Well, folks, I finally did it. After years of picking up scraps here and there through cultural osmosis, I have finally managed to catch up on Batman: the Animated Series. Yes sir, all four seasons and 114 episodes, counting the five crossovers with Superman: the Animated Series, which I have also seen – and it was good, too!
Most of you are probably already well familiar with B:tAS, given that it’s one of the most talked-about and beloved nerd series of all time. It’s not just a great cartoon, it’s also one of the most influential spin-offs of all time, with any number of original characters and character interpretations making their way back into the comics. Harley Quinn, the new version of Mr. Freeze, Lock-Up, Roxy Rocket, Renee Montoya – there’s lots of ‘em.
What struck me, though, was not how many characters had made it out, but how many hadn’t. To the series’ credit, it never leaned too heavily on Batman’s already-established rogues gallery, instead coming up with brand new (or functionally new, as with Freeze) antagonists whenever it seemed appropriate – and you know what? Most of them are really good. Sure, a number did make it back to comics, but there’s also a surprisingly long list of foes that haven’t, and in my opinion really should have by now, because they’re cool.
So why waste time talking about them, let’s shoot out our Bat-Ropes and soar into the night. Ladies and gentlemen, my Top Ten B:tAS Villains That Should Make It Into Comics!
Now, needless to say, there will be spoilers here. I won’t exactly be spouting them left and right, but it’s kind of impossible to talk about these characters without spilling some beans, as it were, so if you haven’t seen the series yet – well, reader beware, this will spoil a few plot twists. (Also, you may consider the Phantasm an unofficial eleventh entry, as I already talked about the character in my Top Ten Minor Batman Characters article, and I don’t like to repeat myself.) And, as always, no particular order.
Who it is: H.A.R.D.A.C (Holographic Analytical Reciprocating DigitAl Computer) was an artificial intelligence created by one Karl Rossum, a genius in the field of robotics and the head of the Cybertron corporation. Rossum sought to create a better world, with H.A.R.D.A.C as the centerpiece of his project – the only problem was, the A.I had its own ideas on the subject. It would, indeed, help improve the world – by replacing its flawed, human inhabitants with ‘Duplicants’, look-alike robots as cold and unfeeling as itself. While Batman ultimately stopped the mad computer, it still had one trick up its sleeve, and the Dark Knight ultimately found himself facing a Duplicant of his own…
Why it’s cool: OK, because I know someone is going to bring this up – no, the name of Rossum’s company has nothing to do with the Transformers. Coincidences happen, all right?
Now, back to basics. H.A.R.D.A.C is creepy. While technically it’s not exactly a character, per se, it certainly functions as a villain, and that functioning leads to what some have termed ‘the H.A.R.D.A.C trilogy’, three of the best episodes in the series. Drenched in moody atmosphere, loads and loads of sci-fi stuff, menacing robots truly being menacing, more than a dash of genuine horror – what, I ask you, is there not to like?
Mind you, one can’t ignore the fact that the basic concept sounds… familiar. It’s basically Batman meets The Terminator, with some Blade Runner and maybe a touch of Invasion of the Body Snatchers thrown in. But you know what? That is all cool.
Let us imagine for a moment how H.A.R.D.A.C might be translated to the comics. Picture a cold, mechanical intellect that is never completely destroyed – no matter how many versions of it Batman smashes to pieces, it always has a back-up, and in these days of Internet downloads, copies of its basic program would be legion. All it needs is a manufacturing facility of some sort (which it could potentially construct itself, given the resources), and it can begin again – and again – and again. Sure, its robots can be taken out without too much trouble, but it can always make more of them, and it does – and they might be anyone. And its emissary, the one Duplicant that our hero never manages to destroy, is him, the Robot Batman, glitching, hesitant, fighting with its creator as its core programming struggles with its growing (for lack of a better word) ‘humanity’, yet always eventually coming back to H.A.R.D.A.C, speaking with its voice, following its commands, its very existence a mockery to the Dark Knight’s fight against it. And after every battle, he knows it is only a matter of time until the terrible machine-thing rises again…
Used correctly, something like H.A.R.D.A.C could add a real element of paranoia to the Bat-universe, along with a classic ‘examination of humanity’ theme as personified by Robot Bats. I know robots aren’t traditionally Batman’s ‘thing’, but I, for one, think they would fit in just fine. We’ve already got shapeshifting blob-monsters, animal-men and a living popsicle as part of the canon – why not a few robots?
Who she is: Mary Dahl was a woman who had been dealt an unfortunate card. You see, she didn’t look like a woman at all – due to a rare medical condition, she hadn’t visibly aged or grown since she was five years old. As an actress, she had found fame and success as the saccharine toddler ‘Baby Doll’ in the family sitcom That’s Our Baby – until she quit the program in a fit of pique, choosing to focus on more ‘mature’ acting.
This proved a bad choice, as her career quickly went down the drain. Her life in ruins, Dahl’s mind snapped – she would find a way to recapture her lost ‘family life’ in front of the cameras, by any means necessary…
Why she’s cool: There is one rather obvious reason why not much else was done with Baby Doll – physically, she’s no sort of threat at all; you could literally take her out by picking her up and shaking her hard. If one’s criteria for a villain is ‘someone who could beat the crap out of our hero’, then it’s easy to see why she’d be passed over.
That’s not my criteria, though. If you look back at Batman’s classic rogues gallery, most of them have at one point or another been presented as relative weaklings – or, at least, as foes whose physicality was largely beside the point. You think the Joker and the Penguin and the Riddler became the legends they are because they could kick Batman’s rear? No, it was because they were clever schemers with interesting themes and a dab hand with deathtraps and gadgets. Ultimately, what matters the most with any villain is not how personally formidable they are, it’s the sort of stories you can tell with them, and Baby Doll is no exception.
So, all right then, what sort of stories could you tell with her? It’s pretty obvious, really – her greatest weakness as an opponent is also her greatest strength as a character.
Here’s the thing – yes, she is someone who is easily defeated, but she’s also someone who you instinctively don’t want to hurt. We as a society may have started getting a little paranoid about our offspring recently, what with school shootings and the like, but really small children are still, in the minds of most people, sacrosanct, especially little girls. You want to show that things are really getting bad, put a little girl in danger – it’s such a sure way to get your audience invested in the scene, it’s become a cliché.
Baby Doll exploits the crap out of this. Her ‘signature move’, if she can be said to have one, is simply to put herself in danger, thereby getting people to do exactly what she wants, whether that’s crashing a car or simply escorting her ‘out of harm’s way’. The general public is so used to little children being guileless and innocent that the fact that she’s not puts her in a considerable position of power; with a devious adult intelligence at the reins, she can manipulate the situation more or less as she pleases. Even Batman, who knows exactly who and what she is, can sometimes fall for this.
That’s just a matter of tactics, though – there’s more to her than that. Beneath the cutie-pie exterior of Mary Dahl is a deranged, tormented soul who clings to and defines herself by childish things because they’re all she has. All she wants is acceptance and love, but she can’t get these things in the way an adult would, so she falls back on the ways of a child, dropping in and out of baby talk and generally unbalancing what is a rather inherently unbalanced situation to begin with. Being Mary Dahl sucks, in other words, and it’s this tragic aspect to her character that keeps her compelling.
But we were talking about ‘what kind of stories’… well, let’s see, can you think of any good stories to be told involving the tragic intersection of childhood and adulthood? Maybe you can’t offhand, but I hope you will agree that that is a fairly fertile field, yes? (Especially in regards to Batman, given that the loss of childhood innocence is something that hits him bitterly close to home.) If you want specifics, there’s always Baby’s second appearance in the series to dip into, the one where she falls in love and teams up with Killer Croc. Oooh, juicy…
Mind you, it’s kind of foredoomed to failure, but that has something to do with A: the demands of a single-episode story format and B: the fact that B:tAS Croc is kind of a jerk. The comics version is not exactly cuddly either, of course, but over the years he’s shown a softer side to his character, and I can see the two of them forming a loose partnership that endures on an off-and-on basis. It could be a uniquely bizarre spin on the Harley/Joker relationship – poor Dahl is hopelessly infatuated with Croc, and sticks with him because he’s literally her only chance of any sort of romance (given that she’s stuck in a little girl’s body, hormones aren’t really a factor, so her idea of ‘romance’ is probably more on the hand-holding side of things, anyway), while Croc sticks with her because they make a good team – her brains compliment his brawn, and he’s got a certain amount of experience and animal cunning she lacks – while also feeling an odd sort of big-brother affection for her. (There’s a precedent for this sort of thing; he’s been friendly towards other ‘freaks’ in the past.) At any rate, it would be an intriguingly unusual team-up, and anything intriguingly unusual tends to garner a few good stories.
So yes, I think Baby Doll could work pretty well in comics. She’d probably never be one of the ‘main’ villains, but minor villains here and there add texture to things, so why not?
Who he is: Grant Walker had made himself a fortune through his empire of innovative theme parks – but that had taken him a long time, and he was nearing the end of his life. His prior accomplishments weren’t enough for him; he had so much more he wanted to do – and so he sought out Victor Fries, seeking to extend his lifespan through cryonics in much the same way Freeze’s had been.
All innocent-sounding enough – except there was a reason why Walker wanted to live so much longer. The world he saw around him was degenerating into hatred, fear, and violence, so he decided to destroy it, leaving only himself and a few picked followers alive. His would be the mind that guided the post-apocalyptic world, and for this he would need to live a very long life indeed…
Why he’s cool: I suppose one could successfully make the argument that Grant Walker shouldn’t make this list because he ‘doesn’t feel’ like a Batman villain. As should soon become evident, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about all that; what I care about is whether or not they’re a good villain, period.
So, no, Walker doesn’t feel like your typical Bat-rogue; if anything, he’s closer to a James Bond villain. But is he interesting? Is he engaging? Sure!
It’s been said by many that Walker is essentially a parody of Walt Disney, citing the urban legend that Disney had himself cryogenically frozen, as well as his occasional bouts of misanthropy and love of theme parks. It’s a convincing enough argument (although I’m not sure I would have come to that conclusion myself), but assuming it’s true, and he really was written as an evil Uncle Walt, the only thing I really care about in that regard is that they captured Disney’s charm.
That, you see, is what makes Walker truly interesting – upon meeting him, you’d never guess that he was a wannabe world-wrecker. Here he is, this twinkly-eyed, unfailingly polite old man who, most of the time, acts like the most diabolical scheme on his mind is to urge you to try his wife’s sugar cookies – fresh out of the oven, mm-mm good! And yet what does he want, this grandfatherly old guy? He wants to become an animate freeze-pop so he’ll live long enough to see the mass extermination of the human race, and its survivors bowing to his whim.
In other words, he’s basically Ra’s al Ghul if Ra’s looked and acted like the world’s nicest grandpa. (Also if he was minus the Lazarus Pits and had to turn to other means.) So yeah, maybe he’s not the most original villain on this list, but as a foil for Freeze, I think he certainly has potential – and you could at least get a few interesting Ra’s-type stories out of him.
Who he is: Enoch “Farmer” Brown was a microbiologist who had found the secret to manipulating animal DNA in order to create creatures many times larger than nature intended them to be. He believed that this would be the key to solving world hunger – after all, just one of his plus-sized livestock specimens would yield enough meat to feed a family for a year.
Unfortunately, when he tried to show off one of these to the press, it ran amuck, causing chaos before it could be restrained again. Brought to court over the incident, a Gotham judge laid down an injunction barring Brown from carrying out his research and ordering his experiments destroyed. His life’s work in ruins, the bitter scientist vowed revenge – revenge in spectacular style…
Why he’s cool: Please put those tomatoes down. I said pu- *SPLAT* I guess I should have expected that one.
Let me explain myself. I’m fully aware that Farmer Brown’s starring (and only) episode is the much-reviled ‘Critters’, which commonly makes its way onto Worst Episodes Ever lists – and on a basic level, I can understand why. However, A: I don’t share that attitude, and B: even divorced from the episode itself, in my opinion, Brown shows some potential.
Let’s start off with ‘Critters’ itself, which I think bears some defending. I think most people’s gripes about it boil down to its sheer strangeness and, again, the attitude that ‘this isn’t Batman’. And OK, it’s hard to deny that it is a weird damn episode, but is that a bad thing, really? I could point at several other B:tAS episodes that I might consider worse than this for the simple fact that they were boring.
‘Critters’ is certainly not boring. It’s an episode about Batman fighting giant mutated farm animals invading Gotham; even if you don’t like the episode, you can’t say it’s not memorable – and personally, I do like it. It’s got this bizarrely off-kilter atmosphere throughout that makes you wonder if it’s going to turn out to be a dream sequence or something, but no, it’s all real, and that makes it all the stranger. Strange is interesting, interesting is good – or, at any rate, a step in the right direction. I would much rather watch ‘Critters’ again than, say, ‘The Terrible Trio’.
And as for ‘this isn’t Batman’, well, what is Batman? True, it isn’t typical Batman, but the series is full to bursting with typical Batman. You’ve got as much of Batman fighting colorful maniacs in abandoned warehouses and amusement parks as you could possibly want. That sort of thing may be Batman’s bread and butter, but he’s had plenty of other kinds of adventures, ranging from globetrotting villain-hunts to encounters with the supernatural to zipping around outer space. It’s true that this may be the first time he’s ever had to deal with bus-sized cattle and the like, but the man’s done it all – his sheer breadth of experience over the years is one of the things that makes his exploits so fascinating.
On to Brown himself, who, again, is unique, and I like that. There may be other supervillains out there who style themselves after evil farmers, but he’s certainly the first I’ve encountered, anyway. Talk is cheap, though; what new thing can he bring to the table? Why, it’s right there in the title – he can bring ‘critters’.
OK, OK, I’ll try to be a little clearer. I will fully grant you that Farmer Brown is not exactly someone who Bats should face off with every day, and his shtick would wear off fast were he to do so, but as an occasionally-appearing background character, he could work very well.
Every now and then in comics, a new character (or a restyled old one) will pop up whose basic role is to facilitate the roles of others. Both Marvel and DC, for instance, sport professional tailors who make a good living outfitting villains with their trademark wardrobes, while the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge provides a useful staging ground for any number of villainous deals or back-room discussions. Farmer Brown, I think would work very well in such a role.
Think of it – can you not come up with at least one villain who might appreciate having some sort of monstrous creature provided for his use? I brought up the Penguin, for example; you think he might find some use for, say, a giant hawk or condor? Or let’s think smaller – what about a man-sized killer chameleon that could slip through the most rigorous security undetected and head directly to its target? The perfect hitman, in other words – I bet a lot of Gotham crooks would like to get their hands on one of those.
Brown could make a good living providing such things. Ever folksy and always willing to oblige, he could be a frequently referenced but seldom-seen presence as a monster-maker for hire. You want a living death machine for your next bank job? Why sure, son, have it ready for you in a week; just fork over a cut of the take and the critter’s yours. Everything from his trademark farmyard behemoths to a little genetic tinkering on a mob footsoldier he could provide – and every now and then, he might try a venture or two of his own, just to keep his hand in.
Now, you would of course have to be careful not to over-expose him in this role, or else risk having the Batman books converted to a monster-of-the-week series, Power Rangers style – but used judiciously, I think ol’ Farmer Brown could be a valuable addition to the gallery, explaining some of the bizarre sci-fi stuff that tends to go on in Gotham more often than not. Come on, writers, give ‘im a try!
Who he is: During his preparation for his crusade against crime, a younger Bruce Wayne was a pupil at a Japanese dojo. Among his fellow students was one Kyodai Ken, the only one who could consistently beat him. Though legitimately skilled, Kyodai was also arrogant and dishonest, something which came to a head when Bruce caught him trying to steal their sensei’s prized sword, resulting in his expulsion from the dojo. Enraged, Kyodai swore revenge on the “rich man’s son” he blamed for his misfortune, and disappeared into the night.
Cut to many years later, when various branches of Wayne Industries are being subjected to thefts and sabotage. The culprit is a masked man dressed in the costume of a ninja, a man whose fighting style Batman recognizes. Yes, Kyodai Ken is back, and he might just be the one man the Dark Knight cannot beat…
Why he’s cool: I’ve mentioned before that Batman, in my opinion, has maybe been portrayed as a little too awesome these days. If he can do anything simply because he’s just that cool, then that diminishes him as a character; he has to work for his successes if we’re to continue cheering him on. As such, he needs to be taken down a peg now and then, and Kyodai Ken would be a good choice to do it.
If you think about it, the Ninja is an interesting villain for Batman, because he doesn’t really have all that many actual rivals. Sure, ones do show up sometimes, usually in stories set early in his career, but they tend to be pretty inconsequential, and Bats beats them easily. Kyodai is one of the few foes he’s had where he’s genuinely unsure if he can actually beat them – yeah, he may be more skilled overall, but the Ninja could still whup his arse back in the day, and shows signs of being able to do so now. Furthermore, he knows who Batman really is. He can strike at him while he’s off his guard. This is the sort of thing that can make a Caped Crusader very nervous.
Moreover, Kyodai makes for a fun Bat-adversary in that he’s kind of full of himself. His entire motivation is born of arrogance, hypocrisy and wounded pride; he takes on Bruce Wayne because he needs to prove to himself that he really is as good as he thinks he is, and hey, that stupid gaijin stopped him getting that sword – darn tootin’ he’s going to ruin him! Yet at the same time he does have a sort of honor in that, while he may have no problem with cheating as a whole, he insists on fighting fair when he’s actually going one-on-one with someone, else how can you know who’s the true victor?
Overall, I think the Ninja could make for a fun recurring foe. He shouldn’t show up too often, but making occasional appearances as a pestiferous and worrying thorn in Bruce Wayne’s side would be a good reminder that, at the end of the day, our hero is still human, and can be beaten.
Who she is: A former spokesmodel for a number of major companies, Paige Monroe was ultimately dumped in favor of younger women. Still barely thirty, Monroe tried desperately to maintain her career, subjecting herself to repeated plastic surgeries to try to keep up with the industry’s unrealistic standards – but no, she was considered last year’s news. Ultimately coming to consider herself hideous and hiding her face behind a featureless mask, Monroe swore revenge, and became the seasonal menace known as Calendar Girl!
Why she’s cool: To start with, Calendar Girl is obviously based on Calendar Man, a formerly prominent Bat-villain who has seriously been given the shaft of late. Known during the Silver and Bronze Ages as a colorful, creative criminal basing his crimes around various different seasons and holidays, CM has in recent years been turned into a pale Hannibal Lecter expy thanks to Jeph Loeb’s portrayal of him as such in Long Halloween. Basically, he’s been stripped of everything that used to define him, so if we can’t have a Calendar Man that we can recognize as such, why not a Calendar Girl to take his place?
Furthermore, Paige Monroe’s plight is a good illustration of the very real and tragic over-emphasis on youth that plagues the entertainment and fashion industries, and has for far too long. Women are repeatedly told that they’re not young enough, thin enough, good-looking enough, that they’re (if you’ll excuse the term) last year’s model when they clearly still have many years of vitality and productivity ahead of them. It’s a serious problem, and having a character out there who draws attention to it is far from a bad thing.
Also, this speaks well for her longevity since there is no end of targets for Calendar Girl to go after. Music, movies, fashion magazines – there’s all kinds of ways she can go after the establishment for what it’s done to her. True, not all of her appearances would be able to have the same punch that her single B:tAS appearance did, but you’d still get a good character with a consistent level of relevant social criticism coming out of the mix. In my opinion, it’d be worth it.
Who he is: Driven mad by the mounting pressures of his slowly failing business and his dealings with the mob, shipping magnate Maximilian Zeus began to imagine himself literally Zeus reborn, the head Grecian god incarnate on this Earth. From the ‘Olympus’ atop his skyscraper, Maxie wishes to rain down vengeance upon those mortals who do not show him proper respect – which is just too bad when he steals a prototype lightning cannon from the army…
Why he’s cool: OK, this is one of those re-imagined characters I mentioned. Maxie has been around in one form or another since the late ‘70’s, but these days he’s usually portrayed as a bit of a joke, a delusional nutcase who imagines himself immensely powerful when in reality he’s a wimp. He’s at least respectable enough that writers keep using him, but it’s generally just when they need a ‘pushover’ villain that readers will recognize.
Not so with the DCAU version. Not, I should emphasize, that this Maxie is some kind of super-badass or anything – he’s still kind of a lightweight when compared to Bat-foes of the first rank – but here his weaknesses are turned into strengths, or, at least, interesting aspects of the character.
Take the delusional aspect. Yes, Maxie is still completely cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but that makes him dangerous, not pathetic. Why? Because he absolutely will not see the world as it actually is, instead preferring to remake it in his mind as a sort of mythological playground – and if it won’t fit inside his head, he has enough money and resources to try and make it fit. This means he can justify doing just about anything simply because he’s a god, dammit, and that’s the way gods roll. Any potential death and destruction that might result is simply his righteous godly wrath taking its toll – not his fault those impudent mortals sparked him off, now is it?
Furthermore, this Maxie is interesting because he’s probably the closest B:tAS has come to a genuine depiction of straightforward lunacy and its cost on people around him. Sure, most of the series’ villains are crazy, but they’re also mostly alone – Two-Face is a partial exception, what with his fiancée and his friendly relationship with Bruce Wayne, but we still don’t get a lot of information about how the man actually affected those close to him while he was normal.
In Maxie’s case, however, a very clear picture is painted, because he’s surrounded by people. His lawyer/girlfriend mourns the man she used to know and the love they used to share; his employees do his bidding in a sort of ‘the Boss is going through a phase; let’s humor him’ sort of way, and in general we see that he used to be a very different sort of guy. Beneath all the bombast and posing lurks someone who once commanded genuine respect, and might again, if he ever gets over this – but the crazier he becomes, the more remote that possibility seems.
To sum up, he’s a babbling madman, yes, but a babbling madman who genuinely is a madman instead of the type of super-lunatic Arkham specializes in locking up – and yet he’s no less dangerous or sympathetic for that. If the comics could put a bit more of this guy into their version of things, then Maximilian Zeus would be a far more respected name than it currently is.
Who he is: A mysterious vigilante dressed in the garments of a judge is bringing a new kind of terror to Gotham’s criminal element, dealing in strict ‘eye for an eye’ justice that tend to leave the crooks in question wounded or dead. Who is the Judge?
Why he’s cool: He’s Two-Face.
Yeah, yeah, don’t gimme that look; you knew there’d be spoilers.
Anyway. I like the Judge because I think he’s got a cool look and feel to him, and the presence of a more ‘extreme’ crimefighter tends to clarify Batman’s own methods, and the eternal ‘why doesn’t he just shoot ‘em?’ question – he doesn’t shoot ‘em because he’s afraid of ending up like this creep (or people like him). But I won’t pretend that there aren’t a few rather obvious obstacles between him and the printed page.
To start with – well, he’s Two-Face. Adding a brand-new twist to Harvey Dent’s dementia works well enough as part of a stand-alone episode, but in comics, there’s continuity to consider. If Harvey becomes the Judge once, then the precedent has been set, and eventually you run the risk of having writers who want to keep him as the Judge all the time because they think he’s cooler. Two-Face is more than cool enough as he is; he doesn’t need to be saddled with baggage like that.
However, I can think of at least two ways that it could be made to work. It boils down to one question – is the Judge Two-Face?
If he is, well – I think you’d still have to take pains to make him part of a one-off story, a graphic novel, perhaps, not tied into any ongoing storyarcs or the like. Or perhaps it could be tied into some element that is not usually a part of the Batman books, such as magic, or some sort of alien technology.
Either way, here’s what happens: under the influence of… something, maybe one of the above; Harvey Dent’s personality splinters still further, until now he has three personas. The Judge is a warped expression of his ‘good’ side, his desire for justice and passion for law, taken to its farthest logical extreme, while his other new one is… well, for lack of a better name let’s call him the Monster. He is crime personified, crime in its most chaotic, society-wrecking incarnation, “watch the world burn” sort of crime. Two-Face, meanwhile, is reduced to a sort of living middle ground, theoretically the scale balancing the other two out, in practice, helpless as he ‘watches’ them against each other, trying to undo each other’s work while the general public think of them as three separate people. Eventually they are reunited and the balance is restored, but not until a lot of lot of havok has been wreaked.
If, on the other hand, he isn’t Two-Face, well, nothing simpler; he’s basically the concept taken at surface value, minus the twist at the end. In practice, I see him as a sort of flip-flopped version of Anarky – if Anarky is the ultimate rebel, the ultimate protester, then the Judge is the ultimate hard-line establishment figure, the ultimate fascist; the Law as absolute iron-clad rule – or rather, his Law; the actual one doesn’t go far enough. (In fact, he might work very well as an Anarky villain.) What’s his real name? What’s his background? I’ve no idea; I’m sure the writers will come up with something.
The point is, it’s easy enough to pull off either approach (or, for that matter, both – you could do the Judge-and-the-Monster storyline, and then have the Judge show up again as a copycat inspired by the original). It’s doable – so why doesn’t somebody do it?
Who she is: One of the world’s most wanted criminals, the coldly ruthless Red Claw leads the terrorist organization of the same name, one spread out across the globe. No government is safe from her schemes, and the only person who has persistently managed to defeat her is Batman – but every time she comes back stronger than before, and there is always the chance that their next meeting may be different…
Why she’s cool: This is another character that the fandom seems to hate (or at least dislike), and for the life of me, I can’t lay my finger on why. I mean, Farmer Brown hate I understand – I don’t agree with it, but I understand – but Red Claw? I don’t get it.
Personally, I rather like Red Claw. Yeah, she’s perhaps a bit flat compared to some characters, but she fills a unique spot on the show in that her very presence essentially turns it into a political thriller. She brings to it the tense, backstabbing world of international intrigue, ransoms, hostages, doomsday weapons – it’s heady stuff, and makes the Batman mythos just that little bit more interesting than it already was.
Also, she herself is rather unique as a female character on the show, most of whom tend to fill very traditionally feminine roles – Catwoman is a jewel thief (diamonds are a girl’s best friend, after all) and the hero’s sort-of-girlfriend; Harley is the ditzy hench-wench, Ivy is a seductress, etc.
This isn’t a criticism, mind you – there are certainly places for those types of characters, and after all, most of them were inherited from the original comics. However, it’s interesting to note that Red Claw eschews that sort of thing. Although she displays a certain pride that Batman has “met his match” in a woman, there’s nothing specifically feminine about her motives or methods; she’s not out to prove herself in a man’s world, she’s already done that multiple times over long before we ever meet her – she’s topping the most-wanted list, for crying out loud. She’s even unique in her body type – on a show full of shortish, willowy vixens, she is tall and powerfully built. There is no mistaking her for any other; she stands apart on her own.
In short, Red Claw is interesting, and to those who complain that there’s not much to her beyond her job – well, perhaps not, but how long do you think that will last once she’s introduced into comics? Comics are intrinsically more complex than a TV show; they fit far more into one issue than you ever could into a 20-odd minute episode. It’s a writer’s job to fill that space, and I guarantee you if she shows up with any regularity, the holes in her character will fill up pretty rapidly.
Who he is: The brainchild of the unstable Emil Dorian, Tygrus is a humanoid cat, an artificial hybrid of man and human. Seeing Dorian as his father, the man-cat seeks to obey his wishes by stalking and killing the Batman – but his conflicts with the Dark Knight start to bring new ideas to his mind, and for the first time, he starts to question Dorian’s intentions…
Why he’s cool: Let’s get something straight – Tygrus is not what you’d call a versatile character. In fact, he’s mainly only good for one type of story. But that being said, why couldn’t that story take place in the comics proper?
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time DC used Dr. Moreau-ish creations in its pages – I know of at least one Elseworlds that explicitly uses the good doctor himself, and I’m sure there are others. In any case, mad scientists are a dime a dozen in the funnybook pages – Dorian, therefore, could certainly be used, and if him, why not Tygrus?
Here’s the idea: Dorian is the villain in a storyline of some sort, perhaps a miniseries or some such, and Tygrus, as in the cartoon, is his loyal servant and ‘son’. It could be an adaptation of Tyger, Tyger, with the action taking place on Dorian’s private island, or it could be a Gotham-centered storyline of some sort – either one would work. The point is, Tygrus goes through the same basic arc as in B:tAS (although I’d leave out the ‘Catwoman becomes a literal cat-woman’ aspect, because frankly, that’s kind of stupid – if you’re going to do that sort of thing, at least make it someone other than Selina Kyle. Maybe Dorian’s daughter? That’d be intriguingly twisted). At the end of the arc, either he vanishes, never to be seen again, or, who knows? Maybe the writer likes him, and gets an idea for his future resurrection, and he becomes a continuing character. Anything is possible.
However it would work, I do think the big kitty has potential. That sort of soulful exploration of the ‘who am I – what am I?’ question continues to have legs for a reason; it speaks to something very basic about the human condition. If you treat him right, Tygrus could be a good example of one of the morally ambiguous characters who are found here and there in comics – not exactly a hero, not really a villain, just trying to find out where he fits into the grand scheme of things. “The Cat Who Walks By Himself”, indeed.