Batman's Animated Rogues 2

Some more villain synopsises from Batman: the Animated Series
December 24, 2006
Well, I'm back again to look at a few more of the rogues featured in Batman: the Animated Series. Hopefully I can be a bit more positive about some of the ones I'll be reviewing this time, since there were quite a few lackluster ones last time. Not to worry, let's begin on a high-note with one of my personal favourite animated villains:


Two-Face was once Harvey Dent, Gotham's district attourney who, in the comics, was splashed with acid by a, let's just say, unhappy client. It scarred half of his face (which strangely seems to extend to the rest of his body later in the comics...) and drove him insane, becoming obsessed with luck, chance and the double-headed coin that he carried around with him, which he scarred on one side just as his own face was. He then went on crime sprees, mostly based around the number two and where he relied on his coin to make almost all of his choices; "good" side meant he decided against whatever villainous decision he was making, "bad" side meant he went through with it. In the comics his design was originally rather odd, having a green, deformed face on one side and a very bizarre suit and hat that was in two halves, one being brown for his unscarred side and a purple plaid number on the other side to represent his scarred, "evil" side. It is, however, ironic that the movie version of Two-Face appearing in Batman Forever is completely inconsistent with even the original comic version; Two-Face was always a cold, ruthless character, not the guffawing, over the top being appearing in the movie. Disregard everything you thought you knew about the character if that is how you think of him.

When the character was introduced in Batman:tAS, he wasn't a bad guy right from the start; Harvey Dent actually appeared in a few episodes as Bruce Wayne's friend, in a fleeting moment in "On Leather Wings", the series' debut episode, and in "Pretty Poison" where he was seduced by Poison Ivy and poisoned. It wasn't until the two-part (somewhat fitting...) episode "Two-Face" that he was both further characterized and transformed into his villainous alter-ego. In an odd move, throughout the entire first part Harvey is shown without being scarred at all. Two-Face doesn't fully appear until the second episode, but his presence is still felt in the first part and the whole thing is a setup for his inevitable arrival.

The episode shows Harvey Dent as already a man with problems, suffering from a dual-personality disorder in which his other side, dubbed "Big Bad Harv", is the embodiment of his supressed rage and anger that he had kept bottled up since he was a young boy. His fiance and Bruce Wayne urge him to seek professional help when the next election comes up and he has been displaying violent outbursts in front of the general public. However crime boss Rupert Thorne (who is actually from the comics as well, but has no hand in Two-Face's origin) gets a hold of Harvey's medical files and threatens him with them unless he keeps off his trail. When negotiating with them at their chemical plant hideout and with Batman on their tails, Harvey snaps and attacks and chases Thorne through the plant, when a gunman's fire shoots some high voltage electricity wires after he is assaulted by Batman. They land in a nearby chemical vat which, while Harvey is ducking from cover on Batman's command, explodes and injures Dent right up his left-hand side. Plastic surgery attempts went under way, but the chemical explosion severely scars him and leave him deformed. This is the last straw, and "Big Bad Harv" completely takes over and Harvey embarks on a life of crime as Two-Face.

The second episode picks up with Two-Face going after industries that are fronts for Thorne's criminal activities (all with "two" somewhere in the names, by the way), all the while pining over his fiance at every moment he is reminded of her. Batman is also on the trail to try and find his former friend, as is Rupert Thorne himself to have Dent wiped out before he can do any more damage. The design of Two-Face is definitely a lot sharper than that of the original comics, dropping the brown and purple ensemble for a much more simple and effective black and white suit and tie. His face is now blue with an enlarged yellow eye and unkempt white hair, probably to make the character a bit more colourful for the cartoon rather than going with the rather dull dark green and black hair of the original. Harvey's voice is contributed by Richard Moll (who also sometimes plays the Batcomputer's voice), who gives him a rather unsure, shakey quality of a man barely holding on to his sanity even when he is at his most confident, while regressing into a guttural, growling voice whenever Big Bad Harv is on the scene and continuing this voice for when the full transformation is made. This two-part episode is one of the best you'll see in the first season, so it's a definite recommendation. Two-Face returns in a few other episodes usually alongside other villains, such as in "Almost Got 'Im" where he recounts his story on how he almost got Batman by tying him to a giant coin and giving him a "50/50 chance", a scenario lifted straight from the comics despite having a much more plausible resolution. Overall, Two-Face is one of the best villains on the show, and it's a shame he didn't get utilized more often. But hey, too much of anything is a bad thing...


Edward Nygma, aka the Riddler, is another of Batman's more popular villains, mainly because of his usual appearances in the Adam West and Burt Ward "Batman" TV series, where Frank Gorshin played him as a cackling madman who laughed even more than the Joker did. Being the highlight of the TV show is definitely what has kept old E. Nygma in the public eye, since he didn't usually work too well in the comic books and works even less nowadays, where Batman has completely dropped his campy image so gimmicky villains like Riddler get a lot less work. However he was of course incorporated into Batman:tAS, but he suffered from some problems, the main one being his very dull origin story. Simply put, Nygma realised he was very good at puzzles and riddles and decided to use them against the police in order to get himself some dough and make a fool out of Batman. It's hardly Shakespeare, is it?

So in his debut episode "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?" (longest episode title ever? Possibly) Nygma is reimagined as a video game developer, cheated out of his profits and fired despite being the main brain behind their most popular product "Riddle of the Minotaur" (which has less than stellar graphics even for back then, if I do say so myself). He then decides to get revenge against his old boss Mockridge using his intuitive knowledge of riddles and his own genius. The first half of the episode sets up the Riddler and shows him captured Mockridge, Batman failing in stopping him but managing to find their location due to a clue. The second half takes place in a complete reconstruction of the Minotaur's maze from Nygma's game, which Batman and Robin have to traverse to safe Mockridge from being skewered by the Minotaur statue at the centre. I personally found this episode quite good, John Glover playing the Riddler with a smug politeness as opposed to Gorshin's manic performance which is a hard act to imitate. This works quite well for this incarnation of the Riddler, who just wouldn't have worked if he was dancing around in question-mark covered tights.

However my main problem with the Riddler episodes is that I think the riddles are figured out too quickly, even though such a thing is required since you can't fit much time for hesitation in a 20-minute long cartoon as opposed to a comic book, but it still comes off as a bit goofy. Still, I found some of the puzzles rather ingenious, such as when they come across keys labelled A, C and D in front of a door. One try sends out two blades, and Robin deduces that the keys have musical connotations; the D key has two sharps while the C key has no sharps, so the C key is the answer. The Riddler re-appears in another episode, "What is Reality?" where he is this time at the helm of a virtual reality machine which Commissioner Gordon gets his mind trapped in, so Batman (after following the clues back to the police headquarters while on the hunt for the Riddler's location) goes in after him. Some more little riddles follow, including Batman being put on a chessboard and reminded he is the Dark Knight, so he must move like one.

Unfortunately there were times where the riddles seemed rather corny, and the Riddler only appears in a total of three episodes of his own (the third is apparently the better of the trio, despite the fact I haven't seen it myself). So why is the Riddler so underused? Probably because he's such a bitch to write for. Just remember that we are dealing with a man who is supposed to be one of the smartest people in the world with his mind full to the brim with puzzles, riddles and tricks to play on his foes. To write a Riddler episode, you both have to be just as smart as him and then even smarter than him to write the conclusion where he becomes unstuck and is outwitted. That's another of the reasons he has probably been rarely utilized recently in the comics; the curse of Edward Nygma is indeed a heavy one.


Batman: The Animated Series' flagship piece. The episode which really made them stand out from the crowd and defined just what the show was all about; "Heart of Ice", the introduction of Mr. Freeze. In the comics, Freeze (or Mr. Zero as he was originally called) was just a one-note gimmick villain, a bald-headed geezer in a refridgerated suit who has a gun that could freeze things. However Paul Dini really did a number on him and completely rethought the character... Well, the equipment he used was still there. He needed to wear the suit because of a condition he had where he needed to be kept in a subzero environment, otherwise he became weak and could potentially die. And the ice-gun, of course. However where Freeze really stood out was his origin and his personality.
"Heart of Ice" begins with several heists being pulled by a strange criminal who owns a "freezing gun", all directed at Gothcorp and its CEO Ferris Boyle. Batman finds that the equipment stolen can be put together to become a cannon that, with adequate fuel, could generate extreme cold. He tracks down the criminal to a warehouse where canisters of liquid nitrogen are being held, but fails to combat the mysterious Mr. Freeze. After breaking into Gothcorp files he watches a tape belonging to one Victor Fries, seeing his attempts to cryogenically freeze his wife until they can find a cure for her illness. However Ferris Boyle, who is also supposed to be winning a Humanitarian award, sabotages the project, forcing his way into the lab with security because Fries is "wasting" company money on the project. He kicks over Fries into a table of chemicals, which explodes and sends cold gaseous clouds everywhere. Boyle and the guards flee while the freezing Victor calls to his wife, clawing at her cryogenic capsule before the video cuts out. Freeze then appears and captures Batman, explaining his condition and that his wife is apparently dead. Batman must race to stop Freeze from exacting his revenge with the now-completed ice cannon before it's too late.

This re-imagining quickly became one of the shows most popular characters, despite the fact he is barely featured outside of this episode. Much later he re-appears in the episode "Deep Freeze", where he is captured by conglomerate Grant Walker who wants his supposed immortality for himself, as well as being reunited with his thought-dead wife, despite her still being in suspended animation. It is apparently a good episode (I haven't seen it), but it obviously doesn't compare to his debut, which is now considered the episode that all others are compared to, perhaps unfairly.

He also appeared in the straight-to-video release "Sub-Zero", where he attempts to revive his comatose wife using the blood of Barbara Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's daughter and Batgirl. The movie doesn't really have much new to say except some good action scenes and a happy ending for the Freeze legacy (despite it being changed in "The New Batman Adventures" where Freeze is re-imagined as a barely-human cyborg who's really just a head in a jar, once again losing his wife somehow and becoming a villain with even less of a cause than before. He then appears in Batman Beyond/of the Future where he is given a sad but truly final send-off), and probably would've worked better as a single 20 minute episode. Whatever the case, rest assured it was better than the portrayal given by Arnie in Batman & Robin, which took the origin of Freeze and threw his cold personality (with his emotionless drone that effortlessly changes into heartfelt sadness delivered perfectly by Michael Ansara) and simple design out the window. Rest assured, even though this version of the character appears in the comics as well, this is the definitive Mr. Freeze.


Man-Bat is a bit of an oddity, since he is definitely one of the most off-beat members of Batman's rogues gallery alongside Clayface (who I will get into in future). This villain is, as you can see by his picture, a realio-trulio human bat mutant, originally the scientist Dr. Kirk Langstrom. Langstrom was experimenting on bats to create a formula to simulate the creatures' long life, but testing it on himself yeilded... unexpected consequences. He then went on the prowl and terrorized Gotham city until he returned to human form. The authorities assumed this creature was in fact Batman (I don't seem to remember his costume having giant wings and fangs, so I don't know how they came to that conclusion) and the Gotham police declare war on him in retaliation. Now Batman must both clear his name and get to the bottom of just who Man-Bat is.

He doesn't realise it is Langstrom at first, even consulting the doctor and his associates about strange noises he has recorded that apparently came from the creature in hope they could identify it. It isn't until he deduces it was Langstrom that the two have a confrontation, the doctor becoming drunk with the power his Man-Bat form gives him. He drinks the serum and transforms, taking Batman for a ride across the Gotham skyline and showcasing one of the most violent fights in a cartoon at the time. Batman climbs onto and beats the creature with everything he has, sustaining many injuries of his own before he brings him down. Langstrom transforms back and Batman's name is cleared, since helicopter pilots happened to see the fight themselves and were obviously able to deduce that Batman and Man-Bat were not one in the same.

Man-Bat himself isn't a very interesting character, really. A typical mindless monster and mad scientist who enjoys the power trip that becoming it provides. The episode is stand-out for both being the first created and also showing us that the creative team, led by Bruce Timm, really meant business. The fight between Batman and Man-Bat in the sky with the creature towing the dark knight all the way behind it on a rope is a very well animated sequence, and it was surprising just how brutal the whole thing was. It is often said that it was shocking how much blood and injuries were on Batman at the end of the fight, although I'll say it doesn't really look like much. But considering the standards back then when cartoon heroes weren't allowed to even punch anyone, I'm sure it was amazing at the time. Man-Bat returned in another episode "Terror In The Sky", which involves him returning and causing havoc once again, however there is a seed of doubt that Langstrom is really the one behind it all... Despite lacking the animation of the previous episode, I didn't think this one was too bad. However, once again, Man-Bat is not the most interesting of villains, so I definitely wouldn't put it in my favourites.


Jonathan Crane was a professor of psychology at Gotham State University who specialized in fears and phobias, being fascinated by them since he was a child. However he was fired when his experiments became too dangerous (including putting people in rooms full of insects and such. I'm not too sure what he was trying to prove, really... Yes, people are scared of insects. Well done. Do you want a Nobel Prize for that?). He became angry and vengeful at the university and then decided to take his revenge against them. Using a mind altering "fear gas" as a weapon, he took up the guise of "the Scarecrow" (having been insulted for looking like one in his past). However there was a fatal flaw in trying to introduce the Scarecrow into the animated universe: How do you make him believably scary when frightening young viewers is a definite no-no for the censors?

Short answer, they didn't. Or if they tried to, they seemingly failed. This is best illustrated in the Scarecrow's debut episode "Nothing to Fear" (How right they are...). His origin is only addressed in a narrated flashback, which doesn't exactly help to make you appreciate him, since most of the episode revolves around Batman's self-doubt about whether his deceased father would be proud of him, brought out when he gets a whiff of the Scarecrow's fear gas and begins hallucinating his father taunting him with "You've failed me, son!" etc. Unfortunately this doesn't really go much further than Batman pining over his misfortune and Alfred re-assuring him that he's a great hero who's doing the right thing, yadda yadda. Back to Scarecrow though... Let's just say his design didn't strike fear into your heart. A thin, lanky figure in a red and brown costume with a ridiculous looking mask, which (when you see him without it on) really doesn't look like it would even fit on his massive head.

The other main problem with the Scarecrow here was, as well as his appearance, the effects of his fear toxin. The first time it is used it arouses a security guard's arachnaphobia, causing him to see a myriad of spiders crawling on his hand... Unfortunately these are cheaply animated spiders, consisting of just red balls with little black lines for legs, so it's hardly a horrifying sight if you're scared of spiders or not. Therein lies the problem with the Scarecrow's very concept; if the viewer is not at least unsettled by what they are seeing, how are they meant to consider him a threat? However that doesn't mean the episode isn't worth seeing, simply for its campy value; we have looming father figures turning into evil skeletons, red eyes and all, the villain's dimwitted accomplices who constantly irritate him with their idiocy and the now cliche "I am the night!" speech given by Batman as he hangs from a blimp. It's worth watching just for a good laugh.

The second episode the Scarecrow appeared in, in my opinion, improved the character by leaps and bounds. In "Fear of Victory", the Scarecrow has taken to infecting athletes with a fear drug that acts on adrenaline, and then betting against them to make himself rich. The actual effects of the drug are rarely seen, which is much more affecting than actually seeing what the victims are reacting to. The Scarecrow's design was also altered, giving him long straw-like hair, jutting teeth and pupils to heighten his expression... However it didn't really make him any scarier. I will say, however, that Henry Polic II's voice acting takes a good turn here. Sometimes he is able to make you feel unsteady and bewildered, especially when he delivers the line "Lost? You have that bewildered look... But your sort always does!" in a somewhat sing-song, creepy fashion. This plot is definitely more plausible as well, with the Scarecrow actually using the fear drug for a good reason: personal gain.

Scarecrow's third foray "Dreams in Darkness" is a fan-favourite, but I will admit I wasn't too affected by it. Batman gets a dose of the Scarecrow's drug and ends up insanely afraid and locked up in Arkham Asylum, while the Scarecrow is orchestrating an "experiment in fear" under the asylum. Other than a surprisingly risky hallucination where Batman sees his parents disappear into a tunnel, before it lifts up out of the ground to reveal a gun barrel with blood dripping out of it before it fires (dunno how they got away with that one...), I don't find the episode too special. Once again I bring attention to the Scarecrow's motive: he doesn't seem to have one. He intends to leak his fear toxin into the Gotham water supply, but why? For an "experiment in fear" he claims, but what will such a thing accomplish? Again, we are never told, and that definitely takes some points off for me. Scarecrow was then after barely utilized except in cameo appearances, until "the New Batman Adventures" where he was redesigned and given a new voice in horror B-movie extraordinaire Jeffrey Combs. For the first time he actually looked menacing... But that's another story.

And that's the end of this installment. Sorry for the long wait, but I had other things I needed to get through before finishing this off... The last batch of villains that I know of will be in the next article, so until then, see ya!
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