James Moriarty. Calvin J. Candie. Lex Luthor. You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. The villain is almost always the most interesting character, usually being the active counterpart to the reactive hero. They set the story in motion, driving the hero to persevere and endure whatever may come.
A strong villain is a key part to any story. They need motivation, an interesting personality, a drive to do what they do. DC has a very strong stable of heroes and villains, but 75 years means some truly awful ideas and characters have come up. Some of them are still used today, often updated to make them more relevant. Quite a lot have been forgotten, or intentionally shoved to the side out of embarrassment or a desire to promote better known characters. For every Two-Face, there’s a Cluemaster, or a Titano, or a Silver Banshee. But despite having one of strongest collections of villains in their stables, where even their weaker villains tend to be interesting, a few absolute stinkers have slipped through the cracks, and at best are considered a joke in-universe, or forgotten entirely.
DC gave us the only live-action superhero movie to win a non-technical Oscar (so far), with the late Heath Ledger winning a Supporting Actor for his showstopping turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight. This is a list of those villains DC would be wise to avoid if they want more of those gold statuettes in the awards cabinet.
15. Made of Wood Killer
Back in the Golden Age of Comics, Green Lantern’s greatest weakness was wood. Fortunately we’ve cast aside such silly weaknesses in favour of the colour yellow.
He was an Irish immigrant who killed a bunch of people with a baseball bat before passing his legacy onto his grandson. His first kill was the Mayor of Gotham City for giving people false hope. It took Batman and Green Lantern to take him down, which honestly makes them look incompetent rather than making him look like a threat. He’s an angry guy who hits people with a baseball bat. He’s not a big thinker.
14. Blue Snowman
It’s important to have a good disguise. Some hide in plain sight, under the mask of normalcy or of a legitimate business. Others embrace the lunacy and delight in destroying their former identities of normal people, lost in the crowd. And then you have the Blue Snowman.
Byrna Brylyant is a small-town schoolteacher with big dreams of global domination. So far, so supervillain. She feared that, as a woman, she wouldn’t be taken seriously as a threat, so she opted to disguise herself as a man, and then further disguise herself as a blue snowman. Inception.
She used blue snow (hence the name) and robots to menace Wonder Woman.
13. Ten Eyed Man
A combination of injuries picked up in ‘Nam and a heist left Philip Reardon blind. An experimental surgery restored his vision, but attached his optic nerves to his fingers. Now he sees the world through his fingers. This somehow made him a deadly fighter, despite his inability to make a fist without blinding himself.
It’s difficult to think about what was going on in his creator’s head. Eyes on your fingers is a massive disadvantage in many ways, the primary one being you can’t hold anything. That was the common way to beat him, tricking him into grabbing stuff like shrubs or a cactus.
12. Crazy Quilt
Initially a criminal artist who left instructions for his crew paintings, the man who was to become Crazy Quilt was blinded by a gunshot and later again by Robin. Crazy Quilt was left unable to see anything other than extremely vivid colours. Driven insane by the bright lights, he opted for colour and art themed crimes, assisted by a helmet that blasts bright lights and lasers. He’s a walking rave!
To be fair, the cover to his debut had a badass blurb. “WATCH OUT FOR CRAZY QUILT! THE MAN WHO STOLE HIS EYES!”
More villains should work on their marketing, it’s a crowded market and good advertising is one way to get recognition.
He has a lot of kites. He uses kites and hang-gliders to fly and commit crimes. Strong winds and trees are his arch nemeses.
There was a point where writers just took inspiration from anywhere. Clearly someone saw a news article about kites and said “I want Batman to punch that!” and wrote a story about it.
I wish I had more to say. He flew around on a giant kite and got eaten by a cannibal crime boss. His first story saw Batman defeat him with kites, a heart-breaking betrayal, no doubt. He was also partially inspired by Charlie Brown and his kite-eating tree.
10. Captain Stingaree
Born into a set of quadruplets, Karl Courtney is obsessed with uncovering the Batman’s secret identity. Convinced his three brothers were Batman, he donned a pirate suit and cutlass and ran around in a bad Jack Sparrow cosplay for reasons best described as vague. Batman convinced his brothers to wear Bat-suits to distract him, making him possibly the first villain defeated by cosplay.
Someone wanted to see Batman fighting a pirate, and by God they were determined to make it happen the crappiest way possible. He was later revealed to be gay, and in a relationship with the equally terrible Cavalier, before getting murdered.
9. Penny Plunderer
The Bat-cave is a treasure trove of trophies and toys. From the robot dinosaur to the Batmobile displays, it’s a nerd’s idea of heaven. Quite a few of those trophies are unexplained, or are glossed over. The biggest mystery is the giant penny.
It was a trophy taken from a one-off villain called the Penny Plunderer, who was obsessed with stealing pennies and setting up penny-themed death traps. He was once defeated by a payphone that couldn’t take pennies.
Current official canon states that the giant penny was a trophy from Two-Face, with DC having deemed Penny Plunderer too silly to ever use again.
Remember Child’s Play? With Chucky, the evil ventriloquist dummy? Or Scarface and Ventriloquist? Those guys were cool.
The Dummy (real name unknown) is either a dummy somehow brought to life to commit crimes, or a midget who disguised himself as a dummy for crime-based reasons. He posed as a dummy for an unseen boss to relay orders to his crew before being uncovered as the real mastermind. A second Dummy, a midget who posed as a dummy as part of a stage act, ran a few scams (“dummy promises”) and vowed to make dummies of law enforcers, which grabbed Batman’s attention.
Ah, childhood. Long summer days, freshly cut grass, your dad yelling at you to grow a spine and play sports outside. Where the sun lives.
Born of a writer’s undoubtedly traumatic childhood of enforced sports, the Sportsman title has been worn by many, including someone who retired from crime after losing a baseball game, a football player with a gambling problem, and a guy with an abusive sports mad dad.
He uses sports equipment for evil, including exploding baseballs, lacrosse nets, or basketballs filled with knockout gas. He’s a master of all American sports, raising the question of what would happen if he were to run afoul of a non-American.
6. Clock King
They say timing is everything. They said it too loud to William Tockman.
Obsessed with time and punctuality, he relies on predicting how much time things take. He utilises this ability to predict when punches will be thrown, how long it takes to draw a weapon, and the schedule of public transport. This has backfired at least once, when a late bus caused him and his team to miss a fight in Metropolis.
He was a guest on the old Adam West Batman show, where he attempted to steal antique clocks and watches, and in the animated series, where he stole time travel technology after his first attempts at supervillany failed because being anal about time keeping is not a superpower.
5. Humpty Dumpty
Humphrey Dumpler (COME ON!) lived a life marked by bad luck. Eventually, he decided to break the world and put it back together to make it work. He started with his grandmother, using an anatomy book to try to “fix” her.
He accidentally derails a train, and his shenanigans with a slow clock kills dozens. So far, so terrifying. The problem is, it’s all an accident. His appearances outside comics, in Beware the Batman, recast him as a tragicomic figure, largely ineffective and easily led. He’s just dull. Every other Bat-villain has a tragic childhood with weird themes and a schtick. He doesn’t stick out.
4. Sweet Tooth
He’s a fat dude with bad fashion sense and an eating disorder, who wants to make everyone else fat. That’s not a villain, that’s an American patriot.
He tempts kids to work as his henchmen with promises of unending candy, which could be creepy, but backfired when an undercover Robin joined and fed information back to Batman. Even criminals should do a quick background check, especially when they’re taking on the Goddamn Batman, a master of stealth and deception. He’s lucky it was Robin, not just Batman in a school uniform.
His henchmen quit when they got cavities, his weapons are explosive candies, and his big plan was to replace Gotham’s water supply with chocolate.
Lindsey Sterling. Damien Escobar. Charlie Daniels. All phenomenal violinists. Isaac Bowin is not among them. Imprisoned in an Indian prison, he learned how to hypnotise people from a snake charmer. He then fashioned a crude fiddle and used his hypnotic powers to escape, killing his teacher and the guards.
Upon his return to the States, he made a Fiddle-mobile and spent his days trying to out-wit the Flash, who can move faster than the speed of sound, so that’s best described as a bit pointless. He was later murdered and his mantle was taken up by a villain named Virtuoso.
2. Egg Fu
Propaganda is a weird thing. What was acceptable a few years ago is today called “racist,” “inhumane” or “evil.” But when the Reds were plotting behind the Iron Curtain, and the Chinese were sneaking around, lines had to be drawn. Weird lines that even back in the day had to have angered a lot of people.
Enter Egg Fu, a Commie Mandarin egg man based on Charlie Chan who’s roughly the size of a house. He spent most of his days battling Wonder Woman and the Capitalist system she represents, before he was recast as a mad scientist with his own Science Island where scientists can act on all their curiosities without worrying about the law.
1. Condiment King
Originally named Buddy Standler and renamed Mitchell Mayo, the Condiment King utilises various condiments in his quest for power and glory. His mutilating mayo, killer ketchup, acidic vinegar, terrible tobacco, and maniacal mustard lets him carve his own path in the underworld.
Originally a one-off character brainwashed by the Joker, he has since made several further appearances, before being beaten to death with his own weapons by the Human Flame. He only posed a risk to anyone allergic to his sauces, and even then not a big one. He was created as a gag, a throwback to the campy Adam West series, but is wildly in contrast to the rest of the crew. Even Kite-Man could conceivably be a threat, Condiment King barely registers.
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