Everett Collection
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September 25, 2015 at 10:21 PM EDT

Happy Batman Day! Yes, Saturday is yet another fake internet holiday, but it’s a great excuse to talk about Batman – specifically, how weird the character’s history is. The past decade of big-screen Batman adaptations, while successful, have mostly focused on the idea of Bruce Wayne as a gritty, somber avenger full of inner darkness. This approach started with Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 story The Dark Knight Returns, continued through Christopher Nolan’s celebrated film trilogy, and looks to go even further with next year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, when a violent version of the caped crusader goes up against heroic paragon Superman.

This is far from the only interpretation of Batman, however. The character has been around since 1939, and in that time we’ve seen many different versions of the Dark Knight, some of them deeply strange. Batman, after all, is the hero of the nighttime, and the night encompasses not just darkness and violence but all the other things too weird for the daylight: sex, drugs, clubs, mad scientists. It’s worth looking back at some of the craziest stories from Batman’s history, as a reminder that Batman doesn’t have to be (and maybe shouldn’t be) gritty and “realistic.”

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