Saturday, April 7, 2012

WORD OF THE DAY. 4/7/12. TOP 12 BATMAN VILLAINS

insanity defense [in-san-i-tee-dih-fens]
noun
1. Legal. In criminal trials, the defense which a defendant claims that he or she was not responsible for his or her actions due to mental health problems, such as a psychiatric illness or mental handicap. The exemption of the insane from full criminal punishment dates back to, at least, the Code of Hammurabi. In the United States, use of the defense is, despite how it has been displayed in the media, quite rare, and offenders of heinous crimes are least likely to see any leniency.

EX. The Gotham justice system's Achilles Heel is the insanity defense and, contrary to reality, defendants use it successfully to have themselves committed to Arkham Asylum, time and time again, rather than be sent to an actual prison. In the real world, most of these psycho- and sociopaths would've sent to prison for their first offenses and, most certainly, would get life or the death penalty for repeat offenses.

But, in the world of DC, and in comics in general, every super hero needs his super villain and every Batman needs his rogue's gallery.

So, to top of Batman Week 2012, I presents the top 12 Batman villains. I've tried my best to rank them from the 11th to 1st, but it is difficult to pick out winners. I am trying to rank them by how likely they would kill Batman. Also, fun stuff, one of the villains is relatively new.

NERD CULTURE SMACKDOWN PRESENTS
GOTHAM'S DASTARDLY DOZEN: 
THE TOP 12 BATMAN VILLAINS!

12. Cat Woman AKA Selina Kyle
I could make jokes about the fact that you would expect Cat Woman to be the villain of a hero named "Dog Man", but I suppose that isn't really the point. What is important is that Cat Woman, mostly through her stylish costume and feminine wiles, clawed her way through the decades to survive in the DC Universe today. For such a boring character, really quite unoriginal, that is impressive.

A cat burglar, ha ha get it, and independent thrill seeker, Cat Woman is less a villain and more a casual frenemy and/or love interest for Batman. She is the least likely to kill Batman, but the most likely to break his heart.

P.S. Feel free to enlighten me on what makes Selina Kyle more interesting than any other female thief? Cuz the closest thing to interesting she gets is crazy cat lady femme fatale.

11. The Penguin AKA Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot
The least insane of Batman's foes, a brilliant criminal strategist and capable fellow, his story is one of opinions. What do I mean? The Penguin is, consistently, placed on lists of the best AND the worst Batman characters. On one hand, he typifies the perfect example of the ridiculous villains that are in Batman's stables and, on the other hand, has proven to be a troublesome foe when provoked. Personally, I think there is some merit to both, but growing up with Danny Devito's Penguin gave him a special appreciation of the cutthroat criminal.

His most significant features are his appearance, often giving him a back story of being bullied and harassed, and his mannerisms are the result of his wealthy parentage. Cobblepot actually has more in common with Bruce Wayne than you'd think. The difference is that rather than using his money and smarts for the good of Gotham, he'd prefer to carve out a piece for himself.

 A gentleman's piece.

10. The Riddler AKA Edward "E" Nigma
When people heard that The Riddler would not be villain in the new Batman movie, most of them were relieved. I must admit that even I was a little relieved. Not to say The Riddler wouldn't make an excellent villain. Quite the contrary, he is one of Batman's villains that could use a new big screen adaptation BUT he is a little too similar to the Joker. After all, the only difference between a riddle and a joke is that one has an answer and the other has a punchline. But answers can be plenty dangerous.

Intensely obsessive compulsive and neurotic, this ego maniacal narcissistic is no murderer, but he isn't above murder in order to finally outwit Batman. His need to challenge others with his intellect, especially Batman, is the drive behind all of his crimes and his compulsion to leave clues his greatest weaknesses. Several times he has tried to stop leaving clues for Batman, but he failed time and time again, 

"You don't understand... I really didn't want to leave you any clues. I really planned never to go back to Arkham Asylum. But I left you a clue anyway. So I... I have to go back there. Because I might need help. I... I might actually be crazy." 

Lately, he has switched sides and became a private eye.

9. Scarecrow AKA Dr. Jonathan Crane
And now we can move past the troublesome villains and get to the actual dangers, the real psychos and cold-blooded killers.

Dr. Jonathan Crane started out as a psychiatrist involved with the Arkham Asylum. Obsessed with emotions, especially fear, he created a special chemical cocktail to induce fear and psychosis in those that he tested it on. He would often wear a burlap mask designed to instill fear in his subject and called the character he used to intimidate them, the Scarecrow. When Batman tried to stop his cruelty, Crane was hit with a dose of his own chemicals and discovered his own fear; bats! Over the years, trying to revenge and getting hit with his own chemicals has caused him to become addicted to fear and the only one who can provide it is the Batman.

The difference between Dr. Jonathan Crane and most of the other villains is that he doesn't want wealth or even the death of Batman. All he wants is to discover what scares Batman and to drive him, and the rest of the world, insane. Thus, he can place himself as the world's psychiatrist. It's easier to control through fear, they say.

8. Killer Croc AKA Waylon Jones
 Out of all of the villains on this list, Killer Croc is the dumbest, clumsiest, and easiest to predict. Yet, he provides Batman with savage foe that can show the thin line between man and beast.

Born with a genetic disorder that made him grow reptilian scales, Waylon's physical deformity has evolved over time. Raised by his aunt, he was abused and mocked as a child, until, finally, he snapped and killed his aunt. He never stopped killing, until Batman and Robin stopped him and put him away. The only reason I can think they wouldn't put him in jail is because of his abused background, deformities, etc. Regardless, his brutal appetite for violence and, even the occasional dip into cannibalism, makes him leave a trail of bodies in his wake.

Over the years, he has become more beast-like, more brutal, and far more deadly. Unlike most of Batman's villains, he is a being of pure brute power. He is as strong enough to tear a bank door off of its hinges, fast enough to outswim a motor boat, and tough enough to deflect high caliber bullets. He also has an incredible sense of smell and can regenerate lost limbs/teeth.

 His goals? To eat Batman. The problem? Its easy to outsmart someone who thinks with their stomach.
7. Clayface AKA Matt Hagen
Another brute, but of a different material. 

Matt Hagen was a past-his-prime actor who was disfigured in a car accident. Desperate to try anything that would fix his face, he tried a chemical called "Renuyou", sold by a black market company. The chemical worked, but he soon built up a debt over the chemicals. A talented actor, the criminals supplying him the Renuyou force him to commit crimes, until he botches a scheme while disguised as Bruce Wayne. His suppliers try to get rid of him by giving him an overdose of the drug but, rather than killing him, it instead turned him into a living shape-shifting mass of a clay-like material. Only able to hold his shape for a short period of time, he was driven mad, and, using his new incredible strength and powers he got revenge on the criminals who did this to him. Batman stopped him and he fled, wanting revenge.

More often than not, Clayface is forced to be some thug to another villain who pays to give him treatments to keep him from deteriorating faster. Its unfortunate that, more often than not, he ised used as nothing more than a brute when he could be a more interesting threat. His shape-shifting should allow him to get anywhere and his strength should allow him to kill anyone.

6. Two-Face AKA Harvey Dent
If you want a complex character that represents duality and fate, Two-Face is a character worth some study and consideration. Let's go with the Batman: The Animated Series origin.

District Attorney Harvey Dent starts out as one of few people Bruce Wayne considers to be a good friend. He suffers from deep psychological trauma, probably from his brother's death, and suffers from multiple personality disorder, bipolarism and mild schizophrenia. His second personality, "Big Bad Harv", is a violent and scary man. When some criminals attempt to blackmail him about his psychiatric help, he turns on them, and ends up having half of his body mutilated by acid. The disfigurement drives him over the edge and he becomes obsessed with duality; often carrying a two-sided coin, with one side scratched and burnt, and makes decisions arbitrarily by flipping it. 

Through such gambling, he can be guaranteed that all options are given at least a 50/50 try. Half of him just wants things to be fair, and the other half wants to hit you with a truck.

Note: Aaron Eckhardt shall forever be known as Harvey Dent...

5. Mr. Freeze AKA Dr. Viktor Fries
The coldest exterior and the biggest heart.

Dr. Fries is not a thug or a criminal by choice. He started out his career as an innovator in cryogenics and a medical doctor. When his wife became ill with an incurable illness, he built her a cryo machine to keep her preserved until he had a cure. When the company that he was working with tried to pull the plug, he panicked and pulled a gun on them. They kicked him into a table of cryogenic chemicals and left him for dead. Yet, he didn't die. Instead, he became Mr. Freeze, a cold-blooded killer who would do anything to get the cute for his wife's illness and revenge on anyone who gets in his way.

He wears a special cryogenic suits that allows him to live, needing a constant temperature below freezing to stay alive, and has made all manner of freeze-based weapons. Like a mad Harrison Ford with a freeze gun, you best stay away from his wife.

4. Poison Ivy AKA Pamela Lillian Isley
Pamela was just a timid botanist when she was seduced by her superior Prof. Woodrue and injected her with toxins he had been developing. She allows the injections, which drive her mad, and infect her with strange powers. When her boyfriend dies as a result of her unique chemistry, she goes even madder. She becomes obsessed with plants, which she can communicate with and control via her specially released spores.

After Batman foiled her attempt to blackmail Gotham into allowing her a nature reserve, she became obsessed with Caped Crusader. Time and time again, she has flipped from being a green menace to begging Batman to save her from herself. 

This femme fatale ranks this high on the list because she has the means to kill more people, on a whim, than just about anyone else on this list.

3. Ra's al Ghul
Over 600 years ago, Ra's al Ghul was born to a nomadic tribe from China, situated in Arabia, and became a physician married to a woman named Sora. Ra's al Ghul discovers the "Lazarus Pits", mysterious green pits that, when a person is dipped into will return them from the dead or to their youth. He tries to save a Prince's life in the pits and would've succeeded, but the Prince was driven by the pits. The Prince killed Sora before Ra's killed the Prince. Ra's was sentenced to be tortured to death by the King until an old woman he had examined helped him to escape. Ra's avenges himself for the injustice and declared himself "The Demon's Head".

Centuries of fighting and seeking out Lazarus Pit after Lazarus pit to keep himself and his closest allies alive, he was abandoned by his allies, and sought to become the head of a criminal empire called "The Demon". These assassins carried out important kills all over the world as part of Ra's plans to keep the world in check. Things reached their peak when he attempted a genocide but was stopped by Batman.

From that moment on, he saw Batman as a worthy rival, an honorable man, and even considered him a possible successor. The difference is that Batman doesn't kill and he believes too much in justice to go to the lengths of Ra's. Furthermore, Ra's obsession with immortality doesn't interest Batman. 

Despite this, Ra's daughter seduced Batman and has his child, Damien. Thus Batman has already been forced to carry on Ra's blood line. The only thing that keeps Ra's from the top two spots? His sense of honor.

2. Bane
"The Man who Broke the Bat". Bane is a super criminal that has it all; super strength, super endurance, and the mind of a criminal genius. He was created by crime, but not in the normal way; he was raised in a prison! His father was a revolutionary in a fictional Latin American country and, when his father escaped, they made the child serve out his father's time. Over the years he fought his way to the top to become the King of the prison. The prison keepers decided he was the perfect test subject for an experimental drug for the military, "Venom", that turns him from a body building brawler to a juggernaut. 

He escaped prison, soon after, and sought to destroy Batman. Why? He had a dream about a bat demon and believes they were fated to come to blows. He goes to Gotham, tracks Batman down, and they fight. The fight ends with him breaking Batman's spine.

Arguably, he has come closer to killing Batman without killing him than any other villain.

1. The Joker
Surprise, surprise! The Joker comes out on top. But why? Why does the Joker trump "kings" like Bane and Ra's al Ghul? Its because the Joker is more brilliant, more dangerous, and more cruel than anyone else on this list. If Batman represents justice and order than the Joker is the embodiment of chaos. 

Worst of all? He doesn't want anything. Not even revenge. He just wants a good laugh and his favorite target is Batman. I really don't have much to say about the Joker. Originally, he was just a chump villain of the week but over the years he has developed into something truly unique thanks to the works of The Killing Joke, Tim Burton's Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, Nolan's The Dark Knight, and every other brilliant person who made this clowned creep the face of super villainy without a single super power.

Except that where there is a Batman, there is a Joker.

BONUS. Professor Pyg
Professor Pyg is the villain to look out for in the future of the Batman series. Obsessed with image, this mad man kidnaps people, mutilates them, and lobotomizes them into an obedient army of deformed "dolls". He is more psychologically complex and more creepy than just about any villain to be introduce in a decade. 

He's what you get when you mix Porky Pig with Jig Saw!

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