Joe Chill is a fictional character in the DC Comics Batman series. He is most infamous for murdering young Bruce Wayne's parents (in different versions of Batman's origin story), thus making him indirectly responsible for Batman's existence.
Not much is known about Chill, except that he appears to be a petty mugger who kills Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their child, Bruce, while trying to take their money and jewelry. Bruce, unflinchingly glaring at him, begins crying and calling for help. Chill panics and runs from the scene. Bruce would always remember the murderer's face.
Batman's origin story was first established in a sequence of panels in Detective Comics #33 (November 1939) and later reproduced in the publication Batman #1 (Spring 1940). The mugger, however, was 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 and reveals his secret identity. The frightened Chill flees, seeks out his cohorts, explains the encounter, and begs for their protection. Once they learn that Chill's actions led to the hated Batman's existence, they instead turn on their boss and fatally shoot him. Luckily for Batman, Chill did not specify any names while explaining his hand in the crime-fighter's origin. A moment later, the men realize how valuable Chill's knowledge is to them. Before the dying Chill has a chance to reveal Batman's identity, Batman catches up and renders the goons unconscious. Chill dies addressing Batman as Bruce, and the two make a kind of peace with one another.
In Detective Comics #235 (1956), Batman learns that Chill is not a mere robber, but actually a hitman who has murdered the Waynes on contract with a Mafia boss named Lew Moxon.
In the 1980 miniseries The Untold Legend of the Batman, Alfred Pennyworth reminisces that Joe Chill is the son of one Alice Chilton, a one-time caretaker of young Bruce Wayne.
Modern Age version
In the post-Crisis 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. He nevertheless justifies it 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. 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' deaths. 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 overcome his guilt. After the new Reaper is defeated, Batman accepts that the bad blood between him and the Chills is now over.
After 1994's Zero Hour storyline, DC Comics stated that Batman did not catch or confront his parents' murderer after having seen in an alternate timeline that Chill hadn't done it after all. The rationale for this change was that it would allow Batman to view all criminals as surrogates for the man who killed his parents
In 2006's Infinite Crisis #6, another cosmic crisis reestablished that Chill murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne and added for the first time that Chill is arrested on that same night for their murder. This change is consistent with the previous year's film Batman Begins, in which Chill is also caught shortly after murdering the Waynes.
As revealed in the 2008 Grant Morrison story, "Joe Chill in Hell" (featured in Batman #673), Joe was a mid-level crime boss. He had built the Land, Sea, Air Transport company from the ground up (most likely through illegal means). Any crimes he committed, including the Waynes' murder, he blamed 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 (possibly meant for Bruce). Chill finally realizes who Batman is, and that he was the one who created the Batman. Fearing what his fellow gangsters would do to him if they found out, it is implied that he takes his own life with the gun.
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, observes that Chill should be dead. Chill notes that he was there at the birth of The Batman, and it is only fitting he should be there to witness the end.
Other comic versions
- In Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne finally finds it in himself to (at least partially) forgive Chill after he is mugged by street punks. At first he fantasizes that the two amateur criminals are Chill so he can take out his rage on them, but relents when they lose interest and leave him alone. 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."
- Chill was also seen in the now-canceled DC comic book Batman Adventures in its final issue (#17). In the issue Chill is shown to have lived in fear ever since the night he killed the Waynes, especially as their son had grown into a very powerful businessman in Gotham City. Chill started to see Bruce Wayne's face on random people all over town. He falls to his death from a balcony after refusing help from the Dark Knight (whose mask had been torn, though Chill thought it was another hallucination). Batman is unaware of who Chill really was or why he had refused help.
- In the Flashpoint storyarc, like in the regular timeline, Joe Chill ambushed the Waynes at Crime Alley. That time, however, due to distortions made by Barry Allen, aka, the Flash, Joe Chill ended up killing Bruce Wayne himself instead of Thomas and Martha Wayne. As a direct result, Thomas, furious at Chill for the murder of his son, proceeded to kill the latter via a prolonged beating. This event ultimately broke the two parents, with Martha Wayne in particular being driven completely insane by the event and becoming The Joker, while Thomas Wayne himself becoming the violent vigilante known as Batman who, unlike the mainstream counterpart, has no qualms with using guns or killing people.
Earth-Three's Joe Chill
In comics featuring the Crime Syndicate of America, it is revealed that on the Crime Syndicate's alternate Earth, Joe Chill is a friend of Dr. Thomas Wayne. One night, a policeman wants to bring Mr. Wayne in for questioning, and when he refuses, the officer opens fire; this Earth's version of Bruce and his mother are killed. Chill comes out of the alley to discover the dead bodies. The Waynes' elder son, Thomas Wayne Junior, leaves with Chill. Junior would later become Owlman while Thomas Sr. survives that day and becomes the police chief of this Earth's Gotham City. Notably, his cadre of officers are far cleaner than the main continuity's police force.
In other media
In the last season of the Super Friends series, in the episode called "The Fear" a flashback depicts Thomas and Martha Wayne getting mugged by someone that might be Joe Chill. This flashback is induced by the Scarecrow. 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.
Batman (1989 film)
Main Article: Joe Chill (Clyde Gatell)
- In the original script for 1989's Batman, written by Tom Mankiewicz, crime boss Rupert Thorne hires Joe Chill to murder Thomas Wayne because he is running against Thorne for city council. Chill is not mentioned in the final version of the film which was directed by Tim Burton. In that film, a young Jack Napier (who would later become The Joker) is the Waynes' killer. Rupert Thorne is changed to Carl Grissom and the mugger is unnamed.
- Clyde Gatell also appears in the Wayne murder scene billed as "Other Mugger," a nod to the original nameless mugger that grabs Martha's pearls. He reacts with shock and horror at Jack Napier's brutal execution of the Waynes before fleeing the scene.
Justice League Unlimited
The Justice League Unlimited episode "For The Man Who Has Everything" features an appearance by Joe Chill. The shooting of the Waynes is relived/reimagined when Batman is captured by the "Black Mercy" plant, an alien plant which traps its prey in the fantasy of their heart's desire. In the dream, Bruce relives the mugging of his parents but, this time, his father is not shot. Instead, Dr. Wayne disarms Chill and starts punching him, much to young Bruce's delight. This is a confirmation that his innermost wish is that his parents had lived. When fellow Justice League members Wonder Woman and Superman help Batman escape from the Black Mercy, the dream falls apart with Chill once more gaining the upper hand and executing the Waynes just as had really happened. In an ironic casting choice, Chill's one line in the episode ("We'll start with the pretty pearls around the lady's neck") is performed by none other than Kevin Conroy himself, the voice of Batman in the "DC animated universe".
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Joe Chill is the main focus in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night!" voiced by Peter Onorati. Batman finds a lead in the case of who murdered his parents is Joe Chill while the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger watch. After much investigation, Batman locates a dying Lew Moxon, who reveals that Chill was a hitman working for Moxon, who shoots Thomas and Martha Wayne out of spite. Batman interrogates several villains, including Louie the Lilac, about Chill and the Wayne murders, and is also shown scenes from the past about Chill by the Spectre. In the present day, Chill is an arms dealer who sells weapons to super-criminals on the black market. When Batman confronts him and reveals himself as Bruce Wayne, a terrified Chill asks for the villains (consisting of the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, and Two-Face) for help, but they attempt to kill him for "creating" Batman". Batman foils the villains, but the Spectre manipulates the events so that Joe Chill dies when he ends up collapsed by debris as a result of Batman redirecting the sonic gun that was to be auctioned toward the ceiling. This marked the first time in animation that Batman confronted his parents' killer.
Batman: Arkham Series
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Joe Chill is referenced in Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Scarecrow's fear gas has Batman reliving the experience where his parents were shot in an alley by Joe Chill (whose voice is distorted). Also, Thomas and Martha Wayne's game biography mentions that they were shot by Joe Chill.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Joe Chill was given an indirect reference during the final detective case, where Batman had to investigate the murders of two people he knew that occurred at the same place his parents had been murdered. It was also implied that the similarities between his parents' murder and those of Clarissa and Horace were extensive enough that it disturbed Batman, even nearly killing the man responsible, Ian Chase, in a fit of rage from this.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Joe Chill was given an indirect reference when Batman was being goaded by various hallucinations of the Joker to "shoot" Scarecrow with a gun. When telling him to do it, Joker told Batman that Scarecrow deserved it and was no different from "the creep who killed your parents."
Batman: Arkham VR
Joe Chill physically appeared for the first time in the Arkham Series within Batman: Arkham VR, during a nightmare in which Bruce relived his parents' death within Crime Alley. After murdering Thomas Wayne when the man defended his wife from Chill's attempt to grab her pearl necklace, Joe then shot Martha dead to silence her screams. Chill turned his gun to a young Bruce Wayne, preaching to him that heroic deeds only get people killed, like his father before him, but ultimately let the boy live.
The bio of Joe Chill within the batcomputer detailed that Joe was a suspect in a series of burglaries, muggings, and murders, aside from his actions in Crime Alley. It was confirmed that Joe was never found or brought to justice by either the police or Batman himself. His ultimate fate was left as an intentional loose end to serve as a contributing factor for Batman's never-ending resolve to fight crime.
At the time of his murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Joe appeared to be middle-aged, balding, had a comb-over, several missing teeth and tattoos, and wore a brown leather jacket, tattered white undershirt, jeans, boots, and an empty watch band.
It was implied that Bruce's nightmare of Chill was a component of an intense hallucination of Joker's creation, due to the villain's blood now flowing through the hero's veins after the events of Arkham City and slowly began to take control of his mind, using the memories of his parents' murder to further taunt him.