Ever since Bruce Wayne donned cape and cowl, he has had more than his fair share of imitators. Some have come in the name of comedy, some as a placeholder for writers that didn’t have the rights to use the man himself. Here for your reading pleasure are some of my favorite pretenders to the throne:
The “terror that flaps in the night” was perhaps one of the best comedic parodies of the Dark Knight to date. Most of the show’s comedy came from the idea that Darkwing sees himself very much like the Batman, a dark Guardian of his city that criminals rightly fear, but continually finds himself in incredibly silly situations that he sees as beneath a crimefighter of his stature. Like The Batman, Darkwing starts out as a loner, but unlike Batman he learns the importance of his friends and loved ones in his one-duck war on crime as the series progresses.
Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse
A parody created by Bob Kane himself, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse were very much a preview of things to come for many of the campier aspects that entered the Batman Mythos in the mid-sixties. I have to admit a fondness for the “furry foes of felons”, as my first memories of the super hero genre are of Courageous pulling out a different, equally awesome Cat gun for whatever the situation required.
Bat-Bat and the Bug Wonder (Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures)
When Mighty Mouse was re-imagined in the late eighties, it was decided that the Mouse of steel should inhabit a world far more like the typical super-hero universe, complete with a best friend who was a dark avenger of the night that dressed like a bat. The thing was… he was also a bat in his secret identity, and there was no difference when he took off his mask. The character was known for his bad puns and his “man-mobile” that gave my kid brother nightmares.
Nightwing and Flamebird
The Dynamic Duo of Kandor are created when Superman and Jimmy are branded as criminals in the bottle city due to a misunderstanding. Finding himself with no superpowers, Superman looks to Batman and Robin for inspiration to continue his role as a crimefighter during their stay. Of course that there are no bats or robins on Krypton, so they choose a couple of birds that their kryptonian host keeps as pets to model their super identities on. Later, Dick Grayson models his post-Robin identity on Superman’s blatant copyright infringement of his mentor. (Look, just be glad you live in a post-Crisis universe, kids.)
Nighthawk (Squadron Supreme)
In the dark years before the major comic companies realized that it was better to work together to give the fans what they want, Marvel created the Squadron Sinister to give fans a taste of the JLA/Avengers smackdown we all wanted to see. It turned out later that The Squadron Sinister were themselves a rip off of the Squadron Supreme, who were good guys. (Sidebar: I was super happy that the JLA/Avengers crossover event didn’t ignore the similarity… Hawkeye recognizes the JLA as “Squadron lite”.) Among the Squadron was a dark avenger of the night with a utility belt named Nighthawk, who would eventually go on to prove how much lamer he was than Bruce Wayne by getting himself killed in a melee with his old team. There is little doubt that in a fight with the JLA, Bats would be the last man standing.
Big Daddy (Kick Ass)
While not as blatant a rip-off in the graphic novel, Nic Cage’s portrayal of Big Daddy in the movie leaves little question where he drew his inspiration for the character from. Somewhere, Adam West is grinning like an idiot about this.
Back in the day, Arrow was ripping off Batman all over the place… the Arrow car, Arrow plane and kid sidekick we might be able to let slide… but the arrow cave? Why on earth would Oliver Queen put his HQ in a cave under Queen manor? One gets the image of Green arrow reading a bootleg copy of Batman’s operations manual in Justice League HQ… More than once in the comics, Batman has ribbed Arrow about not having any original ideas. One can only imagine that Ollie’s uncensored reply would be “Hey, did you let your ward get addicted to smack?”