What is the meaning of Gotham without its rogue gallery?
You know that the fantastic Batman: The Animated Series (streaming on HBO Max) did a fantastic job of adapting Gotham's finest bad guys and distilling them to their most powerful elements or rebuilding them from the ground up? That's where this list comes in: It's because it portrays everything that's important to the character.
This list is intended for villains who have many episodes to choose from. Sorry, one-offs like Hugo Strange, Calendar Girl, and Maxie Zeus. You will be missed, quite a lot.
Joker: The Laughing Fish
34th episode of Season 1,
The Laughing Fish is a bizarre and funny way to slay a Gotham fish. It's all in an attempt to copyright the fish and then make a profit off their sales.
Harley Quinn: Mad Love
Season 3, episode 21
Batman: The Animated Series' head writer Paul Dini might have concocted the most instantaneously popular antihero comics character of the modern age, whether shes engaged in gal-pal mayhem with Poison Ivy (Jokers Favor, The Man Who Killed Batman), or forced into more of a solo act (Harleys Holiday, Harlequinade).
The Penguin: Birds of a Feather
Season 1, episode 47
The Penguin is the most underrated villain in Batman: The Animated Series (Ive Got Batman in My Basement, The Mechanic); he performs better when he plays a supporting role (Almost Got Im, Second Chance). In Birds of a Feather, rich socialites take advantage of the Penguin's natural desire to be accepted by the upper class, and by the end, you feel terrible for the little bird man who just wants to be accepted.
Season 2, episode 9
Catwoman is a one-size-fits-all villain, one that is entertaining to Batman while also being strong enough to stand out in any action sequence. (Stuff like Tyger Tyger, Batgirl Returns, and the two-parter The Cat and the Claw excel when she's on screen, but are simply useless elsewhere.)
Two-Face: Two-Face: Part I
Season 1, episode ten
Richard Molls, who plays a gangster in Shadow of the Bat, is hard to find a bad Two-Face episode, whether it's just playing him against the more cartoonish denizens of Gotham (Almost Got Im, The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne). Harvey Dent, who was eventually captured by blackmail and an ensuing explosion, is one of the most tragic scenes in Batman history.
The Riddler: Riddlers Reform
Season 2, episode 14
Although he is now known as one of Batman's A-list villains, his appearances in the animated series are scattered. Part of this is due to the admitted lack of show writers to come up with plots for him that were enjoyable enough for animation (though If Youre So Smart, Why Arent You Rich? and What Is Reality? are both solid entries). The Riddler's finest half-hour comes in Riddlers Reform, in which the character attempts to go straight while remaining determined to prove that Batman is
Poison Ivy: House & Garden
Season 2, episode 5
As the show progresses, Poison Ivy transforms from a fairly standard bad girl (Pretty Poison, Eternal Youth) to a memorable antagonist with a keen sense of revenge (Harley and Ivy, Chemistry). In it, Batman sees through her claims that she has now settled down in domestic bliss, and discovers that her entire family is a collection of plant monsters she has created. It is the miraculous way of Batman: The Animated Series.
Mr. Freeze: Heart of Ice
Season 1, episode 14
The Emmy-winning scene that let everyone know, See? Was a real hit. Even though he's never been in a terrible episode (Cold Comfort is fun, and Deep Freeze, in which a mega-industrialist seeks Freeze's power of immortality, is underrated), Heart of Ice has never been surpassed as a showtopper.
Rupert Thorne: Its Never Too Late
Season 1, episode 12
Rupert Thorne, who is well-known for taking on the role of the devil on Gotham's shoulder, is a regular appearance across the series (Two-Face, Vendetta, Bane, and Paging the Crime Doctor) with the late John Vernon always providing him with the appropriate menace and bluster. Here, an aging rival gangster encounters a change of heart, and Thorne is eager to put him down for good and end their mob battle.
Scarecrow: Fear of Victory
Season 1, episode 24
The Scarecrow is perhaps best known for his changing appearance throughout the series, starting as a skinny Wizard of Oz cosplayer (Nothing to Fear) before moving onto a more threatening design (Dreams in Darkness) and finally settling on a spooky Old West undertaker garb (Never Fear). Like The Laughing Fish, it does not feature Scarecrow trying any massive attacks on Gotham, instead, he uses his fear toxin on notable Gotham athletes and
Mad Hatter: Perchance to Dream
Season 1, episode 30
Few villains are more despicable than the Mad Hatter, a lovelorn creep who starts his career as a Lewis Carroll fetishist and ends it as just another member of Batmans assembly line of goons (The Worry Men, Animal Act). In it, the Mad Hatter puts Batman in a sort of coma in which he is able to fall in love and he doesnt have to be Batman anymore, an act that expresses his sorrow: I was willing to give you
Killer Croc: Sideshow
Season 2, episode 1
Many Batman: The Animated Series villains are victim of their own obsessions, incapable of coping with their own tragedies in any other way than by lashing out in violence and manipulation. Croc is a funny, simple character, whether he is seeking solace with a group of deformed circus performers or playing the brutish heavy (Trial, Bane, Love Is a Croc).
Clayface: Feat of Clay: Part II
Season 1, episode 21
Clayface, a tragic character who is a master of animation, gets the lowest rating for Feat of Clay: Part I, mostly due to poor visuals. (Mudslide, Holiday Knights, and Growing Pains are all fantastic, and both are heartbreaking) The final scene, in which Clayface is rendered unable to control his shapeshifting abilities, is awe-inspiring, and a tribute both to the show's clever plotting and the talented animation team that it worked with
Ras al Ghul: Avatar
Season 2, episode 4, is now available.
Ras al Ghul, who is voiced with sincerity by David Warner, is a promising addition to the Batman: The Animated Series cast, but he is an exciting one, bringing world-trotting humor to Batmans usual inner-city adventures. In The Demons Quest, he is fantastic as a hook to Showdown, which takes place more than 100 years before the series. However, the greatest Ras adventure comes in Avatar, where the immortality-seeking eco-terror
Man-Bat: On Leather Wings
Season 1, episode 1
On Leather Wings, the official first episode of Batman: The Animated Series, offers a near-perfect balance of crime fiction, noir atmosphere, and monster movie scenes. Man-Bat would re-emerge in Terror in the Sky, but it's difficult to beat On Leather Wings. The finale, which features a creepy transformation and an exciting flight through the skyscrapers of Gotham, sets the tone for future episodes.
Scarface and the Ventriloquist: Read My Lips
Season 1, episode 64
Scarface and the Ventriloquist are an excellent fit among more classic villains, because they combine detective work with horror-tinged comic book psychosis and superhero derring-do (Catwalk, Double Talk), with the best coming from their debut, Read My Lips. The episode is so detailed and the dialogue so rich that it's simply a delight to watch Batman work through it all. Scarface is blasted apart by machine guns, something the censors wouldn't dare to allow
Roland Daggett: Appointment in Crime Alley
Season 1, episode 26
Roland Daggett is a crooked capitalist who is always involved in some cash-making operation that can seem quite low rent in comparison to Batman's more colorful foes. In the second part of the episode, he shows off his pure Daggett-ness the best, giving grade-schoolers an introduction to the type of person who seems to be able to do anything, no matter how terrible it is.
The Clock King: The Clock King
Season 1, episode 25
The Clock King is a 60s Adam West style hed show up there played by Lifeboat villain Walter Slezak, which fits very nicely for Batman: The Animated Series brand. The first installment, in which we get to see all of the Clock Kings little anxieties and needs for discipline regarding time, is one of the greatest examples of Batman's one bad day being the turning point for someone on the edge.
Baby Doll: Baby-Doll
Season 2, episode 11
Baby Doll is a former child star who is preventing her from ever physically growing past the age of five. The second episode, Love Is a Croc, is fun, but neglects to include the disturbing and ultimately heartbreaking aspects of her debut, Baby-Doll. After kidnapping her former co-stars, shes eventually stopped by Batman and Robin. The climax, which finds Baby Doll in a house of mirrors, and the life shell never has, is a triumph of animation direction
Bane: Over the Edge
Season 3, episode 12
Bane is hard to separate from the Knightfall comics plot, in which the villain breaks Batmans back over his knee in a panel that jumped straight into prominent Batman iconography. He returns in Over the Edge, in a dream sequence that sees him stripping his lucha libre outfit and now wearing a spiked choker chain.
Firefly: Torch Song
Season 3, episode ten
Firefly never gets the chance to make an appearance among the most well-known antagonists in Batman: The Animated Series. He is left with Torch Song, which portrays Firefly as the deranged fan of a pop star. He then resorts to mass arson.
Achilles Milo: Cat Scratch Fever
36th episode of Season 1
Professor Achilles Milo, who is well-known for involving a plot in which he is required to perform unscrupulous medical work, has appeared in two decent episodes, Cat Scratch Fever and Moon of the Wolf. Milo, who is employed by, you guessed it, Roland Daggett, is a ruthless cheat. Few people exist to get Batman's eventual reward, but Milo is one of them.
Kyodai Ken: Day of the Samurai
Season 1, episode 44
Kyodai Ken, a ninja who studied martial arts with Bruce Wayne, is a very cool villain that was criticized in Night of the Ninja. However, he is saved with Day of the Samurai, a moody action epic that culminates with him and Bruce battling to a standstill. Rather than allow Batman to save him, Kyodai lets an explosion from the volcano take him.
Red Claw: The Cat and the Claw: Part II
Season 1, episode 16
The rooftop flirting between the Cat and the Bat is far more entertaining than any setup the terrorist leader gets in The Cat and the Claw: Part I. Shes mostly around to threaten Gotham while Batman and Catwoman reluctantly hang out. In superhero cartoons, though, sometimes you just need a loud person with a bad idea.