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 one Golden Age version, 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.
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. 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 a 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 dies in Batman's arms, acknowledging that Batman got his revenge after all.
Chil holding the Wayne family at gunpoint. Detective Comics #33 (November 1939) Art by Bob Kane.
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, 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 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.
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 never caught or confronted 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), 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.
In Frank Miller's 1986 limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne finally learns to forgive Chill (who is not named). While being mugged by street punks, Bruce at first fantasizes that the two amateur criminals are Chill so he can take out his rage on them. They leave him alone after realizing he would have fought them, however. 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 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 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 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 is featured in the comic book continuation of the television series Smallville, who 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 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, 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. 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.
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 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 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. 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 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). 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.
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 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). Batman confronts him, revealing his secret identity. Terrified, Chill asks for the villains for help, but 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 in Batman's arms. 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 was of a false witness towards about the mugger's identity. In the episode "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 its possibly he lied, in order for Bruce to hand him the company.
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 (who would later become the Joker) is Thomas and Martha's killer when Thomas tries to fight one of Napier's men during a group mugging. Before Napier can shoot Bruce, he and his partner end up having to flee before the police show up.
In Batman Begins, Joe Chill is 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 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, though this is unlikely as Chill expressed guilt of his actions prior to his own 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 will appear in the upcoming 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
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.