Joe Chill
Joe Chill (DC Comics character).png
Joe Chill in Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman #1 (October 2015).
Art by Fernando Pasarin.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceDetective Comics #33 (November 1939)
Named: Batman #47 (June–July 1948)
Created byBill Finger
Bob Kane
In-story information
Full nameJoseph Chilton

Joe Chill is a fictional character appearing in comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with the superhero Batman. Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character first appeared in Detective Comics #33 (November 1939).

In Batman's origin story, Joe Chill is the Gotham City mugger who murders young Bruce Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne. The murder traumatizes Bruce, and he swears to avenge their deaths by fighting crime as the vigilante Batman.[1]

Publication history[edit | edit source]

Joe Chill first appears in Detective Comics #33 and was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

Fictional character biography[edit | edit source]

Not much is known about Chill except that he is, in most versions of Batman, a petty mugger who kills Bruce's parents Thomas and Martha while trying to take their money and jewelry. When he demands Martha's necklace, Thomas moves to protect his wife and Chill kills him; he then kills Martha when she screams for help (in later versions up to the 1970s, Martha dies from a heart attack brought on from the shock of seeing her husband murdered). Chill panics and runs away when Bruce begins crying and calling for help — but not before the boy memorizes his features. In at least three versions of the Batman mythos, the Waynes' killer is never identified.

Pre-Crisis version[edit | edit source]

Unnamed mugger holding the Wayne family at gunpoint in Detective Comics #33 (November 1939); art by Bob Kane

Batman's origin story is first established in a sequence of panels in Detective Comics #33 (November 1939) that is later reproduced in the comic book Batman #1 (Spring 1940), but the mugger is not given a name until Batman #47 (June–July 1948). In that issue, Batman discovers that Joe Chill, the small-time crime boss he is investigating, is none other than the man who killed his parents. Batman confronts him with the knowledge that Chill killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. Chill, believing there is no way Batman could know this, accuses him of bluffing, but Batman reveals his secret identity quoting "I'm the son of the man you murdered. I'm Bruce Wayne." Terrified, Chill flees and seeks protection from his henchmen. Once his henchmen learn that Chill's actions led to the hated Batman's existence, however, they turn on their boss and gun him down before realizing how priceless his knowledge of Batman's true identity is. Before the dying Chill has a chance to reveal Batman's identity, the Dark Knight intervenes and knocks out the goons so they will never hear what Chill has to say. Chill expires in Batman's arms, acknowledging that the Dark Knight got his revenge after all. Len Wein and John Byrne add a one-panel coda in their retelling of this scene in the first issue of The Untold Legend of the Batman. Batman stands over Chill's body and says "No, Chill -- The Batman didn't finish you... It was Bruce Wayne!"

In Detective Comics #235 (1956), Batman learns that Chill was not a mere mugger, but actually a hitman who murdered the Waynes on orders from a mob boss named Lew Moxon. Batman also deduced that was why he himself was left unharmed by Chill: so he would unwittingly support Moxon's alibi that he had nothing to do with a robbery that became a felony murder.

In The Brave and the Bold #79 (Sep. 1968), Joe Chill is revealed to have a brother named Max who is also a criminal. Max Chill is suspected of having murdered Boston Brand (AKA Deadman), though the suspicion proves erroneous. Max is killed when a stack of slot machines falls onto him.

In Batman #208 (Jan./Feb. 1969), it is revealed that both Joe and Max had changed their name to Chill from Chilton and that their mother is Alice Chilton, who was the housekeeper to Bruce Wayne's uncle Philip Wayne. Philip became guardian of Bruce after his parents' deaths. As he was often away on business, Mrs. Chilton played the primary parental role in the boy's life. As an adult, Bruce continues to visit the elderly woman, whom he still calls "Ma Chilton". He is unaware of her connection with Joe and Max Chill. For her part, Mrs. Chilton knows Bruce is secretly Batman and is proud of him. She is also aware that her sons died fighting him, and she still mourns their deaths. (Perhaps because they were both domestic servants, Alfred, the adult Bruce's butler, was secretly aware of Mrs. Chilton's connection, but he kept that information from Bruce. He once mused that "in her own way, that dear woman more than made up for her son's heinous crime".)

Modern Age version[edit | edit source]

Joe Chill in Detective Comics #577 (August 1987); art by Todd McFarlane

In the 1987 storyline Batman: Year Two, Chill played a key role. Several Gotham City crime bosses pool their resources to deal with a vigilante called the Reaper, and Chill is hired to take him out. When Batman proposes an alliance it is agreed that he and Chill will work together — something Batman finds repugnant, but which he nevertheless justifies to himself as necessary to tackle the Reaper. He vows to kill Chill afterwards. Chill is also commissioned to kill Batman after the Reaper has been disposed of. During a major confrontation, the crime bosses are all killed in a battle at a warehouse, in which the Reaper seemingly also perishes. Chill reasons that he now no longer needs to fulfill his contract, but Batman takes him to "Crime Alley", the scene of his parents' murder. There he confronts Chill and reveals his identity. Batman has Chill at gunpoint, but the Reaper appears and guns Chill down. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not Batman would have actually pulled the trigger.

In the 1991 sequel to "Year Two", Batman: Full Circle, Chill's son Joe Chill, Jr. assumes the identity of the Reaper in order to seek revenge for his father's death. He attempts to drive Batman insane by using hallucinogenic drugs in conjunction with a faked video of the Waynes' murder to trigger Batman's survivor's guilt over his parents' death. After the intervention of Robin, Batman frees himself from the drug-induced haze. After the new Reaper is defeated, Batman learns to let go of his hatred of Chill.

In Detective Comics #678, a "Zero Hour" crossover story, Batman finds himself in an alternate timeline where he was the mugger's victim, not his parents. Investigating the crime, he discovers that Chill, at least in this timeline, did not commit the murder. Once he returns to his proper time, Bruce Wayne is plagued with doubt. He wonders if it is possible that he never actually caught or confronted his parents' killer. He also wonders if that makes any difference regarding his crimefighting career. Ultimately, he concludes that it does not.

In 2006, Infinite Crisis #6 reestablished that Chill murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne, and that he was later arrested on that same night for their murder.

In the 2008 Grant Morrison story "Joe Chill in Hell" (featured in Batman #673), Chill is reinterpreted as a mid-level crime boss who builds the Land, Sea, Air Transport company from the ground up (most likely through illegal means). He blames his crimes, including murdering the Waynes, on class warfare. In this story, Batman has visited and frightened Chill every night for a month. Chill is living as a shut-in, but his guards never see or catch Batman during the visits. On his final visit, Batman gives Chill the gun he used to kill the Waynes. There is one bullet left within it. Chill finally realizes who Batman is and fears what his fellow gangsters would do to him if they found out. It is hinted that he commits suicide. Considering the issue consists of Bruce's flashbacks and hallucinations from an experiment he undergoes during his early career, however, it is left ambiguous whether the events of the issue are real.

In 2009's Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman, Joe Chill is seen as the bartender attending Batman's funeral (the funeral itself being a near death experience). Batman, who is observing the event as well as Catwoman, note that Joe Chill should be dead. Chill notes that he was there at the birth of Batman and it is only fitting he should be there to witness the end.

The New 52[edit | edit source]

In The New 52, the 2011 reboot DC Comics' continuity, an 18-year-old Bruce Wayne tracks Chill down and holds him at gunpoint, demanding to know who hired him to kill his parents. Chill responds that he just wanted Martha Wayne's pearls so he could buy alcohol and that he didn't even know who the Waynes were until the next day. Enraged that his parents died for nothing, Bruce prepares to kill Chill, but relents at the last minute when he realizes that his father would not have wanted that. After sparing Chill's life, Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham City.[2]

Other versions[edit | edit source]

In Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne finally resolves his feelings towards Chill (who is not named). While about to be mugged by street punks, Bruce initially fantasizes that the two amateur criminals are Chill, so he can take out his rage on them. They leave him alone, however, after realizing he would have fought them where he quoted "Look at him. He's into it. No fun when they're into it". Bruce realizes that Chill had not killed his parents for killing's sake, as the two punks wanted to do to him, and thus was not truly evil. "All he wanted was money", he thinks to himself. "He was sick and guilty over what he did. I was naïve enough to think him the lowest sort of man".[3]

In the comics featuring the Crime Syndicate of America, it is revealed that on the Syndicate's alternate Earth that Joe Chill is a friend of Dr. Thomas Wayne. One night, a police officer wants to bring the elder Wayne in for questioning. When he refuses, the police officer opens fire. This Earth's version of Bruce Wayne and his mother are killed. Chill comes out of the alley to discover the dead bodies and the Waynes' younger son Thomas Wayne Jr., leaves with him.[4]

In the alternate universe of Flashpoint, Joe Chill shoots and kills the young Bruce Wayne,[5] and Thomas Wayne seeks to kill him and avenge his son. He locates Chill and attempts to inject him with a drug, but instead beats him to death.[6] Afterwards, Thomas puts Chill's gun in a trophy display in the Batcave.[7]

Joe Chill is featured in many Elseworld titles, including Superman: Speeding Bullets,[8] Citizen Wayne,[9] Batman: In Darkest Knight,[10] Batman: Holy Terror,[11] Batman of Arkham,[12] JLA: Destiny,[13] and Dark Knight Dynasty.[14]

Joe Chill is featured in the comic book continuation of the television series Smallville. He worked as an Intergang contact before being killed by Mr. Freeze.[15]

Joe Chill appears in The Batman Adventures #17, which is set in the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series and its DCAU spinoffs. In a story by Ty Templeton entitled "Fear Itself", Chill is shown to have spent his whole life as a career criminal since the night he murdered Bruce's parents. The story begins with Chill being released from prison after finishing a sentence for an unrelated crime, and it is apparent that he has been living in fear since that fateful night. Chill is convinced that Bruce Wayne, now one of the most powerful men on the planet, is biding his time to exact revenge. Chill's paranoia is so severe that he begins to see Bruce's face everywhere around him, even on other people. His paranoia goes into overdrive when he discovers that the retired detective who originally worked on the Wayne case has finally discovered evidence to reveal his guilt. Chill tracks the retired detective to his apartment and attempts to kill him, but Batman intervenes, unaware of who Chill is. In a brief scuffle Chill manages to unmask Batman, revealing the visage of Bruce Wayne. Terrified, Chill falls off a balcony, and Batman jumps after him in an attempt to save his life. Batman nearly catches Chill, who pushes him away and falls to his death. Batman is left at the end of the story wondering who the mysterious man was and why he would rather die than accept his help. In Batman Beyond, Bruce has found out that Joe Chill was the one who murdered his family.

In Batman Beyond Unlimited set in the DC Animated Universe, Chill is revealed to have a brother. Chill's grandnephew eventually has a child of his own, Jake. In the continuity, Jake Chill is a former security guard at Wayne-Powers, working under Derek Powers' "Quiet Squad". Having killed Warren McGinnis under Mr. Fixx's orders, Jake repeats his great-granduncle's history with the Waynes and indirectly creates another Batman. Though no one has discovered his involvement with McGinnis' murder, Jake Chill is wracked with guilt and decides to become a vigilante to redeem his family's sins.[16] Jake takes the name Vigilante, modified the uniform he got from his former employer as his costume, and works with Batman to stop a riot led by the Jokerz.[17] He is eventually killed in the "Mark of the Phantasm" storyline, where he suffers a seizure after being injected with Joker Toxin and inhaling the Phantasm's fear gas. Though Terry lashed out at Jake after discovering Jake killed his father, he ultimately respected Jake as a hero and didn't think that Jake deserved to die the way he did.

In Andrew Vachss' novel Batman: The Ultimate Evil, Chill (who is never seen) is revealed to have killed Bruce Wayne's parents on the orders of an international ring of pedophiles. They wanted to silence Bruce's mother Martha, who was investigating a network of sexual slavery and child pornography.

On the alternate world of Earth-Two as part of The New 52, Joe Chill is a hired assassin who shoots Thomas and Martha Wayne. Chill is later killed when Thomas Wayne (who had survived the shooting) crushes his skull in retaliation for Martha's death.[18]

In the prequel comic to Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Joe Chill is the right-hand man of Lew Moxon. When Batman corners them during a meeting with the other crimelords, he kills Lew Moxon and drinks Joe' Chill's blood. Upon becoming a vampire, Joe Chill later kills Lew Moxon's wife Angela. Batman avenges her death by killing the vampire Joe Chill with an axe.

In other media[edit | edit source]

Television[edit | edit source]

  • In the Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episode "The Fear", a flashback depicts Thomas and Martha Wayne being mugged by someone who might be Joe Chill. When his father tries to fight him, a young Bruce quotes "No Dad, he's got a..." and lightning is shown in the sky as his parents are shot offscreen. This flashback is later induced by the Scarecrow. Eventually, Batman breaks free from the hallucination and destroys the device upon seeing it as the mugger's head which he punches. This episode represents the first time that Batman's origin is portrayed on television.
  • The Justice League Unlimited episode "For the Man Who Has Everything" features an appearance by Joe Chill, voiced by Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman in the DC animated universe). In the episode, Batman is captured by the Black Mercy plant, which traps its prey in the fantasy of their heart's desire. While under the plant's spell, Batman hallucinates that his father beats Chill up after disarming him. When Wonder Woman tears the plant off of Batman however, the vision returns to reality with Chill shooting and killing Bruce's parents offscreen.
  • Joe Chill is the main focus in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night!", voiced by Peter Onorati.[19] This version of the character is a hitman who kills Thomas and Martha on orders from his boss Lew Moxon as revenge for Thomas Wayne putting him in jail. In the present day, Moxon is dying and confesses to a priest (Batman in disguise) that Joe Chill is an arms dealer who sells weapons to super-criminals on the black market while also showing remorse that Joe also killed Martha when the hit was for Thomas. Joe Chill is then shown running an underground auction where he is auctioning a sonic weapon to the assembled villains (consisting of Joker, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, and Two-Face). Batman confronts him where the fight is taken away from the attendees. When Joe Chill asks how he knows about Thomas Wayne's death during the scuffle, Batman reveals his secret identity stating that he is the son of the man he murdered. Terrified, Chill asks for the villains for help. When he acknowledges that Batman is the son of people he killed, the villains turn on him, accusing him of "creating" Batman. Batman defeats the villains, but Spectre manipulates events so that Joe Chill dies when Batman redirects the attack of a sonic gun, causing the roof to collapse on him. Joe Chill dies at Batman's feet. This episode marked the first time in the history of animation that Batman confronts the killer of his parents.
  • In the series premiere of Gotham, a masked mugger (portrayed by Danny Schoch) kills Thomas and Martha Wayne following a mugging, leaving only Bruce alive. This was also witnessed by Selina Kyle. It is unconfirmed whether or not the mugger was in fact Joe Chill, but the mugger's actions put him in a similar role as Chill in the series. What James Gordon learned from the description by Bruce Wayne is that he wore somewhat expensive shiny shoes. In the episode "The Fearsome Dr. Crane", Selina's recent claim of seeing the mugger's face was of a false witness towards about the mugger's identity. In the episode "Rise of the Villains: Tonight's the Night", Theo Galavan claims to the young Bruce that he knows who the mugger is and is asking to make a deal to control Wayne Enterprises, while withholding the document file of the mugger's identity. When Gordon and the GCPD police arrested Galavan and his cover was blown, he threw the document file to the fireplace to burn it, though it is possible that he lied in order for Bruce to hand him the company. In the episode "Rise of the Villains: The Son of Gotham", Silver St. Cloud under the pressure of Tom "The Knife" claimed that the person who shot Thomas and Martha Wayne was "M. Malone" upon overhearing her step-uncle Theo mention of the name. Later, it is revealed that Hugo Strange had Patrick Malone to kill Thomas Wayne to prevent his interference upon Strange's experiments on metahumans.

Film[edit | edit source]

  • In the original script for 1989's Batman, crime boss Rupert Thorne hires Joe Chill to murder Thomas Wayne due to the latter running against Thorne for city council.[20] In the final version of the film, however, Jack Napier (who would later become the Joker) is Thomas and Martha's killer when Thomas tries to fight Napier's hamlets partner during a group mugging. Before Napier can shoot Bruce, his partner is shocked and urges him to flee before the police show up. According to producer Michael Uslan, this is intended to be the mugger who pulled the trigger on the Waynes in the comics.[21] It was also Uslan who suggested the original mugger be present during the scene.[22]
  • Joe Chill appears in Batman Begins, portrayed by Richard Brake. This version of Chill claims to have been "driven to mug" the Waynes by poverty as Gotham had suffered an economic depression because of an unspecified plot by the League of Shadows. Chill mugs the Waynes at gunpoint, demanding their wallets and jewelry. Thomas willingly gives him his wallet, but quickly moves to defend his wife when Chill grabs her necklace. In the ensuing scuffle, Chill shoots them both dead. He is caught very shortly thereafter, convicted, and sentenced to prison. After serving 14 years in prison, Chill makes a deal to be released and put on parole in return for testimony against his cellmate Gotham mob boss Carmine Falcone. During the hearing, he claims to regret his crime as Bruce leaves the courtroom. After the hearing as Chill is escorted out of the courthouse, he is shot and killed by a female assassin of Falcone's who is posing as a reporter, which deprives Bruce of his own chance for revenge. Bruce later confronts Falcone, who taunts him by saying that Chill bragged that Thomas Wayne "begged like a dog" before his death. Later on in the film, Batman relives his parents' murder under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear toxin. As in the Year Two storyline, it is left ambiguous whether or not Bruce would have actually killed Chill.
  • Joe Chill appears briefly in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, portrayed by Damon Caro who was uncredited for his role. He is the unnamed killer featured during the opening credits and a flashback later on, both of which show his slaying of the Waynes while mugging them after they and their son Bruce finished watching The Mark of Zorro.

Video games[edit | edit source]

  • Joe Chill is referenced in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Batman, under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear gas, relives his parents' murder. In the hallucination, Joe Chill's voice is distorted and the person providing the voice was uncredited.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the Monarch Theater where Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne are murdered is present in Arkham City. The chalk outline of the bodies of Thomas and Martha are behind the building with a bouquet of flowers near the chalk outline. The player can take the opportunity to have a moment of silence for them.
  • Joe Chill appears in Batman: The Telltale Series, voiced by Jarion Monroe.[19] In this game, it is revealed that Chill worked as a hitman for Carmine Falcone and murdered Thomas and Martha on behalf of Mayor Hamilton Hill. He was later imprisoned for his crime and stabbed to death by a fellow inmate acting under Hill's orders.
  • The opening of Batman: Arkham VR has the player witness Joe Chill (voiced by Glenn Wrage)[19] killing Bruce's parents, marking the only time where Joe Chill is seen in the Arkham games.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bill Finger (w), Bob Kane (p). "The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom" Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939), DC Comics
  2. Batman: The Dark Knight #0 (November 2012). DC Comics.
  3. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (February 1986)
  4. Robert Greenberger (10 June 2008). "Owlman". The Essential Batman Encyclopedia. Random House Publishing Group. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-345-50106-6. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  5. Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #1 (June 2011)
  6. Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #3 (August 2011)
  7. Flashpoint #1 (May 2011)
  8. Superman: Speeding Bullets
  9. Batman Chronicles #21
  10. Batman: In Darkest Knight
  11. Batman: Holy Terror
  12. Batman of Arkham
  13. JLA: Destiny
  14. Dark Knight Dynasty
  15. Smallville Season 11 vol. 1 #5-8 (September–December 2012)
  16. Batman Beyond Unlimited #5 (June 2012)
  17. Batman Beyond Unlimited #8 (September 2012)
  18. Earth 2 Annual #2
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Voice Of Joe Chill - Batman | Behind The Voice Actors". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved September 26, 2017. Check mark indicates role has been confirmed using screenshots of closing credits and other reliable sources<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Comics Interview #77, Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker
  22. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-19. Retrieved 2015-11-18. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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