I love a good doppelgänger. Or a bad one, more accurately, I suppose. Think about nearly any hero, and I bet they have a dark double. Superman has Bizarro. Captain America has Protocide. Green Lantern has Sinestro. Flash has Professor Zoom. Iron Man has Titanium Man. Martian Manhunter has Malefic. Darkhawk has Portal. No one does doppelgangers better than Batman. Which makes sense, right? If you ask most comic fans who has the best villains in the game, you get one of two answers: Batman or Spider-Man. If they choose Spider-Man, chances are better than good they’ll say Batman is a close second.

What sets Batman’s dark doubles apart, besides their sheer number, is how they mirror different aspects of the hero. In the case of Captain America, his doubles are generally shield-wielders who are either a disturbed solider or representatives of other countries in opposition to America. In the case of Green Lantern, it’s a ring wielder powered not by will but an arguably less healthy human drive. For Bats though, there is more depth.

Bruce Wayne: Making a Sociopath

Flights Of Fancy

To just address it at the start, yes Man-Bat is a sort of doppelgänger. Mostly that’s just due to the bat aspect. He commits crimes as a result but has no particular dedication or system to those criminal acts to reflect Batman’s commitment or drive. The real juicy doubles are the human beings. Batman, essentially, has picked up one a decade since the 50’s that has uniquely reflected different aspects of the Dark Knight.

Batman
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Killer Moth, the first such figure, was unveiled in the 1950’s and was immediately labeled the “Criminal Batman.” On a surface level, Moth mirrored Batman by having such aptly named possessions like a Moth Signal — to allow criminals to call out for his help — and a Moth Cave as a hideout. However, Moth runs a bit deeper than that. Bruce is determined to fight crime because the goal is his reward, while Moth does what he does to make a buck. Something that’s a mission for Batman, for Moth is just an occupation.

Batman Reflected

The 60’s brought Owlman, the Batman of another Earth where good and evil are reversed. The most compelling version of the character was unveiled in the 90’s in the EARTH-2 graphic novel from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. He’s the brilliant planner, the man who’s ready for anything, except he has zero morality or loyalty. He prepares to defeat his teammates, not as a last resort, but because he might enjoy the rush of betraying them someday.

Wrath came along in the 80’s and was the most exact mirror to date. His parents were criminals killed by then Lieutenant Gordon, not high society types slain by a mugger. His goal was the destruction of Gotham’s police force, culminating in the death of Gordon himself. He even had his own twisted version(s) of Robin! So he was a Batman figure dedicated to chaos, who’s biggest enemy was arguably Batman’s strongest non-costumed ally.

Dark Knights

Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

In the 90’s, Prometheus took this ball and ran with it. In the same way, the Dark Knight had been elevated to “Bat-God” by Morrison’s run on JLA, this literal knight had a Wrath-like origin but ambition to spare. He was the mirror of the Batman that could toe to toe with White Martians, Doctor Destiny, the Key, and Darkseid. He could take any hero and had the drive to do so. Also, whereas Batman is a largely grim dispenser of justice, Prometheus was nearly joyful in his attacks on the Justice League.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1: The Dark Nightmare

The Naughty Aughties (better know, perhaps, as the 2000’s) bequeathed us Hush, but we’ll talk more about him in a moment.

Instead, we jump to Talon, the evil Batman of the 2010’s. Like Batman, Talon fights for the soul of Gotham. Unlike Batman, Talon’s dedication isn’t on behalf of the average person but rather to secure it for a secret society of plutocrats who have little interest in anything but continuing to exert their own will. Talon also claimed to be Bruce Wayne’s brother, making him a genetic mirror as well.

A Wayne By Another Name

This brings us back to Hush. Hush in and of himself isn’t much of a Batman mirror. What he is, however, is a Bruce Wayne double. He’s a boy who left the city after a tragedy, returning to Gotham as a man triumphant. However, for Wayne, he strives for a frivolous reputation that keeps others from looking too deeply into him. For Thomas Elliott though, he cannot help but demand the spotlight, returning to Gotham as one of the greatest surgeons in the world. He uses his money not to do good covertly, but to do evil instead. To complete this mirror, he eventually gets plastic surgery to render himself a near identical in physical appearance to Bruce Wayne.

Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Black Mask is, similarly, a Bruce Wayne doppelganger. A member of Gotham’s society whose family got money through criminal acts, not altruistic pursuits, Black Mask grew up hating his father. As a result, he kills his father, dons a mask made of dear old dad’s casket, and steps up the family’s operations. Black Mask is a Bruce Wayne who cares more about money and power than he does about what those gifts of birth can do to help others.

BATMAN #20 Review: Mama’s Boy

Reflective Surfaces

I sometimes like to imagine what my doppelgänger might be like. I figure he would have to have a long flowing mane of hair to stand opposite to my shaved pate. He might be a therapist in the Hugo Strange mold. A villain who uses his gifts to manipulate and conquer others instead of helping them. Might he not have panic attacks? Would he ever worry about his weight? About losing what little looks he has? Is he confident in all the ways I’m not? Does he never worry if he is a good enough dad or husband?

Is he out there, writing about anime, perhaps? Or small press books that I haven’t even heard of yet? Does he land all his pitches? Love each piece he finishes? Does he always feel like a good writer, not just a lucky one? Does he have a costume yet? If he does, do I need one too? Do I have to fight him at some point? I must, right?

Eventually, I stop thinking about the hypothetical him. Doppelgängers are great in comics, far less fun when it comes to real life.

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