|First appearance||Detective Comics #33 (November 1939)|
Named: Batman #47 (June–July 1948)
|Created by||Bill Finger|
|Full name||Joseph 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 mugger who murders young Bruce Wayne's parents, Dr. Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne. The murder traumatizes Bruce, inspiring his vow to avenge their deaths by fighting crime as the vigilante Batman.
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 panics and shoots 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 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. Believing there is no way Batman could know this, Chill accuses him of bluffing, but Batman reveals his secret identity quoting "I know because I am the son of the man you murdered! I am 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 suddenly 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. 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 was really a planned 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 as Boston Brand was actually killed by Hook. Max is killed when a stack of slot machines falls onto him while he is attacking Batman.
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 was the housekeeper to Bruce Wayne's uncle Philip Wayne, who became Bruce's primary guardian 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 "Mom Chilton", 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
In the 1987 storyline Batman: Year Two, Chill played a key role. Several Gotham City crime bosses pool their resources to deal with a lethal vigilante called the Reaper, and Chill, an experienced button man, is hired to take him out. When Batman proposes an alliance with the bosses, they agree 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 secretly commissioned to kill Batman after the Reaper has been disposed of. During a major confrontation, the crime bosses are all killed in a shootout at a warehouse, in which the Reaper seemingly also perishes. Chill reasons that he has no reason 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 then 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 and thus break his will. 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, instead of his parents, he was killed by a mugger. Investigating the crime, he discovers that Chill, at least in this timeline, did not commit the murder. Once he returns to his own timeline, Bruce Wayne is plagued with doubt. He wonders if there's a possibility 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 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, and Air Transport company from the ground up (most likely through illegal means). He blames his crimes, including murdering the Waynes, on class warfare that forced him to do things he wouldn't have otherwise. 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, with a single bullet loaded in it. Chill finally realizes who Batman is and fears what his fellow gangsters might do if they found out he was responsible for creating him. It is implied that he uses his gun to commit 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 story 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 2011, "The New 52" rebooted the DC Comics' primary 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 Chill killed his parents for no good reason, Bruce prepares to kill him, 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 and begins training to fight crime, vowing that he will make sure what Chill did never happens to anyone else.
In 2016, DC Comics implemented another relaunch of its books called "DC Rebirth", which restored its continuity to a form much as it was prior to "The New 52". In the 2020 miniseries Batman: Three Jokers, a news report about the massacre of the final members of the Moxon Crime Family stated that they were accused of hiring Joe Chill to kill Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne only for them to be exonerated when Joe Chill confessed that he acted alone. It was also mentioned that Joe Chill is serving a life sentence at Blackgate Penitentiary. Using the fingerprints from Judge Wade Walls' humanitarian trophy, Batman enters Blackgate Penitentiary to see Joe Chill. When Batman finds that he is not in his cell, Batgirl informs Batman that Joe Chill was moved to the infirmary where he is suffering from stage 4 cancer. The Comedian Joker and the Criminal Joker later abduct Joe Chill from the infirmary where they put his hat on him and want him to confess on camera as one of the Jokers asks "Why did you really kill Thomas and Martha Wayne?" Batman, Batgirl, and Jason Todd/Red Hood arrive at the theater where Joe Chill is being held in as a film plays with Joe confessing that he killed the Waynes because he thought they were the kind of rich people who didn't care about the city and it was only after seeing a young Bruce Wayne that he realized his mistake. The Criminal Joker plans to dump Joe Chill in a mixture of the Lazarus Pit and Joker Venom in hopes of making him the ultimate Joker, but Joe Chill is saved by Batman who forgives him. Joe finally learns that Bruce Wayne is Batman. After the death of the Criminal Joker and the surrender of the Comedian Joker who was revealed to be the original Joker, Bruce Wayne visits Joe Chill on his death bed as Bruce shakes his hand. Joe Chill peacefully dies and Bruce Wayne finally having closure over his parent's killer.
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 both Joe Chill, so he can take out his rage on them. They leave him alone, however, after realizing he would have fought them : "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".
In the comics featuring the Crime Syndicate of America, it is revealed that on the Syndicate's alternate Earth, Joe Chill was 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 suddenly opens fire. This Earth's version of Bruce Wayne and Martha Wayne are killed. Chill comes out of an alleyway to discover the dead bodies and the Waynes' younger son Thomas Wayne Jr., leaves with him, blaming his father for his mother and brother's deaths, and seeing Chill as the only father figure he has left.
In the alternate universe of Flashpoint, Joe Chill shoots and kills the young Bruce Wayne, and Thomas Wayne seeks to kill him to avenge his son. He locates Chill and attempts to inject him with a drug, but instead beats him to death in a vengeful fury. Afterwards, Thomas puts Chill's gun 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 of Arkham, JLA: Destiny, and Dark Knight Dynasty.
Joe Chill is featured in the comic book continuation of the television series Smallville, albeit with no connection to Batman. Instead, he worked as an Intergang contact before being killed by Mr. Freeze.
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 police detective who originally worked on the Wayne case has finally discovered evidence that he was the killer. Chill tracks the detective to his apartment and attempts to silence 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 in terror 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, 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 discovers his involvement with McGinnis' murder, Jake Chill is wracked with guilt and decides to become a vigilante to redeem his family's sins. 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. 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 regretted that he died 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 their 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.
In the prequel comic to Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Joe Chill is the right-hand man of crime lord 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 Chill with an axe.
In other media
- 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 (voiced by Michael Rye). When his father tries to fight him, a young Bruce says "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. 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) who was not credited for the role. 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. 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 now working as an arms dealer who sells weapons to super-criminals on the black market, auctioning a sonic weapon to Gotham City’s supervillains (consisting of Joker, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, and Two-Face). Batman confronts him and reveals his secret identity during the scuffle. Terrified, Chill asks the villains for help. When he acknowledges that he is indirectly responsible for Batman's existence, the villains turn on him. Batman stops the villains from killing Chill, but Spectre manipulates events so that Chill dies when Batman redirects the blast of the weapon Chill was selling, causing the roof to collapse on him. 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 in front of their son Bruce. In a departure from the comics however, the series ultimately reveals that instead of Chill, small-time hitman Patrick "Matches" Malone killed the Waynes on orders from his employer Hugo Strange.
- In the Titans episode "Trigon", Jason Todd breaks the case from its glass and takes the gun of Joe Chill and uses it to shoot Dick Grayson in a Trigon-induced vision. In the episode "Barbara Gordon", the is seen in its case in the Batcave.
- 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. In the final version of the film, however, Jack Napier (who would later become the Joker) is Thomas and Martha's killer. According to producer Michael Uslan, Chill is one of Napier's minions who accompanied him in mugging the Waynes and was credited as "Other Mugger" (portrayed by Clyde Gatell). After Napier shoots Thomas and Martha Wayne from his position, he almost shoots Bruce only for Chill to advise him to flee the area before the police shows up. Chill's fate is left unknown.
- Joe Chill appears in Batman Begins, portrayed by Richard Brake. This version of Chill claims to have resorted to mugging the Waynes because he was one of the millions of Gothamites struggling with poverty amid an economic depression plaguing the city at the time (later revealed to have been caused by the League of Shadows). When Chill grabs Martha’s necklace, Thomas moves to defend her, and a panicked Chill shoots them both dead. He is arrested that night, and sentenced to prison. After serving fourteen years, Chill makes a deal to finally get parole in return for testifying against his cellmate, mob boss Carmine Falcone. As Chill is escorted out of the courthouse, he is shot and killed by a Falcone-employed assassin posing as a reporter, depriving Bruce of his own chance for revenge as Bruce had a gun in his own hand and was standing by to kill him himself. When Bruce confronts Falcone, the gangster taunts him by saying that Chill bragged to him that Thomas Wayne "begged like a dog" for his life. Later on in the film, Batman relives his parents' murder under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear toxin.
- Joe Chill appears briefly in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, portrayed by an uncredited Damon Caro. He is the unnamed killer featured during the opening credits and a flashback later on, both of which show him killing the Waynes.
- Near the end of the 2019 film Joker, Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne are confronted by a rioter (portrayed by an unknown extra) in an alley wearing a clown mask who is presumably Joe Chill. Inspired by Joker's killing of variety show host Murray Franklin on live television, he proceeds to fatally shoot Thomas and Martha, declaring that they are getting what they deserve.
- Joe Chill appears in a flashback of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.
- Joe Chill is referenced in Batman: Arkham Asylum. During a scene when he is under the influence of the Scarecrow's fear gas, Batman relives his parents' murder. In the hallucination, Joe Chill's voice is distorted and the person providing the voice was uncredited.
- Joe Chill appears in Batman: The Telltale Series, voiced by Jarion Monroe. In the game, it is revealed that Chill worked as a hitman for Carmine Falcone and murdered Thomas and Martha on behalf of Falcone's ally Mayor Hamilton Hill. He was later imprisoned for his crime and stabbed to death by a fellow inmate hired by Hill to keep him quiet.
- Joe Chill appears in Batman: Arkham VR, voiced by Glenn Wrage. The opening of the game has the player witnessing Joe Chill killing Bruce's parents, marking the only time where Joe Chill is seen in the Arkham games.
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