Top 10 Batman Villains (Part 3)
Firstly – if you missed the rest of the countdown you can find them here…
Batman views the world in a black and white way – he and his team are good, The Joker, The Penguin and the rest are bad. Catwoman has become the exception this viewpoint, walking the line between hero and villain.
Before becoming ‘Catwoman’, the character was simply Selina Kyle, a femme fatale who was revealed to be the cat-burglar who’d been dubbed ‘The Cat’. Shortly after she obtained her more familiar title and costume and became a regular feature and remained a popular character for the early decades of the series. Although she disappeared from the page for most of the 50s and 60s due to her violations of the Comics Code Authority guidelines, she was already one of the most familiar comic characters worldwide and made her comeback not long after.
Armed with her iconic whip and wide range of form-fitting outfits, Catwoman is topped by only The Joker as a well known Batman villain and has made appearances in almost every media. Whether it was the 1964 campy television series, Burton’s gothic recreation or the realistic Nolan reboot she has been as essential as Batman himself. One could say that she’s the only other Batman character to get her own movie, but let’s forget that ever happened.
Her role in the series has been elevated in the past twenty years with her one line of comics which recast her as an anti-hero who stole from the rich and powerful while keeping the streets clear. As a result, Batman sought her out as an ally just as often as an enemy, with them becoming romantically involved in 2001. The complexity of their relationship eventually got in the way and Catwoman is now reteamed with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in the Gotham Sirens series. She’s also been involved in the new Batman Incorporated team and remains a distant love interest for Batman despite her criminal associations.
3. The Riddler
Edward Nigma aka ‘The Riddler’ made his first appearance in the 1948 and although he’s been a staple of the series and one of the most familiar characters to wider audiences, both writers and other villains have often regulated him to second-stringer status. Like many of the best Batman enemies he doesn’t actually have any special abilities beyond his intellect.
The Riddler’s modus oprendi is also his greatest weakness – due to suffering from an obsessive compulsion to solve puzzles and test others ability to do so he always leaves clues and riddles for Batman and the police to solve to catch him. Although he frequently brags about his intellectual superiority to Batman, it never takes very long for the Dark Knight to track him down.
In recent days The Riddler has turned his attention to the other side of crime, going into business as a Private Investigator and using his decoding ability to solve mysteries. Although this may have made a great spin-off, he has recently returned to his criminal ways. Nonetheless, The Riddler remains the most under-utilised of the Batman villains (possibly because writing all those puzzle scenarios would be a headache), and whilst many hoped to see him in Nolan’s next Batman movie, those hopes have been dashed. His promised larger role in the upcoming ‘Arkham Asylum’ game does bode well for fans of the green-garbed lunatic.
2. Joe Chill
Even though he was featured in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, most people familiar with the Dark Knight’s rogue’s gallery will remain unaware of this figure. Lacking the bright costumes, extravagant gimmicks and off-the-wall personalities that hold his company, Chill has become little more than a footnote in the Batman mythology. Yet he remains one of the most important figures in the comic. Joe Chill is the mugger who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents and set him on the path to become Batman.
Of course, that wasn’t the only time Chill has appeared in the Batman comics. Over the years Batman has had more than one run in with his parent’s murderer and these stories have been focused on the character and his psychology rather detective work and crazy showdowns. In one instance, written in the late 1940s, Batman had been tracking down the leader of a local crime family only to find that Chill had climbed the ranks of organised crime and was now the leader. In the conclusion of the story Batman was faced with the opportunity to exact his revenge, but before his decision was revealed another assailant intervened and prevented the reader from learning if Batman would break his one rule.
Other appearances have happened, often in non-canon stories, but the character has never been confirmed dead. The stage is still set for Batman to confront his darkest demon, the one man set into motion the Bruce Wayne’s path.
1. The Joker
What a shock, the Batman’s arch-nemesis manages to find himself at the top of the list. Considering that he was intended to be a one-off disposable villain that Batman encountered very early in his run, it’s surprising that the character eventually became the pop-culture icon he is today. The Joker has evolved over the decades along with Batman, turning from a clown-themed prankster and petty criminal to a pure sociopath mass murderer.
Even with those labels, which are common parlance in the media, The Joker remains unpredictable ensuring that he remains an interesting read. Even at times when the readers and characters feel as though they’ve got the full story, The Joker always has a marked ace up his sleeve. At times it seems as those he’s giving us a peek through the wall around him, at the person underneath, but its always a ploy or a moment that will be quickly undone when he overcompensates for a moment of weakness. Most notable of these moments occurs as part of one of the Arkham Asylum mini-series, when a guard attempts to aggravate Joker by taunting him with the name of his lost son.
His relationship with Batman is the driving force for both characters in the modern era. The Joker spends his time trying to push Batman over the edge. More than just opposing ideologies, The Joker would consider his greatest victory forcing the Dark Knight to kill him, breaking his one guiding rule. Batman has come close to ending the mad clown – the brutal attack that left Barbara Gordon (Batgirl at the time) paralysed while he tortured Commissioner Gordon and the vicious murder of the second Robin, Jason Todd, are the most memorable moments in The Joker’s sordid history.
Best Story: ‘The Killing Joke’. Comic legend Alan Moore gives The Joker a full back story, adding more to the mystery rather than diminishing it.