Batman… It is an iconic name that is known in almost all households in America. Even those who have gone their life without so much as touching a single comic book know the name. It is among the most successful comic book franchises in the world and can arguably claim the title of best. A lot of the credit goes to the famed director: Christopher Nolan with his incredibly popular reboot of the Batman movie franchise. The Dark Knight in total sales has grossed more than any other comic book movie in history and comparatively almost any movie period. With the release of The Dark Knight Rises just around the corner, let’s revisit some of the best and see if their movie counterparts can hold up to their reputation.
10). Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy
It takes a woman with true sex appeal to bear a name symbolic of uncomfortable itching and a niche that makes the EPA look pretty mild and still seem attractive. The reason she lands the spot of #10 on the list is because of her arsenal. She is one of Batman’s few super-powered criminals with the ability to control plant life, plus she employs tricks as old as man itself: sex and mind control (or are they the same thing?). Aside from proving herself to be the biggest tree hugger in all of DC, she hasn’t really done much (which is why she is so low on the list) however one notable exception to this pattern is the time she took control of Superman, making The Man of Steel battle and nearly kill The Dark Knight Detective. That takes true power and proves that men aren’t the only villains that can be considered a threat.
9). Roman Sionis/Black Mask
Being one of the more obscure villains, he doesn’t get as much respect as a lot of the others, but that doesn’t make him any less impressive. Although having a mask made out of the black wood of your father’s coffin burnt on to your face seems a bit intimidating, the real reason for being on the list is far more impressive. Due to the reckless antics of former Robin – Stephanie Brown (activating one of Batman’s “War Games” scenarios in a desperate attempt to redeem herself) he was able to singlehandedly assert control over the entire criminal underworld. This is something only one other man was able to do, (the even more obscure “Great White Shark” ) and only because of Black Mask. On top of that, he’s responsible for the deaths of many including Stephanie Brown, Orpheus, and Catwoman: Selina Kyle’s brother-in-law, as well as mentally scarring her sister: Maggie Kyle, by forcing her to eat his remains. Someone that twisted more than deserves recognition and a spot on the list.
8). Ra’s Al Ghul
You wouldn’t expect a nearly immortal, international terrorist to work for a cause so noble as creating a perfect world. This has been his goal for centuries, and he will do ANYTHING to achieve it. Tearing down societies one by one in order to watch them rebuild themselves in a better fashion is something he has been doing his entire life, and usually with great success. Oftentimes the only one standing in the way is Batman, the one person Ra’s truly considers a challenge and thinks worthy of being his heir. He has done many noteworthy things, such as ravage the world with the plague known as The Clench, and forcing Wayne to marry his daughter Talia while unconscious.
To top it all off, he is also the grandfather of Bruce’s son: Damian, which makes his connection to the Bat a bit more personal than most. He truly is a very unique villain and a fan-favorite at that. Having taken a notion we all understand but taking it a step too far, he is a character who isn’t going anywhere for a while.
7). Selina Kyle / Catwoman
Catwoman is one of the most well-known Batman villains to date, and over the years has grown to be one of the most popular. Outside of Talia Al Ghul, Selina Kyle is likely the closest thing to love that Bruce Wayne has ever experienced. In fact, Kyle is one of the few distinguished characters to know Wayne is in fact, Batman.
However, what truly marks her as one of the best is her unique dynamics, and willingness to play both sides to come out on top. Over the years she has almost become the textbook example of an antihero, but the allure of crime always keeps her just over the line of morality and, given her history, I can make an exception to put her on the list. She has fought alongside the Dark Knight on several occasions, but nearly always as a means to achieve an end. Her influence is so great that Batman has been known on rare occasion to look the other way during her robberies. Now THAT’S power.
Her unpredictable nature combined with her unwillingness to play by the rules makes her certainly one of the more entertaining villains in the business and one of the strongest female leads in the industry.
Bane is what you get when the person in charge of a criminal operation is both the brains AND the muscle. Bane’s starring role in the Knightfall trilogy has forever sealed his title as “the man who broke the bat”. What truly separates him from the rest of the villains is his patience. He realized something that no one else did: a full frontal attack on the Bat is useless. Deciding to take a long way around and breaking open Arkham Asylum was the best move he ever made, albeit the only move he ever made. He hasn’t done anything noteworthy since Knightfall, but perhaps his reboot in Dark Knight Rises will change that.
He is definitely one of the best villains in the industry and he’s certainly the only one who can claim to have truly bested Batman. The only flaw in his plan was not taking the reinforcements into account, and that proved to be fatal. The reason he isn’t higher on the list is that he’s been downgraded to a mindless brute in recent years (remember Batman and Robin?). Hopefully, Nolan can redeem him, and seeing what he’s accomplished and who he’s working with, that won’t be hard to do.
5). Dr. Thomas Elliot/Hush
For a villain who has only appeared in more recent years, he has certainly left his mark. Taking a note from Bane, Hush began a long complicated campaign to mentally break down his opponent by utilizing the other villains in ways that go against their MOs and nearly succeeded, prevented only by the interference of Harvey Dent. Aside from his brilliantly strategized debut, he has also been noteworthy in every other appearance he’s made. From surviving an ordeal with the Joker to surgically reconstructing his face to almost perfectly mimic the appearance of Bruce Wayne, he has been one of the most dangerous foes Batman has ever faced.
He has proven himself to be an expert strategist and complete sociopath, a deadly combination. Also being one of the few privileged with the knowledge that Wayne is the bat, his personal connections to Wayne’s childhood are a constant source of torment. Although the reboot and reset of DC comics have yet to feature Elliot again, he’s certainly a character we haven’t seen the last of.
4). Jonathon Crane/Scarecrow
The entire purpose of creating the Batman identity was to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals running rampant on Gotham’s streets. Crane is the only one who can truly take that advantage away from him. With his unique arsenal of fear toxins and scare tactics, he is arguably the most feared person on the streets. One of the main reasons he’s so high on the list is his constant maintenance check. He is constantly reinventing himself to be at the top of his game. For instance, he regularly exposes himself to his gas in order to rid himself of his fears, notably birds (he keeps them as pets in order to quell his fear), and even Batman himself, whom he regularly confronts, partially because of his phobia.
After one stint at Arkham, he was ridiculed for his methods and realized he became too dependent on his fear toxins. He then got himself confined to solitary and put himself through intense psychological training. By the time he was let out he was able to use mere words to cause his cellmates to commit suicide, and scare the guards into letting him free.
Scarecrow is unique in the respect that he is the only villain who can truly bring Batman to his knees in terror, and although he isn’t the most successful, his efforts keep him high in the rankings.
3). Eddie Nashton/Edward Nygma A.K.A. The Riddler
Riddle me this: What kind of a man can outwit the world’s greatest detective? The Riddler is another perfect example of a villain that has stood the test of time. Simultaneously one of the least and most successful villains, the Riddler has undergone great change over the years with varying success. The most recent incarnation of the Riddler has seen an obsessive, sociopathic genius who is potentially smarter than Batman himself. Having actually beaten him several times, it is certainly up for debate as to who has the superior mind.
Although he is usually underwritten as merely a silly, ineffective, and just plain goofy failure of a villain, those writers who manage to portray him correctly, portray him brilliantly. His dark twisted past shapes his dark twisted mind and compulsive need for superiority. He is a character with great depth and fantastic potential. Another reason he’s so high on the list is the fact that he adds something to the comics that not many others do; he’s fun. The Riddler is a fan favorite character and as he continues to grow, it’s clear that he’s left his mark as one of the defining villains of the franchise.
2). Harvey Dent/Two-Face
Harvey Dent was Gotham’s, White Knight. The bright glimmer of hope for the city and the perfect example of the positive impact Batman had. Despite having a dark past, Dent rose through the ranks of Gotham to be a respected District Attorney, working with Commissioner Jim Gordon and the Dark Knight to wage his war against the mob corruption. After a tragic accident, he was hideously scarred both physically and mentally and became the very thing he worked to destroy. He is arguable, in many ways, the greatest failure of Batman’s career.
Several accounts show him struggling with mental health issues before the accident, his scarring acting as the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. His struggle and passion have made him such an inspiring character, and such a tragic loss for the side of good in the city. Although he himself never does many memorable things as a criminal, what he represents impacts us so much more. Several storylines have healed Dent’s madness and scarring, only to have him pulled back into the darkness. He represents the bright glimmers of hope that keep getting doused. Without Dent consistently on the side of light, Gotham doesn’t stand a chance of ever recovering from the criminal plague; the only thing Batman can do is delay the inevitable.
This tragic villain inspires guilt in the readers and shows that ANYONE can fall, and just how far too. His complete dependence on fair play and luck show just how twisted his views have become and how unstable he really is. One account showed him in Arkham having his coin replaced by a tarot card deck, which completely immobilized him with too many choices. His black and white view of the world is truly saddening and leaves more of an impact than almost any villain. ALMOST.
1). The Joker
SURPRISE!!! Who’d you expect? Calendar Man? Killer Moth? Maxie Zeus?…Kiteman!? Honestly, who else is more qualified for number one than the clown prince of crime? We all knew this was coming; it can’t be any other way. When you think of Batman, he’s the first villain to pop in your head. The Joker has made a bigger impression than any other villain in DC, and arguably in history. His mind is unfathomably broken, and (as stated by Arkham Asylum the video game), every doctor who’s ever examined him has arrived at a different conclusion. He’s been labeled everything from OCD to Multiple Personality Disorder to Schizophrenia. The list is endless; the only thing we can be sure of is his never-ending sense of humor.
The Joker is Batman’s exact opposite in every conceivable way. It’s odd though to think about since Bats and clowns have never had any sort of historical or symbolic connection, but the fit is too perfect. Batman is dark and serious, Joker is light and comical, Batman doesn’t kill, the Joker kills in every way possible… I could go on for hours, but what truly makes him such a fantastic villain is his likability. No matter how many terribly tragic things he does, (he’s killed more people and done more notable things that every other villain on this list combined) he always manages to put a smile on our faces and even get us to root for him occasionally. The biggest indicator of this was in Arkham City in which *Spoiler Warning* his death at his own hands by the end of the game drove millions of loyal fans to tears. *It is now safe to proceed, spoiler free*
Without Batman, the Joker is nothing (by his own definition) however, without creatures like the Joker, Batman is nothing. Both have recognized the need for the other, which is made obvious by the fact that, save for one, every one of the infinite multiverse realities that contain a Batman also contains a Joker. There is not a second that goes by in which Batman doesn’t contemplate how many people have to die because he lets that one man live.
He is the only person that has ever made Batman seriously consider breaking his one rule (to never kill), and Joker considers them both like each other’s property. He will step in and interfere with Batman’s death if it means saving the honor of killing him (and his Robins for that matter) for himself, and he believes he deserves only to die at the hands of the Bat. He is the only villain known to willingly turn down the opportunity to learn Batman’s identity, and will actually go out of his way to keep himself from knowing. He truly is one of the best comic book characters of his (or any) generation, ranked #2 on IGN’s top 100 comic book villains of all time. But to most of us, he’ll always be #1.