What could Christopher Nolan do with Batman’s best remaining baddies?

We've met The Scarecrow and The Joker. But what about The Shark, Azrael, Hugo Strange, The Ventriloquist or Black Mask? These and more explored right here...

Batman Begins. Five star film, five star ending...

In the world of comic book you can get away with so much more. You want a guy who looks like a penguin who has a fetish for brollies, then no problem, but in the dark and suburban world of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight this just won’t wash.

So let’s have a look at how some of Batman’s best baddies could be translated onto the big screen.

Mr Freeze

In the comics, Victor Fries is a tragic character, whose attempt to cure his wife’s illness leads to an accident that mutates him into a sub-zero terror. Re-imagined in Batman: The Animated Series as a steam-punk like bubble-domed bad-guy who looked like a deep sea diver, the character has unfortunately already been brought onto the big screen by Arnie in the unwatchable Batman & Robin.

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Not the most scary of characters, the image of Freeze works better than the character himself, and if we were to see the big ice-pop on screen in a Nolan film, the best way to go for a more ‘realistic’ look would be to have somebody in stylised radiation suit sustained via Freon gases and a ‘tech’ life support machine. And maybe as a secondary character rather than the main antagonist?Bane

The bad-guy who broke the Batman’s back, Bane has, over the past decade become a watered down character, being more of a misunderstood, tortured soul who walks the line between villainy and a path of redemption (i.e. has become a bit of a wuss).

However, in his first appearances this juggernaut of a character had both the brains and the muscle to put the Bat down for the count. A drug addicted ex-convict, Bane is addicted to Venom, a muscle-enhancing steroid that pumps him full of rage and near superhuman strength. On-screen, Bane could make a potentially fantastic villain, able to match Batman in nearly all terms, and using the story from the Knightfall books would very easily work on the screen. Admittedly we have also seen Bane on screen (again in the dire Batman & Robin) but Jeep Swanson’s mute green tinged monstrosity was a insult to the character which, if set in The Dark Knight universe, could be a translated into a Cyrus the Virus style character, only with an extra twist of drug enhanced insanityAzrael

Jean Paul Valley took over the mantle of the Batman in Knightfall, donning a very 1990s version of the Bat costume. Even with the ‘Extreme’ make-over, the Az-Bat was nowhere near as cool or as interesting as the original. However the mythos behind the actual Azrael (aka the Angel of Death) and his training by the Order of St. Dumas was actually fascinating, and lasted over 100 issues in his own title.

Based around a mix of genetic engineering, secret cults, hypnosis and hidden training, Azrael in many ways mirrors the Batman in the new movie, and could easily be worked in, with the secret training of Order of St. Dumas being very similar to ‘League of Shadows’ cult that was introduced in the original film. Brandishing a flaming sword and trained by the ‘system’, Azrael is a physical match for Batman and wrapped in a cool red-and-gold costume, the character could easily be transformed into a ‘light’ anti-Batman religious zealot evangelist cult leader.

Hugo Strange

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A master strategist and manipulator, Hugo Strange uses his brain rather than muscle to outwit his opponents. Although he has been in the comics for many years, there has been no ‘definitive’ Hugo Strange story that is until the new The Batman animated series produced a fantastic episode featuring the good doctor exposing Gotham/Batman to a virus that turns everyone into zombies.

And this cartoon could translate perfectly, and could use established movie continuity, with Strange getting his hands on and enhancing Jonathan Crane’s fear potions to create an ultra-deadly adversary.

Catwoman

While nobody can better Michelle Pfeiffer wrapped in black leather, a kleptomaniac jewel thief could be a great love/hate foil to the new Batman in the films. Ignoring the Halle Berry movie from a few years ago (urgh), Catwoman could be re-imagined into a ‘Thomas Crown’ like character, a playboy/girl who is loaded, has everything and is just plain bored, wanting the thrill of the chase more than the prize itself. Again probably not the main antagonist for a film, having Catwoman twist, curl and slink her way through a couple of movies could see the character have a ‘redemption’-like story, or even more fun, go the other way into a full blown villainess.

PhantasmOriginally seem in the superb 1993 film Mask of the Phantasm, Andrea Beaumont is a freelance assassin who uses a variety of Batman-like gadgets and illusions to promote a Grim Reaper-like vigilante. One of the most original characters to enter the Batman mythology, Phantasm is only the second character to appear in a Batman-related product other than a comic to then move across and become part of the ‘canon’ in the printed saga (the other being Harley Quinn). As well as being a formidable opponent, Phantasm also has the edge on other villains by being romantically involved with Bruce Wayne. This relationship could easily work on screen, however could potentially step on the toes of the similar plot from Batman Returns.

The Ventriloquist

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Although not the most dangerous or well known of Batman’s rogues gallery, The Ventriloquist in the comics was a timid man controlled by his split personality that manifested itself in his gangster puppet. The Ventriloquist could easily be adapted to be an underground gun-runner or arms dealer, supplying many of the escapees of Arkham.

The Shark

A relatively new character, The Shark was introduced in Dan Slott’s superb Arkham Asylum: Living Hell 1. Embezzling millions of dollars, crooked financial wizard Warren White took a gamble by pleading guilty to insanity when caught for his crimes, trying to weasel his way out of a jail term. However, his plan backfired, ending up with the crooked opportunist spending time in Arkham instead.

Smooth, dangerous and willing to side with anyone to get out of danger, this creepy double-crossing bad guy is only out to look after himself, not caring who he hurts on his journey to riches. However, as can be seen in the comics, White fails miserably in Arkham, getting cut up by Killer Croc and towards the end of the book he resembles his namesake as he is beaten and locked in a freezer, leading to his extremities being frozen off (such as his hair, teeth and most horrific of all being his nose). So with this horrific mutilated appearance, The Shark could potentially be a visually stunning and sinister bad-guy, whose origins tie nicely into the established world of Arkham set up in Batman Begins.Black MaskWith a power vacuum left by the previous films, it could be up to Roman Sionis aka Black Mask to take over. In the comics this other recent addition to the Batman rogues gallery is a former business executive rival of Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman himself. Wearing a Skeletor-like Black Mask, Sionis is not only a boardroom bad-guy, but also the leader of the cult-like False Face Society of henchmen. This mix of brains and henchmen brawn could easily be translated to film, maybe having Black Mask organising the escaped Arkham inmates into an organised crime syndicate, using the various experimental victims (such as Killer Croc) as superhuman muscle to strong-arm business and boardroom members alike.

The RiddlerEdward Nigma is one of the most recognised Batman villains and has been brought to both the small and big screen thanks to Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey (the latter doing an impression of Gorshin). While the green-clad puzzler is neither the most physically challenging opponent, his crime-based puzzles show that he has the brains to challenge even Batman in a game of wits. If the Riddler was to translate to the new Dark Knight franchise, he would need to have a little more of an edge to him. My suggestion would be to go for a ‘John Doe’-like character from Seven – a serial killer whose motives are based in mind games and complex puzzles.

Leave your own suggestions in the comments box…!

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