I wasn’t sure if I should do this one. I don’t like writing things that become dated quickly, and while the ‘Net is currently a-swarm with speculation about the upcoming Batman/Superman movie, I was hesitant to join in. Why? Because at this point we don’t know much of anything, but inevitably we will, and just as inevitably, two-thirds of the speculations in question will turn out to be more than somewhat incorrect. The idea of someone running across this article after the movie has been released and going ‘haw haw, boy, did he get it wrong’ is one that leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and for that reason, I contemplated skipping this article altogether. Who wants to write something that will shortly be rendered irrelevant?
Two things changed my mind. One, now that I’d gotten the idea for it, it wouldn’t let me go until I’d brought it into being, and two: the current speculation is for this upcoming Batman/Superman flick. Who says this will be the only one? We’ve got multiple Superman films, multiple Batman films; the two have already teamed up in countless spin-off media – it would be illogical to think that, now that the ice has been broken, as it were, this will be the only Supes/Bats movie ever made. And if I’m correct, well, my picks here could apply to any such future filmic event. That should stave off irrelevancy for a little while, yes?
So without further ado, I present to you my list of five potential villains for this – or any – Batman/Superman team-up movie.
Who he is: Attempting to save his failed career via a spectacular publicity stunt, high-diver Joe Meach was stopped mid-plunge by Superman (the tank he was diving into had sprung a leak, and the fall would have killed him). In a generous gesture, the Man of Steel offered the now jobless Meach employment as the caretaker of the Superman Museum. He took the job, but was bitter about his low place in society, and harbored resentment against both Superman (who he irrationally viewed as having ruined his last chance at fame) and Batman, who, as one of the Metropolis Marvel’s closest friends and colleagues, was also a prominent fixture at the museum. If only he had some super-powers, he’d show ‘em – he’d show both of ‘em!
As chance had it, he was soon to get his wish. One night, having left the window open during a storm, Meach happened to be near it when lightning struck, attracted to a metal display table that held statuettes depicting the roster of the Legion of Superheroes, heroes from the far future. These were not mere carved images, however, but actually held some of the essence of each depicted hero, essences which were released by the lightning – essences which held power. Exposed to the resulting surge of energy, Meach suddenly found himself possessing the powers of every member of the Legion at once, making him more than a match for either of the heroes he hated. Taking on a guise that combined both of their appearances, he dubbed himself the Composite Superman, and set out to fulfill his ambitions…
Why he’s cool: In all honesty, this entry’s inclusion is partly due to pure petulance on my part. See, here’s the deal – while I was in the planning stages of this article, I was doing a little snooping around the ‘Net, and encountered multiple articles talking about who should not be a Batman/Superman villain – and featured on more than one of them was this guy, largely on the grounds that he was too silly.
Now, if there’s one thing guaranteed to make me twitch, it’s people talking that way. ‘Silly’ doesn’t mean bad, people. ‘Silly’ doesn’t mean stupid. ‘Silly’, more often than not, means interesting in a fun if totally unsophisticated way, and I’d be damned if I’d let these snobs steamroll Composite Supes without someone making a counter-argument in his favor.
That was more the clincher than anything else, though. I was already considering putting him on the list, because A: come on, look at him; he’s literally designed to fight the World’s Finest together, and B: the Composite Superman is, no lie, one of the most formidable foes any hero or heroes have yet to encounter in comics.
Don’t believe me? How, you say, can this silly bisected guy with the Hulk’s skin tone possibly be more than a joke? Very easily. Reread that origin blurb above – he has the powers of the entire Legion roster as it existed at the time.
That makes him astonishingly powerful. Just to start with, he is three times as strong as Superman at his Silver Age peak, and just as invulnerable, but that’s small potatoes. He also has telepathy, shape-shifting, invisibility, matter transmutation, lightning generation, the power to grow or shrink, the power to stretch his body Mr. Fantastic-style, the power to split into three copes of himself – and all that’s just for starters; I could go on, but it would be redundant.
The point is, at full power this man is basically a god incarnate, and well he knows it. His only real weakness is his personality – he’s a petty, mean little man whose first priority is to completely humiliate the DCU’s two top heroes just ‘cause he can – and he does it. He toys with them like a cat with mice, completely and effortlessly demolishes them when they decide they’re tired of playing around, and the only reason he doesn’t go on to be a threat to the entire world is… well, a fairly typical Silver Age plot convenience that’s not worth going into. Still, he did handily beat both Superman and Batman in rapid succession, something that no one else could boast at the time, and which is a rare accomplishment even today.
Now, of course it would be pretty difficult to literally make him that powerful in a movie, due to the involvement of the Legion and time travel and all sorts of other stuff that would be nigh-impossible to set up without making a lot of narrative leaps. Still, there are ways around it – heck, this might be a good way to introduce Superman’s other main weakness besides Kryptonite, i.e, magic. You can keep Joe Meach as a museum caretaker (although not the Superman Museum; that’s not a concept that would work here) with a grudge against, maybe not Batman and Superman specifically, but heroes in general – and given that the aforementioned are definitely the headliners of DC’s movie universe, that should include them by default. Have him stumble across some sort of museum exhibit (maybe even one that looks a bit like the Legion statuettes, as an in-joke) that zaps him and gives him superpowers – not necessarily all the ones he has in-comic, but then, he doesn’t need them here; he’s fueled by magic, and that means that he has the edge over Supes to begin with.
Both heroes will have to use their brains to come up with a way to beat this guy, and the battle will be epic beyond a doubt. Make it so, DC! Composite Superman! Nerds will love you!
Who he is: Originally just a small-time crook, John Corben’s life was changed forever when his brain was transferred into a powerful cyborg body following a car accident. Fueled by Superman’s greatest weakness, Kryptonite, he would go on to become the mechanical monster of Metropolis – Metallo!
Why he’s cool: Well, to start with, he’s a classic and immediately recognizable Superman villain. He’s been in the comics in one incarnation or another since the Golden Age, and has appeared in most spin-off media as well. If you’re looking for a good, reliable foe who’s earned his dues but hasn’t shown up in the movies yet, I’d say he’s your boy.
Furthermore, he has some specifically good qualifications for this list, since he is one of the few really powerful Super-baddies that Batman might actually have an easier time with. All Metallo has to do to get the edge on Supes is to back him into a corner – his Kryptonite heart will do the rest – but so far as Bats is concerned, he’s just a cyborg, and Bats can handle cyborgs. Sure, it’ll still be a big fight, because Corben is a dangerous character no matter how you slice it, but still, the Dark Knight has fought worse.
This A: allows Batman to get some badass moments, and B: allows for some tension-building once he’s inevitably taken out of the action. Picture it – Metallo has clashed with the duo a couple of times, and in both cases it’s Batman, not Superman, who has had the edge, the latter only surviving at all through quick thinking. Then Batman is taken down – either he’s out of the action entirely, or he’s simply in no condition to be doing any cyborg-fighting today, thank you very much. Now Superman must tackle the monster alone, and for once, this is a fight he may not be able to win. It’s not often this happens to a character as powerful as he is, and would be a good way of toning down his status of ‘boring invincibility’, as some have termed it.
Metallo, baby! Let’s see some Kryptonite-fueled rage!
Who he is: A powerful imp-like being similar to Mr. Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite is an obsessive fan of Batman. While only wishing to be of help, he has often caused trouble with his antics, as his attempts to ‘make things more interesting’ for his idol often wind up endangering the lives of the Dark Knight and everyone around him in spectacular (if sometimes goofy) fashion.
Why he’s cool: No, I’m not crazy. Think about this.
I’m aware that Bat-Mite is not exactly popular amongst the Bat-fandom these days because, basically, he’s silly, and his wacky shenanigans do not fit well with the Caped Crusader’s current darker tone. Mark my words, people; like I said earlier, silly is not bad. There are possibilities inherent in any character, especially in one like Bat-Mite who has been around since the ‘50’s.
What are they? Ponder for a moment. To start with, like his frequent rival Mxyzptlk (who I probably would have included on the list had I not just used him in my last one), this is one powerful little dude we’re dealing with here. He can do more or less anything, and this allows for virtually limitless storytelling possibilities. Want your heroes to go up against, say, an army of ravenous green monsters equipped with jetpacks? No problem. How ‘bout having their equipment come alive and attack them, or a cityscape warp and bend into bizarre and unsettling shapes? Can do. Or what if you want to get really epic, boiling seas, shattering mountains, deserts made of quicksand, challenges truly worthy of the World’s Finest? Bat-Mite aims to please!
Second, he works particularly well in team-up stories like this one because he is specifically a fan of Batman, not Superman, and forever seeks to prove that his hero can outdo anyone, including super-strong Kryptonian powerhouses. This makes for a good set-up, of course, but it also allows for some timely meta-commentary.
As you are most likely aware, many Bat-fans have claimed for years that Batman can easily take down Superman because he’s Batman, dude! Bat-Mite is more or less a living incarnation of this attitude, which opens things up for a little fun-poking at the ‘BATMAN IS TEH BEST HERO EVAAAR’ obsessives while simultaneously giving us some imaginatively ridiculous set-pieces. ‘Batman can totally beat Superman! He can… he can beat him with one hand tied behind his back! Yeah, and one foot, too! And with… uh, what would be cool… with a volcano exploding right behind him! Oh, you bet! And, uh, and sharks in the volcano – lava sharks, with, like, diamond teeth! And a horde of angry tribesmen after him armed with spears that shoot lasers! And, uh, and spikes all over the place! In one minute! Yeah, there you go, show ‘em, Batman! You’re the greatest!’ Poor Batman…
Mind you, that’s the sort of stuff I’d do. Probably nothing that interesting will wind up taking place even if they wind up using Bat-Mite in the first place, which they probably won’t. Still, what possibilities there are…
Who he is: During the testing of a powerful new Kryptonite reactor somewhere in the Southwestern deserts, a meltdown occurred. Superman, who was there as an observer, tried to halt the process, but failed, although he did manage to stop the resulting radiation from harming any local inhabitants. The experiment was chalked up as a failed one, and no more was thought of it.
No one knew, however, that, unnoticed in the chaos, something extraordinary had happened – the brief opening of a portal to another dimension, that which its inhabitants termed Quarm. It was populated by incorporeal creatures known as Quarmers, and one of them, seeing its chance, slipped through the portal before it closed. Attaching itself to the psychic imprint left by Superman, it formed a body from the desert sands, and set out to find its quarry, seeking to absorb his power, his strength, until, in time, Superman would be no more, and the Sand Superman would be all that was let…
Why he’s cool: Confession time again – I haven’t actually read much of this character aside from a few snippets here and there. Therefore, I am basically going on the statements of other, more experienced Superman fans, so if there are any inaccuracies here, they’re mine.
That being said, why did I choose this rather old and obscure character for the list? Well, here, as usual, is where I explain.
The Quarmer was introduced in the first big Superman story of the ’70’s, one written by Denny O’Neil in order to take him back to his Golden Age roots. Specifically, he had been made so insanely powerful by this point that O’Neil figured he needed to be taken down a peg or two in order to keep him interesting.
Here’s where the Quarmer (more commonly referred to, for obvious reasons, as the Sand Superman) came in. A strange duplicate of the Man of Steel, this eerie creature would go on to have a series of brief encounters with him – and every time they met, a bit more of his powers were siphoned off. Over time, the SS became closer and closer in power and appearance to its double, while the genuine article became weaker and weaker, until eventually he was just a normal human. He would, of course, eventually return to his old self, but he had still been drastically depowered, and would never completely return to his former godlike status.
Now, ‘dark Supermen’ are far from uncommon as Supes villains, but this one had a certain, well, alien-ness that set it apart. Because really, it was an ‘it’ – it was a creature from another dimension who had nothing whatsoever in common with humanity. It wasn’t actually evil, or trying to kill Superman (indeed, it couldn’t; there was a sort of psychic link established between the two that was necessary to its survival in this world), but its only concern was maintaining its own existence; it didn’t give a fig for humanity, nor for the millions of lives put in danger every time the Metropolis Marvel’s powers started to falter in the middle of, say, stopping a tidal wave. It didn’t care; all it knew was that it needed to get stronger, and stronger, indeed, it got.
Picture this scene – dusk in the big city, a beautiful sunset tinting the towers red and gold. High above the streets, a helicopter full of crooks has just come in contact with a certain red-blue-and-yellow clad hero, who is calmly going to work. Bullets ricochet like mad off his chest, but there’s no stopping him – he’s methodically taking down the baddies one by one, already planning to deposit them at the nearest police station.
Then, just as he’s facing down the last crook, the chopper rounds a corner, and time stills. Standing on a rooftop nearby is a silent, ghostly figure, a creature of sand, its outlines shifting slightly as the wind blows over them. It makes no move, but its silicate eyes lock with Superman’s, who staggers suddenly. He feels weak; we see his vision go swimmy as his super-senses blur. Then a bullet’s impact shoves him backward out of the doorway, and the Man of Steel falls…
Of course, while this may make a good case for making the Quarmer a Superman movie villain (at least, I hope it does), it doesn’t necessarily translate well if Batman is also added to the mixture. True enough, but there are ways around that. For one thing, a Batman/Superman movie need not necessarily involve a simple team-up that lasts the entire running time; the two can have separate, intersecting plots that ultimately tie together at the film’s climax. For instance, let’s say some grand schemer of a villain (it doesn’t matter which one; there are lots) is trying to neutralize both heroes so they can’t team up and stand against him, ‘cause he’s got something big in the works that must not be interrupted. He unleashes the Sand Superman to sap the Man of Tomorrow’s strength, and at the same time has a little something for the Dark Knight, as well – perhaps he traps him in an elaborate mental prison that he’s got to find a way out of. At any rate, both heroes, after a brief get-together at the beginning, spend the rest of the movie struggling alone, their battles made still more urgent by A: the fact that the main villain’s evil scheme must be halted, and B: each knows that their friend is also in danger, and needs help maybe even more than they do. At the end, they manage to beat, or at least fend off, their respective demons long enough for one to rescue the other, and then, epic team up!
Or maybe not. However, even if the aforementioned set-up doesn’t work, I do hope some screenwriter will eventually remember the Quarmer and work it into a movie somehow. It’s just too interesting of a plot device to go unused forever.
Who he is: Research scientist Dr. Simon Ecks discovered that the aura of energy surrounding the human body could be given a separate, autonomous existence. Acting as his own guinea pig, he created an energy doppelganger of himself, possessing superhuman powers and with its own intelligence – one comprised of Ecks’ ‘dark side’ that, with a mental link to his creator, dominated the scientist’s already fragile mind. Now he turns his powerful mind towards the pursuit of crime as Dr. X – and, always at his side, the diabolical Dr. Double X!
Why he’s cool: Admittedly, this is more based around what the character could be rather than what he is. Double X is a long-standing Bat-villain who’s given Batman a tricky fight or two and is a legitimate threat if written correctly, but is nonetheless generally relegated to B-lister status. It’s no surprise, either, as he’s basically one of the last lingering remnants of the early Silver Age ‘Batman meets sci-fi’ era, and as such doesn’t really fit with the way the character is written today. He’s a decent enough character, just kind of a square peg in a round hole.
A little tinkering, however, shows him to be uniquely qualified for the role of a Batman/Superman villain. He has exactly what it takes; it’s just never to my knowledge been exploited before.
Here’s the deal – Ecks can essentially split himself into two people, correct? One weak but smart one, one exceptionally powerful one, correct? Powerful enough, perhaps, to take on a certain Kryptonian, correct? You see where I’m going here?
Not that I’m necessarily saying that Double X is that powerful – in fact, I’m almost certain he isn’t. But he is capable of flight, wields powerful energy blasts, and possesses super-strength, which at least puts him in the Man of Steel’s wheelhouse, if not in his actual weight class.
Here’s where the tinkering comes in. See, the issue with any sort of team-up movie is that there needs to be sufficient stuff going on for more than one person to deal with – if it’s just the single villain who needs taking down, that’s a one-hero job. Therefore, you either need a villain with lots of henchmen, as in Avengers, or multiple villains, in which case, who’s the main one?
Double X would be a way of cleverly side-stepping this issue. All you really need to do is expand the character’s capabilities a little, and you’ve got a character that is handily capable of taking on two characters at the same time in separate battles.
Picture this. In-comic, Double X can only maintain an autonomous existence if he has a source of electrical energy to draw on. If one extrapolates a little bit from this, one can easily see a character whose strength level is directly proportionate to said energy – in other words, the more he has, the more powerful he is, like the Hulk and anger. If, at the same time, one expands Eck’s role in all this to the point where it’s a bit more of an equal partnership, we have a super-powerful bruiser and a genius scientist – in short, ideal counterparts to the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight.
Imagine, if you will, the following scenario – Doctors X and Double have a few preliminary encounters with the World’s Finest team and get their butts whooped. However, Ecks’ energy-Hyde is urging him on towards far greater efforts – his vanity will not allow him to back down before he’s beaten and humiliated Superman in turn.
But how to achieve such an ambition? Where to get sufficient power? Well, how about tapping into the power grid of a major city? Yeah, that might just be the ticket.
To this end, X creates a sort of remotely-operated power-siphon that he outfits his double with, which, just for a start, drains Gotham City’s entire electrical output into him, rendering him insanely powerful; he speeds off to Metropolis with murder on his mind. As panic reigns in his darkened hometown, the Dark Knight searches for the source of the problem, all the while Double X is beating the tar out of the Man of Steel. As the battle ramps up, the siphon starts draining Metropolis’ power as well; as lights blink off beneath the airborne combatants, either Batman must stop X or Superman must beat Double X before both their cities are plunged into chaos!
Now does that sound like a donnybrook for the ages or what? Admittedly the plot is perhaps a trifle thin; one might want to throw a few more elements into the mix, but as a climax? I may modestly state that I think it holds promise.