While it may only be an odd coincidence, we can’t help but notice that venerable Batman villain Hugo Strange is receiving a lot of attention these days. In Tom King and David Finch‘s newly launched “Batman,” he’s teamed up with the Psycho-Pirate to take down our hero and his new super-powered allies, and on Fox’s “Gotham” his experiments appear to be headed in a very familiar direction.
Professor Hugo Strange is one of Batman’s oldest foes, preceding The Joker and Catwoman (heck, he even predates the Caped Crusader’s sidekick). He tends to enjoy brief bursts of popularity before falling back into limbo. Because it appears as if he’s about to be incredibly relevant again, here’s a handy guide to Hugo and his occasional host of hulking helpers.
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Hugo debuted in February 1940’s “Detective Comics” #36 — which, if you’re keeping track, is just over 900 issues ago — so he’s been around for a while. He made a big splash, followed by a second appearance in spring 1940’s “Batman” #1 (alongside the debuts of Selina Kyle and the Clown Prince of Crime), and his third in December 1940’s “Detective” #46. Still, once 1940 ended he wasn’t exactly a go-to villain, and didn’t return again for nearly four decades, in August 1977’s “Detective” #471.
That sort of extended gap isn’t exactly unusual, for even the major Batman villains. The Riddler was in two 1948 issues of “Detective” (including his debut), then took the next 16 and a half years off, and Two-Face went more than 17 years between appearances (from 1954’s “Batman” #81 to 1971’s “Batman” #234). The Scarecrow debuted in 1941’s “World’s Finest” #3, returned in 1943’s “Detective” #73, and then dropped off the face of the Earth until 1967’s “Batman” #189. Yet he still can’t touch Hugo Strange’s 37-year hiatus.
When Hugo returned, however, it became a big deal. Writer Steve Englehart’s eight-issue 1977-78 stint on “Detective Comics” used arguably the two most famous Bat-villains, The Joker and The Penguin. Otherwise, he created new ones (Rupert Thorne and Doctor Phosphorus, both with penciler Walt Simonson and inker Al Milgrom) and revived two others (Hugo and Deadshot). Indeed, while the two-part Joker story (penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin) is a classic on its own, Hugo’s involvement stretched beyond his own two-parter. After Englehart and Rogers left, subsequent creative teams brought back Hugo in 1982-83, and he was the villain of 1986’s “Batman Annual.”
Writer Devin Grayson and artist Roger Robinson used him in a 2000 “Gotham Knights” four-parter, he was the villain of a 2005 “Catwoman” arc, and Matt Wagnerexpanded on Hugo’s Golden Age appearances for 2006’s six-issue “Batman and the Monster Men.” After that writer/artist Tony Daniel used Hugo a couple of times, in 2009 and 2012; and Hugo had the requisite cameos and one-off appearances in event miniseries “Salvation Run,” “Gotham Underground,” “Battle for the Cowl” and “Forever Evil.”
Although the regular Bat-books used him sparingly, Hugo occasionally appeared in unusual venues. The Earth-Two version antagonized the Earth-One Batman and Earth-Two Robin and Batwoman in January 1982’s nifty “The Brave and the Bold” #182 (written by Alan Brennert and drawn by Jim Aparo). Later, in the continuity-free “Legends of the Dark Knight” anthology, Hugo was the subject of two five-issue arcs (1990-91 and 2001) by writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy.
Actor B.D. Wong portrays Hugo on “Gotham,” but the character has been animated on “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League Unlimited,” “Young Justice” and “The Batman” (the latter voiced by Frank Gorshin); and has appeared in various Batman video games.
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