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75 Greatest Friends and Foes of Batman: Villains #5-1

by  in Comic News Comment

In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Batman, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Batman. Future installments will deal with Batman creators and stories, but this month will be about Batman’s allies and his villains.

You all voted, now here are the results (40 bad guys, 35 good guys for a total of 75)! Here is a list of all the characters revealed so far. We continue with Villains #5-1…

Enjoy!

NOTE: There’s so many images in these pieces that I’ll be breaking them up over two pages.

5. Penguin

Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the Penguin was one of the rare Batman villains who was clearly popular enough that he was brought back right away (an honor typically reserved for the best of the best Bat-villains, like Joker and Catwoman)…


The Penguin was one of Batman’s most prolific villains during the 1940s and 1950s, likely second only to the Joker. As Batman comics got more ridiculous during the 1950s, so, too, did the Penguin get more ridiculous…


The Penguin and his trick umbrellas caused a bit of a problem for the Batman writers. The Penguin, like most Bat-villains, took a break in the late 1950s going into the 1960s, but the Penguin actually returned BEFORE Batman was revamped by Julie Schwartz in the early 1960.

However, when the Batman TV series was a big success (including Burgess Meredith’s stand-out performance as the Penguin), the Bat-titles were still unable to really perfect the Penguin….


And he appeared sparingly over the next few years. When Denny O’Neil did his revamp of the various Batman villains, he tried to work his wonders on the Penguin but it really just felt like every other Penguin story…


As a result, the Penguin really fell by the wayside in the 1970s and 1980s. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Penguin was practically a cameo-level villain. He appeared as a member of the Suicide Squad, with his tactical genius being used, and that was one of his most prominent appearances of the 1980s!

As it turned out, the key to the Penguin was found in an old Batman story from early in Penguin’s career, when he moved to Florida to run a night club…




So Penguin became the head of a lounge and ran his criminal organization from behind the scenes rather than fighting Batman with trick umbrellas. Although, even then, writers would occasionally try to get the Penguin into the field…



But for the past two decades, well into the New 52, as well, the Penguin has been remade as a behind-the-scenes operator who is still ruthless and devious, but he’ll deal with Batman from behind a table rather than blasting away at him with a trick umbrella.

4. Riddler

Introduced by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Charles Paris, the Riddler was pretty well-defined in his first appearance in the late 1940s…





However, for whatever reason, he didn’t catch on and skipped the entirety of the 1950s and most of the 1960s. He returned in 1965 for a normal enough Riddler appearance…



The thing that stood out was that that issue of Batman just happened to be one of the ones used as an inspiration for the Batman TV series of the following year (you might not know this, but the Batman TV series was based on the comics of the day and that’s why it was campy while the Green Hornet TV series was based on the old Green Hornet radio show, which is why it was not as campy) and the Riddler was soon a popular character on the series, depicted by Frank Gorshin.

His TV popularity kept the Riddler in recurring appearance in the Bat-books for the next couple of decades, but he was rarely depicted as much of a threat. Denny O’Neil, for instance, never even bothered to revamp him in the early 1970s.

The Riddler got a big boost in 2003 when it was revealed that HE was the secret mastermind behind the Hush storyline, as the Riddler had discovered Batman’s secret identity!




Soon afterwards, the Riddler suffered a brain injury and forgot Batman’s ID but instead reformed and became a consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes-style…



He eventually returned to villainy and in the new 52, Scott Snyder is doing a new take on the Riddler, establishing him as being connected to Bruce Wayne before Bruce ever even became the Batman!

Go to the next page for #3-1!

3. Two-Face

Two-Face has an interesting distinction in being the Batman villain that the Bat-writers have probably been the kindest to over the years (not counting Catwoman, I suppose). Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos, Two-Face has one of the great origins in villain history…





But in his third appearance, in 1949, he was CURED!


Not only that, but for whatever reason, the writers decided to actually STICK with Harvey being cured. Instead, they introduced a variety of replacement Two-Faces over the rest of the 1950s.

For whatever reason, the villain, one of Batman’s most interesting, was not used at ALL in the 1960s, except for a World’s Finest Comics story where Batman is temporarily turned into a Two-Face himself. That comic is notable because in it Batman specifically says that Two-Face is the criminal he fears the most…


Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams brought Two-Face back to Batman’s Rogues Gallery in the early 1970s…




And he has never left.

The major change, though, has been the way that writers like Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb have explored Harvey Dent’s pre-Two-Face time extensively. In fact, Harvey Dent was even a hero for a time as recently as Infinite Crisis, where Batman left Gotham under a cured Harvey Dent’s protection!!

But eventually, as is his wont, Harvey was re-scarred and returned to villainy. He is a major Bat-villain in the new 52, as well.

2. Ra’s Al Ghul

Created by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, Ra’s Al Ghul has a significant advantage on his fellow Batman rogues. While the others all tend to cause problems within Gotham City, Ra’s is the only Batman villain who typically threatens the entire WORLD! He also commands the League of Assassins, who are very cool in their own right.

In the very first Ra’s Al Ghul story, the dude flat out DIES! But, of course, one of the hooks of Ra’s Al Ghul is that with him, death is not the end…




Later in that classic story, Batman and Ra’s face off in a sword duel in the desert! Only one of the most iconic fights in Batman history!




In Detective Comics #700, Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan nicely established how Ra’s is working on a whole different scale of villainy than most Batman villains…




Recently, Ra’s has been usurped a bit by his daughter, Talia, in the villainy department, as his most notable New 52 appearance has been fighting Red Hood and the Outlaws (and losing!).

1. The Joker

Created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, the Joker has had four distinct periods in his career of being Batman’s greatest villain (and really, there never was a time when he WASN’T Batman’s greatest villain since he debuted).

First, his earliest appearances where he was a sadistic, ruthless and clever murderer…




This version of Joker was extremely popular. In the first dozen issues of Batman, the Joker appeared in three quarters of them!

However, as time went by, the Joker’s murdering ways were deemed a bit excessive, so although he continued to be Batman’s most popular foes, he became more goofy than anything, like when he got his own utility belt…




Notice how Joker didn’t even kill the cops when he could have.

In 1973, after the biggest gap yet between appearances (a couple of years – like I said, the guy was always REALLY popular), Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams brought back a new version of the Joker – crazy AND murderous…



Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin followed up on this…




In the late 1980s, led by Alan Moore’s use of the Joker, a new version of the Joker began to show up – a chaotic murderer…




Even during the O’Neil/Adams period Joker was crazy but he had some sort of motive behind his killings. Not any more (and that is not a knock on Moore himself, as in his story the Joker DID have a motive – to drive Commissioner Gordon insane – it’s a matter where later writers have picked up on just the surface aspect of Moore’s story – the seeming chaos of it all).