There are few films as highly anticipated as the new Batman movie. The Dark Knight was the most critically acclaimed and profitable superhero of all time, and naturally people are hungry for details, myself included.
After much speculation, amongst the details that have come include the villains Batman will face. Featuring in The Dark Knight Rises will be Selina Kyle - that’s Catwoman (though quite deliberately no one is calling her Catwoman), the brutish genius Bane and maybe the Holiday Killer, although this may be speculation.
Some people may consider these to be brave choices as neither Bane or the Holiday Killer are familiar to the general public not like classic villains like the Penguin or the Riddler.
That could be true, but they’re certainly not brave choices. It’s easy to forget that Batman is over 80 years old. And in that time he’s come up across some dangerous villains, and, well, some not so dangerous foes. Even if you don’t include the 60s series (remember Egghead, Bookworm and Louie the Lilac?) there are plenty of characters writers and fans would rather forget.
I’ve become somewhat enamoured with these rather less intimidating members of Batman’s rogues gallery, here are some of my particular favourites:
Paul Dekker is an artist who leads a double life as a master criminal. He leaves instructions for his accomplices in paintings, but one betrays him and he is blinded by a gunshot wound. While in prision he is selected to take part in a scientific experiment to restore his sight. But the procedure produces blinding colours that drives him mad, and he becomes Crazy Quilt.
Quilt is unique in the Batman villain world, as he actually hates Robin more than Batman, as Robin accidentally blinds him again. Despite the silliness of the character, he has appeared a number of since being introduced. He even showed up in the most recent cartoon series. Perhaps writers have some fondness for his camp charm. Still though, not exactly sure where the whole Quilt bit comes in.
Julian Day (geddit?) is obsessed with dates and plans crimes on said dates. And he likes dressing up too. He often puts on a new costume with each crime. The character’s so silly that they’ve had to acknowledge his ridiculousness within the comic, with heroes and villains viewing him as something of joke.
But he does date back to the Golden Age of comics, and attempts have been made to update him into a darker character. On one occasion his appearance is inspired by Hannibal Lector; someone who knows the identity of a killer but won’t give the game away. Alas, it’s not quite worked, but at least they changed the awful costume.
Philip Reardon is a Vietnam vet who, after becoming a security guard at warehouse, gets blown up and loses his eyesight. But a mob doctor is able to rewire his optic nerves throughout his fingers, and reattach new eyes, giving him unique, potentially 360 degree vision.
Doesn’t sound like a terrible villain gimmick, until your realise that he has to go walking about his with his arms stretched out like a fool. And it’s also quite easy to compromise his vision – just throw something at him and let him catch it. A cactus turns out to be quite a good choice. When DC set about doing its first apocalyptic crisis cross-over series, the lead writer targeted Ten-Eye for elimination from the off. He’s never been revived.
Sometimes it’s not the idea, but the execution. Lenny Fiasco is a genius who will eliminate any evidence of a crime, for a large cut of the profits. Not a bad idea at all, it’s just the pencil idea that I think people have had issue with.
It’s not just that he dresses as a pencil, he actually uses his pencil head to literally rub-out finger prints and foot prints. Unsurprisingly he was only used once, but has oddly made recent appearances in dream sequences.
How on earth did anyone think that this would work. He even commits crimes related to spots and dots! Polka-Dot Man would produce a variety of gadgets from the spots of his costume; the spots would somehow transform in to weapons. Bits of fabric would become weapons all of a sudden.
Unamazingly, Polka-Dot Man would not make a return appearance until over 30 years later, when he no longer had any powers at all – he was just a tit in a suit who got beaten up a lot. Writers love a chance to revenge themselves on characters they hate.
Zebras are of course notoriously frigntening. Jake Baker performed an experiment which irradiated his whole body, causing black and wipe stripes to appear across his body, just as you’d expect. He also developed the power of Diamagnetism. This apparently means he can attract and repel anything that isn’t metal, although I’m fairly sure that’s not what the word means.
Zebra-Man appeared only once. A new Zebra-Man was later created deliberately by another villain, although this new Zebra-Man didn’t care for the whole Zebra gimmick. Readers probably didn’t care much either for the hilarious banter on whether he was a black man with white stripes of a white man with black stripes.
Charles "Chuck" Brown was fascinated by kites when he was a child. So when he decided to become a criminal he quite obviously started using a variety of tools and weapons that utilised kites. Makes sense when you think about it. It’s hard to be much of a threat though when your schemes can always foiled by the weather.
Kite-Man was oddly never quite forgotten, and writers kept resurrecting him once a decade. This was until Joker casually reported he’d been thrown off a building and killed. But this wasn’t quite enough for the current writer, after all, comic book deaths can always be undone. So in 2006, the character was beaten to death and then cooked and eated - now get him out of that one!
Yes, it’s a criminal who steals pennies. Created by Batman co-creator Bob Finger (just so you know that Batman was a bit camp even from the off), Joe Coyne (geddit?) used to sell newspapers for a penny each, but started to steal some of the pennies. After being fired, he became a penny stealing super(!)villain. Batman managed to stop him (obviously he was a threat to society) by luring him to the batcave with a giant penny.
This giant penny was the only legacy from the character’s one appearance, yet later this was retconned into being related to a battle with Two Face. However, brief tribute was paid to the character when this Two Face story in question was finally recounted, and the Plunderer made a brief appearance before being squashed.
Wake Wood(2011) Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Eva Connolly. Dir: David Keating.
A couple experience a ritual that resurrects their deceased daughter for three days. A new Hammer film that actually feels like one. Has flaws; the script is pared back, and gives way to cliché in the end. But the idea is strong and embodies the spirit of rural chillers of old.
Chimes At Midnight(1965) Orson Welles, Keith Baxter, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielgud. Dir Orson Welles.
Prince Hal avoids regal responsibility with the help of his friend Falstaff. 5 Shakespear plays are condensed into one simple, but beautiful story of friendship and responsibility. A little hard-going for Shakespeare novices, but Welles is as ever a dynamic presence as both actor and director. Battle sequence is superb!
The Creeping Terror (1964) Vic Savage, Shannon O'Neil, William Thourlby, John Caresio. Dir: A.J.Nelson.
Spaceship lands on earth, unleashing a monster that devours all in its wake. So bad it’s not even funny. Monster is a pathetic mix of rubber and bits of carpet. Heavy narration and occasional dubbing tries to mask the lack of sound recording, but can’t hide lack of plot. Excruciating!
The Black Cat (1934) Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Julie Bishop. Dir: Edgar G.Ulmer
A war veteran travels to the home of the man who stole his wife and child. Famous for Bauhaus sets, black magic and torture – making it prone to over-analysis. Cutting leaves plot holes and supporting players are bland, but nevertheless, remains one of the most interesting pictures of the 30s
Privilege (1967) Paul Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Mark London, Jeremy Child. Dir: Peter Watkins
Britain’s most popular pop-singer is actually the tool of the establishment. Curious faux-documentary that’s too OTT to be taken entirely seriously, but too bleak to be funny. A reaction to the screaming crowds of its day, but still has plenty to say about celebrity adulation. A fascinating and troubling film.
True Grit (2010) Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper. Dir: Joeal and Ethan Coen.
A girl seeks the help of Marshal with ‘True Grit’ who can hunt down her father’s killer. A beautifully shot old-fashioned western yarn that certainly doesn’t hold back in its depiction of violence. The cast are uniformly marvellous. It’s good to see a coming of age tale with teeth.
The House That Dripped Blood (1970) Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, John Pertwee, Denholm Elliot, Ingrid Pitt, Joss Ackland. Dir: Peter Von Dufe superfluous
4 scary stories set in a house within a murderous reputation. Despite the name, there’s more tongue in-cheek than there is dripping blood. There are hits and misses but the whole thing is carried off with enthusiasm and the ensemble really is first rate. Iffy ending though.
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1920) John Barrymore, John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Charles Lane, Nita Naldi. Dir: John S. Robertson.
A noble scientist explores his dark side when he creates a potion that turns him into a monster. In this silent version, Hyde is not a sexual predator, but a disgusting monster. Later versions would flesh out the characters but none quite create such a disturbing and unsettling atmosphere.
is a writer for better and for worse. I got in above my station writing for M&S, but was credit crunched down to writing about sex toys, Viagra and herpes meds. I’m now taking a step back towards legitimacy by writing for JML Direct. I’m awkward and don’t like much.