Over the last several years, the Joker has inarguably been cemented as the most well known of villainous characters. His deranged behavior is the stuff of legend across film, games, comics, and television. For some audiences, his reign of terror has lasted too long, resulting in his overexposure. When a new Batman-centric project emerges, in most instances, the Joker sits front and center -- he’s a compelling villain. Furthermore, the exploration of his and Batman’s dynamic, albeit bizarre, relationship never ceases to provide great storytelling content. Still, there are other villains in Batman’s rogues gallery who would be just as intriguing were they given half the attention the Clown Prince of Crime regularly receives. To some extent, such villains are just as deranged, if not more so, than the Dark Knight’s greatest foe. Unfortunately, they are seldom permitted the opportunity to prove themselves as comparably formidable.
When referring to lesser known or underrated rogues as deranged, the extent of their insanity may not be exactly one-to-one when compared to the Joker. Let’s face it, few characters share his brand of lunacy. However, because Joker has an absence of morals and follows no code, the actions of the villains who do are, arguably, rendered more depraved. This is true of many villains throughout the DC Universe. The intention of this list, though, is to shine a light on the underrated Batman antagonists. Like the Joker, these characters harbor lunacy beyond measure. Yet, for some reason, they never get their due. Here are 20 underrated Batman villains crazier than the Clown Prince.
The Joker and Thomas Elliot, better known as Hush, have a few things in common. Yes, both are insane. However, these two villains also share an unhealthy obsession with the same man. Additionally, both characters have had their faces removed by skilled surgeons. The key difference here is that Thomas Elliot surgically removes his own face, whereas Joker has to rely on the handiwork of Dollmaker.
Another aspect separating their respective levels of insanity stems from Hush’s reconstructive surgery being performed so he can take on the guise of Bruce Wayne. Joker may have a troubling and obsessive personality, but Hush’s maniacal behavior is wholly exclusive to him.
19 VICTOR ZSASZ
Few DC villains are as disturbed as Victor Zsasz. In recent years, thanks to the Batman: Arkham series and Gotham, Zsasz has become more mainstream. Undoubtedly, his behavior rests at the forefront of his rising popularity. This behavior consists of Zsasz believing that he helps people escape their meager existence by doing away with them. After taking lives, he carves a tally mark on his body to commemorate each one.
Depictions of Zsasz resemble that of stereotypical mental patients. He’s set apart from the Joker by fervently believing in a cause. To Zsasz, his wickedness bears purpose. There’s method to his madness, which is typically deemed clinical insanity. Can the same be said of Joker? In some iterations. However, the Clown is often no more than an agent of chaos.
18 CALENDAR MAN
Calendar Man has always been a colorful, yet strange, character. Like several others on this list, he’s a villain with a bizarre modus operandi. Calendar Man commits crimes according to the most important dates on the calendar -- holidays. Sometimes, he will even orchestrate his wrongdoings to correspond with certain days of the week.
His Silver Age incarnation depicts him as a petty criminal, a costumed foe who engages in silly hijinks for a laugh and the thrill of an overly elaborate scheme. Upon his return in Batman: The Long Halloween, Calendar Man is taken more seriously. Recent iterations portray him as a psychotic criminal who’s willing to take lives. Anyone who engages in premeditated villainy to this extent is worthy of consideration as Joker levels of crazy.
17 PROFESSOR PYG
Lazlo Valentin, aka Professor Pyg, is new to the Batman mythos, having fittingly debuted in 2007's Batman #666. Characterized as a schizophrenic, Pyg’s mental illness explains much of his eccentricities. One such aspect of his unorthodox nature is founded in his desire to make everything perfect. How does he go about accomplishing this task? By unleashing Dollotrons and mind altering substances on Gotham.
The Dollotrons are at the center of Professor Pyg’s storied depravity. These beings are actually brainwashed people who follow his every command as though they are robots. Though they act as his loyal minions, the Dollotrons are very much expendable. Suffice it to say, Professor Pyg is one of Batman’s more terrifying foes.
16 CORNELIUS STIRK
Cornelius Stirk is an obscure villain from the late '80s, who debuts in Detective Comics #582. A mentally ill patient committed to Arkham Asylum as a teenager for ending someone at school, Stirk begins developing psionic abilities. These powers enable him to alter the perception of others, which results in folks believing he’s someone he isn’t.
Extensive treatment eventually ensures his release from Arkham. However, after reentering society, Stirk doesn’t waste time in going on a crime spree. The mere act of taking lives is beneath him, though. Joker’s a lot of things, but this sadistic isn’t one of them… barring the one time he steals Mxyzptlk’s abilities and eats China, of course.
15 MAD HATTER
Jervis Tetch, better known as the Mad Hatter, takes obsessing over favorite childhood stories to an uncomfortable degree of creepiness. Lewis Caroll’s seminal work, Alice in Wonderland serves as the muse behind the villain’s deranged compulsions. Different incarnations of the character depict him in a variety of ways. However, one recurring thread manifests in his development of mind control technology and his descent into madness.
Following this descent, Mad Hatter begins abducting young women, referring to each one as Alice, and using them for various purposes. In the post-Crisis continuity, he traffics them. In other iterations, the girls are subject to far more sinister behavior from the costumed villain. Regardless, the Mad Hatter certainly counts as one villain that could one-up Joker in a battle of insanity.
Matilda Mathis, aka Dollhouse, first debuts during Judd Winick’s New 52 run of Catwoman. She’s daughter to the Dollmaker, Barton Mathis, and chooses to succeed her father in his work. But even prior to adopting the mantle of Dollhouse, Matilda's mental instability reaches a fever pitch. For one, she wears a porcelain mask that’s grafted to her face and dresses herself in nurse’s garb. Apparently, she prefers to taker her victims' lives while dressing in such a manner.
Dollhouse picks up where her father left off, taking Gotham’s more misfortunate citizens, and making money off of the black market for them. Like Dollmaker, Matilda turns the bodies into dolls, of which she keeps more than a few for the “Dollhouse.”
13 HUGO STRANGE
Professor Hugo Strange’s brilliance knows no bounds. In addition to being a genius psychologist, he single-handedly discovers the identity of Batman. The problem? His obsession with the Bat keeps him from actually using his incredible intellect for good. To this end, Hugo Strange is somewhat similar to Lex Luthor, who often admits that his Superman obsession distracts him.
However, Strange’s connection to Batman is more than an overbearing desire to rid the world of someone he doesn’t like. He’s consumed by the vigilante. During his Legends of the Dark Knight debut, Strange even dresses up as the Bat, gallivanting across rooftops to recreate the experience for himself. Engaging in peculiar behavior does not an insane person make. Yet, the Professor sometimes gives Joker a run for his money.
12 BLACK MASK
On a surface level, Black Mask is an average comic book crimelord. He’s cruel, vindictive, power hungry, and rules over his corner of Gotham’s underbelly with an iron fist. No one garners that kind of dominance without having a few screws loose. However, this villain takes loose screws to another dimension.
The most notable example of his disturbed nature manifests in how he gets his black mask. After losing the Sionis family business, he storms to his family’s place of rest and carves out a chunk of his father’s coffin. He uses this chunk to craft the mask. Black Mask also spends a lengthy period of time in Arkham Asylum. In the New 52 continuity, the mask gives him the power of mind control. Its constant use elevates his madness.
It’s arguably more appropriate to refer to Prometheus as a Justice League villain. In some instances, he’s considered an Green Arrow foe. But Prometheus has had a few bouts with the Batman, too. What makes this rogue stand out amongst the pantheon of DC baddies is his penchant for going on killing sprees. Sometimes vengeance sparks this behavior. Other times it's random or to prove a point.
Despite his sordid immorality, he does possess an above average intellect and superior fighting skills. Of course, none of these traits are used for good. If anything, his talents make him all the more deranged, as he’s able to enact his worse thoughts in the most effective ways imaginable. Destroying Star City counts as just one example of this.
10 THE FLAMINGO
Eduardo Flamingo, or The Flamingo, is a man for hire who gets in his fair share of trouble. If his hot pink suit and matching motorcycle don’t give it away, The Flamingo's eccentricities are quite bold. What lands him on this list, however, has nothing do with his outward appearance or choice of career.
The Flamingo does not merely end his targets. He’s been known to consume their faces after completing the job. Flamingo’s hunger tendencies also make their way into his cross-media appearances. The character features in the second season of Gotham, where he’s for hire. During his transfer to GCPD, he tries devouring a cop. Joker’s attacked plenty of Gotham’s finest, but never in this manner.
Since the character’s 1968 introduction, three iterations of Dollmaker have graced the pages of DC Comics. The most popular iteration, Barton Mathis, debuts during New 52 and is a mad scientist-like criminal. Like others on this list, Mathis doesn’t simply take lives. In addition to removing the Joker’s face, this version of Dollmaker creates dolls from what's left.
In Arrow, Dollmaker takes people and injects them with a deadly mixture that hardens their bodies from the inside out. Afterwards, he dresses and arranges them like dolls. Gotham’s Dollmaker conducts disturbing experiments. Describing Dollmaker as twisted is a gross understatement.
8 MAXIE ZEUS
Maxie Zeus’ delusional perception of the world positions him as a God-like figure. If nothing else, he never shies away from dressing the part. However, Maxie’s intelligence garners him and his antics a seat at the table alongside Gotham’s most powerful mobsters. And he doesn’t take his prestige lightly. There are several instances of Maxie attempting to annihilate the Batman. Of course, victory never favors the villain.
Additionally, his ambitions of lording over Gotham’s underbelly results in casualties. His delusions don’t end with a want for power, either. To ensure his daughter, Medea, has a surrogate mother, Maxie tries abducting an Olympic athlete. His crimes pale in comparison to the Joker’s. But that Maxie’s mental illness can turn him from doting father to frightful manic is quite terrifying.
7 DEACON BLACKFIRE
Deacon Blackfire debuts in Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson’s criminally underrated mini-series, Batman: The Cult. Deep in the sewers of Gotham, Deacon Blackfire runs a cult that primarily consists of homeless people. His goal isn’t to save lives and inspire hope amongst folks in need of help. Rather, the Deacon works to build an army that will effectively upend Gotham’s criminal troubles and dismantle local government. Thanks to mind control and false promises, he succeeds for a time.
Blackfire’s an old man, but doesn’t look it, since he washes himself in human blood to maintain youth. It’s unsettling behavior to say the least. Yet, it still takes a brutal beating from Batman for the Deacon’s followers to finally see him as a conman.
Abattoir isn’t a typical criminal, which should not be surprising; his name means slaughterhouse, after all. He’s a Marv Wolfman creation that first appears in Detective Comics #625. Abattoir’s been committed to Arkham several times. Believing his family to be full of diabolical people, he escapes and goes after his remaining relatives. He doesn’t just wipe them out to rid the world of evil, though. His primary goal is to consume their vitality, granting him power and wisdom.
This character inarguably stands as one of the most twisted in Batman’s massive gallery of rogues. His actions and motivations result in remarkably abhorrent crimes. Thus, positioning him alongside the likes of Joker isn’t far-fetched.
Since debuting in Detective Comics #583, three versions of Ventriloquist have perplexed audiences. These incarnations include, Arnold Wesker (the better known version), Peyton Riley, and New 52’s Shauna Belzer. Interestingly, the little popularity Ventriloquist has is attributed to Wesker’s appearances in Batman: The Animated Series.
Wesker’s Ventriloquist is a tragic figure. Because of his multiple personality disorder, Wesker uses a ventriloquist dummy to commit mob-related crimes. The doll, famously named Scarface for his Al Capone-like appearance, controls Wesker and the crime business they run. If Scarface isn’t present, Wesker projects an identity onto other inanimate objects, such as sock puppets. Suffice it to say, this rogue’s mental illness puts him in a league of his own.
4 JANE DOE
Jane Doe seems a very unassuming name, particularly for a supervillain. She’s also a recent addition to DC’s pantheon of evildoers, having first appeared in 2003’s Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. Jane Doe has the ability to assume the identity of her victims. With this skill, she is able to adopt a person’s look and personality. The character’s obsession with wanting to take the identity of others for herself inevitably results in Jane Doe’s becoming a lethal criminal.
During her Living Hell debut, she’s a patient in Arkham with a myriad of criminal chargers under her belt. She claims to commit these acts because she lacks her own identity. Therefore, Jane Doe’s sense of self is tied up in the lives of those she steals.
3 DOCTOR AESOP
Mad Hatter isn’t the sole Batman villain to have become so obsessed with a literary work that he vilely reenacts it. A rogue named Doctor Aesop, who debuts during “Heart of Hush” in Detective Comics #846, does this, too. His crimes are inspired by the fables of Greek storyteller, Aesop.
Doctor Aesop’s introduction sees him sicking a wolf on a man who’s guilty of “prematurely sounding the alarm,” while doing jobs for the doctor. During the attack, Doctor Aesop reads from Aesop’s Fables the tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” When he reappears in Gotham City Sirens, he ends an innocent woman and orchestrates an elaborate scheme in an attempt to frame the Sirens. His appearances are few, but he’s a diabolical mastermind nonetheless.
2 MORTIMER KADAVER
Apart from their outward eccentricities, Mortimer Kadaver and the Clown Prince of Crime have a few things in common. Yes, both are ruthless madmen. They are also sadists, who enjoy all of theevil things that they do. Similarly, both get a kick out of experiencing pain for themselves and will go to great extremes to achieve just that. Perhaps Kadaver and Joker are kindred spirits.
Mortimer Kadaver, a disturbingly skilled criminal, first appears in Detective Comics #588. He’s faked his demisea few times, after surviving extensive injuries, and has allied himself with the likes of Penguin. However, Mortimer Kadaver rarely sticks around for long. Perhaps his being a little too much like the Dark Knight’s most famous adversary explains his obscurity.
1 JOKER'S DAUGHTER
Duela Dent refers to herself as Joker’s Daughter and has had an unhealthy obsession with the Clown Prince since debuting in Batman Family in 1976. He’s not actually her father, but she persistently goes to great lengths to convince others it’s true. One horrid instance of her attempts occurs during New 52.
After learning of Joker’s supposed demise during "Death of the Family", Duela sets out on a rampage to get any information she can on his whereabouts. The trail takes her to Dollmaker, who still has Joker’s blood stored after removing his face. When Dollmaker gives Duela the blood, she can injects herself with it. She may not be Joker’s child, but Duela proves herself worthy of the title.