7 Lesser-Known Members of the Batman Family
By Mark Peters
Everyone knows Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and (thanks to the Christopher Nolan movies) Lucius Fox. Fans with a deeper knowledge know Batgirl and Damian Wayne, Batman’s son. But there have been some extremely odd additions to the Bat-family over the years, most of whom were created during the bizarre Silver Age of comics (1956-1970) or in comics paying homage to that wacky era.
1. Ace the Bat-Hound
Krypto the Super-Dog, who first appeared in 1955, was the founding member of a series of DC superpets, such as Streaky the Super-Cat, Comet the Super-Horse, Beppo the Super-Monkey, and (cue Batman TV show theme music) Ace the Bat-Hound. This German shepherd in a domino mask debuted just a few months after Krypto, in a time when no sidekick was too far-fetched. These days, there’s a new Bat-Hound in town: Damian Wayne’s dog Titus was introduced in 2011 and is named after Titus Andronicus. Titus the dog is far more adorable than the play.
2. Mogo the Bat-Ape
In the ’50s, one of the Ten Commandments of Comics was “Apes sell,” and there was a mania to put gorillas on comic book covers. When ape fever met Bat-character overload, the result was Mogo—a circus ape who followed Batman and Robin back to the Batcave. As Michael Eury observed in Comics Gone Ape: The Missing Link to Primates in Comics, “Sheesh, if a beast was smart enough to do that, why couldn’t the Penguin or the Joker?” Like Ace, Mogo ended up in a Bat-costume, because even non-human furballs apparently have a secret identity to protect.
3. Batman Jones
Not to be confused with the child on “The League” named Chalupa Batman, this odd ’50s character was a baby named Batman after the Caped Crusader saved him. Batman Jones’s destiny was sealed when Batman took the time to build him a Bat-Coop as a playpen. When Jones became a teen, he put on a Batman costume and tried living up to his name, which caused problems for the real McBat. After plenty of shenanigans, Jones gave up on being Batman and started collecting stamps, because teens are fickle (and writer and Batman co-creator Bill Finger was apparently stumped).
While not exactly a sidekick, Batzarro, who appeared briefly in 1966 and 2005, is one of the oddest Bat-characters ever. Just as Bizarro is the “imperfect duplicate” of Superman, Batzarro is Batman’s opposite. While Batman hates guns because his parents were gunned down in Crime Alley, Batzarro uses guns to shoot people in Crime Alley. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, and Batzarro is the worst. Like Bizarro, Batzarro isn’t a straight-up bad guy: he’s more of a confused Bat-Doofus.
When Grant Morrison began a lengthy Batman run in 2006, he took a unique approach: writing the character as if every Batman story ever, from the wacky TV show to Japanese manga versions, was part of the character’s continuity. This included the wacky 1950s stories featuring Ace and Mogo, who Morrison paid tribute to in the form of Bat-Cow, a genetically modified cow whose markings resemble a Bat-mask. In 2012’s Batman Incorporated #1, Batman and Damian rescued the cow from bad guys, and Bat-Cow has since appeared periodically as comic relief. Nothing breaks the tension during a tense day in the Batcave like a well-timed “moo.”
6. The Batmen of All Nations
The group, created in 1955, was half-weird and half-realistic, exploring a likely effect someone like Batman would have on the world: he would spawn imitators. The Batmen of All Nations were a group of international crimefighters, all inspired by the Dark Knight: The Knight and Squire from England, the Ranger from Australia, El Gaucho from South America, the Musketeer from France, and the Legionary from Italy. This group returned in a terrific 2006 story by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams called “The Island of Mister Mayhew.” That group evolved into Batman Incorporated, which included another ’50s hero inspired by Batman: Man-of-the-Bats, a Native American Batman.
The nuttiest Bat-ally of all might be Bat-Mite: an imp from the fifth dimension who tries to “help” Batman and only ends up causing trouble. Like Superman’s foe Mister Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite has reality-warping powers that make you wonder if the writers and artists were on LSD. Such fifth-dimensional cosmic wackiness is a long way from the gritty crime drama most associate with Batman these days; it’s even goofier than the 1960s TV show. But it shows the versatility of Batman: he can go anywhere, from Crime Alley to the fifth dimension and back.