While trying to think about who are my favorite characters and trying to piece those chaotic thoughts together, I realized that many of the greatest characters come right from Batman's stomping grounds in Gotham: his Rogues Gallery.
Batman has the most amazing and most diverse cast of villains, in my opinion, especially compared to many other comic book characters. I've always considered myself a "characters" guy, I have to have good characters in order to enjoy any form of entertainment whether it be comics, movies, or even video games. That might seem like a "duh" statement, but there are a lot of stories out there that don't put emphasis on their characters as they might the story's other elements.
So I'm going to list off my top five (there is room for way more) Batman villains from least to greatest and I'm going to provide my reasoning for each. Let's begin.
Until recently, Bane has really drawn the short stick as far as being on the radar of many people. A lot of people misunderstood who Bane was. They thought that he was just a mindless Hulk-ified villain with no capability with independent thought, thanks to Joel Schumacher.
As you can see from the picture above, Bane was a joke. But thanks to Christopher Nolan's last installment in his Dark Knight Trilogy, [The Dark Knight Rises](movie:39011), Bane has found himself in the limelight in a very good way.
Even if people didn't like the most recent on-screen depiction of Bane, the comics still have brought him back in a serious way, especially during the Forever Evil story-arc that took place across the entire DC Universe. In Batman's absence, the man took up the mantle (not in a way Batman approved) and became the top-dog in Gotham until Batman's return.
You see, Bane is not a moron, he was never meant to be a mindless beast. What makes Bane such a good villain is that he is just as smart as he is strong. Brain or brawn? Bane doesn't have to choose, he's got the best of both worlds. He's a strategist and he knows how best to execute his plans to unleash domination. That's what makes him such a formidable foe to Batman: he can break his body as well as his spirit.
4. The Riddler
As smart as Bane is, there's no matching the Riddler's own enigmatic intelligence. Edward Nigma is another character that I wish people would give more credit to the Riddler.
As far as movies go, the last time we even saw the Riddler (in live-action) was his portrayal by Jim Carrey in the 1995 film, Batman Forever. It wasn't a bad portrayal of the Riddler, despite the fact that it was a Joel Schumacher film; it just had it's own Jim Carrey flavor to it.
Even when you look at games like the Arkham series, the Riddler doesn't play a role that is central to the story, he's left being the side-mission's villain. He's the gimmick and even in 2009's Arkham Asylum, you don't even get to see the character. Thankfully, they at least allowed you to physically take down the Riddler in Arkham City, even if it was a little easy. Hopefully he'll get some more attention in the Arkham Knight game which I think is the plan.
What keeps characters like The Riddler alive though is the love of these characters being applied by writers like DC Comics scribe, Scott Snyder. I don't know if you've read Batman: Zero Year or not; if you haven't, I encourage you to do so. The story of Zero Year was the first time that I got to see the Riddler play such a large role and be the main antagonist to Batman instead of being sidelined as per usual.
This is what makes Scott Snyder such an awesome writer though, he reminds us why characters like the Riddler still matter, why they claim the fame of being one of the most recognizable members of Batman's Rogues Gallery. I was glad to have seen the Riddler be front and center because he challenges Batman to stay sharp, to keep him smart.
The way Scott Snyder put it was perfect, I can't find the quote, but he says [I'm paraphrasing here] that the Riddler believes he doesn't have to use weapons, simply the right words spoken, the right questions asked could be the downfall of everything. If you can find the quote, it was really amazing.
3. Mr. Freeze
Like Riddler, Mr. Freeze is not given the proper amount of attention that he deserves. It's sad because the last image that most people have in their heads when they think about Mr. Freeze is, of course, another Schumacher nightmare:
Yup, that's right, for those of you who might be too young to remember or may not have been born yet, Arnold Schwarzenegger played Mr. Freeze in 1997's Batman & Robin. This was a horrible representation of Batman's coldest villain.
What Batman & Robin got wrong about Mr. Freeze is that he isn't truly a villain at heart. He's just a man, trying to find a cure for his sick wife Nora.
So many of Batman's villains have thugs that don attire fitting the theme of whoever their boss is, for instance, the Joker usually has thugs dressed in crude clown attire and makeup. Mr. Freeze is not that type of villain. He isn't interested in riches. He isn't interested in controlling the world, Gotham, or even some ghetto. He has a one-track mind and wants to see his wife get the care he feels only he can give her because no one else will.
That's what's great about Mr. Freeze, he's not entirely wrong in what he feels but he is wrong in how he goes about it. It creates a dilemma, I feel, for Batman in balancing what is moral, ethical, and legal. Yes, Mr. Freeze is breaking the law whenever he goes and kills people in order to obtain his goal, yes, that is unethical, and yes, his morals had become callus, but many of the readers of the comics would probably sympathize with the character and almost all of us would have a hard time not doing some of things Mr. Freeze has done in order to help those we love.
2. The Scarecrow
Scarecrow, to me, is one of the greatest villains and one of two characters on this list who hasn't been tainted by the terrible 1990s trend to have Joel Schumacher make Batman films.
But Scarecrow is an amazing character because he is one of Batman's most dangerous foes. I've mentioned how Bane challenges Batman physically and requires Batman to out-think him as far as strategy and tactics though, Riddler requires Batman to literally have Batman use his vast intelligence and carefully, like a chess game. But Scarecrow goes straight for the Dark Knight's heart by bringing his fears to fruition through a variety of fear toxins.
Scarecrow really is the challenge to Batman's spirit, can he break the Bat in driving him crazy whether with fear, grief, anguish, etc. Scarecrow has no mercy. He's also been represented well in pop culture in the last 10 years, in my opinion.
He was greatly portrayed by Cillian Murphy in Christopher Nolan's first installment in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins.
The man was horrifying and wily. He was perfectly portrayed in the films and I couldn't have been any happier.
In 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum video game by Rocksteady, he was also given a great role in the game. For those of you who have played the games, you know what I mean. Playing that game in the middle of the night and walking through the Asylum was scary enough, but then for your game to glitch as if your console was breaking, that adds a whole new level of fear.
And although the Scarecrow took a backseat in both the [Batman: Arkham Knight](tag:2683936) and Arkham Origins games, Rocksteady is bringing him back as the big baddie for their last installment in the Arkham video game franchise. I know that I'm excited.
1. The Joker
I don't consider myself the type of person to just follow the fad of something just because it's popular. I try to think as originally as possibly and make sure that my opinions, my beliefs, and my interests are not swayed by what others may think. With that being said, I know the Joker is the most popular and most liked Batman villain of all time and there will never (or at least not for a long time) be a villain to claim such a high pedestal in the eyes of fans.
The thing about the Joker is that he is just too interesting. He is a man with one smile and many faces. His origins are a mystery, even if there are stories like The Killing Joke, Endgame, and others that delve into his origin, it seems it's always changing. He's the physical form of chaos, there is no figuring him out, he has no MO.
That's what makes Joker the perfect villain, that's why he's the yin to Batman's yang. There's a constant, eternal struggle between the two. Batman is an immovable object and Joker is an unstoppable force (literally, as I was typing that, I just realized that Heath Ledger's Joker said the same thing in The Dark Knight).
I like to think that Joker is Batman's motivation for continuing on in his crime fighting ways. He understands the criminal mind. He's taken down so many different types of villains. But even though he has taken down the Joker so many times, it was never cause he began to understand the Joker, it almost seems like anytime the Joker gets caught, it's because he wanted to get caught. We've all seen this happen in so many different mediums of entertainment whether it's comic, movies, or games.
But there is no order to Joker, he loves chaos, he has these weird fantasies of how he views life. They're sick and twisted fantasies of course but he finds it amusing, no...humorous. The mindset is best described in the quote from The Dark Knight:
"Some men just want to watch the world burn..." ~Alfred Pennyworth
And somewhere along the way, he feels that Batman fits into this weird fantasy world of his, that's why he loves coming into contact with him. Scott Snyder's book, Death of the Family, explains how Joker feels that he is the Jester to help the King (Batman) see his Kingdom (Gotham) for how it really is and how his men (the Bat-Family) are bringing him down.
It's horrifying to think that if we lived in the world of comic books, that so long as there is a Batman, there'll always be a Joker. The thrive off each other, just as you can see in The Dark Knight Returns. While Batman is away, Joker doesn't play, but as soon as Batman returns (see what I did there?), well...
Well there you have it. From the vast variety of Batman villains to choose from, these are my top five. What are your type five Batman villains? Feel free to share in the comments section below and don't forget to vote in the poll!