Batman started off as a somewhat ruthless vigilante who had no compunction about murdering criminals, often with firearms. Later, his backstory was retconned to make him be staunchly opposed to guns and murder due to the nature of his parents' deaths.

However, his arch-nemesis the Joker has no such scruples, and in the Batman universe has killed at least 543 people. As has been discussed ad infinitum, most of these deaths would have been prevented if Batman had simply executed the Joker instead of repeatedly locking him up in Arkham Asylum (aka the most useless prison ever built). But of course, this most logical course of action, that would've saved many more lives, is precluded by the arbitrary code of honour.

However, there is another way that Batman could have prevented the Joker (and indeed any other murdering supervillain he's tangled with and sent to Arkham Asylum multiple times) from being a menace ever again: physically injuring them in a way that makes them incapable (or at least, far less capable) of escaping, never mind committing the crimes that have led to them being incarcerated. I'm talking some pretty gruesome actions such as beating them into a coma, rendering them paraplegic or quadriplegic, or slicing off their limbs.

Does Batman's honour code prevent him from saving innocent lives, by maiming his enemies to prevent them from taking those lives?

  • Maybe he believes in redemption? That might be the reason for him locking Joker up in Arkham. If he had cripples, for instance, Catwoman, he'd never had seen her better sides (i.e. antihero instead of a villain). Another reason might be his wish to understand his enemies' motivations, which he may then use to cure not the symptom but the cause (i.e. what made those people become villains). Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 21:29
  • A reason Batman doesn't kill the Joker was given in one of the stories: it would be too easy, and entirely justified. His belief is that if he crosses the line and kills the Joker, that makes killing an opponent an acceptable go-to solution for him, and he'll keep finding justifications as to why he should do it for the next enemy, and the next one, and the next one. Instead, by not executing the opponent who most deserves it, he can't rationalize killing someone for lesser reasons. Mind you, writers have always given assorted answers, so this is only one of them. Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 14:53
  • If I was a Batman villain I wouldn't want to find out. Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


The reason Batman didn't kill the Joker is an unsatisfying one (and speculative on my part): The writers probably liked the Joker and needed him to remain as Batman's main foil/antagonist.

As for Batman's code of ethics - specifically his willingness to maim or cripple enemies: Yes, he is often okay with inflicting serious injury on the worst of men. Certainly, the Christian Bale movie portrayals show him snapping goons arms and so on.

Batman has an inconsistent moral code in these matters, though, really.

  • 2
    He also drops what's his name off the roof in Dark Knight, probably giving him a limp for life (however briefly). Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 0:59
  • We can also add the fact that he fires the batcycle guns into a populated mall, throws people over railings in the night club without knowing who or what is below, and rampantly destroys property with "intimidation modes" and whatever other excused acts of vandalism and chaos he chooses to toss about without considering what anyone's reactions could be. Like heart attacks, inspiration for destruction, or just plain old shrapnel from one of the many explosions he sets off on screen. Batman is totally a villain himself. He just chooses to justify it cause his victims happen to be villains too
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 23:24

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