Joker. Catwoman. Two-Face. Penguin. Riddler. You know them well – and at least a dozen more. No other superhero can lay claim to a rogues’ gallery as compelling and extensive as the Caped Crusader’s, though Spider-Man and Flash each have top-notch rogues.
But lost among the Riddlers and Scarecrows of the world are Bat-foes of lesser renown. Batman not only has the finest villains in all of comicdom, even his second-rate enemies put the top foes of other heroes to shame. Catman, Anarky, the Ventriloquist and Mr. Scarface, Black Mask, Professor Pyg, Owlman, Rupert Thorne, Lord Death Man – even Ratcatcher, Maxie Zeus, and King Tut – these second-tier Bat-villains have proved interesting or at least entertaining throughout their various appearances in and out of comics.
Yet below these B-listers, there exists an even more obscure assortment of rogues unknown to all but the finest of Batmanologists. I’m talking about those villains that didn’t make it onto Batman: The Animated Series, those whose only action figures will be custom-made by hardcore fans. Here it is – the top ten Batman villains you never heard of.
Honorable Mention: Nocturna
If not for her recent reinvention as a Batwoman foe in the New 52, Nocturna would come close to topping this list. Originally created by Doug Moench and Gene Colan back in 1983, she first appeared in Detective Comics #529 as Natalia Knight, the lover of another new Bat-villain – her step-brother Night-Thief. After he was jailed, Nocturna became the successful orchestrator of several nefarious plots. In spite of her criminal activities, she became romantically involved with Bruce Wayne, as well as the surrogate mother of Jason Todd – who protected her when Night-Thief sought revenge upon her for abandoning him.
Honorable Mention: Tiger Shark
Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang in Detective Comics #147 back in 1949, the colorful pirate known as Tiger Shark was in fact Dr. Gaige, a genius oceanographer whom Batman had turned to for help in trying to apprehend none other than Tiger Shark himself! Scott Snyder and Jock would reimagine Tiger Shark in Detective Comics #878 as an uncanny and sadistic smuggler, with a penchant for expensive clothing made from endangered animals. Like Nocturna, Tiger Shark has recently received greater exposure, appearing in Batman Eternal last year.
10. Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty is the most recent addition to the Bat-foes featured on this list. Created by Dan Slott and Ryan Sook for their 2003 miniseries Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Humpty’s compulsion to fix that which is broken – from clocks and trains to toys and mirrors – has led to numerous unintentional deaths. He remains unique among Batman’s rogues in that he is not malicious, his only violent crime being the murder of his abusive grandmother – whom he then tried putting back together.
To distinguish himself among Gotham’s criminal class, devious mastermind Floyd Ventris was determined to discover the secret identity of the Batman – and he did exactly that. Using his extensive knowledge of mirrors, Ventris, AKA Mirror-Man, devised a device that saw through Batman’s mask. Through a series of tricks, Batman was able to fool the public so that no one took Mirror-Man’s claims seriously – not even his own mob. Mirror-Man first appeared in 1954’s Detective Comics #213, in a story written by Bill Finger and illustrated by Sheldon Moldoff.
8. The Ogre and The Ape
This gruesome pair first appeared in Batman #535 back in 1996, in a story by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones. The Ogre and the Ape are the sole survivors of Project Mirakle, a bizarre attempt by government-funded scientists to bridge the gap between primates and humans by giving apes human-like intelligence and humans ape-like strength. Michael Adams, the twenty-third human subject, escaped along with his “brother,” an ape with enhanced intelligence. Together the two embarked on a scheme of revenge, killing the scientists responsible for their torture. Though their crusade ends in tragedy, with the death of the Ape, Batman convinces the Ogre to spare the final scientist from death, promising him that he will face justice.
7. The Ten-Eyed Man
After being blinded in a warehouse explosion where he worked as a security guard, former Army soldier Philip Reardon swore revenge on the Batman, whom he had fought after mistaking him as a thief. Reardon underwent a strange surgery that enabled him to see through his fingertips, becoming a freaky foe obsessed with killing Batman and later an assassin tasked with killing Man-Bat. Grant Morrison reinvented this wacky villain in his Batman run, reimagining him as an exiled assassin from a nomadic tribe of blind-folded Arabian warriors who trained Bruce Wayne and gave him spiritual guidance.
6. Lew Moxon
Created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff, Lew Moxon first appeared in 1956’s Detective Comics #235. He is the Gotham gangster who hired Joe Chill to kill Thomas Wayne. Moxon’s men had originally abducted Wayne from a costume ball, where he was dressed as a giant bat, so that Wayne could operate on Moxon and remove a bullet from his body. Thomas Wayne did so, saving Moxon’s life, but then overpowered Moxon’s men and escaped. Moxon was sentenced to prison for ten years, vowing revenge on Wayne.
Years later, Batman discovered that Moxon had hired Chill. Wearing his father’s old bat costume to trigger the aging mob boss’s fading memory of his crime, Batman terrified Moxon. Upon remembering Thomas Wayne, Moxon became hysterical, running into the streets where was struck and killed by a truck. Years later, Ed Brubaker and Scott McDaniel reintroduced Moxon into the DCU, along with his daughter and Bruce’s childhood love Mallory.
5. Dr. No-Face
After an experimental ray erased his face, Doctor Paul Dent went insane, becoming Dr. No Face and destroying priceless works of art depicting beautiful faces throughout Gotham – or so the story goes. Dr. No-Face was in fact Bart Magan, a vain criminal who approached Dent asking if he could use his ray to remove a scar. When Dent refused, Magan used the ray on himself – accidentally erasing his own face. Magan used his feigned madness as a red herring, stealing priceless works of art and then replacing them with identical replicas he would destroy. No-Face was created by Dave Wood and Sheldon Moldoff, and first appeared in 1963’s Detective Comics #319, an issue adapted by Jiro Kuwata’s Batman manga series in Japan.
4. Cornelius Stirk
Created in 1988 by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in Detective Comics #592, the serial killer Cornelius Stirk feasts on the hearts of his victims – but only after he’s scarred them to the point of death. Polite and disdainful of prescription drugs, Stirk believes that the hormones and nutrients of human hearts are the only medicine he needs. Stirk possesses the ability to make other people see him however he wishes. When approaching his victims, he will often transform himself into an iconic figure, like Abraham Lincoln, and then use his powers to take frightening forms to terrify those he has captured.
3. The Composite Superman
Just as his body is split into two extremes – one side showing Batman and the other Superman – the Composite Superman’s reputation is also strikingly divided. Recognized, if at all, by newer fans as a corny and bizarre concept from the Silver Age, older fans remember the character as a deadly threat – the most deadly Superman and Batman ever faced together. Created in 1964 by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan for World’s Finest Comics #142, the Composite Superman was in fact Joe Meach, a down-on-his-luck janitor at the Superman Museum who gained all the powers of all the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes after a freak accident.
Blaming Superman for his tough luck, and despising the adulation both he and Batman received by the Museum’s visitors, Meach transformed himself into the Composite Superman. Discovering their secret identities, he attempted to blackmail Superman and Batman into giving up their superhero activities, so that he himself could become the world’s greatest hero – while secretly plotting universal domination. Meach’s powers faded, along with his memory, though he would return once more to menace both heroes. Composite Superman remains fondly remembered to this day, even receiving his own action figure back in 2005 – the only character on this list to be accorded such an honor.
2. The Getaway Genius
After Carmine Infantino and Julius Schwartz revitalized the Dark Knight in 1964, updating the character for the 1960’s and emphasizing his detective roots, Batman gained a new foe who had no interest in actually defeating him – Roy Reynolds, the “Getaway Genius.” Created in 1965 by Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff in Batman #170, Reynolds realized that the reason for the failure of so many Gotham criminals was their desire to confront the Batman. For his part, Reynolds was content with the loot, and he planned his getaways as elaborately as his heists. Unfortunately for him, Batman realized this, and he staged a defeat for himself and Robin. Finding a defeated and trapped Batman and Robin too tempting to resist, Getaway’s gang was lured to their capture – and immediately ratted on the secret location of the Getaway Genius’s hideout.
1. Professor Radium
Professor Radium is the oldest Bat-foe on this list, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane along with most of the classic Batman villains back in the early 1940’s. First appearing in 1941’s Batman #8, Professor Radium was originally Professor Henry Ross, a scientist who believed that radium might hold the key to bringing the dead back to life. Experimenting on dead dogs, Ross successfully revived them in unauthorized experiments, but his boss believed his success to be a hoax. Ross was fired for stealing thousands of dollars worth of radium. Ross reacted to his dismissal by taking a drastic measure to prove he was right – he killed himself, after having left a note to his assistant with instructions on how to revive him. Ross was indeed brought back to life – but with a body now irradiated and a fatal touch.
Horrified by this realization, which he learned of after accidentally killing his assistant, Ross searched for a cure. Eventually he discovered that the drug Volitell can temporarily return his body to its normal state, and he began robbing hospitals which carried the drug, while also developing a specialized lead suit to contain himself so that no one else would die from his touch. Unfortunately, Ross’s touch does kill again, the victim this time being his girlfriend Mary. In response to her death, the police began a manhunt for Ross, who, without ready access to Volitell, became ever more insane. Henry Ross had now transformed into the Professor Radium. Deducing Ross’s condition, Batman lured him out of hiding and tracked him down to the Gotham shipyards. In the ensuing battle with Batman and Robin, Professor Radium fell into the Gotham harbor, his heavy suit sinking him into the river below.
And there you have it – the top ten Batman villains you (probably) never heard of!