You don't need us to tell you that Batman is one of the coolest and smartest characters in comics, let alone the DC Universe. He's strong, fast, and almost impossible to beat. Heck, one time he defeated a God. Now imagine if he was evil! Well, you don't have to. Pretty soon, DC is going to be releasing a line of one-shots detailing "evil" Batmen from the "Dark Multiverse" (because comics rule). But you don't even need to wait that long. See, Batman's been around for a long time, and in all that time, he's had a few different evil personas. For instance...
Owlman is probably the most archetypal example of an "evil" Batman. He's from another world, a dark mirrorverse where evil always triumphs and uh, owls fly into homes more often than bats. Though interpretations vary, Owlman is normally not Bruce Wayne, but a more insidious character called Thomas Wayne, Jr. How bad is this bad guy? Well, in some versions of his story, lil' TJ arranged to have his family -- including his younger brother -- murdered in order for him to take the Wayne family fortune for himself.
You might recognize that as more or less Hush's backstor,y but that's just because every single plotline in comics has been done approximately eighteen thousand times.
With intelligence that rivals Batman, Owlman serves on a twisted version of the Justice League called the Crime Syndicate (because if you're going to be evil, why not also be tacky?). The two Waynes have had many run-ins, but the weirdest encounter by far occurred when it was revealed that the main Bruce Wayne had a brother that lost his mind and joined the immortal evil group called the Court of Owls. Later a different Owlman would show up and this one had an evil butler, whose name was Alfred, but who sorta looked and acted like the Joker. Yes, the entire comics medium is kind of exhausting.
For those not familiar, Elseworlds comics are "imaginary stories." That doesn't mean some Batman comics are nonfiction -- just that Elseworlds comics in that they take place in alternate universes and timelines. As you can imagine, a lot of these offshoots revolve around Batman and how cool he is in different eras and environments. Some of these stories reimagine Batman as a Green Lantern, others as the enemy of Jack the Ripper, and further more as a pirate. But then there's "I, Joker" which depicts Batman as a leader of a fanatical cult whose preacher is called The Gordon, and who ritualistically kills his villains -- over and over again.
See, all those who oppose the Bat Cult's rule are captured, brainwashed, and their faces reconstructed until they resemble the villains of Batman.
Every year, the BatGod goes after all of them, killing them one by one as his cult cheers him on. To be clear, in these comics, he's pretty much the ruler of everything we see. No one is fighting back against him and everyone bows beneath his wings. It would be a dystopia if everyone weren't so jazzed about it.
But then Joker starts to fight back. He realizes what's happening and remembers who he was: a freedom fighter. He takes the fight to the BatCult and kills the God, making this the first ending in which Joker won... ever?
The Gordon tries to make him the new BatCult God, but the Joker refuses and tears the cult apart because, oh yeah, he's actually a descendent of the original Bruce Wayne. Man, even Batman's great-great-great-great grand kids are cool.
"By my black hand, the dead shall rise!" That's the call of Black Hand, a glorified henchman who works for a dude named Nekron. It just so happened that when Nekron started doing dirty via the craft of (what else) necromancy, Batman was "dead," as comics superheroes often are. And then, suddenly, Batman was a Black Lantern.
Okay, we probably need some background here. In addition to the Green Lanterns, there's a whole spectrum of Lantern Corps spread across the galaxy. Each team has different colors and are associated with specific emotions. Green Lanterns are fueled by will, Yellow Lanterns feed on fear, Blue Lanterns bank on hope, etc. And then there are the Black Lanterns, a group made entirely out of the undead. A corpse corps, if you will. Because "death" is definitely an emotion.
Lanterns are typically created by their rings flying to someone who would make the best recruit for that corp. So when the Black Laterns came into being, the rings found their way into the dessicated hands of the departed, to tons of dead people, like the then-dead Martian Manhunter and Aquaman. And hey, if you're picking teams on the playground battlefield, you're always going to pick Batman first.
Of course, the zombie Batman in question was actually a discarded clone of Bruce Wayne, who was only ressurected to establish an emotional connection so that Nekron could control the Justice League. It doesn't make a ton of sense, but it did give us this:
While Black Lantern Batman's time with us was brief, we cherished it. We'll miss you zombie Bats.
You might've heard of All-Star Batman before, if only from the odd meme here or there. Apart from the out-of-context panels and screencaps, the comic itself is bugnuts. The whole idea started as yet another gritty reboot of Batman, but the problem was the writer of it was Frank Miller. As in, the guy who invented the idea of the gritty Batman reboot with The Dark Knight Returns. What else has Miller done? Oh, nothing much, just 300, Sin City, and he directed The Spirit AKA that superhero movie even supernerds won't watch.
Now most of Miller's stories are gritty, and in fact he had already done another gritty reboot of Batman -- Year One. In that story, Batman lives on Crime Alley and saves a prostitute Catwoman from being beaten by her pimp. (Ah, my favorite superhero tale!) But when he did All-Star, he must have felt the need to go even grittier. How else can you explain him stranding Dick Grayson, the day his parents were murdered, in the batcave, telling him to eat rats if he wanted to live.
This wasn't a joke or a test, or anything like that. Batman went so far as to forbid Alfred from feeding Dick. It was uh, all part of his training? It's hard to know what someone is thinking when they call their sidekicks "retarded" and themselves "The God Damned Batman."
Worth noting: This is the same comic that features Batman and Black Canary doing it on top of some corpses and Wonder Woman calling a man a walking sperm bank. Frank Miller -- surely the subtlest of writers.
Jason Todd is one of the most famous Robins mostly because he's the only one to actually die. He was a too-cool-for-school type until he was beat to death by the Joker. But then, depending on which story you're going by, he was either resurrected by someone punching reality or by being dipped in the Lazarus Pit -- both of which are universally understood to be stupid ways to bring someone back to life.
When it comes down to it, Jason Todd came back because the writers wanted him to. And for awhile, he was plenty cool. He was the Red Hood, claiming the original title of the man who murdered him, and doing his own awesome murders. But then Batman "died" -- but was actually flown into the past -- and Jason, Dick Grayson, and basically everyone who had ever seen Batman decided to all fight over who got the rights to be Batman. Dick Grayson won but before he did, Jason Todd decided to go out as Batman and torture criminals.
It was basically his Red Hood MO, but doing it with Batman's cape and cowl was going a bit too far. After being stopped by Dick Grayson, Jason ceased cosplaying as his father stand-in... and went back to being Red Hood. Later he adopted a sidekick named Scarlet (a crazy killer, who had been experimented on and driven insane) who was basically his Robin. Still maintaining a bit of Batman branding, Red Hood drove fear into the hearts of criminals and bullets into their brains. He's sort of like a needlessly complicated Punisher.
Undoubtedly the single most infamous example of a "dark" Batman -- heck, of any Batman aside from Bruce Wayne -- Azbats is the portmanteau name given to the Batman that was inhabitated by the former killer, Azrael. Otherwise known as Jean-Paul Valley, Azrael was part of the Order of Dumas, who used him as an assassin. Batman rehabilitated him (sorta) and then later appointed JPV as the new Dark Knight.
Unfortunately, while Bruce Wayne's spine was recovering from being snapped in half like a Kit-Kat bar, Azrael wasn't quite as rehabilitated as he seemed to be. Instead of the classic Batman method of "breaking every bone in a criminal's body and leaving them on the street," AzBats actually killed the bad guys. The nerve!
Bruce, broke back and all, decided to come back and somehow defeated Azbats using that most powerful weapon in the supeherheroes' arsenal: Narrative. Once again, Bruce Wayne took the mantle of Batman, and did away with murdering in favor of dropping crooks off of the top of buildings and throwing sharp things into their flesh like a real hero would.
Some of these other Batmen have been pretty rotten, but you ready for the worst one? His name is Leatherwing. This is not to be mistaken as the Pirate Batman, who does exist and is also named Leatherwing. This one's a Nazi. Like, a literal Nazi, from a world in which Nazis won World War II.
You might recognize this as the same plot as Secret Empire, but hey, superhero comics as a whole were more or less born to kick Nazi ass. He wears the same suit that Batman wears -- even down to the Bat symbol on front. Except, some versions of Leatherwing depict him wearing a swastika on his chest. Just in case you forgot this Batman was a Nazi.
In his world, Leatherwing is specifically referred to as a "hero" who protects Gotham and enforces Adolf Hitler's rule. Oh, and Hitler is the one who put him together with the rest of his team, the evil JLAxis. Leatherwing has only appeared in a few comics so far, but the industry seems to have an ongoing fascination with facism, so rest assured this white supremacist superhero will show up again sooner or later.