RF’s Top 10 Second-Tier Bat-Villains

by Alan Rapp on July 16, 2008

in Essays , Theme Week

Sure you know the Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and the Riddler.  You probably know the Scarecrow and Two-Face, too.  But how many of Batman’s other villains do you know?  Today we ignore the top-tier, best-known, Bat-villains and give you the best of the rest.  There’s a few you might expect (Mr. Freeze, Ra’s al Ghul), but I’ve thrown in a couple of surprises as well.  Check out the full list inside.

Calendar Man Every super-hero has some goofy villains, and Batman is no different (and c’mon, I had to include one of them!).  It takes a true comic book geek to love Calendar Man. with his outrageous outfits (including my favorite – the cape made out of a tear-away calendar!) and crimes which all center around holidays, anniversaries, and special events.  Although not gifted with powers or much skill, his elaborate crimes always brought out the detective in the Dark Knight Detective.  In many ways he signifies the ridiculousness of the 60’s Batman, but this loveable loser created by Bill Finger earns himself a spot on the list.

Catman Tom Blake was a world famous hunter who created a costume out of a mystical African cloth which granted the wearer nine lives.  Bored with his life and having squandered much of his fortune this new Catman made his way to Gotham City to hunt his fiercest prey – Batman.  Aside his hunting and tracking prowess, he is also an Olympic level athlete, a talented thief, and trained in martial arts.  After apparently dying, Cat-Man (armed with several Cat-themed instruments such as a Cat-a-maran, Catarang, and a cat-o-nine-tails) would reappear to challenge the Batman once again.  Relegated to obscurity and then brought back as a comedic figure Cat-Man has recently resurfaced as something of an anti-hero.  He has always been one of my favorite Bat-villains.  Interesting fact – his first appearance precedes Marvel’s Kraven the Hunter by more than eighteen months.

Clayface (III) I like all the Clayfaces, but Preston Payne is my favorite.  Straight out of a horror movie this scientist finds himself forced to wear an exoskeleton after an experiment gone wrong causes everyone he touches to melt.  To prevent further problems with his own condition he is forced to melt human beings from time to time giving him a brief moments of respite, momentarily quenching his hunger and relieving his pain.

Deadshot Whether as a lone assassin or member of an organization such as Secret Six, Suicide Squad, or Checkmate, this hired killer who “never misses” is always a deadly threat.  And his costume is just so cool!  He makes an appearance in “The Enemy Below” attempting to kill Aquaman in the first season of Justice League.

False Face Our one entry from the 60’s television show is the master of disguise who could mimic the voice and mannerisms of anyone he came into contack with.  The character, created by Bill Finger, also made appearances in the comics as an Earth-One villain pre-Crisis.

Hugo Strange Dr. Hugo Strange was a demented scientist and psychologist (funny how so many of them turn out to be evil in comics, huh?) who discovered Bruce Wayne was Batman.  At one point he attempted to sell the information to the highest bidder (a story which was used for “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne” in Batman the Animated Series).  Strange also tried to drug and torment Batman in order to usurp his place, drugged the patients at Arkham Asylum for his own experiments, and created giant Monster Men to rob Gotham City.

KGBeast The KGB assassin was introduced in the “Ten Knights of the Beast” end of the Cold War story arc by Jim Starlin.  The Beast is sent to Gotham to kill 10 U.S. officials, including the President.  At one point in the tale, to evade capture by Batman, the Beast cuts off his own hand which he later replaces with a cybernetic gun.  Although he made other appearances over the years this was his only time in the spotlight.  The KGBeast makes short cameos in the final season of Justine League Unlimited.

Mister Freeze I always viewed Mr. Freeze as a second rate Captain Cold until his reinterpretation on Batman the Animated Series as less a super-villain and more a tortured soul doomed to his condition and willing to do whatever it takes to save the life of his wife Nora.  The depiction of Freeze, voiced by Michael Ansara, is so good you can almost (almost) forget Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s take as the character in Batman and Robin.

Ra’s al Ghul If your only knowledge of the “Demon’s Head” comes from Batman Begins you’ve missed out on one of the best Bat-villains.  With wealth and power to rival Bruce Wayne and cunning to rival the Batman, Ra’s is one of the Batman’s deadliest adversaries.  Created by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams in 1971 the mad eco-terrorist and leader of the League of Assassins has lived for centuries, replenishing his life in the Lazarus Pits.  An adversary worthy of the Detective, it doesn’t help that Batman has a little thing for the Demon’s daughter Talia (even once marrying her and fathering a son).

Reaper The Reaper was designed by Mike Barr to be the main villain for Batman: Year Two.  The Reaper was a deadly vigilante in Gotham before the days of Batman.  Returning from semi-retirement in Europe the Reaper runs up against Gotham’s new protector and is eventually defeated and unmasked as Judson Caspian, the father of Bruce Wayne’s intended Rachel Caspian.  A slightly different version of the story became the basis for the animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Previous post:

Next post: