Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: The Worst Batman Supervillains

May 30, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Penguin Batman

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! X-Men: The Wedding Special #1, Black Panther #1, and more!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we discussed Dick Tracy and Golden Age Characters! Here’s what some of you had to say:

prowriter: “Considering a lot of the tech in Dick Tracy has come to pass—smart watches, etc—I think the special nature of Tracy is kind of nullified to a degree. But that also breeds an opportunity if you make him a “smart” detective who uses these devices not as a special part of “his world,” but as a normal part of ours if that makes sense. Alternately, you can bring the character to the present from the past via a time travel mechanic, where he realizes the same lesson, acclimates himself to this new world in a process we witness (unlike say Cap. America for the most part in the MCU), and goes after new enemies. They can still be a little schticky, and maybe a few of the old ones can bleed through, say by one following him, and the rest having descendants who come across their old foe. Perhaps you make one of this descendants turn to become his ally. I don’t think going full vigilante with this character would be a good fit, so you would need some sanction from the government no matter which way you go. Interesting question nonetheless.

Side topic: I was thinking recently about how and whether Flash Gordon could be revived. Ming would have to change and what is now camp would have to be toned down, but I think it could be done without being too goofy on the big screen. I know they had a TV reboot thingee, but I’m thinking a lot more cinematic than that show.”

Cactus: “Sadly DT would have to be the kind of thing I think where it’s a parody but it’s played straight for people of today to get into it. To do a super-serious reboot/update with characters like Hammerhead or whatever just wouldn’t work I don’t think. That being said, there is still plenty of money being made off of Green Hornet, so who knows.

I can’t really imagine a re-imagining of Golden Age characters without it being super cynical; like all of the gung-ho YAY AMERICA type characters would end up being government shills. DC had a graphic novel/mini-series (can’t remember which) called DC Golden Age or Golden Era that was REALLY good about 15-20 years ago but the world has changed SO MUCH since then I don’t know if that “simpler times”/”greatest generation” nonsense would have much traction in today’s comics market”

Al Lobama: “The current Dick Tracy newspaper is actually very good. Joe Staton does a great job with the art!

A few months back, John Byrne posted on his Fan Forum that IDW offered him a Dick Tracy comic book. He even posted a few concept pages that looked absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, he passed on the book when he realized that he didn’t have enough story ideas in him to do a regular series. Of course, he could’ve just done the art/co-plotting and let someone else write the thing, but for whatever reason Byrne seems to want to do books all by himself now, which is a shame. It would have been a great book to see!

As for Golden Age heroes who need to be rebooted, I’ll always cast a vote for the Phantom. The Phantom movie in the ’90s as well as the Phantom 2040 animated series were both very underrated, but for whatever reason they didn’t resonate with the paying audience. But both projects showed that it’s capable to put a modern (and even future) spin on a Golden Age character and have it work creatively, and it could just as easily work again with the right people involved.”

D-Unit: “Dick Tracy isn’t really relevant, and unless they do a new movie or TV show, I don’t see it becoming relevant. I’m 40 and the only reason I briefly got into reading DT at all was because of the movie back in 6th grade. Haven’t really read any since”

To read ALL the comments from the column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

The Worst Batman Supervillains!

WB Games has released a teaser for the latest installment of its LEGO DC Comics games, LEGO DC Super-Villains! Check out the teaser:

Let’s jump on that and talk about the man with one of, if not the, best group of bad guys, Batman! The Dark Knight has accumulated one of the greatest rogue’s galleries in comic book history. Many 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. I could have easily had a list the was 100 characters strong. It was hard to narrow it to 10.

Everyone will have their own definition of what constitutes what make a villain worse. A bad costume, silly powers, or even an inane name. I tried to mix it up.

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! Lately, 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.

Kites.

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.

Now it’s your turn. Who’s your pick for Worst Batman Villain?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!