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How Harley Quinn Overshadowed a Jim Lee-Designed Batman: TAS Villain

The answer is found in 2003’s Rise of Sin Tzu, a videogame produced by Ubisoft. Previous attempts had been made at producing a Batman videogame, most of them earning harsh reviews. Ubisoft was aware of this, consciously attempting to win over fans. With screenwriter Flint Dille, Ubisoft promised a game that worked as a genuine Batman story. And, there to provide the game’s major threat, was Jim Lee.

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Sin Tzu is obviously intended as a play on The Art of War author Sun Tzu. The story plays coy, as if the villain truly is the historical figure. We are told that Sin Tzu, “the master of yin-yang alchemy,” channels the spiritual power of “Mehta-Sua,” also known as Yanjin. Really, he’s a telepath and an energy-blaster.

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Tzu’s master plan has him releasing Arkham Asylum and Stonegate Prison inmates into the Gotham streets. Conveniently, this provides plenty of beat’em up action for multiple players. Experience the debut of a destined-for-greatness Batman villain and play as Batman, Robin, Batgirl, or Nightwing!

Recently, I looked back on the game’s novelization by Devin Grayson. You can also check out the animated cutscenes on Youtube. The novel is at its best when sidestepping the plot of the game and just indulging the author’s love of the Bat-mythos, really. However, the new villain does receive an honest attempt at being molded into a real character. If Sin Tzu had a shot at becoming a recurring foe, Devin Grayson’s intense character focus was likely his best bet.

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As detailed in the novel, both Batman and Tzu are orphans, the tragedy forcing both to grow obsessed with discipline. Never hesitating on his path, consumed by the mission he’s adopted, Tzu has potential as a “twisted reflection” villain. But unlike Bruce, Tzu never developed a family. Starting with Alfred, Bruce has had people in his life to steer him away from darkness…even as he became darkness to fight crime. Sin Tzu, meanwhile, channels “light” (his vaguely defined mystical powers) while in pursuit of his selfish goals.

Clearly, the creators were trying. Sin Tzu's initial inspiration is the ancient Asian mystic archetype. (Probably not something you'd see pitched in 2018.) Yet, defining him specifically as a Batman antagonist was obviously a goal of the creators. And for all of their effort…well, there isn’t a wealth of Sin Tzu follow-up appearances, are there?

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