Over the decades Batman has assembled the most impressive rouges gallery in all of pop culture. The mere fact that we can do a Top 20 list and still feel like we’re leaving people off speaks to the quality of Gotham’s villains. Any how, this thing is long enough already, so let’s just get started.
20. Hush – Batman #609 (January 2003)
His intro story arc is one of my favorite ever. He involved a good portion of the villains soon to be mentioned and manipulated all of them, it was as strong an entrance as one could hope for.
So, who is Hush? Dr. Tommy Elliot is his given name. A bit of a mirror for Batman. He has no super powers, but exceptional intelligence and will power. Tommy was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, and was also born into a wealthy family. As kids the two boys would play games, and Elliot would use to teach Bruce how to think like his opponents. Unlike Wayne however, Elliot hated his parents, despising both his drunk and abusive father and his meek mother.
Driven by his desire for their wealth, he cut the brakes on his parents’ car, causing a crash that killed his father. His mother was saved however by Dr. Thomas Wayne, which enraged young Tommy. While at a summer camp with Bruce, Tommy attacked a boy and ended up in a psych ward. He blamed Bruce and Martha Wayne for his outburst, and he was soon released by an intern named Jonathan Crane (Pre-Scarecrow).
During the next few years, Elliot tended to his mother, and while at first relishing the irony that Bruce had lost his parents, his anger grew when hearing about Bruce Wayne living a life of leisure and travel. As years past Elliot befriended a woman named Peyton Riley (who would later become the 2nd Ventriloquist) – a relationship of which his mother never approved. Mrs. Elliot disowned Tommy and cut him off from the Elliot fortune in retaliation for his continuing relationship with Peyton. So Tommy killed her, while Peyton killed their lawyer and destroyed Mrs. Elliot’s will. Now the recipient of the Elliot fortune, Tommy abandoned Riley and began traveling the world, as his nemesis Bruce had. Although he went on to Harvard and became a successful surgeon, Elliot continued to hold an irrational grudge towards his childhood friend.
Years later, Edward Nigma (the Riddler) was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and hijacked one of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits to regain his health. During this mystical treatment, the highly intelligent Nigma experienced an unexpected epiphany, deducing that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Soon afterwards, realizing that they shared a common hatred for Wayne, Elliot and the Riddler decided to team up. To this end, Elliot created for himself the persona of Hush. A name coined by the Scarecrow, referencing the lullaby “Hush Little Baby”, a song about a child who could never be satisfied with what he had.
Since that first storyline Hush has had a pacemaker inserted in his chest by the Joker as retribution for trying to kill Batman. Hush then removed Catwoman’s heart to do the same to her, and beat the Riddler almost to death. He then altered his appearance to look like Bruce Wayne, whom he masqueraded as for some time while Wayne was actually dead.
Hush has embedded himself one way or another in every major Batman storyline since 2002, and for that reason has made himself relevant past just his initial intro arc. This fact, combined with his murder of Harold, whom I was a long time fan of, has given way for him to enter into the Top 20.
19. The Red Hood – Detective Comics #168 (February 1951)
In the original continuity, an employee looking to steal from the company that employs him, adopts the persona of Red Hood. After committing the theft, which Batman thwarts, the Red Hood falls into a vat of chemical waste. He subsequently emerges with white skin, red lips, green hair, and a permanent grin, later calling himself the Joker.
Now in the more commonly accepted origin, The Killing Joke, we see The Joker as a struggling comedian who owes money to the mob. As a way of paying off his debt, they let him wear the mask to seemingly protect his identity as he leads them though the chemical factory that he used to work at, and into the building next door. Also in early stories, they talk about other criminals using the Hood to make the police think just one man was committing many crimes.
In recent years the Red Hood reemerged, now worn by Jason Todd. The 2nd Robin had returned from the dead to become the 2nd Red Hood. Looking to replace Batman as new age vigilante akin to MARVEL’s Frank Castle (The Punisher) Red Hood kills criminals rather than apprehending them.
Jason Todd’s return is not something I’ve even been a big fan off. His death was the most significant event in Batman’s life since the murder of the Waynes, and because of that, he should not have been brought back. However he has since given up his villianous ways and rejoined the Bat-Family.
In the New52, the Red Hood reappears in brutally violent fashion, not one man this time, but a gang, all wearing the disguise. This group is eventually all killed off by the Joker, but they prove rather formidable to a young Bruce Wayne, just returned to Gotham.
18. Scarface w/Ventriloquist – Detective Comics #583 (February 1988)
Arnold Wesker was a ventriloquist with multiple personalities, and his puppet was a gangster called Scarface. Under the puppet’s psychological influence, Wesker was a dangerous criminal and crime boss.
Born into a powerful Mafia Family, Wesker developed Dissociative Identity Disorder after seeing his mother murdered by an assassin from a rival Family. Following a barroom brawl in which he kills someone, Wesker is sent to Blackgate Penitentiary. He is introduced to “Woody”, a dummy carved by his cellmate Donnegan. Woody convinces him to escape and he kills Donnegan in a fight which scars the dummy, thus resulting in the birth of Scarface.
Wesker lets the Scarface personality do the dirty work, and is dominated by the puppet, who barks orders and degrades him. Wesker is unable to enunciate the letter “B” while throwing his voice, and replaces them with the letter “G” instead. For example, Scarface often calls Batman “Gatman.”
It is often cloudy as to whether Scarface is an aspect of Wesker’s personality, or actually has sentience. In the The Riddle Factory, it is revealed that a gangster named “Scarface” Scarelli had once been active in Gotham City, though had apparently died long before Batman’s era. The dummy has shown to be indirectly responsible for multiple accidents while separated from Wesker. Scarface has also retained his speech impediment while not in Wesker’s possession, and seemed to even show awareness of his name during this period.
In many stories, Wesker is accompanied by a loyal bodyguard named Rhino. Sometimes Rhino is portrayed as genuinely believing Scarface to be the boss.
The Ventriloquist is one of many villains in the Rogues Gallery to be confined to Arkham Asylum when Batman apprehends him. During the Knightfall saga, after Bane had destroyed Arkham and released its tenants, unable to find Scarface, Wesker uses a sock puppet in his place for a short time. After robbing a toy store, he procures a number of other hand puppets to fill in for Scarface, including one of a police officer which he refers to as “Chief O’Hara”, in reference to the 1960s Batman TV show. Wesker uses the sock puppet until he can find a suitable replacement for Scarface. Later, Scarface and “Socko” are set at odds until a standoff occurs, and the puppets shoot each other, leaving Wesker unconscious and bleeding from two wounded hands.
Batman often uses Wesker and Scarface for info because they are easily intimidated. And while they reign terror over the city, they are sometimes an asset to Batman, much like in the No Man’s Land story-arch, which may have been the best long running storyline I’ve read.
In Detective Comics #818, Wesker is fatally shot by an unseen assailant. Scarface is stepped on and its head crushed, it is revealed that Tally Man, an enforcer for the Great White Shark, is responsible for the murder.
Following the murder of Wesker, Peyton Riley took over the duty of voicing Scarface.
Detective Comics #827 (March 2007)
The new female Ventriloquist, called Sugar by Scarface, is a more compatible partner than Wesker. Scarface no longer substitutes “b” with “g” and she is much more compliant with Scarface’s brutal methods. She and Scarface seem to have a relationship similar to the Joker and Harley Quinn, as she seems to believe that the dummy truly loves her. When nearly captured by Batman and Harley Quinn, who has a strong dislike for Sugar, borne out of strong feelings of friendship towards her predecessor, Peyton has Scarface say: “Save yourself.” Unlike Wesker, who was horrified at any damage to Scarface, Sugar rigs her dummies to explode, using this to cover her escapes. She has numerous identical dummies at her hideout, one of which then becomes the “real” Scarface.
At one point Scarface kidnaps a rival gangster, Johnny Sabatino, and takes Bruce Wayne hostage. While alone, “Sugar” breaks from Scarface and talks to Bruce in what appears to be her ‘real’ personality. She reveals that she knows Wayne, as she was engaged to a friend of his ‘years ago.’ This friend was in fact Tommy Elliot.
The ambiguity of Scarface being alive or not makes this character immensely more creepy, a guiding force in the requirements for this list. Though originally a bit of a gag character, Scarface and whomever is carrying him at the time have become darker and more dangerous as Gotham has evolved over the years.
17. The Falcone Family – Batman #404 (March 1987)
The Falcone family, and Carmine Falcone in particular are portrayed as almost completely in control of Gotham City before Batman’s arrival. They are major players in Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, and Dark Victory, all three are stories which I’d rank among the best Batman arcs ever. Carmine is credited with ordering the acid thrown at Harvey Dent, in essence creating Two-Face, and he was featured in Batman Begins. Carmine, eventually murdered by Two-Face, left his empire in the hands of his daughter Sofia. She took it over with the intent of using her power to crush Dent, Gordon, and Batman, all of whom she blamed for the death of her father.
Carmine’s son Alberto turned out to be the serial killer known as ‘Holiday’, who was the focus of the aforementioned books. Carmine spent much of The Long Halloween trying to find out the identity of Holiday even going as far as to hire the Riddler to investigate.
While used relatively sparingly compared to some other members on this list, they play a huge part in early Batman lore. Also they lend to the escalation of the more well know super villains, or as they are referred to in Gotham, the ‘freaks’. Without starting his career against the Falcones, Batman perhaps would never have survived dealing with ‘the Freaks’ later on.
Catwoman is also believed to be Carmine’s daughter. In The New 52, Carmine Falcone (not dead anymore) appears, determined to reclaim his empire after framing Commissioner Gordon for mass murder.
16. Professor Pyg – Batman #666 (July 2007)
I’d say a vast majority of you have no idea who Professor Pyg is. That’s mostly because he is still fairly new. Introduced in 2007, Pyg quickly kidnapped Jim Gordon, nearly brainwashed Robin, and forced Batman and Robin to turn to the Joker for help stopping him. And in one possible future we’ve been shown, we see Robin, now grown up, still having to deal with Pyg, in a much more prominent role among Gotham’s Crime hierarchy.
So who is this Professor Pyg? His name is Lazlo Valentin, a schizophrenic man who has an obsession with making people ‘perfect’, stemming from the disapproval of his mother. He accomplishes this feat by transforming his victims into Dollotrons, a process that bonds “doll” faces to their own. Oh, and in a Norman Bates like twist, his mother, whom he frequently talks to, is made of wood and barbed wire. He is depicted using cordless drills, hammers and icepicks to perform surgery on his victims. Both Robin and Jim Gordon have already spent time on his table.
Professor Pyg is also the leader of a gang known as the ‘Circus of the Strange’, and though he’s been seen working with The Black Glove, his own goals are all that matter to him. He is a mad scientist and artist. A sadist, narcissist, masochist, drug addict and sexual deviant. His Dollotrons are a personal army of zombie-like, brain-damaged victims. They all wear doll-like dresses and have bag-like doll faces permanently attached to them. The process of creating them is not fully revealed, but it is implied it might be involving some kind of brain surgery, genital mutilation, and probably the mind-altering drugs Pyg uses. The doll mask is grafted on using some kind of boiling liquid or drug. It’s all rather creepy.
He is also responsible for Scarlet, a Russian girl who has a doll face attached to her, but Pyg is stopped by Robin before other surgeries are performed. She later joins the Red Hood as his side-kick for a period.
Pyg, in my opinion is the best villain of any created in the last decade. He is the right kind of mad for the city, and fits Gotham perfectly. He has to the makings to be the first really great villain of the modern era.