Director Chris Nolan has given the Batman movie franchise a much needed shot in the arm with ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ and the third instalment in the trilogy ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, looks set to carve his place in Batman history in stone.
Nolan’s Batman universe is an altogether darker place than that depicted in previous big screen Batman adaptations and he eschews any hint of the camp and colourful characters and plotlines which may have tainted previous movies like a psychedelic residue from the camp 60s Batman TV series. Perhaps this preference for a lean, mean and menacing tone is also why Nolan also prefers to pit Batman against altogether more malevolent villains such as The Scarecrow, Heath Ledger’s gruesome Joker and the awesome Bane in the upcoming ‘Dark Knight Rises’. However, here follow a look at five creative and charismatic Batman super villains who are not included in Nolan’s Batman Universe.
The perfect companion for any fan of cryptic crosswords, The Riddler, AKA Edward Nigma, is an enemy of Batman who first appeared in Detective Comics #140 in 1948 and was created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang. This camp and flamboyant character loves to warn Batman of his forthcoming crimes by sending him frustratingly complex and elaborate riddles and puzzles and his costume choice veers between a skin tight green jumpsuit covered in question mark symbols and a purple face mask, or a suave green suit with fedora hat, black face mask, purple shirt and green tie emblazoned with the iconic question mark symbol. Although The Riddler boasts a genius level IQ, his narcissistic tendencies tend to be his undoing; as he seems incapable of committing any crime without leaving a clue. His battles with Batman tend to be intellectual rather than physical and over the years his labyrinthine plots and puzzles have certainly forced the Caped Crusader to earn his alternative sobriquet of ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’. Frank Gorshin was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of The Riddler in the 60s Batman TV series, whilst rubber-faced funny-man Jim Carrey slipped into his green spandex suit in ‘Batman Forever’ in 1995.
The Penguin is the alter-ego of the somewhat Dickensian sounding Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot; an arch-enemy of Batman since he first appeared in Detective Comics #58 in 1941. The Penguin is a famously short and round character who loves birds and lethal umbrellas and his tail-coat and top hat costume is based on that of fashion conscious Mobsters of his contemporary era. His bold black and white tuxedo as well as his love of all things avian gave rise to his famous moniker. The Penguin is a controlled and calculating villain who does not display and of the unhinged characteristics of other Batman foes and his relationship with Batman over the years has been somewhat conflicted and veers from that of a combatant to a grudging informant. In the 60s TV series, he was portrayed by Burgess Meredith, who would later play cantankerous boxing coach Mickey in the ‘Rocky’ movies, whilst in 1992 Danny DeVito played a more sinister version of the character in ‘Batman Returns’.
Deadshot is the alter-ego of Floyd Lawton and first appeared in Batman#59 in 1960. When he first burst onto the scene in Gotham City, he presented himself as a crime-fighter but his villainous plans to replace Batman and take control of the Gotham underworld were soon exposed. After serving a jail term, Deadshot emerges in his full regalia of red jumpsuit and metal face plate and embarks upon a career as a deadly hired assassin whose weapons of choice are twin wrist-mounted silenced guns. A skilled marksman with a cold blooded disregard for human life, Deadshot is a natural choice as a member of the Suicide Squad and his driving desire is for his own life to end in explosive and spectacular fashion whilst carrying out his duties on a dangerous mission. A gruesome and formidable ‘gun for hire’; Deadshot boasts that he ‘never misses’.
A relatively recent addition to the Batman ‘rogues gallery’ Harley Quinn was introduced to the Batman mythology in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ in 1992. Before she became a super villain she was better known as Dr Harleen Frances Quinzel; a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, the facility where The Joker has been a regular ‘guest’. It is at Arkham that she meets and falls in love with the aforementioned Clown Prince of Crime, helping him to escape on numerous occasions and eventually crossing the floor to become the Harlequin jester suited Harley Quinn in order to seek revenge after her infamous lover suffers a particularly savage beating at the hands of Batman. She also later befriends Poison Ivy and is injected with antitoxins which give her the same resistance to poisons as her new accomplice. She was portrayed by Mia Sara in the ‘Birds of Prey’ TV series and by Sherilyn Fenn in the pilot episode.
Julian Gregory Day AKA Calendar Man first appeared in Detective Comics#259 in 1958 and was created by Bill Finger. He doesn’t dispense with his victims with precisely-aimed paper wall calendars, but is obsessed with dates and calendars and his crimes always have an interesting relationship with the dates and times when they are committed, such as an obscure reference to the particular day of the week or the anniversary of some past event. This ‘man of the moment’ also wears various costumes which refer to the particular date and time of the crime which he is in the process of committing but he also has a regular costume on which various random numbers sprout from the shoulders. Another more cerebral character; his crimes tend to be trivial and low-scale, although in the mini- series ‘Batman: The Long Halloween’ his impressive knowledge of all things chronological is sought by Batman as he attempts to catch a serial killer named Holiday.