Top 10 Most Underused Batman Villains
There is an idiom in the comic world that claims that a good hero is measured by the strength of their villains. Part of the reason why Spider-Man has endured across many different mediums is because he has such a great gallery of enemies to battle. This is even more true for Batman, a character with no special powers, whose best stories revolve around him grappling with his most famous villains. Unfortunately some of his most interesting foes have been greatly under-utilised by the great writers behind Batman. Here’s a couple we’d love to see more of, especially in the modern era…
#10 – Jane Doe
Although Jane Doe has made only two appearances in the Batman canon in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and Streets of Gotham she remains one of the most potentially terrifying criminals the Dark Knight has ever faced. Jane Doe is deeply and irreversibly psychologically damaged and seeks to fill the void in her own life by adopting someone else’s. Doe spends an extensive amount of time studying her victims, learning about their lives and learning to mimic their speaking patterns and body language. When she kills her target she’ll build a disguise using their flayed skin and take over their lives.
There’s plenty of room for a great mystery story to be told using Jane Doe with the serial killer taking on an important role in the city or even being targeted by Batman and slipping into a persona that he has to discover. She’s a frightening character who could take the centre stage in some good stories.
#9 – Anarky
Anarky was the creation of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in the 1980s as a character who could introduce some political musings in the detective comics. Anarky is really Lonnie Machin, a genius twelve year old who felt that he and he alone could instigate the changes that were needed by society. In order to disguise his true age Machin created the Anarky costume with a false head and legs and equipped himself with home-made stun batons and smoke bombs. He started simply, attacking polluters and corrupt officials who he read about in the paper, before raising the stakes and leading a revolution.
The intention of the writers with Anarky was to give the readers a conflict in which they may agree with the villains goals but not the way they go about them. Anarky has been quiet of late as the character has gone through some changes, including the ill-advised notion of making him the biological son of The Joker, but given the current drive for social change in the real world Anarky could yet prove a notable villain for Batman.
#8 – Killer Moth
Not to mince words, but Killer Moth has always been a joke. Not just to readers, but to writers. Cameron Van Cleer was a petty crook who was inspired by Batman to adopt a secret identity and work as a vigilante…for criminals. He’d offer protection to other criminals and mobsters for a price and the promise that no vigilante crime fighter or law enforcement would interfere with their business. He’d adopt a moth guise and various moth-themed gadgets and vehicles to perform this task. The problem is that he’s terrible at it.
The limitation that has been put on the character (he’s an idiot) prevents him from being a real threat. Given that the Batman series is in reboot mode it’s the perfect chance to make Killer Moth a character worth reading about. When Batman finds himself blocked at every turn by a mysterious masked figure the crimelords of Gotham start getting cocky – before Batman can regain control over the city he has to deal with this new opponent. Except instead of the green and orange tights, maybe model his look on the death’s head moth.
#7 – The Great White Shark
Warren White was introduced to the Batman comics to tell what was essentially a one-off story. A crooked investor who got caught White pleaded insanity thinking that he’d get an easy sentence. The judge proved him wrong by sending him to receive his treatment at Arkham Asylum. White proved to be easy prey for the maniacs of Arkham and found himself subject to beatings and physical and psychological torture. Eventually he gets locked in an industrial freezer where frostbite ate away his nose, lips and other features.
Adopting the persona ‘Great White Shark’ to reflect his new appearance White returned to his criminal ways. With a new book of contacts in the Gotham’s underworld to go with his colleagues in the business world Great White Shark works as a fence and investor for gangsters and maniacs. He’s an insane corporate business man who fights Batman – he’s the enemy for the modern world! We need a story that shows just how far he can climb in the world of business.
#6 – Professor Hugo Strange
To say that Professor Hugo Strange is completely batty is not only an understatement but a terrible, terrible pun. Given more of a public image after featuring prominently in Arkham City, Professor Hugo Strange only featured in a central role in the 1970s tale Strange Apparitions and the modern retelling Prey (which quite smartly left out the part when he returns as a ghost to haunt Batman). Strange is a psychiatrist who has earned the favour of Gotham’s politicians and the media with his extensive analysis of Batman. Behind closed doors Strange is a different story – he’s obsessed with Batman and is determined to take Bruce Wayne’s place as the Dark Knight. He spends much time telling this to his girlfriend…who’s a mannequin.
Although he is complete banana’s he’s also smart enough to be dangerous. He deduces Batman’s true identity and the uncovers the events that lead to him becoming Batman, breaking into the Wayne Manor to leave Bruce Wayne haunting reminders of his past. With the renewed interest in the character the road is open for a new tale of manipulation and psychosis.
#5 – Calendar Man
Julian Day, or Calendar Man, is a villain whose gimmick is only slightly better than the awful bloody costume he wore during his original appearances. These days he spends his time incarcerated in Arkham doing very little of anything except being insane and talking about his past crimes (that coincided with significant dates on the calendar). Those crimes, however, sound completely horrific, especially if you drop in and see him on certain days in Arkham City. Ignore the idiotic costume and gimmick he used to have and focus on this guy being a purely sociopath whose murderous ways are only guided by something as simple as the calendar. He could be as chilling as Zsasz but without the mania.
#4 – Clayface
The reason why Clayface winds up being under-utilised is because many writers get pre-occupied with how big they can make him, or what shapes they can turn him into, and he sometimes winds up serving time as the muscle to another villain’s schemes. This is throwing away a character who is already established as being someone who can perfectly replicate anyone else in a detective comic. The potential for who Clayface who impersonate is endless – politicians, media personalities, any of the vigilantes Batman works with, Batman himself – there’s great who-dunnit stories ready and waiting to be told.
#3 – Hush
Hush, or Tommy Elliot, had a great debut in comics with his introductory story still one of the most popular trades in the Batman Cannon (no doubt helped out by the artwork by Jim Lee). Tommy Elliot was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s and the two kids would pass the time playing strategy games that Tommy would always win. When Tommy’s parents are involved in a car crash Thomas Wayne took them into surgery. Unable to save Tommy’s father and leaving his mother crippled Bruce and Tommy part ways on bad terms. As an adult Tommy was a famous brain surgeon and crazed criminal Hush, who has used his strategic mind to destroy Bruce Wayne and Batman. Manipulating Batman’s enemies in a calculated attack against him, revealing that he orchestrated his parents crash as a child to come into his inheritance early.
Since his debut Hush has not been well utilized. A cold-hearted psychopath who can outwit Batman could be a villain on par with The Joker or Two-Face but he is rarely given his own stories to shine in. More recently he made a play against Bruce Wayne by getting reconstructive surgery to resemble him and infiltrate his life, but then he only became a place-holder for Wayne while he was missing following Final Crisis. Hush needs to return with another elaborate scheme to ruin Batman’s life, and he needs to do it soon.
#2 – Killer Croc
In recent times Waylon Jones aka ‘Killer Croc’ has been reduced to the role of brutal thug or brainless lackey. Although he was originally depicted as being human in shape with only his scaly skin to set him apart from his cronies, and he arrived in Gotham with the ambitious goal of becoming the head of organised crime. He’d work from the shadows by pulling people’s strings to manipulate them or use a sniper rifle to eliminate his targets. These days he looks more animalistic and is portrayed as being unrealistically large with no ambition beyond killing Batman. His fleeting appearances only show him as someone for Batman to pummel.
What would make Killer Croc an interesting character again would be taking him back to his roots. Waylon Jones was born with a condition that causes his skin to remain dry and scaly, spending part of his childhood in a traveling freakshow. Allowing his deformity to rule dictate his life and personality he fashioned himself after a crocodile by filing his teeth into sharp points and reputedly a cannibal. Instead of pitting Batman against a stupid big monster man, a vicious, psychopathic cannibal who fashions is attacks after crocodile attacks could form the basis for some scary stories.
#1 – The Riddler
This choice as the #1 spot may come as a surprise to some people as The Riddler, or Edward Nigma, is one of the better known Batman villains. He’s appeared in the 1960s show frequently as well as the animated series of the 90s and the feature film Batman Forever (although the role was really only a placeholder for Jim Carrey to do his schtick). He featured prominently in recent video games Lego Batman and the Arkham series. Because of these appearances in side media his reputation is more extensive than his actual role in the comics. Created very early in the Batman canon as one of many themed villains, in this case a compulsion to leave clues in the form of riddles. Although this need often leads Batman right to his door Edward Nigma maintains that he has a vastly superior intellect and that his puzzles will only confound Batman.
A look at the most highly rated Batman stories will give you tales of The Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Harley Quinn and others, but none of the most revered stories have centered on The Riddler. When he has appeared in a great story such as Hush it was also part of a group or only a cameo appearance. The potential for the character goes much further. Writers could investigate how deep his compulsion runs, such as in Hush when he uncovers Batman’s identity but keeps it a secret because there’s no value in a riddle everyone knows the answer to. The simple notion of a criminal leaving complex clues behind has been the backbone of the movie thriller market for the past two decades and could possible form the bedrock for a Batman detective story where the Dark Knight follows a macabre trail of breadcrumbs with plenty of red herrings on the way.
The only possible reason for the character missing out on the spotlight in spite of his familiarity to the mass audience and his potential as a character is that the riddles must be a pain in the ass for writers. Otherwise there’s no reason for this character to be left side of stage, especially when he was given a modern and chilling make-over in Arkham City. Even a recent arc that saw him turn his back on crime to become a private detective was left sorely wanting.