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A Professor Pyg Primer: Who Is Gotham's Creepy New Villain?

Pearls Before Swine

Professor Pyg was defeated by Batman and Robin in their first encounter, but they soon discovered that his appearance in Gotham was part of a larger plot by Dr. Simon Hurt, who used Pyg as part of his final scheme to destroy Gotham. Pyg developed a virus that manifested as an addiction, forcing people to do anything in an attempt to get that satiating fix. After the return of Bruce Wayne, Dick and Damian were able to leave Dr. Hurt to him while they saved Gotham from Pyg, turning his own Dollotrons against him.

Pyg-Batman-And-Robin

Morrison eventually dug into the background of Professor Pyg a little bit, confirming that Lazlo Valentin was an agent of the secret espionage agency Spyral who was driven mad by his experiments with chemical and virulent weaponry. Morrison also introduced a new character named Son of Pyg who works for Talia Al Ghul’s Leviathan, but he was easily taken down by Batgirl. Given that his name is Janosz Valentin aka "Johnny Valentine" it’s safe to assume that Son of Pyg is actually Professor Pyg’s biological offspring.

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In the years since, Professor Pyg has stuck around in a way that a lot of Batman villains just don’t do. There are so many iconic Batman rogues that it’s hard for a new one to make a name for themselves and squeeze into the pack, but Pyg has come to represent the Morrison era of Batman and as such has made numerous returns since Batman and Robin. He was in the collection of rogues during the attempted Arkham breakout in Batman #1 at the start of The New 52 and during the Crime Syndicate’s takeover of Earth in Forever Evil, Professor Pyg took over Gotham Memorial Hospital to continue his experiments.

Professor Pyg most recently appeared in the current volume of Nightwing in an arc that hearkened back to Morrison and Quitely’s Batman and Robin, as Dick and Damian teamed up once again to save Dick’s girlfriend for the crazed surgeon. Pyg had created two Dollotrons in the form of Deathwing and Robin, brainwashing them into believing they were Dick and Damian. While the Dollotron Robin was able to fight through his conditioning, Deathwing was too far gone and was obsessed with taking Dick down a path to where he would become just like him. Pyg was easily defeated, but Deathwing remained at large, working directly for Pyg’s patron, Doctor Simon Hurt.

This Little Piggy

Professor Pyg is certainly one of the most visually interesting Batman villains to be introduced in recent years, which explains why he’s been adapted so many times in the past decade, most notably in Batman: Arkham Knight where one of the side quests was solving the mysterious murders of people who found dead who had never visited Gotham before. Eventually, Batman discovers that Pyg abducts people using the Circus of Strange to travel around the country and the people who don’t meet his standards of perfection are killed instead of being turned into Dollotrons. The Arkham Knight interpretation of Pyg is stunningly accurate to the comics — even referencing his son Janosz — with the only major change being that this interpretation prefers opera to disco.

Pyg-Arkham

Pyg also featured in the short-lived animated series Beware The Batman which prided itself on featuring characters and villains not seen before in Batman media. Being a children's’ cartoon show, this version of Professor Pyg was changed radically and instead he and Mister Toad — another Morrison and Quitely character introduced in Batman and Robin — are animal rights activists and eco-terrorists who attack those they deem guilty of crimes against the animal kindom. Pyg remains somewhat of a surgeon, but more in a Dr. Moreau way and is responsible for a number of human/animal hybrids. He also makes a cameo at the end of the recent Injustice 2 video game as part of Red Hood’s story and was featured briefly in Batman: The Brave and The Bold alongside other Morrison-era villains such as Flamingo and King Kraken.

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That brings us to this week’s episode Gotham, which features Professor Pyg — played by Michael Cerveris — as a criminal that targets police officers and places dead pigs heads on their corpses. It’s not quite the Professor Pyg we know and could end up being a very surface level reading of the character, but Gotham is routinely surprising with how well it adapts villains from the comics for its own world and if it manages to capture the sheer strangeness of Professor Pyg, there’s no doubt it could be a breakout role for the character.

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