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Batgirl (2000) | Batman and the Outsiders | Dark Nights: Metal (The Batman Who Laughs) | I Am Batman | Nightwing (Dick Grayson) | Red Hood and the Outlaws | Robin (1993) (Tim Drake) | Robin (2021) (Damian Wayne)
The Batman Who Laughs
Alter ego: Bruce Wayne of Earth -22
Species: Jokerized Human
First appearance: Dark Days: The Casting #1 (September 2017)
On Earth -22 (read "minus 22") in the Dark Multiverse, Bruce Wayne’s life was pretty much the same as his Prime Earth counterpart until the day The Joker went on a killing spree across Gotham City after he discovered that he was dying from the same chemicals that had turned him into the Joker. This culminated in him killing Jim Gordon after which Batman killed him in a fit of rage.
Unfortunately, upon dying Joker planned to have his killer infected with the chemicals that made him the Joker, and Bruce learned of this a bit too late. Becoming as psychotic and sadistic as his late archenemy, he became The Batman Who Laughs. He began with killing the Bat-Family so they couldn’t stop him. He then went on a much larger killing spree than his predecessor, eventually killing every superhero in his universe leaving Superman for last. The one exception was his son Damian who he infected to become like him. He was then recruited by the dark god Barbatos to lead other twisted Bruce Waynes from the Dark Multiverse to wreak havoc on Prime Earth. They were eventually defeated by the Justice League, but the Batman Who Laughs escaped to fight another day.
Following that, he appeared in his self-titled miniseries and was an antagonist in the Batman/Superman title and the Year of the Villain event, before being again a central antagonist in Dark Nights: Death Metal.
- All Your Powers Combined: As the Darkest Knight he already has all the power he wants but he supplements it further by using his multiversal awareness to assimilate the knowledge and skills of every Dark Multiverse Batman.
- Alliance of Alternates: He was recruited to be part of Barbatos's cabal of Batmen who were to invade Earth 1 and take over the Multiverse for them to rule over (on in He Who Laughs' case, destroy them as much as he likes). After being the Sole Survivor of his group, he decides to personally target Batman and the Injustice League, in the case of the former via partnering with another alternate Batman, The Grim Knight. And finally in Dark Nights: Death Metal, he becomes the leader of another group of Batmen, one whom he would be more than willing to sell out and kill if it means furthering his goals.
- The Anti-God: What he essentially becomes as the Darkest Knight after taking in monumental amounts of Crisis Energy, a dark god of the Dark Multiverse that is the last, primal fear and strong enough to kill Perpetua, the multiverse's creator.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Prime Batman sees him as a representative of the concept that "Batman always wins."
- Arch-Enemy: To both Batman and The Joker. They’re usually this to each other but only Batman Who Laughs can get them to team up against him.
- He becomes this for Wonder Woman, but only during the Death Metal event. They are played as the leaders of each side, and during the final battle, they are both powered up to fight each other. And she's the one that ends him for good.
- Ascended Meme: Played for Horror in the darkest way possible. It's a meme among pop culture geeks that "Batman can beat anyone if he has prep time". The Batman Who Laughs is Crazy-Prepared for nearly every scenario and as such slaughtered his home universe and is multiple steps ahead of his enemies, even if they're literal cosmic entities.
- Ax-Crazy: Even more so than his inspiration, The Batman Who Laughs is an extremely chatty, emaciated, violence-prone mutant with a fixed grin and tendency to drool (sometimes blood). His red text and black word bubbles also suggest he doesn't really speak like Bruce anymore, and more likely hisses his dialogue through clenched teeth.
- Bad Boss: He has a pack of Jokerized Robins as attack dogs of sorts to his bidding, and he couldn't care less if any of them die for his goals. In Dark Nights: Death Metal, he quickly and remorselessly decided to kill off all of his present Batmen followers, except for the Robin King, in an attempt to gain omnipresent power from Batmanhattan.
- Badass Longcoat: His tattered coat is vaguely reminiscent of a jester outfit, like Joker’s tailcoat and Batman’s regular cape.
- Badass Normal: Outside of his tenacity and toughness, he still doesn't seem to have any powers apart from trinkets from the Dark Universe, including his visor (which is Made of Phlebotinum).
- Bait-and-Switch: In the Batman Who Laughs' backstory, Batman called Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl, and Red Robin to the Batcave once he figured out what the Joker's final toxin was doing to him: turning his moral code into that of the Joker's. They all resolve to do everything they can to help him, assuming that he's asking them to stop him, if need be. He then reveals that he's actually called them all there since they're the ones who would immediately notice him acting out of character and warn the other heroes of what has happened to him, something he cannot allow to happen. He promptly guns them all down.
- Became Their Own Antithesis: This version of Batman killed the Joker after the latter discovered he was dying and went on one last rampage. This inadvertently caused Batman to become the Joker's successor via a Psycho Serum gas released from his corpse.
- Big Bad Ensemble: With Lex Luthor in Year of the Villain arc and with Perpetua in Dark Nights: Death Metal, where he eventually usurps and kills her off to remain the sole Big Bad in the storyline's final moments.
- Book Ends: His Start of Darkness involves begging the Joker to stop before the latter dies at his hands. Come 2019, he finds himself begging a near-completely Jokerized Batman to stop as soon as he loses the upper hand in battle.
- Bound and Gagged: After his brutal defeat, Batman has him bound in a special Tenth Metal cell underneath the Batcave.
- Brain Transplant: Laughs is killed by Wonder Woman in the first issue of Dark Nights: Death Metal only to be resurrected in the next issue when his brain is put into the body of the Final Bruce Wayne.
- Breakout Villain: The Batman Who Laughs has become incredibly popular among fans, making numerous appearances in subsequent comics and even receiving his own miniseries.
- Came Back Strong: Wonder Woman kills him with an invisible chainsaw, however, his Dark Knight henchmen preserve his mind, whom they eventually transfer onto Batmanhattan, eventually gaining a new form in The Darkest Knight and gaining omnipotent power.
- Card-Carrying Villain: He's unapologetic about being the evilest man there is, likes being ultra-violent, and considers himself purer than either the conflicted Bruce Wayne or the Joker (an obsessive who couldn't see the big picture)."It felt right. There was no lower to sink. Or was there?"
- Chain Pain: He would often use his chains as part of his weaponry whenever he is in battle.
- Chained by Fashion: The Batman Who Laughs replaced Batman's light kevlar costume and cowl with fetish leather, chains, and a spiked metal helmet which he can't see out of normally and would weigh his head down significantly. On top of that he leads around a bunch of feral little kids all the time. In real life, The Batman Who Laughs would probably be tripping over obstacles and falling down stairs, let alone be halfway effective in combat.
- Chemically-Induced Insanity: He was a Batman who was Driven to Madness by a toxin that the Joker's body released when he was killed by Batman.
- Composite Character: Batman's sharp wits and combat training combined with the Joker's need for destruction.
- Confusion Fu: He inherited the Joker's unpredictability. This doesn't seem to work on the Joker himself.
- Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: He Who Laughs has a number of parallels and differences compared to a few Crisis villains...
- To the Anti-Monitor: Both are Omnicidal Maniacs who wish to destroy every single universe they stumble across and take sadistic glee in their wanton destruction. However, the Anti-Monitor seeks to do this because he feels entitled to the fact that Antimatter is the only realm worth sparing and ruling and is usually impersonal to superheroes in general, with the exception of the Green Lantern Corps. He Who Laughs, on the other hand, finds destruction as "hilarious", though he does develop a desire to rule the multiverse once he becomes the Darkest Knight. Lastly, the Anti-Monitor is a primordial being who mostly operates on his own whereas He Who Laughs is a being born from the death of someone and said death affects the murderer to become just like him and usually works in groups whilst withholding his own true desires.
- To Hal Jordan during his time as Parallax; both are Fallen Heroes who were driven mad by external matters out of their control and who want to destroy the Multiverse. Their similarities end here as both of them have entirely different motivations; Hal wants to undo the damage and tragedies his life has been through and recreate the multiverse to one where his loved ones never suffered whereas He Who Laughs wants to destroy for the sake of destroying. Lastly, both died due to the Sun playing a role, but where Hal sacrificed his life to save the Sun and the Earth by proxy, He Who Laughs was thrown into it by Wonder Woman, unrepentant to the very end.
- The Corrupter:
- He seems to enjoy trying to demoralize and degrade anyone he can grab his claws on. He brags about driving his world's Damian to Jokerize himself, trapping Alfred in the Batcave and feeding him scraps for a year until he became his Renfield-like servant again, and tried to make Raven unleash her Superpowered Evil Side on her own accord. He also poisoned his world's Superman, Superboy and Supergirl with a strain of Black Kryptonite, which turned each of them into mindless killers before he put them all down.
- In DC Year of the Villain storyline, he weaponized this trait to destroy Superman and Batman's trust in other heroes. He revealed to them that he infected six superheroes with his brand of Joker Serum, forcing the two to suspect everyone in order to find them before they undergo the same transformation as he did. His victims are Shazam!, Hawkman, Supergirl, Jaime Reyes, Donna Troy and Jim Gordon. Word Of God says he wants to see everyone become the worst versions of themselves.
- The Corruption: He is the direct product of one, via a Joker Toxin that was to be emitted on the occasion The Joker died so that it infects whoever was the one to kill him. In that case, it was Batman himself, hence The Batman Who Laughs. And like the Crown Prince of Crime, He Who Laughs is very liberal in his use of items capable of corruption, such as lacing Joker Toxins with Black Kryptonite to use on the Superman Family to agonizingly torture and kill them off.
- Costume Evolution: As seen in Dark Nights: Death Metal, the Batman Who Laughs's costume has changed to include a more crown-like visor, a Count Dracula-style cape with a High Collar of Doom, black clawed gloves, and an exchange of the leather buckles on the chest area for a four-winged bat emblem.
- Crazy-Prepared: He still has Bruce Wayne's mind, or at least his memories. In the end, there is only one thing that he couldn't see coming: Batman and the Joker working together against him.
- He even had prepared on the outcome he was killed, by having other Dark Knights to put his body into the Final Bruce Wayne.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Well, as dark as you could get for Batman; He Who Laughs is basically a version of The Dark Knight who managed to kill The Joker, only to be infected by a special brand of Joker Toxins that kept Bruce's sharp mind and intellect, but replacing his morality of upholding justice and values with one that craved destruction and misery above all else. Whatever tragedy lies in this Batman is immediately destroyed once he kills the Batfamily and then goes on to eradicate his own universe and join Barbatos with the intent of doing destroying other universes over and over.
- Dead Man's Switch: A more-potent form of Joker Gas which was exhaled from the Joker's mouth after Batman killed him, which warped Batman's brain. Evidently the Joker was slowly dying from the chemicals that created him, hence the purified toxin clogging his heart. It provides an extra incentive for the original Batman to spare Joker.
- Depending on the Artist: Sometimes, he's depicted in-line with his concept as a Jokerized Batman; other times, he looked rather inhuman with a seemingly-missing nose, a wider than humanly possible grin, and an Overly-Long Tongue. Likewise, his teeth run the gamut from simply discolored, to fangs, or anything in-between. The only commonality is that it's not a natural-looking rictus.
- Despair Event Horizon: At one point in the miniseries of the same name, he shares this type of flashback with the Jim Gordon of Earth Prime.The Batman Who Laughs: You, though, even then you were determined to bring him in by the book. So to be funny, Joker booby-trapped your notebook with this spring-loaded acid ... Yes, you made a sound just like that. The thing I remember most was catching your glasses. I didn't understand what was happening yet, then I looked up and saw it was because you didn't have a nose anymore. But here you are, nose and all! Haa! Funny, because if it weren't for your death ... Batman wouldn't have killed the Joker and there'd be no me. See, in a way, you're my best friend, too. Haha!
- Didn't See That Coming: Invoked by himself in his backstory: when he murders the Batfamily, he specifically chooses a method that they would never expect. He whips out two submachine guns and guns them all down.
- Turns out, this is also his weakness as well. Despite being a Batman with Bruce Wayne's logic and the Joker's love for chaos, he's still a Bruce Wayne. As such, he can only come up with plans and countermeasures that only Bruce Wayne would think of. And what's the one thing the Batman Who Laughs didn't think of? Batman and the Joker teaming up to stop him.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: He's so exaggeratedly Crazy-Prepared that he can outsmart and defeat literal cosmic beings.
- Dirty Coward: A Downplayed Trope here but still applicable. After becoming like the Joker, TBWL cared for nothing and no one. He no longer held himself to standards and valued himself above everything else. While he has nerves of steel, for the most part, it's mostly because he's planned everything out. Given Batman's control-freak tendencies amplified but also being a complete narcissist, he completely loses his shit when he's in a situation he has no control over and is getting beaten like when an almost Jokerized Batman is beating the tar out of him and about to kill him he begs for Batman to stop.
- He also begs Wonder Woman for mercy when it’s clear he’s lost, offering her ideal world and telling her there’s no knowing what reality will emerge if she doesn’t spare him. It doesn’t work.
- The Dragon:
- While the Dark Knights serve Barbatos, the god relegates actual leadership to him. In fact, Barbatos even considers him to be his "favorite knight".
- He later becomes this to Perpetua in the aftermath of the Year Of The Villain storyline.
- Dragon Ascendant: As the only one to survive Barbatos' defeat he went on to become a threat in his own right.
- Dragon with an Agenda: He intends to use his newfound power obtained from Batmanhattan to create his own multiverse, dethrone Perpetua and eventually expand to the entire Omniverse until he's the only ruler of all existence.
- The Dreaded: The Legion of Doom is absolutely terrified of him and for good reason. They have him chained up, put 3 different lines of otherwordly defense between themselves and The Batman Who Laughs, and still quake in their boots when Luthor meets with him.
- Most notably, The Joker himself is horrified and disgusted by TBWL, declaring him as an abomination and a blight on both his and Batman's legacies, and openly tells Luthor that any mad torture or destruction that he (the Joker) could come up with, Laughs would do it much, much worse, and for the Legion of Doom to try and play with fire like they are is tantamount to suicide.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Filling the Bat-Family full of holes in the cave. Massacring the Justice League in the Watchtower and leaving their remains behind to taunt Superman, before killing him, too. Killing numerous versions of the JLA (including his own wives and biological children in some instances) on other worlds. They weren't able to adjust to 'their' Batman being a heartless villain with no clear motive, which is why they lost.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Invokes this from the Joker of all people. Joker may be a degenerate, but he's still human. The Batman Who Laughs has no trace of humanity at all. He's a ghoul who only cares about devising new ways to torture/defile the Justice League. Joker just thinks he's “a wrong thing that should not exist”—plus he never liked being a straight man.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: During Speed Metal, the Batman Who Laughs unleashes a horde of evil alternate Flashes. Most of them seem to be undead.
- Evil Counterpart:
- He is a Batman who accepted the Joker's ideology, the most like Prime Batman out of the Dark Knights, and an Eviler than Thou counterpart to the Joker.
- His world is a counterpart of Earth 22. On both Earths killing the Joker lead to more chaos and an outright apocalyptic scenario.
- Evil Costume Switch: He added some green trimmings to his bat-suit sometime before killing Superman. Everything apart from the cowl was later abandoned in favor of a weird, Cenobite-style getup with a High Collar of Doom. He doesn't wear gloves anymore.
- Evil Feels Good: Nearing the final stages of his infection, the Batman Who Laughs not only accepts his fate as a Jokerized version of himself, but actively embraces it. He claims to have had a lot of dark impulses (like killing off his rogues gallery, taking over the Justice League and seizing their confiscated weapons, and triumphing over Superman) that he never had the liberty to act on.
- Eviler than Thou: The Joker himself explains this point blank to Lex Luthor once the Batman Who Laughs is captured by the Legion of Doom. No matter how horrific the Joker's schemes are, they are nothing compared to whatever the Batman Who Laughs will do the instant he breaks out. Lex knows this, but says he needs the dark Batman for his own plans for Perpetua and the Multiverse. It's for this reason the Joker quits being in the Legion of Doom. He knows just what the Batman Who Laughs can do and he's leaving the team so Lex can face the consequences of his actions.
- He's also this to Superboy-Prime. Part of what triggers his Heel–Face Turn is the fact that the Darkest Knight is so evil even he can't justify working with the guy.
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humour: He killed the Wonder Woman of his universe by strangling her with her own lasso.
- Expy: Of Judge Death in both looks and goals.
- Fatal Flaw: Due to being a composite of Batman and the Joker, he's prepared for every eventuality... that Bruce's mind could come up with. He certainly didn't imagine Batman teaming up with the Joker at the last minute.
- Fate Worse than Death: The Joker is adamantly against striking deals with him. To paraphrase him, he prepared plans to humiliate Lex: constructing an entire museum dedicated to his failures, inescapable deathtraps for every member of the Legion of Doom with a final protocol to toss the entire HQ into the sun at the end, the absolute destruction of his empire, leaving him to the mercy of Batman and Superman, and for the piece de resistance, a supertoxin tailored to corrode Lex's brain while leaving him in absolute agony and complete awareness as his mind slowly dies. And at the end, the Joker drops everything and leaves Lex with the final warning: whatever the Batman Who Laughs has prepared for him, it's going to be hellishly worse than that.
- Foil: To Superboy-Prime; both are twisted, villainous, and deranged versions of two of the greatest heroes in the DC Universe, have an immensely feared reputation that they uphold, and became villains due to uncontrollable situations. Regardless, both of them share stark differences; He Who Laughs's insanity is one of compulsive murder and wanting to crush the hope of others whereas Superboy-Prime's insanity is more childlike and immature, being more prone to lash out on instinct. They play major roles in Dark Nights: Death Metal which furthers their position as each others' foils. Finally, He Who Laughs wholly embraced his acts of depravity upon gaining cosmic awareness and remained a vile threat to the multiverse upon his death, Superboy-Prime was convinced by Wonder Woman to fight alongside the heroes by appealing to the best aspects of Superman and died dealing a serious blow to the Darkest Knight as well as gaining a second chance at being a proper hero.
- For the Evulz: He's just a maniac who kills for fun, not for any real reason. Best summarized when he killed his Justice League and forced his Superman and Jon to kill Lois and then each other.Earth -22 Lois: You don't have to do this!
The Batman Who Laughs: I know. Catch.
- Fourth Wall Psych: In the last of the one-shots explaining the Dark Knights' origins, the Batman Who Laughs is revealed to seemingly be telling those stories directly to the reader. The ending reveals that he's talking to an unidentified bandaged person, who might be an Audience Surrogate anyways.
- Frozen Face: Like Joker, he's almost always smiling. While he is capable of showing other emotions, these are very few and far between.
- Godhood Seeker: After becoming the Darkest Knight, he becomes this, realizing that Batman is a reactionary idea to his origin, and that he wants to be more than that, to be more than the reaction.The Darkest Knight: Batman has always been a reactionary idea. He was born in response to those gunshots in the alley. And just as he is a reaction, so too are the twisted Batmen of the dark. Even the most dominant is still a reaction to some fear that has shaped him, built him into a newer, crueler incarnation, perfectly designed to overcome it. Now, understand this, I know that I am not a Batman of any kind. Not a Batman Who Laughs, not a Batmanhattan, not even a culmination of all dark Batmen. I am more. And to be more, I must not be a reaction. I must be the thing that creates the reaction. I will be the bullet. The multiverse will be the dark alley. And its worlds will fall like pearls before me.
- Gone Horribly Right: TBWL came from the Joker inflicting his killer with a Jokerizing virus. The problem is that it was Batman who killed him, so the end result is a creature with Batman's cunning and skill combined with The Joker's gleeful psychosis and adaptability, but without any scruples or morality from either of them. When a different reality's Joker sees TBWL, he's horrified.
- Guest Fighter: He appears in Mortal Kombat 11 as a costume for Noob Saibot.
- Hannibal Lecture: Dishes one pretty much every time he opens his mouth in proximity of anyone except Barbatos.
- He ends up on the receiving end of one by the Joker who explains his flaws to him as he's slicing his fingers off with Bat-a-rang switchblades. Batman Who Laughs just...well... laughs, even as Challenger's Mountain starts to collapse on him.
- Hope Crusher: Interestingly seems to be his go-to strategy: he likes to create no-win scenarios with a Hope Spot for the heroes to try to grasp —only for him to reveal it was a part of his game all along.
- Horrifying the Horror: You know you’ve earned this trope if even the Joker is scared of you to the point of willingly teaming up with Batman.
- Humanoid Abomination: Became this after the Joker toxin he inhaled had taken effect, and then his brain is transplanted into the final Bruce Wayne's body, which he morphs into a monstrous form he refers to as the Darkest Knight.
- Human Pet:
- He reduced Alfred to one. The butler was holed up in the sub-caverns beneath the Manor, armed with bombs and traps; TBWL overcame his defenses, walled him up him there, and tormented him verbally for months. TBWL was determined to break him, "and break you I did."
- He has pet "Rabid Robins" (also referred to as Groblins) at his command. Once they were ordinary children until the Joker of his world killed their parents and exposed them to a strain of Joker Toxin which turned them into monsters. The only thing the Rabid Robins say is "Crow", to which, when Batman Who Laughs wants them to halt, he'll respond with the phrase "Bar". This is a reference to the weapon the Joker used to kill Jason Todd in A Death In The Family - a crowbar.
- Hyde Plays Jekyll:
- How he managed to one-up the Bat-Family and Alfred, who nearly got the better of TBWL before hesitating (fooling himself into believing he could somehow bring Bruce back). When he briefed the Bat-Family on the toll being taken on his mind he was already completely turned, so at that point he was freely admitting that his "moral core" had been removed. In fact, the real reason he called them was that he knew they would be the first to alert the other heroes that something is wrong with him and do everything they could to save him... something he couldn't let happen. And then he does "something that [they] were unprepared for": pulling out dual sub-machine guns and shooting them all in the head.
- During his miniseries, he enters Wayne Tower and has a very casual and jovial conversation with the blind elevator attendant who only hears Bruce Wayne, not the monster he has become. TBWL bids the man farewell and leaves him unmolested... right before he slaughters a roomful of security guards and then abandons the attendant to die when the tower is rigged to explode.
- I Let You Win: Both the Joker and The Batman Who Laughs explain this to Lex point blank. If a Batman found himself caught, it's because he let the bad guys catch him. The Batman Who Laughs even states to Lex he can break out any time he wants to... just not right now.
- Insufferable Genius: The Toxin took Batman's ego and then ramped it up to 11. From the start of his infection, he cared as much about proving his superior IQ as he did about beating his opponents.
- In Their Own Image: The drive behind his acts of corrupting others. His ultimate goal is to rebuild the entire multiverse into a set of nightmares that'll devour itself in unbridled chaos.
- Invincible Villain: Invoked by Laughs himself and later Subverted. He who Laughs has stated that he’s basically the physical embodiment of the idea “Batman always wins” and is always ten steps ahead of the heroes at almost every turn, only to be defeated twice, once for real.
- Irony: He declares that he's a Batman who "always wins" and he's an apex predator who is the true form of Batmen, but unlike the prime Batman, he can be defeated, can be outright killed for real by Wonder Woman in his Darkest Knight form, and most of the destruction he induces comes undone after he actually dies.
- The Jailer: The Batman Who Laughs forces Wonder Woman to serve as the jailer for his super-villain prison built on the ashes of a destroyed Themyscira.
- Joker Immunity: After the other Dark Knights are killed off, he survives his encounter with the Joker and even gets his fingers back. He gets defeated in his mini-series, but Batman only has him imprisoned at the end. So naturally he escapes to wreak havoc in a new event. Subverted in Death Metal when Wonder Woman kills him off for real.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: It is unclear whether he killed his Joker intentionally or he snapped his neck by accident; he was just desperately trying to stop the Joker's killing spree. Two days after he did it, the Batman of Earth-22 vowed that he would never take another life...
- Killed Off for Real: At the end of Death Metal, Wonder Woman shoves him into the sun.
- Last of His Kind: He Who Laughs is the last living inhabitant of Earth -22. And the reason why? He was the one who propelled that universe to its death, killing every single being there solely to sate his newfound omnicidal sadism and gaining a compulsion to repeat this to several other universes just to get a kick out of it.
- Lean and Mean: Batman remarks to himself that he has a slight advantage in a physical contest over The Batman Who Laughs, though TBWL is more agile because of his thinner build.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- In Speed Metal, The Batman Who Laughs, when taunting Wally and the Flashes, asks "is it true a Flash has to die every Crisis?" which is almost a direct jab at Dan DiDio (who, according to Tom King, claimed this was the case to justify making Wally West the killer in Heroes in Crisis).
- The Batman Who Laughs' speech when he first appears in the story, meeting up with the Justice League members and their respective Dark Knight handlers, can be read as a Take That, Audience! at readers who have gotten tired of the character but still read the story:Batman Who Laughs: Oh, I know, I know, "You again? We're so sick of you." Yet here you are...because deep down you love it, don't you? Being bad with me.
- Legacy Character: He Who Laughs is the last direct remnant of The Joker after he was killed by Batman and thus, ends up being his direct successor. And not just by origins either; He Who Laughs is also a successor in that while The Joker wanted to target Batman specifically and wanted to focus his depravities on a singular target most of the time, He Who Laughs resorts to simply seeing everything as disposable, wants to take out his depravity towards everyone he can lay eyes on and his destruction has been expanded to include entire universes.
- Literal Split Personality: Sometime after his physical body's death, it is eventually reanimated as a Black Lantern via the Prime Batman's Black Lantern Ring.
- Living Shadow: Once he becomes The Darkest Knight he takes on the appearance of a shadow in the shape of his former body with his eyes and Slasher Smile being the only things that aren’t black.
- Manipulative Bastard: He's very good at playing people like fiddles for his goal, up to and including literal cosmic entities. Then Justice League Incarnate reveals that as good at manipulating as he was, even he could be manipulated. Specifically, the Great Darkness was using his as a pawn to destroy what the Presence created.
- Me's a Crowd: As of the Last 52: War of the Multiverses one-shot, the Batman Who Laughs exists as two entities with the same personality, the original who became the Darkest Knight and the former's corpse who retained his mind after being reanimated by the prime Batman's Black Lantern Ring.
- Multiversal Conqueror: After acquiring the power of the Final Bruce Wayne, who is essentially a Bruce Wayne with Doctor Manhattan's powers, Laughs renamed himself as the Darkest Knight and vowed to recreate the multiverse as the Final 52.
- Mythology Gag: To all those times Batman was infected by the Joker toxin in other media, particularly in Batman: Arkham Knight and "The Laughing Bat" episode of The Batman, only that the full effects of the toxin in this continuity would be fully realized.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: The Batman Who Laughs after being killed at the start of the event, sets in motion his true plan, which involves several more evil Batmen from across the Dark Multiverse.
- Narcissist: In case you didn't notice, he tends to work with other versions of himself from the Dark Multiverse. It starts with just 7 and then in Death Metal he has a whole army of Bruce Waynes subjugate Earth 0. It's also no small indication that his favorite is the Robin King who is the most like him.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Two major examples from the backstory of the Batman Who Laughs: we never find out just what he did to his world's Damian Wayne to make him into the twisted monster he ended up as, and we don't see what Superman and Superboy (under the effects of special black kryptonite) do to Lois Lane; both are heavily suggested to be horrifying.
- One-Winged Angel: The Darkest Knight, the result of the Batman Who Laughs taking over the body of a Bruce Wayne with Dr. Manhattan's powers.
- Omnicidal Maniac: He reduced his world to ashes and joined Barbatos so he could do it again forever to the entire multiverse.
- Overly-Long Tongue: Depending on the Artist, he has one.
- Practically Joker: Justified, since that’s exactly what he’s all about. He’s a Batman who got permanently Jokerized when he killed Joker, thus making him what would happen if Batman adopted the same ideology and outlook on life as the Joker, making him a murderous, nihilistic and sadistic Batman with a permanent Joker-ish grin on his face who represents Batman's fear of becoming as bad as the Joker.
- Power Makeover: After his brain is transplanted into the final Bruce Wayne's body, he briefly takes on a form identical to his previous one, the only difference being that he is in the blue color of Dr. Manhattan. He soon ditches the blue in favor of a black, spindly figure with a Jagged Mouth and shadows emanating from his body, rechristening himself the Darkest Knight.
- Sadist: He savors watching or listening to people suffer. For instance, while enacting a plan to corrupt Gotham with a serum made from other Bruce Waynes, he goes to the Court of Owls to ask them for a favor. When they refuse, he shows them that he has literally disarmed their Talons, leaving them defenseless. And he lets them run away in fear to die in their own remodeled base.
- Scary Teeth: Depending on the Artist, they're either simply discolored teeth, outright fangs, or anywhere in-between.
- Shadow Archetype: He represents Batman's fear of becoming as bad as the Joker, how much he is defined by the never-ending war with the Clown Prince of Crime and his regret he cannot stop the Joker for good without killing him.
- Slasher Smile: He Who Laughs is almost always seen with an exaggerated, yet unnerving smile across his face, a sign of an individual getting affected by a Joker Toxin. Except, in this case, it's Batman himself, which makes the smile (and in turn, his speeches of threatening and announcing death towards others) all the creepier. Essentially, think of Batman, but with The Joker's smile instead of the grumpy frown The Dark Knight is usually shown to express.
- Slouch of Villainy: Reclining on a throne made from corpses when Barbatos first makes contact with him.
- Social Darwinist: He has shades of this in his dialogue, describing his transformation as "evolution" and boasting about his ability to adapt to any situation.The Batman Who Laughs: But Batman should be the perfect survivor. The apex predator. That's his final form.
- The Sociopath: It's a requirement for any version of the Joker to be nuttier than squirrel shit.
- Sole Survivor: He's the only confirmed Dark Knight to have survived the final battle in Dark Nights Metal, despite having his fingers chopped off by the Joker and a mountain collapse on him. He's even found himself a new position: a member/captive of the Legion of Doom.
- Spikes of Villainy: Has spikes on a metal band around his cowl that obscures his eyes, and they aren't just for show, an example of their use being the death of an alternate Bruce Wayne via a spiked headbutt. The metal band is later revealed to be a visor which has the ability to sense both the good and evil thoughts in humans.
- The Starscream: Drops all pretense about being okay serving Perpetua as soon as he obtains enough power to be considered a Physical God, growing to her size and smashing planets on each other.
- Strike Me Down: Diana's decision to bisect the Batman Who Laughs with a laser chainsaw seems to make sense at the time, as there seems to be no hope for a victory that doesn't end in his death. This is immediately lampshaded as a Very Bad Idea by the other heroes, particularly Batman, who is so used to the One Who Laughs and his ridiculously Crazy-Prepared Xanatos Gambits (he is a twisted version of Bruce Wayne, after all) that he all but assumes that the One Who Laughs used his death as part of a grander scheme and will almost immediately return in an even more powerful and dangerous form to taunt and then slaughter everyone. He is proven right almost immediately, as the Batman Who Laughs has his minions place his brain into a body with the omnipotent and omniscient powers of Dr. Manhattan.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: After being The Heavy for most of the Dark Multiverse stories The Batman Who Laughs is apparently destroyed by Wonder Woman at the end of the first issue of Death Metal. Subverted, as he planned on this anyway.
- Super Empowering: He gives out Joker cards to Arkham inmates, which grant them a small measure of Reality Warper powers over the twisted hellscape that was once Gotham.
- Superior Successor:
- Sees himself as one to the Joker, whom he considers too narrow-minded to realize his full potential. The Joker doesn't seem to agree, calling him "The Batman Who Talks".
- He also sees himself as this to Prime Batman, who he refers to as the worst version of himself or the "bad joke" of Batmen, especially compared to other Bruce Waynes who retired from being Batman to help Gotham in other ways. Prime Batman disagrees, stating in their climactic final battle that a bigger joke than the worst Batman is the Batman he beats, i.e. the Batman Who Laughs.
- Superpower Lottery: Upon becoming The Darkest Knight, He Who Laughs has all of the exact same powers as Doctor Mahattan would have, including molecular reconstruction and deconstruction, limitless power and omnipresence, and cosmic awareness. With those in mind, plus He Who Laughs' destructive and sadistic nature, these, of course, mean things are going to look ugly.
- Thanatos Gambit: Joker-22 did everything he was capable of to make Batman abandon his no-killing pledge. He torched the city, bombed hospitals, shot parents in front of their kids (and Jokerized the survivors), removed any potential obstacles to his goal—including the Police Commissioner (who insisted on bringing Joker in alive) and the other Bat-Villains. "Hundreds dead", according to TBWL. He muses that the Joker knew his number was up and wanted to somehow mesh with Batman, even if he didn't know it consciously.
- He pulls this off himself in the first two issues of Death Metal. After Wonder Woman kills him, his minions revive him in the body of a Bruce Wayne who became Doc Manhattan, granting him the immense power he wants to usurp Perpetua and build his own multiverse.
- That Man Is Dead: He considers himself to no longer simply be Bruce Wayne or Batman—or the Joker, for that matter. He outright states that he was only "born" as a result of his transformation.
- Token Evil Teammate: More like Token Eviler Teammate for the sake of his villainous motives compared to the rest of the Dark Knights, which all amount to becoming heroes again. Trying to save your city by sacrificing another? Pretty understandable. Getting your parents back? What kid doesn't love his family? Trying to make your birth significant? A little weird, but well. Avenging your lost love? Sounds pretty noble if you leave out the plan to drown the entire world. Having nothing to lose and everything to gain? Even the Merciless can feel grief and sadness. Trying to make people hate Superman to save them from him? Sounds a little extreme, but the Devastator's stony heart is in the right place. But this guy? Combining Bruce's unfathomable rage, genius, tenacity and the Joker's sheer bloodthirsty nihilism, The Batman Who Laughs simply wants to kill basically EVERYONE in the multiverse for no reason, other than it strikes him as "hilarious".
- Unexplained Recovery: He somehow appears alive and well (and in his old costume) at the end of the final issue of Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point after being killed in Death Metal. Then again, being a crossover with Fortnite, its canonicity to the Prime Earth continuity is debatable.
- Ungrateful Bastard: As soon as he's revived by the Batmen and their respective Alfreds using Dr. Manhattan's body, he disintegrates them all since he no longer needs them.
- Villainous Breakdown: At the end of Death Metal, he is reduced to begging Diana not to kill him since he believes the "hands" will annihilate everything and he has not achieved what he wanted.
- Villains Want Mercy: At the end of his miniseries, when Batman is almost entirely engulfed by the Joker Toxin, he manages to get the upper hand and beats up the Batman Who Laughs. Caught off guard and with his jaw hanging by a thread, BWL can only gurgle pathetic pleas for Batman to stop.
- Vocal Dissonance: While he might look like the Joker in BDSM Batman cosplay, he disturbingly still has the regular Bruce Wayne's voice.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: His specialty, if the quote above is to be believed. He sees it as a natural evolution of strategies used by both Batman and the Joker.
- Was Once a Man: In the beginning, TBWL closely resembled the old Batman, but nowadays he's totally unrecognizable, with the Joker's pallour, wiry limbs, a Venom-like tongue, and an unnaturally-wide mouth which takes up half his face. It's hard to say whether this is a result of the toxin, but this is how he looked by the time Barbatos arrived. TBWL had conquered and destroyed his Earth by that point.
- His brain is placed in the body of the final Bruce Wayne, which causes him to become a nigh-omnipotent Humanoid Abomination and change his form into a creature of darkness that is only human in shape.
- Wham Line: In The Batman Who Laughs, Earth -22's Batman has finally killed the Joker, but is stuck with a whole bunch of Jokerized children with no cure in sight. He and Superman talk about the predicament and Superman briefly brings up an incident where a Jokerized kid tried to bite out a doctor's throat. To which Batman responds with:
- Batman: Ha!
- Would Hurt a Child:
- As part of a plan to prolong his legacy once he dropped dead of chemical poisoning, Joker-22 created orphans and then shot them up with toxin to re-make them in his and Batman's image. They've since been trained to become TBWL's human attack dogs.
- Exposing Superman and his son to black kryptonite, causing them to vomit and bleed out the eyes, before the former loses grip on his sanity and "rips [his] family apart." Evidently, he did the same thing to Supergirl and her family.
- Later, TBWL confesses to Wonder Woman that he especially enjoyed murdering her in the universes where she and Bruce married and had children.
- In the Court of Owls, he corners a wheelchair-bound girl who promised to listen to what he had to say if he let her live, now reduced to a sobbing, begging mess.The Batman Who Laughs: But my favor ... all I wanted ... was to hear you all die screaming. So ... help a guy out?
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Disintegrates all the present Batmen and Alfreds that revived him now that he has the body and powers of Dr. Manhattan.
Damian Wayne of Earth -22.
- Body Horror: Not only does he look like the Joker, the Robin emblem is branded onto his chest.
- The Corruptible: The Batman Who Laughs convinced him to turn himself into a Jokerized monster.
- The Corruption: He used Joker toxin to turn the captured members of the Teen Titans and the Suicide Squad into his minions.
- The Dragon: To the Batman Who Laughs, seemingly in command of his army of Rabid Robins.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Given the fact that his fingernails and toenails have become claws, who can blame him?
- Evil Counterpart: To Prime Earth's Damian Wayne.
- Evil Former Friend: To the Jon Kent of Earth -22... until the Batman Who Laughs exposed Jon to a strain of Black Kryptonite which turned him into a monster before it killed him.
- Facial Horror: His face resembles an impish version of The Joker, complete with sharp teeth.
- Shadow Archetype: He represents Damian Wayne's fear that he might revert back into a killer, how much he'd grown from a psychopathic brat to a team leader and friend and his regret that he might not be good enough to receive his friends and family's love and trust.
- We Can Rule Together: He tried to goad his main universe counterpart into joining the Dark Knights. Damian responded by stabbing him to death with an Nth metal arrow.