Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Batman’s Worst Villains

September 30, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Worst Batman Villains Kite Man

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed Favorite Female Supervillains Here’s what some of you had to say:

Jeremy Thomas: “I mean, if we’re counting people who were supervillains for large portions of their life but aren’t so much like Harley, then there’s only one choice for me: Emma. Fucking. Frost.

Emma was a character I ~HATED~ (in the “such a good villain”) way when she was a bad guy in Claremont’s X-Men. So much that I was shocked they decided to turn her babyface and abjectly rejected the notion at first (before I came to love it). She was a badass of a villain, who actually held her own against Dark Phoenix for longer than just about any other telepath. She has since become my favorite X-Men character, bar none.”

Ken Wood: “Emma Frost is one of my favorite characters ever. Even though I love her so much now, she was an awesome villain.

I do, of course, love Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Black Cat, Mystique, and Lady Deathstrike.”

Steed: “Dark Phoenix
Star Sapphire
Emma Frost
Harley Quinn
Poison Ivy
Lady Deathstrike
Madam Masque”

prowriter: “Emma. Look at her. Frost. Tweener it is true, just like Mystique can be. But dude. Morgan Le Fey has had her moments, as has Circe. But Enchantress, as well? Also, Talia Al Ghul. She holds her own against the Dark Knight. Maybe not as physically strong, although she’s a hell of a fighter, but I would dare say she’s a better power broker, businesswoman, and organizer than Wayne will ever be.
Oh, and Hel. Because Hel.”

poopsadaisy: “I’ve always been a Marvel guy but this is one category where DC clearly has just done it better. The first Marvel supervillainesses that come to mind are Mystique, Enchantress and Selene. Can’t really count Black Cat as a villain. Lady Deathstrike is kinda cool. Titania too. Loved Lilith from the 90s Ghost Rider run.”
Gerald Moogle: “Dang you are right, it’s hard to have a female baddie because even if they do things like blow up innocent civilians with bombs, they get a fanbase and are considered even heroic.

You’d have to make an old, fat and ugly villainess, but even that probably won’t work. As long as the majority of comic book readers are lonely, horny young men, they will either lust after the villainesses or be disgusted by them and not want to see them at all.”

Tayo Jones: “One of my favourite female villains is Madame Masque. Before Bendid ruibed her, she was a cunning and complex rogue. She was in a relationship with Stark but after they broke up she grew to hate him. However, there is still a small part of her who still loves Tony. She even helped the Avengers battle her father Count Nefaria.
Viper is another great rogue who does not get enough credit or attention. She was the leader of hydra and Madripoor, clashed with Logan, Steve and Castle and is very ruthless and manipulative.

I have always like Cheetah but because of the poor Treatmebt from DC, she is very inconsistent (just like the entire WW franchise). Her origins keep changing and outside of comics, she is often portrayed as a joke. Hopefully the Movie will treat her with dignity.

Granny Goodness is a great villain, but often overlooked. I think she Is more evil than Darkseid or at least more active. Say what you will about YJ S3, it at least handed Granny Well and captured her sadistic nature perfectly.

Finally there is Ivy and how DC screwed her over. She was the primary female rogue in Bats Rogues gallery. She can be very complex and tragic when written well. Sadly, she is often overlooked and ignored in favour of Quinn. Now, the only time she is relevant is when she us portrayed as the girlfriend of Quinn. One of the best female villains in comics and she plays second fiddle to one of the most overrated characters ever created.”

Big thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts!

This week we discuss…

Batman’s Worst Villains
Not too long ago I ranked every single 60s Batman TV show villain. If you missed it you can check it out here.   

A favorite topic of mine is talking about the obscure and rich history of Batman’s comic book rogue gallery. Yes, he definitely has one of, if not the, best group of bad guys and we can agree that some of his regular antagonists, like The Joker, are just as popular as the heroes. They’ve achieved iconic status through their portrayals in comics, appearing in film, on television, and in countless other forms of media.

But you don’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Or laying a few. I’ve gathered some memorable stinkers that Batman has accumulated over the years and while this list could be 100 long, I’ve listed some of my favorites. 
Everyone will have their own definition of what constitutes a “worst villain” so go easy on it. It could be a bad costume, silly powers, or even an inane name. I tried to mix it up. Believe me, I could easily have filled this list with Silver Age names and be done with it.

Too easy. 

Let’s meet the participants:

Out of all the villains, Killer Moth stands out to me the most. Not only is he lame, he’s been involved in some pretty lame stories. After a string of embarrassing attempts at crime, Drury Walker, also known as Cameron van Cleer decided to become to crime what Batman is to justice: a figurehead and supernatural force that left no jewelry store un-robbed. He became Killer Moth. Because moths are scary. Or something. Over the years, Killer Moth has tried to reinvent himself again and again, even once making a deal with devil-like character Neron, to become an actual giant moth named Charaxes. Just when you thought he couldn’t get any lamer. A villain, Firefly, almost made this list because he was pretty terrible AND a protégé of the Killer Moth. Many writers have tried to make him cool but none have succeeded.

I know this one will make some people mad but I’ve never been a fan of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot in the comic books. The Penguin has a pinch of criminal intellect, deadly ‘trick’ umbrellas, and he fancies himself the “gentleman of crime”. When you compare him to the rest of the crop of top Batman villains, I never understand how he made it to the party. I’m sure someone in the comments will clue me in.

Speaking of, you don’t need many clues to understand why Cluemaster made the list. Arthur Brown was a failed game show host who, in desperation, turned to a life of crime to support his family. OK, that’s not bad. Numerous bad-guys got their start this way. Where did he go wrong? He would wear an orange costume and leave behind clues to his next target.

“Steve! Wait! Are you sure he’s not the Riddler or something?”

No, he’s not The Riddler. Cluemaster met his end while on a mission with the Suicide Squad. His only redeeming quality is that his daughter grew up to be fan favorite former Robin/Batgirl Stephanie Brown.

But wait. He’s not dead! He was seen as a member of The Joker’s team during ‘The War of Jokes and Riddles’.

I know Calendar Man has his share of fans but I’m not one of them. He’s obsessed with dates and his crimes always have some correlation with the date on which they are committed. Also, he was recruited by Killer Moth to join a rag-tag group called The Misfits. If that’s not enough to warrant a spot on the list, I don’t know what is.

Anarky was a teen-aged whiz-kid who was into radical philosophy. I can get behind that. He puts on a red sheet and a witch hat and decided to fight crime the anarchist way, which, really, should be no way at all. Oh, I should remind you that he was 12 (!!!) and wore a “neck extender” to make himself look older, and a gold mask to make himself look horrible.

Charles “Chuck” Brown, AKA Kite Man was a man who loved kites. He loved kites almost as much as he loved crime. He equipped himself with an arsenal of “trick kites,” such as a jet-powered kite, a flash-bulb kite, and a net-trap kite, he dubbed himself the Kite Man and went on a crime spree that only ended when Batman also employed several trick kites of his own design to take to the skies and capture the criminal mastermind.


Then we have Polka-Dot Man. A lot of the names of these villains are a result of a writer just not caring. “Polka-Dot Man”? The polka dots on his uniform can transform into weapons, traps, flying saucers for him to get away on, you know, the usual. His weaknesses? He’s not in shape, he’s not smart, and he can’t fight. A far cry from Bane.

I would be remiss if I left out Ten-Eyed Man. To be fair, I almost didn’t put him on the list. He seemed so bad that I felt pity on him. Anyways, after losing his sight in an accident, Vietnam veteran and warehouse security guard Phillip Reardon underwent an experimental procedure that grafted his optic nerves to his fingertips. With that he did what anyone would do, he allowed a mobster to convince him that Batman was to blame for his accident. After several defeats at Batman’s hands, Ten-Eyed Man decided to lure Batman to Vietnam. Things didn’t turn out well for Mr. Ten-Eyes and he later was killed in battle in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Like with several other bad ideas, he made a return in The New 52.

Crazy Quilt was a former painter who used his paintings to leave clues for his criminal henchmen in his paintings to instruct them on what target they were to steal next, which is, by far, the least efficient way to give orders of all time. “I guess the boss wants us to steal a… What is that? A purple duck?” After meeting defeat numerous times at the hands of the Boy Commandos, Quilt decided that his only recourse was to move to Gotham City, where everyone knows there are no young crime fighters by whom to be bested. After setting up shop in Joel Schumacher’s dream home complete with a mood amplifying “Color Dome,” and a musical “Color Organ” which allowed him to alter people’s minds. Quilt went on to basically do nothing but get beaten up by kids, like Robin and Batgirl.

Bringing up the rear is Penny Plunderer! He steals pennies. That’s it. You know that giant penny in the Bat-cave? That’s actually from one of Plunderer’s schemes. Here’s the rub. Penny Plunderer is so embarrassing to DC, they’ve retconned history to say the giant penny was from one of Two-Face’s schemes.

Lots of low hanging fruit still on the tree for you. Who’s your pick for Worst Batman Villain?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!