10. Bane – Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (January 1993)
According to his creators, Bane was originally intended as a “dark mirror” of the highly disciplined and multi-skilled pulp hero Doc Savage. Savage was an early influence in the creation of the Dark Knight himself.
Born to serve the life sentence of his father, Bane’s childhood and early adult life are spent behind the walls of Peña Duro, an infamous prison located in Santa Prisca. His origin somewhat similar to that of Edmond Dantès (the Count of Monte Cristo) in that he would spend years imprisoned for crimes he did not commit. Though raised in incarceration, his natural abilities allow him to develop extraordinary skills within the prison’s walls. He reads as many books as he can get his hands on, builds up his body in the prison’s gym, and learns to fight in the merciless school of prison life. Despite his circumstances, he appears to have found teachers of various sorts during this incarceration, ranging from hardened convicts to an elderly Jesuit priest, under whose tutelage he apparently receives a classical education. Bane murders this priest upon his return to Santa Prisca years later. However, he commits his first murder at the age of eight, stabbing a criminal who wanted to use him to gain information about the prison.
During his years in prison, Bane carries a teddy bear he calls Osito, whom he considers his only friend. It is revealed that Osito has a hole in his back to hold a knife that Bane uses against anyone who bullies him.
Bane ultimately establishes himself as the “king” of Peña Duro prison. The prison’s controllers take note and eventually force him to become a test subject for a mysterious drug known as Venom, which had killed all other subjects. It nearly kills him at first, but he survives and finds its effects enhance his physical strength, although he needs to take it every 12 hours or he would suffer debilitating side-effects.
Years later, Bane escapes Peña Duro, with ambition to destroy Batman, whom he had heard tales of while serving his sentence. He is fascinated with Gotham City as, like the prison, it is a place where fear ruled. Bane is convinced that the demonic bat that haunted his dreams since childhood is a representation of the Batman.
Knightfall is what followed.
Aware that a direct assault on Batman would be foolish, Bane destroys the walls of Arkham Asylum, allowing its deranged inmates, including the Joker, the Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, and The Ventriloquist to escape into Gotham City. Batman spends three months rounding them up, running himself to exhaustion. Then one night Batman returns to Wayne Manor to find it wrecked. Bane awaits him. They fight in the Batcave, Bane breaks Batman’s back and leaves him paraplegic, thereby having been the only man to have “Broken the Bat”.
If you’ve only seen Bane in the abortion of a movie that was 1997’s Batman and Robin, where he was greatly misrepresented as a mindless thug, you’d probably wonder why he was on the list at all. But he was also in the Animated Series and the pathetic animated movie, Batman: Mystery of the Batwomen, where he was voiced by Hector Elizondo.
Good news for Bane fans though, when it was announced he would appear in the third Nolan batfilm – The Dark Knight Rises. He was played by ultra talented Tom Hardy, and has since become more of a household name.
Knightfall however is the only reason he cracks the Top 10 on here. The act of breaking Batman’s back put him in a class by himself, however in the near 20 years since, he has done relatively little more to move him up. He was involved in No Man’s Land which I loved, but did so little it barely cancels out his first movie appearance.
9. Black Mask – Batman #386 (August 1985)
Roman Sionis was born into one of Gotham City’s elite families, to wealthy and utterly self-absorbed parents. Roman’s parents disliked the Waynes and were quite vocal about it in private with their son. However, to their son’s dismay, they continued to associate with Thomas and Martha Wayne and pretended to be friends with the couple, to the extent of literally forcing him to become friends with their son, Bruce. His parents’ hypocrisy had a deep impact on him, and he grew to hate and resent them and the “masks” they wore in public.
After his high school, Sionis was given a high-ranking position inside his father’s company, Janus Cosmetics. There, he met and fell in love with Circe, a working class secretary. His parents didn’t approve of the relationship and made it clear that they wanted it ended. Enraged, Roman burned down the family’s mansion, killing both of his parents. He then inherited the family fortune & business. Roman eventually ruined Janus Cosmetics by funding a line of face-paint make-up which failed. In desperation, he ordered the chemists to create a product to save the company, a kind of water-proof makeup. The product was rushed to market without proper testing, and turned out to be a deadly toxin which disfigured several hundred women.
Circe, now Sionis’ fiancée, broke up with him in front of his entire staff. At that time, Bruce Wayne offered to bail out the company on the condition that Sionis give up control. Sionis agreed, but was furious at the humiliation he had suffered. He went to the family mausoleum and broke his mother’s ebony coffin lid. From a piece of this, Sionis carved a mask, becoming ‘Black Mask’.
He began kidnapping Wayne Enterprise executives, putting masks on their faces that were coated in the deadly make-up once made by his Janus Cosmetics. He also targeted Circe and forcibly disfigured her with the chemicals in order to force her to reunite with him. Circe would ultimately kill herself, leading Black Mask to replace her with a mannequin that he talked to as if it were a real person.
These kidnappings drew Batman’s attention, and he slowly began to dismantle the organization until he finally found Black Mask in the ruins of the Sionis Family home. Black Mask lit the wreckage on fire trying to escape, but was caught in the burning house. Batman was able to save him, but the mask had been burned onto his face and left him disfigured.
Black Mask spent some time in Arkham Asylum, but escaped when Bane assaulted the facility during Knightfall, and he began burning down Wayne properties. This time he also kidnapped Lucius Fox, CEO of Waynetech and friend of Bruce Wayne.
When Tim Drake quit his role as Robin in the War Games arc, Batman chose Stephanie Brown, aka The Spoiler, to replace him. Batman quickly discovered that her lack of focus and inability to follow orders made her a danger to herself and others, and fired her. In an attempt to prove herself, Stephanie set it into action a plan was to get all of Gotham’s crime lords under the control of Orpheus, an agent of Batman, and therefore under the control of Batman himself. But the Black Mask captured and tortured her, eventually leading to her death. This lead to the Joker wanting to kill Black Mask, for robbing him of the opportunity to kill another Robin.
The two nearly killed each other before Batman intervened and eventually managed to capture Black Mask. However, while being taken to jail, he managed to kill the escorting officer and escape again. He’s so pesky.
Black Mask rose to become the overlord of the Gotham underworld. He threatened the most important people in Catwoman’s life, still thinking that she adhered to a strict no-kill rule, Black Mask was caught by surprise when she retaliated by shooting him in the head, killing him.
Black Mask was a bit crazy and totally bad ass. A perfect addition to gang from Arkham. The Black Mask was then donned for several months by another, who turned out to be none other than Jeremiah Arkham.
8. The Riddler – Detective Comics #140 (October 1948)
The Riddler is so deeply ingrained into his own personality that he is virtually powerless to stop himself from acting it out. He cannot simply kill his opponents when he has the upper hand; he has to put them in a deathtrap to see if he can devise a life and death intellectual challenge that the hero cannot solve and escape. However, unlike many of Batman’s themed enemies, Riddler’s compulsion is quite flexible, allowing him to commit any crime as long as he can describe it in a riddle or puzzle.
Some have suggested that the Riddler’s compulsion stems from parental abuse that he endured as a child. After Edward got high scores on some important tests in school, his father, unable to grasp the fact that his son was brilliant, beat him out of envy. This left him with a strong internal desire to tell the truth, and prove his innocence. This desire manifests itself in the form of his obsession with riddles. Others have suggested that his madness, as well as his descent into crime, have roots in a yearning to rise above the anonymity that he possessed as a youth.
In The Long Halloween, the Riddler appears when Carmine Falcone hires him to figure out who the Holiday Killer is. Despite giving several reasonable theories as to who is behind the killer’s identity, Falcone eventually loses his patience and orders his daughter, Sophia, to force the Riddler to leave.
Upon exiting Falcone’s office, the Riddler is attacked, but for some reason left alive, by Holiday. The attack coincided with the holiday of April Fool’s. He plays a slightly larger role in the story’s sequel, Dark Victory, in which Batman turns to him to figure out the significance of the lost games of hangman that are left at the scenes of the Hangman killer’s crimes. He later showed up as a member of Two-Face’s jury during the Hangman’s trial.
In the one-shot Riddler and the Riddle Factory, the Riddler becomes the host of an underground game show that focuses on digging up dirt on celebrities. Many of the famous people that he humiliates end up committing suicide shortly afterwards, suggesting that perhaps the Riddler did more than just inspire their deaths. In the end, his actions turn out to be a front for his attempts to find the hidden treasures of “Scarface” Scarelli, a Gotham City gangster who lived long before Batman’s reign of crime fighting.
Nigma, reformed, working as a private consultant on the murder of a wealthy socialite. Hired by a socialite’s father, he proves that a photo of Bruce Wayne apparently implicating him in the crime depicts an impostor and briefly works with Batman to investigate the crime.
In Detective Comics #837 Riddler, now a P.I. is hired by Bruce Wayne to track down an experimental drug developed by Wayne Enterprise currently being tested for muscle stamina and cellular regeneration which has been stolen by a lab assistant named Lisa Newman. He discovers that Newman is staying at the same Athenian Women’s Help Shelter as Harley Quinn. With Harley’s help he defeats Newman and returns the drug to Wayne Enterprise, earning Batman’s trust for the time being.
But it was back during the Hush storyline, when it is eventually revealed that the Riddler is behind almost everything. Having helped Tommy Elliot the whole time, this is one of the major reasons the Riddler is as high on the list as he appears. Riddler seems to have his hands in a lot of things at once.
Riddler is one of the most well know Batman villains playing a major part in the 1966 movie. In the movie he was shown as an equal to the Penguin and Joker, though he is seldom seen in that same light now.
A song based on The Riddler was performed by Method Man and was featured on the BATMAN FOREVER SOUNDTRACK. There is also a song by Frank Gorshin in which he sings about riddles and his obsession with them. Also The Riddler makes an appearance in the music video of the 1984 song ‘The Riddle’ by Nik Kershaw.
The Riddler, though a more interesting character now, had been living on the laurels of the TV show for years. He really isn’t an A-List villain anymore, which Ivy, the Joker, and Batman are all quick to point out to him often. And his recent transformation into a P.I. is interesting, but not menacing. However it’s his behind the scene actions that place him this high in the Gotham standings.
7. The Penguin – Detective Comics #58 (December 1941)
Born Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the Penguin is bullied as a child for his short stature, obesity, and beak-like nose. Several stories relate that he was forced as a child to always carry an umbrella by his over-protective mother, due to his father dying of pneumonia after being drenched in a downpour.
These traits make him an outcast in his rich, high society family; their rejection drives him to become a criminal. In keeping with his family’s tradition of wealth, the Penguin lives a life of crime, yet executes it with his own self-proclaimed class and style.
Some comics suggest that he tried to abandon the Penguin nickname, which he hates, but it has been permanently brought into popularity by his high-profile criminal career. He has cashed in on its popularity with his Iceberg Lounge nightclub in Gotham City. Unlike most of the Batman villains, the Penguin is in control of his own actions and perfectly sane, features that serve to maintain a unique relationship with his archenemy.
This has extended into the current situation with the Penguin ceasing his direct public involvement in crime, instead running his nightclub that is popular with the underworld. As such, he is an excellent source of information on crime, so Batman grudgingly tolerates his operations. The Iceberg Lounge is often both the center of criminal activity and the hottest nightspot in Gotham City. However, the entrepreneurial Penguin is often fencing stolen property or arranging early furloughs for incarcerated former criminal associates – for a hefty fee, of course – on the side.
During the storyline No Man’s Land, when Gotham City is nearly leveled by an earthquake, he stays behind when the US government shuts down and blockades the city. He becomes one of the major players in the mostly-abandoned and lawless city, using his connections to profit. One of these connections is discovered to be Lex Luthor and his company, LexCorp. The Penguin keeps a presence in Gotham as it is rebuilt, mostly due to the efforts of Lex Luthor.
The Penguin may be 2nd only to the Joker as the best known member of Batman’s Rouges Gallery, being a major player in the 1960’s series as well as all the cartoons and 1992’s Batman Returns. Burgess Merideth and Danny DeVito both famously portrayed Oswald Cobblepot, and Robin Lord Taylor play him now in Gotham.
Despite the Penguin’s prominence, unlike the Joker, he hasn’t been the center of any major storylines in quite sometime. Much like The Riddler he had moved away from his super-villain status prior to the New52.
Though still a criminal, Penguin is almost more valuable to Batman because of his past relations than much of the GCPD. Cobblepot’s constant willingness to roll over on his past associates and his vast information gathering network allow him to trade favors with the Dark Knight regularly.
More recently though, between Gotham and the newer comics, The Penguin is being redesigned as more brutally violent, and the last couple of years have moved him up this list a bit.
6. Mr. Freeze – Batman #121 (February 1959)
From the time of his first appearance in 1958 onward, Mr. Freeze was portrayed as one of many “joke” villains cast as stock enemies of Batman.
Originally called Mr. Zero, the producers of the 1960s Batman television series renamed him Mr. Freeze and the name quickly carried over to the comic books.
Nearly 30 years later, he moved out of the Joke-Villain category, in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Heart of Ice”, he was made into a more complex, tragic character, and cemented himself among the upper echelon of Batman’s rivals. This version of Mr. Freeze was enthusiastically accepted by fans, and has become the standard portrayal for the character in most forms of media, including the comic book series itself. Previously the comics had the character casually killed off by the Joker. Freeze was resurrected there however after the episode aired.
As a child, Victor Fries was fascinated by freezing animals. Horrified, his parents send him to a strict boarding school, where he is miserable, feeling detached from humanity. In college, he meets a woman named Nora, whom he falls in love with and ultimately marries. Nora later falls terminally ill & Fries takes on a job working for a large company run by the ruthless Ferris Boyle. Victor discovers a way to put Nora into cryo-stasis hoping to sustain her until a cure could be found. Boyle finds out about the experiment and attempts to have her brought out of stasis, overruling Victor’s frantic objections. A struggle ensues, in which Boyle kicks Fries into a table full of chemicals and leaves him for dead. Victor survives, but his body temperature is lowered dramatically, he can now only live at sub-zero temperatures, forced to wear a special refrigerating suit to stay alive.
His first act as a costumed criminal is to take revenge upon Boyle, a plan with which Batman interferes. Victor fires his freeze-gun at Batman, who dodges it, causing the beam to shatter Nora’s capsule. Freeze blames Batman, and swears to destroy whatever the Dark Knight holds dear.
From here his crimes tend to involve freezing everyone and everything he runs into. In addition, he hardly ever forges alliances with the other criminals in Gotham, preferring to work alone, although he has worked as a hired enforcer/hitman for the Black Mask.
During his time with the Secret Society of Super Villains, he fashions for Nyssa al Ghul a sub-zero machine in exchange for the use of her own Lazarus Pit. He attempts to restore Nora to life, however she returns to life as the twisted Lazara, and blames her husband for her plight, and estranges herself from him. He is usually imprisoned in Arkham Asylum when apprehended by Batman, as it is the only facility in Gotham that can accommodate his medical requirements for a refrigerated cell.
In darker incarnations of the Batman mythos, Mr. Freeze’s obsession with ice stems from personal tragedy, and his crimes are inspired by his desire to make the rest of the world as miserable as he is. He freezes areas around him using special weapons and equipment, most notably a handheld “cold gun”. His refrigeration suit grants him superhuman strength and durability, making him a powerful villain in Batman’s rogues gallery. He has even shown to be a formidable opponent for Superman. Some interpretations suggest that because Fries has been soaked in the serum he intended to use for cryo-preservation, his age progression has slowed drastically.
In Batman Beyond, which is set 40 years in the future, Bruce Wayne still has one of Mr. Freeze’s guns in the Batcave. The episode “Meltdown” reveals that the disembodied head of Victor Fries has survived though the years thanks to the cryogenics technology, and he is now essentially immortal. Dr. Stephanie Lake uses Mr. Freeze as a test subject and creates a clone body for him. Given a normal life back, Fries tries to right some of the wrongs he committed as a criminal. However, the new body soon begins to revert to the same sub-zero biology. Lake betrays Fries, hoping to learn more from an autopsy, but he escapes, recovers an old suit of sub-zero armor, and becomes Mr. Freeze again. He seeks revenge by killing Lake and by attempting to blow up a Wayne-Powers complex with both himself and Derek Powers in it, but Batman foils the plan. Freeze redeems himself by saving Batman from Powers, now mutated into the supervillain Blight, but apparently perishes when he refuses to escape the exploding complex with Batman.
Mr. Freeze’s regular refusal to associate with some of the other Gotham elite makes him different. He doesn’t feel as though he should be considered with them as his motivation differs so drastically. Not to mention almost every time he has teamed-up with another villain, he has been betrayed.
The idea of being driven to this point by the pain caused from losing his wife, hits a cord. He is a somewhat sympathetic character, but he is so far gone his heart has frozen over and no longer wants to be happy. The idea that he is motivated by as desire to make everyone as miserable as he is almost scary. He is fueled entirely by hate and disdain for all around him.
If not for the portrayal in the accursed Batman and Robin movie, he would’ve cracked theTop 5…
5 thoughts on “Gotham’s 20 Best Villains: 10-6”
Joe Chill’s actions lead to the beginning of “the Freaks” era in Gotham City. Without him there is no Batman, Joker, or real need for Gordon. It’s the murder of the Waynes that spun the city into despair.
Number 8 is still quite high.
Or, considering his apparently pivital role, quite low.
On the original list I did for my old site a few years ago he was #3. But I think that was just too soon after BATMAN BEGINS and I was feeling nostalgic.