A lot of people have this image in their heads -- probably from the Nolan movies, most likely -- of Batman as a lone figure standing against injustice, who only comes out of the shadows to beat up bad guys and brood. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth! OK, actually, the brooding is very much there, so that part's true. But I'm talking about his role as a lone wolf, because that is some bogus noise right now.
Sure, Batman might not be the best team player in the whole world (I mean, what is he, Superman?), but he's never been entirely alone -- throughout his crimefighting career he's always had a massive family of people to fight alongside him and give him the boost he needs. Below we've ranked our favorites of these illustrious heroes, in order of just how
Kathy Kane and Betty Kane, Batwoman and BatgirlDC Comics
Both Kathy (nee Webb) and Betty, now Bette, are muuuch more interesting now that they've been reintroduced to the comics as Batman-adjacent characters -- but in the Silver Age, they were both invented as boring, flightly love interests for Batman and Robin. Hard pass.
Azrael, BatmanDC Comics
Once upon a time in the comics, Bruce Wayne was paralyzed at the hands of Bane and needed someone to take over the Bat-mantle. Enter Jean-Paul Valley, who is the worst. Just look at him. Ugh. He got the cowl taken away from him, though, when he started becoming too psychotic and violent -- if there's one thing you don't want Batman to be, it's that.
Ace the Bat-HoundDC Comics
Back in the day, every DC comic book character strapped a cape to their pet and let them join in on the action. Superman has Krypto the Wonder Dog; Superboy had Beppo the Supermonkey; Supergirl has Streaky the supercat and Comet the Superhorse. Of course Batman had one too, and thank God he doesn't fight crime anymore. The Joker would probably have him neutered.
Kate Kane, BatwomanDC Comics
Batwoman only ranks low on this list because for most of her crimefighting career she hasn't technically considered herself a member of the family, choosing instead to work alone. Her origin also has nothing to do with her being inspired by Batman as a person -- she's more inspired by his symbol and what it represents, which is why she takes it for her own. But make no mistake, she's the most amazing superhero and she should also have her own bat-family, starting with maybe a wife.
Jason Todd, RobinDC Comics
Todd was such an unpopular character in the '80s that DC Comics let readers vote on whether he lived or died at the hands of the Joker, and they overwhelmingly voted to kill him off. Still, his untimely death gave Batman some very delicious angst for a decade's worth of comic stories -- that is, until he came back from the dead as an antihero (or villain, sometimes) called "The Red Hood," a gun-toting vigilante who's basically like the Punisher. He's much more interesting now, but he's sure not a team player.
Stephanie Brown, Robin/BatgirlDC Comics
The first official female Robin, Stephanie Brown originally arrived on the scene as a vigilante called the Spoiler, then borrowed the Robin name from her boyfriend Tim Drake after he quit for a while -- until she was fired by Batman for not following orders, whoops. Then she took over as Batgirl, and while she didn't get to wear the cowl for very long before DC comics massively relaunched itself and put her back in the role of Spoiler, she was still pretty awesome at it.
Damien Wayne, RobinDC Comics
Damien Wayne is the son of Bruce and League of Assassins member Talia Al Ghul, who spent years training under his mother and then taking on the streets of Gotham side by side with his father. He admittedly starts out as a pretty annoying brat, but eventually comes into his own as a hero in a really satisfying character arc -- that, unfortunately, ended in his death. (It's cool, he's okay, now he has superpowers. COMICS!)
Carrie Kelley, RobinDC Comics
Thirteen year old Carrie Kelley became the Robin to Bruce Wayne's 50+ year old Batman in Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns," and she's basically the best -- and the first female Robin, technically, though not as part of the main continuity. She's now been brought into the rest of the DC comics universe as a friend of Damian Wayne.
Terry McGinnis, BatmanWarner Bros.
A weirdo futuristic version of "Batman: The Animated Series" where everybody drives '90s style flying cars and Bruce Wayne is an angry old man should not have worked. And yet, "Batman Beyond" was an incredible TV series. Part of the reason for that was the great dynamic between Batman and Terry, the kid who becomes the new Batman under Wayne's tutelage.
Cassandra Cain, Batgirl/Black BatDC Comics
Cassandra Cain was a fascinating character, specifically because she was so different from every one else in the Bat family. The daughter of assassins, Cassandra was deliberately withheld from speech and human contact so that she'd become better at reading body language, so she ended up becoming a functionally mute, socially-inept super killer. Bruce Wayne adopts her after she saves Commissioner Gordon's life and comes to rely on her a lot until she leaves to basically become the Hong Kong version of Batman. She unfortunately has yet to return to the franchise in full, but she did appear briefly in the recent "Batgirl" comic series during a flash forward.
Tim Drake, (Red) RobinDC Comics
The third Robin after Jason Todd, Tim is remarkable in that he's basically just a giant Batman fanboy who inserts himself into the action because he's genre savvy and knows whats up. He figures out who Batman and Robin are at the age of nine and when Batman gets all violent and out-of-character with grief after losing Jason Todd, Tim steps in to fill the void that Todd left behind, saying that Batman needed a Robin or he's going to go insane. Which, come on, that's pretty accurate. We all saw "The Dark Knight Rises," right?
Dick Grayson, Robin/NightwingDC Comics
The original Robin and Batman's very first crimefighting companion, Dick Grayson started out as Bruce Wayne's sidekick but eventually become a superhero in his own right, first by leading the Teen Titans and then by dropping the name "Robin" and becoming Nightwing. He's grown up a lot in that time, but he's also still held on to his trademark humor -- and of (almost) everyone in the DC universe, he knows Bruce the best.
Barbara Gordon, Batgirl/OracleDC Comics
Barbara Gordon has always been a huge fan favorite, and for good reason -- she's a computer genius and martial artist with a photographic memory and bright red hair, which is every little nerd girl's dream. She kicked butt as Batgirl when she was first introduced in the '60s (as a tie-in to the live-action TV show in fact), and she continued to be an important part of the team as Oracle even after she was paralyzed by the Joker (though that disappeared with the relaunch, too). Nowadays, she fights crime while writing her dissertation and also partying through the Gotham version of Brooklyn, which I think we can all relate to. Well, mostly the partying, maybe.
Alfred Pennyworth, ButlerDC Comics
The characters who surround Batman on his quest to save Gotham City are always different depending on which adaptation you're watching, save for exactly one -- Alfred, his loyal butler. Sure, Mr. Pennyworth might not be able to get suited up and throw a punch like Dick Grayson can, but he's been taking care of Bruce since the kid was in diapers, and is the closest thing Batman has to a parent. Robins and Batgirls might come and go, but Alfred is basically forever.