Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lamest Batman Villains

* Everyone else at Five-O-Rama seems to have taken the month of April off for some reason, so here I am working on my birthday. Never fear though, I can assure you this will be another list of outstanding quality, well up to my usual standard of Super Gold Excellence Extreme. While my colleagues skip and laugh and play, I toil on. So let's get to it.

I don't think it's any great secret that, as awesome as Batman is and the world he exists in is mostly also awesome, the guy has run up against some lame foes over the years. And yeah, I know, sometimes that was the point. So no gag characters like the Condiment King will be included here. But even if you look at some of the most well-known members of his sizable rogue's gallery, you will quickly note that a lot of them are...pretty dumb. They almost could have been gag characters themselves if the writers hadn't decided to try to salvage them.

But I'm not going to go after dear old Oswald Cobblepot or even the retarded Ventriloquist and his "partner" Scarface. No, even though they are truly quite lame in many ways - the former being one of the few Batman antagonists NOT to be insane and NOT particularly dangerous on his own either; the latter...well, you know - they've still been fairly well used over the years and writers have cleverly found ways to take at least a few layers of lame off them. I've become so accustomed to The Mad Hatter I can't even put him here as much as it seems like it's where he belongs. And I will only count characters who have had multiple run-ins with Batman - no one-hit blunders.

So let's look at the Bat baddies who truly have no excuses and cannot be saved.

5. Kite Man (first appearance: Batman #133, 1960)
I would have forgotten all about this lamewad if I hadn't seen him in a flashback scene of the new (crappy) Batman cartoon, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Well, his name says it all: dude uses kites. He basically flies around with one, uh, big kite, and uses other smaller kites to...I don't know - confound his enemies? Cause them to double over laughing while he makes his escape? I have no idea. And he's also got to get points for just calling himself Kite Man. I mean, he could have at least been a villain with a decent name who just happens to use kites. But Kite Man does not compromise! It's either all about the kites or nothing.

He's actually been killed off TWICE in somewhat recent continuity. I would imagine current writers enjoy this so they'll probably bring him back at some point so they can off him again. I know I would like to.

4. Calender Man (first appearance: Detective Comics #259, 1958)
Most people are a bit familiar with this guy as Jeph Loeb used him in the somewhat acclaimed Batman: The Long Halloween. We'll get to how that went in a moment. Julian Day was originally a colourful yahoo whose crimes corresponded with certain dates of significance, mostly holidays. He would even dress in costumes that fit the theme of the holiday in question which is, I assure you, every bit as stupid as you would imagine. His crimes were usually flamboyant robberies and he never hurt anyone, let alone killed anyone. Yes, the guy is crazy but not in any scary or dangerous way.

Which is exactly why Loeb's attempt to bring the character back into the DC Universe's conscience couldn't really work. In Long Halloween, Day is among the inmates at Arkham Asylum and he begins cryptically assisting Batman on the case of the serial killer dubbed Holiday. Loeb is really trying for a Hannibal-Lecter-in-The-Silence-of-the-Lambs thing but as the guy behind the glass is crazy in more of a ridiculous way than frightening, it really doesn't work. With his shaved head and extremely calm and serene expression, Day LOOKS like he should be a creepy psycho killer. But he's not. He's just a mostly harmless wacko who freaks out on Labour Day.

3. Catman (first appearance: Detective Comics #311, 1963)
No matter how many times they update this guy and try to make him look cool, he'll always just be frigging Catman. Probably the oddest thing about this character is that he WASN'T originally conceived as a joke. I mean...Catman? I really don't think I need to go into any explanation of why Catwoman works and this clown doesn't so we'll just skip it.

At first he really just was sort of a crappy rip-off of Catwoman, basically operating as a cat burglar and wearing a similar kind of costume. But his obsession with cats was even more amped up. He believed he really did have nine lives and all the stuff he stole was cat-themed. He also sometimes runs around accompanied by a pet tiger.

In Marvel, the Black Panther is pretty cool - his costume is a lot like Catman's and his basically non-superhuman abilities are very similar as well (Olympic-level athlete and gymnast, skilled at hand to hand combat). Only, with T'Challa, no writer was dumb enough to run away with the whole cat thing and they gave him a cool name.

In recent years, Catman has actually been all over the place in various DC comics with different writers and artists trying to make him seem tolerable. But if you ask me, he'll never be able to live down his first ever appearance on the cover of Detective Comics #311, accosting Batman and Robin while riding a giant cat.

2. Maxie Zeus (first appearance: Detective Comics #483, 1979)
Pretty straightforward stuff with this loser - he's an ordinary human convinced that he is in fact the god Zeus from Greek mythology. So I guess he's not exactly an ordinary human, he's a nutjob. Which is fine. I mean, the vast majority of Batman's enemies are nutjobs of one sort or another. But all you have to do is read a few lines of Maxie's dialogue in in any comic and you'll get a headache. And don't say it's the same thing with Thor in the Marvel Universe - he really is Thor, god of thunder, he can talk as he likes.

Despite his really annoying schtick, Maxie is actually given a bit of credibility as he's often been portrayed as a somewhat competent criminal mastermind, orchestrating various plots and leading other villains in his endeavors. But whatever. He's still painfully lame, prancing around in a toga and spouting ridiculous dialogue.

Kevin Smith recently revived this joke of a villain to include in the Batman: Cacophony storyline where Maxie is engaged in a turf war with the Joker. He starts off seemingly cured of his delusions but towards the end it becomes clear he's becoming unhinged once again, and of course in the same delightful "I am the god Zeus" way.

I only have one comic in my possession that contains Maxie Zeus and he's in just a couple of panels. It's part of the Knightfall saga and the part in question is the mass breakout of psychos from Arkham as orchestrated by Bane and his henchmen. We see Zeus among the crowd of freed prisoners running through the woods and as usual, he's talking to himself, even convinced that the escape was all his doing as no walls can contain the power of Zeus or whatever. As he's blathering on he fails to look where he's going and smacks headfirst into a tree, knocking himself out cold. 'Nuff said.

1. Killer Moth (first appearance: Batman #63, 1951)
Originally wearing a winged spandex costume with a colour scheme that included green, orange and purple, Killer Moth's big idea was to be the "anti-Batman". Ok. In many ways, I suppose he was as Batman is dark, menacing and most definitely, cool. Killer Moth is emphatically none of those things.

In his first and lamest incarnation, Killer Moth, in addition to his wings (which did at least work) used a cocoon gun (no, I'm not kidding) which fired a sticky stream of goo to trap targets and he even sometimes drove...wait for it...a mothmobile. He also had some sort of infrared moth signal thingy that he gave to criminals he'd aided. I guess it was so they could summon him or something. Then they went so far as to give him a billionaire playboy alter ego to counter Bruce Wayne. Yes, Killer Moth - THIS is the guy they decided should be set up that way. Ye gods.

Anyway, as stupid as he was, Killer Moth was actually fairly consistently used throughout the Silver Age as a serious Batman foe. That's right - this douche in a moth costume was actually considered a legitimate threat. By the nineties writers seemed to finally realize that this character was hyper lame and even made a point of showing him to be second-string in the world of Batman enemies where he actually put together a team that included fellow listmates Catman and Calendar Man. A little after that, some demon transformed Killer Moth into some sort of giant moth monster called Charaxes, I guess because they didn't know what the hell to do with the character.

A few other Killer Moths have surfaced in recent years but I don't really know anything about them other than I figure they were a really, really bad idea.


Shane said...

Rock solid goodness in this list. I loved ever bit, and it was hilarious to boot. I love the world of Batman, and DC in general for being split down the middle with characters that are amazingly classic or unbelievably retarded.

Hey, while I may have been skipping, laughing, and playing in April, I was also busy with work that pays me real money instead of Rama-bucks. I'll make a comeback in May, ya whiner.

Also, Happy Birthday! Since your birth is recognized as a national holiday, I`d watch out for Calender Man. He may burst into the room at any moment, dressed like you, to playfully chase puppies around and cause other `havoc`. Beware!

RyHo said...

I must admit that I have taken some time off, but at least you were busy in my absence kicking ass and teaching us the truth behind the Batman's worst foes.

I can honestly say that my fave Batman stuff doesn't come out of the comics, so I only knew about Maxie Zeus and Calendar Man, but shit, that list was great. Calendar Man's costume in that panel will be forever embedded in my mind.

Also, Happy belated! I hope you ate pizza, cake and watched some movies, as that is the way of all great birthdays.

Sam said...

Batman vs. Neck krime.

Would the cowl reduce strangle damage?


Click Me said...

Cin Ciy's Allegiance of Heroes should fight all the Bat-villains you mention here.