- "I am the judge, jury, and Executioner!"
- —Nathaniel Barnes[src]
Nathaniel Barnes is a former marine, and the former captain of the Gotham City Police Department. Taking on the role from former captain then Commissioner Sarah Essen after her death at the hands of Jerome Valeska. A strict by the book law enforcer until he became infected with the effects of the Tetch blood virus he went insane and gained anger-induced superhuman abilities, he took on the role of The Executioner, to murder guilty criminals against the law but was brought down with the efforts of James Gordon and sent to Arkham Asylum.
Service as a Marine
During a mission in the desert during his time in the marines, Barnes and his colleagues captured three insurgents when caught in a sandstorm. Without visibility they were involved in a shootout, simultaneously, one of their prisoners, a child with his hands tied, tried to escape. Barnes immediately jumped on him, putting his gun in his mouth and shot without thinking. For years he was tormented by the memory until it made peace with him and he came to accept that it was just a man who acted unpredictably to the situation.
Captain of the GCPD
After the massacre of the GCPD and death of the Commissioner, Nathaniel Barnes was assigned as the new captain of the GCPD to bring order into the precinct. Barnes made his presence known to the rest of the Officers and Detectives. Introducing himself, Barnes lectured the entire precinct on what had happened days previous with Jerome Valeska and The Maniax coming into the precinct, and killing nine officers and Commissioner Sarah Essen. Thereafter, Nathaniel made it known that he had read everyone's files, and several officers for their records of bribery, drug abuse, extortion, and racketeering. Barnes stated that crimes committed by GCPD members would no longer be tolerated and that a new set of rules were being implemented. Barnes then asked Detective Gordon into his office, making Jim his second-in-command. The next morning, Barnes called Leslie Thompkins, asking to speak to Jim, and requesting that Gordon meet him at the Gotham Police Academy. There, Nathaniel suggested the idea of taking a group of cadets that were about to graduate and weren't yet jaded or corrupt. Later after in-depth interviews with several of the cadets, Barnes made them into Unit Alpha of a Strike Force team under the command of Gordon. At the GCPD precinct, Barnes presented the group with uniforms, and was informed by Alvarez of the murder of Janice Caulfield. He later presented the group with their first mission of a building a case to put away The Penguin. Barnes along with the Strike Force led a raid on the Penguin's counting house, with the group having to dodge a rocket launcher after arriving. They later raided The Merc, with Barnes and Gordon running after Evan Pike, and killing him. Barnes later informed Gordon, Bullock, and the Strike Force of Luke Garrett's death, after having been taken to the hospital for his burns.
Barnes later reprimanded Gordon and put a note in his file after learning that Gordon had used harsh methods to obtain information from a suspect. Afterwards, Barnes showed Gordon footage of Bridgit Pike and Selina Kyle who had been caught on a security camera after committing a robbery. After Gordon came to him telling him that he promised his informant that he'd keep Bridgit safe, Barnes told Gordon not to make promises that he couldn't keep and to find Bridgit. Barnes, Gordon, and the Strike Force later cornered Bridgit after she freed women from sex slave operation, later witnessing her catch on fire and burn. Barnes was visited by mayoral candidate Theo Galavan, and was told by Galavan that Penguin had tried to kill him. As such, Barnes was given an arrest warrant for Penguin and all his known associates by Harvey Dent, as well as showed his support for Galavan's plan to implement martial law until Penguin was found and apprehended. He later gave a speech to the precinct about their duty of protecting Galavan during his victory celebration that night. Gordon later came to him with the suspicion that Theo Galavan, the new mayor of Gotham, was responsible for the breakout of Arkham Asylum and the attack on the GCPD. Despite this, Barnes ordered him to find solid evidence to support his suspicion. When Gordon and Leslie Thompkins were kidnapped by Barbara Kean, Barnes reluctantly joined forces with Detective Bullock to rescue them. They later saved Mayor James from captivity and obtained evidence to arrest Galavan.
Along with Detective Gordon, Barnes visited Theo Galavan's penthouse to gather evidence against him, but was present when several assassins were sent to kill Jim. Barnes was injured in the encounter, but while waiting for reinforcements, he seized the moment and told the detective to fight his inner darkness and that there was no line, there was simply the law, which was what separated humans from animals. Afterwards Barnes tried to keep away Jim from the Galavan case, but with the sudden emergence of new evidence linking the political figure with a religious sect he had no choice but to give permission to Detective to investigate this problem so it could be stopped as quickly as possible.  After Galavan was assaulted by Gordon, the death of two policemen and the disappearance of Gordon, Barnes was left with no choice but to issue a warrant for his arrest, convinced that Gordon was in cohorts with Penguin. Later, Barnes was confronted by Lucius Fox and Detective Bullock, with Fox telling Barnes that Bruce and Alfred had been abducted, though Barnes refusing to believe him without any physical evidence. After finding Alfred in a cell in the precinct, Barnes told the trio that they'd dig up a health and safety issue, and get a warrant for Galavan Tower. At Galavan's penthouse, Barnes managed to convince Jim not to kill Theo and surrender to justice to prove his innocence, however, Cobblepot knocked him out with a blow to the head from behind.
After Theo was murdered, Barnes sent the whole of the G.C.P.D. after Cobblepot.
Barnes was present during a hearing when Gordon was questioned over the circumstances leading to Theo's death. Gordon claimed that Cobblepot and his gang took Theo away and that he himself had run off to see to Leslie, leaving out the fact it was him. The charges were lifted, but Barnes wasn't convinced Gordon was telling the truth. Cobblepot was eventually brought in, but he refused to give up Jim and confessed to the murder, claiming that he is insane.
Following Gordon escaping from Blackgate Penitentiary, Barnes has his police officers working 24/7 to find him while being suspicious of Bullock. He and Bullock are later informed by Selina Kyle on where Gordon was last sighted. Thanks to a trick by Gordon, Barnes and the police officers with him were close enough to hear Edward Nygma's confession of the deaths he caused. This led to Barnes and the police officers to converge on Nygma. After Nygma was arrested, Barnes makes it up to Gordon by giving him the number of the Medical Examiner office that Leslie Thompkins is working at. He does this in exchange for the files on the Waynes. Barnes agrees to the terms as he goes to get the Wayne files.
Nathaniel Barnes interrogated Bruce Wayne after he, Alfred Pennyworth, and Karen Jennings were apprehended by the police after they were caught having broken into Pinewood Farms. While having Karen Jennings prepped for her return to Blackgate Penitentiary, he tells Bruce that he is free to go and to take his leave before he changes his mind.
Discovering the truth
Barnes later held an interview at a crime scene where he ran into Gordon and Bruce. Gordon told Barnes he needed to speak with him, and after some convincing from Bruce and Gordon both, Barnes agrees to talk to Gordon, albeit for three minutes. Gordon tries to tell Barnes about Strange, and about the experiments he's been making out of dead people in Arkham's basement, to which Barnes says it sounds insane. Just then however, Azrael shows up for Gordon. Gordon and Barnes are left to confront Azrael themselves, however, Bullock then shows up with backup. Azrael is forced to retreat, leaving Bruce and the members of the GCPD to watch his escape.
Later, in the GCPD headquarters, Barnes officially held Gordon under suspicion of breaking Karen Jennings out from Blackgate. A blackout then ensues, and Azrael shows up again, leaving Gordon, Barnes, and members of the Strike Force to fend off against him. The battle results in the deaths of the other Strike Force members, and culminates on the roof of the GCPD, where Barnes, in a last ditch effort, decides to engage in close quarters combat with Azrael. During the duel, Barnes knocks Azrael's mask off, and is shocked to discover that what Gordon told him is true: Strange is bringing the dead back to life, and he has started these procedures with Theo Galavan. In this moment of stunned silence, Azrael stabs Barnes in the stomach with what remains of his blade. Gordon then arrives and shoots Azrael off the roof. Barnes is wheeled away from the scene on a stretcher.
Barnes survived the attack and began to recover in hospital.
Return to duty
Barnes made a recovery in hospital and returned to his position as captain at the GCPD (which was filled in by Harvey Bullock during his absence). Despite his recovery Barnes was required to walk with a cane. Six months following the escape of Hugo Strange's nightmarish experiments from Indian Hill, Barnes and former mayor Aubrey James held a press conference at the precinct to assure the public they were doing the best they can to handle the situation, but this got interrupted by Cobblepot who made his entrance and accused the police of not doing enough to protect the citizens. He then told them that Fish Mooney is responsible for leading the monsters, and urges the public to find her. After Hugo Strange's former assistant Ethel Peabody was captured (and later killed) by Fish Mooney due to Gordon (now working as a bounty hunter) trying to use her as a pawn, Barnes blasted him and Bullock in his office for their behaviour, and revealed his disappointment in Bullock, due to Barnes being previously proud of how he handled things in his absence.
After Bullock was captured by Mooney to reveal the location of Strange; Barnes, Gordon and backup headed to an old mansion where the professor had been kept since his imprisonment in order to reveal his secrets to the government. Despite Barnes' order not to let anyone in, Cobblepot arrived with an angry mob to kill Fish and the remaining "monsters" accompanying her, much to Barnes' anger as Cobblepot's interruption could pose a serious risk to the safety of Bullock. Gordon (who entered the mansion) phoned Cobblepot and informed him that Fish was escaping with Strange through the back. Cobblepot got the mob riled up to distract the police while he confronted Fish in a woodland. Two monsters working for Fish were killed by the mob of people and burned, with Cobblepot subsequently hailed a hero for leading the retribution.
Infection and corruption
Gordon brought in a young woman named Alice Tetch to the GCPD. She is the sister of an unstable hypnotist known as Jervis Tetch who wanted his hands on Alice. In Barnes' office Barnes shows genuine concern for Gordon who appears not to be in the right place and asks him to open up. Gordon admits that Tetch put him under a hypnotic spell during a confrontation, and that he has been feeling suicidal tenancies. Barnes decides to allow Gordon to speak with Alice and get information on her brother. But during this Tetch launches an assault on the precinct with the help of luchadore wrestlers The Terrible Tweeds in a bid to abduct her. This ends up being successful as Tetch escapes with two of the Tweeds and his sister. Gordon attempts to stop them, but Tetch uses the hypnotic spell to force Gordon to place a gun to his head, which forces Barnes to knock him unconscious with his cane. Barnes has Gordon placed on suicide watch and gets him transferred to another facility, but Bullock helps him escape by bribing the driver so they can go after Tetch and rescue Alice. Despite Gordon managing to break the spell during their confrontation with Tetch at an abandoned amusement park, Alice ends up dead during a struggle with her brother after being impaled on a spike. When Barnes investigates the crime scene, a drop of Alice's blood drips and falls into his eye, infecting him.
Over the next few days Barnes asked to see the results of Alice's blood on rats and the end result was either they died or was driven to madness. Barnes soon discovered he no longer needed his cane to walk. Barnes was driven mad after Dr. Maxwell Symon, a psychotic surgeon was released from custody, and showed up at the engagement party of Lee and Mario Calvi. Barnes went mad with rage when Symon taunted him and viciously killed him by throwing him through a wall. Barnes became convinced that the only way justice could truly be served was to execute criminals. Jim disagreed with Barnes' idea of justice, and this led to Barnes trying to kill him and turn the whole GCPD squad against him. Bullock managed to turn the tables on Barnes, and he was shot in the shoulder and taken to Arkham Asylum where he was restrained and yelled "guilty" repeatedly.
Leslie Thompkins later visits Nathaniel Barnes who claims that the virus is the "cure." As Leslie takes her leave, Barnes states that he will break out and that Gordon will be the first thing he purges from Gotham City.
Becoming the Executioner
While fighting in a prison yard, he is abducted by the Court of Owls, so they can use the virus in his blood. When Gordon foils their plan, they send him to exact vengeance. He raids the GCPD hq, killing 5 people, including Kathryn. His hand is blown off by Gordon, which results in Barnes being weakened enough to be brought back into custody. However on route to Arkham, Barnes manages to escape custody once again and goes into hiding, much to Bullock's dismay. With his current whereabouts remaining unknown.
Nathaniel takes a job as a police captain very seriously, unlike most members of the Gotham City Police Department, he is non-corrupt, Nathaniel has no toleration for any crooked cop in the GCPD. It has been shown that he will arrest them without hesitation. Nathaniel can be very stubborn and abides by the law at all times. He does not believe any suspect is innocent or guilty until official evidence has been given; despite this, Nathaniel is not about apologizing or admitting when he is wrong.
After he was exposed to Alice Tetch's blood, Nathaniel became angry, aggressive, violent, immoral, unstable and delusional, as he killed his victims without any guilt or remorse; acting as judge, jury and executioner. This darker side to him contradicted his former personality almost entirely, formerly believing strongly in enforcing the law by the book and dissuading Jim from taking the law in his own hands. He now believes himself of high enough authority to disregard the law and take it into his own hands.
Powers and abilities
- Superhuman strength: Alice Tetch's blood gave Nathaniel superhuman strength, but only activated in states of true rage against criminals and guilty people.
- Accelerated healing factor: After he was exposed to Alice Tetch's blood, Nathaniel was able to heal from the permanent injury that he received from Theo Galavan; as he is now able to walk without his crutch.
- Expert hand-to-hand combatant: Due to his time in the USMC, Nathaniel is an expert in unarmed combat.
- Expert marksman: Due to his military training, Nathaniel is an expert with firearms.
- Acess to an array of weapons: Due to his alliance with the Court of the Owls Nathaniel Barnes has acess to grenades, a crescent shaped blade, and firearms.
- He is the only known person still infected with the Alice Tetch virus.
- In DC Comics, Willy Hooker AKA The Executioner was a vigilante who murdered wanted criminals in order to collect the reward money, which brought him into conflict with Batman and Robin. He made his first and only appearance in Detective Comics #191, published January 1953.
- Barnes' "Executioner" persona shares similarities to "The Judge" from The New Batman Adventures, who was a third personality of the show's version of Harvey Dent. This includes Barnes hearing "guilty" over and over in his mind, and the end scene with Barnes in his cell and in a straight jacket and repeating guilty is similar to the ending of "The Judge" episode, in which Dent is also seen in a straight jacket repeating the words.
- Barnes' bladed hand is similar to a weapon used by The Phantasm, another character originating from the DC Animated Universe, appearing in the 1992 animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Similar to Barnes, the Phantasm is on a crusade to kill criminals in Gotham City, although the motives differ from Barnes.