Entries open for Honi Soit 2021 Writing Competition
Culture //

Where are all the Batman Villains?

Give the Joker a break!

With Matt Reeve’s Batman releasing next year and the Snyder cut of Justice League renewing interest among fans for his version of the DC Cinematic Universe, it seems that Batman fans are spoilt for choice nowadays.

This isn’t even mentioning other on-screen representations of the superhero, with The Lego Batman Movie, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, an Oscar nominated spin-off in Joker, and various animated straight to DVD flicks.

However, in almost all of these films, we see a rotation of the same few Batman villains — Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and all the rest. While these characters are fun, inventive, well adapted, and cool in their design, the average comic book fan is reeling at the number of opportunities and story potential that the filmmakers are missing by not plumbing the depths of Batman’s pantheon of rogues and ruffians.  More than this, regular movie-going audiences are getting tired of seeing the Joker on screen for the four billionth time, and will begin to wonder if this is all that the source material can offer.

For those curious, let me introduce you to some of the best unadapted villains that DC Comics has to offer our caped crusader.

Calendar Man: A silly name, sure, but what this character lacks in title, he makes up for in gimmick. Committing holiday themed crimes, this villain would be perfect for the world’s greatest detective. Imagine a Zodiac or Memories of Murder inspired thriller, set over the course of several months, or even years, with an aging hero disillusioned at the hope of catching a killer who only rears their ugly head but once a month.

Clayface: Unthinkable in the mid-nineties when CGI was in its infancy, nowadays the idea of a giant shape shifting monster doesn’t sound so crazy. An identity thriller, perhaps? Murder mystery with a killer constantly changing what they look like, making identifying them impossible. Hollywood, I am awaiting your call.

Poison Ivy: While this femme fatale has already made her big screen debut, with international fears of climate change, and distrust in corporations and billionaires, it seems all the more relevant to adapt the character once again. Perhaps a moral battle, as Batman must confront his own influences on the planet as a billionaire tech bro himself. Will our Dark Knight become an eco-fascist or is it too hard to teach an old bat new tricks?

Firefly: Fire is cool and epic, and he has a jetpack AND a flamethrower! Those are two instances of fire in just one character, what a steal!

These, my friend, are just a small handful of what the comics have to offer. But why, you may be asking, have these characters never been featured in any of the millions of Batman related media properties from recent years? My theory: the grime and realism of superhero movies of the past two decades have meant that these filmmakers and producers do not want to embrace some of the more bombastic, outlandish and zany aspects of comic books, out of fear of alienating audiences. This is especially prescient in the films of DC.

However, if these studios want to break from their stagnant pool of edgy Mark Millar stans they need to embrace the comic’s roots. Audiences have already grown tired of the drab, depressing greyness of superhero flicks, and are starting to embrace the more goofy ideas to come out of comics. Just look at the recent output of Marvel Studios with weird departures from the norm like Guardians of the Galaxy, Wandavision or Shazam!. But if the success of Todd Philip’s Joker or Zack Snyder’s Justice League is anything to go by, it seems audiences aren’t done just yet.

All I want is Egghead to be the main villain of a film. Is it too much to ask? It doesn’t take a hard boiled detective to crack the case as to why he’s the most eggcellent rogue out of dozens of villains.