In our last Top 5 countdown of 2015, the staff at DKN examine their personal favorite Batman villains. Part of Batman’s rich mythology is his extensive and extremely disturbed rogues gallery. Several stories functioning as character studies have allowed readers and viewers to delve into the mangled minds of the Arkham regulars, allowing us a look at what make them some of the best characters in comic book history.
And not only that, it’s always been important to note how closely tied the rogues are to Batman himself, with several writers closely juxtaposing the two. There’s a clear difference, right? Batman fights for good and his villains, obviously, don’t. But not really.
The rogues are almost a reflection of the Dark Knight himself, both are severely psychologically damaged, one just happens to channel his dementia into fighting crime. In the many extensive explorations into Batman’s fears, it seems rather clear that there’s a very thin line separating himself and those committed to Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The inmates of Arkham are a constant terrifying reminder of what Bruce could have been or can still be depending on the right circumstances. Or at least, that’s what Bruce tends to believe.
And it’s likely because of this that when one thinks of Batman, one of his villains isn’t far along in that train of thought. After all, it’s these people who really challenge him and make him the character that we all love. Otherwise, he’d just be a crazy person running around in a Bat costume, taking down muggers.
For the most part, there weren’t a lot of restrictions on this poll. If the character has antagonized the Dark Knight at least a few times in Batman’s rich history of comics, movies, or games, they were fair game. Some choices may be controversial.
Here’s DKN’s Top 5 Batman Villains:
Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke the Terminator. One of the most deadliest assassins in the DCU and one of the few that can physically challenge the Dark Knight, due to his enhanced abilities, training, and tactical genius that make him far more formidable than any normal man. And likely the most controversial choice in this countdown. The mercenary was locked in a three-way tie for 5th place, eventually coming down to a vote among the editors. Not necessarily a Batman villain, he has been shown to antagonize Batman greatly in mainstream media, most notably in WB Montreal’s Arkham prequel Arkham Origins and in the recent DC animated release, Son of Batman.
Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent didn’t initially make my personal top 5 favorites and I regretted it a little later. The character is utterly fascinating from his dissociative identity disorder to his choice to base decisions on fate. Not the most intimidating of villains, but severely damaged and extremely layered. When I think of this character, I often think of Frank Miller’s interpretation of the man who lost his humanity, giving in completely to the monster as well as Nolan’s White Knight/Dark Knight comparison. Dent was a seemingly incorruptible district attorney, hellbent on cleaning the streets of Gotham within the confines of the law, but lost it. Nolan really emphasized how close the two were, a good example of how Batman could easily become one of his rogues with the proper push.
3. THE RIDDLER
Moving into a different realm, we find ourselves looking at an average man with an abnormally above average intelligence. Like most of Batman’s adversaries, the Riddler was originally created as a gimmick character obsessed with leaving riddles and clues. Since then, modern writers have given him an unsettling compulsion to leave behind clues and a strong obsession to prove his intellectual superiority, most notably over the Dark Knight. The Riddler’s deductive abilities rival even those of Batman, often pushing the Caped Crusader to his intellectual limits. Though he can’t physically beat the Batman, he can certainly do his best to outsmart him.
2. THE SCARECROW
Dr. Jonathan Crane was a professor of psychiatry, specializing in fear. He became obsessed with the physiological and mental processes that go into being frightened, so much so that he created a gas that induced fear, carrying out his sick experiments on the innocent citizens of Gotham. Again, another intellect-based character who poses very little physical threat on his own, but the amount of psychological torment that he’s caused Batman in the past is unfathomable. He’s literally forced Batman to face his fears on many occasions which would have broken any normal man, but thankfully, Batman isn’t normal. He’s still human, therefore, a bout with Scarecrow can really push him to his limits; More so than any other character on this list, except for our number one pick. Come on, you’ve got to know who it is, right?
1. THE JOKER
This was a near-unanimous choice among our staff. He topped the list of all but one of our writers and I can’t say I’m surprised. So here I go, attempting and likely failing to explain why the Clown Prince of Crime deserves the top spot on our list. Not even a college thesis could provide a satisfying explanation… mostly because the Joker’s insanity goes beyond our understanding. Nobody has pushed Batman to his limits and beyond as much as the Joker has. As explored many times by hundreds of writers in the past, his motives are never clear or reasonable, often committing the most horrifying atrocities and tormenting Batman and the people around him simply to prove a macabre point or for the lolz. It seems like the two are forever destined to stand off against one another in a never-ending vicious cycle as one of them will never stop unless the other kills him, while the other refuses to kill him for fear of becoming like the other. Possibly one of the greatest characters created in the 20th century, the Joker has endured and will likely continue to endure as long as writers continue attempting to explore the depths of his madness.
Do you agree with our top 5 Batman villains? Which of your favorites did we overlook? Let us know.