing Batman, Batman explains that this was his plan all along: Justice Lord Batman would anticipate any plan he could come up with, so he left it to the Flash to think of something.

  • Batman Beyond: Though retired for the most part, Bruce can still pull off a few now and then.
    • When Paxton Powers, the co-President of Wayne-Powers (a rather incompetent replacement for his apparently deceased father) was kidnapped by the Royal Flush Gang (after he double crossed them) and they demanded a ransom from Wayne, Wayne refused to pay it, telling them that it was against his company policy to negotiate with kidnappers and terrorists (claiming that Paxton was the one who had written that policy). Of course, Bruce wasn't so cruel, even though he despised Paxton; this was, naturally, a plan aimed at exposing Paxton's criminal activities once and for all by forcing him to bargain further with his abductors, and it worked like a charm. (And Terry was able to apprehend both King and Queen in the process.)

  • The Batman:
    • In one episode, when the Joker has Detective Yin trapped somewhere, Batman entered his mind to find the answer. In the end, he made Joker think he had been woken up to reveal the location of Yin, only to reveal that he had pulled the Joker into his mind.
    • In "Ragdoll to Riches", Catwoman is in the middle of a very nasty rivalry with another thief named Ragdoll. After one confrontation ends with Catwoman victorious and Ragdoll angry, Batman thinks of a way to set a trap for both of them. He reopens Gotham Clock Tower, a structure built by his grandfather, for a limited tourist showing; a local legend claims that a mobster during the Prohibition had hidden the stolen Cat's Eye Emeralds there, but they were never recovered. Batman knows that this kind of rumored hidden treasure will attract Catwoman, and that Ragdoll knows she'll show up, and will show up too to get even. And it works. While the hero only apprehends Ragdoll, there is one bonus: the myth is true after all, and the Emeralds are recovered.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
    • In "The Fate of Equinox!", the titular villain achieves godhood and proceeds to orchestrate the destruction of the universe in order to replace it with a more balanced version. Even with the combined powers and skills of his fellow heroes, Batman can't defeat him, so he changes tactics with a Breaking Speech. While Equinox prides himself on being a perfect balance of order and chaos, Batman goads him into admitting that he is out of balance and that he hated his former lords for the burden of his former job.
      "What do you know about never-ending responsibilities? Of course I hate them! Wait. If I'm not in balance, then this was all for...nothing? No. NOOOOO!" [cracks apart]
    • In "The Power of Shazam!", Dr. Sivana claims the power for himself and proceeds to kick Captain Marvel's ass. Batman can't do much physically, but in a nod to Black Adam's first defeat in the comics, he does outwit him.
      Batman: You may have a mortal like me beat, but you'll never be as all powerful as the wizard Shamaz.
      Sivana: Bat-brained idiot! It's Shazam! No, wait! [struck by lightning and returned to normal]
    • In "Emperor Joker!", Bat-Mite accidentally gives Joker his powers. Joker proceeds to repeatedly kill Batman and bring him back to life. Batman pleads for a Mercy Kill—saying Joker couldn't do anything more to him besides take away his sanity. Joker loves the idea of driving Batman insane, so despite Harley Quinn's warnings, he enters his mind. That's just what Batman wanted, as his disciplined mind is more than a match for Emperor Joker. To get Joker to give up Bat-Mite's powers, Batman shows him what he fears most: a world without the Dark Knight.
      "But you have no one to match wits with, no symbol of goodness to corrupt. Without Batman, there can be no Joker, no loose screws, no lost marbles, no bats in your belfry. In this world, you're perfectly sane."

Alternative Title(s): Batman Gambits Involving Batman


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