Top Ten Problematic Bat-Villains (and how they could be made movie-worthy)

I suppose one could call this the finish to an unofficial trilogy of Batman-related articles. It started off with me talking about villains, so it’s only appropriate that I end it by doing the same.

Any character who’s been around the block as many times as Batman has is going to pick up a fairly large retinue of supporting characters – most of which, inevitably, are villains. Also inevitably, there’s a pecking order among these villains, and only a rare few manage to make it into that rarified group at the very top. You all know who they are; they’re the ones that everyone recognizes – the Joker, Catwoman, the Penguin, etc. They’re also the ones that inevitably get picked for adaptations, thereby entering the realm of cross-medium pop culture recognition. Ah, it’s good to be the top dogs.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency for people to lump the rest of the rogues’ gallery in with the bottom of the barrel. This is unfair. True, there is a bottom of the barrel when it comes to Bat-villains, but it takes a truly wretched creation to permanently stay there. Most of them are somewhere in between, detaching themselves from the primordial muck and rising at variable speeds to the top, where they bob and nip at the big guys’ heels, whining for their chance in little clouds of murky bubbles. (It’s possible I’ve overthought this metaphor.) Some of these will ultimately sink back down and disappear, but there are a great deal of good and interesting characters in that floating, nibbling crowd. Some have already squirmed partway through the barrier. Some need just that little bit of tweaking to pop free and bask in the surface waters of the big leagues. (OK, now I definitely have.)

So since I’ve got my tweakers at the ready, why waste any more time? Ladies and gentlefolks, I present to you my Top Ten Problematic Bat-Villains (and how they could be made movie-worthy)!

First, as always, some clarification of the rules. By ‘problematic’, I am not referring to villains who are outright duds; some of them are very popular. All of them, however, have that one little thing which prevents them from achieving their full potential, at least in the eyes of, in this case, a movie producer. The point here is not to ‘fix’ the characters, merely to come up with a method of making them, for lack of a better term, more marketable, while keeping their core appeal intact. Ones who’ve already made it to the silver screen don’t count; neither do original, non-comics characters (such as Farmer Brown or Roxy Rocket, for example), or villains with intrinsic ties to other villains, such as Query and Echo or (regrettably) Harley Quinn. And, as usual, they are in no particular order.

#10: The Mad Hatter

The problem: Now, I know some of you are going ‘what?! The Hatter gets used all the time! He’s not “problematic”; what are you talking about?’ Calm down. ‘Very popular’, remember?

Now then. Yes, the Hatter is a popular character nowadays, popular enough to have made it into the realm of action figures and the like. That doesn’t mean he’s not flawed. He is. He most definitely is.

Why? Simple – writers cannot for the life of them agree on just who he’s supposed to be. While we may think of the Hatter nowadays as being a diminutive character obsessed with Lewis Carroll, for most of his career he was known as someone completely different, a flamboyant big game hunter of hats. While ‘our’ Hatter was cooling his heels in… well, wherever supervillains go when they’re not being used; Monte Carlo, perhaps – Hatter Mark 2 received years and years of spotlight time in which to hone his act, and then was yanked into the wings while the original sauntered back onto the stage.

The result? We don’t know this guy. Hat-Hunter-Hatter (well, what would you call him?) is the guy that tangled with Adam West, the guy who had the whole Silver Age and most of the Bronze to himself, which gave us plenty of time to get to know him. Modern Hatter has had roughly a decade in the spotlight, if you add up his combined appearances, which are more sporadic than you’d think. What do they all have in common? He’s a little guy who likes Carroll. Not much else.

Basically, every new take on the Hatter (and there have been a lot of them) seems to last right up until the next one, and then it changes again. Heck, he’s never even gotten an origin – except in the animated series, and it’s never been established whether or not DC takes that as comics canon. That doesn’t leave much for a screenwriter to sink his teeth into, now does it?

My solution: So, you’ve got two Hatters, right? Easy-peasy – combine the two.

Seriously, this would solve a lot. From the old Hatter, one could take his flamboyant, theatrical personality and love of hats. From the new, one takes the mind-control aspect, the ‘shy little guy’ aspect, and the love of Carroll. Put them together, and you have a character who is both new and old, and eminently suited for adaptation.

How to meld the two together? Simple – make the Hatter a different personality from Jervis Tetch. (Or, if you prefer, a persona he dips into which starts to meld with his own.) Furthermore, make his assumed character more like the Hatter from the book, who generally says exactly what he wants to and doesn’t give a toss about other people’s reactions – appropriate for someone looking for a defense against his own shyness. This also gives him a reason for the hat fixation, along with a general outline for his scheme – have him be a literal hatter. He could run a high-class haberdashery that sells hats to Gotham’s elite, in the hatbands of which, of course, are his mind-control gizmos. As Jervis Tetch, he’s a quiet, meek little guy pottering about among his hats; as the Mad Hatter, he’s a huge ham with the ability to make the city dance to his will via hat-control of the people who make it work – and the more it does, the more it starts to take on a vaguely Wonderland-ish air. His primary motivation? As with his Pre-Crisis counterpart, he wants Batman’s cowl – because that way he can fit it with mind-control bugs, too, and turn the only guy who could stop him into an unbeatable enforcer!

Now, I ask you, wouldn’t you want to watch a movie like that? I would.

#9: The Monk

The problem: Vampires are awesome. Batman is awesome-possum. Vampires and Batman, therefore, are awesome-possum possum-awesome, pork chops, peas and apple-sauceum.

So what’s the problem, then? Well… he’s a vampire.

Let me explain. While the supernatural has always been a part of the DC Universe, Batman has always remained just a little bit separate from that sort of stuff. Sure, he’s hobnobbed with the undead a few times over the years, but as a general rule, Gotham City is not really the stomping grounds for ghosts and goblins. Thematically, Bats is more of a long-arm-of-the-law sort of guy – vampires may visit his neck of the woods, but they never stay long.

Now, if this is true in the comics, it’s doubly the case in movies. Hollywood likes their superhero movies clearly delineated as such, and unless the hero himself is supernatural in some way (such as Blade, for example), it’s dubious that a superhero-fights-a-vampire movie would fly. Too difficult to market. Can’t make ancient bloodsucking evil into a Happy Meals toy driving his little Monk-mobile. Wouldn’t work. (Mind you, it has already worked – The Batman VS Dracula is, by all accounts, not half bad – but I doubt you’d get studio executives to agree with you on that. More is at stake with a big-budget movie than an animated spin-off.)

My solution: You know, you never have to confirm that he actually is a vampire – just that he might be one.

They used to do this all the time in the early days of cinema, back when genuine horror-horror was considered a risky prospect. A hideous monster would turn out to be an escaped mental patient who’d had the mumps lately; a fiendish sorcerer who could summon the dead would be revealed to have done it all with mirrors. And some of the better ones never did confirm the fakery 100%, so there was always the faint possibility that – shh! Don’t tell the censors! – the monster/ghost/whatever might have been real after all! Or possibly not. But maybe!

Given that the Monk is a very ‘30’s sort of villain, this old-fashioned backpedaling approach could work very well for him – and it has already. Batman and the Mad Monk was a miniseries from a few years back that more or less left it up to your own interpretation as to whether the Monk was a genuine vampire, a madman who thought he was one, or something different entirely. It was heavily implied that he was probably the real deal, but never actually confirmed one way or the other. That allows you to have your cake and eat it, too – you’ve got Batman and a vampire, only he might not be a vampire, so you can still classify your movie as a basic superhero flick.

Frankly, I’d suggest a direct adaptation of BatMM, but however you want to do it, the potential is there. Make the Monk a shadowy figure who lurks in the shadows, never giving out too much information about him, and, if properly handled, you get a figure of looming menace who doesn’t need to be directly supernatural – just the hint that he might be is scary enough.

#8: Gearhead

The problem: OK, I must confess – I’ve never actually read a Gearhead story up to this point. Nonetheless, from what I’ve heard about the character, I’ve always found him kind of fascinating. A creepy cyborg who has an arsenal of cybernetic limbs and can skitter up walls by use of a spider-leg-car he’s attached himself to? Awesome! Sign me up!

So what’s the problem? Well, his background is kind of, um… generic. Basically, he falls into a lake and loses his limbs to frostbite, but luckily enough, there just happens to be a cyberneticist nearby who fixes him up with handy-dandy metal parts as part of his civic duty. How… convenient?

Not to mention that his motivation is basically just being greedy and crazy. There are certainly worse driving forces for a Bat-villain, but to be in a movie, one needs that little something extra.

My solution: How’s this for something extra – Mr. Freeze!

Yeah, yeah, I know most people automatically think of Batman and Robin when they think of Freeze in a movie, but as I said in my ‘Batman Movie Villains’ article, he could be made to work – and the good thing about an established character like him is that other characters can piggyback off his fame and potentially rise to greater heights than they ever did in the comics.

Such could be the case with Gearhead. (I was actually kind of envisioning him partnering up with Penguin, but hey, there are multiple possibilities.) Far from his fell-into-a-river-and-there-was-a-doctor comics origin, here he’s a fellow scientist who loses his limbs due to an early, failed cryogenics experiment that Victor Fries was conducting. Now he’s back, he’s cooked up some new limbs for himself, and he wants revenge. He manipulates Freeze into doing his bidding, or else he’ll off his beloved frozen wife, who he happens to have stashed away. Eventually, of course, Freeze turns the tables on him, and – epic villain showdown!

Or, if you think that would make things a little crowded, how’s this one – the basic origin is the same, only instead of it being Freeze who’s responsible, it’s his mentor or something, who has subsequently become a respected man of science. Gearhead blackmails him into helping him with his scheme, or else he’ll reveal his dirty little secrets to the world. Freeze himself is never even mentioned in the movie, until the very end, where a shadowy corner of the doctor’s laboratory is revealed, where there are two cryogenic tubes, one with a woman in it, one a man – and thanks to some equipment being damaged during the fight with Batman, the man is starting to wake up. He opens his eyes, they flash red, the screen fades to black and – dun dun dunnn! Set-up for the sequel!

Chills, I tell you. Chills.

#7: Killer Moth 

The problem: There are few characters in comics who have been turned into such whipping boys as Killer Moth.

Seriously, I feel sorry for this guy. Introduced as a perfectly serious, even formidable Golden Age villain, and remaining at least a moderate threat for some years following, the Moth has been one of the most pitiable casualties of the onset of modernity and the shunning of silliness. Since at least the early Bronze Age, he’s been portrayed as a pathetic wannabe who can’t get a break and doesn’t have a single victory to his name. In the ‘90’s they turned him into a freakish were-moth-critter, but that didn’t help, either.

Why? Well, see, he’s got kind of a silly costume, and his name isn’t too terribly intimidating, and… well, fanboys can be jerks at times. I’ve read I-don’t-know-how-many articles online mocking this guy because haw-haw, striped leggings!

Overall, if anyone deserves a career-boosting break, it’s Killer Moth. So how to give him one?

My solution: When recent history has rendered a character ridiculous, one must look back to an earlier era, a time when they still had relevance. To, in fact, Killer Moth’s first appearance. Yeah – now we’re cookin’.

Corny? Silly? Irrelevant? Far from it. The initial depiction of the Moth was as a nameless felon who decided his mission in life was to become the anti-Batman, a Batman for the criminal underworld. Such themes have been subsequently explored, of course, but at the time they were new, and the Moth took advantage of his novelty. He created a Moth-Signal for crooks to use, and gave Batman quite a run for his money before he was defeated.

Now there is a concept that is directly applicable towards a filmic adaptation. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and Killer Moth is criminality’s reaction to Batman. There is drama in that, as long as you play him as a genuine threat – the whole without-me-would-these-villains-exist thing is a bit worn-down at this point, true, but it still has enough pep to work in a film, especially when the villain himself states that yeah, Batman is the whole reason why he’s doing what he’s doing. Just tone down the costume a bit, but not too much – keep him colorful; that way he’s even more of an equal-but-opposite type. It works for the Joker, it can work for him. Do it right, treat him seriously, and Killer Moth could be redeemed at last.

(Oh, and while, again, future filmmakers will likely want to steer clear of anything even remotely resembling Batman and Robin, if anyone feels like introducing Batgirl – well, Killer Moth was the first villain she fought. Think about it.)

#6: Clayface

The problem: Clayface is one of those characters who A: seems made for the screen, because wow, fantastic visuals, but B: is also kind of not, because shapeshifting glop monsters don’t offer much scope for revealing the actor’s features – and since Bat-villains are usually played by big-name actors, facial recognition is something that the studio insists upon.

Also, fantastic visuals are one thing, but Clayface would be one expensive motherfrugger to bring to the big screen. He’s a constantly-metamorphising man-shaped blob of claylike goo. Sure, CGI can do anything, but it has to be good CGI – bad CGI just looks terrible, and the more CGI there is, the more likely the standards are going to slip, especially when the director would be constantly haggled by the studio to keep down the rising costs of bringing such a creation to life. There are other methods, sure (I’d love to see a version of him done in stop-motion), but no matter how you slice it, a fully-realized, convincing Clayface would take huge amounts of money and time to bring to the big screen.

My Solution: Unless, that is…

Well, basically, there are two solutions here. One is the more pragmatic version – if a shapeshifter is too expensive, then don’t make him a shapeshifter; go with the Golden Age crazed-horror-movie-actor version. Personally, I’d say there’s a great movie to be made there, but unfortunately I’m likely to be outvoted by the general public. People want a morphing Clayface, dammit, because that is cool!

Well, OK, that is cool. So here’s how you’d do it.

People tend to think of Clayface as a glop monster first and foremost, because that’s his most visually distinctive form and it’s cool when he’s turning his arms into sledgehammers to whack Batman with and so forth. Therefore, their minds go directly to him in full-on hulking-out mode. That, however, is the big, expensive part, and furthermore, too much of it would devolve into ‘Batman fights a monster’, as opposed to ‘Batman goes up against a formidable opponent’. Too little, however, leaves the fans feeling gypped.

How to balance this out? Well, you’ve all seen Terminator 2, right? Right. Think of Clayface as the T-1000. You’re always aware that he can shapeshift, but most of the time he looks like a perfectly regular guy – in fact, a variety of regular guys, and girls, and animals, and manhole covers… His ‘default’ form can be that of his pre-transformation identity (Matt Hagen, or Basil Karlo, or whichever name he’s going by this time), and he shows up a lot like that, but he can be anything and anyone. As a result, Batman never knows where or what his foe is, and may find himself going up against anyone from a rough-looking bruiser to a sweet little old lady to a lamppost that suddenly starts strangling him. (In fact, this would be a good way for the villain to frame him, should that be part of the plan – transform himself into an exact duplicate of someone perfectly harmless who happens to be nearby, then trick the Dark Knight into pummeling the crap out of that person, thereby making him look like a crazed brute.) Paranoia is the name of the game, until finally Bats manages to force Clayface into showing his true form, which we’ve only gotten hints of up ‘til then – and which, naturally, turns out to be the glop-monster. Problem solved, with a minimum of CGI and a maximum of splash ‘n dash.

#5: Man-Bat

The problem: Man-Bat is seemingly the most obvious enemy someone called Batman can have. What do you get when you take a fascination for chiropteran masquerades to the next level? You get a huge freakin’ were-bat creature, that’s what.

While obviously this would require special effects to pull off, it could, unlike Clayface, be done with relative ease, as Man-Bat does not present the special effects headache that a shapeshifter would. In fact, he’d only need the services of CGI during flying sequences and the like; the rest of the time, all you’d require is a really good monster suit, possible helped along by some animatronics and puppetry. Put the guys who designed the monsters for the Hellboy movies on the job, and you’d get a unique and badass-lookin’ creation.

The problem, therefore, is not in the execution; it’s in the thematic elements. While Man-Bat is a product of science, and therefore dodges the bullet that the Monk faced, he’s still basically a horror-movie monster. How do you do a character like that justice without making the result seem less like a superhero movie and more like a creature feature?

My solution: Simple, really. Man-Bat himself may look perfectly at home alongside the Wolfman, but Kirk Langstrom is much more complex than that, and it’s those complexities that should be focused on.

Picture this – Man-Bat starts out as a genuine hero (as, indeed, he has been at various points in the comics), idolizing Batman and wanting to help him out and fight alongside him. At first he’s perfectly intelligent and articulate, and his bestial abilities actually seem to outstrip Batman’s own – after all, it’s a lot easier to play the ‘creature of the night’ routine when you don’t have an actual creature of the night as competition. Crooks quickly start to become more afraid of the imitator than the original.

At first, Batman is a bit bummed out by this, and perhaps even considers retiring. But as Langstrom keeps taking his transformational serum, it starts messing with his mind as well as his body, making him more and more animalistic and brutal. Finally, he passes the point of no return – he’s now a screeching monster of the shadows, and the Dark Knight has to take him down and reclaim his spot as Gotham’s defender.

Also, an important element in Man-Bat’s life has always been that he’s happily married. A clever screenwriter could do some interesting things with this, comparing and contrasting Man-Bat’s happy homelife with Batman’s lonely existence, his wife’s open knowledge of his other life with Bruce Wayne’s never-ending need to conceal his secret identity, showing the strain the relationship goes through as Kirk starts to lose his mind – oh, there’s tons of potential here.

#4: Ratcatcher

The problem: Now, others may disagree with me on this, but I personally think that Ratcatcher is kind of cool. Sure, he’s not the deepest of Bat-villains, but he’s a modern-day, sewer-dwelling Pied Piper who has command of an army of rats – he’s basically the Ninja Turtles’ Rat King, only not crazy. I think that’s pretty neat, and it’s my article so shush.

However, there’s no denying that he’s kind of simplistic. His beef isn’t against Batman, it’s against the city, and he doesn’t really have the potential for grand-scale villainy that a good antagonist needs in these sorts of movies – after all, you can only have him attack Bats with a horde of rodents once or twice before it starts getting old.

My solution: Have him co-star with someone else. As with Gearhead, a little piggyback ride on the shoulders of a more well-known character could work wonders for him.

Who? Well, for the purpose of this discussion, let’s say Killer Croc, who will not be showing up elsewhere on this list, because, while I’m sure he could be made to work in a movie, I’m not 100% certain as to how. Let’s say he has, however, and you’ve got him living in the sewers looking to get revenge on Gotham for casting him out. But as a lone operator, he’s a bit limited in his options – that is, until he hears about this squirrelly little jailbird who’s figured out a way to control rats. Break-out time! Croc springs Ratcatcher from the big house, and, with him as his henchman, starts planning an epic takeover of the city on the back of a rodent tide. All goes well until his stooge starts getting ambitious, and wonders why he should do all the work and let Croc get all the credit…

#3: Nocturna

The problem: OK, I admit that this inclusion is partially based on the guilty realization that I should have at least one female character on here if possible, which sparked off a frantic search for one that fit the criteria. So hey, Nocturna everybody!

So… who is Nocturna? Well, basically her whole thing is mystery; she’s in love with mystery, and so she’s mysterious. Very, very mysterious. She does have a backstory (which I won’t go into here), but all you really need to know is that she likes mystery, the night, and living well, not necessarily in that order. She’s kind of a villain, but not all the way, kind of enamored with Bruce Wayne, but maybe not really, and a nice enough person to have briefly become a sort of mother figure for Jason Todd (this was the Pre-Crisis, pre-him-being-a-jerk version), except she may have had ulterior motives, so… yeah, only kinda.

Kinda. Kinda kinda kinda. That’s the whole issue with this character, and what makes her flawed enough to fit on this list. When originally written, she was supposed to be sort of a big deal, but we never really found out why, and no one since then has really gotten a handle on her. So that’s the issue here – Nocturna is fascinating in her ambiguity, but what do you do with her?

My solution: What don’t you do with her?

Seriously, the great thing about relatively blank-slate characters like Nocturna is that you can, within reasonable limits, do almost anything to them and it won’t be out of character as long as the basic attributes are kept intact. Keep her elegant and mysterious and night-obsessed, and the sky, more or less, is the limit. She’s probably not main-villain material, but she might be – who knows?

Furthermore, there is an actual place for Nocturna if you think about it, and one that is not often explored in comic book movies – the love interest who may or may not actually wind up with the hero, and may in fact be working against him. To my recollection, there hasn’t been a movie-superhero in a relationship quite like that since Batman Returns and the Bat-Cat romance, and someone like Nocturna would be the perfect sort of character to reinstate it. Because she is so mysterious, the audience won’t know quite what to expect from her, and the whole ‘obsessed with the night’ thing is something that Batman might identify with, if he were in one of his somber moods. You could keep people guessing all the way through the movie, and that’s a rare and valuable thing in a genre where most viewers already know the basics of a character long before they enter the theatre.

#2: Black Mask

The problem: OK, so far we’ve had hat-fetishists and vampires and cyborgs and monsters and such – I’d say it’s time for a good old-fashioned gangster! Every Batman list needs a good old-fashioned gangster on it somewhere, wouldn’t you say?

Black Mask is the sort of character who becomes a success despite himself. His origin is a jumbled mess and, as originally written, he himself was not too inspiring either, but he was the brainchild of Doug Moench, who pushed him hard during his run on the Bat-books, and he kind of took off from there. Without such a push, he could easily have floundered, but instead he stuck around long enough to develop an identity of his own that, at the very least, is distinctive and has possibilities.

There is all that other stuff, though. Like I said, the guy’s backstory is messy as all hell, and if translated faithfully into movie form would have viewers going ‘what is this?’ Furthermore, he ultimately devolved into a rather nastily sadistic character with a torture fetish that might make him a good antagonist in one of the Saw flicks, but otherwise wouldn’t (or anyway, shouldn’t) fly in a Batman movie. In order to make him work onscreen, you’d have to address all that.

My solution: Like I said, at his roots, Black Mask is an old-fashioned gangster – but not just a gangster. He also has his whole mask-fixation, which has obvious thematic connections with his bat-winged adversary and provides some nice juicy hooks to hang a plot on. Furthermore, he is the leader of the False Face Society, which is in some respects closer to a cult than a standard criminal organization. All this predates the torture stuff, and would allow one to ignore it completely (or, at very least, minimalize it to the point of good taste).

There is, however, still that dratted origin. Well, what are scriptwriters for? Rewrite the darned thing! Throw out all the convolutions and pare it down to something simple and understandable.

My personal suggestion would be as follows. Roman Sionis wound up hating Bruce Wayne, which his backstory is supposed to (but in my opinion does not) back up. Furthermore, he is supposed in some ways to be a ‘Bruce Wayne gone bad’ type, a ‘look what could have happened to him if his life had taken a wrong turn’ sort.

All right, then – embrace that parallel. Bruce Wayne was started down the path to his life as Batman when his parents were shot by a mugger (or, in some versions, an assassin pretending to be a mugger). Have one or both of Roman’s parents be shot, too, but with one important difference – in his case, the killer was masked, and he winds up being fixated not on his dead parents, but on the killer, and the power that he possessed, the power granted him by the anonymity of a mask. From there, well – things practically write themselves, don’t they?

#1: The Cavalier

The problem: You get no second chances when you’re an older Bat-villain. None at all.

Take the Cavalier, for example. He’s right alongside Killer Moth as one of those villains that idiotic fanboys love to hate. Never mind that the man has style to spare; never mind that he was one of the top five most frequently-appearing characters of Batman’s opening decade, never mind that he’s taken on other, far more powerful heroes (such as Wonder Woman) over the course of his career and held his own, never mind that he’s, oh, what’s the word… fun – no, never mind all that; all they see is a brightly-costumed guy swinging around a sword, and they go ‘haw-haw, Batman could totally take him’.

This caddish attitude may flourish elsewhere on the Internet, but not here. By gum, this is my article, and if I want to spotlight the Cavalier as someone who could feature in a Batman movie, then I’ll jolly well do so!

The only problem is how. See, here’s the thing – I like the Cavalier quite a bit, but no one could exactly call him complex. He’s a guy who likes to go around committing crimes while dressing and acting like one of Cyrano de Bergerac’s sparring partners. I approve of and encourage this sort of behavior in my reading material, but how to make it work onscreen?

My Answer: The answer is not only astoundingly simple, it honestly makes me wonder why nobody has featured this character in a Bat-movie before.

It is a well-known part of Batman’s background that as a child he hero-worshipped Zorro, an infatuation that may well have influenced the path of his career as an adult. This has not been incorporated into any screen adaptation that I know of, but it easily could be – and having established this fact, the course of the Cavalier’s adaptation should be easy as ABC.

Instead of making the character an homage to the Three Musketeers style of swashbuckling, move his influences over a tad and make him a Zorro homage. (In fact, I’m almost certain that this has already been done in the comics, albeit in a story I haven’t read.) He doesn’t have to literally look like Zorro (in fact, it may or may not be possible for DC to invoke Zorro – as I understand it, there are some rights issues involved), just make it clear that that sort of hero was what he was thinking of when he designed his costume.

This accomplishes two things. One, it makes the character fit in a bit better with the darker Bat-universe of today, and two, you’re guaranteed a good fight, because it’s personal now. This guy is essentially violating one of Batman’s childhood heroes, one of the last bastions of innocence he has left, and turning it towards evil ends. You know how upset people get when people mess around with characters they loved as a kid? With Batman, that would be amped up to ten, because the short period of genuine childhood he had pre-parental killing is very precious to him. If written correctly, a Batman VS Zorro-styled-Cavalier fight would be between a comparatively lighthearted character in the form of the Cavalier and a tower of burning rage in the form of the Batman. Hence you get the villain’s strengths – his swashbuckling nature, his fencing skills, etc. – as opposed to the hero’s – being friggin’ Batman. It’d be great.

Runners-up – Anarky, the Terrible Trio, Killer Croc, the Condiment King.



      • Oh, sure, there’s definitely a good movie to be made featuring a hero/antihero conflict. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to be a Batman movie. He’s just too big of a name, and too much of a box-office draw for him to share the spotlight – it’s Batman VS the Bad Guy; that’s what brings in the bucks. Mind you, there is room for ambiguity in said Bad Guy – look what I proposed for Man-Bat – but in the end, they have to be firmly established as a Bad Guy so the hero can beat them up. If one WERE to make a hero/antihero movie, one would probably have to use a different set of characters that have less riding on them – a Huntress/Question movie, for instance, might work well, since that’s A: an already-estabished relationship from more than one medium, and B: not such a big set of names that the execs will interfere. (It also offers the possibility of a romance between the two, which would be interesting, yes?)

      • True, but that’s really more of a modern conception of the character. Traditionally, what she’s been treated as is a villain with a softer side than most – and that actually sums up both of her cinematic treatments so far pretty well. She may flirt with Batman in ‘Returns’, but all the actual romance is between Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne – all her actions as Catwoman are either villainous or very ambiguous ones (like where she saves the woman from a mugger and then chokes and berates her). One of the failings of Dark Knight Rises is that there’s much less ambiguity in her actions, and yet the relationship between her and the titular Knight is written like there’s plenty of it – she may ultimately become a bit more heroic later on (oh, like that’s a spoiler), but throughout the movie Batman treats her like she IS an antihero while she’s still an out-and-out crook. I mean, come on, you’re not even going to TRY and arrest her?! Come on, Bats, she’s a thief! A criminal! I know she’s a longstanding ally in the comics, but this ain’t the comics, this is the Nolan-verse, and in this version of things, you met her like five minutes ago – AND SHE WAS BEING A CRIMINAL THEN! Bring her to justice, man! That’s what you DO! At least go through the motions! Arrrrrrrggghh!

    • Oh, indeedy – either one would be great. The only trouble is that in both cases they’re not really VILLAIN villains – at their worst, they’re antiheroes – and most superhero movies tend not to go that route; they like their villains villainous. Of course, you could always go the Knightfall route with Azrael, but then, of course, they’ve just done that, so… yeah.

  1. Great article here Rex.

    I like the idea of making the Monk’s status as a supernatural creature ambiguous, but if Batman writers are going to continually shunt him to the sides, I say go all out with the supernatural and have him plague the DC universe in general. Make him DC’s Dracula equivalent, make him the big bad in some sort of epic crossover, or at least have him fight Andrew Bennet or Dr. Occult. Anything’s fine with me so long as he actually gets a new kind of story to appear in, so far he’s appeared in nothing but retellings.

    If you want to see just how good the idea of a mad actor seeking revenge can be, check out the 1973 film ‘Theater of Blood’ with Vincent Price. Besides featuring one of Vinnie P’s greatest performances and several hilariously gruesome murders, it functions almost as a model for what a good Basil Karlo story could be.

    > in a story I haven’t read.

    That would be ‘Blades’ from Legends of the Dark Knight #32-34. It’s one of my favorite non-marquee Batman stories. It has it’s share of flaws, but the strengths more than make up for it, and it tackles all of the ideas you mentioned. At the very least, it offers a good chance to see Tim Sale when his style was more naturalistic.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.
      Oh, believe me, I’m perfectly fine with the notion of keeping the Monk as an out-and-out vampire. I think portraying him as a mysterious vampiric crimelord with an international reach, as he was in the original Golden Age story, would be awesome. However, we’re talking movies here, not comics, and as cool as Batman going up against a genuine vampire would be, it probably wouldn’t fly on the big screen. WB would probably be a bit antsy about mixing-and-matching their genres that way, and there are still some people who have problems with the occult onscreen, so their potential audience might be cut down. I was trying to come up with a happy medium that would satisfy everybody.
      I’ve heard of ‘Theater of Blood’ – it indeed sounds awesome, and I plan to see it when I get a chance.
      Yes, that sounds like the one I’m thinking of, all right. Is it collected anywhere?

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