With Christopher Nolan's brilliant Dark Knight trilogy having come to a close nearly two years ago (holy crap), the casting of Ben Affleck as the next to don the cowl in [Batman vs. Superman](movie:711870) and the upcoming tv show coming to FOX in the near future, there has been quite a lot of press surrounding the man in black since his cultural rebirth in 2005. Part of what makes Batman so intriguing and lasting in our collective consciousness, besides being a character flexible enough to remind just about anyone of themselves in some way, is his quite impressive rogues gallery.
Covering a wide range of deep illnesses and afflictions, whether they be corruption (the Penguin), Narcissism (the Riddler), split personalities (Two-Face), obsessive compulsion (Mr. Freeze), or pure, unfiltered psychosis (the Joker), the villains and anti-heroes of the Batman canon cover an astonishing range of psychological profiles, as well as serving to mirror some part of Batman himself. Many, many of them have seen the screen treatment to great success (not looking at you, Satan--I mean, Mr. Schumacher). But there is one who is just plain sickening, and perfect fodder for the more horrific potential of any story set in the most mentally ill city in fact or fiction. His name is Victor Zsasz.
The basic description of Zsasz is simple enough, but truly horrifying: he's a serial killer who kills with a knife and subsequently carves a tally mark on his body for each victim. To dive deeper into the character is to discover how he thinks of each person he kills as a zombie whose miserable existence he is freeing them from. Yes, this is a man who believes that he is killing people as a public service. On top of that, his victims (usually young women) are usually found in lifelike poses. Ugh, I'm giving myself the chills.
The fact that this villain has not been explored is a tragedy.
There is so much potential for a character like Victor Zsasz that has been totally untapped in the history of Batman. He's a bona fide serial killer (which there are surprisingly few of in Gotham city), and he mirrors a trait of Batman's personality, namely a duty to help people in his own way (Zsasz's duty is just what Batman is sworn to prevent). He's extremely smart, strong and agile, as well as almost totally unpredictable. He could throw the Caped Crusader a curveball and result in some really interesting drama.
What's more, the Nolan series even opened the door to exploring this villain! Remember the bald guy with the knife who threatens Rachel Dawes and the little boy near the end of the film? That was Zsasz! He gets maybe a minute of screen time in that whole freaking series, when he could have been a fitting addition to the darkness and brutality of Nolan's saga. He's reduced from an actual potential character to a mere easter egg.
This guy is something straight out of Se7en or Silence of the Lambs. And like I said, I believe he desperately needs more exposure in the Batman universe. I have selected a couple of my best ideas for this possibility. So bear with me here.
1. Zsaz would be an excellent feature on Gotham.
If they want to makeGotham
a multi-series television series (which they obviously do), the writers are going to have to mine a lot of material from previous comics and movies, even if they do add their own material. With shows likeThe Following, True Detective, Hannibal, Bates Motel
andAmerican Horror Story
on the air, plus the endless number of crime procedurals that somehow get 1300 seasons, an ongoing investigation of Zsasz and his story would fit like a glove in the beautifully deranged villainy ofGotham.
2. He could be the feature of an upcoming Batman film.
This one is the least likely of any actual possibility, because Zsasz has been delegated to sit in the obscure characters' corner with Cornelius Stirk and Deacon Blackfire. But like I have said 18 or 19 times now, Victor Zsasz deserves some mainstream attention as a legitimate Batman villain, and a movie would surely give him that.
There, that was literally a couple of ideas. There aren't any more legitimate ideas to incorporate a minor villain. He's been featured quite prominently in comics before, and touched on in Batman: Arkham City. But that's just the tip of the Zsasz iceberg, we need more. So I have an idea of my own.
This one is risky, mainly because it would be a remake of another property with a pretty huge fanbase.... Silence of the Lambs.
Now before you slit my throat, hear me out. Silence of the Lambs was a great film with a collection of great performances, centered around a fascinating concept that is based in reality. For those who didn't know, the film was loosely based upon the real-life story of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy using his expertise to help the FBI track the Green River Killer. This story is perfect fodder for a little idea I cooked up.
Let me set the scene for you: It is a dark, rainy night in Gotham city. Bruce Wayne is swirling a drink in his hand and staring out the window over his city. The famed signal flashes in the sky above the GCPD. With haste, Bruce dons the cowl and, the engine of the Batmobile roaring through the streets, speeds to the station, where Gordon has new evidence in a longstanding case for him: a surveillance video of one Victor Zsasz, a notorious killer whom Batman and Gordon have been after for months. Unable to detect any recognizable pattern in the seemingly senseless blood trail of Zsasz's murders, Batman and Gordon realize they have only one option... in order to have any hope of apprehending him, they must enlist the help of the most chaotic and dangerous psychopath Gotham has ever seen: The Joker.
I think this is a great idea for a few reasons. One: It's a story that could easily belong in the Batman universe, with two compelling villains and a strong central conflict for the hero. Batman would have to be insane himself to enlist his greatest foe, wouldn't he? And can you imagine what kind of stress Gordon would be under, having to deal with all of this and trust his shadiest ally with his most dangerous perp? It's a perfect test for all involved, as well as an opportunity for some excellent psychology.
Two: This would obviously give Zsasz a proper showcase. While it's true that Dr. Hannibal Lecter was the true star of Silence of the Lambs, we can't forget that Ted Levine's Buffalo Bill was the true target of Clarice Starling's pursuit. And the same dynamic could be achieved here, with Batman as the hero, Zsasz as the target and the Joker taking center stage. It wouldn't be all Zsasz's story, but he could still have a more prominent role that he has long deserved.
Three: It's a classic Batman/Joker story in a lot of ways. The best moments in the comics are when it's just Batman and his foe. No police, no weapons, just them, as people. And he has these moments with the Joker more than anyone else. No one knows more about Batman than Joker, and Bruce is unnerved by that. Using this Silence of the Lambs- type setup, we could not only explore the eternal dynamic between Batman and the Joker, but also perhaps gain new insight into Joker's mysterious past. As the story progresses, he could reveal different and increasingly personal details about his life to the Caped Crusader. The question Batman must ask of himself: is this legitimate trust, or is the Joker after something, like usual? And if he is, what could it be?
I've gotten ahead of myself. The point I am trying to make here is this: there are many Batman villains in the ever-expanding universe of the Dark Knight, and a great majority of them have been vastly under-utilized, and Zsasz is certainly not the least of them. If he can get just a little more exposure as a formidable villain, who knows what else is possible?