The notion of Batman refusing to kill people has long been misunderstood, thanks in no small part to the stagey deadpan of Adam West. With its onomatopoeia and West’s potbellied pedantry, the 1960s Batman adhered more closely to Susan Sontag’s camp than Bob Kane’s vengeful Dark Knight. It was DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth, not Kane, who decreed that Batman couldn’t kill. Ellsworth feared that readers wouldn’t sympathize with a guy who killed without remorse, and thus wouldn’t buy comics. Kane’s Batman was a mean son of a gun, though: In his very first solo issue in 1938, Batman gunned down a henchman, tossed another off a building, and hanged a third from his Batplane. (“He’s probably better off this way,” Batman intoned.) Two years later, he impaled a Chinese swordsman, threw an American disguised as a Chinese swordsman out of a window, and crushed a crowd of Mongols with a Buddha-like statue.
As this wryly edited supercut shows, the cinematic Batman has also displayed a kind of perverse glee in killing people. Batman kills at least 45 people in the video. Tim Burton’s Batman was particularly vicious: In Burton’s 1989 film, Batman blows up a building full of people and, taking a cue from Kane, guns down a few more with his Batplane. In 1992’s Batman Returns, more of a monster show with a mordant sense of humor than a Batman movie proper, Michael Keaton’s caped crusader puts a ticking time-bomb in a clown’s pants and grins sadistically as the clown explodes into fleshy confetti. He also immolates a guy using the thrusters on his Batmobile. Val Kilmer’s considerably more passive Batman spurs Two-Face’s death by throwing a bunch of coins at him. Even Adam West’s Batman killed people: In the movie adaptation of the show, West kicks henchmen made from concentrate, “sufficient to instantly reduce them to antimatter.” “You mean they won’t be coming back?” Robin asks, after Batman kicked a handful of guys to death.