Halloween special:The Best Of Batman Villains: Part 1
Halloween is just upon us and what better way to celebrate than by honoring Batman’s frightful rouge’s gallery. One could certainly make the case that Batman has the best villains of any superhero. Think of how many you could name off the top of your head if you’re an average fan. Now think of how many you could name if you were slightly more hardcore.
Now try to name as many Daredevil villains… Not to bash or diminish Daredevil in any way. Just an example of how deep Batman’s rouge gallery goes. Here’s a quick peek at some of my favorite stories for some of The Dark Knight’s most formidable adversaries.
He’s come a long way from his campy beginnings. Often dismissed in the past as one of Batman’s more ” nonthreatening” foes by many. That’s not really the case anymore. At a certain point Penguin took a turn as a more sinister and brutal villain. Sometimes portrayed as an intellectual mobster and other times as a misunderstood monster. All of which work well with the character. Like many of Batman’s villain’s, he’s almost sympathetic. Perhaps a victim of cruelty in a cruel world. An obvious parallel to Batman himself. Did Penguin turn out this way because he is inherently evil or did society make him so? Currently, Penguin plays one of the central antagonists on “Gotham”. For some great Penguin stories check out these recommendations.
Joker’s Asylum: Penguin ( one shot) By: Jason Arron & Jason Pearson
This is my personal favorite Penguin story of all time and it’s only a single issue! Written by fan FAvorite Jason Aaron during a time when he was still a relative newbie to the comic scene. To me, it perfectly encapsulates everything he’s about. He’s portrayed as a respected man who holds a great deal of power, and yet he still remains insecure about his appearance. This leads to a very important lesson for a few in this story… Don’t embarrass the Penguin. Both parts chilling and heartbreaking. Sort of like Tony Soprano without the imposing physical stature.
Other recommended readings include…
Batman Annual # 11 by Max Allan Collins & Norm Breyfogle
Penguin: Pain & Prejudice 1 – 5 by Gregg Hurwitz & Szymon Kudranski
Secret Origins Special # 1 by Alan Grant, penciled and inked by Sam Kieth
Two-Face/ Harvey Dent
If you like your villains with pathos, look no further than Two-Face. Harvey Dent is another classic Batman villain that succumbed to the evil and temptation of the outside world. Gotham’s favorite son that lost everything and crossed a line he never thought he would. The character has had a number of interesting portrayal’s. The Dark Knight film treated him more as a good man pushed to insanity. The accident that scars his face is simply the last straw. Some comics, and even Batman T.A.S. play on the fact that Harvey had always had a violent multiple personality and that the accident simply brought it out permanently. There have been a number of tweaks here or there in Two-Face’s history. One such case happens to be my favorite Two-Face story of all time.
Batman Annual# 14 – Eye Of The Beholder by Andrew Helfer & Chris Sprouse
An excellent story that delves deep into Harvey Dent’s tortured past. It manages to bring a different idea to what made Harvey Dent become Two-Face. The multiple personality angle is there, but this time we learn the reason when and why it began. Parts of this story inspired the famous Long Halloween comic series. We find out that Harvey’s father was quite abusive to him in his childhood. The psychological ramifications of that abuse come out in full force throughout this story. The edgy and dark artwork by veteran Chris Sprouse really adds to the already fantastic script. A risky story for DC to put out back then but a keeper for sure.
Other recommended readings include…
Batman: Faces by Matt Wagner
Gotham Central #6- #10 : Half A Life by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark
Batman: Black & White – Two Of A Kind by Bruce Timm
Two-Face ( One Shot) Crime & Punishment by J.M. DeMatteis & Scott McDaniel
Ra’s Al Ghul
Translated to English, his name means the demon’s head. One of Batman’s most powerful enemies by a long shot. His reach extends throughout the globe with an army of assassins behind him. It doesn’t help that, thanks to his Lazarus pits, he is immortal. A complex villain that seeks to help humanity by destroying it first. An idealist of an extreme sort. Throw in a romance between Talia( Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter) & Batman and you get just how complex Ra’s Al Ghul can get. Ra’s has always been a fan favorite for Bat fans but his stock rose to new levels thanks to The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. He’s even manged to transcend the Bat-world to make it on the TV show Arrow. Here are some of my picks for his best stories.
Batman: Death & The Maidens 1 – 9 by Greg Rucka & Klaus Janson
A fantastic story written by one of my favorites: Greg Rucka. It shows just how far Ra’s Al Ghul has gone and is willing to go for his mission. The story also speaks to the importance family. Particularly for Batman. In a rather interesting twist of fate, Ra’s asks Batman for help against a mysterious woman, hellbent on killing him. What would Batman get in return for his assistance? How about a chance for Batman to speak one more time with his dead parents? An offer that may well tempt the dark knight. It’s a delight to read an to look at. Penciled and inked by the underrated Klaus Janson.
Other recommended readings include…
Batman: Birth Of The Demon by Dennis O’Neil & Norm Breyfogle
Batman: The Saga OF Ra’s Al Ghul 1- 4 by Dennis O’Neil & Neil Adams
Son Of The Demon by Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham
Trinity by Matt Wagner
Riddler/ Edward Nigma
Easily one of Batman’s most recognizable villains, from a pop culture standpoint. He has a great look to him and an intriguing shtick. Of course, said shtick can and did get tiresome by the late seventies. Batman Forver didn’t exactly help his cause either. Since then, he’s now been reinvented and reinvigorated, thanks to the New 52 reboot in 2012. Personally my favorite portrayal would have to be ” Batman T.A.S. Edward Nigma was portrayed as a man who was smarter than everyone who should be at the top. His quest to prove that at all costs led to some, criminal dealings of sorts. These dealings eventually always lead him to Batman. Time and again, Riddler is defeated by the only man smarter than him. Of course , The Riddler refuses to accept this and therefore, does his best to outwit the DArk Knight. That’s the general take on him that I loved on the Animated TV show. Nevertheless, there are some great reads out there.
Batman; Zero Year # 21- 27 & #29-33 by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder has been making his mark on Batman and his world. no character more than the Riddler. Jeph Loeb’s Hush did a good job at showing why never to underestimate The Riddleer. Snyder went a step further and made him extremely formidable. The Zero year story was a remarkably fresh take on Batman’s origin. It boldly gave Riddler real relevance by making him one of his first major villains. The whole story unfolds in epic fashion and Riddler is deservingly at the forefront of it. He’s written mucher colder than I can ever remember. Just different enough to be interesting but also familiar enough not to offend.
Other Recommended stories include…
Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee
Batman: Dark Knight Dark City by Peter Milligan & Kieron Dwyer
Riddler ( One Shot) The Riddle Factory by Matt Wagner & Dave Taylor
Batman: Run Riddler Run by Gerard Jones & Mark Badger
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!