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Forget Batman, the Punisher is the only one who can fix Gotham City

Batman still can't solve Gotham's problems after all these years, but put the Punisher on the streets and even the Joker will cower in fear.

Jon Bernthal in The Punisher, with Batman from The Dark Knight Returns behind him

Try as he might, Batman just can’t seem to clean up the streets of Gotham City. Since 1939, the Caped Crusader has battled a slew of supervillains, but judging by the events of an epic comic book crossover, all he ever needed to do was follow the Punisher‘s example.

Fair play to the DCU, the last three Batman actors have all turned the famous hero into a pretty formidable defender of the night. Christian Bale’s trilogy of Batman movies really cut to the core of a hero toying with his morality; Ben Affleck was simply a beast; and Robert Pattinson’s latest interpretation had Batman delivering vengeance like a man possessed. And yet, Joker still isn’t scared of him.

The only time we’ve ever truly seen fear in the eyes of the iconic DC villain was when the Punisher showed up in Gotham for Deadly Knights, a comic book crossover written by Chuck Dixon in 1994.

The story (which you can follow in the video below) sees Marvel character, Frank Castle, track his nemesis Jigsaw into Batman’s territory. Naturally, Jigsaw has got himself involved in the murky underworld of organized crime in Gotham, and has teamed up with the Joker — not a double act you’d like to meet in a dark alleyway, I’m sure.

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Now, Batman and Punisher are both pretty brutal in their methods, and both have similar origin stories where a life of crimefighting was sparked by the loss of their loved ones. These two men may not have superpowers, but they are motivated by a fierce passion for retribution — the only problem is, they have very different ideas of how to carry out their form of justice.

So, when Batman realizes Punisher is stepping on his turf, the pair go toe-to-toe in a bloody battle on the rain-battered streets of Gotham. The two vigilantes fight side by side at first, but soon turn against one another when their respective moral codes come into conflict. At the heart of the matter is the Clown Prince of Crime; there’s a brilliant moment where Punisher stands over Joker and, for the first (and maybe only) time, we see the Batman villain truly afraid for his life, because he knows Punisher didn’t come to play games.

Of course, Batman comes to Joker’s rescue and tells him to run away, taking on Punisher himself. Batman ultimately wins the fight and sends Punisher packing on back to Marvel-land, but all this adds to the fascinating debate around our favorite DC character and his reluctance to take a life. Is Batman really doing the right thing every time he sends a maniacal mass murderer like Joker to Blackgate/Arkham? Or is a more Punisher-style approach needed?

Obviously, if Batman didn’t keep Joker alive, the stories from Gotham City would be a lot less entertaining, so for that reason, comic book writers and superhero movie directors are unlikely to ever kill off this most iconic adversary. But, the rationale that Bruce Wayne is determined to prevent anyone else suffering the pain he went through as a child is a bit redundant really, when you consider all the people Joker has killed because Batman lets him live. I’m not saying murder is right but… just kill the clown, man!

Hopefully we’ll finally see Batman do what is necessary in an upcoming DC movie, perhaps The Batman 2? Until then, check out our guide to watching the DC movies in order, or look ahead to new movies like Superman Legacy, and learn all about the Joker 2 release date.