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|First appearance||Detective Comics #33 (November 1939), Named: Batman #47 (June–July 1948)|
|Full name||Joseph Chilton|
Joe Chill is a fictional character in the DC Comics Batman series. In many versions of Batman's origin story he is a mugger who murders young Bruce Wayne's parents, thus making him indirectly responsible for Batman's existence.
Fictional character biography
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 most versions of the story, Chill declares "This'll shut you up!" before killing Martha; in the Golden Age version, Martha dies 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.
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 as Bruce Wayne, who witnessed the murder firsthand. Terrified, Chill flees and seeks protection from his henchmen, but once they learn that Chill's actions led to the hated Batman's existence, they turn on their boss and gun him down before realizing how priceless his knowledge of Batman's true identity is. Before a dying Chill has a chance to reveal Batman's identity, the Dark Knight intervenes and apprehends the goons; Chill dies in Batman's arms, acknowledging that Wayne got his revenge after all.
In Detective Comics #235 (1956), Batman learns that Chill was not a mere robber, but actually a hitman who murdered the Waynes on orders from a Mafia boss named Lew Moxon. Batman also deduced that was why he himself was unharmed by Chill at that incident, so he would inadvertently 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 Max, also a criminal. Max Chill is suspected of having murdered Boston Brand (AKA Deadman), though the suspicion proves erroneous. Max dies in the course of the story.
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 Mrs. Chilton, housekeeper to Bruce Wayne's uncle Philip Wayne. Philip became guardian of Bruce after his parents' deaths, but 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, whom she mourns, died fighting him.
In the 1980 miniseries The Untold Legend of the Batman, Alfred Pennyworth reminisces that Joe Chill is the son of Alice Chilton, Bruce Wayne's one-time nanny, a fact that he was determined to keep quiet about.
Modern Age version
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, Batman: Full Circle, Chill's son (also named Joe Chill) appears, taking on the identity of the now-deceased Reaper. He seeks revenge for his father's death, and subsequently attempts to drive Batman insane by using hallucinogenic drugs to trigger Batman's survivor's guilt over his parents' death, creating a video where a young boy's parents are killed in front of him and then the boy subsequently thanks God he didn't die himself; Chill knows that his father had killed Batman's parents, but does not know of Batman's identity. However, thanks to the intervention of Robin, Batman frees himself from the drug-induced haze, and overcomes his guilt. After the new Reaper is defeated, Batman learns to let go of his hatred of Chill.
After 1994's "Zero Hour" storyline, DC Comics stated that Batman did not catch or confront the man who murdered his parents after having seen in an alternate timeline that Chill hadn't done it after all.
In 2006 Infinite Crisis #6 reestablished that Chill murders Thomas and Martha Wayne, and that he is 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
In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), a young Bruce Wayne looks for the man who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne, but does not succeed. Many years later when he is eighteen years old, Bruce manages to find Joe Chill and holds him at gunpoint asking him who hired him. Joe Chill responds that he didn't know who they were until the next morning and that he just wanted the pearls. Bruce refuses to believe his parents were killed for nothing. Bruce then prepares himself to shoot him, but then realizes that his father would not have wanted that. After letting Joe Chill live, Bruce Wayne leaves.
In Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne finally finds it in himself to forgive Chill (who is not named). While being mugged by street punks, Wayne at first fantasizes that the two amateur criminals are Chill so he can take out his rage on them, but relents when they leave him alone after realizing he would have fought them. Wayne at last sees that Chill had not killed his parents for killing's sake, as the two punks wanted to do to him, and thus he was not truly evil. "All he wanted was money," Wayne realizes. "He was sick and guilty over what he did. I was naïve enough to think him the lowest sort of man."
In comics featuring the Crime Syndicate of America, it is revealed that on the Syndicate's alternate Earth, Joe Chill is a friend of Dr. Thomas Wayne. One night, a policeman wants to bring the elder Wayne in for questioning and, when he refuses, 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.
In the alternate universe of Flashpoint, Joe Chill shoots and kills the young Bruce Wayne, 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. Afterwards, Thomas puts Chill's gun is in a trophy display in the Batcave.
Joe Chill is featured in many Elseworld titles, including Superman: Speeding Bullets, Citizen Wayne, Batman: In Darkest Knight, Batman: Holy Terror, Batman in Arkham, JLA: Destiny, and Dark Knight Dynasty.
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 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 Wayne'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 Unlimited, set in the DC Animated Universe, Chill is revealed to have a brother. Chill's grandnephew eventually has a child of his own. 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. Jake has taken 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.
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, Joe Chill once again shot Thomas and Martha Wayne, but like his film counterpart, was later revealed to have been a hired assassin. Chill was later killed when Thomas Wayne (who had survived the shooting) crushed his skull in retaliation for Martha's death.
In other media
- In the Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episode "The Fear", a flashback depicts Thomas and Martha being mugged by someone who might be Joe Chill. This flashback is induced by the Scarecrow. When his father tries to fight him, young Bruce says "No Dad, he's got a..." and lightning is shown in the sky as his parents are shot. 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 in a hallucination where the gunmen failed to kill his parents. Unlike Superman's dream of an entire new life while under the Mercy's influence, Batman's fantasy never leaves from his father beating Chill continuously much to young Bruce Wayne's delight until Chill gains the upper hand and ultimately shoots and kills Thomas when Wonder Woman tears the plant off him.
- Joe Chill is the main focus in Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night!" voiced by Peter Onorati. 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. Joe Chill is then shown auctioning a sonic weapon to the assembled villains (consisting of Joker, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy and Two-Face). When Batman confronts him, he ends up in a fight with him away from the villains. When Joe asks how he knew about him murdering Thomas and Martha, Batman takes off his mask and reveals his secret identity. Terrified, Joe Chill asks for the villains for help (without actually mentioning the name of the boy who became Batman), but they turn on him where they accuses 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 in Batman's arms. This marked the first time in animation that Batman confronted the killer of his parents.
- 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. But in the final version of the film, Jack Napier is the Waynes' killer.
- Joe Chill appears in the film Batman Begins played 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 wallets and jewelry. Thomas willingly gives him his wallet, but quickly moves to defend his wife; in the ensuing scuffle, Chill shoots them both dead. Chill is apprehended that same night by police. After serving 14 years in prison, Chill makes a deal to be released and put on parole in return for testimony against Gotham mob boss Carmine Falcone, with whom he had shared a prison cell. During the hearing, he claims to regret his crime. After the hearing, an assassin hired by the Falcone family guns Chill down as he leaves the courthouse. Bruce Wayne, who is waiting outside the courtroom with a gun of his own, is thus deprived of his own chance for revenge. Bruce's friend Rachel Dawes tells him she suspects Falcone bribed the judge to make the trial public, allowing his agents to get close and murder Chill. 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 parent's 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 is referenced in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Batman, under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear gas, relives his parent's murder. In the hallucination, Joe Chill's voice is distorted.
- 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.
- Bill Finger (w), Bob Kane (p). "The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom" Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939), DC Comics
- Detective Comics #678 (Sept 1994)
- Batman: The Dark Knight #0 (Nov 2012)
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (February 1986)
- 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.
- Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #1 (June 2011)
- Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance #3 (August 2011)
- Flashpoint #1 (May 2011)
- Superman: Speeding Bullets
- Batman Chronicles #21
- Batman: In Darkest Knight
- Batman: Holy Terror
- Batman of Arkham
- JLA: Destiny
- Dark Knight Dynasty
- Smallville Season 11 vol. 1 #5-8 (September-December 2012)
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #5 (June 2012)
- Batman Beyond Unlimited #8 (September 2012)
- Earth 2 Annual #2