ByMatt Juul, writer at Creators.co
Digital Arts and Entertainment Writer at Boston Magazine
Matt Juul

Thanks to a pair of popular comic book villains — plus the impending, historic World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs — expect to see a lot of baseball bats on TV and around town this October.

Over the years, the bat has evolved into being more than just a symbol for America's beloved pastime. The go-to tool for home run hitters everywhere has turned into the fearsome weapon of choice for bad guys and gangsters, both on the big screen, as well as in real life.

This Halloween season, revelers dressed as the fictional kind of bat wielders are set to dominate the streets while trick-or-treating due to the enormous popularity of #TheWalkingDead's #Negan and #SuicideSquad's #HarleyQuinn. Both psychotic characters are known for dishing out beatdowns with bats, a gruesome method of fighting that the #AMC series didn't shy away from showing during the recent TWD Season 7 premiere.

Margot Robbie's version of the character showed off her proficiency at the plate while thumping her way through mind-controlled foes in #DCComics' latest summer blockbuster. Although the Joker's main squeeze usually sports a mallet, the film's take on the villain proved that she's dangerous with anything in her hands.

Image via Giphy
Image via Giphy

Negan and Harley Quinn may explain why pop culture baddies seem to have an obsession with baseball bats in 2016, however, the sports gear-turned improvised weapon is actually a pretty common piece of self-defense equipment.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times article revealed that the baseball bat is one of the most common defensive weapons in China, despite the fact the sport isn't that popular in the country. The reason why it's been embraced as a self-defense tool is due to it's ease of use and ability to deter would-be hoodlums.

"I need it for protection," one resident told the LA Times. "There's local hooligans everywhere and they'll threaten you if you don't pay them money."

From a martial arts standpoint, the bat functions in a similar fashion to a club or baton. Most law enforcement agents carry a club-like tool, and many styles of fighting use wooden sticks or staffs as weapons, such as the Okinawan tonfa or the baston in Eskrima.

Unlike the average clubs, baseball bats usually require a two-handed grip in order to do maximum damage, putting it more on par with a bludgeoning weapon like a medieval mace. They are pretty versatile in close quarters, though, as they can be used both in swinging and thrusting motions.

Since bats can cause so much destruction upon impact, it's no surprise that they've been used as tools of intimidation by gangsters throughout history. The notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone infamously beat three men who crossed him with a baseball bat before having his henchmen finish the job.

The image of a fiery crime boss or a disgruntled killer ready to swing for the fences like Big Papi at Fenway Park has been etched into American cinematic culture thanks to films ranging from Casino to Inglourious Basterds. Just the thud sound of a bat hitting a person's skull is enough to strike fear in even the most confident of characters, which is why audiences always seem to react in horror when watching one of these moments in a movie.

Beyond its affiliation with gangsters and psycho-killers, the bat has been a favorite among several comic book villains not named Negan or Harley Quinn. Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, frequently faced off against the Sportsmaster, who often fought him with a bat. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but in the context of early comic history, the old school Green Lantern's ring didn't work against wood, so a bat was actually a smart choice.

The Caped Crusader has even taken a few swings over the years, notably in the Grant Morrison story arch where he loses his mind, becoming the multi-colored and possibly homeless Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. As we've already seen in Suicide Squad and Walking Dead, characters who love bats are usually not that sane.

It's the erratic nature often associated with the wielder that tends to make the bat such a feared tool of destruction. Thankfully, aside from the Al Capones of the world, most of the swinging is done at the baseball stadium.

Image via Giphy
Image via Giphy

The bat-wielder on everyone's minds is easily The Walking Dead's Negan, but how much do you really know about his character?

Who do you think is the scariest baddie with a bat? Take our poll and let us know in the comments below.

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Who's the biggest baddie with a bat?