"What splendid irony that man's testaments to his own ingenuity become the agents of his demise." ~ Ra's al Ghul
The storied annals of Batman's history. What lurks in those dark, dusty tomes, filled with decades of the gothic, the noir, the grim and gritty? The very essence of the Batman concept is a battle to not just defeat or prevent evil, but to understand it, and for seventy years, the Dark Knight has been not only a crusader against villainy, but medium in and of himself, a forum to explore the amoral and immoral. Batman does battle with great characters, some allegories for more profound forms of social ills, some simply representations of the everyday criminal mindset, some psychotic, some maniacal. Whether it's a battle of wits or a match of fighting prowess, Batman is entangled in a world where the concept of evil is meant to play a starring role.
This thread will attempt to rank the one hundred enemies of the Bat that are truly the greatest of all. One a day. Creeping solely up the list from minor nuisance to arch nemesis, I want to try and introduce or reintroduce you to some of the greatest examples of villainy to ever be penciled and inked and sent to press. I'll try to include at least one story that showcases each character's unique brand of immorality as well as attempt to describe what exactly about them leaves an impact on me.
#100 - Lynx
First Appearance: Robin #1 (Jan. 1991)
"Next time, bird boy..." ~Lynx
Lynx began her comics career as a talent member of an Asian gang in Gotham, but her role soon became important in the long-brewing story of the King Snake, a villain who put Lynx and her gang of Ghost Dragons in his employ. Lynx starts out as a low-level lieutenant in the gang, but over time she climbs to the right-hand of King Snake; her battles with Tim Drake and Batman also increased in intensity and ferocity during her ascent. Lynx was an interesting villain in that she had more animosity for Robin than Batman himself. In fact, she even helped Batman during No Man's Land, maintaining order with her Ghost Dragons and helping to bring a child killer to justice.
Lynx ended up being a sadly misused villain; during the War Crimes story arc, she was accidentally killed. When Infinite Crisis happened, Superboy-Prime's wall-punches erased this event and restored her to life, but sadly she was once again killed by Batgirl (Cassandra Cain, during her weird crazy Deathstroke acolyte phase). As a decent villain and one of the few Asian women characters in comics, Lynx could've been useful in helping to expand the diversity of DC, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Greatest Lynx Story Ever Told: Robin #2 - The issue where a lot of Lynx's origin takes place. King Snake puts Lynx in charge of one unit of the Ghost Dragons after her boyfriend is killed, pinning the blame on Robin in the process.
#99 - Zeiss
First Appearance: Batman #582 (Oct. 2000)
"Stop? Not while there are other opponents still standing." ~Zeiss
Zeiss was created by one of the great writers of Gotham lit., Ed Brubaker, who is better known for writing what is considered the greatest run on Captain America of all time. Philo Zeiss was the son of a Mafia gardener, but after his father died, a mob boss took him in. To repay the debt he owed the boss, Zeiss is given an experimental surgery that replaces his eyes with cybernetic goggles which give him a level of sight that alters his perception of time and heightens his reflexes. Zeiss has since worked as a mob enforcer for various criminals and villains in Gotham.
What I love about Zeiss is that he's one of the few villains to actually fight Batman to a standstill. It's not a boastful exaggeration either; Zeiss' goggles give him just enough of an edge when it comes to combat. Zeiss' behavior is always very cold, very detached - he's not passionate about a hatred towards Batman, nor is he necessarily apathetic to the plight of innocent Gothamites, but rather, he simply does his job. He's the sort of threat you like to see thrown into a story because he doesn't steal the spotlight from his boss (usually another great supervillain), yet he still is a welcome sight thanks to the opportunity to watch a really good hand-to-hand fight go down.
Greatest Zeiss Story Ever Told: Batman #597 - After Batman's initial stalemate with Zeiss, his confidence is shaken. However, Batman turns the tables in a rematch using typical Batman resourcefulness. A great story that reminds people of why the Bat-Family is valuable to Batman, and how sometimes there are villains that can't be stopped without a little ingenuity.
#98 - Lady Vic
First Appearance: Nightwing #4 (Jan. 1997)
"Bad shot. I was aiming for the pupil and hit the cornea." ~Lady Vic
Lady Vic began her comics career as a Nightwing villain, but she's since become a great all-purpose Gotham-based mercenary. Her backstory is relatively simple; a British aristocrat, her family comes from a long line of soldiers for hire, and she's no exception. Despite such a basic history, she's an intriguing character. Her attitude is always very blaise and carefree; she doesn't come at anyone with particular vengeance and would in fact always prefer to be relaxing somewhere nice with a glass of wine and a warm bed rather than fighting. Even so, her fighting skills are extremely impressive and she has an outfit that really helps... accentuate... her technique. Her weapon skills vary from marksmanship to hand-to-hand, and she's quick to do what it takes to get the job done... even jumping out of a plane without a parachute once while chasing Black Canary.
Several of her cases lead her into battle with a wide array of Batman-based characters. She tangled with Oracle's Birds of Prey several times, including once in Gorilla City as she was trying to procure a gorilla heart for Blockbuster; she's fought Nightwing while in the employ of both Blockbuster and his rival Torque; she's taken on Batman repeatedly, usually as a hired hand for a mob lieutenant but also as an assistant to Black Mask once. She's even fought both against and alongside the Secret Six, depending on the situation. Despite the constant change of allegiances, she always is quick with a sarcastic quip or a barbed insult at whoever gets in her way... or even those paying her. All in all, like Zeiss, she's the sort of great assisting villain you want to see give Batman and co. a decent challenge.
Greatest Lady Vic Story Ever Told: Secret Six #25-28: "The Reptilian Brain" - Lady Vic joins a temporary Secret Six led by Jeannette and Bane alongside Dwarfstar, Giganta and King Shark in order to invade the land of Skartaris. Not a Batman story (although it features a lot of Batman-baddies), but easily one of the great villain-centered storylines that we've come to expect from Secret Six. Vic handles herself well as the team proves entertainingly dysfunctional.
#97 - Scarlet
First Appearance: Batman and Robin #1 (Aug 2009)
"My name is Sasha. But not tonight. Tonight I am SCARLET." ~Scarlet
One of Grant Morrison's creations while Dick Grayson was Batman, Scarlet was the Robin to Red Hood's Batman. After being disfigured by Professor Pyg when a mask was permanently affixed to her face. The Red Hood befriended her and took her under his wing, and for the remaining few months of the Old DCU, she was his sidekick. In a really interesting twist on the Batman and Robin concept, Scarlet was a nutty sort-of devil-may-care youth that brightened the darker life of her older partner in the same way Robin brightened Batman. However, it all was tinged with a twisted revengeful hatred for Batman and Robin, as well as other villains in Gotham. Prior to the New 52, Jason Todd was back to being an anti-anti hero, that being that he not only did his best to make other villains' lives hell, but heroes too. Scarlet fit perfectly into the role Grant Morrison created for her.
At the end of one of Judd Winick's stories in B&R, Scarlet's mask appears to come loose, and she drives off into the night, her fate unknown. Given what we know about the masks, it is likely that she is now quite deformed thanks to the manner of its attachment to her. She's yet to show up in the New 52, but I hope that some day someone brings back this intriguing spin on the sidekick archetype.
Greatest Scarlet Story Ever Told: Batman and Robin #4-6: "Revenge of the Red Hood": This is the story you want to see; Batman and Robin prove themselves as the true inheritors of the Batman and Robin mantle against some would-be usurpers that have a claim to the same throne. Scarlet is intriguing and an excellent supporting cast member in this story.
#96 - Guy Gardner
First Appearance: Green Lantern #59 (Mar 1968)
"One Punch!!" ~Blue Beetle
This is a very different write-up because I'm actually going to give you not only the greatest story ever told, but also the write-up in the same set of images. But first, a little preface. In the first four issues of Keith Giffen's acclaimed Justice League run, Guy Gardner was the wannabe leader constantly at odds with true team leader Batman. Guy had proved himself to be nothing more than a pain in the ass and a troublemaker, and caused more problems for Batman than even the Justice League villains. And finally, enough was enough. Read the following comic panels in order to experience what is, in my mind, the third greatest Batman showdown ever written.
Guy Gardner went on to be a pain in Batman's side throughout this run, but this moment is widely recognized as one of the greatest Batman moments in history. It placed #16th in the greatest comic book battles of all-time on Comic Book Resources, and is constantly referenced in stuff like Grant Morrison's JLA run and even in Geoff Johns' Green Lantern run.
#95 - Magpie
First Appearance: Man of Steel #3 (Nov 1986)
"Look at all my shiny things. Bits and baubles that twinkle in the moonlight." ~Magpie
Magpie is a minor villain to be sure, but for some reason she has endured for twenty years as something of a comic relief villain. Her plots are generally not terribly threatening, and she often comes up as a topic of conversation for superheroes. One of my favorite moments in Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman run is when Superman and Batman are trying to crawl through the sewers after a fight, and they're talking about their various run-ins with her. It's kind of embarrassing how much they just thoroughly bash her exploits, and yet, without villains like this, I think you lose the realism of superheroics in DC. There are just some villains that fail at being villains, and that's the sort of flavor that makes DC's villains unique. You had characters like Catman go from Z-List failures to solid characters, and you had villains rise and fall and rise again like Dr. Light. There's no guarantee for success, and the failures keep things interesting.
Magpie herself debuted in the Man of Steel title, and she was the first villain captured by the team-up of Batman and Superman (post-Crisis, this was considered their first case together). After that, she primarily became a lesser version of Catwoman, stealing pretty things from jewelry stores and museums, although usually to a level of success much lower than the Feline Fatale's. Sadly for her, she ended up being killed off in the One Year Later story arc in Batman and Detective Comics, but thankfully she gained a brief reprieve in Blackest Night: Batman.
Greatest Magpie Story Ever Told: Batman #401 - Part of the Legends crossover story (the first crossover post-Crisis), Batman has his first solo fight with Magpie. Solid story with a nice bit of humor.
#94 - Brutale
First Appearance: Nightwing #22 (Feb 1998)
Little heroes don't get far with blades in their spines." ~Brutale
One of the more frightening costumes in the Batman villain arsenal, Brutale's mask was originally an inspiration for the early designs of Christopher Nolan's Scarecrow mask. Brutale definitely lives into his name; he's a vicious, brutal, heartless killer-for-hire, and yet another one of Blockbuster's go-to henchmen. If nothing else, Nightwing's primary antagonist knew how to align himself with good help (unlike the Kingpin who was betrayed how many times by Elektra and Bullseye?). Brutale is one of those show-up-everywhere villains who is just the right amount of sick combined with just the right amount of capitalist to pretty much fit into any villainous gathering. He was part of Luthor's Society during the Infinite Crisis year as well as being sucked into various gatherings such as the big one in Superman/Batman's first arc, Salvation Run, some Birds of Prey run-ins and even the Suicide Squad.
What makes Brutale work is that there just aren't very many South American villains out there, so he fits in well with... erm... Bane, I guess. That's pretty much it. Honestly, there are some similarities between Bane and Brutale. They're both highly-skilled tacticians, they both seek out challenges, and they both are willing to work for the highest bidder. The difference is that Bane has a God complex while Brutale is just in it for the cash and the thrills. And frankly, when I need a good right-hand man, I want one that's in it for those two reasons and nothing else.
Greatest Brutale Story Ever Told: Blue Beetle #1-3 - "Metamorphosis": The first story arc of the sadly cancelled Blue Beetle series in the New 52, Brutale is given new life as a more Hispanic-oriented villain with a even creepier modus operandi. Great reinvention of a hidden gem from the Batman arsenal, and even more impressively inserted into another franchise without feeling out-of-place.
#93 - Penny Plunderer
First Appearance: World's Finest #30 (Sep 1947)
"It's a pay phone! I need a single nickle to be able to dial! BETRAYED by PENNIES!" ~Penny Plunderer
In a world where comic villains are a dime a dozen, there's one villain that is quite literally 20% cooler than the average, and that's the Penny Plunderer. In fact, Batman really wouldn't be Batman without the Penny Plunderer. After all, the most memorable item in the Batcave, the giant penny, is a souvenir from the one of the cases against PP.
Wait... what? The object that's appeared over 200 times in comic books as well as in various animated series is from some two-bit no-name villain?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, it's the Penny Plunderer, but no, he's not two-bit. That would be a gross overestimation of his value. Okay, I'll stop the penny jokes. Anyways, the Penny Plunderer was a worthless owner of a Penny Arcade who attempted to rob banks. I mean, he's not all that original, but his Giant Penny has become a staple of the Batman mythos, whether you know it or not. Sadly, in the post-Crisis DCU (and thanks to Batman: The Animated Series), the giant penny has been retconned into a Two-Face weapon. Personally, it will always belong to the Penny Plunderer in my mind; I've always loved that such a minor villain could live such a major impact on Batman's life, even if it's in such an innocuous way as a prop in the Batcave. Batman doesn't have trophies from Catwoman cases, Scarecrow cases or Mr. Freeze cases, but he's got this giant-ass penny from some early case against a one-off Z-Lister. It's Batman having bouts of nostalgia, wistfully remembering the more innocent cases of days gone by... and I love thinking of a Batman that has such a deep and meaningful history behind the mask
Greatest Penny Plunderer Story Ever Told: World's Finest #30 - Sure, it's his first appearance, but for my money, this is one of the top five post-World War II, pre-Silver Age Batman stories. It's memorable, charming, a little bit goofy, and it highlights Batman's amazing resourcefulness.
#92 - Reaper
First Appearance: Detective Comics #575 (Jun 1987)
"Tell the world that the Reaper has returned... and will save this city-- with its consent or without. " ~Reaper
The Reaper is probably the single-greatest villain created to be intentionally killed at the end of a story. Oh, um, spoilers. Actually, when the Batman: Year Two story was initially unveiled on the heels of Batman: Year One's success, writer Mike Barr said that this was a story about a "forgotten villain and his unusual death." Readers were partially drawn into this story to find out how this mysterious villain met his tragic end somewhere in Batman's past, and that was part of the magic that was Batman: Year Two.
Year Two was a very interesting story that revolved around the similarities between Batman and his ultra-violent counterpart, the Reaper. So driven to kill was the Reaper that it brought the mob into a temporary alliance with Batman. In fact, Batman was forced to work with Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents, in an effort to bring the Reaper down. The climax of the story, where Chill, Batman and the Reaper confront each other, is one of the better high points in Batman's history, and I really recommend this story to Batman fans, as the Reaper was a villain created specifically to dissect Batman's vigilante actions, and also to make the reader question where to draw the line between hero and villain.
And in the end, the Reaper may have kept Batman from walking down the same, ultra-violent path.
Greatest Reaper Story Ever Told: I already told you about the greatest story, but I'm going to mention Batman: Full Circle, in which Joe Chill's son takes up the mantle of the Reaper in order to avenge his father's death. An interesting story that ultimately helps Batman come to peace with his parents' deaths.
#91 - Phantasm
First Appearance: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Dec 1993)
"You're not smiling, Joker. I thought you found death amusing." ~Phantasm
In just the same way that Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the hidden gem in the Batman film franchise, the Phantasm herself is a hidden gem in the Batman villain pantheon. Despite only two real appearances in Batman media, Phantasm has garnered a small fandom from her stellar debut in Mask of the Phantasm. The introduction of a tragic villain like Phantasm into a mainstream movie has left a major impression on the superhero film world, from Raimi's Doc Ock to Singer's Magneto. Mask of the Phantasm has a legacy in superhero films, not being afraid to bring mature themes and overtones to a franchise that up until that point did not really dive into the true brooding, deep concepts that Batman comic fans love.
I can't talk about the Phantasm too much. The entirety of Mask of the Phantasm is a giant freakin' spoiler tag waiting to happen, so all I can say is this: Phantasm, while not given much character development, is conceptually a great villain that follows a very archetypal arc of storytelling that is the sort of thing that propels Batman from entertainment to modern-day Greek hero status. Superheroes are meant to be conduits for storytelling on society and the human conditions, their allies and enemies reflecting a mirror image on facets of our own world that need to be shown. Phantasm is the star of a somewhat timeless tell, that, while told better with other characters (even on this list), is still a great story to be told.
But, given some of the truly amazing villains that are soon to appear on this list, I honestly can't rank Phantasm any higher than here.
Greatest Phantasm Story Ever Told: I like Mask of the Phantasm, but the original ending to Justice League Unlimited, entitled "Epilogue," is her best appearance. In an episode that echoes the creation of Batman as well as harkens back to Amanda Waller's lack of self-control, Phantasm must decide whether or not to murder Terry McGinnis' parents as they leave a movie theatre. Moving stuff.
#90 - Red Hood (Jason Todd)
First Appearance: Batman #408 (Jun 1987)
"Man, I gotta tell you... I really wish I could be watching this one ringside as well as fighting it... 'cause it's gonna be good." ~Jason Todd
Jason Todd was, first and foremost, hated. Or at least he was. Back in the 80s, Jason was having a rough go of it as Dick Grayson's successor in the Robin mantle. So rough that, during a fan poll DC held to determine the ending of one of their storylines, fans overwhelmingly voted to kill him off.
That was the best thing to ever happen to him.
20 years later, writer Brian Azzarello teased fans with a returned Jason Todd, only to reveal it as a ruse. But the chord was struck in fans, and the mock return inspired Ed Brubaker to return Bucky as the Winter Soldier in Captain America. Judd Winick also decided to use this as inspiration, but this time the inspiration brought back Jason Todd as the villainous Red Hood. The rest of his story, however, blurred the line between hero, villain, anti-hero and just unlikable moron so often that it's tough to rank him.
Jason, at his best, was a great villain for Dick Grayson during his Batman run; he was a bitter, neglected, forgotten and angry castaway that just wanted what he thought he deserved. He was the petulant child grown up, and it truly was one of the best match-ups Grant Morrison ever conceived. Unfortunately, for every great use of Jason Todd, there are two bad ones. Like in Countdown, where Todd unexplainedly is accepted by Kyle Rayner and Jason Todd to help save the universe. Of course, he then turns around and murders a bunch of criminals a couple months later. The New 52 has turned him into as close to heroic as an anti-hero can get, but when he was a villain, he was something to see. Truly something to see.
Greatest VILLAINOUS Jason Todd Story Ever Told: Batman Annual #25 - The explanation for how Jason came back, this annual really gave some depth to Jason as he was on a villainous tear against Bruce Wayne. Great stuff also featuring Ra's al Ghul.
#89 - Professor Pyg
First Appearance: Batman #666 (Jul 2007)
"Pain is the beginning of perfection... I will make you perfect." ~Professor Pyg
Hard to think of a villains as creepy as Professor Pyg. The guy is a schizophrenic scientist that permanently affixes creepy mind-altering masks to innocent victims, which he dubs Dollotrons. He also peddles a drug that mimics the effects of Alzheimer's disease under the guise of normal narcotics in an effort to "destroy the identity of every person in Gotham". His experiments are brutal, his motives frightening, and that makes him a great Batman villain.
Pyg has played a huge role in the Grant Morrison run on Batman that ran for the last 7 or so years. His solo work as well as his team of freaks and miscreants dubbed "the Circus of Strange" have become a new but welcome fixture that add some new flavor into the more macabre side of Batman villainy; Pyg is reminiscent of a cult leader like Jim Jones or David Koresh, but with (if you can believe it) even more of a brutal, psychotically-violent set of believes. He fits into so many motifs that play well into the Batman mythos and, despite being a relative newcomer to the Batman franchise, fits it like a black glove.
Greatest Professor Pyg Story Ever Told: Batman and Robin #1-3 - On Dick Grayson's first case as Batman, the stakes have never been higher; Pyg's modus operandi is shocking, dark and exactly what the doctor ordered.
#88 - Black Spider
First Appearance: Detective Comics #463 (Feb 1976)
"Greetings, my sweet, let's introduce ourselves. I'm Black Spider -- and you're dead!" ~Black Spider
A minor villain with an interesting legacy, Black Spider had a tragic origin: as a teenager, the Spider was a heroin addict who attempted to rob a liquor store while on a particularly brutal drug binge. When he finally woke up from it, he realized that the store he had robbed was his father's, who was killed at his own hand. Sobered by the experience, Black Spider donned his costume in order to wage a one-mar war against the drug trade of Gotham. His particularly cruel and brutal tactics brought him at odds with Batman, a vigilante Spider thought should naturally be on his side. His work has been part of several interesting stories in the Batman mythos, and his particularly mercenary behavior has taken him all over the DCU.
I like Black Spider because he's one of those villains that has a rigid yet bizarre code of honor; he refuses to commit certain crimes, yet he has no qualms perpetrating others. He's for the most part a rational and meticulous individual, and this helps him find his way into various team-ups of villains as well as working with groups like the Suicide Squad. He's been part of the Society in Infinite Crisis, Calculator's group in Identity Crisis, and he even dated Dr. Fate's wife for a while. All in all, his story is a tragic one (I'll get to that in a minute), his character is fresh, and he's left a great legacy of three other Black Spiders who've followed in his footsteps. However, the original is always around, an irreplaceable C-Lister who deserves more attention.
Greatest Black Spider Story Ever Told: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #5 - A hidden gem in the great Batman treasury of works by Alan Grant, Black Spider reveals some of his origin as he his captured and nearly killed by a drug dealer. A quite explosive ending and a great piece of character development.
#87 - Firebug
First Appearance: Batman #318 (Dec 1979)
"To me, you're just easy kindling, Bug." ~Firefly
Firebug... why the heck would such a D-list two-big arsonist make my list? Because, in the pantheon of rivalries, there's aren't many between two villains, and frankly, the rivalry between Firefly and Firebug is pretty damn funny. Two arsonists, one well-known and one utterly forgotten, one vying for supremacy and one already at the top of the game... there's really not such a heated rivalry in Gotham like this. Every time Firebug shows up, he's pretty much after one thing: proving himself to be the greater pyromaniac than Firefly. Also, every time he shows up anymore, he appears to die in a massive explosion... only to return later on and do the exact same thing.
Firebug is amazing because you really don't get enough interactions between villains in the Batman universe, and every time they happen it tends to be a really fresh and original experience. Having minor characters develop rivalries and relationships helps to really deepen the world of Gotham City, creating layers of context that flavor every interaction. After all, not everything can be about Batman and his group versus the Rogues Gallery. There needs to be some balance, some give and take, some dissension within the ranks that keeps the tale of Gotham unpredictable. It seems only reasonable that two villains with similar motifs would end up going at each other constantly, and throwing them in a powder keg with Batman at the center just makes it even better.
Greatest Firebug Story Ever Told: Detective Comics #690 - Chuck Dixon tells the quintessential FIrebug vs. Firefly story, with Batman, Robin and all of Gotham trapped in the crossfire. Fun stuff.
#86 - Batzarro
First Appearance: Superman/Batman #20 (Jun 2005)
"I'm not the only one, I guess." ~Superman
Batzarro am World's Worst Detective. He am super-weak and super-smart, and he am just like Batman. Perfect duplicate am Batzarro. Batzarro first am not Batzarro in Crime Alley, not using two pistols to gun down couples. When Bizarro meet Batzarro for the last time, he offer to help solve murders Batzarro am not commit in Crime Alley. Batzarro am not created by the Joker, but Batman knew about him great long time before they met. Joker am not created Batzarro to have the great displeasure in finally killing Batman for once. However, Bizarro not save Batzarro and now Batzarro try to be completely unlike his idol Batman. Bizarro approve greatly of this and call him "Not-Bruce".
Batzarro is just a fun character because in the world of superhero doppelgangers, there always needs to be one or two "fun" ones. Batzarro is great comic relief and unlike Bizarro, he doesn't show up all the often, so it's always a breath of fresh air when he does. He's been featured in several story arcs in Superman/Batman as well as Action Comics and Justice League, but it's always when he's going toe-to-toe (but mostly not) with Batman, his idol. The reverse speak gets so confusing that you can't help but laugh, since Batman really doesn't want to put up with such ridiculous crap and get back to what he does best. Unfortunately, Batzarro won't let that happen. And I'm glad he doesn't.
Worst Batzarro Story Never Told: Infinite Hallween Special #1 - Bizarro pulls Batzarro out of the Negative Zone to help him fight the Riddler, and they get into a strange yet hilarious argument about what makes a good hero. It's Bizarro stuff at its finest.
#85 - Mad Monk
First Appearance: Detective Comics #31 (Sep 1939)
"Enjoy this, hero. Enjoy death." ~Mad Monk
Batman's first supervillain, Mad Monk still remains one of the great ones; developed as a one-off villain, Mad Monk was conceptually similar to Dracula in design, but grew into his own very quickly. The Mad Monk's story was the first multi-part story in the Batman series, and therefore is really influential on what come later in the Batman mythos. Mad Monk, a vampire, uses his own powers as well of those of his supernatural assistant Dala, to kidnap Bruce Wayne's love interest Julie Madison, but is stopped by Batman who SHOOTS THEM WITH SILVER BULLETS, KILLING THEM.
Yep. Batman killed Mad Monk. Killed him. Remember back in the day when Batman went around with a gun and shot criminals in the ******* face? Well, I bet Mad Monk has a pretty clear memory of it. Although death wasn't the end for the Mad Monk, as he would return time and again to menace the Dark Knight. And it's completely worth it. I love seeing the Mad Monk from time to time. He's the OG supervillain, with creepy henchwoman and macabre frightening yet entertaining abilities. Remind you of anyJoker?
Greatest Mad Monk Story Ever Told: Batman and the Mad Monk by Matt Wagner - A recent retelling of the original Mad Monk story, Matt Wagner (who is the most underrated comic writer ever) weaves an amazing supsenseful tale of classical horror featuring Batman in a truly Gothic tale. Great stuff.
#84 - Joe Chill
First Appearance: Detective Comics #33 (Nov 1939)
"I shoulda shot the kid right there. I shoulda done him first. Three for three." ~Joe Chill
Let's get one thing straight. No one ever asked the Waynes if they danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. No one. That's hogwash. Crap. A travesty of epic proportions. Only one man got the shots off on Tom and Martha, and that was good ol' Joe Chill, useless thug and waste of human genetic material. Joe Chill was for many years Batman's arch-nemesis of a sorts (until he became Batman, so probably more of a Bruce Wayne nemesis), and his actions have had the hugest repercussions on the DC Universe possible. After all, he in essence created Batman. What if Bruce had been killed and Tom and Martha had lived? Well, Flashpoint for one thing. But the world would be completely different. Batman begat Robins, Batman begat Batgirls, Batman begat Justice Leagues and Outsiders and solutions for Final Crisis and an entire corporation of worldwide superheroes and etc., etc., etc... Joe Chill's 2 minutes in a dark alley with a rich family left an indelible impact on the DC Universe.
Joe Chill has been depicted in just about every Batman flashback ever, despite his relatively minor role in the actual goings-on of day-to-day DC Universe machinations. He got what he deserved; a life tormented by horror and cut short by the very monster he created: vigilantism. It's a fitting end to a scumbag like Chill, and another reason I love Batman villains. Here's a guy who had more impact on Bruce Wayne than anyone else, and in tragic Greek myth fashion, he's torn asunder and left to the crows.
Greatest Joe Chill Story Ever Told: Batman: Year Two - I've talked about this story when I discussed the Reaper, but I'm not going to put another story down that isn't the Greatest, right? Batman teams up with Joe Chill to track down the Reaper... what happens is a true Batman clash between three men with a variety of conflicts between them. A lot of great comparisons.
#83 - Clayface (Sondra Fuller)
First Appearance: Outsiders #21 (Jul 1987)
"How many of these things are there?" ~Halo
Introduced originally as a villain to the Outsiders, Sondra Fuller, sometimes referred to as Lady Clay, is the only female Clayface of the now 8 (!) Clayfaces that menace Batman and his cronies. Fuller is the most interesting one for a variety of reasons; on the surface, she can not only change her shape but also can change color and even duplicate powers on a limited scale, making her a much bigger threat than any of the other Clayfaces, and I always love a good challenge. Lady Clay also has a very different modus operandi than her Mud Pack pals - she just wants to be left alone. Similar to Man-Bat in a lot of ways, Lady Clay is primarily concerned with keeping her child - Cassius Clay - safe. After somehow giving birth to a child between herself and another Clayface, she's mostly been seen doing the maternal thing. She even has teamed up with the Bat to help track down her child's kidnappers in one issue.
I really like Lady Clay (probably more than I should). I tend to have a soft spot for the gentle monsters and the unwilling freaks. Sondra is human at heart, but burdened with her abilities that keep her apart from society. I think this is a common feeling for people that's been exemplified with characters like Frankenstein's Monster and the X-Men, but Sondra Fuller is a character that also succeeds at building sympathy while menacing Batman and the gang, and that's a mission accomplished in my book.
The Greatest Lady Clay Story Ever Told: "The Mud Pack" (Detective Comics #604-607) - An interesting little story featuring all four Clayfaces at the time (including the deceased Matt Hagen), I think it does a great job differentiating each of them while still being true to their overall common thread.
#82 - Tally Man
First Appearance: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #19 (Oct 1993)
"Everyone has to pay the Tally Man." ~Tally Man
Tally Man's origin is particularly dark. When he was a boy, his mother was being extorted for money by a tax collector; the boy used a fire poker to kill the collector, sending his mother into a spiral that resulted in her suicide. Ultimately, Tally Man would snap due to this and use the guise of an old-time tax collector to collect the debts owed him by Gotham and also Gotham's underworld.
Tally Man is one of those great, hardly ever utilized side villains with tons of potential. He's more murderous than the Joker and just as crazy, with a bizarre circus-like outfit and a penchant for gunplay. He's worked both solo and as a lead henchman (most memorably for Two-Face in No Man's Land), and in both types of situations, he's been a real asset to the storyteller, setting up real dangerous and interesting plots that make you want to just say "Damn, this guy is nuts... but I love him for it."
Greatest Tally Man Story Ever Told: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #34 - Nightwing's run-in with Tally Man during Dick's first tenure as Batman is a doozy. One thing I should mention about Tally Man; he's got this hilarious sideplot of not ever running into the same Batman and yet assuming they're all the same guy. He first fights the Azrael-Batman and is bested, seeks vengeance on the Nightwing-Batman and is bested, and when he faces Bruce Wayne for the first time, assumes he's the same guy as before and demands vengeance again. It's really quite humorous. Too bad we don't get more sly subplots like that.
#81 - Ventriloquist (Arnold Wesker)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #583 (Feb 1988)
"You should count yourselves lucky, working for me. I ain't no glock of wood -- I got the grains to take us places!" ~Ventriloquist, as Scarface
Look, I'm not going to defend dropping a major villain at #81. Despite how important Ventriloquist has been to the Batman mythos (especially in No Man's Land), I'm not really a fan of the guy. He's a wimpy schizophrenic that hides behind a puppet with a gat and a speech impediment, ok? What's there to really like? I'll admit that he's been a part of several good storylines in Batman, and that gets him a pass to the 81st spot. I mean, if you make your way in to stuff like Face the Face and No Man's Land, you're bound to make it onto this list simply on the future of those being excellent stories. That said, Ventriloquist isn't my cup o' tea.
Arnold Wesker was a child when - and this is the ridiculous part - his parents were run over by a truck containing mannequins and dummies. You can't make this **** up. Oh wait, you can. Anyways, he used this traumatic moment to define him, assuming for no reason whatsoever that he was supposed to forgo all emotions, which essentially broke him into two personas: Scarface and the Ventriloquist. Anyways, that's all there is to it. Frankly, his best moment is in Blackest Night when a zombified Ventriloquist sporting a Black Lantern Scarface is running around Gotham wreaking havoc. Now THAT was funny.
Greatest Ventriloquist Story Ever Told:Batman: Cataclysm - The prelude to No Man's Land, an earthquake rocks Gotham and as heroes and villains alike try to deal with it, a mysterious new enemy called the Quakemaster steps forward to claim responsibility. Ventriloquist's best storyline.
#80 - Torque
First Appearance: Nightwing #1 (Oct 1996)
"Get your head on straight, Soames." ~Blockbuster
I can't get this guy any higher, but I freakin' love Dudley Soames, despite his low placement. There's just so many great and important characters coming up. Soames was an enforcer for Roland Desmond (the smarter, stronger brother of the original Blockbuster), until a botched job left Blockbuster's hands around his neck. Blockbuster twisted his head around 180 degrees, but timely arrival of paramedics kept him alive, but facing backwards. Soames then became determined to not only take down Blockbuster but also the corrupt Bludhaven police force that betrayed him.
I love this guy's attitude. For several years in Nightwing, he was wreaking havoc on EVERYONE in Bludhaven. His unusual and frightening appearance was only further highlighted by his manic, brutal behavior that reminded me of Bronson in Death Wish mixed with an insane Dennis Hopper. He's just a guns-blazing killer with a revenge streak. You kind of want to root for him even while you're hoping Nightwing takes him down, and he becomes a major piece of Chuck Dixon's chess game of Bludhaven. I recommend reading the entire Chuck Dixon Nightwing run; characters like Soames become mainstays in the story, well-developed and constantly changing parts of an elaborate tale that took years to tell.
Greatest Torque Story Ever Told: Nightwing #65 - During the Bruce Wayne: Murderer storyline, Soames finally completed his long-running plan for revenge, prepared to finally deal his finishing blows. It was the culmination of years of storytelling for Torque, and it was pretty great.
#79 - Tarantula (Catalina Flores)
First Appearance: Nightwing #71 (Sep 2002)
"No killing? Where's the fun in that?" ~Tarantula
Tarantula is all sorts of fun, and more importantly, she was pretty much Nightwing's Talia al Ghul for the second half of his series. I love her slow descent from a vigilante to extreme vigilante to out-and-out villain. Her mental state as an FBI profiler is a stable one, but slowly in the series she becomes more and more hard-edged and a loose cannon, and she eventually reaches a point of no return. There comes a moment for a lot of vigilantes where it's a "**** or get off the pot" fork in the road, and for some, they can find that arc of redemption like Jean-Paul Valley, while for Catalina Flores, it went the opposite direction.
Catalina's primary role is as a foil to Nightwing that didn't yet exist. Catalina is weak; I mean that she isn't made of the same moral fiber and willpower that Nightwing is. I really love Dick Grayson because he can dig himself out of any hole; he's not trapped in the darkness that consumes Bruce Wayne, nor is he willing to give up fighting the good fight like some vigilantes. Catalina, on the other hand, has become consumed by her new, mentally-dangerous lifestyle. I've always loved how being a vigilante burns through people very quickly, and the Tarantula descends slowly into madness over the course of Nightwing. Interesting character who met a fate that only a writer like Gail Simone could provide.
Greatest Catalina Flores Story Ever Told: Nightwing #93 - This is my second-favorite story in the entire Nightwing sub-franchise, and Tarantula is a major piece in it. I really don't want to spoil any of this story, but I will say that Tarantula and Blockbuster are at odds with one another, and their combined agendas force Nightwing to make the most difficult and surprisingly heartbreaking decision he ever made. A truly excellent issue from the amazing follow-up run by Devin Grayson to Chuck Dixon's Nightwing. Dixon and Grayson worked together on the Bat-family for a long time, so the change in writers was a planned event and it feels like the comic is written by the same person. Fantastic stuff.
#78 - Nyssa Raatko
First Appearance: Detective Comics #783 (Aug 2003)
"When the world gets a true taste of violent oppression, and their heroes lie dead and broken -- apathy will die." ~Nyssa Raatko
At the turn of the millennium, there was an amazing story that no one seems to remember, written by Batman master-scribe Greg Rucka: Death and the Maidens. In this story, Rucka introduced Ra's al Ghul's OTHER daughter, Nyssa Raatko, a few hundred year-old angry ***** with a serious grudge. Nyssa cleverly manipulates Talia, Batman, and Ra's himself in order to get revenge on her father. However, by the end of the story it turns out not all is as it seems.
Nyssa came into the DCU with a bold, ambitious plan that involved world domination - not something that comes up much in Gotham City. Sure, maybe city domination, but full-blown global? That's a step up for Batman comics. However, Nyssa's character works well in this heightened stakes storyline. Blending a bit of Magneto into the Ra's al Ghul concept, Nyssa arrived in the DCU with huge potential, changing the status quo of the DCU forever - at least forever in comic book standards (so, like, a couple years). I loved Nyssa and Talia's blossoming partnership, and I wished that Nyssa had been kept around after Greg Rucka left DC Comics. She was a surefire success and a perfect replacement for Ra's al Ghul in the Batman mythos, had she been kept around.
Greatest Nyssa Raatko Story Ever Told: Batman: Death and the Maidens. Seriously. Just read it. It's fantastic; the best story from Batman in the time between No Man's Land and War Games. And that's really saying something; this is Batman facing a threat that actually is a truly equal competitor.
#77 - Nocturna
First Appearance: Detective Comics #529 (Aug 1983)
"They brave the night to welcome its dark embrace." ~Nocturna
Nocturna... she's such an oddity among the Batman villains. One of the more macabre characters, I've always thought of her as a mad scientist slowly descending into an abyss of villainy. Her entire life bred her into crime: from her orphaned time on the streets to her unwitting work as an astronomer in the employ of a crime boss, she was led down a path of thievery from the outset. She not only became a thief, but she also developed a relationship with Bruce Wayne outside of their masked identities. Back in the early 80s, Catwoman's relationship with Batman didn't exist (at least, not on Pre-Crisis Earth-1), and the concept of a villain and a hero being in a romantic entanglement (even if it was unwitting) was fresh and original.
However, a jilted lover of Nocturna's ultimately returned and ruined the possible relationship before it had much time to take off, and sadly this very intriguing tale from decades ago came to an end. I see Nocturna as an exotic character, the sort of woman that COULD entrance Bruce Wayne because she is just so different from all the other women in Gotham; similarly to Catwoman, she stands out not only for Bruce, but for Batman, and that makes their fights both before and after the romance that much more interesting.
Greatest Nocturna Story Ever Told: Batman #398-390, Detective Comics #556 - A great story taking place during Crisis on Infinite Earths, a tale revolving around Nocturna and Catwoman and both of their relationships with Batman yields some unpleasant results for all of them as they take on each other. Great stuff.
#76 - Sensei
First Appearance: Strange Adventures #215 (Dec 1968)
"Our strength is in our arts. The crafts and sciences of murder." ~Sensei
Whenever you get a villain that plays into the Eastern martial training and mindframe of Bruce Wayne, you know that the story is going to be of a very different breed than normal. Stories starring characters like Lady Shiva and Ra's al Ghul always have a unique feel to them, featuring organizations like the League of Assassins; you can bank on Batman not only having to match skills but also wits with these types of characters. The Sensei is definitely one of them.
The Sensei began as the leader of the League of Assassins after Ebeneezer Darrk was removed from power. For years, comic readers witnessed him become slowly more and more insane, attempting to hone the assassins' craft into a form of art. His dangerous behavior even led to one of Batman's closest allies being killed (and this was the 70s. Comics deaths were a huge deal then). Since then, it has been revealed that The Sensei is Ra's al Ghul's father, and that has brought about a major new dimension to the character. Sensei works well in this respect; his behavior is much more erratic than Ra's' at that often makes him more of an immediate threat. No matter who is in charge of the LoA, you're going to get good comics out of it; however, The Sensei's tenure as leader is easily one of the most interesting and readable parts of Batman lore.
Greatest Sensei Story Ever Told: Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul - A recent storyline that occurred in the midst of Grant Morrison's Batman run, The Sensei and Ra's have it out in what should be considered their ultimate battle. A great three-way match with Batman ensues. The Sensei proves that he's just as riveting and menacing as Ra's.
#75 - Baby Doll
First Appearance: Batman: The Animated Series S03E04 (Sep1994)
"You never let the way you look undermine your self-confidence." ~Baby Doll
In a series chock full of "Best-of" episodes, "Baby-Doll" easily nears the top of that list, thanks to its unusual main antagonist. Mary Dahl is an adult who suffers from hypoplasia, that is, a disease which does not allow her to grow. Eternally bound to appear as a child, Dahl slowly loses her tether on reality when her hit TV show is cancelled and she begins to fade into obscurity. There's a lot of inspiration being drawn here from some interesting sources, most obviously the film "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?". However, the inclusion of Batman turns this into a dark morality play as a woman who has fallen prey to her celebrity must recognize and accept her inner demons.
I really loved this episode despite Baby Doll's superficially "Animaniacal" appearance. You would think such a disparate design from B:TAS would feel well out of place, but they use this fish-out-of-water look to really highlight how she lives in a TV world that is nothing like the real one. There are a lot of great uses of artistic work to help convey how her artificial world is twistedly farcical, the sort of into-the-rabbit-hole tragic character you've come to love in the Batman world, from Mad Hatter to Joker to the Riddler. The finale of "Baby-Doll" is truly a tragic moment that is perhaps the emotional highlight of the Batman series, which I'll include as my Greatest Baby Doll Story Ever Told:
A surprisingly layered and deep moment that I think plays differently watching it as an adult than it did when I was a kid seeing it for the first time. A tragedy of Wagnerian proportions.
#74 - The Hyperclan
First Appearance: JLA #1 (Jan 1997)
" 'Armek'; 'Zenturion'! They sound like a line of cheap toys! Why don't they get themselves regular names, like every other Joe in spandex?" ~Metamorpho
When you list off Batman's Greatest fights, every list eventually ends with this one in the top 1, 2 or 3. It's one of the most well-known, game-changing moments for Batman, as it introduced the concept of Bat-God: Batman can beat anyone with a little prep time. And, from my point of view, this new conceptualization of Batman's resourcefulness has shaped the entire creative view of Batman ever since. Could Batman have been such a vital member of the JLA in events like World War III, Infinite Crisis, Golden Perfect and other cosmically-scaled instances of near-universal destruction? The odds are slim. And to imagine it all started in Antarctica with a lighter.
The Hyperclan themselves were a great threat, combining the threat of an unknown menace prevalent in most conspiracy films (they're us!) to the grand old sci-fi idea of the aliens landing on Earth. The Avengers film cribbed the idea somewhat be using the Chitauri as the first threat for the MCU Avengers team, and it works well because aliens are easy to root against, but not easy to stop. And the Hyperclan was a hyper-threat. Led by Protex, they're smart, manipulative, and all equally as powerful as the Martian Manhunter to boot. That's tough. But enough about them, let the fight speak for itself:
Batman first pulls the ultimate act of stealth on an individual with heightened senses:
And next we see him? This:
Then he gets surrounded by three members of the Hyperclan, and the rest is classic:
So, to recap. Batman, alone and with nothing but a lighter, takes out FOUR Martian Manhunter-level threats. Three of them at the same time. 'Nuff said. Erm, shown.
Greatest Hyperclan Story Ever Told: Terra Incognita - Mark Waid brought the Hyperclan back into the fray with the JLA, where the first order of business is to take out Batman and Martian Manhunter (they do). Of course, this time it takes the entire DCU to step in and fill his shows, and even then the Hyperclan almost claims victory. It's pretty great.
#73 - Cavalier
First Appearance: Detective Comics #81 (Nov 1943)
"The shall feel the steel of the Cavalier again!" ~Cavalier
The Cavalier has always been a silly villain. The original inspiration for the oft-appearing Captain America villain Batroc, Cavalier's tangles with Batman usually involved grand fencing battles and ridiculous amounts of extraneous French-speak. However, instead of making him goofy, it set him apart, as his eccentric behavior was always a welcome reprieve from the darker stories in Batman. One of my favorite sillier stories in the Batman franchise involves Robin tricking Cavalier when Cavalier "forces" Robin to take Cavalier to Batman's lair. Robin actually leads him to a large predatory bird's nest, which leads the Cavalier to believe that Robin is actually a giant bird-mutant.
I mean, that's just fantastic.
While he was mostly a Silver Age villain, he has had several appearances over the years with other street-level heroes, notably the Question and Blue Beetle. It was revealed in Justice League of America that Cavalier was actually a closeted homosexual villain in a relationship with another flamboyantly silly villain, Captain Stingaree. Ultimately, Cavalier met his end shortly prior to the New 52 reboot alongside his lover, when the Secret Six took on an army of super-villains and Bane broke his back (he has a tendency to do that). A hero like Batman NEEDS the sillier villains, because grim and gritty can become monotonous, and the perfect antidote to a pervasively dark comic is an occasional injection of humor.
Greatest Cavalier Story Ever Told: Batman Family #15 - The aforementioned Robin trickery story; it also involves the Cavalier making a bet with Killer Moth; silly, classicly Silver Age stuff.
#72 - Clayface (Matt Hagen)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #298 (Dec 1961)
"Great Scott! His face.... It looks like... a lump of clay!" ~Batman
Matt Hagen was a Silver Age Clayface that was very different from his Golden Age counterpart. Where Basil Karlo was forever trapped in his clay form, Hagen was able to turn back and forth from clay to human at will thanks to a serum he created. In that sense, he was less tragic than his predecessor, but even so he provided a lot of great entertainment. When creative minds like Neal Adams or Denny O'Neil got involved with the character, they proved that Hagen was a step up from the prior Clayface in terms of being a threat; Hagen had a mind for crime that was supplemented by a power that made him a truly versatile threat. Where villains like Clayface I or Marvel's Sandman were limited to essentially one type of from, Hagen was able to transmute his appearance into the features of anyone he desired, even being able to change the color of his body so it could appear as any type of clothes or hair color, etc. In fact, I believe his only limit was that he couldn't increase his mass, but even in that case, he was a truly unique threat.
You would think this Clayface's adventures would be all about creative fights, but Batman writers of the time really did a great job at using him in a more cerebral manner, leaving Batman to really work his detective skills when Clayface was able to frame people for crimes they didn't commit. I always prefer villains who use their brains over simply their brawn, and Hagen did that well. Too bad he was killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths; the brave new world could've used him.
Greatest Matt Hagen Story Ever Told: Batman #159 - An interesting little tale, Matt Hagen has a brief feud with the Joker over who is the better villain; it's left unresolved as Batman and Robin step in and ruin the fun. When a villain has the balls to go toe-to-toe with the Joker, you know that they're either insane or have some serious heat to back them up. Hagen goes into the latter category.
#71 - The Club of Villains
First Appearance: Batman #676 (Jun 2008)
"Believe me, everything you've heard about the Black Glove is true." ~Dr. Simon Hurt
Introduced as a Silver Age-inspired group of the darkest sort of villainy, the Black Glove's villainous extension known as the Club of Villains is meant to be a dark parody of Batman's goofy 50s team known as the Club of Heroes. I found this concept to be one of Morrison's better ones on his Batman run, despite the group as a whole only appearing together a few times. Each member seemed to have his or her own deeper significance to the Batman mythos, and the characters themselves all received some showcasing throughout the entirety of Morrison's run.
Characters like Scorpiana, El Sombrero, King Kraken... there were so many interesting characters leaking from Morrison's twisted, brilliant imagination. Each of them has remained active after Batman R.I.P. back in 2008, most of them showing up in Batman, Inc. either prior to or after the New 52 debuted. So many of them feel extremely deep with storied histories despite all being relatively newer characters. They also really fulfill Morrison's promise of Batman being more prominent on the world stage. Everyone from Pierrot to Scorpiana is a villain that hails from another part of the world, helping to define Batman's true significance as an inspiration for other vigilantes, as well as creating true adversarial conflicts amongst the Batman, Inc. franchise.
Greatest Club of Villains Story Ever Told: Batman, Inc. #3-5 - This story featured the two South American members of the Club of Villains, Scorpiana and El Sombrero, as they went toe-to-toe with Batman and his Argentinian counterpart, El Gaucho. The significance of threats of this level can't be underestimated; it forces Batman to utilize all of his skills (both mentally and physically), and leaves the reader with an entertaining and engrossing experience.
#70 - Cornelius Stirk
First Appearance: Detective Comics #592 (Nov 1988)
And now... a tiny taste of your friend's terror. ~Cornelius Stirk
There are villains, there are terrifying villains, and then there's Cornelius Stirk. Stirk takes the Scarecrow's modus operandi and adds in a pinch of Hannibal Lecter with a side Jigsaw for a little more horrific flavoring, and the result is something that will haunt your dreams. A man with his face utterly and disgustingly deformed, he uses fear to raise his victim's norepinephrine levels, then kills them and eats their hearts. Yup, that's his schtick. He scares you, kills you and then eats you. So uh, yeah. That's um... really, really, freakingly, ridiculously awful and gruesome.
I have to say that when I think of Batman's most hardcore villains, this is the guy that tops the list. Conceptually I can't think of a villain that comes close to as, well, awful as Cornelius Stirk. Of course, he wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so damn good at what he does. And that's where Batman comes in. Stirk is one of the villains that brings out the detective side of things for Batman, and his misadventures highlight the more cerebral side of horror that only a superhero franchise like horror can provide.
Greatest Cornelius Stirk Story Ever Told: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #46-47 - When your name is the title of the story, you know that it's your time to shine. In a two-parter simply titled "Cornelius Stirk", Stirk gives his finest, and one of his most frightening, performances as Batman tangles with both him and the Penguin.
#69 - Blockbuster (Mark Desmond)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #345 (Nov 1965)
It's amazing how important a character's first appearance can be. Mark Desmond was transformed into a monstrous bulk of creature after trying an experimental serum of his own creation. Now with diminished intelligence and no capability of spech, Mark relied on his brother to help him find a way to return to normal, committing crimes together in order to fund this goal. In Detective Comics #345, however, the inspiration for several major comic books in the years to come would be born, as Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino weaved the story that is considered by many to be the best Batman story of the early 60s, prior to the O'Neill and Adams era.
Blockbuster's loose resemblance on the Hulk is not accidental; while the Hulk sought solitude, so too would Blockbuster, and in fact writers like Peter David pointed to Blockbuster's monstrous figure wishing for serenity as part of the reason the Hulk has become so obsessed with being left alone. As both characters were developed in the early 60s, it's not hard to see why the concept would bleed between the two. In fact, Batman facing Blockbuster eventually became the basis for the more well-remembered storyline of Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, a huge seller from years later. The original Blockbuster tale even led to the classic Spider-Man story "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut," where Spider-Man must, like Batman, rely on brains rather than brawn to stop the unstoppable.
In the years since, Blockbuster was used quite often, most notably in major villain ensembles such as the Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Injustice League. However, in the first gathering of the Suicide Squad, Blockbuster met a fiery fate at the hand of an agent of Darkseid.
The Second Greatest Blockbuster Story Ever Told: Secret Society of Super-Villains #12-13 - The SSoSV is easily one of the greatest hidden gems in the DC library; despite only running 17 issues, it was chock full of amazing stories like this one, where a group of villains (including Blockbuster) take on the Crime Syndicate of America, the Justice League's reverse counterparts from Earth-3.... and win. That's seriously a huge testament for how awesome DC's villains are.
#68 - Lord Death Man
First Appearance: Batman #180 (May 1966)
I read somewhere that violent, antisocial crime's almost unheard of in Japan. How's about we take them to school? LORD DEATH MAN! I AM THE HEADMASTER! ~Lord Death Man
It's really funny that there's been a lot of comments about Lord Death Man, because lo! and behold, here he is. When I originally put this list together, I was torn on where to put this guy, because on one hand, he's really only been relevant to Batman recently, and hasn't appeared hardly at all. But Lord Death Man has quickly developed a fanbase thanks to Grant Morrison's ridiculously hilarious and at the same time awesomely legitimate take on a one-shot villain from the 60s.
Batman, Inc. need a story to kick it off with a bang, and I think Lord Death Man provided it; instead of going with an established threat or something close to the Batman bailiwick, Morrison threw both Batman and a new young hero up against a brand new sort of threat. Lord Death Man established himself as the sort of chaotically arrogant villain that you'd expect in the 60s Batman show mixed with the grimmer designs of Neal Adams and topped with the brutal agenda of a Frank Miller style villain, and it works out fantastically. You'll be laughing just as much as you'll be dying to turn the page, and that's what a villain is all about.
Greatest Lord Death Man Story Ever Told: Batman: Leviathan Strikes! #1 - A small scene but utterly awesome, Lord Death Man blows up a giant satellite headquarters. It's awesome.
#67 - Killer Moth
First Appearance: Batman #63 (Feb 1951)
" The Bat watches over citizens, he does what cops can't do. What about the crooks? Who do they turn to in order to get the job done for them?" ~Killer Moth
It's easy to be conflicted about Killer Moth, but it's hard to ignore the impact Killer Moth has had on Batman's career. After all, Killer Moth is the villain that brought Barbara Gordon into the mantle of Batgirl; you can't neglect that. Even so, Killer Moth is both likable and unlikable at the same time. His goofy-ass costume and ridiculous gear makes him a joke among villains, and not the kind readers like, either. At the same time, he just doesn't get it; he complains when he gets caught, as if that's somehow a personal affront against him and he's not, you know, committing a crime. I kind of love that in him.
Drury Walker was a low-level D-list villain for a longtime with no powers to speak of, so in only the way a comic book can do, after like 35 years of failing he sold his soul to a new Devil (the old one retired to Los Angeles... and you think I'm kidding, don't you?). In return the new Devil, Neron, gave him enhanced powers, turning him into Charaxes, a literal killer moth:
Such a 90s thing; now he ran around Gotham like Man-Bat as a creature out-of-control, except instead of just being a territorial creature, he ate people. Yup. So THAT happened. Eventually Superboy-Prime ripped his head off.
You know, it's characters with a history like that which make me love comics. Seriously; the more ridiculous and hilarious a character's life is, the better it gets. I love getting to make a write-up where the villain turns into a giant mutant thanks to the Devil and gets his head ripped off by an alternate Clark Kent. How much fun is that? It's what comics are made for; and Killer Moth wasn't a bad villain to begin with, so it's fun to see a nobody-failure of a villain just get put through the wringer with a corpse spat out on the other side.
Greatest Killer Moth Story Ever Told: Lego Batman - Say WHAH? Yup, Killer Moth's best story has got to be his scenes in the Lego Batman videogame, where they make him more like a literal moth, attracted to light bulbs and the like. It had me laughing pretty heartily.
#66 - Flamingo
First Appearance: Batman #66 (Jul 2007)
I don't give a **** what you all say. I couldn't give a **** that he only appeared in like 6 issues. I freakin' love the Flamingo. He's a professional assassin who wears all pink and rides a pink motorcycle, and he uses a whip to kill. His first appearance is in Batman #666! How cool is that? This guy is just a flat-out skilled psychotic killer, and sometimes that's all you need to make a cool comic. And you gotta remember, Grant Morrison knows how to make bizarre characters - Flamingo is one hell of a bizarre character. I loved his fights with Scarlet, Dick-Batman and Jason Todd, and now that he's appeared in the New 52, I hope we get to see more of him in the future.
I don't have much else to say about this guy, really. He's just bursting with potential, and I love this guy to death. Everyone has those obscure D-Listers that they have an irrational love for, and this guy is one of mine. More Flamingo!
Greatest Flamingo Story Ever Told:Batman & Robin #5-6 - Part of the Red Hood storyline; Flamingo rocks as the sort of monkey wrench you need to make a story wildly chaotic and exciting. Flamingo really brings some momentum to the comic.
#65 - The Key
First Appearance: Justice League of America #41 (Dec 1965)
"Didn't anyone tell you patience is the key to success?" ~The Key
Here's an usual case of a JLA villain who has so often provided an excellent threat to Batman that I couldn't in good conscience leave him out of the running. Some of the JLA's battles with the Key have showcased some of Bruce Wayne's real dreams and fears in a way that you only can get from Scarecrow and maybe Hugo Strange in a Bat-title. The beauty of the Key is that he has telepathy a psychoactive drugs that have brought to light some of Batman's darkest secrets. In one of the inaugural storylines from Grant Morrison's run on JLA, there's an amazing sequence where Batman is trapped in his own hallucinated vision of the future - a world where he watches his successors take over his mantle, only to be overwhelmed by old antagonists. Its quite a bleak future and it looks to wear on Batman in the story significantly. During Infinite Crisis, a great Key vs. Batman story occurs when Batman is literally the last active member of the JLA, going after the Key in a world gone topsy-turvy - another story where the Key preys on the weaknesses of the mind.
All in all, the Key is a brilliant character that's been menacing Batman for years, even though it hasn't been within a Batman title. I don't think a Batman villain is necessarily grounded in the Batman mythos; I love to see them come from other franchises or escape into those same venues. As this list goes on, we'll see a couple from each side of that concept, as big villains just can't stay in Gotham, or stay out of it, and it gives readers some of the greatest Batman battles they could ask for.
Greatest Key Story Ever Told: JLA #5-6 - Batman is crumbling alongside the JLA in a nightmarish drug-induced fantasy... it's up to new Green Arrow Connor Hawke to save the day. One of my favorite JLA stories of all time, and it shines an unusual light on every character's subconcious hopes and fears. Great stuff.
#64 - Facade
First Appearance: Detective Comics #821 (Sep 2006)
"Gotham's elite are weak and hollow." ~Facade
In one of the most unappreciated comic book runs ever, Paul Dini crafted several excellent one-shot stories that were really character-driven action-noir pieces, each centering around Batman tackling an allegorical representation of a social issue. Facade was a few years' ahead of his time, prophesying the Occupy Wall Street movement in his excellent one-off issue; Facade's goal is to expose the wealthy upper crust of Gotham for what they really are and bring them to their knees. Is this necessarily the wrong thing to do? How often do people lament the power that the obscenely rich seem to possess?
Facade is very interesting in that he is a completely faceless character. He represents the anonymous, nameless, faceless masses that cry out for justice and our denied. At the same time, his extremist actions are not wholly accepted by the group he represents, so he seems a cautionary example of the wrong way to institute social reform. It's a very deep, meaningful issue that I think highlights everything that's great about the potential in a Batman tale - strong villains, layered commentary on society, and a hero forced to utilize all of his skills to right the wrong.
Greatest Facade Story Ever Told: I just told you, dude. I mean, not that freakin' hard. Like, whatevs. Oh! The art's by J.H. Williams III, so anyone who like nerdgasmed at the fantastic Batwoman art should totally be like, "Damn, need me some Facade one-off story like now, girl."
#63 - Lock-Up
First Appearance: Batman: The Animated Series S03E09 (Nov 1994)
"Gotham's been declared a disaster area - and even THEY won't keep you!" ~Lock-Up
Lyle Bolton, well, jailed criminals. That's not so bad, right? Right? Well, let me tell you, mon ami, that when Lyle Bolton locks you up and throws away the key, he's essentially doomed you to a period of incarceration that makes Vader's torture room look like Club Med. Bolton's private imprisonment system involves building wickedly brutal deathtraps into his jails, and he pretty much just captures any criminal he wants. Which, I mean, didn't really matter when he captured Charaxes, but when you throw Two-Face into a room with live wires and leaky faucets, well, we just can't have good villains going to waste.
Bolton's shall we say eccentric mode of incarceration has been a piece of Batman's history for a while now, occasionally serving as a temporary measure for Batman when he has no one else to turn to. In that way he reminds me of the Penguin; every once and a while, Batman has to dig deep, suck it up and turn to one of his less-psychotic enemies for some information or help, and I always find these interactions to be some of the most unique and interesting ones Bats provides. It helps blur the line of justice and vigilantism, of whether Batman is a socially acceptable response to a flawed system or aberrant behavior spawning from a civilization's dying carcass. Lock-Up is almost an institutional presence, an uber-conservative extremist on the exact opposite end of the spectrum as Facade and Anarky, and when he shows up, it helps to paint some interesting social commentaries.
Greatest Lyle Bolton Story Ever Told: No Man's Land - Lyle Bolton is the ONLY jailor around in the forsaken ruins of Gotham, and Batman must turn to him to take over the remains of Blackgate Prison. However, when dark rumors begin to surface, Batman sends Nightwing in to investigate. One of my all-time favorite Nightwing stories, thanks to a great villain in a really unique situation.
#62 - Crime Doctor
First Appearance: Detective Comics #77 (Jul 1943)
"Everything's made up." ~Crime Doctor
The Crime Doctor is one of those longtime villains that's sat in the backseat despite is longevity. He's one of the OG nutjobs in the Batman arsenal, being (if my memory serves me correctly), the first Batman villain to actually TORTURE someone on panel. Hell, that's half of his modus operandi. I really liked this villain because he used to show up often in a support capacity for a wide array of criminals, serving in several capacities, and his one condition was that he wouldn't kill anyone... because it would break the Hippocratic Oath.
That's right. This is guy is an actual doctor. So badass.
Crime Doctor used to consult everyone from the Penguin to the Riddler to Bane at one point, patching up wounds, or providing certain less-than-positive medical procedures to people who might be, ah, unwilling to participate if they could choose not to. Regardless, his role would always be the same: hire himself out, reap in a reward, and in the end, donate most if not all of his ill-gotten gains to charity. Because, you know, he's just in this for fun, not the rewards. You gotta love rich, bored idiots who just need to commit crimes for kicks, and that's exactly what Crime Doctor was all about. He was killed after Infinite Crisis, but he hasn't shown up in the New 52 yet, so there's still a chance to bring back this amazing and unique supporting character who is just as intriguing as many of the villains he would help.
Greatest Crime Doctor Story Ever Told: Detective Comics #579 - Two-Face is going in for a special operation at the underworld doctor of choice, and Batman must stop the Crime Doctor from saving a life?!?! An interesting, surprising one-off issue that really highlights the importance of the Crime Doctor to the Batman mythos.
#61 - King Snake
First Appearance: Robin #1 (Jan 1991)
" The boy wonder. You always find me at a disadvantage. " ~King Snake
If Tim Drake has to have an archnemesis, I'd have to say it would be King Snake, one of the more intelligent and tactical villains in the Batman arsenal. King Snake's ploys are reminiscent of a long con, or a slow-burning chess strategy; at first, they appear weak or innocuous, but in the course of the story, it's always a brilliant turn of events that leads to King Snake nearly pulling off something amazing.
But he doesn't. He SHOULD, because he kicks ass and rocks it in the brains department, but no.
And that's why he rates in the 60s, because despite his best efforts, he always loses to Tim Drake. Of course, it's a privilege to lose to someone as cool as Drake - you could be losing to someone as awful as, say, Spoiler as Robin. That would suck. Girls should never be Robin, unless it's Carrie Kelly in which case it's completely cool because it's an alternate reality and it doesn't count. Because in the real world, Robin has to be a guy because we all know Batman would never accept a woman as his possible successor. Luckily Babs got shot in the spine and he dodged a bullet there, or well, didn't dodge a bullet because she was shot but dodged a more proverbial bullet... I digress.
King Snake is awesome and even though he got his ass handed to him by Lady Shiva, I still think of him as Tim Drake's Ra's al Ghul.
Greatest King Snake Story Ever Told: Robin vs. Shiva vs. King Snake - For a great three-parter prior to No Man's Land, King Snake lured both Shiva and Tim to eastern Europe with a brilliant elaborate plot that involved a lot of backstabbing and deception. Real A+ bad guy stuff. Of course, he screws up and gets killed.
#60 - Rupert Thorne
First Appearance: Detective Comics #469 (May 1977)
"You can't be real! YOU CAN'T!" ~Rupert Thorne
Rupert Thorne is easily one of the most important crimebosses in Gotham; despite not having a ton of comic appearances like some of the more well-known mob lords that we've come to know at DC, Thorne has had the benefit of essentially getting two of the best possible appearances a normal guy without masks or powers could ask for. In what is considered by many to be one of the top three runs on Batman, Steve Englehart introduced Thorne as the new City Councilman with a plan to reap the benefits of a crime syndicate now in charge of local government, and he used everything at his disposal to take Batman out. Batman was turned into public enemy #1 thanks to Thorne, and everyone from Deadshot (who has his first appearance since the 50s) to the Penguin is given aid by Thorne to take Batman down. Ultimately, another Batman villain causes Thorne's downfall in one of the most unusual ways ever to appear in Batman book, and Thorne's reign as a crimelord ends with Steve Englehart's run. He serves as an excellent corrupt bureaucrat pulling all sorts of strings.
Thorne also is memorable for his longtime role on Batman: The Animated Series as essentially the only recurring crimelord in Gotham. Batman's quest to take him down is a highlight of several episodes, and thanks to Thorne, regular non-powered crime remains an intriguing and important part of BTAS' plot for several seasons. Good crimebosses are few and far between, but Thorne is definitely one of them.
Greatest Rupert Thorne Story Ever Told: "The Man Who Killed Batman" - One of the best episodes of the BTAS, a man believes that he's inadvertently murdered the Dark Knight, eventually leading to his confrontation with Boss Thorne. This scene is one of my personal favorites in the series, as it really captures just how imposing and menacing Thorne is, and how obsessed he is in his quest to steal Gotham from the Bat's grasp. Great stuff.
#59 - Jane Doe
First Appearance: Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #1 (Jul 2003)
" Jane is a cipher, she's incomplete, her life is empty, so she covets the lives of others. She takes their lives so she can have their lives." ~Jane Doe
A brilliant creation from the longtime Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, Jane Doe is the quintessential serial killer: she observes her subjects, kills them, and then takes their lives over. I've always found the process creepy on a more existential level, and it certainly is a horrifying fate to consider. She can completely replace you and no one notices... it may seem absurd, but I wouldn't doubt. I mean, how well can you ever know somebody? Jane Doe is utter anonymity, but within that anonymity is an intriguing and frightening concept: it's impossible to ever truly know even those you love the most. What are they thinking? Can you ever trust anyone?
Jane Doe has had a short but relatively high profile career, getting involved quickly with other villains in the Battle with the Cowl, and having run-ins with most of the Batman family. She's the sort of hardcore villain I like, because her grim and violent modus operandi really lends itself to the detective aspect of Bat-family members. It requires that deductive mind to put clues together and figure out who is really the bad guy, because with Jane Doe, the last person you'd expect is always Jane Doe.
Greatest Jane Doe Story Ever Told: The Manhunter back-up series in Batman: Streets of Gotham - Throughout most of the Batman: Streets of Gotham series, underrated and excellent superhero Kate Spencer moves to Gotham City from California, where she takes over as the newest Gotham DA (honestly, I'm not sure they've even had one since Harvey Dent started trying on both sides of the bench). Jane Doe becomes her archnemesis in the storyline in a taut, suspenseful feature that truly was a high point in the Batman titles of the time. I wish they'd have more great backup features like this; sure, the extra pages increased the price by a buck, but getting characters like Jane Doe more screentime was worth it.
#58 - Sal Maroni
First Appearance: Detective Comics #66 (Aug 1942)
"You want a piece of me, but we both want a piece of Falcone." ~Sal Maroni
Is there an automatic in for this list? Maybe, but if there was, Maroni is the sort of guy that qualifies for it. Looking at his record, he's been a part of a lot of the great early moments in Batman's career, whether it be the disfigurement of Two-Face, a key player in Batman: The Long Halloween, or one of the featured characters in The Dark Knight (played by the excellent Eric Roberts). And, of course, he's got that mob called the Monster Men which are pretty good early antagonists for an inexperienced Batman.
When it comes to the Gotham crimelords, Maroni may not be the most important or the greatest, but he's my personal favorite. He's just a real scumbag with the kind of Italian mafia meanstreak that makes someone go from bad to cruelly riveting. Let's face it: we don't watch The Godfather for Diane Keaton, we watch it for the bad guys going at it each other from all angles, leaving nothing sacred. It's fantastic, and Maroni is totally a part of this world. And, of course, when you're the guy who created the monumental Two-Face, then fuggeddabuddah! You've just won an instant in. If they exist.
Greatest Sal Maroni Story Ever Told: This panel, right here:
#57 - Music Meister
First Appearance: Batman: The Brave and the Bold S01E24 (Oct 2009)
No quote, no explanation, just a song this time to sum up everything that's awesome about the villain I chose for spot #57:
#56 - Ratcatcher
First Appearance: Detective Comics #585 (Apr 1988)
"Just call me The Ratcatcher official as was -- unofficial as is!" ~Ratcatcher
F*** the haters. Ratcatcher is a creepy, disgusting, pitiful creature, and that makes him perfect for the Batman rogue's gallery. For almost twenty years, Flannegan was a great little diversion from the more psychotic and immediate threats, living in the sewers and caring for his disease-ridden pets. I remember my first encounter with Ratcatcher was in Cataclysm, where he broke out of prison with several other villains, leaving them to go and protect his now-destroyed subway system haven. I remember that Batman let Ratcatcher up to his own devices during No Man's Land because, frankly, Otis was just about the least dangerous threat to the people of NML, and he wanted to stay away from them as much as they wanted to stay away from him. It made me sad that during the reopening of Gotham, he lost his home and seemed so violently territorial about it, as well as betrayed that the people of Gotham would so unfairly take away what he thought was rightfully he is. In many ways, he felt like a small child and I felt a lot of sympathy for him. Unfortunately, Otis was killed by OMACs in Infinite Crisis; an unfitting end for a complex and tragic character.
Ratcatcher fits into the category of villains like Blockbuster, Charaxes and Man-Bat who for the most part would prefer to just be left to their own devices. If only they could all learn to more peacefully coexist with others, they might just be able to get the isolation they want, but sadly all of them are monstrous, grotesque characters who frighten Gothamites, and where fear is bred so is hostility. Ratcatcher was a villain, yes, but a reactive villain. I never think of him as evil, just lost, and having a little empathy for a villain goes a long way to making them great.
Greatest Ratcatcher Story Ever Told: Detective Comics #679 - Dick Grayson's first tenure as Batman was extremely short, but he had some great adventures nonetheless, including this one involving both Two-Face and Ratcatcher. Otis comes across sufficiently strange and menacing and yet you once again can't help but feel that these fights with him are an unfair way to solve the "Vermin Problem" in Gotham.
#55 - Killer Croc
First Appearance: Batman #357 (Mar 1983)
"Alligators in the sewers were an urban myth... just like the Batman." ~Carmine Falcone
Croc. He's a perfect villain... for Spider-Man. But let's be real here: the mutant lizard folk go over to Marvel and the mutant gorillas and bats go to DC, and never the twain shall meet. Okay, that's not my real reason for rating Croc so low, but it's a start.
Croc is a great character when used in certain capacities: as comic relief, Croc is surprisingly effective; there are several great comic moments for Croc that people tend to overlook in favor of behemoth-looking overly-mutated Hush-style Jim Lee Croc. That's not what Croc should be. Croc needs SOME semblence of humanity. Just going "RAWR" and swinging at Batman isn't all that entertaining. When someone brings something fresh to the table, Croc can be truly entertaining, even if he is a little out-of-place in the Batverse. For example, I loved the storyline where Croc was feeding on Paretti family mobsters since they were starting to work in his "territory," so Nightwing and Tim had to take care of business. That's a great use for Croc, as it brings him into the more human element of Gotham's underbelly and juxtaposes just how far gone he is from society. Even criminals get Batman's aid when Croc's around.
The other excellent use for Croc is to frighten. He really can. His boss fight in Arkham Asylum can really make you jump out of fear if you play it late at night with the lights off. Croc himself is not frightening, but his actions and behavior and your anticipation of what he'll do can always supercede just his appearance. Croc lurking in dark shadows is frightening; making Croc look more buff and larger and giving him more teeth does NOT make him a better villain. It takes a good writer to utilize Croc properly, and unfortunately, most of them don't.
Greatest Killer Croc Story Ever Told: From one of my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episodes, four of Batman's main villains are trading their stories of how they each almost killed the Batman. Croc's is easily, EASILY the funniest moment in the entire series:
#54 - Egghead
First Appearance: Batman S02E13 (Oct 1966)
"You have sinned, Batman. You have broken the rules of the establishment. It is necessary that you be taught a lesson. What you are going to learn is humiliation." ~Egghead
I'm not a huge fan of the 60s Batman show; not because of its camp or its goofiness, but because I think that it doesn't depict the characters with the level of ability they actually possessed. Batman was out-of-shape and lacked that keen detective mind that makes him such a great hero; Joker's schemes weren't always up to the level of his comic counterpart, and Catwoman was never the agile thief she's supposed to be. However, there's definitely a place for brighter humor in the Batman world when its tempered with a dose of skill and threat, and I think Egghead was probably the best thing to come out of the 60s show.
Portrayed by the master of villainy, Vincent Price, Egghead has everything that I look for in my Silver Age villains - either villainous might or villainous wit (the latter in Egghead's case), a well-demonstrated desire for some form of evil and most importantly a fatal flaw that can lead to his defeat (in this case, his arrogance). When you're playing in the campier world of the Silver Age, all of these components are completely necessary - what the show gets right with Price's excellent turn as Egghead is that Price's very diction and mannerisms speak exactly to Egghead's arrogant brilliance. It's too bad that Egghead never made a transition into the DCU proper - I think he maybe appeared once or twice, but it was always in an extremely small role.
All in all, there's a lot I don't like about the original Batman show, but Egghead is definitely a fine shining facet of this long-gone piece of Batman history.
Greatest Egghead Story Ever Told: "The Yegg Foes of Gotham" - In this episode, Egghead teams up with Native Americans to help them claim all of the land of Gotham as it was originally theirs. In return, he would become the lord of the new Gotham underground. Great Egghead episode that helped set back Native American rights a half-century.
#53 - Kyle Abbot and Whisper a'Daire
First Appearance: Detective Comics #743 (Apr 2000)
" I believe in the dark faith, Miss Kane. Just not their interpretation of it." ~Kyle Abbot
People often point to No Man's Land as a major turning point for Batman sales, going from a weak era to a massive success, but it really wouldn't be without the often overlooked Contagion event that No Man's Land and Cataclysm would get much of their publicity, and that's thanks to the also-overlooked duo of a'Daire and Abbot. a'Daire was originally a mind controlling seductress who used a serum bestowed on her by Ra's al Ghul to not only shapeshift herself into a were-snake, but Abbot into a werewolf. Together, in return for their newfound powers, the team attempted to poison the entirety of Gotham, and had some success. However, their efforts were thwarted, and they escaped.
Years later in 52, the duo was back, working for Bruno Mannheim as disciples of the Crime Bible. I really loved seeing them back, because in the absence of Batman (and most of his villains and heroic counterparts), we got to see some great underutilized characters stretch their legs in battle. Not only did a'Daire and Abbot serve as great antagonists under the umbrella of Intergang, but Abbot's excellent slow change of heart reached a beautiful climax, as he chose to prevent Mannheim's main plans. Eventually, the duo split because of Abbot's choices, but Abbot started a new cult around the Crime Bible and a'Daire has since battled with the entirety of the Justice League (controlling Superman's mind is not an easy feat).
I loved the primal, animalistic behavior of this partnership, with a relationship that felt primitive and wild; in the end, the fact that Abbot rose above his animalistic tendencies was a great and dynamic turning point with a nice deeper meaning that has left a definite impact on me.
Greatest Abbot/a'Daire Story Ever Told: 52. Seriously one of the most inventive and brilliant series ever conceived, with the greatest writing team ever put together. Go read, jerks.
#52 - Carmine Falcone
First Appearance: Batman #404 (Feb 1987)
"People from your world have so much to lose. Now, you think because your mommy and your daddy got shot, you know about the ugly side of life, but you don't. You've never tasted desperate. You're, uh, you're Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham; you'd have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn't know your name. So, don't come down here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you'll never understand. And you always fear what you don't understand." ~Carmine Falcone
I could talk about the fantastic character that was an essential part of Batman's early career in comics. I could talk about one of the focal points of Batman: Year One that is Falcone, or the main fixture of Long Halloween that is The Roman. I could talk about his legacy that spreads out from Dark Victory into nearly every facet of the Batman mythos.
But I won't.
Instead, let's talk about the performance of Tom Wilkinson as Falcone in Batman Begins, one that I think really defines the transition of Gotham from a town controlled by a mob to a town controlled by villains. Falcone has Gotham in a death grip at the beginning of Batman Begins, and it's so well-defined by Falcone's earned arrogance. He bristles with unbridled power in his early confrontation with Bruce Wayne, and yet when he faces the Bat, everything begins to change. The symbolism of vigilantes and supervillains is something that Falcone cannot overcome. In fact, he becomes defined by it; he BECOMES the Bat-signal and is swallowed by the madness and fear of the Scarecrow. Gotham is being cured of an illness and simultaneously developing an unexpected side effect, and the old world mentality of Falcone is being swept away. I found the plight of Falcone to be a moving one, one that deserves more recognition in the Batman franchise.
Greatest Carmine Falcone Story Ever Told: The Long Halloween - When you play with fire, you're gonna get burnt. And Carmine, when you play with supervillains, you're going to get killed. The fall of the most powerful man in Gotham is a riveting, dark journey.
#51 - Great White Shark
First Appearance: Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #1 (Jul 2003)
"Arkham? What's "Arkham"?" ~Great White Shark
Another masterful creation from Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott, Great White Shark is more than anything, the perfect descent into madness. Slott's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell takes a perfectly sane man and drives him to utter distraction, turning him into a monster the likes of which only Gotham can churn out. His origin is truly his best storyline as it is a deep, dynamic tale the bears witness to a truly deep character study.
I think that White's appearances in the New 52 are a hopeful heralding of some good features for him in the future. Despite an amazing opening salvo, White really only had a few other appearances in the old DCU; luckily, White's been in Detective Comics as well as Arkham War in the New 52. A great character that produces sympathy from the reader as well as disgust doesn't come along often enough, and I thought White's origin was definitely one that ranks up their with Batman's other great adversaries. Hopefully the future is bright.
Greatest Great White Shark Story Ever Told: Arkham Asylum: Living Hell - A truly excellent, underrated mini-series that introduced several great new characters as well as telling my second-favorite story about Arkham Asylum. Good stuff.
#50 - Copperhead
First Appearance: Brave and the Bold #78 (Jul 1968)
"What will you tassssssste like?" ~Copperhead
I've been excited to write up this villain for a while; Copperhead is one of those villains who's been around for a long time, appeared all over the DCU, but really doesn't get the credit he deserves. He's honestly a very well-designed villain; Copperhead straddles the line between animal and human extremely well, giving enough of that primal animalistic nature to be threatening while retaining enough human intelligence and behavior to really come across as a cruel and evil human being. That's a hard balance to find, but writers have done it well with Copperhead, making him, in my opinion, the best snake-based character in all of comics (suck it Marvel's Serpent Society).
Copperhead is one of those villains that began in the Batman villain farm league but graduated to the entire DCU; for a while he worked as a cat burglar in Gotham, committing similar crimes to Catwoman but with a more brutal, murderous modus operandi. After a while, he was invited into the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and from there, he's fought against some of the biggest names in the business: the Flash, Justice League International, Elongated Man, Starman, Superboy... it's a long list. He's even been a member in one of the newer incarnations of the Suicide Squad. However, there has always been a tie to Gotham, and time and again he's returned to his original base of operations to menace the Bat.
Copperhead died a great death at the hands of Manhunter Kate Spencer in her short-lived but excellent series, but a new Copperhead was introduced in Arkham Origins. This female Copperhead certainly lives up to the reputation of the original Copperhead, and I think she'd be a worthy replacement if ever introduced into the DCU. Regardless, Copperhead has always been an impressive villain to me thanks to his excellent design and his ability to fit into nearly any superhero's franchise as a villain.
Greatest Copperhead Story Ever Told: Starman: Infernal Devices - Not a Batman story? No way - Infernal Devices does an amazing job painting a new side of Copperhead. Copperhead's menace is so excellently displayed when he goes in to buy a transistor radio from one of Starman's antique dealing competitors; instead of fighting or posturing, Copperhead comes across as this dark, creepy predator without even attempting to be a bad guy; that's a sign of a well-written villain.
#49 - Electrocutioner
First Appearance: Detective Comics #644 (May 1992)
"Yeah, Aint it cool "Speedy"?" ~Electrocutioner
Another villain who graduated from the Batman villain stable to the big leagues, Electrocutioner has actually had several guys under the mask, but the third one (Lester) is the one who has had the msot appearances, somewhere in the 50-60 range. A lot of people are familiar with him as the loser who gets ONE PUNCHED by Batman in Penguin's boat in Arkham Origins, but I think it's a disservice to the character to assume that's all he should be remembered for. In fact, the entire sequence of Batman shocking Bane's heart back to life comes from a great Electrocutioner story where Electrocutioner kills Batman and Robin forces him to defibrillate the Dark Knight; great stuff, that really put Lester in the majors for me.
Electrocutioner is a low-level villain with great design and the ability to play with others, and for me that makes him a great threat; when villains unite, the results are always unique team-ups that force heroes to find new problem-solving skills. The Electrocutioner may not be an instantly summoned character, but his uses all over the place - from his time as Blockbuster's lieutenant to his run ins with Spoiler and Robin to his run on the Suicide Squad to his tangles with the JLA alongside other villains have really put him up there in the threat department. And, while the end of Cry for Justice was awful, Electrocutioner definitely earned himself a major rep boost by killing Arsenal's daughter and blowing up most of Star City.
Greatest Electrocutioner Story Ever Told:Detective Comics #644-645 - "Electric City" - The quintessential Electrocutioner story, E-man proves that despite his lack of reputation, he still can take down the Bat.
#48 - Wrath
First Appearance: Batman Special #1 (Jun 1984)
" That's the difference between us, Batman. You try not to kill, but me... I've made a career out of it." ~Wrath
Batman has so many doppelgangers that he makes Spider-Man's clone saga look like an unfortunate Halloween costume party, but the Wrath has stood out for me as a very memorable character. The Wrath's origin is a twisted mirror version of Batman's; his parents were burglars gunned down by a police officer, causing the Wrath to devote his life in a campaign of revenge against law enforcement officers. He dedicate himself to training himself to peak physical condition, and his costume is a warped reflection of Batman's.
Wrath's obsessive campaign eventually brings him information that links Jim Gordon to his parent's death, and ever since, the Wrath has time and time again attempted to kill Gordon in revenge. Batman and the Wrath clash occasionally, and it works wonderfully, since there is no better test than to essentially fight yourself (although the Wrath uses guns where Batman, of course, does not). Wrath also adds a new dimension of fallibility to Jim Gordon, which is welcome and fresh; I've always found that when a villain actually enhances another character's personality or story, that's a major success. These days, the Wrath is kicking around the new 52 in John Layman's excellent run on Detective Comics.
Greatest Wrath Story Ever Told: Detective Comics #22-24, Detective Comics Annual #2 - John Layman's take on the Wrath is, of course, very new; that said, it's been fantastic. Here's a character that despite being around for a while can still feel fresh, original, and menacing. Great stuff.
#47 - Maxie Zeus
First Appearance: Detective Comics #483 (May 1979)
"Eat of my body, drink of my blood... the ambrosia of the gods." ~Maxie Zeus
We consider superheroes to be the modern equivalent of Greek heroes and gods, so it seems only fitting that the Hades of the DC Pantheon would face off against a Zeus every now and then. I love Maxie Zeus despite people's general apathy towards him; he's got the dialogue, the ridiculous plans and the complete psychosis that makes him one of the top-tier Arkham inmates. Maxie is fun because he can be fought with, of course, but it's more entertaining to outwit him by using knowledge of Greek mythology. Has he kidnapped a girl claiming she was Aphrodite? Just remind him that Aphrodite is betrothed to his son Hephaestus, and Maxie will reluctantly return her to her family and himself to Arkham. I love how he can be so utterly convenient and hilariously entertaining if need be.
Maxie Zeus, and this isn't pointed out enough, is actually a brilliant tactician. He has repeatedly found ways to take over the entirety of the Gotham underworld when a vacuum emerges, and his grip on it is swift and absolute; I don't think people ever realize that at times it's taken TEAMS of heroes to remove him from power (ie: the Outsiders). That's a credit to his resourcefulness and intelligence. He's even formed a strange yet perfect partnership with the REAL Greek god Ares in a bid for power that drew Wonder Woman into the fray. Pretty good for a guy with no superpowers whatsoever. Push comes to shove, Maxie Zeus can be a thrilling, menacing and entertaining villain all in the same story, and that's a great accomplishment in my book.
Greatest Maxie Zeus Story Ever Told:Batman and the Outsiders #14-15 - The Outsiders are trying to take down Maxie Zeus, but they're forced to take on his lackeys in an athletic competition reminiscent of the Olympic games. A great showcase for both the heroes and Maxie, stretching heroes to their limits is something only the great villains get the chance to do, and Maxie does it brilliantly.
#46 - Mad Hatter
First Appearance: Batman #49 (Oct 1948)
"You are trying to understand madness with logic. This is not unlike searching for darkness with a torch." ~Mad Hatter
Mad Hatter... God, it's so hard to rate you.
On the one hand, there are so many terrible, terrible, terrible Mad Hatter stories, where he goes from being a decent villain to pretty much an outright pedophile with no abilities other than to simply lust after small girls. Not unlike PokeWars. ZING!
Sorry, that was low.
Yet, despite a ton, and I do mean a literal TON of terrible appearances, I have a soft spot for the guy because conceptually, he's quite an amazing character. The mix of low level villainy with an unusual form of mind control and wrapped into a creepy usage of a well-known piece of literature works extremely well in the Batman universe, as it just enhances that side of the rogues gallery that's all about the circus sideshow freak aspect of Gotham. And the stories that nail Hatter, they real nail Hatter. I loved his appearance in the comic Arkham Asylum, and his turn as a Secret Six member was extremely underrated. Neal Adams did a great Hatter story, and his usage on BTAS was also fantastic; Hatter gets a bad rap for bad stories, yet there are a lot of hidden gems out there that show that a GOOD Hatter can be just as riveting, insane and evil as a Joker or a Two-Face.
Greatest Mad Hatter Story Ever Told: Detective Comics #758-760 - One of the first stories after No Man's Land also contains one of my personal favorite covers of all time and it's a Hatter cover (check out Detective Comics #759). Honestly, Unknowing is one of if not the greatest story no one ever remembers; it does a great job helping to set up a new Gotham City status quo by utilizing the GCPD extremely well in this story that takes Hatter and uses him as an excellent allegorical representation of Starbucks. Amazing stuff.
#45 - KGBeast
First Appearance: Batman #417 (Mar 1988)
" Little brat. Batman's brat. I am remembering you. I am cutting you to ribbons." ~KGBeast
First off, let me say, KGBeast is possibly one of the most hilarious characters in the Batman franchise. Maybe even THE most hilarious; I say this only because, well, read any of his dialogue. It's the most amazing broken English ever, utter perfection in failed syntax, and combined with his imposing presence and threatening abilities... I mean, you can't help but laugh when he tries to say something threatening and it comes off as "You am to be breaking now."
On the flip side, I've always liked my B-list villains when they get some time to shine. My personal first encounter with KGBeast was in Cataclysm, where he served as the big bad in Blackgate: Isle of Men, essentially murdering the main character of that story before busting out of Dodge. Going back, it's interesting to see where KGBeast has been since his debut; obviously set up to be a Cold War antagonist for Batman, his debut in 1988 gave him just one year of relevancy in that regard before the fall of the Soviets and the need to send KGBeast into mercenary mode, which really is the way I'm glad he went; working for other villains and also pulling off solid solo jobs means that KGBeast was one of the more versatile villains in the Batman arsenal, constantly providing new uses for the character.
James Robinson killed off KGBeast at a time when I think it was a good choice; despite being a good character, no one was really utilizing him for anything other than villain group appearances; that said, new day, new 52. Let's try to bring the guy back to relevancy.
Greatest KGBeast Story Ever Told: Batman #417-420 - "Ten Nights of the Beast" - You know what was a great origin story? Ten Nights of the Beast. I honestly loved this tale, and it centered mostly around KGBeast trying to kill Ronald Reagan, with Batman, of course, called in to stop it. Great use of a new character.
#44 - Gentleman Ghost
First Appearance: Flash Comics #88 (Oct 1947)
"Many heroes make enemies that last a lifetime." ~Gentleman Ghost
Even though he's primarily a Hawkman villain, Gentleman Ghost has tangled with pretty much the entire DCU. Maybe not Hitman. But everyone else, at least. And of course that means he's had his run-ins with the Dark Knight, and what run-ins they were! Some of my favorite stories from the Silver Age are Gentleman Ghost tales, as Batman must find new ways to defeat a type of foe he doesn't normally encounter.
Gentleman Ghost encounters always took Batman into new surroundings; I think the oldest story I've seen Batman riding a horse in was a Gentleman Ghost story. It's always a very Halloween-themed setting when the Ghost faces Batman, an air of unease and decay is always painting the sky over their battles, creating in my opinion some of the best backdrop and emotional settings for a hero and villain to fight against.
You may not think of him as a Gotham villain, but most of the DCU would beg to differ - even the Joker considers him a Batman villain, and he invites him to help stop Killer Croc from killing Batman (that's a loooong story). GG just happens to get a lot of mileage in the DCU, battling Flashes, Lanterns, the JSA, the JLA, the Hawks, Superman, alongside the Secret Society of Super-Villains and also alongside the Injustice League. His long rap sheet just means that he's got a smorgasbord of heroes to choose from on any given heist, and that's the type of villain I love to see Batman go against. When you get an established DCU villain and drop them into a new franchise, great things can happen.
Greatest Gentleman Ghost Story Ever Told: Despite several great Silver Age tales with Batman, I gotta go with Hawkman #7, where Hawkman and Hawkgirl's Old West incarnations Nighthawk and Cinnamon fight the living Jim Craddock. A great story told by Hawkman-master scribe James Robinson.
#43 - Mister Zsasz
First Appearance: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1 (Jun 1992)
"Man needs no divine assistance. He makes himself! I chose to exterminate the zombies. I chose to kill. But I hurt myself, too -- to remind me that even I am only human!" ~Zsasz
Another tough character to rank.
Zsasz has everything going for him - he's easily one of the most frightening villains to appear in ANY rogues gallery, let alone Batman's. He's got a dark, disturbing, memorable personality with an appearance that is simple yet hard to forget. I think most every hardcore Batman fan would say he's one of the best second-tier villains in Batman's arsenal.
So what's the catch? Name your favorite Zsasz story.
That's what I thought.
Zsasz has a surprisingly major lack of great stories; I could really only come up with one that I thought was truly great, but aside from that, Zsasz has been kicked all over the Batman world in stories that portray him well, but ultimately come off as mediocre. It's sort of an interesting conundrum - how can a character always seem to be "great" and yet all of the stories he appears in be less than? As much as I love Zsasz's murderous personality and psychotic justifications, he's getting serious points off for a lack of anything remotely resembling a good back catalog. And then, of course, there's the terrible portrayal of him in the Arkham games, where he pretty much comes off as a one punch punk in both Asylum and City. No boss fight, no clever deathtraps, just rambling incoherence and ridiculously easy puzzles to solve. Someone show this guy some respect so he can move up on my list, eh?
Greatest Zsasz Story Ever Told: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #4 - A great, chilling tale with Gordon, Batman and Robin hot on the heels of the murderous Zsasz; really demonstrates his threat level and also his psychosis well.
#42 - Simon Hurt
First Appearance: Batman #156 (Jun 1963)
"I am the hole in things! I bring hell on Earth and to the world debasement!" ~Simon Hurt
How do you kill Batman without killing Batman? Well, Simon Hurt figured it out, kind of, except like a week later Batman ended up killed, but not really. Um... let me start again.
Simon Hurt consumed the front half of Grant Morrison's Batman run with brilliance, malevolence and a touch of maddening persistence. I honestly don't know how Batman would've gotten to this new plateau of comic popularity without Hurt's long-running machinations as he orchestrated everything from the Black Glove to Batman RIP to most of Batman and Robin. It's just a fantastic, fantastic plot that unfolds over the course of YEARS of Batman stories, and it was a joy from start to finish.
The pieces of Simon Hurt's gambit are cobbled from all over the Batman mythos - goofy Silver Age stories like Zur-En-Arrh and the Club of Heroes, the Barbatos story from the amazing Dark Knight, Dark City, pieces of Robinson's Face the Face and more. However, in Hurt you have this just thrilling uniting force that brought so many disparate relics of Batman's past and made them new, fresh and riveting again. Batman needs great, clever, sick villains to really give him the challenges that readers can relish in, and for me, Simon Hurt is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Greatest Simon Hurt Story Ever Told: Batman R.I.P. - Hurt comes so damn close to winning in this story, with all sorts of strings being pulled as the world unravels around Bruce Wayne. I was in awe the entire time this story unfolded - Simon Hurt knows precisely what to do at every turn and corner. An amazing, amazing story that stretches Batman past his limits.
#41 - Onomatopeia
First Appearance: Green Arrow #12 (Mar 2002)
Bang. Crash. Hkk. Wheeze. Tap. Tick. Tock. Boom.
Villains don't get much creepier than this, and furthermore, it takes a great villain to migrate from one franchise to another and be equally successful. That's what Onomatopoeia did, however, when Kevin Smith brought him from the Green Arrow world over to the Bat-franchise in Cacophony and the Widening Gyre. O-man is perfectly suited for the Bat-world of Gotham; his psychosis and murderous tendencies are pitch perfect alongside folks like Zsasz and Joker, but there's so much more to him that just the killing. It's how he does it, so merciless and almost with a detached coldness that breeds a dark, brutal humor. Onomatopoeia is a great exercise in human insanity, and I love what he brought to the table in the short time prior to the New 52.
Greatest Onomatopoeia Story Ever Told: Batman: The Widening Gyre - You thought Hurt's machinations were brilliance incarnate? Let's talk Onomatopoeia in the Widening Gyre. Literally saying anything about it is a spoiler of the highest order, but just trust me; it's amazing. Amazing. When I think of the few characters who actually "beat" Batman, the list is extremely short, and alongside some of the big guns like Joker and Riddler, Onomatopoeia gets to put his name on this auspicious list. There's a demented, superintelligent mind that offers so much more than a serial killer, but a master strategist, a psychological mastermind of the highest order.
#40 - Doctor Phosphorus
First Appearance: Detective Comics #469 (May 1977)
"I wonder if I should kill you now... or just give you cancer." ~Dr. Phosphorus
Debuting in a story I talked about earlier (Strange Apparitions, which I mentioned in Rupert Thorne's bio as one considered one of the greatest Batman stories ever), Doctor Phosphorus has always been a tragic sort of character that fits in well with the other freaks in the Batman arsenal. After he was disfigured, Phosphorus found himself at odds with the Bat AND with Thorne, but things would really get interesting years later when the new Satan, Neron, offered him an upgrade to his powers. I really loved the new effects the juiced-up powers had on Phosphorus; now not only was his appearance a source of derision, but his very touch destroyed everything around him without pause.
I've always enjoyed seeing Phosphorus in action; he's had run-ins with every Bat-character, and each time our heroes must find brand new ways to defeat a guy whose very touch poisons them with radiation. It's all about utilizing their environments, demonstrating unique tactics, and taking down what I consider a higher-end threat in Gotham. Outside of the fighting situation, I think his design and personality is extremely unique; the glowing skeleton is extremely memorable, and his dark resignation over his fate makes him a sort of curmudgeonly aloof villain that is always entertaining with other villains.
Also, I want to make note of his fantastic portrayal in Batman Beyond - I know this is going to sound odd, but of all the older villains brought into Beyond, Phosphorus is the most interesting to watch.
Greatest Doctor Phosphorus Story Ever Told: Starman: A Day in the Life and Starman: Grand Guignol - Directly after Phossy gets his new abilities from Neron, Robinson dropped him into Starman where he developed a rivalry with the original (now senior citizen) Ted Knight Starman. Of course, after getting your ass handed to you by an octogenarian, a villain's first priority is going to be taking him down and proving himself to not be a joke. What results is a great plotline spanning all of Starman - that's how great of a villain Phosphorus can be: he's worthy of a series-long B-plot in perhaps the single greatest series ever written.
#39 - Owlman
First Appearance: Justice League of America #29 (Aug 1964)
"We'll conquer this planet, raze its cities, and reduce it to ash. For a start." ~Owlman
Why do I like Owlman? Because he's a douchebag, and a great one. Owlman, as many of you may know is the Earth-3 doppelganger of Batman, his evil opposite in many distinct way. Except when he's the Earth-2 doppelganger. Or the Antimatter Universe doppelganger. It gets confusing.
Regardless, Owlman is extremely charismatic and in many ways is probably the most competent member of the Crime Syndicate; the guy is banging his universe's Lois Lane right in front of Ultraman, and Ultraman can't do **** about it. Now THAT is the sort of power you can't buy, right? In all seriousness, though, Owlman and the entire Crime Syndicate has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Multiverse because when it comes right down to it, we love to see equally matched fights, and you really can't beat the evil doppelganger aspect. Especially when you're part of a universe that is pretty much an evil counterpart to the one we know and love, it provides us a great chance to dissect the psyche of a vigilante. What is really the difference between Owlman and Batman? Power. It's the ultimate corrupter and the ultimate cross to bear. Owlman lusts for it, and Batman loathes it, yet they both operate outside the conventional system of society to achieve their goals. In fact, they both, in their very actions, rewrite the laws of civilization for their worlds by their very existence. And that's what I love about comic books; even the simplest concepts, like Owlman, provide a really deep character study into more profound concepts.
Greatest Owlman Story Ever Told: JLA: Earth 2 - A brilliant tongue-in-cheek look at the Authority from Wildstorm is played out with the Crime Syndicate, as the JLA must go head-to-head with egomaniacal self-centered psychopathic doppelgangers and help a battered hero in the form of Lex Luthor protect two worlds from total domination. Owlman is easily my favorite character in this story.
#38 - David Cain
First Appearance: Batman #567 (Jul 1999)
"First thing's first. I need a drink." ~Cain
David Cain. Easily one of the most skilled, most depraved individuals to grace this list; he's got the raw talent of a Deadshot mixed with the utter disregard for humanity of a Deathstroke, and I love him for it. Primarily Cassandra Cain's biggest antagonist, Cain brought Cassandra up, and raised her on a language that centered around using violent attacks to convey communications; the reason Cass Cain was mute for several years was because of Cain's brutal parentage, and it has always haunted me that someone, even a villain, could be so cold to their child. It's extremely moving to see Cass face her father on numerous occasions, and only out of a well-designed monster like Cain could you get such an emotional reaction.
Then there's a storyline that we all remember as being one of the biggest, baddest moments in the Dark Knight's career, Bruce Wayne: Fugitive. Remember that one? Back when Bruce Wayne was framed for murder and we spent a year in all the titles trying to figure out who set him up? That giant, elaborate ruse was easily one of the most impressive plans ever executed in any comic, and it was all Cain's. I mean, it was a true chesslike strategy, moving heroes and villains and cops and businessmen all over Gotham and pulling strings without ever leaving a fingerprint. Brilliant, menacing, evil, twisted, excellent stuff. This is why Cain ranks so highly on this list; you just can't beat the combo meal of brains and brutality.
Greatest Cain Story Ever Told: Batgirl #65 - Cain escapes from prison to visit his daughter Cassandra, and then he goes back to prison. No one ever figures out he escaped. I just love that. I mean, that is just about one of the greatest moments for any villain. "I could escape whenever I want, but I'm just letting you guys incarcerate me."
#37 - Professor Hugo Strange
First Appearance: Detective Comics #36 (Feb 1940)
"You know the sort of people I've gone up against, so you know I don't say this lightly... but the Joker? Riddler? Croc, Scarecrow and the others? He's in their league. Only without the crippling psychoses to cloud his judgment." ~Batman
Strange. A lot of people don't recognize him as one of the top-tier Batman villains, but if you stop for a moment to examine Hugo Strange's record, you'll see that Strange is easily one of the most intriguing, cerebral villains in the Batman arsenal. The beautiful thing about Hugo Strange is that he just as easily can sway public opinion through his eloquent patterns of speech as he can get into Batman's head with his superintelligent use of psychological tactics. It's hard to describe the pattern Strange uses, but that's simply because there really is no pattern: Strange's motives seem to range the entire spectrum of villainy, and his actions mirror that. Strange has never tried the same thing twice, and that makes him amazing.
Just look at some of the great stories Strange has been a crucial part of: Batman: Prey, Strange Apparitions, Batman: Terror, Batman: Transference, Catwoman: The Ones You Love, Arkham City... I mean, these are greatest hits-level stories for Batman, let alone a B-list villain. Give me Hugo Strange any day, and despite him not being memorable in appearance or personality, he will certainly leave an impression on you with the sort of mind games that prove a level of intelligence and evil that is nearly unparalleled.
Greatest Hugo Strange Story Ever Told: Batman and the Monster Men - In an amazing retelling of Batman's first encounter with Strange, Batman must stop a group of Arkham inmates experimented on by Hugo Strange while in the employ of Sal Maroni. Strange is fit perfectly into the early Batman years alongside the old school mobsters and proves a perfect match for an untested, young Dark Knight.
#36 - Firefly
First Appearance: Detective Comics #184 (Jun 1952)
"No! Not YOU again!" ~Firebug
Firefly has always been a personal favorite villain of mine, since he's the little villain that could. After his debut, he disappeared for years, and was dug out almost 10 years later for his next go-round; from there, Firefly slowly developed interesting B-plots like his rivalry with Firebug; he even gained prominent story arcs in several major Bat-events such as Cataclysm and No Man's Land. Here's a guy that barely made it into Batman: The Animated Series, yet is quite memorable in his turn in The Batman. Here's a guy that was killed off in OMAC Project, only to get a reprieve from editorial and be returned in Villains United: ICS. Here's a guy that, despite editorial asking otherwise, was DEMANDED by two different writers to be used AT THE SAME TIME. Here's a guy that went from being an afterthought on BTAS to be extremely memorable on Arrow. Here's a guy who went from a one-shot post Golden-Age villain to one of the highlights of Batman: Arkham Origins.
What makes Firefly work? For me, it's the psychosis born out of a fiery origin. His mind is set, his goals made clear - some men just want to watch the world burn, and even the Joker would have to admit that Firefly's desire for destruction can sometimes even go beyond that of the Clown Prince's. Watching Firefly move around in the DCU, from his tangles with Batman to Batgirl to the Outsiders to even the Justice League, it's like watching a lost soul attempt to lash out at a world that can't provide him what he thinks he so desperately needs. Firefly needs help, needs treatment, but instead he finds time and time again that no one is willing to stand in his corner; he's a pitiable character without being pitiful, and for me that makes him a great, sympathetic villain I can still root against.
Greatest Firefly Story Ever Told: Batgirl: Year One - Firefly is pitch-perfect in his tangles with the newly-minted Babs-Batgirl in this amazing story written by one guy who knows his Barbara: Chuck Dixon. Just a great all-around mini-series.
#35 - Man-Bat
First Appearance: Detective Comics #400 (Jun 1970)
" Dear God. Is this what I have become? More animal than man. When will the surrender be complete?" ~Man-Bat
It's not often that a character introduced in an anniversary issue pans out and comes a fan-favorite, but Man-Bat is probably the one of the best ones to have bucked that trend. The really interesting thing about Man-Bat is that in many ways, he was a major first for Batman; the introduction of Man-Bat was also the introduction of Neal Adams to the Batman franchise, effectively ending the reign of the lighter, sillier era of the Batman TV series and returning Batman to the darker, more gothic roots of the 30s. A lot of people point to Adams as the end of Batman's Silver Age stories, but I point to Man-Bat as a character who defined that change.
Kirk Langstrom is a perfect character for Batman to tangle with, right there in the vein of a Mary Shelley-type misunderstood brute who can't properly articulate his needs or desires. A Jekyll-Hyde story at its core, mixed with a little bit of Hulk or Invisible Man, Langstrom's transformation leaves an umistakable impression of Curt Connors origin as the Lizard - a man consumed by science, a family left confused, saddened and in peril, a hero who must face a mirror of himself (for Spider-Man it was another individual changed by science, for Batman it was facing someone swallowed by the iconography of the Bat). I think, having read my fair share of comics, that having a hero face a tangible cautionary tale of falling too far down their own rabbit hole gives the reader a chance to see why said hero IS a good guy. What Connors lacked, what Langstrom lacked, what Jekyll lacked... it's all the same thing: moderation. Batman is tempered by an enormous willpower, and that's why he's a BatMAN and not a MAN-Bat. Great characters like Langstrom help us define heroes in ways that aren't readily apparent to readers, but linger long after we finish reading their tales. That's a great villain.
Greatest Man-Bat Story Ever Told: I LOVE the episode "On Leather Wings" from Batman: The Animated Series; this is a tightly scripted episode that uses sparse dialogue and a really quite perfect set of action-based scenes to convey the suspense and danger of Man-Bat and also point out the dichotomy and similarity between Bruce and Kirk. Great stuff.
#34 - Solomon Grundy
First Appearance: All-American Comics #67 (Oct 1944)
"Born on a Monday. Christened on Tuesday. Married on Wednesday. Took ill on Thursday. Worse on Friday. Died on Saturday. Buried on Sunday. Is this the end of Solomon Grundy?" ~Solomon Grundy
When I think of the villains who are the most "Gotham", really no one fulfills that more than Solly the Grund (as Jack Knight calls him in Starman). After all, he's literally made of the Slaughter Swamp within the Gotham City limits. Hell, he's been menacing Gothamites for years prior to Joker or Catwoman or the like; Solly was taking on good ol' stick-up-his-butt Alan Scot back in WW2! So in terms of experience, Solly takes the cake.
And yeah, I could point out how he's a capable antagonist for nearly every hero; he can take on Superman, or the JSA, or Batman, or the JLA, or Green Lantern, or Dr. Fate. He can be a visually intriguing boss fight in Arkham City and then be a threat to Amazo in JLU and you never feel that there's a mismatch; that's the beauty of Solly, sure. But the piece I like the most about the Grund is that there's a piece of him that's a gentle soul. I remember when Jade from Infinity, Inc. tamed the brute and befriended him, only to learn that each time Solly is destroyed, he comes back with a new personality. This eventually even led to Jack Knight, Alan Scott and Batman going into Solly's brain and attempting to keep one of his gentle, kind personalities from dying; in probably one of the most moving stories I've ever read, Batman even tries to save the life of a brute who had time and again attempted to rip him apart; and when the team fails, you can tell that it took a deep toll on the Dark Knight. Because, at his core, Grundy isn't monster, he's a lost child. If someone cold only bring out the good in him... ah, but those wishes, those idle dreams of happiness.
That's what makes a good villain.
Greatest Solomon Grundy Story Ever Told: If you disagree with this video as mu choice, then you are objectively wrong:
#33 - Bad Samaritan
First Appearance: Outsiders #3 (Jan 1986)
"The term checkmate is flawed. It suggests a game is over... but the game is about to begin." ~Bad Samaritan
Here's my highest ranked "obscure" villain for you guys; back when Batman was headlining in the Outsiders, there were several underrated villains brought into existence, but one that I've always found particularly intriguing was the Bad Samaritan. Samaritan is really unique in that he doesn't fight; he's just a mouth pressed to the ear of people in power. He utilizes contacts in "high places" to worm his way to world leaders from Markovia to Georgia to Zambia, and every time, he sews the underpinnings of a much more elaborate global chess game that he seems to be playing with persons unknown. He has a huge resource of espionage intelligence and political goings-on, and he seems to constantly be in the know of how things work.
What makes Bad Samaritan so amazing is that he's a mental match for Batman (and the Outsiders); Samaritan is never captured, never brought down in any of his entanglements with whoever he faces, whether it be Batman himself, the Outsiders, JLI, the Suicide Squad, etc. He's just a keen, resourceful mind that seems to always be a step ahead in planning and execution. That's a modern-day Moriarty; someone with an agenda and the faculties to see it through, and for me that's a great villain.
Greatest Bad Samaritan Story Ever Told: Checkmate: Castling - Samaritan was brought into Checkmate (which seems like such an obvious move in retrospect) in the final storyline of that series, eventually earning himself the rank of the White Queen's Bishop. Given his amazing abilities in the espionage and intelligence departments, this was a match made in cloak and dagger heaven, and he was so perfectly suited for it.
#32 - Penguin
First Appearance: Detective Comics #58 (Dec 1941)
"Penguin party in my pants." ~Penguin (This is an actual quote)
It's interesting - Penguin was easily the worst of the major Batman villains for about 50 years, and then suddenly people started figuring out what to do with him. So throughout the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages, I think nearly every single outing of the Penguin was some sort of comically bad goofy bird-pun-riddled mockrey of good comics. And then somewhere in the 90s it happened: Penguin began to be a sort of information broker and criminal black market master running things out of the Iceberg Lounge. It's amazing what a change of venue can do for a character.
When Penguin is working as a master of the Lounge, a true linewalker in criminal pursuits, attempting to keep his business straddling the dark gray between the black and white in order to turn a double dose of cash. That's the way the Penguin is meant to be; smart, a little bit mean, a little bit rough, but ultimately a gruff, intelligent, saavy businessman, and not a goofy idiot with a fetish for fowl. Save yourself some time and ignore everything pre-Crisis with the Penguin, because if you're like me, you're looking for the Penguin from Emperor Penguin. You're looking for the guy from Arkham City. So let's just celebrate that a character lost in a mire of terrible puns has been given new life and turned into an interesting fleshed-out character that is always available to help you... so long as you're willing to pay the right price.
Greatest Penguin Story Ever Told: Penguin: Pain and Prejudice - Forget everything you ever thought about Oswald Cobblepot. In P&P, you're going to be introduced to a character you've never seen before - Oswald Cobblepot. In one of the most amazing reinventions to come out of the New 52, Penguin is everything you never knew you wanted. Just a phenomenal story.
#31 - Mister Freeze
First Appearance: Batman #121 (Feb 1959)
"Of course, I know about bad luck... that's one of the lessons that this city teaches us all, eventually." ~Mister Freeze
We all know the origin of Mister Freeze... but do you know WHERE that origin, erm, originated? Surprisingly, it was put together on Batman: The Animated Series, decades after Freeze first debuted in comics. Similarly to the Penguin, up until someone found a new and unique voice for Freeze, Victor languished in years of poorly-written comically silly Batman stories. However, with the introduction of a dark, tragic backstory, suddenly Fries has become the Freeze we know and love today.
Victor is an oddity; I've found that the best renditions of the character come from non-comics media; Batman: The Animated Series and the Arkham games did an excellent, excellent job demonstrating both his threat and his internal suffering. One thing I really like about Freeze is that he's not really an insane villain like other Bat-enemies; he knows he's being shouted down by his louder demons, but he's truly just too weak to prevent it from happening. It's yet another excellent example of how the Dark Knight truly has a legendary willpower and can stand where others bend and fall; for me, that's the best part of Mister Freeze, and when he's written well, he not only comes across as a character you don't necessarily want to root against, but he also helps to enforce the iconography of Batman as a zenith of human fortitude.
Greatest Mister Freeze Story Ever Told:: To this day, the Batman: The Animated Series story "Heart of Ice" is easily the best Freeze story you could ask for; I've never been so moved for any individual villain in Batman's arsenal as I was for Freeze. It's a tremendous and impactful episode that has had major implications on the franchise ever since.
#30 - Calendar Man
First Appearance: Detective Comics #259 (Sep 1958)
"Thirty days have September, April, June and November." ~Calendar Man
Calendar Man. There's something I really can't pinpoint, but when I read a Calendar Man story, he gives off more of a dark, sinister vibe in his simple glances and asides than a big name villain Loki or Red Skull might in an entire master plan. How is that? Because I think artists really take to his design and find the blank palette to be a paradise for deconstruction on the human features, where every line can help to convey the evil that lurks beneath. And this couples perfectly with Calendar Man's dialogue - sparse, full of a tension built on not knowing what hides behind his eyes. It's truly, truly one of the most underappreciated aspects of villainy - the face.
A lot of people know Calendar Man from his brief appearance in Arkham City, but I know that a lot of my friends found him extremely disturbing and intriguing - that's a testament to having that magical quality that draws readers to a villain despite them being, well, a villain. It's a difficult balancing act to find and, despite what should be a goofy premise for a character (a man obsessed with the significance of dates and times, using them to orchestrate crimes and murders), it works perfectly. If you look at Calendar Man, in many ways he's a great riff on the Zodiac Killer's assumed personality; so many similarities between his intent, his dialogue compared with Zodiac's writings, it all goes well together. And lest we forget, he is one of the central characters in the beloved Jeph Loeb-Tim Sale Batman trilogy: Dark Victory most especially. His role in that titanic, landmark story truly reinforces how much of a force Calendar Man can be.
Greatest Calendar Man Story Ever Told: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #7-9 - What's one of the most amazing stories you've never heard of? "The Misfits" by beloved scribe Alan Grant, drawn by iconic artist Tim Sale. A new villain arrives on the scene and is recruited into long-existing but first-appearing organization of villains in Gotham - the Misfits. The group is such a unique amazing chemistry from a really unusual membership: Clock King, Catman and Killer Moth. But the real key to the success of the story is Calendar Man's inclusion. Really, really good stuff if you can get your hands on it.
#29 - Clock King
First Appearance: World's Finest #111 (Aug 1960)
"Time waits for one man." ~Clock King
William Tockman may seem like an odd choice for this high on the list, but let me tell you one thing that will be tough to debate: Clock King is one of the few villains to be supremely successful in multiple mediums of entertainment. His episode of BTAS is easily one of the most memorable and enjoyable ones, and his tangles with Batman and others in comics are often quite entertaining. Despite first running into Green Arrow, Tockman quickly moved to Gotham where he had some very inventive run-ins with the Bat in the 70s and 80s. To me, Clock King is one of the hidden gems of Batman comics in the Bronze Age.
Clock King also has had a couple interesting moments on Batman: Brave and the Bold, as well as having recently been cast for the awesome TV show Arrow; this is a villain that is in demand by creators, as he is intelligent, megalomanical and ultimately works well in both a physical capacity as a villain as well as a intellectual or leadership role. He can transition from a fight with Batman to leader of a group of villains fighting Robin and the Titans, and that's what a truly versatile villain needs to do; his schtick of clockwork gadgetry isn't always shoved down your throat, but rather is just flavor to the actual content of his appearances, which just helps to give it a unique vibe that remains memorable and helps separate Clock King appearances from other villains, and for me that's what it's all about.
Greatest Clock King Story Ever Told: The answer really should be his episode in BTAS, but I have a real soft spot for "Justice League Antarctica". When Major Disaster brings his Injustice League into the JLI fold, the JLI sets them up as the Justice League for an entire continent. Of course, they can't even protect Antarctica from evil penguins. Yup, JLAntarctica loses to penguins. Clock King is a crucial part of that team.
#28 - Cluemaster
First Appearance: Detective Comics #351 (May 1966)
"We demand justice for the fallen. So I'm calling for everyone who lost someone in the gang war -- be they innocent bystander, police officer, or yes, gangbanger, mobster, or costumed criminal -- to come down to Cathedral Square tomorrow and create a memorial. Give voice to those silenced by injustice." ~Cluemaster
We're really coming into the home stretch here, but before we get down to the business of the big, bad final boss-worthy Batman baddies, we gotta make a quick pitstop in the realm of the Batgirl and take a quick peak at HER archnemesis. And, of course, I'm talking about Stephanie Brown's papa Mr. Arthur Brown. AKA? Cluemaster.
Cluemaster has been around nearly 50 years now, but it really wasn't until Justice League Antarctica that he popped up on my radar (what's JLAntarctica? Look at my last write-up for details). Sometime afterwards, the C-list failure began a long and notable tenure as the B-plot focus in Tim Drake's solo series, running time and time again into both Drake and the newly minted hero Spoiler. Spoiler, of course, was Stephanie Brown out of costume, daughter of the Cluemaster. So, in a nice twist that was quite unusual for the time, we had a hero child combating a villain father. For years, that worked extremely well.
The variety that Brown provided was not only to spice up the normal superhero modus operandi, but also to be one of the funniest, biggest failures in the Batman arsenal. Time and time again, Cluemaster truly failed at epic levels, resulting in great guffaws all around. One particular incident I love is when Batman has foiled a Cluemaster plot and Cluemaster is without a vehicle. He actually tries to bum a ride from Batman! I mean, that's just hilarious.
Regardless, the love-hate relationship between Steph and Cluemaster was one of the best parts of the Batman universe, and despite Cluemaster not be truly a BATMAN villain, he's certainly the most important villain to a BATGIRL, so that definitely earns him a notable spot.
Greatest Cluemaster Story Ever Told: If you thought I wasn't going to say War Crimes, then you were soooo wrong. War Crimes is easily one of the best pieces of comic book relevancy resurrection I've seen. After being declared dead 4 or 5 years before, Arthur Brown came back with a vengeance, declaring Batman's vigilante tactics to be child endangerment. All of this, of course, coming on the heels of his own daughter, Stephanie, apparently being killed while serving as Spoiler under Batman's care (also, she was just fired from her Robin post). Cluemaster actually gets a really solid and impressive verbal showdown with the Bat, and it remains a great story even now.
#27 - Clayface (Basil Karlo)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #40 (Jun 1940)
"No one laughs at my work!" ~Barlo Karlo
At the core of the Clayface story is this tenet: Every actor wishes they could become their role, to have a thousand faces, but even when Karlo is granted this gift, it's his true face that he can't escape, that consumes him.
I wanted to start it off by sharing my impression of Karlo, because too often comic readers get bogged down in "This is going to be a great fight" or "This is so overdone" and they miss the beauty of the innate truth within a character. All of Batman's villains left on this list provide a universal truth about the human condition. I think a lot of the purpose of acting is to escape yourself, your own fundamental reality, because there is some iniquity within you that you just want to escape. That's Basil Karlo - he loathes himself, he loves himself, he's torn by the things beyond his control and warped by his own desires. From failed actor to madman is such an easy path to go down - your own self-hatred can twist your mind and do strange, terrible things.
For years Karlo has been floating around the DCU, existing as a primal force emotionally and physically. He often embodies the earth around him, and memorably serves as the final boss in Arkham City for just this reason. His appearances in the cartoons is also fairly memorable (I don't speak of BTAS since that was Matt Hagen using the story of Basil Karlo). Regardless, Karlo is a standby character and a fundamental piece of the Batman world, that without which, I think an inextricable facet of the human condition would likely never be explored in the DCU.
Greatest Basil Karlo Story Ever Told: Joker's Asylum: Clayface - The perfect primer for Basil Karlo, you really fall down the rabbit hole in his origin and began to understand how he's simultaneously monster and messiah to those around him.
#26 - Ventriloquist (Peyton Reiley)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #827 (Mar 2007)
"Yer here fer one reason and one reason only, ya dumb broad and that's to keep yer hand up my backside and not speak unless spoken to--ya get me?" ~Scarface
Ventriloquist COULD have been a great villain; nay, he should have been. However, despite Bat-writers trying to shove him down our throats year after year, readers weren't swayed by his timid demeanor and weak ploys. So, after allow James Robinson to kill him off, DC handed the puppet off to Paul Dini, who went back to the basics and recreated the Ventriloquist from scratch.
Enter Peyton Riley.
In her brief tenure at DC (which ended with the New 52), Peyton became everything Wesker never was. She truly represented a battered and damaged person who became consumed by alternate identity. I really loved how she operated with Scarface; with Wesker, it never really felt like Scarface was in charge so much as Wesker was just an idiot. However, with Riley, the addiction and need for a controlling force to take charge of her life is so well-crafted, that this doll has become a sort-of magic totem to express her rage, her self-hatred and her vitriol towards everyone around her. Here's probably one of the hottest DC characters, and she's been given just the right amount of crazy to maker her sympathetic, endearing and also even more attractive.
But, again, it's all about a Peyton's loss of control; even when she's in control of Scarface who's in control of her, she's really not. Peyton's psychosis is unique in that she found Scarface next to the body of Wesker and believed the puppet spoke to her. As opposed to Wesker who originally crafted and created the persona and appearance of Scarface, Peyton has been consumed by the previous iteration of the puppet, and in a way by Wesker himself. It's like having a specter lurking on your shoulder, almost another entire person determining her fate.
Peyton was just the perfect combination of a lot of things intersecting in just the right way, and in my book she's easily one of the best recreations of a character I've ever seen.
Greatest Peyton Riley Story Ever Told: Detective Comics #850 - The short-lived but dark, hilarious and sadly sweet whirlwind romance of Ventriloquist and Hush. Honestly, this issue has to be one of the most amazing, overlooked gems in all of Batman's history. When Peyton and Hush fall for each other, Hush's mother threatens to withhold all of her fortune from Hush in her will. So, of course, the lovers conspire and help murder anyone who would get in the way. By the end of the story, however, Hush has dumped Riley for being too clingy. It's kind of the most bizarre, twisted, amazing love story you'll ever find, all in that typically Batman way of doing things.
#25 - Ragdoll
First Appearance: Villains United #1 (Jul 2005)
"Oh, dear, not slavers! Why, that's almost nearly the sort of kind of barely a little bit about half as bad as the murderders and despots we normally work for!" ~Rag Doll
While he's mostly recognized for being a part of the Secret Six, Rag Doll has had so many run-ins with Batman and his Bat team and so much association with the Bat-villain community that I would be remiss in not including him in this list.
Merkel is the case study of friendly maniacal psychosis; loyal to his friends to a fault, his digustingly perverse childhood has led to this broke psyche becoming one of the craziest, gentlest, most murderous characters in the DCU. He's constantly contorted into a bizarre, disturbing shape, and his commentary on any given event really seals every appearance with a unique flavor that just isn't duplicated anywhere else in the DCU. Even Joker and Harley, the biggest nutjobs in comics, have a malevolent streak that never seems to end; Ragdoll can move from that same level of disturbing hatred to a strange twisted sweetness and compassion that simultaneously disarms and endears.
One of the greatest Ragdoll moments is a little story that I think sums up the concept of Batman in the DCU perfectly - after Batman's apparent death, Ragdoll runs around wearing a Robin costume until some of the more sane Bat-related characters begin to take umbrage. It's actually quite interesting - Ragdoll helps to demonstrate that there is an underlying respect for Batman even among his less respected enemies, a strange sort of dark code that holds up even after death. I think jester characters like Ragdoll have to exist in order to mock things until they become clear, until their intent is open for all to season. Hidden modicums of respect or heroic fallibilities all seem at the beck and call of a madman, and for that, Ragdoll proves himself one of the best villains DC has to offer.
Greatest Ragdoll Story Ever Told: The Darkest House - One of the best of the Secret Six stories, Ragdoll reveals the fate of the Get Out of Hell Free card, and brings to bear a shockingly sweet motive that begins a truly twisted and excellent tale as only Gail Simone can bring.
#24 - Holiday
First Appearance: Batman: The Long Halloween #1 (Dec 1996)
"Now, look at me. I'm bigger than all of you put together. I am Holiday!" ~Holiday
Ask any connoisseur of the Bat what the Top 5 Greatest Batman stories are, and inevitably Batman: The Long Halloween will wind up on that list. Now why is that, you ask? I would venture a guess that it's all about the intricate, winding plan set up by the brilliant one-time villain, Holiday. Holiday is easily one of the greatest masterminds to grace the pages of comics, and his magnum opus, the tale of the Long Halloween is invaluable in shaping the career of the Bat. After all, Holiday's master plan ultimately results in bridging the gap between Batman's early career against lower-level threats of mobsters and the major threats of supervillains; Long Halloween is a part of the Batman myth that without which, Batman really wouldn't be the character he is today.
And look at all of the things that result from Holiday's machinations in the Long Halloween: Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face, Carmine Falcone dies, Batman and Catwoman begin their tenuous romantic relationship, Sal Maroni winds up dead... the list goes on and on, and it's all thanks to one simple plan brought about by one man. Of course, Holiday's impact isn't relegated simply to the Long Halloween, but also bleeds into Dark Victory, where the repercussions of Holiday's previous sins catch up with the villain in several unique and terrifying ways, mostly at the hands of the jealous Calendar Man. Regardless, without Holiday, we simply wouldn't have one of the single greatest stories to feature Batman. Period. End of discussion.
Greatest Holiday Story Ever Told: Really? I gotta fill this one in? Let's use some lateral reasoning on this one, capiche?
#23 - Darkseid
First Appearance: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134 (Dec 1970)
"Darkseid is! ~Darkseid
Batman villains come and go, but in the history of the Dark Knight, only one being was able to kill our Caped Crusader, and it took a god. Although, to be fair, Gamemnae killed him in JLA #68 and Electrocutioner not only killed him but brought him back to life. And Ra's al Ghul killed him in an Elseworlds. But, regardless, Darkseid was definitely one of the few guys to kill Batman. Of course, it turned it he didn't actually die. You know what? Let me start this again.
Darkseid is really a perfect figurehead for universal, cosmic evil. He desires utter and absolute control of existence, and all wills must be in unison with his vision. Darkseid desires the hivemind, with himself on the throne at the top; to that end, Darkseid is a perfect example of the extremist facism, primal domination and the bleak despotic endgame that people always fear as the final unstoppable form of tyranny. The reason Batman plays so perfectly when juxtaposed with Darkseid is that Batman plays that ragtag underdog no matter how he comes in with Darkseid as his opposition. Darkseid is a god; Batman is a mortal, and in the scheme of things, a pretty insignificant one. Sure Superman can trade blows with a New God, but Batman? It would take a keen mind, a truly brilliant, quick-witted, clever individual to outmaneuver someone who operates beyond the human level of comprehension. And yet, that's what Batman has done time and time again.
From the JLA's earliest encounters with Apokolips, Batman has consistently been a main player in turning the tides against the armies of Parademons at Darkseid's beck and call. He's faced him in events like Comic Odyssey, Rock of Ages, Final Crisis, the origin of Supergirl in Superman/Batman, etc., and every time Batman's contribution has been to come up with the tactics necessary for the group to take out their overpowered adversary. For me, when Batman is placed into the larger DCU, there's always a question as to why he's given such deference from other heroes, but personally, the tangles with Darkseid serve as the best reminders for why the Dark Knight can stand alongside Superman and the Flash and others and still be seen as one of the best there is.
Greatest Darkseid Story Ever Told: Rock of Ages - Batman must help a disheveled and decimated future JLA in stopping Darkseid from completely taking over Earth. In the end, the Bat has to go toe-to-toe with Darkseid, but uses Darkseid' own powers against him. The parallels between this story and Grant Morrison's OTHER big Batman vs. Darkseid story, Final Crisis, are certainly not coincidental.
#22 - Hush
First Appearance: Batman #609 (Jan 2003)
"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies." ~Hush
Hush is another one of those extremely brilliant minds with a deep understanding of how to play the elusive chess game of villainy; from his very first storyline, it was clear that Tommy Elliot's deep hatred of the Bat has motivated him to learn the ropes of villainy, so much so that he knew how to truly manipulate even the most psychotic Arkham inmate. That right there makes him extremely, extremely dangerous.
But more interesting than that was how truly obsessed Hush is with Bruce Wayne; when Hush went to extravagant lengths to assume Bruce Wayne's identity after his "death", the claim was that Hush was planning on destroying the Wayne legacy. However, the extensive plastic surgeries, the elaborate lengths... I think ultimately Elliot's desire was to stand above Wayne in all aspects of Wayne's life, and he wanted therefore to LIVE as Bruce Wayne better than Bruce Wayne did. An great upshot of this was the extremely well-crafted concept of this sort-of Cold War between Batman's allies and Tommy Elliot; Elliot had to play the role of Wayne without causing damage to that role while Batman's allies were forced to watch on and wait for Hush to step out of line. Several great Hush stories came out of this, and in my opinion the Bruce Wayne doppelganger concept was honestly one of the best changes to a character in years.
Even after Jane Doe skinned Hush's new face to assume it as her own, I think Hush remained an intriguing character; I wish that the New 52 hadn't come in at this point. After all, where would Hush have gone without the face he so desperately needed? Elliot's identity was no longer Elliot; his sole reason for living was gone, essentially. Regardless, the man behind the wraps, Tommy Elliot remains easily the best recent addition to the Batman rogues gallery in the last ten years, and one I'm always thrilled to see.
Greatest Hush Story Ever Told: Batman: Hush is the obvious choice, so I'm gonna give you the next best - House of Hush. Honestly, this was such a psychological piece that really gave some great insight as to what the role of Bruce Wayne meant to Elliot. Great stuff.
#21 - Lady Shiva
First Appearance: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #5 (Jan 1976)
"Her hobby is hunting down the best fighters in the world and beating them to death with her bare hands" ~Oracle
The best part about Lady Shiva, and I think it's something that really stands out about her, is that she has the most unique and interesting set of morals found in any Bat villain. She's definitely not insane like so many of them claim to be, and she isn't adhering to the sort of mafioso rigeurs that you find in the old school mobsters. Even the heroes have more lax morals in some respects. I find that Shiva lives a strict lifestyle based around the exultation of her own honor, and it always demands that those who wrong her face her in a life-or-death situation. Even so, she has more than once saved the life of a Bat-family member, whether it be Tim Drake or Cass Cain or even a Bird of Prey.
Shiva is so unique because she has faced every "street level" hero in DC's arsenal, from the Question to Richard Dragon, all before finally settling into the Batman franchise. She therefore has this huge record of high-level battles as she comes into any story; her history is just as riveting as her present actions. Even though she is certainly a villain, her motives can remain unclear and still surprise; she will find ways to show her respect in an unusual and likely inappropriate manner. When Shiva decided Black Canary was to be her protege, Shiva went to great lengths (even joining the Birds of Prey temporarily) to mold her into the fighter she wanted. However, every one who tangles with her finds new and unique ways to take her down - most recently, Damian Wayne planted poisoned chocolates in her hotel room, so that when they fought hours later, her heart rate rose and she was paralyzed.
No matter with whom she fights, or what her motives are in any given situation, Shiva is a thrill to read, and one of the most complex and engimatic characters in the hall of villains.
Greatest Shiva Story Ever Told: The Paper Monkey Saga - Lady Shiva takes place in a Gotham based martial arts tournament and makes it to the final round, which is against Green Arrow Connor Hawke. However, Robin convinces Shiva to spare his life, which she does. A really interesting story that helps flesh out some of the motives of the Fighting Fury.
#20 - Blockbuster II
First Appearance: Detective Comics #345 (Nov 1965)
"That's the secret, the essential truth of your nature. You could take every beating I dish out. You might even enjoy them. You have absolutely no regard for your personal safety. But the people around you -- well, that's a different matter. Isn't it? I'll take out the people you care about -- hell, even strangers you stand next to on the street -- you won't be able to shake someone's hand without marking them for death. Do you like being alone, Dick? I'll make sure you can't save any of them. Loved one by loved one, innocent by innocent... it'll never stop. I'm never going to stop. I can keep this up forever." ~Roland Desmond
Blockbuster was a super-strong beast fueled by rage. How do you make that character better? Make him a super-strong super-intelligent beast fueled by rage. That's what Chuck Dixon did when he took the recently deceased Mark Desmond's brother, Roland, and sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the unholy marriage of powers and brains.
Cass Cain had her archnemesis in Cain, Steph Brown had her archnemesis in Cluemaster, and my opinion is that Nightwing's archnemesis is easily Blockbuster II. Desmond had a Kingpin-like stranglehold on Bludhaven, turning it into a haven for his own criminal empire, and his hatred and vitriol for Nightwing seemed to know no bounds. He sought vengeance for a crime he mistakenly thought Nightwing had committed, and soon it became clear that his life's work was to tear Dick Grayson's apart. I don't think anyone, even the Joker, has ever so desperately wanted to tear down a Bat-family member's world the way Desmond wanted to destroy Nightwing and it was so utterly perfect. Honestly, from Nightwing #1 to Nightwing #93, Blockbuster's role in the title ultimately produced one of the best runs in the Batman franchise, with consistent quality storytelling month after month, and that's exactly what a good villain does. When the bar for storytelling is raised thanks to your very appearance, you're the type of character we need in comics.
Greatest Roland Desmond Story Ever Told:Birds of Prey #21-22: The Hostage Heart - Blockbuster uses his keen mind to manipulate the Birds of Prey in order to get the heart of a denizen from Gorilla City. Great use of both the brains and the physical condition of Desmond.
#19 - Black Mask
First Appearance: Batman #386 (Aug 1985)
"All the martial arts ninja training in the world doesn't matter a tinker's damn. The only thing that counts is whether or not you have the will to do what needs to be done. That's why I win, even though you beat me." ~Black Mask
Roman Sionis. Sure, you most of you only know him from his extremely lame appearance in Arkham Origins, but if you take the time to go back to his comic roots, you'll find one of the most intelligent and manipulative villains in all of Gotham. From his roots as a criminal mastermind, Sionis upped the ante in ways Gotham had never seen before when he formed the quasi-New Age cult known as the False Face Society. What makes the False Face Society so much more interesting than any of the other Bat-related villain groups or mobs is that its membership is founded upon a zealotry that makes every crime committed part of a religious experience; the use of masks in all of the False Face Society's goings-on helped to shape so many great stories that had to do with "true identity" and what the meaning behind the word face really is. Mask not only brought criminal savvy but also a level of philosophical thought that helped to create some really deep and meaningful tales.
As time has gone on, the False Facers have changed in modus operandi based upon shifts in Black Mask's own thoughts. When Sionis began to see his own mask as punishment, a new disturbing element of self-flagellation emerged in the group; when Mask began to see the Society as a way to prevent his own incarceration, he began to dole out information on his own acolytes. Eventually, however, Mask evolved beyond his cult, resulting in less unique stories.
Regardless, Mask is still one of the best villains in the Batman arsenal with a memorable and distinct personality. And, of course, you can't get moments like this without him:
Greatest Black Mask Story Ever Told: War Games - Brutal, unflinching, dark, brilliant... Black Mask proves he's every bit the mastermind of the top-tier villains by taking down Gotham with Batman's own plans; a vicious story that demonstrates how Sionis could rule Gotham if he chose to.
#18 - Deathstroke
First Appearance: New Teen Titans #2 (Dec 1980)
"This is how fires begin. Little men with big dreams. Long memories. Short imaginations and shorter fuses. And too much time and opportunity. Fires start in the funniest places." ~Deathstroke
Deathstroke has been around the block with nearly every superhero and superteam, but aside from the Titans, Deathstroke comes back to Batman the most. Time after time after time, he finds himself duking it out with the Dark Knight, and for readers, these fights can be some of the best in the business. After all, Batman and Deathstroke are pretty much evenly matches in terms of skill, and Deathstroke actually has the upper hand when you factor in his superpowers and his lack of a compunction not to kill. Some of the best of all Batman fights involve Deathstroke, most recently the one in Arkham Origins which I found to be the best boss fight in any superhero video game.
Of course, it's not all about Deathstroke's fights with Batman; Slade goes after everyone in the Batman world. He dropped Chemo on Bludhaven and completely destroyed it, after all. In Nightwing's book, Deathstroke is one of his biggest enemies (although it helps that Nightwing's Titans Era went toe-to-toe with Deathstroke almost weekly). Deathstroke even took over Damian Wayne's body and fought Nightwing in the most bizarre, unique fisticuffs match I've ever seen, and frankly it was brilliant. Then there was his psychological manipulation of Cass Cain. His battles with the Birds of Prey. His climactic confrontation with Batman in Infinite Crisis' Battle of Metropolis. His play for Gotham alongside Black Mask against the Red Hood. The year Nightwing spent undercover, training with Deathstroke in order to try taking him down, only to result in Deathstroke's daughter carving out her eye with a hunk of kryptonite.
I mean, Deathstroke is as Gotham as you can get without actually being a "true" Batman villain, and that's what makes him such a great opponent with the Bat-family. There's so much history both within the Batman franchise and in the greater DCU that every time Deathstroke shows up, you know exactly what you're getting into. There's going to be an epic battle, there's going to be a really intelligent, thought-out plan, there's going to be pain and suffering, and most importantly, there's going to be some great Batman storytelling.
Greatest Deathstroke Story Ever Told: New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract - Anyone who's ever read Marv Wolfman's New Teen Titans run knows that The Judas Contract is one of the most surprising and shocking stories ever in comics; full of emotional manipulation and betrayal, it shook the Titans to their very core and impacted them in ways that lingered all the way until the beginning of the New 52. Deathstroke's role is truly one of his darkest and greatest.
#17 - Bane
First Appearance:Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (Jan 1993)
” To know thine enemy, you must become thine enemy.” ~Bane
There are two Banes, really. There’s that brutish hulking creature that gets dragged out from time to time to do that back breaking schtick of his, where he rages like a monster and ultimately is a negligible contribution to any given story. But in the right hands, Bane is a beautiful merger of both brain and brawn, a true threat to any hero in the Batman arsenal, and easily one of the most important facets of the Post-Crisis Batman mythos. I can’t stress enough the value an intelligent Bane can play; his code of honor is a rigorous yet enigmatic piece of his personality, where it can always surprise you with acts of kindness or nobility despite the normally visceral nature of his plans. This personality ultimately defines Bane as a quasi-almost-but-not-really-at-all anti-hero, and that’s why, for example, he fit perfectly into the Secret Six.
The number of non-comics media versions of Bane are just ridiculously varied. Naturally, the worst would be the pointless grunting Bane from Batman & Robin, and the best lies somewhere between The Dark Knight Rises and Batman: Arkham Asylum; B:TAS does a decent but ultimately forgettable job, as does The Batman. Regardless, however, the ultimate version of Bane has really developed from his mastermind performance in Knightfall (which unfortunately lay dormant until post-No Man’s Land), a concept that has expanded in the late 00s and early 10s. Bane has become almost a chivalric romantic, a caretaker if need be, and a brutish yet gentle giant. Venom, as a drug, now plays the role of a demon to Bane rather than an enhancement, further creating a deeper, more defined character. If you haven’t had the chance, for example, to catch the Hourman-Bane team-up story from JSA: Classified, there’s a beautiful example of two characters that both relied on drugs for powers but ultimately became subject to said drugs.
Despite some stumbling blocks from poor writers along the way, Bane stands today as one of the A-List, the elite group of Batman villains that always provides a story with needed gravitas. A complete package and well-rounded character, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the value Bane has provided the Batman universe.
Greatest Bane Story Ever Told: Knightfall – What else can I even say? There are lots of great Bane stories, but this one will forever reign as his number one. The sheer level of his manipulation and tactics are only dwarfed by his imposing physical presence, almost serving as the Darkseid of Gotham City. He’s big, he’s bad and he’s unstoppable. A perfect villain to tear Batman down to his very core.
#16 – Talia al Ghul
First Appearance: Detective Comics #411 (May 1971)
”Your move. Beloved.” ~Talia al Ghul
Now we’re into the thick of it. The villains that I adore unabashedly, the baddies that I clamor for more of, that I just never seem to get enough of. And first up in that elite tier is the baby mama herself, Talia al Ghul.
What makes Talia so great for me? First of all, and let’s not neglect this fact: she’s ******* hot. Okay? Capiche? Good, because certain characters go beyond hotness into that otherworldly level of just utter beauty. That’s Talia; she’s one of those once in a generation, worldwide beauties that is purely refined, where her every action seems to somehow exude attractiveness. The only thing I can’t understand is why Batman passed up this sure thing. I mean, I don’t care who you are; if getting to hit that means forsaking a life of crimefighting and becoming the force behind the one thing you hate the most, you do it in a heartbeat.
Anyways, Talia is more than just a pretty face; she has one of the most well-developed personalities in the DCU, one that I feel always continues to evolve in logical but nevertheless riveting ways. She’s grown slowly out of her impetuous youthful ways into a full-fledged A-List leader in her own right, going so far as to even become one of the elite leaders of the Society, which pretty much included every villain aside from Catman. That takes cajones, y’imean? You have to not only exude talent, but a level of confidence that can sway the likes of a Vandal Savage or a Mr. Freeze or even a Bane. It’s an unavoidable sign that her reputation and abilities have blossomed into something on the level of her father.
And, from that level, perhaps further yet again. With the advent of Batman Inc.’s final issues, it’s become clear to all Batman readers that the mother of Batman’s baby (more on that later) is perhaps the biggest adversary he can face in this day and age. Limitless resources at her disposal, and of course an adage that she has proven true several times over recently, “There’s no greater wrath than a woman scorned.” Talia may be beautiful, but her face contorted with rage is something that I think is nightmarish; there’s a monster that lurks behind her eyes as she conducts her symphonies of destruction, and for me, that makes her impossibly interesting.
And the baby. Right. You know what’s even more hardcore than killing Batman? Raping Batman. And let’s count the number of villains who have raped the Dark Knight. One. Uno. Guess who? Spoiler alert: Talia al Ghul. So Damian Wayne, probably the most integral addition to the Batman franchise post-Infinite Crisis, would never have come to be without Talia. Also, before I forget, the level of consistency between her various appearances in different mediums. She’s so damn consistent! Batman: The Animated Series hits her beats perfectly, and the Arkham games do as well. Even The Dark Knight Rises, which introduced a superficially different Talia still had that trademark ruthlessness and continental personality which makes her a favorite of mine. Talia al Ghul: 10/10, would bang, would read again.
Greatest Talia al Ghul Story Ever Told: The LexCorp Storyline – For a while in Superman, Talia ran LexCorp as Lex worked as President of the United States. Of course, this is Talia; at first, you totally buy this unholy alliance… until she turns around and reveals that ruthless side that makes her so great; she undermines Luthor by exposing his villainous dealings with Superman, then sells all of LexCorp to the WAYNE FOUNDATION, leaving Lex penniless.
I mean, goddamn.
#15 - Calculator
First Appearance: Detective Comics #463 (Sep 1976)
"They're only teenagers, after all... and, as such, they need to be taught a lesson." ~Calculator
If Joker is the archnemesis of Batgirl Barbara Gordon, then Calculator is the archnemesis of Oracle Barbara Gordon. And that's an extremely unique role to play; after all, how many tech-savvy information brokers villains are out there? Well, prior to Identity Crisis, that number was fairly small - zero to be more accurate. But, and this is despite what you may think of Identity Crisis, Brad Meltzer had a keen eye for potential and saw in a flagging Z-List throwaway character the chance to resurrect a character and revitalize them in a new era. Enter Noah Kutler, the Calculator.
What I love about Calculator is fairly easy to explain - first and foremost, his tangles with heroes always come from behind a keyboard, so every one of his actions has to be thought out, planned and executed remotely. He's a chess player and a devious tactician; nothing he does is spur of the moment, and that means all the twists and turns he provides are that much more amazing. Joker may be an in the moment villain, which has its place, but GREAT villainy oftentimes requires that cold-blooded calculation, and who better to provide it than a Calculator? His natural adversary is certainly Oracle, as both characters must use agents to affect change on their world-spanning chessboards. And that's a term I really love to use for them (chess), because it truly captures their modus operandi. The Birds of Prey all are in some respects pawns played by Oracle to complete goals, and the Society was the same thing for Calculator.
Let's talk the Society for a second, since it was primarily Calculator's baby and as such contains a heaping helping of his personality. I don't say this lightly; Calculator put together the villains. And that's damn impressive. Noah's relationships with nearly every single villain seem to be personal and longterm - from his clubhouse satellite hideout to his construction of a villain group featuring two hundred plus major players, Calculator proves not only his resourcefulness, but his ability to befriend or ally himself with truly the darkest and worst that the universe has to offer. Who else was equipped to run the Society from a laptop?
Calculator was one of the few villains to score perfectly in both the fundamentals character AND the potential category; I think he's a villain who's demonstrated time and again a limitless potential based in a design that, while simple, proves extremely effective and perfectly suited to be a part of not just Batman's world, but the DCUniverse as a whole.
Greatest Calculator Story Ever Told: Final Crisis - In a minor plotline that I think was extremely brilliant, Calculator stands up to Libra (one of the leaders of Darkseid's empire on Earth) and is punished by being hanged for a month and not being able to die. I LOVED his defiant attitude to Darkseid and his arrogantly huge stones at being able to face down what is an essentially dark god without blinking an eye.
#14 - Count Vertigo
First Appearance: World's Finest Comics #251 (Jul 1978)
"Suicide wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't so cowardly." ~Count Vertigo
Here's an example of how my scoring system might not be all it's cracked up to be: Count Vertigo scored perfect scores across the board, except in the category you might find most important - Impact on Bat-mythos.
Frankly, I don't care. Because Count Vertigo is my second favorite villain of all time.
Let's start with Suicide Squad, where Vertigo went from an interesting but unnecessary villain, transforming into the unique, layered villain I love so much. First of all, they were working with a great palette; Vertigo's power is truly unique, and artistically, there's always something cool to do with it. The expression of disorientation on the page is always a highlight of an issue with Vertie, giving the artist the ability to really play with color and lighting, and obviously perspective. So I always dig the one-of-a-kind role Vertie plays in that regards. He's also got a great costume that really sums him up; it's regal and yet still maintains a hint of villainy without coming across as flat-out evil, and that's perfect for a slimeball like the Count, who can gracefully go from the darkest side of evil to the light side of anti-hero in any given issue.
Suicide Squad really highlights that, as his work with the Suicide Squad started to bring out other new pieces of info with the Count - mainly that he was the crown prince of Vlatava. Vlatava, a country so bereft of evil that the Spectre literally wiped it off of the face of the Earth. So how did Vertie survive? Literally was committing a crime somewhere else. Of course, that by itself doesn't make him amazing, but it's a really solid start. I love that he's bipolar and has to take medication and also deal with it a lot. It's not characterized ridiculously, but he can be really depressed sometimes, which makes things freaking hilarious. Imagine trying to corral a team of villains and here's one guy that's just like "I wish I was dead." "Go attack that monster!" "Ah... what's the point? We're all going to die anyways." I love it.
Count Vertigo also features in one of my favorite eps of BTAS as well as being one of those go-to bad guys whenever there's need for a group of villains. A lot of the biggest Batman storylines end up involving Vertie since he's just so Vertie-satile. That was a terrible pun, and I don't care, because it's true: Count Vertigo fits in perfectly in ANY franchise. And he has; from Batman (and he's appeared in Bat titles at least twenty times just counting the issues I own), Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, Suicide Squad, Justice League, Justice Society... the guy has tangled with everyone in the DCU, and it works so well because his power is so all-encompassing. Supergod powers don't mean squat if you can't figure out which way is up and you have no focus. Vertigo is the ultimate troll, and I love it.
Obviously this is one of the villains where my opinion gets to totally veto all common sense on this list, but let's face it: Vertigo is well-designed, well-characterized, smart, crafty, oily, well-spoken and a joy to simply LOOK AT in comics. That's a job well done.
Greatest Count Vertigo Story Ever Told: Arrow - Go watch this show. Vertigo's role on the show was really as the first legit big bad in the series, portrayed by that guy from Fringe who never was in the main cast even though he was pretty cool. A well-done portrayal that really helped solidify the series as it began.
#13 - Poison Ivy
First Appearance: Batman #181 (Jun 1966)
Poison Ivy is a paradox that, no matter what you think of her, offers an interesting dichotomy between life and death. Ivy's desires for a world devoid of the destruction of man and the serenity of nature results in her utilization of wild, untamed nature to destroy, effectively employing her means to do the very thing she wishes to end. It's a great case study in how you can grow to become the thing you hate and never even realize it. Honestly, every time I see Ivy, this is the first thing that comes to mind, and it ultimately results in me realizing how tragic of a character Ivy truly is.
Nevertheless, one of the aspects of Ivy most people love (aside from her rockin' bod) is her ability to occasionally play well with the right villains, such as Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Together, the three ladies comprise one of the best groupings of baddies you could ever ask for, their personalities mixing in a perfect combination of antagonism and friendship and creating amazing stories. I think everyone especially loves Harley and Ivy together, as it's definitely Batman's two craziest femme fatales working together, often on the side of the angels, often for an agenda you'd never expect. It's just great comics.
Ivy's schtick of hypnotizing is sometimes criticized as overused, but honestly, it's really only overused outside of comics. Within comics, it isn't used as often, but when it is, it's usually really when done. I love how Ivy simply cannot comprehend the effects of her actions. In many ways, she's a child again, incapable of understanding the world around her, and that's great. Every now and again, Batman and Ivy can work together and it usually results in Ivy learning a little bit about the hope of what a good man can be. One amazing example is during No Man's Land, where Ivy is protecting the orphans of Gotham in Robinson Park and eventually needs the Bat's help. Batman sees that Ivy is an asset in a world without rules; however, when Gotham is rebuilt and it's time for the park to be ceded back to the the city, Ivy refuses to give up her safe haven. It's a really sad, harsh moment that simultaneously makes you empathize with Ivy and also realize that in some small respect, she may not be wrong.
And to make you question the world in the way of a villain, that's the sign that the villain is doing something right.
Greatest Poison Ivy Story Ever Told: Gotham Central #32 - There's no better interpretation of how scary Ivy can be. I have no words to describe what truly is the terror of Ivy. Just read it.
#12 - Anarky
First Appearance: Detective Comics #608 (Nov 1989)
"My objectives have always been unassailable. My standards, incorruptible. You know this." ~Anarky
Alan Grant's run on Batman is really one of the most pivotal, excellent runs on the character ever, but the single greatest thing to come from that era was the brilliant character of Anarky. Anarky's motives and objectives were always clear from the outset, but there was subtle nuance and complexity in how he executed his beliefs and furthermore, what he believed in any given situation. Everything he did was of paramount importance to him, but it always took time to fully realize why some of his actions were so necessary. Anarky is a big picture guy, and so that makes him a naturally versatile and unique villain.
The questions of morality he often poses are truly what make him so excellent in my mind. He doesn't just match up against Batman for fights like so many villains; he's attempting to reshape society in his image, and therefore Anarky is more often than not a character we have to think about, consider thoughtfully, before judging. Is he ever nevessarily wrong?
Furthermore, his brilliance. It's truly unparalleled. The guy has a brain that's developed beyond normal human intelligence; they say Mr. Terrific is the smartest guy out there, but I beg to differ - Anarky has taken on Darkseid in a battle of wits and stomped a god into the dirt intellectually. That's damn impressive.
Ultimately, I've never read a story where Anarky has been less than intriguing, and that makes him not only one of my personal favorite characters, but one of the greatest villains Batman has to offer.
Greatest Anarky Story Ever Told: The Anarky mini-series is amazing, chock-full of character-making moments that most DC characters would die for just to get one of.
#11 - Catman
First Appearance: Detective Comics #311 (Jan 1963)
" Ah, the thrill of the hunt -- there's no feeling in the world like it!" ~Catman
Catman, my love affair with the Secret Six started thanks to you and you alone. Getting to witness the rise of Catman from overweight robber failing to knock over a convenience store thanks to the interference of Green Arrow, you went from being a joke to being a badass in the same amount of time it to for Punisher to do the same thing in Welcome Back, Frank. And man! What a welcome turnaround it was. Catman quickly became the poster child for a new type of character, one that I had to coin a phrase in order to describe: the "anti-villain".
Catman has always been a solitary creature, after all. Looking at his Silver Age and Bronze Age appearances, he was ready enough to tangle with Catwoman or Joker just as much as he wanted to take on the Bat. And even later on, such as during Cataclysm, he saved the lives of innocents by pissing off KGBeast and distracting his attention. His motives have always truly been his own. However, with the advent of Secret Six, there's been a noticeable change in his behavior. He's seen both sides of the system, and neither one is worth a damn to him. And that's why the Secret Six is really his team more than any other; he embodies a new form of rebellious counterculture that subverts even the current counterculture movement in the super-villain community. Catman is the anti-villain; chaotic neutral for you DnD folk.
Catman's clever, focused, humor-filled and yet remorseless if necessary. His relationship with Batman is one of quiet admiration, and his love affair with Huntress was one of the highlights of the pre52 prior to its end. I think for several years there, Catman was the most intriguing and fresh voice in the DCU, and its thanks to Gail Simone recognizing his potential and seeing the value of an unusual villain group operating on the fringes of the Bat world. Regardless, Thomas Blake is one of the characters that's a guaranteed sale for me. Put his name on a comic and I'm guaranteed to come running; that's how you know a character is good.
Greatest Catman Story Ever Told: Anyone who tells you that it isn't "Cats in the Cradle" is lying to you so hard. This is a vicious, brutal and emotionally-gripping story that makes Catman a must-read. Few characters come along in fiction that can pull off a story like this, and Catman is easily one of them. So so so so so good.
#10 - Prometheus
First Appearance: New Year's Evil: Prometheus #1 (Feb 1998)
" I took the name because I wanted to take fire from the Gods themselves. Steal their knowledge and techniques and use them against them." ~Prometheus
We've talked about a lot of anti-Batmen; those created to parody (Batzarro), to highlight one specific attribute of Batman and turn it on its head (Black Spider, Reaper), to explore the Bat's willpower (Man-Bat), and to even imagine a polar opposite of the Bat (Owlman, Wrath). But none of them truly encapsulate the complete epitome of what the Batman is NOT like Prometheus. And thanks to some unknown creator by the name of Grant Morrison, we're now able to truly explore a Bruce Wayne whose sole purpose is everything that Batman's isn't - the self.
Batman is often seen as a tool for vengeance in the name of his parents, and similarly that's what Prometheus is: his parents were thieves killed in a police chase, leaving him orphaned and seeking vengeance. While Batman seeks vengeance by providing justice to the downtrodden, Prometheus seeks vengeance by providing what he lost, and that is power beyond that of the law. Prometheus, like Batman, has an extremely brilliant, tactical mind, and he can see not only the next step, but four or five more down the line. Of course, where Batman enhances his skill with new technology, Prometheus enhances his technology with new skill; inside of Prometheus' helmet is a processor that can be loaded with programming to give him the skills of any human being he wants. He can fight on the level of Batman, or Black Canary, etc., so long as he has the right disc or flash drive. And where Batman uses his home as a shell to hide his sanctuary, Prometheus uses a shell for sanctuary to hide his home, which is one of my personal all-time favorite bases in comics:
Batman's tangles with Prometheus are beyond legendary. In fact, Batman's first run-in with Prometheus results in the entire Justice League being defeated by Prometheus single-handedly (including Batman!!), only to be stopped by the timely intervention of Catwoman. Of course, rematch time was even more impressive, resulting in the single best Batman fight of all time:
Honestly, this has to be the single most creative way Batman has ever defeated a villain, and not just any villain, either. This is one of those "I literally am smart enough to beat the entire Justice League with ridiculously brilliant and simple strategies" villains. Who else can pull this off? Deathstroke, and maybe... someone else on this list. Regardless, Prometheus is the perfect opposite to Batman, the ultimate mirror image, the worthiest adversary, and my pick for #10.
Greatest Prometheus Stories Ever Told:
#1 - JLA: Strength in Numbers/World War III - It has to be comboed together; this two-parter sees Prometheus defeat the JLA and then come back for second helpings during my single favorite JLA story ever told.
#2 - JLA: Cry for Justice - If you hate this story simply because of the one spoilerific death near the end, then you just aren't reading this right. This isn't a story about the heroes, this is a story about the villains, and especially how one villain can drive heroes to villainous acts. Regardless of what you may think, Prometheus wins at the end of this story. The art is immaculate and the story is honestly quite riveting.
#3 - Faces of Evil: Prometheus - Honestly, this is a tie with New Year's Evil: Prometheus. Both stories help provide some great backstory proving his legitimacy.
#9 - Deadshot
First Appearance: Batman #59 (Jun 1950)
"Man, I hate supergoon zombies." ~Deadshot
Deadshot's the main man, and that's all there is to it. He was Deathstroke before Deathstroke and Deadpool before Deadpool. He was Lobo before Lobo and even a little bit of Hitman before Hitman. Deadshot kicked around a little bit in the 50s with Batman, but it was landmark storyline Strange Apparitions that turned Deadshot into the loveable fatal threat that he is today. Driven by motives that will always somewhat remain his own (never truly to be revealed to the reader), Deadshot's intense skill as a marksman and fighter are always on display in assassination attempts and villainous battles that consistently prove to be some of the best moments in comics. Naturally, he's been even further developed in excellent comic books like Suicide Squad by John Ostrander and Secret Six by Gail Simone, both of whom saw in Deadshot the prototypical anti-villain character, a perfect character to juxtapose against characters like the Punisher. Where Punisher is passionate, Deadshot is cool. And where Batman is focused, Deadshot is blaise. Of course, when you begin to learn more about Deadshot, you realize he ultimately doesn't value his own life.
Deadshot's definitely been around the block in the Batman universe; every member of the Batman family has battled with him, but there's really no way to explain just how integral that is to Deadshot. Every Deadshot fight involves both the detective skills of a Bat-family member, and also showcases their fighting prowess. Essentially, Deadshot is a great villain because he can make a superhero look good, and that's a tough balancing act. Luckily, Deadshot's work with villain gatherings and also in the two SS teams makes him an icon in the rough-and-tumble world of fighting.
Deadshot is a friend to no one, even his closest comrades, and that makes him a truly isolated character; he's always been a character who hides his own pain and torture behind a devil-may-care facade, but when he lets the monster loose, it's a sight to see. Honestly, Deadshot never gets old over overexposed, and writers can constantly find something new and different to do with him. He even worked extremely well as a side boss in the Arkham games, and filled his given roles perfectly. Deadshot is an engrossing character with a memorable design and skills that make him indispensible to the Batman franchise.
Greatest Deadshot Stories Ever Told:
1: Deadshot #1-4 - The original mini-series that first explored Deadshot's past and family all while setting up a great political conspiracy tale. It's Deadshot mixed up with BOTH Batman and the Suicide Squad, the two most important parts of his life. 2: Secret Six: Danse Macbre - Deadshot and the Secret Six face the demons of their past when Black Lantern Suicide Squad members and a new Squad face them down in one of the best stories out of the Secret Six. The highlight is the showdown between Lawton and Waller. 3: Suicide Squad #51 - Probably one of the most underrated stories in the Suicide Squad library; Deadshot must track down himself, or at least a man who has stolen his costume from an airport luggage carousel. Brutal and amazing.
#8 - Lex Luthor
First Appearance: Action Comics #23 (Apr 1940)
"I'm never going to fit in here, am I?" ~Lex Luthor
Batman has a number of possible archenemies. Bruce Wayne? He really only has one.
When you think about it, and even ignoring their countless run-ins in World's Finest, Superman/Batman and the Justice League, it was inevitable that these two would eventually butt heads in a big, spectacular way. After all, LexCorp and Wayne Industries are the two largest commercial conglomerates in the world; if you don't think that there's going to be a little corporate espionage going on, you're more naive than Jason Todd in dark warehouse. In the last thirty years or so, Luthor and Wayne have had a really great rivalry revolving around dominance in both the financial sector and over control of Gotham's commercial enterprises, and for me that has provided so many more unique and fresh stories than the vast majority of the characters on this list.
The aspect of capitalism that drives Luthor in Batman stories makes him honestly one of the lightest of Batman's villains, which is a welcome relief. Luthor's machinations always revolve around a barely legal/barely illegal gray area where documents are burned, buildings are demolished and industrial secrets are exposed; but it's never on the level of murderous mayhem that most Bat villains operate, which makes the type of cases Batman deals have a new variety. In fact, the biggest storylines these days seem to bring Batman and Lex together. No Man's Land's climax is all about Luthor attempting to wrest dominance from Wayne in the decimated Gotham by rebuilding it; only Lex can take a noble endeavor of unimaginable charity and turn it into a despicable act of selfishness. Then there's the entire Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive arc that... well, let's just say Lex plays a key role there and leave it at that.
Of course, Lex isn't only a Bat villain, but it seems that recently Lex's tangles with Bat or Bat-related teams has ultimately resulted in some major tangles between the two icons, some of which I have to say really make me happy to be a diehard DC fan; people often dismiss Lex as overused, but when it comes to the Batman mythos, Lex is still one of the guys that brings a great momentum and excitement to the series. He really stirs up that pot and makes himself invaluable to the franchise of the Dark Knight.
Greatest Lex Luthor Stories Ever Told in Batman Titles:
1. No Man's Land - You just can't top Lex's role in that final act. Never before have we seen something quite like Lex's attempt at domination in Gotham, and I bet we'll never see it again. It was truly a unique story that found a way to highlight Lex's personality and ambition in a way that we shockingly had never seen before. Brilliant work from all the Bat-writers on that one.
2. Batman: Fugitive/Batman: Murderer - A brilliant way to follow up the clash of the titans in No Man's Land, Luthor rains vengeance down on Bruce Wayne (not knowing he's Batman) after Wayne cancels all government contracts with Luthor's administration. A perfect, shining example of how Luthor can pull strings in a way even the Joker dreams of.
3. Lord of the Ring - A final follow-up in the Lex-Bats saga while Lex is still president. Lex's kryptonite ring has always been a major piece of Superman lore... can Bruce Wayne wrestle it from Luthor's grip? Can Batman? Great story that also brings in both the Man of Steel's and the Dark Knight's love interests at the time and shows just how awesome Luthor can be.
#7 - Catwoman
First Appearance: Batman #1 (Apr 1940)
" My world is all just shades of grey, Batman." ~Catwoman
Let's face it: Catwoman is a b**** to rank on this list. Sure, we all know she's a pretty solid character even on her worst days, but the question is pretty much this: "How much of a villain is she?"
I mean, let's look at that Prometheus write-up. Literally she was invited to the Justice League watchtower and saved the day. So, in that sense, well... she's a good guy. Not to mention her membership in the New 52 Justice League. Or the fact that she's pretty much depicted as an anti-hero with benefits in Arkham City and Dark Knight Rises. Or the fact that in her solo series by Ed Brubaker she spent most of the time defending the East Row.
So now you know where the points off went. There's just no use in trying to tell villainous Catwoman stories anymore.
That said, Catwoman is about as much of an anti-hero as you can get without being a villain OR a hero. She straddles that line like it's a cliff with drops to the death on both sides. Her morality is pretty much whatever she feels like, but it always feels almost reasonable and justified. She's really an unusual, deep and layered character that's always fun to read. Of course, her time as a straight-up villain is gone and that's for the best; after all, jewel thievery can really only get so much mileage before some variety is necessary, and DC smartly allowed what seemed to be naturally taking course and let Catwoman and Batman have a blossoming sort of Cold War-relationship and allowed Catwoman to find a path all her own.
In the end, there's been a great number of anti-villain, anti-hero Catwoman titles out there with a wide variety of excellent renditions and portrayals. Grey DeLisle perfectly captures the voice of Selina in Arkham City; Anne Hathaway really sinks into the Brubaker-voice of Catwoman in DKR; Brubaker obviously is my Catwoman scribe of choice, and for great reason - nobody does Catwoman better.
Regardless of how much you love Catwoman (and for me, she's a great character), there's always still that nagging fact that her strictly villainous days are behind her. That's for the best, though; as time goes on, Catwoman sinks down this list for me, but she climbs my lists of most interesting DC characters and especially the most important and interesting Batman characters. Grey skies are ahead for Catwoman - I can't say that's a bad thing.
Greatest Catwoman Stories Ever Told:
1. The Dark End of the Street - This is where to start reading Catwoman. I honestly can't think of a better primer for the character, as her voice really develops in this story in ways I can't possibly explain here. Catwoman's world is developed as Slam Bradley explores the "death" of Selina Kyle.
2. Catfile - This is a story that really started bridging the gap between hero and villain for Selina; Catwoman is captured by the government and forced to work as a spy. An over-the-top adventure that follows Selina as she tries to complete her mission for the gov. while also trying to shirk her handler.
3. Relentless - The big one. The Catwoman story everyone always points to as the best of the batch. Catwoman is beginning to make a name for herself as a sort-of Robin Hood in the East End, but with a good guy name comes the good guy villains, and Black Mask turns her world upside down. Riveting, brutal, and amazing.
#6 - Harley Quinn
First Appearance: Batman: The Animated Series S01E07 (Sep 1992)
"After all this time--all these years--you and I have history. I know what you think of me. You think I'm just a doll. A doll that's pink and light. A doll you can arrange any way you like. You're wrong. Very wrong. What you think of me is only a ghost of time. I am dangerous. And I will show you just how dark I can be." ~Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn is honestly the one character whose voice is so distinctive that everyone can hear it the exact same way even on the comic book page. Most of that is thanks to Arleen Sorkin's amazing voice acting performance, but more than that, Harley is truly one of the most memorable characters in comics - I'd go so far as to say that Harley is the most important addition to the comic book world since 1990.
Harley is certainly a bubbly yet murderously psychotic soul who can constantly keep your attention riveted to the page. She has a sense of unpredictability and yet you always know roughly what you're getting into with Harl; there's a girl who just wants the boy she likes to love her back, there's a girl who just what's some friends and acceptance... in many ways, she's a lost little child, but on the other end, she's mired in a dark, disturbed personality that really makes her impossible to ever completely love.
However, there's more than that to Quinn. There's a really dark, brutal and moving story about abuse. And on the surface, it's kind of easy to palette because of the way it's depicted - Harley and Joker are almost Looney Tunes characters when it comes to their interactions, and Harley bounces back with such resilience that you barely even consider that she might be physically or emotionally scarred by the Joker's antics. And yet... when you look to consider it, Harley really does have a beaten wife syndrome of sorts. Almost all of her psychosis stems from her deeply troubling relationship with the Joker - a relationship that I think should be explored more often. In a way, Paul Dini's creation of Harley can serve to women in abusive relationships as a way to recognize and even prevent themselves from falling further into a dangerous situation, and I think since Harley is ultimately a bubbly, almost kind creature, she is an excellent reminder of what a mad love can do to someone unprepared.
Regardless, Harley is one of my all-time personal favorite villains and easily one of the most maturely layered characters in comics.
Greatest Harley Quinn Stories Ever Told:
1. Batman: Mad Love - Everyone loves Batman: Mad Love. Everyone. This single issue story somehow tells THE quintessential tale of Harley and Joker's relationship and even gives great insight into how Batman views Harley as an almost pathetic, useless character. By the end, you've fallen in love with Harley's sweet, wide-eyed psychosis.
2. Batman #663: "The Clown at Midnight" - It doesn't get too much better than this; Harley's relationship with Batman and Joker are explored in a prose tale written by Grant Morrison which is actually my personal favorite story from Morrison on Batman pre-Batman's death. An amazingly brutal, visceral tale that really does a brilliant job portraying all three characters.
3. Detective Comics #831 - Paul Dini's underrated and brilliant run on Detective Comics saw Harley and Batman tangle for one great, noir-styled tale with a fast-moving plot and all the Harley essentials. Just an all-around well-told issue that proves why the creator of Harley is still her best writer.
#5 - Two-Face
First Appearance: Detective Comics #66 (Aug 1942)
"Point is... just indulge me here... if you can make me just like you, then it follows I can make you just like me." ~Two-Face
What can be said about Two-Face that hasn't been said before and better? He's the character that best presents that lurking duality in man. He's the character that has time and again served as a true representation of the corruption of an incorruptible icon. He's the villain that's all about dual identity and in that sense presents a true superhero who at all times is able to live both the mask and the man behind the mask. Of course, the question is, "Which is which?" Is the mask the original unbroken man, or the unchained id unencumbered by the chains of convention?
Time and again, Two-Face has served as what is in my opinion the single most tragic villain in all of comics. There's always that piece of Harvey Dent lurking alongside that monstrous Two-Face, a glimmer of hope that we can take him back to that old life before things changed. But that's the point; there is no healing, no going back. Nevertheless, that half of Dent that is always there tugs at us and makes us believe in a possibility of reparation, of peace for this tortured soul. I think that's why he works so well; we buy the good acts, we buy the bad acts, and at any time it feels like both are justified. Rarely do we see which side of the coin lands, so we must assume it's the clean side for good acts and the marked side for bad ones. But every once and a while, an act of charity occurs without the right side of the coin, which leads you to wonder... is he still there?
Dare we to dream? That's the attitude of Bruce Wayne, longing to save his friend from a fate he feels responsible before. And those emotions of Batman are felt every time the reader picks up a great Two-Face appearance; you're sucked right into the mind of the Dark Knight and feel like you're facing an old friend, lost somewhere behind the eye of a monster. Guilt, shame, dashed dreams... that's what makes Two-Face great.
Greatest Two-Face Stories Ever Told:
1. Faces (by Matt Wagner) - Not a lot of people remember this story, but it's a really unique and, well, freakish tale about Dent attempting to start his own country inhabited by "freaks" like himself. The results are... less than acceptable.
2. The Eye of the Beholder (Batman Annual #14) - Probably the most important Two-Face story; it's the origin of the coin, the origin of his personalities (at least, why they are the way they are), it pretty much is the story bible for anything Two-Face; every story from Aaron Eckhart to BTAS used this story as framework for what they did, it's that good.
3. Half a Life - Gotham Central consistently proved itself to be one of the most unique and excellent series ever written, and this story is perhaps the biggest highlight from a run full of them. Two Face publicly reveals Renee Montoya is a lesbian and then kidnaps her, all part of his obsessive love for her. A story that simultaneously attracts and repels the reader to Dent in what I really consider a great psychological piece.
#4 - Joker
First Appearance: Batman #1 (Apr 1940)
"Any man can have one really bad day and end up just like me." ~Joker
The personification of chaos.
That's my definition of the Joker. He's not a polar opposite of Batman, because at the end of the game the two are ultimately unrelated; they just don't mix. They're clashing because they cannot possibly conceive leading life like the other, and that's really all there is to it. Joker has become a force that moves in and amongst the lives of all Gotham-based characters, throwing a monkey wrench into almost every storyline in the Batman mythos. And, frankly, it's starting to wear thin.
Don't get me wrong; some of the most amazing performances out there are Joker-based. Mark Hamill naturally is the very definition of the Joker; you can't possible compare anyone else to him at this point. Heath Ledger took the chaotic concept of the Joker to a new extreme, tripping lightly throughout The Dark Knight and introducing a little anarchy into the rest of the story. And from there, you can point out so many iconic Batman stories that try to and excel at depicting utter insanity clashing with societal norms in tales like The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum by Morrison, the Joker graphic novel by Brian Azzarello... the Joker is in all honesty a serious contender if not the winner of the best stories ever told category. I mean, these are all amazing stories and I STILL didn't list any of my personal top three yet.
So what's the deal? Oversaturation is the deal, people. Like Doctor Doom, Magneto and Green Goblin (although still not quite as whored out as those guys), Joker seems to be one of those villains that you introduce as the bad guy when you can't think of anything else to do. "I need someone to murder Robin... hmm, Joker I guess. Even though Two-Face actually had a strong tie to Robin, let's just drop Joker." "Let's see, running out of ideas here... how about I just pump Joker into the end of No Man's Land for another superfluous death." "Let's tear apart the Batman family... I know! The Joker can do it."
Eventually, you get worn out, okay? Eventually you've diluted the magic by overextending the Joker, pumping him into all sorts of situations that he likely wouldn't care about or allowing less-than-acceptable Joker stories to be told, miring him in crappy-quality tales.
Still, it's the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime. One of the greatest villains in any form of media, and an icon of comic books.
Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told:
1. Batman #663 - We've talked about it in Harley's write-up, by in my book this is the best Joker story ever told, hands down. I'm not going to stick with the obvious choices; granted, The Dark Knight Returns and Arkham Asylum are damn amazing comics, but as JOKER stories, I don't find them to be the best of the bunch. As all-around comics themselves, they're better contenders.
2. Going Sane - The story of the Joker if he actually succeeded at killing Batman (or at least thinking he killed Batman). A really unique, loopy and fun story that I think highlights the Joker in a way no other story ever has.
3. Joker: Devil's Advocate - In one of the most unique and unrecognized graphic novels out there, Batman must prove a man's innocence for a crime he didn't commit... although this time around, it's the Joker. And the Joker doesn't make it easy for Batman to defend him.
#3 - Ra's al Ghul
First Appearance: Batman #232 (Jun 1971)
"There is no Hell. No Heaven. Only what we make for ourselves." ~Ra's al Ghul
I opened up this entire countdown with a quote from Ra's al Ghul, " What splendid irony that mankind's testaments to his own ingenuity become the agents of his demise."
I think that the entirety of what Batman represents to me, the reader, and I mean Batman as a franchise, is about serving as a testament for mankind's capacity for resiliency, compassion and justice. Ra's al Ghul, however, is truly the epitome of the opposite: cold, scarred and unencumbered by the weakness of those around him. The beauty of Ra's is hard for me to explain, so it's better to let Ra's do it for me:
"I am cursed with a love for emptiness... desolation. It is a beauty to which my soul responds... as pure, as untainted as the deserts of my birth. I deem it my mission to purify this planet, to restore it to its former beauty... a mission I will brook no interference in. I am neither a zealot nor a madman. I am a realist at least, and a futurist at best. Some do not agree. Thus, we must use whatever means neccessary to protect and preserve what mankind would pillage and rape. The world will thank us someday. On its own, humanity is a destructive force. It needs a master."
Really, that sums up Ra's perfectly. Ra's is easily one of the most intelligent, articulate and calculating characters in ALL of DC. We've talked about how Prometheus was able to dispatch the Justice League easily. Ra's took it one step further and defeated the Justice League with BATMAN'S own contingency plans. I mean, damn! That's impressive. Of course, there's more to Ra's than just defeating the League. There's his League of Assassins, an organization that permeates across all DC franchises in some form; there's his fingerprint on history that has lasted for centuries; there's the role he's played throughout Batman's entire career... and his descent into madness is one of the most well-done in any form of media.
Ra's is just Ra's. The Demon's Head. And holder of spot #3 on my list of the greatest Batman villains of all time.
Greatest Ra's al Ghul Stories Ever Told:
1. Tower of Babel - This should surprise no one; Tower of Babel is easily Mark Waid's second greatest comic book story behind Kingdom Come, and one of those stories that really could only happen in the JLA. Taking his rivalry with Batman and raising the stakes to a whole new level, Ra's really does pull off his plan successfully, coming across as one of the most brilliant menaces for not just Batman but the entire Justice League. His most significant contribution to the story, though, is how he creates animosity for Batman from the rest of the League, something that I wish had lasted longer than it did.
2. The First Ra's al Ghul Story by O'Neal and Adams - It's hard to give this a name since a lot of people just call it "Tales of the Demon," which is really never it's given name. Starting with Talia's introduction, Ra's begins testing Batman to see if he is worthy to take his place as master of the League of Assassins and deserving of his daughter's hand in marriage. A great, globetrotting adventure that really set Ra's up as a full package villain.
3. Birth of the Demon - If you like James Bond-like stories, this is a great one for you. Talia and Batman make unlikely allies as the attempt to stop Ra's together. A great story that I've always considered to be an acceptable ending to the Batman-Ra's rivalry if it ever HAD to end.
#2 - Scarecrow
First Appearance: World's Finest #3 (Sep 1941)
"Though it is simple to bring on, you cannot escape from fear. For fear is not a delusion. You are a sentient mortal condemned to die, and time is against you." ~Scarecrow
The first time I sat up and took notice of Scarecrow was when the Doctor Destiny story of Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I found it superbly creepy and cerebral that Crane would simply simulate hanging himself so casually in order to unnerve his guards in Arkham, all the while so focused on his conversation with Dr. Destiny. It struck such a deep chord in me that I needed to go out and find more Scarecrow stories immediately... and by was I in for a great reading experience.
Scarecrow's capacity for fear takes away Batman's greatest advantage; everything the Bat has inspired, worked toward for years to create in the hearts of the superstitious and cowardly lot, it goes out the window when the Scarecrow arrives. Batman's power essentially is useless against the Scarecrow, himself a master of fear; that perhaps is the best part of Scarecrow - he can create a level playing field in a way that only Scarecrow can. And in a way most villains can't, Scarecrow's personality, design and agenda transitions well across franchises and across mediums. For me, the best villain in any Batman film has been Jonathan Crane in the Dark Knight trilogy, as Cillian Murphy brings the concept of the Scarecrow so perfectly to a trilogy that so often veered away from the more bombastic designs of villains. Murphy's Crane is exactly what Crane should be - an unhinged man who seems perfectly sane in a city gone mad. Crane can simultaneously be the most rational and most insane individual in a well-written story. On the other hand, he can be completely unglued, untethered from everything except the taste of fear in others. Scarecrow's performance in Batman: Arkham Asylum is easily the highlight of that video game - it reached heights that even Hamill's immaculate Joker couldn't reach.
Scarecrow is ultimately the perfect representation of fear - a scarecrow is constant reminder of mortality, the quintessential cause of all fear being death. And Crane IS a scarecrow. That's what makes him one of the greatest villains of all time from ANY franchise, and the #2 Batman villain of all time.
Greatest Scarecrow Stories Ever Told:
1. Batman: The Animated Series - "Never Fear" - One of the best episodes of a show chock full of best episodes, Never Fear captures Scarecrow in a way no other tale has ever done so. It's a beautiful and haunting story that really demonstrates how Scarecrow is a villain that reaches into a Batman in a way no other villain can.
2. Fear of Faith - A great story provided to us in the midst of the year-long No Man's Land (which once again I stand by as the greatest era of Batman storytelling ever), Scarecrow is allowed sanctuary into Gotham's one safe-zone, the religious quarter. A really unique story that explores both religious belief and fear in only the way a story with Scarecrow can. Also, the ending is easily one of the best endings to a Batman story imo (although it might seem like an odd choice).
3. Identity Crisis (the one from Batman #455-457) - Good villains can make themselves look good. Great villains can make their opposing heroes look good. And for Tim Drake in one of his earliest appearances, the Scarecrow provides all of the ammunition for not just a great story that allows us to really delve into the mind of Tim Drake, but also the ammunition for Drake to win us over as both a character and as a Robin. I've always thought that Alan Grant told such an underappreciated tale here, one that I recommend.
#1 - Riddler
First Appearance: Detective Comics #140 (Dec 1948)
"For the record? It's killing me not to ask you "why is this man smiling?"" ~Riddler
Earned bravado. Extreme intelligence. Amusingly clever arrogance. Megalomania incarnate.
The Riddler is my third favorite villain. Period. What makes him so close to utter perfection is that mind. That perfectly crafted mind that constantly provides and provides and provides. Every Riddler action is clever or humorous and always d***ish, while every line of dialogue is full of that same snarkishly jerkwit that makes Riddler a joy to root both for and against. His criminal plans always force writers to really work their own creative intellects to come up with new and ingenious methods of planning as well as the creation of unique and hard-to-solve riddles that readers work just as hard to figure out as the Bat. And that's the perfect sign of a villain that draws you right into the story; you're as eager to solve the mystery as Batman is.
Riddler is also one of the few villains to win. And that's a phrase I really don't use loosely. Perhaps my all-time favorite Riddler moment is the ending of the Hush storyline, where... well, let's just say that the Riddler wins. He so perfectly plays every single character involved from hero to villain to supporting cast member - hell even the folks in Metropolis - that he ends up getting exactly what he wants.
More awesome than that is his time spent as a detective, where Riddler gleefully works as a good guy and ends up being even more of a thorn in Batman's side by simply doing Batman's job better than him. I mean, that is the ultimate in epic trolling, and one of the stories that resulted in me becoming HUGELY into the Riddler's character. He of course is one of the few men that has deduced Bruce Wayne's nighttime hobby, and at one point (after being hired by Nightwing), deduces that Dick Grayson is Nightwing. So, solid work there, too.
Frankly, every facet of the Riddler just comes off as cool to me. He's a psychotic who knows he's a bit psychotic, but uses his weakness to play to his strengths. He can troll with the best, and also pull of legit crimes with astounding intelligence that makes most masterminds look like dullards. He's the perfect package of supervillain perfection, and for that he earns spot #1 on my all-time Batman villain list.
Greatest Riddler Stories Ever Told (That Aren't Hush):
1. The 1966 Batman TV Series - Frank Gorshin kills it as the Riddler in the old West TV show, and he easily steals the spot as the best character on the series. Constantly watchable, full of personality and also some of the most ingenious plans on the show (which admittedly aren't that grand, but for the show they were), Riddler rocks it.
2. Arkham Asylum/City/Origins - When you think about it, Riddler really plays a bigger role than even the Joker in this video game series, as his constant dialogue throughout each game really builds his character and relationship with Batman. A little meta, full of hilarious hubris and sinister hatred for the Bat, the AA titles have really cemented the Riddler as my favorite personality in the Batman mythos.
3. Dark Knight, Dark City - The story that provided Grant Morrison his inspiration for Simon Hurt, Riddler just rocks it in this tale about the meaning of Gotham City. Amazing artwork (Mike Mignola!) and amazing writing (Peter Milligan!) cements this as not just a great Riddler story but one of the Bat's best as well.