So Owlman is pretty much an evil Batman. He takes all of Batman's ideals and gives a dark twist to all of them. Both of them want Gotham to be a peaceful city, but Owlman makes Gotham peaceful out of fear. He controls every part of the city so that it all is completely orderly and works like a machine. The reason why he makes it on to this list though is that he represents one of the core questions that surround the Batman mythos. People say that Batman is just crazy enough to wear a bat suit and fly around Gotham, but at the end of the day he means well for the city. One question that gets asked a lot though is what would happen if Batman strayed from the law? What if he finally lost it and went over the edge in his actions? What if Batman became more villainous in accomplishing his goals? You'd get Owlman, that's what would happen. Owlman will always represent just what Batman would be like if he ever went down the path of evil, and no one ever wants to go up against an evil Batman.
|9) Two Face|
Boom! Great character creation and gives great pathos to Harvey as well as Bruce. What's my problem with the character though? Two Face is good as a representation of Batman's failures, but as a villain, he's very unimpressive. I ranked this list on four categories; connection to Batman, design, accomplishments, and personality. The first two are there in spades, but as for his accomplishments, besides being a constant reminder to Batman, what has Two Face done to really merit his position as one of Batman's head villains? What is his "Killing Joke"? Yeah he's done a few things, but he exists mostly as a reminder of Batman's failures, much in the same way Jason Todd is. Two Face is much more impactful and memorable than Jason Todd is, but at the end of the day, I just don't find Two Face that memorable besides for what he means s a foil to Batman.
|8) Mr. Freeze|
I didn't put him any higher on this list for two reasons. First and foremost, while Mr. Freeze was reinvented in the early 90's, he's been around for an extremely long time, appearing first in 1959. So that's over 30 years of him being an alright Batman villain. Second, he suffers from the same problem I have with Two Face, as in his backstory is really really good and makes him into a tragic figure, but afterwards there hasn't been quite as many good stories told with the character. Yes he still has his charms and is iconic in pretty much every way possible, but I don't feel the same level of villainy as I do with other Batman villains. To me, what plagues most Batman villains is that they get caught up way too much in how they're mirrors of Batman instead of being great villains in their own right. Mr. Freeze is that sentiment personified; he's a great representation of Batman's loss, but he doesn't go too beyond that.
Also he was in Batman & Robin with awful ice puns. That's enough to drag anyone down to number 8.
|7) Harley Quinn|
It's really rare in terms of Batman to have an outright comedic character, or at least someone with a more upbeat personality. Yes the Joker does have a sense of humor, but it's incredibly mean spirited and always villainous. Harley on the other hand is much more fun loving and out for laughs than for chaos. She's starred in several comic series since her inception, the most recent of which being launched in 2013, and almost all of them have had a slightly comedic edge to them, which is sorely missed in the Batman franchise. A lot of fans have relegated humor in Batman to being a dreadful callback to the campy days of the Adam West series, to the point where having any humor at all in a Batman story is heresey. But Batman isn't all gloom and brooding. Harley Quinn is the embodiment of trying to brighten up the Batman franchise with a more perky and happier character, if only a bit insane and demented. Still, for being one of the few, if not the only, comedic character in the series, I have to give props for Harley Quinn and her lovable nature. She's a joy to watch, and a joy to experience.
|6) Poison Ivy|
I'm not qualified to talk about her implications as a feminist icon, since that's a whole can of worms that'll take an eternity to sort through, but why she's on this list is because of how writers have added to her since her inception to make her much more dynamic. In the beginning, she was just an ordinary villainess with a plant theme, but as time went on, more writers began to tweak with her and of what she could do. In Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, she was given strong connections to a force called The Green, which is all plant life. It explains why she has her powers and why sometimes her powers are strong and why other times they're weak. There's her version in the animated series that is more subdued, yet cemented her more modern, sleeker design. What's even more interesting is that just recently, an issue of Batgirl had Poison Ivy as its villain, yet it added to her character the fact that her mental state is affected by the seasons i.e, when it's spring she's much more alive and powerful, yet when winter comes she's weak and vulnerable.
Poison Ivy is usually the first villain that I think of when it comes to reinventing a character. She's rich and dynamic, yet is always open to reinterpretation. She can be a hero, she can be an anti-hero, or she can be a plain old villain. She's the most interesting female villain in Batman's rogues gallery, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
|5) The Riddler|
I put him up so high simply because I love villains that have an ego to them, yet they can back it up. A lot of the time, you get villains that claim they're the best thing ever, yet as soon as the hero shows up, they're defeated without much of a hassle. The Riddler is a bit different than that trope though. He can back up his claim. If Batman himself, the world's greatest detective, can have difficulty trying to solve his riddles, and needs to pull out all of the stops to try and beat him, then he can clearly walk the walk. Not only that, I have a soft spot for riddles and for quizzes. I just love having a riddle being posed to me, and taking all of my mental capabilities to try and solve it before Batman can. For making me want to test myself as well as test Batman, The Riddler deserves to be in the Top 5.
|4) The Court of Owls|
The Court of Owls has the honor of being the most recent villain to grace this list, and boy are they a force to be reckoned with. Debuting in 2011, the Court of Owls was created by Scott Snyder, who has a habit or developing Gotham as a character in itself. If Gotham is a character, then the Court of Owls is the darkest and most depraved parts of its psyche. Existing for hundreds of years, the court has existed in one form or another, but they've always been controlling Gotham from behind the scenes, or at the very least influencing everything that happens in the city. They're filled with some of the richest citizens of Gotham and they employ Talons, deadly assassins that were plucked from Haley's Circus, to fight for them. Talons are essentially reanimated zombie ninjas that are nigh unbeatable, with the only way to stop them is to put them into a deep freeze to stop their reanimation.
While the court may be the most recent villainous entry on this list, they have been nothing short of impactful and have given us one of the best Batman stories in the past decade. When Batman discovers how big this organization is and just how powerful they are, he's put on the ropes almost immediately and is hunted without mercy. It even gets to the point where he is captured by them and is almost mentally destroy by the court, twisting his mind and leaving him a near lifeless wreck. When he does eventually escape, his war path against them is nothing short of devastating, breaking right into their stronghold with the sole intention of apprehending all of them... until he reaches their room and finds out they all killed themselves. They've denied Batman the ability t bring them to justice and essentially say to him that they rule this city. Batman can only exist for so long, but the court is eternal. Owls hunt bats, and for nearly defeating the bat, these are owls that you should definitely be afraid of.
One of the things that makes Batman stand out more than any other hero is the idea of him being a bat. It's well known that Bruce Wayne chose a bat as a motif because bats scare him, therefore he can embody something terrifying to invoke an identity into the hearts of evildoers. Scarecrow is a perversion of that idea, only taking it much more to the extreme. Scarecrow is all about fear, and when Scarecrow is involved, you know there's going to be one hell of a ride involved with his fear gas. It'll make people see crazy images, make Batman doubt his own sanity, and just plain screw with people. Why I love Scarecrow so much is that he's just as much of a victim as he victims are. He's grown a resistance to fear and can rarely experience it, though when he does it is absolutely terrifying to him. I'm reminded of a scene in the Green Lantern epic Blackest Night, where heroes and villains across the DC universe are called on to fight against the Black Lanterns, and Scarecrow is made into a Yellow Lantern, and agent of fear, to fight against death itself. But before he can get the ring, he's trying desperately to feel fear again, but he's grown so used to it.
Scarecrow is the ideal horror villain. He preys on what we fear and uses that against us. If he can make Batman cower in a corner, then he's doing something right. Bonus points for having the most visual designs out of any other Bat villain. He usually get redesigned ever few years or so, and all of them have their own creepy depravity to them. No one can beat fear like the Scarecrow.
|2) The Joker|
The Joker is one of the greatest villains of all time period. He's iconic, he's imposing, he's insane, he's everything a good villain should be. He's the antithesis of everything the hero stands for. He's just plain evil. Where do I even begin with his impact? "The Killing Joke". "Death in the Family". "Death of the Family". "Arkham Asylum". "The Dark Knight". "Revenge of the Joker". All of these stories and movies are classics and are absolutely phenomenal. I don't really feel the need to explain why the Joker is so good. He's just the Joker. You know exactly who he is and why he's such a great villain. Hell, I feel redundant for even mentioning that he's one of the best villains of all time. But he isn't my number 1 though. "How could he not be number 1 though??? He's everything Batman isn't!" And you'd be exactly right. He's not like Batman at all. So that's why Batman's greatest villain is...
A villain, in my definition, is someone or something that serves as an obstacle for the hero to overcome. At the end of the day, the hero always wins and the villain is always defeated, rinse and repeat. For every time the Joker makes an appearance and fights Batman, he'll eventually be defeated. Batman may be hurt in the process by fighting him, but the Joker can be defeated. Batman cannot defeat Batman because of what he represents. Batman was made by Bruce Wayne as a way to avenge his parents and to make sure that no one can suffer like he has. At the end of the day, Batman was made to protect people from suffering and from evil. Yet Batman is a bit of a martyr though. Think of all of the terrible things that have happened to Batman and Bruce Wayne because of his choice to be Batman.
He's never been able to keep a stable relationship or even fall in love. He's always had love interests, but he could never settle down or be with them because of the amount of work it is to be Batman. He takes on proteges to be Robin, but each of them has had tragedy happen to them after coming into contact with Batman. Jason Todd was killed by the Joker. Damian Wayne, his own son, was killed by Talia al' Ghul. Tim Drake's father was killed. Dick Grayson nearly died several times and was unmasked to the world by the Crime Syndicate. Batman went insane at the hands of Dr. Hurt and the Black Glove, nearly losing everything that he's every earned. The list goes on and on and on.
What matters most though is the Bruce Wayne can almost never assume a normal life and feel like his family has been avenged. In the movie Mask of the Phantasm, Bruce Wayne rekindles his interests over a old flame and wonders what his life would be like if he wasn't Batman. It's Bruce Wayne coming to grips that Batman has robbed him of a normal life and leads him to ask a pivitol question. Is this what his mother and father want? Do they want him to keep on doing this, to continue fighting in memory of them, instead of living for them? It's tough questions that are explored in almost every Batman story.
No matter how old Batman may be, Batman works as a character because he can never truly be happy. He can never come to grips with his past and instead chooses to run away from it, pursuing villains out of a sense of responsibility. There's a good reason why people constantly say that Batman is one step away from being a villain and why people wonder why he doesn't put himself in Arkham Asylum. Even his villains are all just relfections of his own psyche, and Batman himself can never really defeat his villains because of his own code. He wants to save Two Face, not defeat him, but his empathy for them just allows them to cause more chaos and unnecessary crime. So that's why Batman is his own greatest enemy. He's in a constant fight with himself over what's right, he stops Bruce Wayne from ever living a normal life, and he makes Bruce ask if he's really done the right thing taking up the cowl.
Oh, and Bane and Penguin aren't on this list because they're both boring and completely uninteresting. Sorry, I just can't deal with them.