Few characters in pop culture are so instantly recognizable as Batman. Like Superman, even those who have never read a comic book know who the Dark Knight is.
Therefore, it’s easy for comic book writers to do their own versions of him.
Many are obvious parodies that play off how brutal and obsessive Batman can be. Some darker takes play on how he isn’t much different from the criminals he goes after.
Others show how a Superman type would easily take down a non-powered character.
Some characters who seem inspired by Batman are tricky. Nite-Owl of Watchmen seems inspired by him, but Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons based him on Blue Beetle.
Some fans think Daredevil is a version of Batman, but his superhuman abilities make him different.
Some rip-offs are bad and miss what makes Batman work, but others can be surprisingly good characters who, rather than just an expy, are good on their own to draw folks in.
Here are ten Batman rip-offs who aren’t just good homages but great characters on their own to be very entertaining for comic readers old and new.
There have been a few versions of Kyle Richmond in Marvel Comics who stick nicely to the Batman-like motifs.
One version is from an alternate world where he became President of the United States.
But when his teammates in the Squadron Supreme took over their Earth “for the greater good,” Kyle led a rebellion against them.
The main Marvel Universe has its own Nighthawk, who balances a millionaire life with teams such as the Defenders, with adventures bouncing from dead-serious to more comedic.
It’s a blatant rip-off, but it can work to show how a Batman character operates in the Marvel Universe.
It’s fascinating to see how this literal opposite of Batman is his own complex character.
On the alternate Earth-3, history is reversed, and the Crime Syndicate of America rules a world where corruption is a way of life.
In most versions, Thomas Wayne Jr. was the oldest son left alive when a robber killed his parents and brother Bruce. He took on a costume not to fight crime but become a much better criminal.
Owlman and Batman have fought a few times with the Dark Knight, noting how this man is a dark mirror of what he could be and yet also interesting to see how he survives a “team” of super-powered psychopaths.
He may look like a complete goofball, but that’s what makes him work.
Darkwing Duck has been a popular figure for Disney since debuting in his cartoon show in 1991.
The self-proclaimed hero of St. Canard has skills, but is also an egotistical jerk who thinks he’s smarter than he is.
The genius is that for most of an episode, he’ll look like a vainglorious fool…then utter “let’s get dangerous” and suddenly become a fantastic fighter to win the day.
Rather than a parody, Darkwing proves you don’t judge by first looks how great a Batman copy can be.
The original comic book version of this character is a lot different from the one that fans know from the hit Kick-Ass movie.
The comic has him as a cop whose family was killed and became a Batman-like figure to avenge them. That included teaching his daughter to become the wild Hit-Girl.
The twist is that he was just a sad-sack accountant living out his fantasies.
The movie changed it to the cop origin, which works better thanks to Nicolas Cage’s fantastic performance.
The mix of an Adam West-like persona with Cage’s overacting makes Big Daddy a great humorous homage to the Dark Knight.
Created by Tom DeFalco in 1989, Dwayne Taylor’s origins were much like Bruce Wayne’s, a young, rich boy orphaned and training himself as a fighter.
Dwayne poured this money into a suit of armor that included, of all things, a skateboard that not only could transport him but be both a shield and a razor-lined weapon.
He used both to form the New Warriors before discovering the complex conspiracy behind his parent’s deaths.
Thrasher died and his brother took on the role, but Dwayne returned to life via time travel.
While the outfit may look goofy, Thrasher makes it work as an effective Warrior.
Inspired by Squadron Supreme, Supreme Power had a more realistic take on these heroes.
This version of Kyle Richmond is African-American and, while growing up in wealth, has a huge chip on his shoulder regarding racial issues.
His Nighthawk is quite brutal in a fight and doesn’t just target crime bosses but also corporate CEOs and others he blames for helping cause such crime.
While he works with his world’s Squadron, he prefers to be on his own.
He’s recently popped into the main Marvel Universe as a member of the new Squadron, thinking himself his own man and unaware that (as with the rest of the team), he’s a brainwashed puppet of Mephisto yet still amazingly skilled in a fight.
In Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, the Confessor is the most mysterious of the city’s heroes, with no known photographs of him existing.
He takes teenager Brian Kinney under his wing as sidekick Altar Boy, who quickly discovers his mentor’s secret: Once a priest, he’s a 150-year-old vampire being a hero to atone for his past sins.
The Confessor proves himself by sacrificing his life to expose an alien invasion of Earth.
After training, Brian takes up his mantle with the underworld thinking the original Confessor returned from the grave.
Using mystical runes to boost his abilities, Brian does well as a hero whose dark motif hides a human heart.
Created by Warren Ellis for his seminal run on The Authority, Midnighter is what Batman would be with no qualms about breaking the rules more than usual.
Genetically engineered, Midnighter can take one look at someone and instantly know a thousand ways to beat them. He’s also super-strong, agile, and ruthless in a fight.
Midnighter has no issues taking the lives of guys in a fight with a sardonic sense of humor to boot. But he has a soft spot, as shown by his relationship with teammate Apollo.
While the Authority has mixed with the DC Universe, we’ve yet to see a showdown between the pair as Batman would be hard-pressed against this tougher doppelganger.
More than one fan has openly described Moon Knight as “The Marvel Universe’s Batman.” The key difference is that he’s even more screwed up.
Marc Spector was a mercenary nearly killed in battle. He believed he the Egyptian god Khonsu saved him, and thus dedicated his life to fighting evil.
Spector balances his life between millionaire Stephen Grant, rough-and-tumble fighter Spector, and cab driver Jack Lockley.
He has an awesome costume, his “moon copter,” mechanic/aide Frenchie, and is top-notch in a fight.
He’s also a multiple personality case who constantly shifts in personas and possibly completely insane.
His upcoming Marvel series shows why Moon Knight remains such a fan-favorite character after so many years.
He may look like he was modeled after Robin Hood, but it’s blatantly obvious Green Arrow was also emulating Batman.
A classic Kevin Smith story has Arrow talking to Batman about his “Arrowcave, Arrow car, Arrowplane” and teen sidekick Speedy and Batman snapping back, “did you ever have an original thought?”
Despite that, fans enjoy Green Arrow’s millionaire Oliver Queen, who learned how to survive with a bow and arrow when shipwrecked on an island.
He became famous as a street champion whose arrow skills were only matched by his sharp mouth and attitude.
He’s changed a lot over the years (even being dead for a time), but even Batman respects GA’s bow skills, making him more than just a carbon copy.More: Arrowverse, Batman, DC Comics