Batman has faced some formidable foes over the years: the Joker, Ra's al Ghul, the Court of Owls. However, there is one villain who despite his cold-hearted nature, has managed to warm his way into the hearts of fans. Originally created by Dave Wood and Bob Kane and later reimagined by Paul Dini, the character of Mister Freeze has undergone a drastic transformation since he first graced the pages of comic books and television screens. After nearly 30 years of being portrayed as a one-note mad scientist turned monster, Mister Freeze gained a more tragic backstory in Batman: The Animated Series and from then on, has become one of Batman's most beloved villains.
Equipped with cryogenic technology capable of freezing his enemies, Freeze stopped at nothing when it came to finding a cure for his ailing wife. Throughout his many revisions, the character's tale of undying love has remained constant and has been portrayed in comics, animated televisions shows and films, and a live-action movie. Though considered a sympathetic character, Freeze has lately been walking on thin ice in recent comics and has even threatened to turn the world into a winter wonderland to achieve ultimate peace. In many ways, the character has been compared to Batman in that they are both deeply devoted to their cause, but struggle with their moral compasses when it comes to achieving their vision of justice. While Batman has displayed a desire to redeem many of his enemies, his compassion toward Freeze and struggle to have him remember who he was before his heart turned cold has been a constant battle, which, in the end, may only be won when Hell freezes over.
First created in 1959, the original Mr. Freeze went by the name Mr. Zero and was intended to be more of a comedic criminal rather than a serious threat to the Caped Crusader. Joining the ranks among Batman's "joke villains," the character earned the chill-inducing name of "Mr. Freeze" when he appeared on the 1960's television show staring Adam West.
Originally, the character's backstory was extremely limited; having him be a crazed scientist whose creation of an "ice gun" backfires and turns him into a frozen monster. His origin was later reinvented by Paul Dini in Batman: The Animated Series with the introduction of Victor Fries, a brilliant scientist working to cure his terminally ill wife who he had frozen in a cryogenic sleep.
On the 1960s Batman, the frosty foe of the Dark Knight was the victim of a lab experiment gone wrong. Known as Doctor Art Shivel, the character became covered in a frozen substance that bonded to him, rendering him unable to survive exposure to temperatures above 50 degrees below zero. This debilitating condition forced him to wear a cooling suit and drastically altered his appearance.
As the show progressed, the character was portrayed by three different actors. In Season 1, a less-developed version of Mr. Freeze was played by George Sanders. Returning in Season 2 with a more elaborate suit and improved weaponry, he was portrayed in the first half by Otto Preminger and later replaced by Eli Wallach.
Regarded as one of the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, "Heart of Ice" introduced the character of Dr. Victor Fries who suffers a terrible incident while trying to save his dying wife Nora and is reborn as the sinister "Mr. Freeze." At the end of the episode, he is shown in his jail cell seeking comfort for his failed revenge plot by a music box bearing his wife's image.
His tragic nature was further emphasized in Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero where he tries to revive Nora by using Barbara Gordon as a reluctant organ donor. Thwarted again by Batman, the cold-hearted villain seemingly perishes in a fiery explosion. Having survived the inferno, Freeze is overcome with emotion learning, years later, his wife has been successfully revived by Wayne Enterprises.
After his tragic accident, Victor Fries undergoes a dramatic transformation involving his entire skeletal structure becoming frozen, leaving him cold-blooded. His altered physique allows his skin cells to act as "storage units for the cold," enabling him to withstand subzero temperatures.
Though immune to most toxins and viruses, his frosty nature makes him highly vulnerable in warm environments. When held at Arkham Asylum, his jail cell is fitted with a refrigeration system to keep him from overheating at room temperature. Along with a cooling suit, Mr. Freeze's weapons are capable of generating a "cold field" he can use to imprison his enemies in solid blocks of ice.
Along with keeping his body at a comfortably cold temperature, Mr. Freeze's cyro-suit gives him enhanced strength and durability. Acting as a protective armor, the suit has the capability to withstand explosive impacts, gunshots, and in one instance, a bomb. Over the years, the suit has undergone various re-designs.
In the Arkham City video game, the suit includes a security override that prevents anyone from compromising the technology. In Arkham Knight, Freeze alters the suit to make it more lightweight, having a wrist-mounted set of freezing guns on his arm as his only weapon. In Batman & Robin, the cryo-suit was much heavier and powered by small white diamonds. The armor also had a built-in set of wings and a detonator that would trigger icicle bombs.
Being exposed to chemicals meant for cryo-statis, Freeze's altered biology suggests he has slowed down his natural aging process. Various interpretations regarding the character suggest one of the chemicals he came into contact with during his accident was glycerol, a "cryo-protectant he intended to use for cryopreservation."
The former scientist's coolant technology was harnessed by the Court of Owls to keep their Talons in a state of suspended animation to be resurrected at a later time. The mysterious secret society is able to sway Freeze into supplying them with the freezing chemical by stating their common desire to see "the downfall of Batman." Freeze later realizes he has been double-crossed by the Court when they send one of their assassins to dispose of him.
As one of Batman's most technologically advanced villains, Mr. Freeze's weaponry is on par with that of both Lex Luthor and Apokilips. Combined with his extensive knowledge of cryogenics, Freeze's technology has the capability of turning cities into winter wastelands and creating massive frozen armies.
Considered one of the most dangerous men in the DCU, Luthor is extremely intelligent and vastly creative when it comes to designing weapons. His most well-known creation is a Kryptonite-powered war suit designed to go one-on-one with the Man of Steel. Apokiliptian technology, on the other hand, is capable of galaxy-sized devastation and is considered "the source of unparalleled misery in the universe."
Even after his transformation, Mr. Freeze still retains much of his genius-level intellect. Working as a scientist at GothCorp, he possessed vast knowledge in areas of engineering, genetics, and medical science. He is also multilingual; having the ability to speak German, Greek and Latin.
During his search to find a cure for his wife's illness, he proved his theory about achieving immortality through suspended animation by preserving her in a cryogenic state. As the cold-blooded villain, Freeze was able to use his knowledge of cryogenics to save Catwoman after her heart was removed by Hush, as well as creating various weapons to aid him in his pursuit of vengeance.
Despite his cold-hearted nature, Freeze found himself easily overcome by the temptations of love. Fueled by his blind devotion to his dying wife, he proved his cruelty knew no bounds when it came to finding a cure. In the Arkham video-game series, Nora reveals she's been aware of her husband's decent into madness, desperately pleading to be allowed to live outside of the cryogenic chamber.
In Batman Annual #1, it's revealed Freeze's devotion to his beloved is based on an obsessive fantasy. While working on his doctoral thesis regarding cryogenics, Victor Fries encounters the preserved Nora Fields and convinces himself they're married, seeking to be reunited with his lover. Batman devastates him by revealing Nora was born in 1943 and is "old enough to be [his] grandmother."
Freeze's devotion to his ailing wife was tragically portrayed on Gotham. In the series, Victor Fries is introduced as a former cryogenic engineer working to cure his wife of her terminal disease. Arming himself with a giant freezing gun and donning winter apparel, Fries begins attacking the citizens of Gotham to use in his experiments and is dubbed "Mr. Freeze" by news outlets.
In "A Dead Man Feels No Cold," Fries believes he has succeeded in finding a cure but when he administers it to Nora, she begins to wither away. In his devastation, Fries turns the chemicals on himself, seeking to end his life, but instead turns into a frozen monster haunted by his wife's passing despite her final words being "don't blame yourself."
In the New 52, Mr. Freeze's origin story took an even more chilling turn when it revealed the character's true obsession with the cold. A young Victor is shown eager to compete in the annual snowman-building competition and in his excitement, fails to realize his mother has fallen through the frozen pond they've been walking on. Though she survives, her body preserved by the ice, his mother's mind is left severely damaged.
When she's released from the hospital, Victor takes her to the pond again having her believe they are going to the competition. Seeing that his mother has been self-harming, the devoted son seeks to release her from her pain by returning her to the frozen depths.
In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #190-91, Mr. Freeze's unusual behavior begins to concern Batman. The normally cold-blooded criminal begins a series of robberies, stealing what appears to be random items with little to no monetary value. Also, instead of disposing of his victims in blocks of ice, he leaves them with "nothing more than frostbite."
Discussing the case with Alfred, Bruce realizes Freeze is showing symptoms of depression and is seeking to end his life. Regretful at having not been able to save his dying wife, Freeze has been collecting objects representative of his time with Nora. Despite attempts to stop Freeze's pursuit of the ultimate end, the Dark Knight is unable to save him from seemingly perishing in a fiery inferno.
During the events of Underworld Unleashed, Mr. Freeze is granted the power of cryokinesis -- the ability to manipulate ice -- by the demonic Neron in exchange for his soul. He was also able to withstand warmer temperatures without the aid of his cryo-suit.
In the arc "Frozen Assets," the villain plans to coerce some of Gotham's elder elite into allowing him to cryogenically freeze them to achieve immortality. In reality, he plans to fatally freeze them and lay claim to their fortune. When each member refuses his offer, Freeze gives into his growing anger and eliminates them. His unusually crazed antics come to the attention of the Dynamic Duo, who manage to put a stop to his reign of terror.
After the events of SubZero, Mr. Freeze begins to drastically deteriorate, to the point where only his head remains fully intact. Adopting a more sadistic personality and given a new robotic suit, Freeze begins a reign of terror in Gotham in an attempt to "stamp out warmth wherever it glowed."
In Batman Beyond, it's revealed that for 40 years, Freeze's head has remained preserved in a storage facility at Wayne-Powers. His consciousness is then transferred to a cloned version of himself and is momentarily returned to his normal human state. However, his body soon shows signs of reverting back to its old ways and he dons the persona of Mr. Freeze once again.
In All Star: Batman #6, the Caped Crusader heads to Alaska to stop Mr. Freeze from harnessing the world's oldest ice core and ushering in a new Ice Age. In his madness, Mr. Freeze reveals he's been cryogenically freezing people from around the world to be reawakened years later to be members of his frozen army.
After reviving his wife and restoring himself, the couple would join this new population and live together in a world that has been reborn from the ice. In an interview regarding the darker nature of the comic, writer Scott Snyder spoke of his vision of Mr. Freeze being "a reminder of how wrong all of our passions can go."