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75 Greatest Friends and Foes of Batman: Villains #20-16

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In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Batman, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Batman. Future installments will deal with Batman creators and stories, but this month will be about Batman’s allies and his villains.

You all voted, now here are the results (40 bad guys, 35 good guys for a total of 75)! Here is a list of all the characters revealed so far. We continue with Villains #20-16 (I decided to go back-to-back villains entries)…

Enjoy!

NOTE: There’s so many images in these pieces that I’ll be breaking them up over two pages.

20. Man-Bat

Created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams, the mutated bat-creature known as Man-Bat was introduced as a friend to Batman. However, very quickly Robbins and Adams decided that he worked better as a tragic villain, as his mutation led to him becoming alienated from Batman and even fighting his idol!

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Over the next four decades, Man-Bat has alternated between good guy and unwilling bad guy (sort of like Curt Conners and the Lizard for Spider-Man) but I guess he was most popular among voters as a bad guy!

19. Dr. Simon Hurt

Based on the scientist from the classic Batman tale “Robin Dies at Dawn” (where a scientist puts Batman through the mental wringer as part of an experiment), Grant Morrison decided to say “What if that scientist, who had access to Batman’s inner-most fears for over a week, was a BAD GUY?” So he gave us Dr. Simon Hurt, the head of the evil organization known as the Black Glove…

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Hurt decides to absolutely break Batman, both by leaking false reports defaming Batman’s dead parents (and Alfred Pennyworth) and actually seemingly breaking Batman’s own PSYCHE!!

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However, this being Batman, he thought of everything and found a way to save his psyche. In the end, we discover that Hurt was actually a Wayne from over a century ago who had gained long life due to his contact with one of Darkseid’s devices.

18. Killer Croc

Introduced by Gerry Conway and Curt Swan as a new crime boss…

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Killer Croc was both super strong AND street smart…

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However, as time has gone by, outside of a story here and there (like Brian Azzarello’s Batman run), Killer Croc has sort of been distilled to just a big super-strong villain, where he is still a boon to Batman’s Rogues Gallery since he has such a great visual…

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Go to the next page for #17-16!

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37 Comments

4 of these five were on my list. I always liked Croc as the smart crime boss, it’s a shame they decided to “Devolve” him like they did. In many ways he was the prototype for Bane, a villain who was physically imposing, but also had the strategy to be a huge threat. For a while Rick Veitch had a subplot running in his stories (Swamp Thing, Secret Origins) where Croc was faking his low intelligence and waiting for the right moment to hatch his plan. Unfortunately we never got to see what that was.

– Man-Bat strikes me more as ally than enemy. He’s a character whose appeal somewhat eludes me; he never seemed all that different than Marvel’s Lizard, another Jekyll-and-Hyde monster movie concept that seems to get the same storyline over and over. I guess the problem for me is that Man-Bat, as a villain, is really just a beast most of the time, not a real character with whom other characters can have non fighty interaction. He’s a hell of a good visual, though.

— Simon Hurt….man, another of these purpose-built villains who surely won’t be coming back under anyone else’s pen. It doesn’t help that his origin story is one of those brain-twisters: he’s an evil ancestor of Bruce Wayne’s merged with Darkseid’s Hyper-Adaptor , turning him into a lunatic immortal who believes the adaptor is the bat-demon Barbatos, and who hates Bruce Wayne and the Wayne family name because Bruce’s parents tried to *help* him and mde him feel pitied. It’s interesting that, like Lincoln March of the Court of Owls, he draws on one of the more obscure Pre-Crisis stories, that being Bob Haney’s “Boomerang Killer”/Thomas Wayne, Jr. Come to think of it, all three latter-day incarnations of that character — Owlman, March, and now Hurt — have made the list in some way.

— Croc is a victim of a plotline almost everyone misread. Rick Veitch introduced the “dumb muscle” characterization in ann issue of Swamp Thing, but then turned around in a tie-in story in Secret Origins to show that Croc was faking his imbecility as part of some larger scheme. Naturally, though, the overmuscled dope part stuck and the rest didn’t. Morrison using him as a mindless hunk in Arkham Asylum didn’t help, and the Animated Series solidified Stupid Croc as the default. (Cros is one of the few characters poorly served by the cartoon, and even there his debut episode made him much cleverer and more effective than later appearances.) That first Croc arc in the comics, though…man was that good.

— Deadshot almost made my list, but I think of him much more as the antihero from Suicide Squad than as a Batman enemy. I always thought that he;d outgrown Batman in terms of the way the character is used. (Of course, part of the fun is that he’s never psychologically outgrown Batman thanks to his issues with his dead brother.) Christos Gage did get some good material out of their relationship in the last LotDK issue, as Brubaker did by tying Floyd to David Cain, so maybe Deadshot should’ve gotten my vote, too. Doesn’t look like he needed it, though.

— The Basil Karlo Clayface is an odd case to me, a character so minor he was actually killed off at one point in ‘Tec #496 and who owes his continued existence to the need for a composite Clayface who puts the various interpretations together. The comics version has always felt rather undermotivated to me, which may be why his motives and even powers seem to change literally every time he appears. This makes those duplicate Clayfaces even less comprehensible; I’m sort of hoping that someone comes up with a good central idea for the Bat-books’ resident shapeshifter. Snyder almost got there, but I think his character idea got lost in the technobabble. But someone’s got to come up with a good answer to the “what does he want, and why” question that usually animates a strong recurring villain.

interesting to find dr. hurt on this list given how grant kept messing with fans mind over who he is including saying he might have been the devil himself. or thomas wayne. and deadshot and killer croc figured they would be in the top twenty some where. clayface interesting given all the versions one could pick for the list.

Bill Williamson

April 28, 2014 at 7:10 am

I think I voted for Killer Croc. He certainly is a great visual.

I know I voted for Deadshot. He’s a great visual and a fairly interesting character. Unfortunately he and Batman rarely meet up these days.

I voted for Deadshot and Hurt. Deadshot mostly for his out of Batman appearances, of course, namely Suicide Squad and Secret Six. I do enjoy Engleheart/Rogers/Austin Batman stories though.

Hurt is one of several of the “mastermind” type characters who discover Batman’s identity and try to systemically destroy him. March and his Court of Owls is a recent approach, Hugo Strange being another. Hurt’s theatricality really appealed to me; his charismatic personality and joyfully sinister approach to supervilliany always reminded me of Liquid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. I can’t help but imagine his voice in my head whenever I read his dialog. He’s the kind of bad guy that can probably only be used for Morrison’s stories, but I’d say its better to be used for great purposes in a few stories than to simply exist with no defining stories or characterizations for decades like The Penguin, or whoever.

I agree with Omar that Deadshot is, in hindsight, only marginally a bat-villain.
Man-Bat was good in his early appearances, and okay for his short stint as a super-hero. But since then they can’t think of anything to do with him countless other tormented souls in comics haven’t done better.

For me, Man-Bat is a great visual, if not a particularly compelling character. There’s an obvious aesthetic appeal to a man dressed as a bat fighting men transformed into bats, which is why I think they used him in the first episode of the Animated Series. He really works for that purpose.

Also, Ninja Manbats.

I read that first Killer Croc arc and enjoyed it a lot. I agree it’s a shame he devolved so much, but still enjoy him as, frankly, Batman’s Rogues Gallery can use a few big ugly bruisers in it.

At least ten of the last 15 seem fairly obvious to me, but it’ll be cool to see what rounds out those other spots. I’m thinking one of my picks won’t make it at this point, which is okay as he was a one-off gang leader (but in Dark Knight #2, he was a very striking one-off gang leader).

Captain Librarian

April 28, 2014 at 8:07 am

The treatment of Killer Croc as a dumb guy in the Animated Series is especially curious given that the establishing character moment: “I threw a rock at him!” was actually Batman pretending to be Killer Croc. But it was so funny it kindof stuck.

As a movie buff, the Basil Karlo version of Clayface intrigues me just because someone HAD to create a supervillain based on Lon Chaney. It’s such an inevitable idea, and I’m not turned off by something that “dates” a character. On the contrary, I think it’s rather cool that it draws attention to Batman’s roots as a 1930s character.

One thing that intrigues me about Deadshot is that I agree with Brian that his costume is very cool, but yet, it shouldn’t be cool, it’s so garish, and I can’t imagine a super-assassin parading about in a bright red costume… but somehow it works. I suppose it’s one of those things that only work in comics.

I send a ballot, but Dr. Hurt was on my list. I loved Morrison’s run and thought Hurt was a credible threat. Plus I like that he tied into an old Batman story (he would have been even better if he had a Spectrum Monster or an Alpha as henchman).

I agree that Killer Crock was a better villain when he was smart. He was also more frightening. From what I remember he was not well served in Azarello’s story either.

As a fan of Batman’s history, I have always liked Basil Karlo, but I agree with everyone above that he has not been well used since Mud Pack and lacked any defining motive or modis operadi. Like Killer Crock, Mr. Zsasz and Mr Freeze, he ended up just being a villain from the Loeb-Winick-Marz school of writing where the bad guy just goes on a rampage screaming ‘hey hero-of-the-story, lets fight!’

Damnit. Croc.

More New Amalgam material, more foes of Iron Bat:
-Man-Ba was mixed with Man-Bull to make Bat-Bull.
-Killer Croc was mixed with Crusher to make Crusher Croc, the man who murdered the parents of Justine Todd (Jason Todd/Justine Hammer).
-Deadshot, like the original Amalgam Comics, was mixed with Bullseye to make Deadeye, one-time top assassin for the Bosspin (Boss Moxie/The Kingpin); member of the Thunder Squad (Suicide Squad/Thunderbolts), a division of Task Force S (Task Force X/SHIELD); and currently a member of the Secret Syndicate (Secret Six/Sinister Syndicate).
-Clayface (Karlo) was mixed with the first Melter to make Meltface (visually he looks like Preston Payne).

Finally, someone else I voted for!

Big fan of Deadshot – he’s been one of my favorite Batman villains, but mainly because of his work outside of the Batman world. Suicide Squad, Secret Six… he’s definitely left the confines of Gotham.

Guessing that Prometheus is definitely not going to make the cut here.

Prometheus is an interesting case, because in one sense he’s as much a Batman villain as Despero or Amazo: He’s a Justice League villain who never really fights Batman on his own. But then that’s true of Owlman too, and he showed up earlier. I guess they’re Batman-identified mostly because they’re Batman types, not so much because they’re particularly part of his own rogue’s gallery.

Did Preston Payne show up already? Really dig that character. Man I wish I had voted on this list. A bunch of great second tier villains spring to mind right now.

At least Crow wasn’t that db in “Red Hood and…” He was the one who “saved” Roy.

If Nolan had used Croc as his “gang leader/crime boss in the sewers” instead of Bane, (had him double crossed at the end by Talia instead of being her “protector” or something) I think Dark Knight Rises could have been much better. The whole forcing of Bane – and the things that go with him (“breaking the Bat”) – into that role was the story’s major issue, and really, a gang boss in the sewers was so obviously SCREAMING to have been Killer Croc. But his more recent multimedia appearances – the Arkham games and BTAS etc – have locked him into “dumb muscle” status. Maybe not exactly stupid, but using his brawn primarily, his smarts less so. Sad.

Omar – What’s the appeal of Man-Bat? Well, the great visual and the desire to be a hero are probably the things that leap out at me first. The experiment going awry which puts him into conflict with Batman made for a great story. I also like the fact that they tried to grow him as a character by having him control his transformations and try to make him a hero.

Unfortunately, the writers didn’t seem to understand what kind of niche worked well for him.

Man-Bat #1 gave him a supernatural foe, issue 2 gave hime a lame-o Batman villain. His series in Batman Family made him a down on his luck crime-fighter who tried to make a living by collecting rewards and ended with his civilian identity becoming Jason Bard’s detective partner.

Not necessarily bad stories, but most kind of ignoring the fact that here’s a hero who looks like a monster and would probably be quite scary to people in real life. (Far more scary than a weirdo in a bat-fetish outfit.)

Kicking myself for forgetting about Doctor Simon Hurt. Shit.

Man-Bat always struck me as a character who was invented because his name is Batman switched around. He’s okay I guess.

Killer Croc was my #10 vote. I never realised that Azzarello was returning him to his roots when he made him a mob boss/pimp type character in his arc. Honestly I think I prefer the stupid devolving version. We have enough big name villains who are really clever. There’s room for more big name villains whose main hook is just being really tough.

That literally is why Man-Bat was created.

I don’t think Man-Bat’s a bad character, just that, like the Lizard, he’s a character who doesn’t have that many stories in him. Much as Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita Sr. used the Lizard rather sparingly and exhausted most of the variations on the basic “Connors goes berserk, needs cured” plotline, I feel that Frank Robbins said pretty much everything he needed to with the character. Almost every Man-Bat story since Robbins has been a variation of one of Robbins’s uses of him with diminishing returns: you note the penny-ante hero, and other have used the paranoiac version from Langstrom’s second appearance and the shrieking beast from Robbins’s “vampire bat Francine” incarnation. I like where we are now, with Man-Bat serum as an occasional plot device, but Man-Bat himself mostly offstage.

That literally is why Man-Bat was created.

Trust you to know that.

It’s a bit of a weak reason to create a bit of a weak character.

It definitely is a weird reason, but lots of characters were created under similar circumstances (Supergirl, She-Hulk, Spider Woman).

I’ve just encountered an earlier incarnation of the Man-Bat from an old Penguin story, Penguin’s fabulous Fowls. Here’s a link to a scan elsewhere on the net: http://bigglee.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/early-man-bat.html

Man-Bat should team up with Man-Super and Woman-Wonder to form a competing supergroup.

I love Deadshot, but he didn’t make my list. I know he was a Batman villain, but I know him more as a guy who doesn’t belong to a specific rogues gallery. I love Deadshot as an anti-hero, and yeah, his costume is really badass. It’s really hard to mess up (hell, the New 52 costume looks pretty good too!), and just WORKS, both on style as well as function.

And yeah, I’m also kicking myself over not including Doctor Hurt. He was a VERY credible threat, and he worked so well as a Batman villain. Also, I love what Morrison did regarding the guy’s actual identity, and what it turned out to be. Also, his design was great. It’s simple, but it works really well.

@ Matt Bird

How the hell did we get through the Silver Age without those becoming things?!

@Matt Bird
@Will

There is a Woman Wonder! The MAD parody from the 1950s, with art by Will Elder.

I don’t know of any Man Super though.

There’s Super-Duper from Gardner Fox’s JLA, an artificial hybrid of Wonder Woman’s head and lasso, Batman’s chest, Green Lantern’s arms, Flash’s legs, and Hawkman’s wings.

@Omar Karindu

If they can bring back The Joker’s Daughter or Lobo, I don’t know why they can’t bring back Super-Duper.

I think my absolute favorite obscure character return was when joke Legion applicant Arm-Fall-Off Boy came back, after Zero Hour, as joke Legion applicant Splitter.

Man-Bat was under consideration, but didn’t make the cut for a lot of the reasons given here. Though there was a Batman record that had a Man-Bat story that was really creepy to a kid.

Wait, THAT’S who Dr. Hurt was?!

Croc’s original design wasn’t all that hot, was it? I mean he doesn’t have to be the misshapen lizard thing he became, but he looks more like Killer Green Thing there.

Deadshot was on my list, first bad guy to make it. And more Grant love- it was smart to stop having so many Clayfaces by combining their abilities into the original.

There is a character in the Wild Cards novels called Patchwork, that can detach and remotely control and sense with body parts. She is quite useful.

Arm-Fall-Off Boy can’t do that remote-control thing, though. He just detaches his arm and uses it like a club by holding it with his other hand.

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