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CSBG Archive

75 Greatest Friends and Foes of Batman: Villains #30-26

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27. Mr. Zsasz

Created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, Mr. Zsasz was an instant classic as soon as he debuted in Shadow of the Bat, with one of the best visual hooks of any Batman foe…





That’s about ALL he has going for him, but goddamn, that’s an awesome hook!

26. Joe Chill

Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Charles Paris, the dude KILLED BATMAN’S PARENTS! That’s enough to make Batman’s top villains list, I would say.

I love how awesome Finger’s story is of their first meeting since that day…





How freakin’ amazing is that sequence? Dude DIES before he can tell Batman’s secret because HE caused Batman! That is so damned clever by Finger. And some of Kane’s best artwork from the time period.

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I was never impressed by O’Neil’s Richard Dragon but it did give us Bronze Tiger and Shiva so I must give him a little more credit.

Clayface III (Preston) was always a favourite. That Alan Moore Batman Annual is killer. It was less impressive when they brought him back from psychosis and paired him off with Clayface IV.

Man, that’s a nifty placement of a word balloon in Zsasz’s introduction! :)

Also, gotta give props to Breyfogle for drawing Zsasz without any scars on his back, as obviously it’d be a bit difficult for him to do clean cuts there. I think some other artists haven’t given it as much thought, and have drawn scars everywhere on his body.

Andy E. Nystrom

April 24, 2014 at 6:41 am

Glad my favourite version of Clayface made the cut. Dangerous, sympathetic, and creepy at the same time.

Superman McGee

April 24, 2014 at 6:56 am

Lex Luthor?! It never even occurred to me to consider him a Batman villain.

Zsasz was my #1 vote. I just love the glee the guy takes in killing.

Clayface 3 was my #3 – just one of the best tragic villains ever.

I forgot about Shiva and Joe Chill, but they’re both worthy entries too.

did you can’t people who just said “the guy who killed his parents” when you tallied Joe Chill’s points?

Bill Williamson

April 24, 2014 at 8:53 am

I’m pretty sure Batman has beaten up Shiva before. In A Death in the Family.

More New Amalgams of note from this list:
-Lex Luthor was mixed with the Red Skull to make the Green Skull a foe of Super-Soldier (Superman/Captain America) and a founding member of the Secret Society of Evil (Secret Society of Super-Villains/Masters of Evil).
-Lady Shiva was mixed with Elektra Natchios to make Elektra Wu-San, aka Lady Erynys; former student of Sensei Stick (Sensei/Stick) of the League of the Hand (League of Assassins/The Hand), alongside the future Dr. Dare (Dr. Mid-Nite (Pieter Cross)/Daredevil); currently a member of the Ladybirds (Birds of Prey/Lady Liberators).
-Mr. Zsasz was mixed with Carnage to make Bloodshed, a foe of both Iron Bat and Spider-Boy (Superboy (Kon-El)/Spider-Man).

So, Mr. Zsasz is a existentialist atheist. Interesting. I didn’t remember that.

Alan Moore’s best Batman story was that one with this version of Clayface. Great, great stuff.

“That face…after all these years…it’s he.”
“He”? Poor Batman must have been very shocked.

Or just very grammatical.

Yeah, “he” is correct.

I voted for Shiva, but as an ally, using the same logic Brian did in labeling Bat-Mite a villain. Regardless of her morality, she’s usually helped Batman.

Out of curiosity, how many of you, like me, have always understood the Alan Moore Clayface story to subtly suggest that Preston’s “fevers” were *always* psychosomatic in nature?

I did get that impression. He certainly did connect them with Payne’s madness.

Out of curiosity, how many first place votes did Joe Chill get?

Bill Williamson

April 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

The Last Arkham really was a fantastic story. It’s a shame that, with all this Arkham fanaticism following the release of the Arkham games, DC hasn’t seen fit to reprint it. It’s certainly much, much better than the B:TAS episode that was based on it.

Now this list is almost universally strong. And I didn’t even vote for any of them. Though this Clayface maybe should have been Waxface. Didn’t consider Lex enough of an enemy to make the list, but cool nonetheless. Wanted to vote for Zsasz, he’d have been my Grant choice, but couldn’t quite fit. And Shiva is cool. Though Bill is right, Death in the Family showed that while Shiva might even be a better Martial Artist, Batman’s size and strength and close ability give him the edge.

The depiction of Chill killing the parents is interesting after the Year One cover talk.

“That’s about ALL he has going for him, ”

I appreciate the subtle little digs against terrible, terrible characters.

You have to shake your head at how incredibly stupid Joe Chill’s henchmen are, killing Chill before finding out who Batman is. And anyway, what proof does he have that he even made Batman? They should just think he’s taken leave of his senses. They completely take his word as the truth and shoot him immediately.

Interesting group of characters.

Preston Payne is probably my favorite Clayface, despite being noteworthy primarily for two stories. Still, they were both great stories and I like my Bat-Villains with a bit of pathos.

Lady Shiva is a nifty character despite the Orientalism that spawned her not aging well.

Mr. Zsasz had a killer hook, but is my least favorite of the characters that Grant and Breyfogle created. He is very one-note.

Like Preston Payne, Joe Chill is really a two story character. Amazingly, Batman’s origin is the lesser of those two stories.

Anonymous above is me.

Preston has been one of my favourite Batman villains for the longest time. Mudpack is an amazing story, But his Batman annual appearance and 2 parter in Shadow of the Bat showed that so multiple writers from the 80’s-90’s got this tragic villain.

Its a real shame he isn’t used anymore.

I voted for Zsasz at #7. The Batman writers could do more with the character.

I didn’t vote for Zsasz, but I’m glad to see him on the list. I remember buying the first issue of Shadow of the Bat off the rack when I was 12 or 13, and found it completely amazing. The absolutely chilling portrayal of that character was a big reason why. That story arc has remained one of my favorites, and not purely from nostalgia; like Alan Grant’s entire long run on various Batman comics, it holds up very well. unfortunately, no one else has ever done anything worthwhile with the character, aside from Paul Dini.

The Preston Payne version of Clayface was a character I always found pretty fascinating, too. I first encountered him in an issue of Shadow of the Bat that revolved around him having a child with the Sondra Fuller Clayface. I immediately sought out all the earlier issues that featured him I could find.

What novel was Lady Shiva introduced in prior to her comics appearances? I know she appeared in the Knightfall novelization, for instance, but this is the first I’ve heard of a pre-comics novel appearance, and a web search yielded nothing.

I voted for Zsasz at #7. The Batman writers could do more with the character.

Zsasz doesn’t really strike me as a character with a lot of range, so I’m quite curious about what more can be done with him. He’s supposed to be the “grounded” sociopathic killer to offset the comic-book insanity of the rest of the Arkham crew, but…well, he’s a guy who stabs people to death, and that’s about it. (Well, and his name is a dig at the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 1970s.)

I always loved the bit with him in Hitman #2 or 3 where Zsasz lunges at the glass, only for Tommy to yawn and reply, “Sorry, I’ve already seen the movie.”

@Drunken Fist:

I know Richard Dragon was introduced in the paperback novel Dragon’s Fists that O’Neil wrote under the pseudonym Jim Dennis about a year before the DC Richard Dragon comic. Ben “Bronze Tiger” Turner was also introduced in Dragon’s Fists. I haven’t read it, so I can’t vouch for Shiva being in it, but that’s probably the novel we’re talking about.

Actually, my bad, Shiva was the only one of the major Richard Dragon characters (Dragon, Bronze Tiger and Sensei) NOT to first appear in Dragon’s Fist.

Thanks! Hadn’t heard about that. Gonna see if I can track down a copy.

You learn something new every day, I had no idea where Mr. Zsasz’s name came from until Omar pointed it out and I googled it.

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