One of my favorite things about reading comics is the sheer amount of debates you can have about them. Who is cooler: Batman or Superman? Who is faster: Quicksilver or the Flash? Who would win: the Hulk or the Thing? Burton Batman or Nolan Batman? Married Spider-Man or single Spider-Man? Cyclops’ X-Men or Wolverine’s X-Men? Captain America or Iron Man? Avengers or X-Men?
I’ve always been interested in these conversations. When I worked at a comic book store, one of my favorite things was to listen to the arguments customers would have (especially the younger ones). The best one I ever heard was between three brothers: One was about twelve, the next probably 9 or 10, and the youngest was 7-ish.
They were debating which Robin was the coolest. The oldest loved Jason Todd, the second Robin that was murdered by the Joker, but mostly because of his time as the Red Hood since his unfortunate resurrection. The youngest was ALL ABOUT Tim Drake, and thought the other two were insane to even entertain this notion that there could ever be a Robin that measured up (for my money, he’s right, but that might be a topic for another day). The middle one had a strong argument, as he thought the best Robin was the first one- Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing (and replacement Batman). They went back and forth for probably twenty minutes, and it never devolved into shouting, or name calling, or anything like that. It was really just each kid making their case (“Tim beat the Joker! Without Batman!”). I remembered that conversation recently, and thought that there could be some entertainment value in something like that.
So, I called up Erik Slader (of EpikFAILs.com) and we settled on a topic that we come down on opposite sides of. We’re going to go back and forth, at least until we have each made our cases. If one of us can convince the other that we’re right, all the better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…
Our first topic of discussion:
“Who has the better villains: Spider-Man or Batman?”
ComicZombie: The best super-heroes always have awesome villains. Superman has Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, and Doomsday; the Flash has Professor Zoom and the Rogues, whereas the X-Men have Apocalypse, Sinister, Magneto (sometimes), Sentinels, the Marauders, and just about every human on Earth; Daredevil has the Kingpin, Bullseye, Lady Bullseye, the Hand, Mr. Hyde, the Owl, and Mr. Fear, while the Fantastic Four have Dr. Doom; and the list goes on and on for the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and so on and so on.
However, I don’t think there is any debate that the heroes with the greatest villains are: Batman and Spider-Man. I also don’t think there’s any debate that Spider-Man edges out Batman for the title, but that’s why we’re here.
Batman has awesome villains, yes. But the real appeal for his rogues is really all at the top of the list; the heavy hitters, for lack of a better term. Spider-Man’s group of freaks is awesome all the way from the real bigs, like the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Venom, etc to the guys that are practically hopeless, like the Shocker, Hydro Man, Boomerang, Cardiac, and a whole host of others. Granted, most of the appeal is at the top as well, but Spidey has more “A-list” villains than Batman does. His rogue’s gallery as a whole is just better.
ErikSmash!: So the duel Begins…
Of course both of these dubious super-villain team-ups have their own merits, but on behalf of all Fan-boys and Geek-girls out there, I’m going to have to side with BATMAN’s rogues gallery as the best in all of comic-dom.
I might be a DC loyalist, yet even I can admit that your friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN has an all-star cast of costumed crazies, and perhaps even the best rogues gallery.. in the MARVEL universe that is!, but you have got to be shitting me if you think for a second that Spidey’s baddies are anywhere near the archetypal greatness that are the foes of the Dark Knight! Two-Face, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, The JOKER! All these characters are so awesome they often overshadow the hero. It can be argued that as cool as Batman is, it’s his villains that make him legendary, these are tales so psychologically metaphorical they will last the test of time and have already proven their versatility in their various reincarnations over the ‘Ages’ (Gold through Platinum).
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight’s entertainment! I only have one question. Where is Harvey Dent?” – the Joker
I’m not going to even bother defending guys like CALENDAR MAN, MAXIE-ZUES, KG-BEAST, KILLER-MOTH, or VENTRILOQUIST, for example, but even those guys have had their moments, and can cause some serious trouble for Gotham’s Knight. However, when it comes to Batman’s rather extensive (and ever-growing) rogue’s gallery, the numerous heavy hitters far exceed those of the bottom of the barrel rejects. So let’s start with the one that is more acclaimed than all of Spider-man’s bad guys put together:
THE JOKER! From his first eerie introduction in Batman #1 to Heath Ledger’s terrifying portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy, this agent of anarchy is the essence of nightmares. Not only that, but as perhaps Batman’s ultimate arch-enemy, you’ve got a perfect foil for one dark and brooding, ever-stoic, crusader of justice, versus: an unstable, unpredictable, laughing terrorist, dressed in a purple suit with makeup and green hair, whose only out to prove that life is meaningless, and doesn’t even care if you get his inside jokes. Denny O Neal once claimed that the Joker is not only one if the greatest comic book villains, but that he’s right up there with the other great villains in all of literature. My favorite thing about the character is that almost everything he does has an ulterior motive, or worse: not motive at all. For instance, when the Joker brutally murders your best friend in a most horrific (albeit humorous) manner there’s a 50/50 chance that it was either a spur of the moment idea that conveniently presented itself, or was simply an elaborate plan to drive you over the edge of sanity itself. Check out ‘The Man Who Laughs’ by Ed Brubaker (featuring a retelling of his first encounter with the Batman, following ‘Year One’), ‘The Killing Joke’ by Alan Moore (one of the most acclaimed and pivotal Joker tales), or better yet: Brian Azzarello’s chilling graphic novel simply entitled, ‘JOKER’!
CZ: OK, I will concede that the Joker is the shit. He’s my favorite villain in all of comics, even more-so than any of Spidey’s villains.
But that’s where I stop agreeing with you.
If your argument is that Batman’s rogues are better than Spider-Man because they include the Joker, this won’t be a very long conversation. If we’re comparing their best villains, let’s compare. Batman has the Joker, Ra’s Al Ghul, Bane, the Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, the Penguin, Two-Face, Catwoman, and Killer Croc. All great villains, yes. But Spider-Man has Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, the Sandman, Mysterio, Electro, Venom, Carnage, the Rhino, Mr. Negative, the Hobgoblin, Kraven the Hunter, the Lizard, the Scorpion, the Black Cat, and the Green Goblin.
Spidey’s villains are all science freaks, which is what I like about them the most. They’ve either designed the devices they use (the Vulture, Mysterio) or they have been horribly transformed from some freak accident (Octopus, Goblin, Rhino, Sandman, Scorpion, Lizard, Electro). Like the way Batman’s villains are mostly a twisted reflection of Batman, so are Spider-Man’s. He’s the best case example of the victim of a freak accident, while they are the worst.
Also, while the Joker may be a crazy bastard that has killed and maimed those close to Batman, what about the Green freaking Goblin? He kidnapped Spidey’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacey) and killed her by tossing her off of a bridge, orchestrated ‘the clone saga’, killed Ben Reilly (Spidey’s clone), and caused the miscarriage of Peter and Mary Jane’s child. Norman has also kidnapped Aunt May and buried her alive (see: Marvel Knights’ ‘Down Among the Dead Men’). Yes, Joker’s scary as the insane force of chaos, but Osborn is terrifying as well, considering he’s nearly as powerful as Spider-Man, a brilliant scientist, filthy rich, connected, and crazy-as-balls! There’s also Doc-Ock, who once threatened to blow up New York with a nuclear bomb, and didn’t even ask for a ransom until AFTER he had started the nuke countdown, or Carnage, who has gone on more than one mass-killing spree, and once killed about a tenth of the city of New York in about a day.
Let’s see Two-Face or Poison Ivy top that shit.
ES: Ok, fine, fair point. I’ll admit the pumpkin-lobbing GREEN GOBLIN is a great adversary for one web-slinging spider-freak, and who doesn’t love a good mad scientist experiment gone horribly fucking wrong in all the right ways? I’ll even admit DOCTOR OCTOPUS is far cooler than Prof. HUGO STRANGE in the ‘way-too-smart-for-petty-morals’ department. Doc-Ock is perhaps the best possible foil to Spider-man, plus he’s a deranged maniac with metallic tentacles!! I wouldn’t mess with Otto Octavius. He’s so awesome it cancels out how ridiculous he sounds in theory.
Although I have nothing negative to say against Doc-Ock, you’ve gotta admit Batman’s villains have their fair share of epic experimental fails (MAN-BAT anyone?). Prof. Strange (the original Batman villain, who recently starred in the smash-hit video game sequel, ‘Arkham City’) has a Masters in ‘the Mad-Sciences’ even. Not only that, but their ‘powers’ / conditions / symptoms often play a part in why they do what they do, not just how they do it. POISON IVY, for instance (since you brought the poor woman into this), isn’t just a psycho plant-lady with slutty pheromones, and a toxicity-to-hotness-ratio that’s off the charts, but she’s also a completely developed character beyond her obsessive tendencies to poison billions in the name of Fern Gully, the Last Rainforest. Pamela Isley isn’t just a hippy eco-terrorist, she’s a scorned lover, who denies her humanity and is often faced with moral dilemmas, like so many other Bat-villains she walks a fine gray line. At times she’s turned over a new leaf and redeemed herself, while other times she’s shamelessly using, abusing, and mass-murdering people without a second-thought! She even seduced SUPERMAN into doing her bidding (HUSH)! I can’t (with good conscience) say that KRAVEN the Hunter is anywhere near as deep and developed (even though I’d absolutely love to see him in Gotham hunting the Batman!)
Let’s compare ELECTRO to MR. FREEZE, granted both characters have been poorly mishandled numerous times (Arnold’s cold puns come to mind giving me a brain freeze, shudders), but comic fans know that, when handled well, both these super-powered lunatics are pretty much the definition of kick-ass-ary… as far as B-villains go that is. However, beyond just the fact that Freeze has a ‘cool’ fridgerator suit, can survive in sub-zero temperatures (has to), and has mastered the technology of freezing your nuts off, he also has a detailed back story, and motivation (thanks to the 90’s animated Batman series). Unlike Max Dillon, Victor Fries wasn’t a common thug who just happened upon a better way to rob banks and take out human-sized rodents, no, Mr. (M.F.) Freeze was a desperate cryo-scientist attempting to save his wife when something went wrong and he’s been a cold-hearted bastard ever since whose either seeking a cure for his frozen bride’s condition by any means necessary, or he’s out of his mind with devastating grief on a mission of vengeance against the world that turned its back on him, with nothing to lose. That’s some powerful shit right there, and he’s not even one of Batman’s greatest adversaries.
Freeze also isn’t the only one who isn’t black and white, take TWO-FACE, perhaps the most binary character in all of comics. Speaking of black and white, Spider-man also has a villain with a dual personality that acts as a dark reflection for his own dual identity, VENOM! Venom’s a truly great character, but beyond the whole sci-fi / alien symbiosis (that’s modeled after Parker’s spliced DNA) there isn’t much else to Eddie Brock beyond being a rival of Peter’s both inside and outside the suit. On the flip-side, Two-Face is one crazy complex son of a bitch! In some versions, District Attorney Harvey Dent is Bruce Wayne’s friend, that is of course before he gets a FACE full of ACID, OR half his FACE fucked over by an explosion / exploding acid, and yet its often hinted at that Harv had issues prior to the ‘accident’ that happens to be Two-Face’s train-wreck of a … uh.. face?, or what’s left of it that is… (See: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s epic, “the Long Halloween”, the excellent Two-Parter from Batman: the Animated Series, and of course ‘THE DARK KNIGHT’!) Now when it comes to schizophrenic villains, Two-Face tops them all, he’s so indecisive he has a two-faced coin make every goddamn decision for him. Do I kill this dude? Should I get fries with that milk shake? Morals don’t even come into play, it doesn’t compute with him anymore. After everything he’s been through he’s convinced that it’s all a game of chance. Unlike Batman, Two-Face has lost sight of good and evil, Dent no longer believes in the law. He blames the scars for his duel nature, but really that traumatic event was the last straw that caused him to snap… IN HALF!
Even WITH plastic surgery, Two-Face is lurking within his twisted psyche, taunting him, on the other side of the coin, Eddie Brock wouldn’t be Venom without the symbiote (he still might need some therapy afterwards though, perhaps Harvey could refer him to his specialist, then again Two-Face probably killed that shrink, looks like that psychiatrist really sucked at his job…). Even with plastic surgery, Two-Face is lurking within his twisted psyche. In a story by Paul Dini, when Two-Face had his effed-up face fixed he eventually regressed, went crazy, cheated on his girlfriend with her twin, then purposely ruined half his face again in one of the most disturbing scenes in comics history prior to murdering both women.
My point is that THE SCORPION isn’t the Scorpion without his Scorpion suit, while Oswald Cobblepot is ‘THE PENGUIN!’, whereas old-man Toomes has to put on his VULTURE-wings, and THE RHINO (I’m sensing a theme here)… is just some dumbass stuck in a Rhino-suit?! Where’s the depth to that?!
CZ: I’m sorry, did you say that Poison Ivy is more developed than Kraven the Hunter?
Granted, she has been in waaaaaay more stories than he has, since he spent about 30 years dead, but Kraven is fucking awesome! A Russian aristocrat that became bored with his wealth, he learned to be a master hunter and tracker. Then he got involved in the dark arts, and learned how to combine black magics and poisons to make himself really formidable. After losing to Spider-Man a few times, he became obsessed with not only defeating Spider-Man, but proving he was better than him. So he shoots Spidey with some serious tranqs, buries him alive, dresses up as him, and cripples and brutalizes some criminals. He didn’t even try to kill Spider-Man when he revived and came after him. Why would he? He already won. Not only did he defeat Spider-Man, but in his mind, he proved he was BETTER than Spider-Man. With his greatest accomplishment done, he then blows his brains out.
When was the last time Poison Ivy did anything but protect the Gotham park, or team up with Catwoman? Outside of the Jeph Loeb books, when she ALWAYS takes over Bruce Wayne, and is ALWAYS beaten by Catwoman, Poison Ivy hasn’t been a real Batman villain in a long time. Even when she does encounter Batman and/or Robin she doesn’t last long and doesn’t post much of a threat. Also, how is she more developed, when every other time she shows up she is completely different than she was previously, at least in methodology, and often in personality.
I will grant you that Mr. Freeze has a better origin than Electro, but he’s also really lame. Freeze has a gun that shoots ice, and if you break his GLASS helmet, guess what, you win. The same could have been said about Electro in the 60’s or 70’s, when you could beat him with a glass of water (Freeze got beat with chicken soup in the cartoon), but Electro is totally badass! The guy can travel through outlets, power lines, computers, etc, and can fry the shit out of you about fifty times faster than an electric chair. There’s no arguing that their motivations need an update, but Electro is awesome the way he is. I think Freeze needs a complete and total make-over. I would get rid of pretty much everything people associate with Freeze. No more freeze gun, no more white-blue skin, no more glass helmet. I would make him a serial killer than enjoys using things like liquid nitrogen, and cryogenics to kill people. Something like that.
As far as Two-Face goes, I have already conceded that he is a great villain. But like I said, Batman’s rogues are very top heavy. All of the ‘cool’ is at the top of the list. And yes, Vulture, Mysterio, Scorpion, the Shocker, the Rhino, and others are dependent on their suits and gadgets, but shit man, so is Dead-Shot. The difference is that Batman’s villains that don’t depend on things like suits, i.e. the Penguin, are total bitches. I would put the Rhino up against ALL of Batman’s rogues, and guess what? He’d win.
It seems you are arguing that Batman’s villains are better because they are all twisted inside and out. So are Spider-Man’s. The difference is that Batman’s villains are inspired by pulp stories, and by Dick Tracy villains. Spidey’s villains are inspired by 1950’s science-gone-wrong movies. That’s why Spidey has guys with weird suits, and alien symbiotes, and strange powers, and Batman has villains with weird scars, and odd personalities, and they’re typically crooks, not super-villains.
The fact of the matter is that Spider-Man’s villains have more variety, more quality (at about the same quantity), and are every bit twisted reflections of their hero that the Batman villains are.
ES!: BLASPHEMY! You sir have insulted thy honor!
First things first: Batman’s rogues gallery IS THE quintessential club of Super-Villains to which ALL other villainous troupes are compared! Seriously, just read Grant Morrison’s mesmerizing ‘Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth’ (with twisted mind-numbing art by Dave McKean!), ‘Joker’s Asylum’, ‘Four of a Kind’, Loeb’s ‘Haunted Knight’ and ‘HUSH’ (if nothing else for Jim Lee’s superb art) for good rundown; these stories don’t just showcase the freaks of Gotham’s underworld they steal the show!
Ok, so maybe KRAVEN is rather hardcore after all; he’s probably better compared to the likes of BANE, or even the immortal Ra’s AL GHUL, both of whom are among the elite few who can actually say they’ve beaten the bat. Bane, much like Kraven, actually hunted his adversary in the urban jungle. Bane is as intelligent as he is strong, and broke Batman’s spine over his knee, effectively putting Bruce out of commission for at least a year (read: the KNIGHTFALL saga, or the novelization by Denny O Neal!).
And Ra’s is also a master strategist with a good millennia (give or take) of experience on his side. Ra’s is as ruthless as Doc-Ock, and as cunning as CARNAGE, he’s willing to destroy most of the world to achieve his goals. He’s got an army of ninjas at his command, (in ‘Batman Begins’, he even trained Batman in his League of Shadows!) and only wants the Dark Knight to join him and possibly replace him. To top it off, Ra’s Al Ghul is the father of Talia, one of Bruce’s love interests, and the mother of his only biological son, Damien.
Now, for some odd reason, I seem to recall you suggesting that The Rhino could take on every one of Batman’s villainous counterparts? I’m going to have to draw a line right there and call BULL-SHIT. Yeah if it was just a battle to the death between Rhino and Cobblepot, Rhino wins, hands down (hands tied behind his back even!), sure. No amount of tricked-out-umbrellas are going to save that fat bastard from Rhino’s rampaging fury (In fact I’d pay good money to see them duke it out, regardless of how short a fight it’d be). However, what if, for instance, the Rhino was let loose in the halls of Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane… there are a few heavy hitters that could go toe to toe with him: the savage brutality of KILLER-CROCK (a way deadlier monstrosity than THE LIZARD I might add), along with the previously mentioned venom-junkie: BANE!, and the shape-shifting CLAY-FACE (I’m still convinced that both SANDMAN and CHAMELEON were rip-offs of this classic Bat-character). All three could take him down, maybe not one-on-one, but still. SOLOMON GRUNDY (‘-born on a Munday’) might even be a good match. And, I get the feeling that someone like the creepy-ass MAD-HATTER would find a way to take control of Rhino’s brute force.
Speaking of hypothetical scenarios, I’d like to see Spider-man go toe to toe with one of the Caped Crusader’s foes! Let’s say THE SCARECROW! Scarecrow’s like HOBGOBLIN meets MYSTERIO, but on acid. Dr. Crane might not have ‘powers’ per-say, but he’s got a PHD in Mind-Fucking, just like Norman Osborn, and has a rather potent supply of hallucinogenics guaranteed to give one a very bad trip. Plus, Crane is so mentally deranged that he practically feels nothing and makes for quite the deadly adversary. Parker wouldn’t stand a chance if taken by surprise. Even with Batman’s infinite will he’s barely able to withstand the horrifying effects of the Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin! Peter wouldn’t just piss his tights, he would need a lifetime of serious mental therapy. Oh, and as much as I love Felicia Hardy, THE BLACK CAT is a total copycat of the original feline-themed femme fatale, CATWOMAN!
CZ: Now, I’m sorry, there is just NO WAY Killer Croc, Bane, AND ClayFace would even stand a chance against the Rhino. The dude can throw train cars around like they’re made of paper! He’s fought the Hulk to a standstill! Bane is very calculating, yes, just like Dent and Ra’s Al Ghul (and the Joker, in his own way), but even on his big success, Bane had to send Batman against his entire stable of villains, AND use his steroid-like drug Venom. Clay-Face is a shape-shifter, but if I’m not mistaken he doesn’t have super strength. And Killer Croc, depending on the depiction, is either a mobster with a really awful skin condition (no powers), or a crocodile monster that can be knocked out by a human being with no super strength. You’re going to send these guys up against the freaking Rhino??? Good luck! The Lizard would eat the hell out of Killer Croc, no matter what version of him. Also, I’m reasonably sure that Sandman is a much more powerful freak monster than ClayFace, and the Chameleon is just as good at disguise.
And, yes, the Gotham rogues do team up from time to time, and that’s always cool to see, and dangerous for Batman, but Spidey’s rogues not only team up, they’ve got a freaking team name! There have been many incarnations, but ‘the Sinister Six’ has included names like Doctor Octopus, Electro, the Sandman, Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Chameleon, the Rhino, the Vulture, and Kraven the Hunter. This is a group put together with the sole purpose of killing Spider-Man!
Then there’s the secret identity factor. Granted, due to the cluster-fuck that was ‘One More Day’, none of Spidey’s villains currently know he’s Peter Parker (except for the clone-happy Jackal). But for years and years both the Green Goblin (both Norman and Harry Osborn) AND Venom knew who he was, and used that information to devastating effect. Norman killed Peter’s girlfriend, Harry tormented Peter and his then-wife Mary Jane to the brink of insanity and then nearly killed Mary Jane too! Venom also terrorized Peter and Mary Jane relentlessly, and would show up when least expected at Peter’s house, or even Aunt May’s! Because of this it was always super scary when these guys would show up.
To the best of my knowledge the only one’s of Batman’s villains that have ever figured out who he was are: Ra’s Al Ghul, Bane, Hush and the Riddler. Ra’s has too much ‘honor’ to attack Bruce at his home, and doesn’t really care what Batman is doing as long as it isn’t directly bothering him. The Riddler cooked up some super convoluted scheme (see: Hush) that, in the end, didn’t really do much. Hush planted himself as Bruce Wayne when Batman was thought dead, and he attacked Catwoman, but nothing he’s done has had any lasting effects. And after the reboot who knows what old continuity will stick.
I will grant you that Bane used the info that Bruce Wayne is Batman to great effect, but he got punked the hell out by the REPLACEMENT Batman, and not even Dick Grayson, but freaking Jean Paul Valley (Azrael)! He got trashed by a guy with a French name, and really, if a dude named Jean Paul beats your ass, how awesome were you to begin with?
End of the day Batman’s got a lot of great villains, but with the exception of the Joker, Dent, Bane, or maybe Scarecrow, how many of them really pose a threat to Batman and his army? Every one of Spidey’s main villains is a serious threat not only to him, but often to more than one hero at once.
And also, Scarecrow take out Spider-Man? Did you say take Spider-Man by surprise? The only way you’re doing that is if you’re made of electricity, or sand, or have an alien symbiote (his spidey sense doesn’t work on them). I very much doubt Scarecrow could surprise the web-head.
Also, I think you’re underestimating Mr. Parker a bit when you insinuate that he couldn’t handle Crane’s fear toxin. He’s been dosed with all kinds of crazy hallucinogens by Mysterio, the Jackal, both Green Goblins, and two of the (many) Hobgoblins. I will grant that they might not be quite as potent as Crane’s toxin, as that’s pretty much all he spends his time on, whereas Osborn was busy running a Fortune 100 company and trying to build a criminal empire, and Roderick Kingsley (the first and best Hobgoblin) was more concerned with making money than tormenting Spider-Man most of the time. Still, if there’s any one character in the Marvel universe that can take on their inner demons, it’s Peter Parker (and he’s done it on a few occasions!)
But I digress, this is about villains…
ES!: Oh man, IT IS ON!
Anyone that dismisses Batman’s baddies as non-threatening is fooling themselves. It’s like walking down Crime Alley without packing serious heat. Even the low-class thugs pose a serious threat not only to the citizens of Gotham, and its fragile sanity, but also to its very human guardians! The reason there’s so many vigilantes in this shit hole of a city is because one man can’t be everywhere at once and I think it’s safe to say that Gotham City has the absolute worst crime rate in the entire world! The evil denizens of this city-that-Hell-forgot are around every dark corner of this degenerate cityscape. GOTHAM isn’t just a setting, it IS the main adversary of the entire Dark Knight Saga!! Batman’s fighting the endless hordes of mobsters and cut-throat gangsters that the city taunts him with each and every night!! Nut jobs like JOE CHILL, VICTOR ZSASZ, FALCONE, BLACK MASK, DEAD-SHOT, FIRE-FLY, DOCTOR HURT, THE WHITE RABBIT, or even the demented PROF. PYG are constantly spewing from the darkest shadows of this nightmarish hamlet like an endless polluted river of blood. You get the sense that one of these days Batman’s going to get fed up and he’s not going to bother stopping Two-Face’s nuke on the East Side of this already ruined city.
THE COURT OF OWLS was just recently introduced into the New DC continuity and so far have been proven not only to be one intriguing and original plot device, but a most cunning adversary for our dear Dark Knight Detective.
Oh and don’t be so quick to dismiss THE RIDDLER, if it wasn’t for his knee-jerk compulsion to leave behind absurd clues, he would’ve outsmarted the Batman years ago! The cool thing about a master mind like him is he doesn’t even have to be directly involved, he can manipulate events from the sidelines, like you mentioned. It seems that every wacko in Gotham has their own private army of groupie-goons to boot (must be a thug-hiring website… I should look into that).
Now, take some idiot like ‘THE SHOCKER’. (Yeah I know he’s basically comic relief) He’s busting up some place, making threats and demanding ransoms when suddenly “Thwip, thwip!”, ‘your friendly neighborhood web-head’ swings in, and what a ‘shocker’: he webs the dude to a flag pole! There was never any doubt that Spidey was going to hand him his ass on a trashcan lid, (but it’s awesome nonetheless) however, it just feels like Batman’s crooks are always one step ahead of this Bat-themed-detective, he usually seems outmatched, and even though he does come through, not everyone is left unscathed most of the time. I guess my point is there seems to be a greater body count… man I’m starting to see where J. Jonah Jameson is coming from! Perhaps I should quit my job at the Planet and write for the Daily Bugle!
CZ: I said that Batman’s villains aren’t generally a threat to HIM. To the cannon fodder of Gotham, sure they are. Even Killer Moth is dangerous, just like to the average-joe in the Marvel’s New York City, guys like: the Shocker, the Enforcers, the Spot, Will O’ the Wisp, Hydro Man, etc are lethal. Sure, Spidey can wrap them up pretty quickly, and those guys don’t generally pose much of a threat to him, but the other fifteen or so of his villains certainly do. For instance, the mass murdering Carnage, any of the Green Goblins or Hobgoblins, anyone that’s ever been in the Sinister Six, Mr. Negative, the Kingpin, the completely bonkers Venom… some dangerous bastards, none of which Spidey can beat easily (he often needs help from other people).
But Batman’s villains, again with the exception of the guys at the top of the list, don’t generally pose much of a threat to him. When Clayface shows up does Batman freak out a little bit? No, and neither do any of his partners. They just basically go, “Oh, it’s Clayface again”. As far as dismissing the Riddler, it’s kind of hard not to. I like him quite a bit, but as a villain he’s useless. The idea that he’s got like a form of Tourette’s that drives him to leave clues to his crimes is pretty cool, but you can count the number of good Riddler stories on one hand. To be fair, he’s only been around 70 years. I’m sure they’re getting to that awesome Riddler story any day now.
And when does Batman ever seem outmatched? DC has gone to such great lengths to make him this uber-badass that’s nigh-unbeatable. When he survives throw-downs with Superman and Darkseid it’s kind of hard to be like, “Oh no, it’s Black Mask!” Maybe that’s not the fault of the creations, but rather the creators, but regardless, DC’s drive to make Batman the most badass and scary Mo-Fo in the entire DCU has kind of backfired a little bit, in that it has really rendered most of his villains to cannon fodder. The Ventriloquist ain’t scaring this guy, so he doesn’t scare readers.
ES: “Ha ha ha ha ha ho he ho ha ahaa….and I thought my jokes were bad.”
As I’ve mentioned before, Batman’s rogues gallery will always be a demented reflection of various aspects of Bruce Wayne’s psyche and dual identity in some manner of fashion. For instance, Scarecrow, like Batman, uses the power of fear to achieve his goals; while the Joker is a complete and total antithesis of the Dark Knight: one attempts to maintain order, the other is hell-bent on anarchy, Batman vows never to take a life out of a strong moral conviction, Joker revels in murdering by the dozen just for the fun of it, etc…
Who has the better villains?
My money’s on the freaks of Gotham.
For me, it really comes down to whom would you rather NOT want to meet in a dark alleyway:
-A crazy dude in a Halloween mask with a fetish for jack-o-lanterns, or a psychotic knife-wielding clown?! (on second thought, both choices are rather terrifying…)
Originally I had planned on using some kind of points system to see who actually wins the argument, but we’ll just have to use that in future installments of ‘The Not So Great Debate’. For this installment we will leave the final decision to the readers. Does the strength at the top of the list of Batman’s villains (Joker, Two-Face, Ra’s Al Ghul) overcome the top of Spidey’s list (Green Goblin, Venom, Doctor Octopus, the Lizard)? Or does the overall quality of Spidey’s rogues overcome the freaks of Gotham?
Does the fact that Spider-Man’s villains are much more powerful overcome the fact that Batman’s villains are generally more insane? Does the Joker’s body count overcome Carnage’s? Does the close personal connection of Bruce Wayne to Harvey Dent outweigh the personal connection between Peter Parker and Norman Osborn (or Harry)? Are you a fan of the freak-show that is Gotham City, or are you more partial to the menagerie of lunatics that populate poor Peter Parker’s New York? Maniacs inspired by pulp-serials or by atomic age B-movies?
Clowns or goblins!? Clay monster or sand monster? Dude with too many arms, or dude with not enough face?!
Which side do you come down on? Let us know!