Similar to the idea that Superman has three personas, Clark Kent bumbling reporter, Superman worlds greatest superhero, and the real Clark whom he only shows to those who truly know him (the Kents, Lois, Pete Ross, Kara and maybe Bruce); On the flip side the idea that the Batman persona is the real person and the Bruce Wayne persona was destroyed the day his parents where murdered. When was this aspect of the dual identity first explicitly mentioned?

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    This is a fantastic question
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 17:05
  • @PUREFERRET Thank you. I think that's probably the most interesting aspect of the duality of both Superman and Batman. The Superman character is the mask Clark wears to hide his true identity, but Batman is who Bruce really is. I just want to know where that concept came from.
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 20:06
  • When he found bats in dark cave under his house..
    – user931
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 12:08
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    Monty, I can't answer but I've given a clarifying edit. Roll it back if you don't think it's appropriate to what you're after.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 23:09
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    @GorchestopherH I don't think it's a matter of him considering anything. Batman is who he really is, the entity totally devoted to justice (his justice not necessarily legal justice) every other interaction, relationship, friendship are all an act. Also (off topic some) but Cyclops is merely a code name. Scott Summers has no alter-ego, he's the same person when he's fighting Sentinels or hanging out with the other X-Men.
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 14:17

5 Answers 5


The Batman character dates back to 1939 and has had many writers since then, so this is not a simple question to answer for an absolute "first appearance" of an idea. There's just so much material to look at from comics, movies, tv shows, articles, blogs, etc.

From a wiki page on Batman, in the Bruce Wayne section:

Writers of both Batman and Superman stories have often compared the two within the context of various stories, to varying conclusions. Like Superman, the prominent persona of Batman's dual identities varies with time. Modern age comics have tended to portray "Bruce Wayne" as the facade, with "Batman" as the truer representation of his personality.

The source that the wiki entry pulls from is The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual, by Scott Beatty in 2005.

From your comment, I was able to trace and find the episode where you first heard of this flipped dual identity. It's Batman Beyond, episode Shriek (Season 1, episode 7-- aired Mar 14, 1999). The dialogue at the end of the episode is:

Terry: Tell me something - why were you so sure those voices weren't coming from you?

Bruce: Well, first, I know I'm not psychotic.

Terry: I hope your other reason is more convincing.

Bruce: Second, the voice kept calling me "Bruce." In my mind, that's not what I call myself.

Terry: What do you call yourself? [Bruce just looks at him for a moment] Oh, yeah. I suppose you would. [Batman voice] But that's my name now.

Bruce: Tell that to my subconscious. (Source)

Terry talks to Bruce at the end of the episode.

Although it's been suggested by Chris Sims in the post, Batman vs Bruce Wayne, that the idea even came before Batman Beyond. Give that article a read as it's very insightful about the whole Batman vs Bruce Wayne mask duality, along with Superman.

Others have suggested that it's Batman The Animated Series where Batman is the true character over Bruce Wayne.

In terms of pop-culture, I first heard about this alter-ego spin on superhero mythology at the end of Kill Bill: Vol 2, which came out in 2004. Honestly, when I read your question, my first instinct for source material was this movie as it was quite formal in addressing that a superhero is the true persona.

Superman dialogue at the end of Kill Bill Vol 2

Quentin Tarantino wrote a great dialogue here. Although it is applied directly on Superman, not Batman. But one could expand the meaning to apply to Batman's alter ego really being Bruce Wayne, although I personally find that argument to be so much weaker than Superman's alter ego really being Clark Kent.

Here is a clip from the famous Superman speech given by Bill from the movie:

Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red "S", that's the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit - that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He's weak... he's unsure of himself... he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race. (Source)

But to check out more interesting philosophies behind modern day mythologies that is Superheroes, check out Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way (Popular Culture and Philosophy).

Superheroes and Philosophy

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    The dialogue from that scene, while fantastic, always bothered me. I don't think Tarantino truly gets Superman. He's missed the fact that Superman doesn't have two identities, he's got 3, or 4 if you want to get technical. He's Clark Kent mild mannered reporter, Superman defender of truth and justice, Kal-El (or Kal-L) Last Son of Krypton, and Clark son of Martha and Jonathan from Smallville. Clark is who he really is, a farm boy from Kansas.
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 1:20
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    @Monty129 I think you're splitting hairs here. You could break anyone up then by their relationships to everyone they know. For example, regular Joe could have multiple identities then. Joe from his hometown of St Louis, son of Bob and Mary. Joe the mild mannered guy that works in the office in New York City. Joe the husband of Jane, father of two at home. Joe the hacker by night computer guy. What Tarantino is getting at is that Superman is an "super" alien that pretends to be human, less than he really is. While other heroes, are born human and/or put on a mask to be super.
    – spong
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 1:51
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    -1. While the insight on Superman is interesting, I don't see how it is especially relevant to the question. Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 4:26
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    The point I was trying to make in the comment was Tarantino was wrong, the Clark Kent reporter is a mask he wears, but so is Superman. He's not Superman when he wakes up in the morning.
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 10:30
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    The original intent of my question is that Batman is unique he's ALWAYS Batman, he just pretends to be Bruce Wayne billionaire playboy, and even the Bruce he shows to Alfred, Tim, Barbara, Dick and the rest of the "Bat" family isn't the real person. I remember an episode of Batman Beyond where a villain was trying to make him think he had lost his mind by making it seem as if he was hearing voices, but the voice reffered to him as "Bruce" and he told Terry McGuinnes something like "That's not what I call myself in my head..." implying that he even refers to himself IN HIS HEAD as Batman.
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 10:31

The first time I've ever seen it directly referenced was actually fairly recently, by voice actor Kevin Conroy.

See this brief article, and listen to this podcast for the straight dope. If nothing else, they will make you very happy.

  • 1
    I know he was the first person to voice Bruce and Batman as having different distinct voices too
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 19:24
  • Thanks! Here are two more related - videos.
    – TheRadGasm
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 1:31

Earliest I can remember (which was also to hammer home how they are two sides of the same coin) was in the Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. The Joker and his henchmen get the drop on Batman and have him restrained, a henchman goes to pull off Batman's mask, and says something like "I want to see his real face", to which the Joker replies "don't be so predictable for Christ's sake, that is his real face"

That is his real face

  • I don't think such an exchange happens in the Killing Joke.
    – AndFisher
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 13:41
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    You are right, only took 6 years for someone to notice! It was "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth" - updated. Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 2:21
  • And for reference, that was published in 1989 (TAS started in 1992). Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 4:17

In Batman Beyond, the DCAU series which was set in the future, featuring the next Batman (Terry McGuinnis) fighting crime in a futuristic Gotham, with Bruce Wayne as his mentor. The new Batman features a flying batmobile, an advanced batsuit which enhanced his strength, rocket boots and wings enabling flight, multiple vision modes, direct communication links, and more. He was sort of Batman, wearing Iron Man's armor, with the life of Spider-man.

As cover, Terry serves as Bruce's personal aide. During one episode which featured the new version of the villain Spellbinder (I think, I can't find the episode at the moment) Bruce was seen to be hearing voices. Everyone (including, for a time, Terry) thought Bruce had been driven to dementia. He was constantly hearing his father's voice, calling him Bruce, telling him terrible things.

Throughout it all, Wayne never even begins to consider that he might actually be going crazy - he insists the voices he is hearing are artificial. He eventually convinces Terry, who beats the bad guy.

As the episodes's closer, Terry asks Wayne why he never once doubted he was losing his mind. Wayne said, "The voices kept calling me Bruce. In my head, that's not what I call myself."

Terry simply replies, "That's my name now."

Wayne doesn't disagree, but his quasi-cynical smile indicates that he may not fully agree, either.

Batman Beyond ran from 1999 to 2001 (tragically, the finale, which was to have featured a terrorism-related plot, would have aired shortly after 9/11. It was not shown, and the series had no finale until the episode 'Epilogue' of JLU).

Thus, the very latest this episode could have been written is in 2001, but I believe it was from one of the earlier seasons, putting it around the turn of the millennium.


There have been several comic in place where he has been seen as Batman not as Bruce Wayne I agree that his persona as Bruce died when his parents did. The graphic Novel I read recently showed this greatly, however sorry but I have forgotten the dialogue he had wit himself. But it was Batman Year One by Frank Miller. Where he was saying he was string enough to finally become batman although at the time he didn't know how he was going to do it. He had trained and trained throughout his life as he knew he was going to become something more and finally figured out the way of doing it. Another bit from a more recent time was Batman Begins where he says "It's Not Who I Am Underneath, But What I Do That Defines Me". This shows that he is not Bruce Wayne, he is in fact and always was Batman.

Another example is from Dark Knight Returns also by Frank Miller where Bruce Wayne 'dies' but he continues to live the life of the dark knight at the end. going so far as creating an army. He never was really Bruce Wayne after his parents died, he just didn't know who he was to become before he donned the suit.

Sorry if this doesn't answer your questions. I'm new to the Sci-Fi section so not 100% sure how to answer questions like these.

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    If any "event" showed transition into Batman dominance is was the events follow his training shown in "Year One". Of course, I still think Batman is the most balanced ego-alter-ego character we have and that a flip never actually occurred. ...my take is that when Batman was born he became two men. Look at what Bruce accomplishes compared to other sub-egos like Kent, Parker, Summers, etc... Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 23:26
  • To improve your answer, you might mention the year of publication for those graphic novels (Google is your friend). Providing snippets of dialog and images (both with appropriate page citations) that reinforce your point is a good idea too. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 7:22
  • Basically, do everything you can to support your answer. Back it up, prove it. Good spelling and grammar counts too. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 7:48

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