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Quote1 Take a good look Bruce. What do you see? You've never fought someone with all your training. Your discipline. See it yet? I'm not him in a batsuit. I'm you. You. How you are supposed to be without the codes. Without the rules. Except one. BATMAN. ALWAYS. WINS. Quote2
The Batman Who Laughs src
The Batman Who Laughs is the Bruce Wayne from Earth -22 of the Dark Multiverse. He is a lieutenant of Barbatos and leader of the Dark Knights.

Origin

The story of the Batman of Earth -22 was not much different from that of any other version of the Caped Crusader. However, everything went sideways when the Joker started a killing spree across the entire Gotham City, as he was dying from the same chemicals that had turned him into what he was. He murdered all of Batman's enemies including the Penguin, Catwoman, Killer Croc and the Ventrioloquist. He also saw the corpse of his friend Jim Gordon who was killed after springing an acid trap planted by the Joker in his notebook.[1][2]

Batman was later drugged by Joker, affecting his body but not his mind, so he could witness the chaos he caused. The Joker bombed a hospital in front of Bruce, told him how he had killed Gordon by melting his face with acid and shot dead parents of many young children in front of him before proceeding to inject the orphaned children with the Joker Venom. Batman eventually broke free of his restraints and ended up beating and choking him to death in anger, repeatedly asking him to stop. Unbeknownst to him, the Joker exhaled a toxin contained in his heart, which infected anyone close to him if he died. In this case, it was Batman.[2]

Two days after the murder of the Joker, Batman and Superman talked about what had happened. Bruce revealed that Joker went as far as he did because he was dying. Though he felt no guilt, he affirmed that he was not planning to make killing a regular thing. Superman assured him that the S.T.A.R. Labs branch in Metropolis had agreed to take care of all the kids who had been infected by the Joker Venom and acquired his personality.[2]

A day later, Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin were training in the Batcave when they noticed the training robots were fighting harder than usual. Though they succeeded at the exercise, Nightwing voiced what they were all feeling; something was wrong and Bruce brought them there to talk about it. Bruce explained that he had been infected by an advanced nanotoxin that had been contained in Joker's cells to turn the mind of anyone who killed him like that of his. Nightwing presumed he was training them so they could take him down in case he turned, but he declined when the Batman Family pleaded to let them help him. Batman however stated that he hadn't called them to help him, but to surpise them as he proceeded to shoot his sidekicks dead.[2]

Bruce later convinced his son Damian to join his side.[3] A week after the Joker's death, he had slaughtered the rest of the Justice League by using the stockpiles of various villains' weaponry they had built up over the years. On the Justice League Watchtower, he cornered Superman by injecting a Kryptonite-infused gas into the air, making Clark's eyes bleed, and stated that he didn't want to hold back anymore. Clark warned him that people will resist him after realizing what he has become, Bruce responded that he looks forward to it otherwise it won't be fun. He then brought his wife Lois and his son Jon before him, the latter also suffering from bleeding eyes.[2][4]

Bruce then mocked him and asked him to lie to his family that it will be okay, which Clark refused. He then unveiled a warped Damian and the rest of the Rabid Robins to Clark, before showing a modified Black Kryptonite, stating that he tested it on Supergirl who killed her own foster parents before dying herself. Bruce's transformation into "The Batman Who Laughs" was finished, allowing him to cackle as Clark and Jon tore Lois apart before dying after he tossed the kryptonite towards them.[2]

The people of Earth -22 fought back, but Bruce annihilated everything they threw at him until he and his Robins were all that remained.[2] The last one to face him was Alfred, who almost managed to defeat Bruce by rigging his cave, his vehicles and all his equipment. But by convincing Alfred that there was still hope for him, Bruce managed to trap Alfred in sub-caves and by feeding him scraps and whispering to his ear all the time, Bruce managed to break Alfred to become his loyal servant again.[5]

As his world began to fade from existence, Barbatos arrived and revealed the rest of the Dark Multiverse to him, and his plans to go after the true Multiverse as well. Believing him to be the ideal Bat to help him, he made him the spearhead for his plans to drag all of creation into darkness.[2]

Assembling the Knights

The Batman Who Laughs went out into the Dark Multiverse to assemble the most twisted versions of Batman out there to aid in conquering the main Multiverse. Traveling to each of the Knights' worlds minutes before they were erased from existence, he appealed to their desire not only to live, but to bring their unique brands of truth and justice to worlds beyond their own. Each Batman jumped at the opportunity, and they awaited their moment to travel to Earth 0. Once the Court of Owls summoned them, his first act was to have his warped Robins slaughter the Court's leaders. He then set the Knights loose upon the hometowns of each member of the Justice League.

This Batman was next seen aiding the other Knights in defeating Cyborg aboard the Watchtower. Once Victor was down, the Batman Who Laughs explained that they had been called into this universe because of a great ringing, and that despite their nightmarish nature, they were needed to save the world.[6]

Games in Gotham

The Games Begin

After taking over the Justice League Watchtower, each Dark Knight was given control of a city. The One Who Laughs was assigned the protection of Gotham, as it was where Barbatos would fulfill his plans.
Bruce watches over the Riddler

Bruce watches over the Riddler
Bruce fought his way through Arkham Asylum, causing a mass breakout of the mentally impaired. Bruce offered playing cards made out of Cosmic Metallurgy to worst of Batman's enemies, a material originating in the Dark Multiverse which allowed the wielder to manipulate reality. The villains to receive the cards were the Riddler, Poison Ivy, Firefly, Bane, Mister Freeze and Mad Hatter. These villains were each given a section of the city to rule over, with Challengers Mountain sitting in the middle of the city. The quadrants were designed so that if someone wanted to get to Batman on top of the Challengers Mountain, they would have to go through each villain to get there.[7]

The One Who Laughs was able to see the carnage ensue from his mountain top, viewing each villain's actions with the reality warping powers of his cards. Eventually the Teen Titans, a group of teenage superheroes led by Robin, entered the arena of war. Riddler was located in the outermost ring of the city and so battled the young heroes first. Robin soon became separated with the rest of the Titans, forging an alliance with fellow hero Green Arrow to defeat Riddler. Due to his lack of imagination with the card, Riddler was defeated by the Titans. Disappointed by the waste of a card, Bruce decided to send his Damian into battle against the Teen Titans.[7]

Death in the Family

The Suicide Squad also made their way into the city where Killer Croc and Harley Quinn quickly became separated from the rest of the Squad. Robin and Arrow soon met up with Nightwing in Freeze's realm, with Croc and Quinn joining shortly afterwards. Meanwhile the Suicide Squad and the Teen Titans formed an alliance but were quickly ambushed by Bruce's army of Robins led by Damian. Damian was able to capture the two teams, who were forced into servitude after being effected by Bruce's Joker Gas. Robin, Croc, Harley, Nightwing and Arrow, now known as the Resistance, were able to defeat Mister Freeze after discovering an armoury of Nth Metal in an old vault, capable of effecting the denizens of the Dark Multiverse.[8]

The Resistance trekked through the territory of Firefly, avoiding his minions where they could. Eventually they were captured by Poison Ivy, however they were able to escape. They then came across Damian with the Jokerized Suicide Squad and Teen Titans. The Resistance were no match for the far superior enemy and so fled into the territory of Mad Hatter.[9]

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Bats out of Hell

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The Batman Who Laughs watches as his teammates torture the Justice League, but his joy is interrupted by Cyborg, who saves the Justice League. He attacks Wonder Woman after she finds Hawkman's mace, shooting her in the head with bullets made of the 8th metal. Later, he reveals he has captured the Over-Monitor, who, when linked up with the Anti-Monitor's astral brain, would destroy all of reality, both the Dark Multiverse and the Multiverse and leave nothing but darkness. However, his plan is interrupted by the Justice League and their allies from the Multiverse, including Batman of an Older Universe, Vampire Batman, and a Batman of Earth-30. Bruce Wayne of Prime Earth confronts The Batman Who Laughs, resulting in Bruce getting shot. However, the Joker arrives and assists Bruce in fighting The Batman Who Laughs, cutting off his fingers in the process. The Joker explains to the Batman Who Laughs his one true weakness: he is able to come up with everything, but only for things that Bruce Wayne can think of. And the one thing that Bruce Wayne would never plan on is Batman teaming up with the Joker. Bruce escapes with the Over-Monitor while the cave collapses on The Batman Who Laughs and the Joker, leaving their fates unknown.

The Legion of Doom

Sometime after assisting the House of Conquest, Batman was captured by Lex Luthor and imprisoned in the Hall of Doom. Bruce was capable of breaking out of this cell at any point, but wanted to bide his time. Eventually Lex released Bruce in exchange for knowledge about the Omniverse's secrets.[10]

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The Batman Who Laughs

Batman ends up finding the dead body of a Bruce Wayne seemingly from a different universe. Upon further inspection, he deduces that the Batman Who Laughs is behind it. Meanwhile, in Arkham Asylum, yet another Batman from the Dark Multiverse namely Grim Knight appears and guns down most of the security guards in order to reach the Joker's cell. The Batman Who Laughs himself makes an appearance only to discover that the Joker is a decoy. In the Batcave, the real Joker turns up and Batman offers protection and partnership. The Joker instead commits suicide stating that the only way Batman can defeat The Batman Who Laughs is by becoming him. The same toxin seems to take effect on Batman who starts laughing menacingly, much to Alfred's horror.

After taking Jim Gordon captive, the Batman Who Laughs travels with the Grim Knight to his hideout underneath Gotham City. He remarks that on his world, Jim Gordon had died before his transformation, so he was never able to befriend him properly. After hoping they could become friends (and possibly even partners later), the Batman Who Laughs returns Jim's glasses and places them on his head; he then leaves Jim Gordon in the care of Grim Knight and travels to the next portal location: Blackgate. Taking on the disguise of a senior officer named David Harper, the Batman Who Laughs encounters Batman and another Bruce Wayne from a universe where Wayne is the warden of Blackgate. The Batman Who Laughs is able to separate Batman and kills Bruce Wayne by slashing his throat; he gleefully taunts Batman for trying to see the world through the eyes of his children and suggests that he try looking through the eyes of his TRUE child: The Batman Who Laughs. He removes his visor to show Batman his true face for the first time. The Batman Who Laughs then lowers the visor and turns back on his disguise, ordering the arriving officers to open fire on Batman for supposedly killing Bruce Wayne. Batman tries to tell the guards he isn’t The Batman Who Laughs but real villain tells them to keep shooting and call in reinforcements before taking his leave.

While this was happening, the Batman Who Laughs traveled deep beneath Gotham to meet with the Court of Owls; after arriving, he asks that he needs a favor from them. The court however are not interested in hearing him out and contemplate in making him suffer for their amusement. They decide to let the "littlest one" among them choose his fate, prompting a girl in a wheelchair to approach The Batman Who Laughs and ask him why they should listen to his request. The Batman Who Laughs tells the "little one" that they both share the same goal, to make Gotham the city it was meant to be. He states that for it to succeed, all the court has to do is grant him one small favor.

The little one refuses and instead decides to unleash the Talons upon the madman, telling him to take up his request with them. Initially feigning fear and desperation, The Batman Who Laughs soon informs the little one that he already did while the now armless Talons stumble into view. The Court of Owls begin to flee as The Batman Who Laughs proceeds to detonate explosives he planted earlier to reshape their labyrinth and make escape much more difficult. Terrified for her life, the little one tells The Batman Who Laughs he can have whatever he wants from the court; he responds by saying he just wanted them to all die screaming before pushing the little one into the water below them. The Batman Who Laughs then admits that despite his actions, he does have a lot of respect for the court. So much so that in one reality he became their leader and transports that version of Bruce Wayne from his native world to Prime Earth. The alternate Bruce proceeds to attack The Batman Who Laughs and a fight commences between them. Sometime later, it is believed that The Batman Who Laughs was victorious in his fight and killed the alternate Bruce.

He then contacts Batman who answers it despite warnings from Commissioner Gordon not to. The Batman Who Laughs reveals he is not there to taunt them and that he really needs to tell Batman about something he discovered from the Court of Owls' city archives. He reveals that the original Last Laugh built into Gotham years ago was not just designed to make the city a safe haven, but to also turn it into an incubator for conquest. A fortress city where the people could launch assaults while being protected from the rest of the world. The knowledge that Gotham was violent even in its earliest days seemingly shatters Batman's faith in the city as he continues to hang on every word. Alfred tries to tell Batman through his commutator that the Joker's toxin in his bloodstream is reaching critical levels, but the butler's call is muted as The Batman Who Laughs goads his Prime Earth self into activating the Last Laugh protocol.

After finishing his call to the Batcave and ensuring Last Laughs' activation, The Batman Who Laughs seeks out the fifth Bruce Wayne to murder. He crosses into a world where an elderly Bruce was about to receive an award for his years of service to the citizens of Gotham. Laughs waits with a sniper rifle for Bruce to walk up to accept the award when he is contacted by Batman, who suddenly makes Laughs' target vanish. The Batman Who Laughs mocks Batman for continuing to fight the toxin and estimates he has one more hour until it fully takes hold of him. The Batman Who Laughs is told that the Dark Metal is gone except for the largest stash under Wayne Manor, and now has control over the dark energy building up there. Batman also told The batman Who Laughs that he will summon the last Bruce needed for the Dark Matter serum if the villain arrives at Wayne Manor in one hour.

Despite calling his bluff and replying that he already has created enough serum to effect most of the city, The Batman Who Laughs decides to show up at the manor and finds Batman waiting for him. Joyous to sense how affected Batman has become, The Batman Who Laughs admits he doesn't see what plan Batman could possibly have to use against him. He knows that if Batman exerts his body just a little more, he will complete his transformation and become just like himself; The Batman Who Laughs remarks that the action of moving a pitcher of water was all it took for himself to turn. Both Batmen proceed to fight each other while The Batman Who Laughs mentions that Bruce will make a very suitable counterpart despite calling him the worst out of all the Batmen. With little time left for his Prime Earth counterpart, The Batman Who Laughs decides to tell him the key to their happiness. The Batman Who Laughs explains that every version of Bruce he has pulled from their respective worlds are the happiest because they compromised on their ideals to achieve their goals differently. However, Batman continues to be uncompromising, which Laughs believes actually prevents him from ever obtaining success or happiness. It is because of this The Batman Who Laughs thinks that even if Batman had seen every version of himself, he still wouldn't know how to find a single version of himself that was truly happy.

Batman responds that he knows of one, before summoning a young cheerful Bruce Wayne from before his parents' murder. Young Bruce noticed the two men and believed to be playing a game. Batman told the boy to run past him and don't stop while he tries to prevent the "monster" from catching him. However The Batman Who Laughs scoffs at this, saying that he doesn't need the boy. Throwing a Batarang at Batman (which gets jammed into his head), The Batman Who Laughs says he is after the happiest Bruce Wayne in existence to complete his serum; a Bruce Wayne who has entirely let go of his sadness and ideals to become the most "evolved" of them all. He then pulls out a syringe, and proclaiming Batman himself to be the Bruce Wayne he needs, jamming it into Batman's chest at the moment Bruce becomes completely consumed by the toxin.

Sensing that Bruce is essentially consumed by the toxin, The Batman Who Laughs asks his Prime counterpart if he agrees that letting go feels good. Becoming more demonic in appearance, he indicates once the light atop the syringe turns red, Bruce will fully become his duplicate. He then aims a gun at Bruce's head and reminds him there can only be one Batman who wins, before inexplicably turning the gun towards himself. After realizing Bruce anticipated him bringing a Wayne-Tech syringe and rigged a charge to try and fool him, Laughs shoots Bruce and disregards why he has not fully changed. Before he can shoot again, the younger Bruce is able to disarm The Batman Who Laughs; letting out an evil chuckle, Laughs turns his sights towards his younger self and gives chase.

The Batman Who Laughs corners the younger Bruce in the Wayne Manor graveyard; gleefully anticipating to butcher his younger self, Laughs is confronted by Alfred and repeatedly shot in the chest. Reminiscing about how it took a year to break his own Alfred, Laughs is surprised by Batman kicking him in the back of the head. Angered over how Bruce has yet to turn, The Batman Who Laughs mocks him for relying on Alfred being his ultimate plan; he is taken by surprise when several depleted uranium harpoons are shot into him, painfully electrocuting Laughs.

Ripping several of them out, The Batman Who Laughs continues to insult Batman only to get hit over the head by him using the headstone of their mother's grave. Now with a broken and dislocated jaw, the Batman Who Laughs can only gurgle a response as Batman mercilessly beats him with the headstone; The Batman Who Laughs weakly begs for Bruce to stop, only to get his head stomped underneath the headstone. Remarkably, The Batman Who Laughs manages to survive, but is gravely injured. He is then taken and locked inside a dungeon within the Hall of Justice.

The Secret Six

Before being captured, The Batman Who Laughs came up with a plan to infect the entire world and required six to get the process started. Targeting members of the Justice League and their allies, Laughs learns that Commissioner Gordon was infected during his fight with the Grim Knight; The Batman who Laughs then used special Batarangs comprised of Nth metal coated with the same toxin that the Joker used to initially infect him to infect four other heroes to his cause: Shazam, Hawkman, Donna Troy and The Blue Beetle. After infecting Shazam, Laughs gives him the final Batarang meant for Superman and instructs him to infect the Man of Steel when the time comes.

After a period of time passes, The Batman Who Laughs is pleased to see an infected Superman arrive and break him out of his prison cell. Sensing something is off with him, however, Laughs decides to visit the Hall of Justice armory and reigns in Superman's wish to go on a rampage. Hearing from Superman that Shazam did not mention anything of his plan, The Batman Who Laughs informs him that he plans to use the infected heroes to help destroy every inhabitant in their universe; eventually making a comment about how Superman will not be able to save his wife or son, Laughs sees Superman lunge towards him and the two are quickly restrained by the defenses of the Hall of Justice. When Batman states that Clark's ruse did not work, Laughs confirms it and casually wonders if he never left his cell in the first place; the illusion disappears and The Batman who Laughs jeers on Batman and Superman fighting amongst each other. He mocks Batman about the task of deciphering who he has infected but gives him a clue as to where to start. Batman leaves to search for Commissioner Gordon while Laughs remains trapped in his cell, laughing as he is electrocuted.

Powers

Abilities

  • Acrobatics
  • Driving
  • Genius Level Intellect
    • Cosmic Awareness: Unlike most mortals in the Omniverse, Bruce is aware of multiple different realities. He is aware of his own Dark Multiverse as well as the opposite Multiverse. He also knows how the Dark Multiverse was formed, as he was told by Barbatos.[11] Finally he is aware of an ancient and all powerful being known as Perpetua, which few others in existence know of. He is so familiar with time travel that he can smell cronal energy on people.[10]
    • Escapology: Batman is able to escape from almost any precarious situation. He has proven himself capable enough to escape a magical cell strong enough to keep the incredibly powerful wizard Merlin locked up for a thousand years.[10]
    • Gadgetry
    • Investigation: On his world Bruce was considered "the world's greatest detective". He was able to deduce the entire plan of Lex Luthor even though he was locked inside a cell with no plausible way of finding out his secrets.[10]
    • Disguise
    • Tactical Analysis: Batman is a master tactician. Using his knowledge of their various weaknesses, Batman was able to systematically eliminate every member of his Justice League. He went up against the people of his world, armies of villains, alien tyrants, and the wrath of gods. Still he prevailed as he used his methodical mind to exterminate all those who resisted him.[2]
  • Leadership: The One Who Laughs is the leader of the Dark Knights.[12]
  • Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced)
    • Martial Arts: Bruce has all the same training and skills as the Batman of Earth 0 and has never lost a one on one fight. Laughs was able to take on the Earth 0 Batman and Joker at the same time for a short while.[11]
  • Peak Human Condition
    • Peak Human Strength
    • Peak Human Durability
    • Peak Human Stamina
    • Peak Human Reflexes
  • Weaponry: Batman is a master in utilizing several types of weaponry.

Weaknesses

  • Vulnerability to Nth Metal: Denizens of his universe vibrate at a different frequency to Nth Metal, and are particularly badly harmed upon contact with it.[13]

Equipment

  • Black Kryptonite: Bruce possesses a modified strain of Black Kryptonite. This kryptonite forces the affected Kryptonian to kill the people they love most in the world, and then die. He used it to kill the Superman, Supergirl and Superboy of his Earth.[2]
  • Dark Metal Cards: Bruce possesses a set of cards forged out of Cosmic Metallurgy. Cosmic Metallurgy is a material found in the Dark Multiverse with interesting properties. When in the "light" Multiverse the wielder of a Dark Card can manipulate reality to his or her whim.[7]
  • Dark Metal Visor: Since the eyes The Batman Who Laughs can see through the membrane to the Dark Multiverse to see the things that people fear and desire he uses a visor made of Dark Metal to filter out the dark energy and the noise in order to focus on what he wants to see.[14]
  • The Batman Who Laughs represents Batman's fear of becoming just as bad as the Joker, how much he is defined by the never-ending war with the Clown Prince of Crime, and his regret that he can't stop the Joker for good without ending his life.
  • The Batman Who Laughs is referred to as "Laughs" by Devastator in Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt Vol 1 1. This is the only appearance of a nickname for The Batman Who Laughs to date.
  • The character's name was influenced off of two silent films that inspired Bob Kane and Bill Finger to create both Batman and the Joker: "The Bat" (1926) and "The Man Who Laughs" (1928).

Related

Footnotes


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