Dark Nights: Metal is DC’s big summer crossover event, helmed by writer Scott Snyder and promising everything from shocking reveals of the deep history of the DC Universe to vast and unknowable, dark parallel Earths to seven evil versions of Batman inspired by the Justice League.
One of those evil Batmans remained hidden until this week, when DC Comics gave a first look at “The Batman Who Laughs,” the leader of the Nightmare Batmen.
The Nightmare Batmen are the advance strike force of the Dark Multiverse, a “roiling, volatile, oceanic subconscious realm to the DCU,” where every possibility born of the dark roads not taken by people in our universe live. In Dark Nights: Metal, the DCU is attacked by a group of Batman’s worst nightmares about himself, each representing a time in his career that he could have gone wrong or too far and become villainous himself.
What if after Superman died, Batman had gone too far experimenting with Doomsday’s DNA to prevent such a tragedy from happening again? What if he declared war on Ares? Or tried to harness the Speed Force? Six of the new characters, revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, are nightmares inspired by Batman’s fellow members of the Justice League.
The Batman Who Laughs, as anticipated, is inspired by the Joker.
Aside from being, well, just terrifying, from the rictus smile to the chained, demonic Robins, the design of the character has a certain style recognizable to writer Scott Snyder, who is masterminding the Metal crossover, and artist Greg Capullo, his frequent collaborator. After all, this is the artistic team that brought us a version of the Joker who wore his own flayed-off face as a mask. Snyder is a long-time horror comics writer, and fans are already pointing out the parallels to Hellraiser in the Batman Who Laughs.
The first issue of Batman: Metal, the core series of the crossover event — which Snyder has said can be read as a standalone — hit shelves last week. The story will continue next month with Batman: Metal #2, which will include the first appearance of the Batman Who Laughs. He will also appear in Teen Titans #12, the first installment of a four-part crossover about how the other heroes of Gotham react to the Nightmare Batmen. In November, an eponymous one-shot issue will reveal his backstory.
Just in case you haven’t had enough, here’s even more full images of the villain: