Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Creature Feature - Batman Villains

I know what your thinking: Batman's villains are just guys in suits. They're not another species, they're just humans with weird obsessions and incredible people skills capable of getting them cronies no matter how many people they've killed. Well I bring this here for two reasons: 
1: The blog that was supposed to go up today isn't ready yet due to my own fault, and 
2: Because Batman's villains are just so unique among other villains I thought I'd take some time and explore why. 

Out of nearly every super hero ever created, Batman has the best villains ever. Each one has these intricate fleshed- out back stories, with personalities and almost believable quirks that make them just beloved. I would say that the only competition for them is really Spider-Man's Villains, but for every Venom and Carnage, there's a Vulture and Walrus Man to make the whole thing seem stupid. Batman has his share of idiotic villains, IE Magpie and Killer Whale, but they're dropped immediately and his good ones are beyond reproach. 
The first big commonality is that nearly all these people start off normal, or close to it. Two-Face was a district attorney, Poison Ivy was a botanist, even the worst of the worst, the Joker, was supposedly a stand-up comedian. These people lived normal lives until something happened to them, weather biological mutation, like Man-Bat or Mr. Freeze, some circumstance from birth like Killer Croc or Penguin, or they just snapped, like Harley Quinn or Puppeteer. Then they adapt a persona around whatever triggered their issue and go from there. 
As stupid as this all sounds, the writers at DC have always been able to add a layer of depth to these characters. In Batman the Animated Series, Mr. Freeze is given one of the most moving episodes, where you actually sympathize with a guy wearing a giant refrigeration suit with a freeze gun.

"Think of it-- to never again walk upon a summer's day with a hot wind in your face and a warm hand to hold. Oh, yes, I'd kill for that." -Mr. Freeze

You just can't help but love the guy. 

Another interesting feature is how much this all shares in common with Batman. Before becoming the Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne was just a rich kid. Then a tragedy struck and he took on a persona just like the villains he would eventually fight. Batman has to spend every night stopping people who are essentially exactly like him only in a different light. This attaches Batman to his villains in a way that almost no other hero can, as well as shows what someone can do when they take a misfortune or tragedy and use it to help people rather than let it destroy themselves or others. It's a perfect example of choosing one's own destiny. 
The last big similarity is that every one of these villains and Batman can all trace their origins directly back to Gotham City. It's mostly for plot convenience that Gotham has a leading research lab for botany, cryogenics and genetics, as well as a fully functional asylum, organized crime, and well priced costume shops, but this similarity also points to something else. With as many people snap and become villains in this town, it's worth wondering if Gotham City itself is somehow a villain as well. As if it's somehow experimenting with the psyches of those it's supposed to protect, pushing them to their edges, then twisting nature to make what should've been deadly accidents transform them into what they just so happen to need to be. Add the fact that Batman also lost his parents to Gotham and you have the makings for the most intense and powerful villain the world has ever known. 
It doesn't really matter why their villains in the end. The only thing that truly matters is that they're part of any geek's psychie. They make Batman who he is by showing what he would be if he had decided to take his crusade in a different direction, and the harm of letting the world hurt you so much that your only option is to retaliate. I would love to show more specific examples from each villain, but the number of them would just take too much time. Plus each of these characters is so rich that giving them anything less than their own spotlight, like Harley Quinn a few weeks ago, wouldn't do them justice. So love them, hate them, just know that they're a class all of their own. 
Who's your favorite?


  1. Poison Ivy is my favorite Batman villain! That's partially due to Uma Thurman's performance as Poison Ivy. She was the best part of that movie. I would really like to see a version of her that has her fighting for the good guys.

    I agree about Mr. Freeze. You just can't help but feel sorry for him with his dead wife floating around in that tank and him stuck in a icy containment suit.

    The idea of Gotham as a villain is intriguing. Makes sense to me. Life there is pretty messed up. >.>

  2. I always enjoy your posts, Joe. Especially the Batman ones. Keep up the good work.