General audiences can be forgiven for not having heard of the Ratcatcher - one of the supervillains slated to be part of the team in James Gunn's upcoming film The Suicide Squad. The gas-mask wearing villain is a relatively recent addition to Batman's rogues gallery and has not made many appearances outside of the world of comics, apart from a few Easter Egg cameos in the Arkham Asylum video games.
The Suicide Squad is shaping up to be an interesting movie, if for no other reason than it is largely ignoring DC Comics' most famous villains in favor of the obscure and the odd. This is hardly surprising given Gunn's past work as a writer and director and his self-proclaimed nature as a comic book geek who loves weird characters. Hence the reason why the next Suicide Squad movie will include the likes of the Polka-Dot Man and Peacemaker, rather than better known villains like Captain Cold and Black Manta, who were part of the Suicide Squad team in the comics.
Working with these C-List villains also undoubtedly affords Gunn a good deal more creative freedom than if he were working with better known characters. Warner Bros. is unlikely to care if Gunn takes creative liberties in adapting a lesser-known villain or kills them off outright as part of the story. Here is everything you need to know about the Ratcatcher's origins in the comics, his unique powers and what little we know about the movie's version of the character.
Ratcatcher's Comic History Explained
The Ratcatcher was created by writers Alan Grant and John Wagner and artist Norm Breyfogle. He first appeared in a two-part story in Detective Comics #585-586 in April 1988, which depicted his first encounter with Batman. Strangely enough, this was not his first encounter with the Gotham City Police Department. The Ratcatcher was originally a man named Otis Flannegan, who was employed by the Gotham City Sanitation Department as an exterminator. While he was skilled in handling all sorts of vermin, Flannegan's specialty was dealing with rat swarms and he was frequently sent into the city sewers to clear out rat nests. Flannegan claimed to have a special affinity for rats and to have started training them to obey simple commands, like "attack" and "fetch".
Flannegan's life changed after he was arrested for murder, following a street brawl where he stabbed a man to death. Flannegan pleaded not guilty as a result of self-defense, claiming the other man had started the fight and threatened him, taking offense to the sewer smell that stuck to Flannegan after his years in service to the city. His pleas fell on deaf ears, however, and Flannegan was sentenced to 10 years in Blackgate Penitentiary. It was here, abused by a corrupt warden who was determined to make the killers in his charge as miserable as possible, that Flannegan had a revelation - the real rats were the corrupt officials running Gotham City, jailing innocents while pretending to make the city safer.
After serving his time and being released from Blackgate, Flannegan sought revenge and used his knowledge of Gotham City's sewers to construct a secret prison of his own. Taking the title of The Ratcatcher, Flannegan abducted the men responsible for his imprisonment and his torment - Warden Stanley Konik, Judge Wyatt Hogan, Police Sergeant Sam Bellow and witness Cornelius Budd - and sealed them away so they could suffer as he did, locked in a hole in the ground where no one could hear their screams.
Ratcatcher held the men captive for five years and would likely have kept them there for the rest of their days had Judge Hogan not managed to wiggle a bar loose from his cell and made a break for it. His freedom was short-lived, however, as Flannegan's trained rats followed him and attacked him as he made his way to the surface. Luckily, his exit from the sewers just happened to be near where Batman was stopping an illegal arms deal, and the sight of a elderly man covered in filth being attacked by rats was strange enough, even by Gotham standards, to prompt the Dark Knight Detective to investigate the sewers further.
After being apprehended by Batman and sent back to Blackgate, Ratcatcher became one of the most infamous specialists in the criminal underworld of Gotham City. While in prison, he ran a profitable black market, his rodent friends enabling him to easily procure small items or secretly deliver messages to other inmates. It was in this capacity that Ratcatcher took on an essential role in Bane's plans to exhaust Batman, by helping to facilitate a mass-breakout during the Knightfall storyline. While out of prison, Ratcatcher hired his talents out and became a master thief and kidnapper, while occasionally sending his friends to create distractions from other criminals' crimes.
Strangely enough, Ratcatcher's death during the Infinite Crisis event came shortly after he found himself thrust into the unlikely role of hero, after he became the protector of a community of homeless people who had taken refuge in the sewers. When the GCPD came to their camp to take Ratcatcher into custody, one of the homeless men fought the police to help Ratcatcher escape. Unfortunately, the man turned out to be an OMAC sleeper agent and the scuffle activated him, resulting in Ratcatcher being vaporized after being detected as a gamma-level metahuman.
Ratcatcher's Powers Explained
In his earliest portrayals, Ratcatcher was portrayed as having a natural affinity for rats and a unique talent for training them to obey simple commands. He controlled his charges through the use of a special whistle, similar to a dog whistle but still audible to humans. However, the things Otis Flannegan's furry friends accomplished seemed to go far beyond what trained animals should be capable of doing.
The truth about Ratcatcher's power would not be revealed until his death during Infinite Crisis, where an OMAC soldier identified him as a gamma-level metahuman before killing him. (To better put this scale in perspective, gamma is the lowest level of threatening metahumans, with Wonder Woman being considered an alpha-level metahuman and Metamorpho a beta-level.) This confirmed that Ratcatcher truly did have a superpower that let him mentally communicate with rats and control their actions.
While his powers are less versatile than Aquaman's ability to control sea-life, it would still be foolish to write Ratcatcher off completely. He's virtually unbeatable on his home-turf, thanks to his knowledge of Gotham City's sewers. His training as a survivalist and an exterminator have allowed him to create some rather unique deathtraps and he's an expert on deploying poisonous gases, particularly with his customized gas gun. Even outside of Gotham City, Otis Flannegan could prove a threat in any urban setting where rats are commonplace.
Daniela Melchior Plays Ratcatcher In The Suicide Squad
Curiously, James Gunn's upcoming Suicide Squad movie will be gender-flipping the role of the Ratcatcher. No new secret identity has been given for this female Ratcatcher and it's unknown if she will have a similar background to Otis Flannegan. Virtually all that is known so far is that she will be played by newcomer Daniela Melchior - a Portuguese actress, whose previous work was all in movies and television shows filmed in Portugal.
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