The Dark Knight has one of the most famous rogues gallery of all time. There is a plethora of fascinating villains in the Bat-mythos, ranging from deranged or deeply disturbed individuals to criminal masterminds, from people with good intentions at heart to the pure evil. Yet we often see the same characters over and over again in mainstream productions, like Two-Face, Scarecrow, and – of course – the Joker. As great as those characters are, they can get old. Jared Leto’s Joker – whether you love it, or hate it – struggled to distance itself from the legacy of Heath Ledger’s version, which was still fresh in people’s minds and gave them high expectations. With that kind of pressure, one could argue that Leto was destined for failure; there was no way he could please everyone. We can give The Clown Prince of Crime a rest for a few years. There are plenty of other concepts with the potential to be just as, if not more, compelling an adversary, such as these 15 Interesting Batman Villains To Use Instead of The Joker.
15. King Snake
Sir Edmund Dorrance, the British mercenary known as King Snake, was originally conceived as an adversary for Robin (Tim Drake) rather than Batman. He was blinded by gunfire, but that did not hinder his abilities; his blindness ended up enhancing his skills. He strengthened his remaining senses and uses darkness as a tool in fighting his opponents. A master of several deadly martial art forms and a callous killer, he is often referred to as the most dangerous man alive. There is another interesting aspect of his character that could make for a fascinating plot – when he was working as a mercenary before being blinded, he had impregnated and abandoned a woman in Santa Prisca. This woman was imprisoned by the government for Dorrance’s crimes, and gave birth to their child in prison. This child grew up to become Bane: the man who famously broke the Batman. Once Bane discovers the identity of his father, he becomes very conflicted and ends up siding with Batman and Robin against him.
Lonnie Machin is a bit of a divisive figure among fans: he was popular with some, but others find him to be an utterly ridiculous concept that belongs in the ’90s. As his name suggests, he is against the state and authoritarianism. He often fights against the same things Batman does, such as corruption in the police and political establishments of Gotham City, but takes a radically different approach. He was absent from publication for nearly a decade, then slowly became more prominently featured in DC media adaptations such as Beware the Batman and Arrow. Machin could be a fascinating anti-hero who can serve as both an ally and adversary to Batman. And he could be incredibly relevant, considering the current political climate of the United States. Audiences responded positively to Ledger’s more calculated, anarchist interpretation of the Joker, maybe the idea can be explored even further. A fun piece of trivia: Machin’s creators hoped he could become the new Robin to replace Jason Todd, but DC decided to go with Tim Drake. Machin often fought against Drake in the past, but eventually fight crime together.
13. Mad Hatter
Dr. Jarvis Tetch is a longstanding Bat-villain who has been around since the 1940s. He has appeared in the 1960s live-action Batman series, the DC Animated Universe, and several video games. Yet Tetch remains unused in mainstream productions. The Mad Hatter – based off the character from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – specializes in mind control and manipulation, either through hypnosis or advanced neuro technology. His preferred method is to force a specialized hat onto his victims containing nanotechnology. He really likes hats, especially comically big ones, and has a tendency to speak in rhymes. His character is flexible in terms of how serious it can be. He has been portrayed as more of a whimsical and over-the-top nuisance in the past, but he can also be interpreted as very dark. A doctor at Arkham Asylum describes Tetch as an obsessive-compulsive, highly delusional, immature genius. In some stories, it is hinted that he has an unhealthy obsession with children or childlike things.
12. Victor Zsasz
Zsasz’s backstory is quite similar to Bruce Wayne’s. He came from wealth. After his parents died in a freak accident, he spiraled into a deep depression that caused him to gamble away his fortune. He loses everything against The Penguin. Zsasz is left with no purpose in life. Instead of channeling his rage into becoming a hero, like Bruce, Zsasz turns to killing. He does not care who he kills. It is the act of taking another life that drives him. It is the only thing that makes him feel alive. He generally kills with a knife, which he then uses to create a tally mark on his body. He does this for every kill, and he is soon covered with tally marks. Zsasz is characterized as an unsympathetic, purely evil character. During the No Man’s Land storyline, he arrives at Leslie Thompkins’ hospital and she does everything in her power to save him. As a doctor, she believes she must treat every patient equally – even murderous criminals. As soon as Zsasz is stable, he tries to kill the woman who just saved his life. He has been shown on Gotham, but has yet to feature prominently in a film.
11. Calendar Girl
Calendar Girl was created for The New Batman Adventures as an alternative to Calendar Man. She only appeared in one episode, and her evil plans were not anything new – each of her crimes followed a theme of one of the four seasons. But her backstory has potential. After all, Harley Quinn used to only exist in the DC Animated Universe and now she is a well-known, mainstream character – it could happen again.
Paige Monroe was a beautiful model and actress. When she turned 30, several designers and companies refused to keep working with her and her star power dulled. She disappeared from public view and reemerged with a plan to get revenge on those who betrayed her. She refuses to show her face, suggesting that she had been horribly disfigured by a botched plastic surgery operation, some freak accident, or had simply aged horribly. When she is captured and her mask is snatched off, it is revealed that she is just as beautiful as she had always been. Nevertheless, she screams and begs for no one to look at her ugly face. Batman sadly remarks that she can no longer see her beauty; she can only see the flaws.
Kirk Langstrom is a scientist who develops a formula that can give humans the sonar sense of a bat. He tests his creation on himself. It works, but with a few side-effects: suppressing his intelligence and transforming him into a half-bat, half-human monster. Langstrom has appeared in numerous animations and video games, and is easily recognizable to regular Batman readers. However, the character has never been adapted for live-action. He was seriously considered as a potential antagonist twice during the Burton/Schumacher movie series, but ultimately dropped in favor of other villains. It could be argued that the character would look over-the-top in a live-action adaptation or that he is nothing but a knockoff of The Lizard from the Spider-Man franchise. Those are both fair points. But, if done right, Man-Bat could be great. The key word being: if. Creators would have to take care not to make the special effects look too fake, which would take a considerable amount of funding. But life is short, why not take a risk every once in awhile?
The mild-mannered Arnold Wesker was born into a mafia family. He suffers from dissociative identity disorder and commits crimes through the puppet Scarface – which is dressed up as a 1920s gangster stereotype and clearly inspired by Al Capone. No one has yet dared to create a live-action version of him. He has no powers, he is not a skilled fighter, and any production that uses him will likely be subject to fierce criticism about the media’s portrayal of dissociative identity disorder. Such criticism is often valid; there is a stigma surrounding mental illness that should be addressed. But instead of shying away from possible controversy, the Ventriloquist could be used to confront these stigmas head on – if his backstory is fully explored. The New Batman Adventures shows Wesker as stable and free from the control of Scarface. He resists the efforts of the mafia to manipulate him into bringing Scarface back. Bruce Wayne actively supports Wesker’s rehabilitation, as he does with several of his villains. This is an important aspect of Batman’s mission that is too often overlooked. He does a lot more than punch criminals. He wants to cure the diseases plaguing his city.
8. Cornelius Stirk
Want a villain that is gruesome, terrifying, and whose crimes make you feel a little sick to your stomach? Look no further. Stirk is not just a serial killer; he is a cannibal that savagely eats the hearts of his victims. But he insists that he is not a violent person. He is convinced that he needs to consume the nutrients of a human heart in order to survive. The chemical norepinephrine, a key hormone that triggers the “fight-or-flight” response for humans, is especially important to him. So he makes sure to terrify his victims before killing them to ensure the chemical surges through the heart before he eats it. Not sure if that is how science works, but it makes sense to him. Stirk has the ability to change the appearance of his face, usually opting to masquerade as someone his victim will trust so he can take them by surprise. Except for a brief cameo in Gotham, the character has been confined to the comics.
Morgan Ducard is a more recent character in the Bat-mythos. Creators Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason connected his character to an existing part of Batman’s past and expanded it, so he fit in pretty well. He is the son of Henri Ducard – one of the many teachers Bruce trained under to become Batman. Henri Ducard is not a hero or villain; he is a mercenary motivated purely by profit, and this has impacted his relationship with Morgan. He trained his son alongside Bruce, and frequently pit them against each other, building resentment within Morgan. After Bruce parts ways with them, Henri ordered his son to kill him for knowing too much. Morgan fails, and his father apparently loses interest in him as a result. He returns as Nobody to take revenge on Batman. He kills criminals Batman had defeated, attempts to turn Damian Wayne against his father, and tortures Damian when he refuses to taunt Batman.
6. Baby Doll
Baby Doll is another villain that has not appeared outside of the DCAU, who has loads of potential. Her episode was one of the most memorable moments from Batman the Animated Series. Mary Louise Dahl was another actress who turned to crime after her fame waned. She suffers from a condition that permanently stunted her growth and can pass as a child well into adulthood. Dahl most famously played a little girl named Baby Doll in a sitcom, even though she was in her 20s. She quits in hopes of becoming a more serious actress, only to find that no one will take her seriously due to her appearance. Wanting to relive the only time in her life she was truly happy, she models her appearance after the character she once played and kidnaps the other cast members so they can be a family again. Her plan is thwarted by the Dynamic Duo and Batman chases her into a fun house. In the distorted mirrors, she sees herself as a fully-developed woman and breaks down. She quietly whispers “I didn’t mean to,” as Batman comforts her.
5. Lady Shiva
Shiva is one of the best assassins and martial artists in the world. Batman has even called her the greatest fighter alive. Simply to survive a battle with her is an accomplishment. The only person to ever defeat her in combat is her own daughter, Cassandra Cain. Even though she could easily wipe out all the vigilantes of Gotham if she desired, she lives by a strict code of honor. She is not a mindless killing machine like Zsasz or Stirk. She respects all of the teachers she has studied under, and anyone who has studied under the same master. She has helped Batman in a few occasions: she helped train Tim Drake and was the one who taught him to use a bo staff, she also helped Batman regain his strength after Bane broke his back. She honors agreements and debts, but makes sure she is properly repaid. Shiva often tries to push the Bat-family to become killers so they can unlock their full power as warriors. Mostly because she wants to defeat them, but only when they are at their prime and not holding back.
4. Killer Moth
A man fighting in a moth costume may seem a bit outlandish. Even the other villains in Gotham love to make fun of Killer Moth. But it is not any weirder than a man fighting in a bat costume, when you think about it. In fact, Drury Walker was directly inspired by Batman. He goes so far as to make his own Moth-mobile, Moth-cave, Moth-signal, and a fake billionaire/philanthropist persona who rubs elbows with Bruce Wayne. He intends to be an anti-Batman of sorts. One that is driven by greed rather than justice. He longs to be feared like Batman, but is usually unsuccessful. Walker will do anything to be taken seriously, and ends up selling his soul to a demon to become a powerful but mindless humanoid monster like Man-Bat. His character continuity gets a little messy after that. He was dead for a while, a few other Killer Moths took his place, and then he was resurrected. An outcast so desperate to prove himself can be surprisingly dangerous.
3. James Gordon Jr.
Do not let the name fool you into thinking he is a hero. He is indeed the son of Commissioner Gordon and Barbara Eileen Gordon, but he is nothing like his father. A young James Jr. appeared in The Dark Knight movie, when Harvey Dent attempted to kill him to get revenge on the commissioner. He made a similar appearance in Batman: Year One as an infant Batman saves. As an adult in the comics, James is a genius; but unfortunately, he uses his intellect to become a diabolical serial killer. He was troubled from a young age and displayed violent tendencies in his childhood. Like many serial killers, he started off torturing animals before turning to humans. He continuously stalks and manipulates his father and sister, Barbara. At one point, he manages to convince them he was stable and sane when he had actually gotten worse. James manages to deduce Batman’s secret identity and seeks to destroy him, believing the hero’s empathy makes him weak and that Gotham is beyond saving.
There have been a few different versions of Owlman, and it can get a little confusing thanks to the craziness of the multiverse. In most modern adaption, he is Thomas Wayne Jr.: the older brother of Bruce Wayne, in an alternate reality. Nevertheless, he is consistently an evil counterpart of Batman’s that conquers the villains of Gotham City through crime and murder. In one version, he even has an evil version of Dick Grayson named Talon; though in this case, he is the one who murders Grayson’s parents. He is also a key member of the Crime Syndicate of America, a sinister version of the Justice League. Superman’s evil counterpart Ultraman is officially the leader of the organization, but Owlman is the real brains behind the operation. He has a genius level intellect and is a formidable martial artist. There are a few stories where he discovers the existence of the multiverse and becomes obsessed with finding Earth-Prime. As confusing as this character can be, exploring the dark side of Batman can make for a captivating tale.
Orphaned at a young age, Philo Zeiss was raised by a Sicilian mafia lord. The boss saw the talent in Zeiss to have a promising role within the mob, and he was groomed for a career in crime. To repay his guardian for taking him in, Zeiss submitted to an experimental surgery that altered his nerves and gave him enhanced reflexes. In exchange, he has to wear special goggles to process his senses. Not a bad deal. But when he moves to work for the mob in Gotham City, he discovers his skills are no match for Batman. He becomes obsessive about proving his superiority over the Caped Crusader. He records their fights, studies them, and returns prepared for all of Batman’s moves. He has managed to hold his own against the vigilante, but Batman always finds some way to trick or outsmart him – infuriating him further and strengthening his thirst for vengeance.
Are there any characters you think deserve to be added? Any that are not worthy to be on this list? Sound off in the comments!