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CSBG Archive

75 Greatest Friends and Foes of Batman: Villains #5-1

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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 #5-1…

Enjoy!

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

5. Penguin

Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the Penguin was one of the rare Batman villains who was clearly popular enough that he was brought back right away (an honor typically reserved for the best of the best Bat-villains, like Joker and Catwoman)…

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The Penguin was one of Batman’s most prolific villains during the 1940s and 1950s, likely second only to the Joker. As Batman comics got more ridiculous during the 1950s, so, too, did the Penguin get more ridiculous…

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The Penguin and his trick umbrellas caused a bit of a problem for the Batman writers. The Penguin, like most Bat-villains, took a break in the late 1950s going into the 1960s, but the Penguin actually returned BEFORE Batman was revamped by Julie Schwartz in the early 1960.

However, when the Batman TV series was a big success (including Burgess Meredith’s stand-out performance as the Penguin), the Bat-titles were still unable to really perfect the Penguin….

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And he appeared sparingly over the next few years. When Denny O’Neil did his revamp of the various Batman villains, he tried to work his wonders on the Penguin but it really just felt like every other Penguin story…

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As a result, the Penguin really fell by the wayside in the 1970s and 1980s. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Penguin was practically a cameo-level villain. He appeared as a member of the Suicide Squad, with his tactical genius being used, and that was one of his most prominent appearances of the 1980s!

As it turned out, the key to the Penguin was found in an old Batman story from early in Penguin’s career, when he moved to Florida to run a night club…

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So Penguin became the head of a lounge and ran his criminal organization from behind the scenes rather than fighting Batman with trick umbrellas. Although, even then, writers would occasionally try to get the Penguin into the field…

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But for the past two decades, well into the New 52, as well, the Penguin has been remade as a behind-the-scenes operator who is still ruthless and devious, but he’ll deal with Batman from behind a table rather than blasting away at him with a trick umbrella.

4. Riddler

Introduced by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris, the Riddler was pretty well-defined in his first appearance in the late 1940s…

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However, for whatever reason, he didn’t catch on and skipped the entirety of the 1950s and most of the 1960s. He returned in 1965 for a normal enough Riddler appearance…

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The thing that stood out was that that issue of Batman just happened to be one of the ones used as an inspiration for the Batman TV series of the following year (you might not know this, but the Batman TV series was based on the comics of the day and that’s why it was campy while the Green Hornet TV series was based on the old Green Hornet radio show, which is why it was not as campy) and the Riddler was soon a popular character on the series, depicted by Frank Gorshin.

His TV popularity kept the Riddler in recurring appearance in the Bat-books for the next couple of decades, but he was rarely depicted as much of a threat. Denny O’Neil, for instance, never even bothered to revamp him in the early 1970s.

The Riddler got a big boost in 2003 when it was revealed that HE was the secret mastermind behind the Hush storyline, as the Riddler had discovered Batman’s secret identity!

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Soon afterwards, the Riddler suffered a brain injury and forgot Batman’s ID but instead reformed and became a consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes-style…

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He eventually returned to villainy and in the new 52, Scott Snyder is doing a new take on the Riddler, establishing him as being connected to Bruce Wayne before Bruce ever even became the Batman!

Go to the next page for #3-1!

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67 Comments

Thanks for putting together this great list! The accompanying pages are all well-chosen and I’m inclined to track down the full stories for each one.

I am not sure Riddler really belongs in the top five, but otherwise the list is pretty good.

I like the Penguin a lot for some reason. He did have only a few 80s and 90s appearances, except for the push he got when Batman Returns came out. It seems to me that the 80s and 90s had relatively few appearances by the classic villains. I really wish Barr and Davis had done a Penguin story during their run (or Barr and Breyfogle).

The idea of the Penguin running a night club was popularized by the Animated Series right? I remember it occurring there and then being picked up by Dixon. I never knew it had a history in the comics.

Ra’s is not one of my favorites, but I do consider him one of Batman’s greatest foes. I wish more artists knew he was not supposed to have eyebrows though.

Of course Joker made the number one spot. My favorite Joker stories are the two in Batman 1, the Laughing Fish and the Barr/Davis story.

I’m a little sad the Mutant Leader didn’t make the top 40, but he did just have one appearance and was very one-note. Still, it was such a great issue I just had to consider him for my own top ten.

I’m glad to see the Riddler so high, despite him having a bit of a credibility problem over the year. I loved when the old seanbaby.com website profiled all the Legion of Doom and roasted the Riddler as pretty much the worst person to let on your supervillain team. The reason being, he was just like a normal crook, only worse, ’cause he actually tries to tip off his enemies about what’s about to happen. You’d actually be better off just letting a normal thug on your team, ’cause at least they’d keep their mouth shut.

I’m surprised the majority of voters didn’t place Two-Face in their number 2 slot just on principle. Otherwise, that’s a pretty great/classic top 5.

Thanks for the great list.

Captain Haddock

May 4, 2014 at 9:11 am

I wish more villains would keep massive cross-sections of their utility belts.

Great list. And yeah, Two-Face had a great origin, so of course it happened completely differently in the New 52.

And we get the main foes of Iron Bat for Red Rum-18′s New Amalgam project:
-The Penguin was mixed with Justin Hammer to make Oswald Hammer, whose front for his underworld dealings is in the form of the entertainment company Iceberg Industries (Iceberg Lounge/Hammer Industries).
-The Riddler was mixed with Blacklash to make Torment, a former employee of Tony Wayne’s with a motive similar to the Riddler’s in BTAS.
-Two-Face was mixed with Victoria Hand to make Victoria Face, a former accountant for Task Force S (Task Force X/SHIELD) turned district attorney turned ruthless crime baroness.
-Ra’s Al Ghul was mixed with the Mandarin to make Yao Mo’s Tou, the head of the League of the Hand (League of Assassins/The Hand).
-The Joker was mixed with Iron Monger to make the Laugh Monger, formerly the CFO of Wayne Industries who was fired after Tony returned and refocused the company back to medical tech and research.

Ra’s al-Ghul is a nice enough concept and has a great visual, but for me he never rose above the campy Moore-era Bond villains that he is so clearly inspired by. Didn’t make my top 10, and would probably struggle to even breach my top 20. Also, slightly reformed detective Riddler is a status quo that has way too much potential to be thrown by the wayside as quickly as it was, and Brian Bolland is a golden god.

Actually I was surprised and really happy to see Eddie make it as high as he did. Here’s the spin as I see it: Riddler has a credibility issue that no one’s been able to solve. Hush was actually a stumbling block because despite -everything- it actually stopped him dead in his tracks when Batman said “Oh, well no one will care about that once the secret’s out there.” Here’s the caveat to Nigma’s character and how we see a failing to often lift him to his true potential: He’s about creating conundrums, not just mysteries (though that’s his strength and what he should be played off of, the ultimate foil to Batman’s detective aspect). The fact that the secret would eventually slip would be the challenge unto itself, a way to present an issue far greater not only to the Batman, but to the Riddler (I certainly wouldn’t want Ra’s finding out my dirty little secret was using his pits unauthorized), effectively putting them in a stalemate position wherein each move would be met by the other’s. And honestly? A well written version of the character prefers it that way, where the stakes are higher and victory’s that much sweeter. While I enjoyed the idea of private eye Nigma, the execution shoe horned him as somewhat inept in comparison to the Dark Knight, constantly falling for red herrings that he would have chuckled while placing along the way in one of his own plots. And that’s the issue, isn’t it? Execution. Most writers put him off as a small-time, gimmicky joke of a character who can’t back up the claims of being “the smartest man in the room”.

He’s not just a small time character, though perhaps his gimmick, and I do want to really emphasize it as such, lends itself to that. I’ve actually found Snyder’s attempts to pull him together while still being a compellingly smug and altogether amusing character (check issue 30 of the current run, between it and 29 he’s effectively a threat to Gotham and, more importantly, Batman, while still remaining true to his…eccentricities). He’s at his best when imposing a challenge, something that has to be broken apart. Wordplay that flows naturally rather than a stilted riddle outright, a behind-the-scenes plot that only explodes when the wrong piece is put into the right slot, etc. And yet he shouldn’t -be- as scary as many of Gotham’s denizens. He’s a sociopath, but one with a rather flippant set of sensibilities that makes him into someone who we love to hate. Or in my case, makes me grin from ear to ear, put on a green suit, and hit the convention circuit myself.

I know this is all the words of a blowhard and you can take it at face value, but I really do believe that Eddie walks the road between dark intent with a fair share of tongue in cheek camp that makes him an alluring character. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery? It’s all about building him up rather than breaking him down into the simple idea of “He’s a guy who spouts off stuff worthy of Dixie cups.” Look at it as “He’s an insecure egomaniac who puts people at risk for the sake of posing a pointed challenge where there would be none in an attempt to fluff his bruised sense of self.” Is he petty? Sure. But it’s been one heck of a ride in Zero Year right now.

But anyhoo, great list! I’m glad I got to participate and see it through to this point. Here’s to hoping for many, many more years for all us Batfans!

I’m so sick of The Joker. Two-Face is number one in my book.

scarletspeed7

May 4, 2014 at 11:03 am

Riddler is my #1. What makes him so close to utter perfection is that mind. That perfectly crafted mind that constantly provides and provides and provides. Every Riddler action is clever or humorous and always d***ish, while every line of dialogue is full of that same snarkishly jerkwit that makes Riddler a joy to root both for and against. His criminal plans always force writers to really work their own creative intellects to come up with new and ingenious methods of planning as well as the creation of unique and hard-to-solve riddles that readers work just as hard to figure out as the Bat. And that’s the perfect sign of a villain that draws you right into the story; you’re as eager to solve the mystery as Batman is.

Riddler is also one of the few villains to win. And that’s a phrase I really don’t use loosely. Perhaps my all-time favorite Riddler moment is the ending of the Hush storyline, where… well, let’s just say that the Riddler wins. He so perfectly plays every single character involved from hero to villain to supporting cast member – hell even the folks in Metropolis – that he ends up getting exactly what he wants.

More awesome than that is his time spent as a detective, where Riddler gleefully works as a good guy and ends up being even more of a thorn in Batman’s side by simply doing Batman’s job better than him. I mean, that is the ultimate in epic trolling, and one of the stories that resulted in me becoming HUGELY into the Riddler’s character. He of course is one of the few men that has deduced Bruce Wayne’s nighttime hobby, and at one point (after being hired by Nightwing), deduces that Dick Grayson is Nightwing. So, solid work there, too.

Frankly, every facet of the Riddler just comes off as cool to me. He’s a psychotic who knows he’s a bit psychotic, but uses his weakness to play to his strengths. He can troll with the best, and also pull of legit crimes with astounding intelligence that makes most masterminds look like dullards. He’s the perfect package of supervillain perfection, and for that he earns spot #1 on my all-time Batman villain list.

Why is Batman getting punched by Ronald Reagan?

It is a testament to Bill Finger that he was involved in the creation of 4 of the 5 ‘top 5′ characters.

On the page where the R’as al Ghul is resurrected, in the second and third panel he is clearly naked, but in all the following panels he’s inexplicably wearing a weird set of skintight grey pants. It kinda looks like Adams drew him naked, taking care that his private parts would always be obscured, but then someone else (the editor?) decided it was not enough, and asked for those those goofy pants to be added (possibly by the colourist?) to the already finished artwork. I guess the naked buttocks of R’as were deemed to be much for the Bat-readers of the 70s…

Was SO hoping that Two-Face would come in at Number Two…but alas, it was not to be! :-(

Superman McGee

May 4, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Never expected Penguin to be in the top 5 since he’s kind of considered a joke nowadays.

Also blown away that Ra’s Al Ghul placed above Two-Face.

Anyway, here was my top 10 villains. I seriously expected Rainbow Beast, Composite Superman, and especially Solomon Grundy to show up somewhere and was quite shocked that they didn’t get more votes. (And yes this is really how I voted. The only one I would change if I could vote over again would be Polka-Dot Man. Not sure what I was thinking there.)

TEN GREATEST BATMAN VILLAINS
1. Owlman (from the CSA)
2. Composite Superman
3. Roxy Rocket
4. Harley Quinn
5. Bat-Mite
6. Solomon Grundy
7. Batzarro
8. Rainbow Beast
9. Larry Larrimore (aka The Ugliest Man in the World from Batman vol. 1 #3)
10. Polka-Dot Man

I ended up with only 3 appearing in the countdown, although one of those got moved over to the allies list.

joe the poor speller

May 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

can’t really complain about this top 5. really thought two-face would rank second, though

Ras was my number one pick
The Batman equivalent of Fu Manchu (with more emphasis on personal physical violence rather than getting other people to do it)

Which brings me to 9/10

Right now, Joker seems badly in need of re-invention – he’s become too much of a psycho-killer/mass-murderer. Not only is he no fun anymore but it’s getting harder and harder to justify him not being executed or similarly disposed off to prevent his inevitable escape and further killing.

Penguin: PAIN AND PREJUDICE was a great story that came out with the New 52 and it really made Penguin into a calculating and evil character. But it was also able to show a somewhat softer side of Penguin and get into the man’s head, especially how he looked at himself in comparison to Batman.
Joker…yeah, knew he would be #1 but I didn’t vote for him in that position but around #8. I liked Joker in the Batman: Vampire series and that’s about it comic book wise. He was great on BTAS though.

What’s the deal with the Penguin’s green buddy Joe Crow?

I was always a Two-Face fan, but the way they did him on Batman:The Animated Series puts him solidly in the top spot for me. In fact, my favorite Batman comic of all time stars Two-Face. I’m trying hard to remember the issue and number and failing, but it was a Batman and Robin comic in the animated style. Harvey was cured and about to be released thanks to the work of Bruce Wayne and Harvey’s girlfriend. But the Joker, in the next cell, pulled an Iago on him and basically just talked him back into villainy and madness but planting the suspicion the Bruce was after his girl. It was tragic. A fantastic comic.

Omar Karindu

May 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm

– Andy Helfer deserves a lot of credit for the more psychologically complex version of Two-Face we have these days. It was his Batman Annual #14 story with Chris Sprouse art that established Harvey’s abusive father, his preexisting mental illness, and pretty much every detail of the revised origin that Loeb later worked from in The Long Halloween.

Also, a slight bit of extra info: Harvey Dent did not stay cured int he 1950s, but rather returned to crime in a 1950s story that left him once more disfigured; the “bomb” thing in the pages above are actually a flashback to Batman #81 by David V. Reed. No one picked him up after Reed sent him mad again, though, so most people assume the 1970s flashback is the place he was “brought back.” The 1950s are also the period when his face first went from green to purple, implicitly because the bomb scarring would look different than the acid scarring. It went back to green again into the late 1980s, and I’m not sure quite when purple again became the default color.

“Reed,” or rather David Levine, himself is sort of interesting; he was an old friend of Julius Schwartz’s from Julie’s literary agent days who later became a Batman writer in the 1950s.Really interestingly, he came *back* to the Bat-books int he post-O’Neill era of the 1970s, and a lot of his stories read like the campy plots of the 1950s and 1960s crossed with the violence and more serious dialogue and melodrama of the 1970s. He’s probably best remembered today for his odd “Who Killed Batman?” story, where Ra’s al Ghul acts as a judge in a sort of mock trial as numerous villains claim credit for causing the (rumored) death of Batman.

— Brian very kindly leaves out the odd post-Hush use of the Riddler, first as an ineffectualt loser despite knowing the secret, and then the utterly failed reinvention of the Riddler as a non-costumed “mastermind” villain with some sort of….question-mark neck tattoo in a truly horrid few stories. He didn’t even leave riddles anymore! Thankfully, Paul Dini came alon and made Eddie cool again.

— The Penguin is sort of a victim of his own gimmick, as his 190s appearances revolved around the way he used his goofy appearance and eccentric speech to conceal his casually murderous, sociopathic personality. He’s also the villain who repeatedly gets away from Batman rather than being captured; the story in which he finally is caught even ends with Bruce and Dick reading a newspaper announcing that he’s received the death penalty for his various murders! (They also correctly assume he’ll break out and return, of course.)

The aforementioned Pain and Prejudice mini is fantastic for me because it brings back the idea of the Penguin as not merely a savvy criminal mastermind, but also as a deceptively foppish, goofy-looking sociopath who kills people viciously for the pettiest of reasons and then gets away with it by pretending to be a harmless goofball. It recaptures what was supposed to be so terrifying about the character before he descended into being either a campy harmless villain with a bird fixation and, later, a generally reasonable crime boss with some anger issues.

— Ra’s al Ghul is interesting in that, like a lot these villains, he’s written more or less sympathetically depending on the writer. O’Neill usually described him as the world’s greatest crimelord who had a peculiar sense of…honor, or at least respect for Batman, a description Morrison has more recently employed. Len Wein and Marv Wolfman tended to treat him as more of an anti-Batman schemer, a guy with no real scruples at all. Mike W. Barr tended to play up his humanity and the idea that he had real limits in terms of what he would or wouldn’t do. And Chuck Dixon, at the other end of the scale, almost always implies that the Demon’s Head really wants to *rule* a diminished Earth, not ecologically save it or leave it in better shape for his daughter.

— As noted above, the Joker is similarly an unevenly presented villain, one who-hoo-hoo-hoooo! One who adapts to ea-a-hee-hee-hee *cough* each decade’s style and….a-ha-ha-haa-haaa…..Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaa! *thud*

^”Two-Timer”, Batman and Robin Adventures #1-2. Paul Dini wrote that one, great story, but really sad cuz Grace finally breaks it off with him.

Dini’s Joker is really superb here, especially with his motivation for his cruel calculation of ol’ Harvey.

“Because it was Tuesday!”

Which at first I thought was just Joker randomly getting off on something cuz he was bored and it amused him, but it was doubly funny cuz of the TUESday pun right there I almost missed.

Andy E. Nystrom

May 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Two-Face is my favourite as well.

Okay, now that all the villains have been identified: Brian, I knew he was never going to make the cut, but did anyone other than me vote for Bill Jensen on account of him actually killing a Batman? And how well did Doctor Double X do? I got the sense that at least a few other people were voting for him.

I agree with Alan, R’as and the League of Assassins aren’t much more than a Hydra knockoff, despite his motivations. And in those early stories, I don’t think he even attains that level. I was unimpressed by them as a teen,and rereading them in Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams recently, I’m still not. The art’s awesome, but Batman’s insistence R’as is an unprecedented threat isn’t backed up by the story: Batman decides stopping R’as is too deadly for Robin to come along, but has no problem taking an Olympic skier on the mission. I’d place him below Two-Face, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.
Two-face: The original three-parter is one of my all-time favorite Bat-stories—I wish they still used the idea he’d do things like donate to charity depending on the coin toss. And I hate the idea he was nuts before the incident, which crops up in some stories. So what did they do to his origin in the Nu52 (he said, knowing he’d hate the answer).
The Penguin is indeed, at his best as a schemer, though his schemes were a lot livelier back in the 1940s.
The Joker … dang, but I hate the totally random psycho who kills just because it’s Tuesday. No question he deserves his top spot, though (I know some people do question it, but I’m good with it).

I enjoyed a lot of the David Reed stories. Often convoluted, but also a lot of fun.

The top two mirrored my own list perfectly, with Joker #1 and Ra’s #2. Denny O’Neil introduced one of the most brilliant villains in Batman history AND revamped the best one with my favorite Batman story of all time. Of course, one shouldn’t forget, as has unfortunately occurred for decades, to give kudos to Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson for the creation of the Joker. Oh, and there was that other guy, too, wasn’t there?

As for ol’ Ozzie, as you might imagine, I have a special place in my heart for the waddling crook. I especially like the story from the 80s when he supposedly steals government secrets to sell to the Soviets, but it turns out that he was selling them misinformation on purpose, and is deeply offended that Batman would question his patriotism! I believe that’s a Moench joint. But I guess that story by O’Neil with the poison-tipped penguin beak in the example above is also quite memorable.

Thanks, Jeremy. I’ve got those issues in a long box in my attic somewhere. It will definitely worth the sweat to go dig them out. Few writers really “got” the Batman characters as well as Dini.

Interesting list and opinions. Personally, Mr. Freeze will always be my #1. I think he has a lot of wasted potential; Arkham City opened a lot of people’s eyes to what could be done with the character but DC’s been a bit hesitant to follow that up. Shame, really.

I think Kevin Smith summed up my thoughts about the Joker best when he described the writing process for the Joker in that it’s essentially an easy way to make a Batman story, that the writer essentially (and I’m paraphrasing a bit here) thinks of “the most f$#%ed up thing [they] can think of” and then has the Joker do it. In some case, the results are great, sometimes not so much.

Omar Karindu

May 4, 2014 at 2:21 pm

It’s worth noting that O”Neill did not initially present the League of Assassins as henchmen of Ra’s. Rather, he had them, under the leadership of Dr. Darrk, going after Talia in hopes of manipulating her then-unintroduced father after several appearances battling Batman independently. Elsewhere, the League showed up to plague Deadman, of course, and there their leader was the Sensei. But the Assassins in these stories either have their own agenda, or they’re trying to *attack* Ra’s indirectly. They’re certainly never shown working for him.

The idea that Ra’s was the power behind the League was created in Mike Friedrich’s Justice League of America #94, the story that also introduced Merlyn, where he had the Sensei refer to the League as “Demonfang,” the fang that protects the “head” of the demon. O’Neill picked this connection up in his later stories and eventually resolved things temporarily in the late 1970s by having the Sensei openly rebel against Ra’s in the storyline that involved the death of Kathy Kane, after which both were seemingly killed off in a final confrontation. (This story is also why Bronze Tiger became memorable enough to be brought back in Suicide Squad, to the benefit of all readers everywhere.)

Omar Karindu

May 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Okay, now that all the villains have been identified: Brian, I knew he was never going to make the cut, but did anyone other than me vote for Bill Jensen on account of him actually killing a Batman?

Jensen wasn’t much on his own; it’s Frederick Vaux, really, who was most responsible for the Earth-2 Batman’s death. Jensen was just a jumped-up thug who killed the aged Batman and himself in the same blast, all per Vaux’s master plan.

was it any surprised to any one that the joker would proably be number one for he is the chaos to batmans order plus the killing joke and death in the family and what synder has done with him shows how truely evil he really is . the penquin interesting had him in the top three . ridddler always thought of him as what batman could be if he used his mind for bad plus also the riddler knows to go toe and toe and make batman use his mind to its limits. even as a good guy. two face nice to see him rank so high.even if that flipping the coin thing after time was kind of a little worn out . rhas nice for next to the joker he is one of batmans best foes scary and smart and also knows how to get to batman in ways none of the other baddies have. his heart by using batmans feelings for talia. plus also what other of batman rogues have their own army of assains.

Andy E. Nystrom

May 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

To address the notion that Two-Face was nuts before the incident: I don’t want him to be full-on nuts before the incident, but it does make sense that he’d have some predisposition there. Also it smooths over one of the more awkward aspects of Two-Face: the notion (found in a number of Batman and Dick Tracy foes but at its most pronounced here) that how good looking someone is determines how decent a person they are. When he’s handsome (and IIRC actually called Handsome Harvey pre-incident in some early stories) he’s entirely good, but once he gets scarred, the handsome side of his face and coin is his good side and the ugly side of each is his bad side. Obviously in the real world beauty doesn’t always result in virtue and in fact can cause/enhance vanity. Making him unstable beforehand doesn’t eliminate that entirely but does make that aspect a bit more ambiguous.

Andy E. Nystrom

May 4, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Omar: agreed about Vaux’s role, but Vaux and Jensen would have taken two votes, so I picked Jensen and not Vaux because he did the actual kill. I would definitely be interested if either character got votes other than mine.

However, for whatever reason, he didn’t catch on and skipped the entirety of the 1950s and most of the 1960s.

It’s not so strange that The Riddler only appeared twice and then disappeared for 15 years. Only five of Batman’s villains appeared more than three times between 1939 and 1964.

The Joker appeared about 60 times. The Penguin appeared 40 times. Catwoman made about 20 appearances before her hiatus from 1954 to 1966.

Harvey Dent appeared as Two-Face four times (and that includes a mid-1950s adventure where an explosion turned him into Two-Face again). And then there were three adventures where somebody else took on the Two-Face identity.

And Clayface (Matt Hagen) appeared six times (if you include a couple of World’s Finest exploits that came out after the New Look started).

It was unusual for a new villain to storm the ramparts of Batman roguedom. I don’t know why, but guys like Scarecrow, Hugo Strange, the Riddler, Catman and Calendar Man only got one or two (or three) chances before they were sidelined, often for decades.

I guess that story by O’Neil with the poison-tipped penguin beak in the example above is also quite memorable.

“Hail Emperor Penguin!” from Batman #257 is some zany Bronze Age Batman crack. I got it at a used bookstore in the late 1970s for 25 cents and I still have it! I loved it then and I love it now. Art by Novick and Giordano! Talia guest stars! (This was he first time I ever heard of Talia.) The Penguin tries to feed them all to vultures or condors or something!

Highly recommended for those with discerning taste.

Andy, you have a point about the overtones of “become ugly, turn super-villain” (although “have abusive parents become super-villain” isn’t much of an improvement) but I really liked the tragic aspect of the original, where Harvey is a force for good whose world collapses overnight. The idea the madness is inside him waiting to burst out all along doesn’t work as well for me.
Mike, that Kevin Smith quotes sounds about right.

I’m a little sad the Mutant Leader didn’t make the top 40, but he did just have one appearance and was very one-note. Still, it was such a great issue I just had to consider him for my own top ten.

Me too. He was my #7 vote.

I’m not mad on Ra’s. I think the only story of his I really like was JLA: Tower of Babel – and that’s JLA story not a Batman one.

Pain and Prejudice build on Jason Aaron’s excellent Joker’s Asylum Penguin issue. There’s an excellent scene where the Penguin thinks somebody laughed at him and he proceeds to demolish that man’s life; the restaurant he worked at closed, his friends arrested or deported, even the park he liked bulldozed for a new building. It’s a brutal revenge, but all legal and untraceable.

@Fraser
Like you I prefer a Harvey Dent that is not insane all along.

Andy E. Nystrom

May 4, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Fraser: Fair call. We like what we like. Whichever way he gets there though, the idea of someone whose entire morality is determined by flipping a coin is quite fascinating, which is why he edges out the Joker for me. Well, that and the fact that the reader on some level is always hoping he can be redeemed. With the Joker, while he can be quite fascinating in his own right, redemption simply isn’t an option.

Andy E. Nystrom

May 4, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Thinking of it some more, I think another reason the original concept of Two-Face doesn’t work is there needs to be a bit more. If he is truly a good man beforehand, it’s hard to reconcile that with a complete 180 upon the scarring. At the very least it makes him a pretty shallow person beforehand, likely with a huge ego. Pissed off, sure. Traumatized, absolutely. More inclined to snap at others, more than likely. But DA to crimelord? The scarring shouldn’t have done that much..

I think the original idea might have worked better had it been more gradual, and we saw him being bullied and ostracized by others, as opposed to looking in the mirror and deciding he now has to be at least half evil (actually in nearly all his incarnations when scarred his evil side seems to be winning). If the scarring had been more of a snowball effect I could buy him being more good beforehand. But to snap that quickly it feels more like a final straw situation.

I’m already glad that my fave Bat villain, Bane, is in the top ten. But more than that, I admit I skip voting for the simplest reason: I already anticipated who’s el numero uno. Without the doubt, The Joker is Batman’s other half of the same coin after all. Great list!

i am must ve died, this is absolutement heavinenly. alias penguin says ” I call it my FIST-FENDER-OFF– and that is as far as i got when i must ve almost sneezed out my brain on accident w/o noticing because i, i think i might ve glanced an interial jut of skull again’ me midula oblongata. yea batman my hi-tech future criminal badassery doesn’t end there, lookit my BOOTED-FOOT-AVOID-AWAY, no thats dumb. i m no good at this. i quit

i said it once & i say it agin fist-fender-off. so stupid, i really only have my shelf to blame, i ll post-pone quitting juuuuust yet

Of course Joker made the number one spot and so he should. Gave The Joker my top spot with Two-Face,
The Riddler and Ra’s al Ghul in that order.

I’m glad to see Riddler place so high on the list. Other than that, these last entries were pretty cliché.
I’m disappointed not to see my vote for Joel Schumacher place anywhere.

@Danrml – people were voting for their Favourite villains
Not many would list Joel Schumacher among their favourites

of course, …my vote for a trio of Batman editors didn’t make the list…

Can’t disagree with the list sad to say that Scarecrow a wonderful concept was never fully utilized in a way all the others have so his spot on the list we be near poison ivy then the likes on the list. But I do have to disagree with joker reimaginating, we need a bring home for him in the new 52. Right now Joker doesn’t seem the blow for blow counter part to Batman that he use to be. He lacks the dangerous to friend and foe aspect that made he so powerful. The ability to be so far ahead of you you think you one up him until you realized it was all part of his plan. The reason specifically I attribute it to Batman is because of plans like contigency plan for the justice league are so baroque, meticulous, and paranoid ridden that its genius borderlines insanity so Joker having the same makes his insanity borderline on sane making the two the proverbal coin.

From this list #5-1, voted for Two-Face, Ra’s al Ghul and The Joker. I had The Joker at #1 and Ra’s al Ghul at #2.

Two-Face is my favorite Bat-villain. In the real world, I’d have problems with him for the reasons mentioned above (ugly=evil, going nuts in one second, mental problems made simplistic, etc.), however in a comic book reality, a larger-than-life reality, it totally works for me. Another thing about him that fascinated me was that he used to be a sort of touchstone for “true” Batman fans. People knew the Joker, the Penguin, etc. from the TV show, but Two-Face was the one major villain that was for the comic book crowd only. Of course, by now Two-Face is equally well-established in movies and cartoons.

The Joker is a brilliant villain, but I’m one of those fans that think the writers went too far with him. He is now too evil, too lethal, too nihilistic, he makes Batman look bad. The insane mass murderer version works very well for one-shot stories like the Big Three (Arkham Asylum, DKR, Killing Joke), but in a continuining comic book, not so well.

I dislike the 1960s version of the Penguin, all about umbrellas and birds. I like him as the gentleman villain, the guy that likes the finer things, and the one sane guy that isn’t defined by his enmity with Batman, also I always liked the stories that show him to have been bullied for his appearance. Sort of like the Mole Man, but not quite as tragic. Many comic book fans can sympathise, I guess.

The Riddler never did it for me. I suppose I just never read the right stories featuring him.

Ra’s al Ghul also used to be a favorite of mine, like Two-Face he used to be a comic-only supervillain, and also sympathetic. However, his status as poster child for environmentalist supervillains has grated on me. It used to be one more thing to make him sympathetic, in the 1970s and 1980s everybody agreed that we had to take care of the environment. But now that we have a more radical right-wing movement denying man-made global warming, I think that an environmentalist supervillain leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Omar Karindu

May 5, 2014 at 9:40 am

The insane mass murderer version works very well for one-shot stories like the Big Three (Arkham Asylum, DKR, Killing Joke),

And amazingly, of those three, DKR is the only one where he’s a mass murderer. He kills exactly one person apiece in both Arkham Asylum and The Killing Joke (a guard at Arkham and the guy who sells him the amusement park, respectively).

Yes, that is a good point.

But in The Killing Joke, what the Joker lacks in body count, he makes up in sheer nihilistic evil. His whole objective is to break a good man and prove that the world is senseless. He is like an evil Albert Camus. In the story itself, the moral is ambiguous, since James Gordon remains unbroken and the story has the geniuses of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland behind it, so it’s a greaty story.

However, in the monthly comics things get ugly. It’s there that we see the consequences for Barbara Gordon and the DC Universe as a whole. Here is a villain that cripples young girls just to make a point, and the DC heroes are unable to stop him and everybody just has to live with it.

Ra’s al Ghul is my favorite Batman villain because in addition to being the leader of his own global organization, he was pretty much Batman’s equal (mentally and physically) which made him unique amongst Batman villains who rarely seemed to be able to go toe-to-toe with him. It was also refreshing to see a Batman take on someone who didn’t look and act like a costumed refugee from a Dick Tracy strip.

One of the most annoying Joker stories of the past couple of years was the one where the Spectre debates executing the Joker. Only he discovers the Joker’s mind is such a distorted world, he’s too insane to understand what he’s doing and therefore doesn’t deserve death.
The trouble is, the Joker’s fully aware of what he’s doing. His standards and motives are often irrational but he knows he’s killing people, he wants to kill people, he intends to kill people (according to Law and the Multiverse he’s probably sane enough to get executed). Which makes the story gibberish. I can understand them wanting to tackle the question, but it would have been better just to ignore it.
(If I’m completely misremembering the story, as it’s been a while, feel free to correct me).

Ra’s al Ghul at number 2?? really? Seems way to high to me. I think this has to be thanks to the Nolan films.

And it would of been fitting with two-face at number 2 ;)

Andy E. Nystrom

May 6, 2014 at 9:37 am

Re: Joker. I’m not sure about US law, but in Canada to be legally insane you cannot understand or appreciate what you’re doing. The Joker is nuts, sure, but he both understands and is appreciative in the extreme of what he does. In fact, if US law is comparable to Canadian law, he probably shouldn’t even be in Arkham. Unless US law is very different than Canadian law, I think this is an area where you have to assume things work a bit different in the DCU to not only prevent him from being executed but to use a narrative device accentuate his madness further..

“He is like an evil Albert Camus.”

Never would have thought of comparing Joker with Camus but it works. Joker finds his own purpose for living and completely ignores society’s norms. Heck, Joker could have a bit of Diogenes of Sinope in his mind even.

No Commisioner Gordon or Alfred Pennyworth?

Brian Cronin

May 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm

They weren’t very good villains.

I’d make an Outsider joke here, but it’s just not the same now that the New 52′s brought him back.

I’d make an Outsider joke here, but it’s just not the same now that the New 52?s brought him back.

Didn’t anyone at DC notice that the Outsider was the worst thing that ever happened in any issue of Detective Comics?

(With the possible exception of Two-Tone. Has he been brought back in the New 52?)

No Top 5 Allies?

I would have voted for the Outsider. It is to bad Morrison did not bring him back and make him a separate entity from Alfred.

Well, of my top ten, nine were in the actual top ten. (And my 10th made it on the full list). So I imagine a lot of people had all the top five here.

I want that Penguin “Fowl” splash page as art. It’s amazing. Though I was never a big fan of the lounge lizard Penguin. Made him just another Black Mask or Kingpin knock off, and usually seemed dumber for it. Half the time he had to help Batman against someone else, whether he wanted to or not. I liked it more when people wondered if he was Batman’s most intelligent foe, maybe next to….

I’m shocked Riddler was so high, since he gets such bad press. But thrilled too. I had him #3. Always have loved him, even acknowledging how badly he’s been used at time. I mean, a great usage in Hush, and as has been pointed out, completely neutered before the 2nd printings were sold out on that story by the next story. I’m not sure why he doesn’t work for so many writers, when the template is right there for everyone, as Brian points out- Frank Gorshin’s portrayal. The Joker with his makeup mustache was just silly. The Riddler was CREEPY. Tell me he wasn’t the one who had the scariest plots in the tv show. (At long as it wasn’t John Astin playing him). The guy had complusions and issues, and he wasn’t good at hiding them. (Plus how many guys have TWO distinct and cool costumes, the green jumpsuit with all the ????? and the bowler hat look?)

Anyone every explain why Two-Face’s scar goes from purple to green to gray to flesh and then back and forth again? They can’t seem to decide, ever. I also had the annual Omar mentions featuring Two-Face on my best cover list. Great issue.

Did Joker really turn in Killing Joke? Didn’t Dark Knight Returns come out before that? He’s pretty whack in that too. I agree that they’ve pushed him too far into the homicidal. As most things the animated series does, they did the Joker right. Mark Hammill is great, and that Joker can be homicidal, but also funny and whacky too. With as murder crazy as the Joker has gotten, I’m not sure how none of the Vigilantes have ever come over and at least tried to kill him. Wouldn’t the Joker be #1 on any of their lists? If there were characters like that in the Marvel Universe, you can bet that the Punisher would have at least tried to knock him off in a story. I can see why Vigilante would have to fail. But how much justice for murder bang for your buck can you get more from than taking a shot at the Joker?

My favourite use of The Riddler is in Judd Winick’s Green Arrow where Ollie realises he’s dealing with The Riddler and his response is “Oh no. This is going to be really annoying”.

M-Wolverine -

DKR came first and probably was the turning point for the Joker’s characterization. But all of the Big Three Batman stories contributed to it.

DKR first presented the Joker as a mass murderer, and following writers thought they had to escalate things to prove they were as edgy as Frank Miller. That was ignoring the fact that DKR was set in the future and meant as a semi-satirical critical examination of the limits of Batman’s vigilantism. I suppose that was the same as if everybody decided to use Big Brother of Orwell’s 1984 as a template for government officials in fiction set in the present.

The Killing Joke introduced the idea of the Joker abusing an important supporting character and that was another Pandora’s Box. Done once, it’s great drama. Done repeatedly, it seriously calls into question the effectiveness of Batman and destroys any sense of hope.

Arkham Asylum, together with the Killing Joke, provided a philosophical justification for the Joker. It made it harder to accept that he was just crazy, and therefore beyond the reach of the law, when his whole motivation seems to be some calculated attempt to prove his views that reality and morality makes no sense. This is something that writers constantly get it wrong. A nihilistic, existentialist, Overman view of reality is not “madness”, it’s actually proof of a hyper-logical inner nature, IMO. Grant Morrison was right when he called the Joker “super-sane”, instead of insane. The Joker is certainly sane enough to go to jail or to be executed.

Also, all three of those stories promoted the notion that the Joker is perversely obsessed with the Batman. In DKR he comes out of catatonia when Batman comes out of retirement, actually proving Batman’s critics right. It’s the Batman that attracts the villains! It makes Batman even more culpable for the Joker’s crimes.

In short, they’re all brillaint stories by themselves, but absolutely destructive when you transpose their ideas for a monthly series with no ending in sight.

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