#3. Batman: Holy Terror (or BatPriest)
Holy tonal U-turn, BatPriest!
Take everything you love about Batman. His dark, brooding nature. His resources, cool gadgets and toys. His unflappable badassery. Batman: Holy Terror is the exact opposite of that. He's super naive, loves to sing gospel songs, loves Jesus super hard and is very sensitive. Finally, a Batman to make us all feel more adequate. And oh, he has one super ability: Power Weeping.
This will be a recurring theme.
The universe of Batman: Holy Terror involves such a long and complex back story, it would be impossible to sum it up in a single Cracked article, let alone a single entry. Here are the main points: Oliver Cromwell never died, America lost the Revolutionary War, Commissioner Gordon wears a powdered wig now, women hold little to no power and no one's votes count. Also, there's a Batman in the mix.
In this world, Batman grows up seeking solace from his parents' death in the arms of the church and eventually becomes a priest. Before leaving Wayne Manor for the last time, Bruce indulges in one last romp of Olympic caliber gymnastics.
"See, Grayson? I didn't fall. You just have stupid parents."
Just as Bruce is about to stick the landing on a double back flip with spastic joy, old friend Inquisitor Gordon drops by to lay a bombshell on Brucey-Boy: his parents' murder was a state-ordered assassination. While outwardly appearing to be prominent and loyal members of the State, Thomas and Martha Wayne operated as undercover rebels, secretly running a clinic for injured dissidents, castaways and others brutalized by the intolerant government. Bruce throws a hissy fit, accusing Gordon of trying to harsh his Jesus-loving buzz, and cries (again). Too curious to let it go, Bruce decides to investigate Gordon's accusation. He dons a bat costume his dad used to wear for Passion plays.
What part did bats play in the crucifixion of Christ?
The newly born Batman gets to the root of the matter, kicks a few asses, cries some more. His investigation leads to a testing facility full of human guinea pigs, including Barry "The Flash" Allen. Barry shows Batman around the place, where humans have been subjected to the most bizarre, grotesque and inhumane experiments imaginable -- including electrocuting genitals, because it's not evil science without fried genitals.
"Can you smell grilled salmon?"
Barry introduces him to Arthur, a man with the ability to breathe underwater (Aquaman), mentally broken by the scientists' torture. In just one of many horrific experiments performed on Arthur, scientists force-bred him with some kind of merwoman, the resulting offspring a poor nameless soul we'll call Boner Killer.
While it's unclear what purpose the facility serves other than as a Nightmare Factory, Batman eyes potential in the inmates. Seeing all these prisoners with super powers and a royal beef against the government, Batman begins to think he could assemble some sort of league of heroes, a justice-oriented one. Before he can wipe his eyes long enough to think up a team name, the evil head scientist, Erdel, arrives to piss all over his parade. Barry takes a run at the guy, but Erdel uses a device to switch off the aura Barry's body creates to protect him from friction. The Flash bursts into flames, which is pretty harsh, but don't pretend that isn't the most badass way to go out. When you get to heaven after dying by way of exploding from going too fast, you get a high-five from God.
We like to think he smashed straight through the pearly gates, lit God's cigar and landed in a hot tub.
To break Batman's justice-seeking spirit, the evil scientist leads him to a being called "The Green Man," this comic's stand-in for Superman. Also Jesus, apparently.
They nailed subtlety to that cross last week.
What little hope is left in Batman dissipates when he learns the Green Man is dead, poisoned by Kryptonite. Seeing Superman, the one hope the world had left, inspires Batman to tap into his true superpower: a deep reserve of suppressed rage. He'd held back all his anger over his parents' death, all his contempt for the corrupt world around him, all the anger at the inhumane injustices he witnessed -- and the moment he sees Dead Superman, he snaps and kicks major BatAss. So remember, kids, if you want to grow up to be a hero like Batman, take your feelings and cram them deep down inside.
Unfortunately, super rage or not, Erdel has discovered Batman Kryptonite: bullets. Erdel starts unloading his pistol on Bats. One of Erdel's stray bullets reflects off Superman's sculpted abs and strikes Erdel dead.
Even in death, Superman and Batman make a great team.
Batman makes his way into the innermost sanctum, the Star Chamber, to find out who ordered the kill on his parents, only to discover that the System, and not one man, is really to blame. Bruce dedicates himself to preaching by day and taking down the State as Batman by night, punching down criminals and then immediately apologizing for it and crying.
"Dear Lord, forgive me, I punched a guy in the dick for like three hours to get him to talk."
#2. Pirate Batman
Pirate Batman's a strange phenomenon. Separately the components work, but combine them and the math gets wonky. Batman = Badass; Pirate = Badass; Batman + Pirate = Ass.
Captain Leatherwing (Batman) is a pirate under contract with the British crown to raid and plunder ships of England's enemies, especially Spain. This doesn't exactly put Batman on the right side of history, as we don't remember the British Empire for benevolence, justice and humanitarianism. Sure, Pirate Batman is still an irascible rogue, kind of like Han Solo if Han did freelance work for the Empire.
The cast of characters includes all the regulars: Alfredo (Alfred), Batman's sassy Italian servant; Capitana Felina (Catwoman) and Robin Redblade, who no one seems to notice is a transvestite.
A very pretty transvestite.
Oh, and of course the Joker shows up as the Laughing Man, a rival pirate.
What a jolly old swashbuckler!
We meet Captain Leatherwing as he saves the princess of the Caiman Islands from seafaring brutes. Leatherwing loans the lady a dress and when they get to the islands discovers that giving a woman a dress is the Caiman custom for proposing marriage. Because, of course, introducing a slapstick accidental marriage into the middle of the story makes total sense. For an '80s sitcom.
This is exactly the kind of plot children wanted when they'd heard about a Pirate Batman comic.
Meanwhile, Capitana Felina's crew is in the throes of mutiny, because someone has to do things that aren't related to marriage in this comic book about pirates and Batmen. Captain Joker steps in to save Felina and proposes they collude in a plot to discover Leatherwing's Cay (Batcave) and all his riches. Joker will use Felina to seduce Leatherwing, making Joker a pimp, which totally explains why he's dressed like that.
"I hold one of my balls in each pant leg."
Leatherwing's ship, the Flying Fox, comes upon Joker's Spanish galleon. Leatherwing spots a Spanish contessa (Felina) being made to walk the plank into shark-infested waters. Of course Leatherwing totally buys it, because the last thing a ship crowded with unscrupulous, lonely pirates needs is a sexy woman with a leather and whip fetish.
Felina falls, Leatherwing goes in after her and in the most badass moment, Batman lands a flying drop kick to a shark's face. Even the shark was like, "Holy shit, that was awesome!"
"It's a real honor, Pirate Batman!"
Felina's plan backfires and she eventually falls in love with Pirate Batman, because of course you fall in love with Pirate Batman he's Pirate Batman! Felina no longer wants a part in Joker's plan and will marry Leatherwing. That's when the Three's Company seed planted a few paragraphs ago really takes root and Batman's Caiman princess bride pops up. Catwoman is pissed (which is understandable), so she jumps off the boat to rejoin Joker (less understandable).
"You're great and all, but Joker understands my need for constant emotional abuse."
We could explain how the nutty romantic triangle issue gets sorted out, but why should we when the book hardly cares. Batman's "wife" never shows up again and it's never explained how the predicament got resolved. Lazy writing must be the Caiman custom for marriage annulment.
Now it's on to the final showdown with the Joker. While our Batman would never intentionally kill anyone, Leatherwing is a big fan of killing and in fact kills the Laughing Man.
"THIS IS SO MUCH EASIER!"
#1. Cowboy Batman
It could have easily been The Good, the Bat and the Ugly, but they so dearly wanted something nonsensical.
Ah, the cowboy phase. The Blue, the Grey and the Bat delivers us to the dog days of the Civil War. The North and South battle a war of attrition, with both sides tiring and neither gaining the upper hand. President Lincoln learns of a rich gold deposit in the unclaimed Nevada territory. That gold could reinvigorate the Southern cause; Lincoln must stop it. So he calls in his most flamboyant secret agent, Colonel Bruce Wayne.
"You should give up the stovepipe hat. It makes you look ridiculous."
Wayne fights for the Union both as a military man and as Batman. Remember how Bruce Wayne came by the identity of the Bat after a dark, tortured night of the soul lead to an epiphany? This Bruce Wayne just thought dressing like a bat would be funny. Even Lincoln points out Batman's costume is a bit over the top, and he was a Frankenstein.
All the same, a guy's gotta have a costume. The Batsuit is uniquely designed to protect Batman while allowing him to use stealth and the cover of darkness as his weapon. Which makes Batman's black leather suit an intriguing choice for fighting crime in the middle of the flat, sun-bleached, blistering desert.
"Do you think they've spotted us?"
To keep his identity secret, Bruce masquerades as the winner of a "Most Punchable Face" contest.
"Hey, I'm shitty Zorro, it's nice to meet you."
He rides to Nevada with a fetching young woman and her aunt, who no one wants to point out looks like a cross-dressing Teddy Roosevelt.
In Nevada, Bruce meets up with Redbird (Robin), a Native American who speaks broken English. Redbird's actually half Native American (his mother was white), so there's no reason for him not to speak regular English except the contractual obligation of every Native American character in media to speak bad English and finish every sentence with "boss."
Bruce teams up with Wild Bill Hickok and Mark Twain because something something something, history is whatever we want it to be.
And horse anatomy is whatever the artists want it to be.
Then the not-at-all-surprising twists start piling up. The fetching young woman turns out to be working for the South, a bunch of French soldiers arrive to get the gold and everyone expecting a Batman comic gets bored and leaves. But things don't go really off the rails until someone shoots and kills Batman's horse, at which point he Loses. His. Shit.
And that's ... how Batman won the Civil War?
Wow. This actually would have made a much better history textbook.
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For more astonishingly bad comic ideas, check out Batman: The WTF Adventures and The 20 Most Ridiculous Batman Comics Ever Released.