Batman’s Rogues Gallery is one of the largest of all the comic book heroes (Spider-man places second), and yet most studios seem to focus almost entirely on the Joker and his backstory. While practically every rendition of the Joker has been memorable and exceptionally well done (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix’s Jokers were particularly brilliant), the constant focus on the character has pushed many other villains to the side. It’s unfortunate because many of Batman’s villains are just as complex and twisted as the Clown Prince of Crime. Let’s look at some of Gotham City’s most significant threats. Here are Batman villains that deserve movies of their own.
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1. Poison Ivy
“We both strive to see evildoers punished. But, while you have your gallery of rogues, I have my grove.” – Poison Ivy to Batman
There have been a couple of on-screen iterations of the toxic Batman villain, and each proves that she deserves her own movie. Ivy started as Dr Pamela Lillian Isley, a young botanist who was fooled by her professor and later dispatched by him. She’s not entirely evil, as most of her schemes are usually just Ivy trying to protect all things green; she has had her fair share of dark moments.
Readers have seen her remorselessly feed people to her living plants, nearly destroy other villains for disrupting her isolation and almost mortally wounding Damian Wayne during the events of Battle for the Cowl.
One of her darkest moments, however, saw Ivy finally getting revenge on the man that had turned her into the toxic creature she had become in the first place. In Poison Ivy #6, Ivy faces off against her old professor, who tells her that the planet is “too far gone” to be saved. When he threatens to harm Harley Quinn, Ivy exacts her revenge on Woodrue, her powers stronger than ever, and destroys him once and for all. Unfortunately, Ivy has to do some unspeakable acts to ensure he never returns. It’s a very dark moment, but it’s also incredibly satisfying to see Ivy finally have her revenge.
Ivy’s morally grey ways greatly contrast some of her darker moments. It’d be awesome to see her go from a naïve, trusting student to a master villain ready to claw her way to the top. DC should consider bringing her back to the big screen.
2. Mr Freeze
“Threats are meaningless to a man who has lost everything.” – Mr Freeze
Mr Freeze is one of Batman’s most tragic villains, and his earlier movies didn’t portray the character nearly as well as they should have. Many versions of Mr Freeze show him as a man on a desperate mission to find a cure for his wife’s disease and bring her back. While this is central to his character, writers’ focus on this has them entirely brushing over just how ruthless Freeze can be.
He has proven on several occasions that he will do anything in the pursuit of curing his wife, even if it means harming a few innocents along the way. When the Court of Owls promised him they’d help restore Nora, Freeze worked with them to help revive the Talons, a group of immortal assassins vulnerable to the extreme cold. After using his cryogenic-thaw formula to revive the assassins, the court quickly turned on Freeze.
His obsessive personality adds something extra to his character. The New 52 reboot changed his origin story. Nora was not his wife but a random girl with which victor had become infatuated. Bruce Wayne tried to shut down his projects, concerned for the girl, and the ensuing battle ended with Victor becoming Mr Freeze.
This obsession came into play again while he was working with Nyssa and Talia Al Ghul. Nyssa had promised him the use of the Lazarus Pit in exchange for his help, and Freeze was quick to accept. However, he became impatient and lowered her into the pit without adjusting the pool’s chemicals. This led to Nora becoming insane as she absorbed the chemicals of the pit and gained fire powers.
The tragic beginnings of Mr Freeze would be excellent source material if DC ever decides to give the Batman villain a Joker-esque movie about his origins.
3. Professor Pyg
“Oh no, no, no, no, no! Pyg not ready yet. She’s all unique and wrong. All messed up, inside out. Pyg make her better! Pyg make all of us better!” – Professor Pyg
Lazio Valentine is one of Batman’s most disturbing and memorable villains. While working for Spyral, he was accidentally exposed to a neurotoxin of his own creation. This caused the chemist to develop schizophrenia, and he became obsessed with making people perfect.
This obsession – caused by his parents telling him he was never good enough – led to him regularly kidnapping civilians and transfiguring them into his vision of perfection by attaching doll masks to their faces and some other disturbing surgeries.
The character is so twisted that even the Joker has admired his insanity, which tells you just about all you need to know. If this Batman villain got a movie of his own, you can be sure that it would be one of the most disturbing films ever made by DC.
“This is the journal of Doctor Thomas Elliot. My work is complete. The pain, though still present, has been worth it. He will suffer for what he did to me. He will suffer the way I have suffered. As I look in the mirror, I understand how Leonardo felt when he finished the Mona Lisa, how Michelangelo felt when David was complete. My work has taken too long, but now it’s time for my masterpiece to be unveiled. My new face is ready” – Hush (Batman: Arkham City)
Dr Thomas Elliot was a childhood friend and dark reflection of Bruce Wayne. As a child, Thomas tried to harm his abusive, wealthy parents, but this was thwarted when Thomas Wayne saved his mother through emergency surgery.
Young Bruce Wayne’s parents passed away, and he received the family fortune; Thomas became jealous, having to wait until cancer took his mother before he could claim his own. In his jealousy, he became obsessed with destroying Bruce Wayne and, by extension, Batman.
Hush has done some relatively twisted things, including surgically altering his face to look like Bruce Wayne’s and taking his revenge on Batman out on Selina Kyle.
Hush is one of the best Batman villains and definitely deserves his own movie.
5. Ra’s al Ghul
“If you devote yourself to an ideal, they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely: A legend.” – Ra’s al Ghul
This criminal mastermind and leader of the League of Assassins has been on the big screen before. Portrayed by Liam Neeson and going by the alias Henri Ducard, he creates havoc in Gotham City during the events of Batman Begins, hiding behind the actions of Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow.
Ra’s is one of Batman’s greatest villains and considers the caped crusader a worthy opponent, one he wishes to make his successor one day. But, fortunately for the world, Bruce Wayne has a moral compass and refuses.
It’d be interesting to see the origins of Ra’s al Ghul. His inclusion as a villain in a Batman movie could also lead to comic book fans finally seeing Damian Wayne in a live-action movie.
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6. The Penguin
“They all underestimated me. I suggest you not make the same mistake.” – The Penguin
Oswald Cobblepot, like many of Batman’s villains, has one of the most tragic backstories in the DC universe. As a boy, he was relentlessly bullied for his short stature, bird-like nose and habit of carrying around an umbrella at the insistence of his paranoid mother.
The Penguin has done some horrible things over the years. For example, in some comics, Oswald is the one that calls the hit on Bruce Wayne’s parents. He did this to gain political power in Gotham (fortunately, Batman exposed his activities quickly).
He’s also driven a man to taking his own life, abandoned his son and trapped the one woman that truly loved him in a cage when she tried to leave him. So while Penguin isn’t technically insane, he has done some twisted things over the years.
The most recent portrayal of the Batman villain in a movie was Colin Farrell in Robert Pattinson’s The Batman. However, Robin Lord Taylor’s version of the character in Gotham has, by far, been one of the best versions of the character.
7. Hugo Strange
“How does it feel, Wayne, to stand on the very stones that ran with your parents’ blood? Do you feel sad? Full of rage? Or does that outfit help bury your feelings, hiding your true self? Oh, you are a truly extraordinary specimen. I look forward to breaking you…” – Hugo Strange
Hugo Strange was a psychologist at Arkham Asylum who became one of the Bat’s most dangerous adversaries. He is one of the few people who knows Batman’s true identity and became obsessed with taking Bruce Wayne’s place.
Strange is no match for Batman physically, but he is a genius and has managed to get the best of him several times.
It would be awesome to see the Batman villain get a movie of his own.
8. Red Hood
“Hey, it’s going to be hard to learn a great many things about me, but on I’ll give you for free… I am no one’s son.” – Red Hood.
Jason Todd started as the ward of Batman, taking on the mantle of Robin after Dick Grayson became Night Wing. After the Joker took his life, he took on the alias Red Hood and his and Batman’s relationship has never been the same.
Jason was a broken kid when he came back. He broke further when he learned Batman didn’t exact revenge on the Joker, but he had let him live. Feeling betrayed by this, Jason lashes out. He attacks Tim Drake, struggles with the idea that Bruce replaced him, and betrays Bruce’s trust by revealing his identity to Hush and The Riddler.
He also dealt with eight of Black Mask’s goons, defeated the Joker (can you really blame him for this one), almost blew up the Batmobile with Bruce in it and committed several other questionable acts before eventually revealing who he was to Batman.
The Red Hood has one of the most heartbreaking stories of any of Batman’s villains – specifically because he was Bruce’s son – and it would be devastating to see him going toe-to-toe against Batman in a movie.
“You’re good, Batman. But you’re just an ordinary man. I’ve been enhanced. I’m stronger. Faster. And far more vicious. You’ve trained yourself to fight. I’ve trained myself to [harm].” – Deathstroke
Slade Wilson is considered more Dick Grayson’s arch-nemesis than Batman’s, but the two have had several run-ins with each other over the years. After volunteering for a medical experiment, Slade found himself able to use 90% of his brain. Unable to rejoin the military, Slade became the world’s deadliest assassin and acquired great wealth to give his family a comfortable life.
Unfortunately, his life would eventually lead to his son becoming mute and him losing an eye, thanks to his wife’s rage.
Slade has done some pretty terrible things over the years. He drove his daughter insane and got her to gouge out her eye. He proved to care more about taking down his targets than his daughter’s well-being when he gifted her a kryptonite eye to defeat Superman, as kryptonite is radioactive and harmful to humans. He manipulated the young geokinetic Terra and used her to infiltrate the Teen Titans, so he could take them out when they least expected it. It has also been suggested that Slade was involved with Terra on a more intimate level (an alarming detail that no one enjoyed learning about).
Deathstroke is a fascinating Batman villain, and it would be awesome to his him get his own movie. It’d be particularly interesting to see him go toe-to-toe with Nightwing.
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10. Ventriloquist and Scarface
It would be brilliant to see this Batman villain and his wimpy puppeteer get their own movie. Arnold Weskar’s story is one of the most interesting villain stories from DC comics. A man with DID meets a puppet that enables him to exact all his repressed rage upon Gotham city. However, the writers behind the character have done an excellent job of making it seem like the puppet is the one running the show, and people often forget that Scarface is just a wooden figure.
The dynamic between the Ventriloquist and Scarface is a twisted one. Comic book fans have seen how terrifying the two can be several times.
11. Lady Shiva
“If you ever touch me again, I shall shatter three bones in your arm the humerus, the radius, and the ulna. I shall shatter them in such a way that shards will protrude into the nerves, causing intense pain! I shall shatter them in such a way that no western doctor will be able to repair them.” – Lady Shiva
One of the most feared assassins in DC is the mother of Cassandra Cain, one of Batman’s many wards. She grew up in a village that forced her to become its warrior and protector. Unfortunately, David Cain took the life of her sister, but when she tried to hunt him down, she realised how much her sister had been holding her back.
After giving birth to Cassandra, she became Lady Shiva: creator and destroyer and became enthralled by the adrenaline that accompanied the life-or-death situations she regularly puts herself into.
The first time she fought Batman, she only lost due to Robin’s (Jason Todd) intervention. She would later go on to train the third Robin (Tim Drake) and gifted him a collapsible bo staff, though he never truly graduated from the train she put him through.
Shiva’s story is exciting and could make for a very action-packed film. It would also be a great way to introduce Cassandra Cain to the big screen.
12. The Mad Hatter
Jervis Tetch is an insane neuroscientist who designs hardware that controls the brain.
Batman’s disdain for the Hatter extends from his consistent corruption of one of his happiest childhood memories. Martha Wayne often read Alice in Wonderland to her young son, but Tetch has managed to taint that memory through his criminal activity.
Hatter’s obsession with the perfect Alice to recreate his greatest Alice in Wonderland fantasies makes him one of Batman’s most disturbing villains. He would often kidnap young girls, and when they were no longer of use to him or couldn’t fill the role, he would sell them into forced servatude and look for the next one.
The Hatter is definitely high on the scale as one of Batman’s most disturbing villains. He has a terrifying obsession with children that results in terrible crimes when he’s not in Arkham Asylum. A movie on the Mad Hatter has the potential to be one of the most twisted DC movies ever created.
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The Sad Backstories Behind 16 Batman’s Villains
Even if you’re not a comic book fan, there’s a good chance you know about Bruce Wayne and the very tragic loss of his parents that would eventually turn him into Batman. That’s not where the hero’s grief stopped, though. Over his tenure as Batman, Bruce has lost friends, lovers, his mentor, and several sons. In addition, he watched the interrogation and paralysation of one of his wards by his most formidable enemy, fought his vengeful resurrected son and lost his life several times. Given that Batman has such a tragic story, it only makes sense for his villains to have just as tragic backstories, if not worse.
1. The Riddler – Edward Nigma
The Riddler is one of Batman’s most frequent villains, who often plans his criminal activities around riddles and leaves clues for Batman to solve. He is one of Batman’s most intelligent villains and is considered one of the core members of his Rogues gallery.
Edward’s peers and father strongly resented him as a child. He was extremely intelligent, developed a fascination with puzzles, and often tried to use his intelligence to win people over. However, this turned out poorly for him. His classmates wanted nothing to do with him and his father, envious of his son’s brilliance, treated him horribly without restraint.
As a result of what he suffered at his father’s hand, Edward developed a compulsive need to tell the truth. When he eventually became the Riddler, this need to be honest manifested itself through the clues and riddles he’d leave behind.
2. Black Mask – Roman Sionis
Black Mask is a mob boss who leads the False Facers and controls a significant portion of Gotham’s criminal underworld.
Roman was born to a wealthy family, but his parents cared more about their social status than their son, not even reacting when a nurse dropped Roman on his head after he was born. His parents forced him to attend parties and make friends with the children of other wealthy families despite their dislike for them. After his mysterious parent’s death, Roman inherited his father’s company but soon ran it into the ground, leading to Wayne Industries buying it out.
Having been driven mad, Roman turned his disdain towards Bruce Wayne and began mortally wounding Wayne employees while wearing a black mask carved from the wood of his father’s coffin. Unfortunately, during his altercation with Batman, an accident occurred, and his mask was permanently burned onto his face, and Roman became Black Mask.
3. Clayface – Basil Karlo
Clayface is a large monstrous form of shapeshifting clay. Before becoming a villain of Batman, Basil Karlo was a struggling actor. After learning that a new actor would take over a role that Basil had initially played in a classic horror film, he went mad. He adopted the alias Clayface from one of his old movies and went after members of the film’s cast and crew before Batman and Robin stopped him.
Newer versions see Basil as a once-successful actor who was in a car accident that disfigured his face. Desperately needing to maintain his career and success, Basil turned to Renu, an industrial chemical which caused the skin to become malleable when applied. Basil became dependent on the substance. When breaking into Daggett Industries, a GCPD officer opened fire on him, shattering a wall of Renu which entered Basil’s system and turned him into the formidable Clayface.
4. Baby Doll – Mary Dahl
Baby Doll is a disturbed born with a condition that prevented her from physically ageing. As a child, Mary Louise Dahl was a child actress who played the role of Baby Doll, a joyful toddler in the family sitcom “Love That Baby”. She left the show in the final season and tried to become a proper actress, but soon learned that the prejudice against her condition would keep her from her dream.
In a desperate attempt to get her “family” back, she kidnapped the cast of Love That Baby so that she could forever play the character with them and be at her happiest. But unfortunately, she soon had a mental breakdown, and Batman was able to bring her in peacefully.
5. Catwoman – Selina Kyle
Catwoman is one of Batman’s most well-known and well-loved villains. She is a jewel thief who burgles places in style and often avoids being captured by her complicated love interest Batman. However, she has become more of an anti-hero than a villain in recent storylines and is usually an ally to Batman.
Selina Kyle has several origin stories, but one of the saddest is her experience as an orphan. When Selina was very young, her mother took her own life and her father, who disliked Selina for her close resemblance to her mother, turned to substance dependence which eventually claimed his life as well.
She lived on the streets, in an orphanage and eventually in Juvenile Hall, where she was put in a bag and thrown in a river to drown after discovering the administrator was embezzling funds. After escaping from the bag, she stole documents which exposed the administrator and stole enough money to survive on the streets.
Unfortunately, the money soon ran out, and a young gang of thieves run by Mama Fortuna, an older woman who treated Selina and others like endenchered servants, took her in. She eventually ran away and did whatever she could to earn money before gaining success as a thief.
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6. Killer Croc – Waylon Jones
This sewer-dwelling mobster was once a sideshow freak who wrestled alligators.
Waylon was born with epidermolytic hyperkeratosis, which caused his skin to develop scales and take on a similar appearance to a crocodile. After his mother passed away in childbirth, his father abandoned him and left him in the care of his abusive aunt. He grew up with no friends, was ridiculed because of his condition and was forced to remove his scaled skin by his aunt. Eventually, he was convicted as an adult and in prison, taking his first life.
When Waylon eventually escaped prison, he took on the name Killer Croc and decided to let Gotham’s people feel the full force of his vengeance.
Bane is one of Batman’s deadliest villains and became known as “The Man Who Broke the Bat.”
As a child, Bane grew up as a prisoner of Pena Duro, serving his father’s life sentence after the corrupt government couldn’t find him. He developed impressive skills while in prison and took his first life at eight. When Bane grew a descent influence over Pena Duro’s prisoners, who soon declared “king”, the prison’s controllers forced him to undergo an experimental treatment, Venom.
While the treatment gave him incredible strength, it also became his greatest weakness as he had to take it every 12 hours or suffer harmful side effects. However, Bane is an incredibly intelligent individual, and after escaping the prison, he journeyed to Gotham to take vengeance on the man he believed to haunt his nightmares.
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8. The Ventriloquist – Arnold Wesker
The ventriloquist (and his puppet Scarface) is a dangerous criminal and ruthless crime boss — one of the few Batman villains that hasn’t shown up in live-action movies.
As a young boy, Arnold Wesker became an orphan who repressed his hostile emotions after witnessing the loss of his parents. He developed dissociative identity disorder and, after defeating a man in a bar brawl, was sent to Blackgate Prison.
While there, he met the puppet who would eventually be renamed Scarface and mamed the man who had carved him before escaping through a tunnel. The two would commit several crimes together, with Arnold using Scarface to express all his bottled-up rage. The puppet became the master—the criminals who Arnold and Scarface worked with often wholly ignored the Ventriloquist in favour of the dummy. Scarface would often verbally taunt Arnold and wouldn’t allow him to step away from his life of crime.
During a battle, Scarface was “destroyed”, and Arnold briefly felt free of the puppet’s influence and control, but soon he began to hear the puppet’s voice from beyond the grave. Eventually, Arnold set his wooden master free, and Scarface returned to his cartel operations in Gotham.
9. Man-Bat – Dr Robert Kirkland “Kirk” Langstrom
Before becoming the terrifying creature, Dr Langstrom specialised in studying bats. When he started to go deaf, he created a formula using bat DNA to give himself sonar sense and cure his hearing. Unfortunately, this had some regrettable side effects, and he soon became the animalistic monster Man-Bat.
While in this transformed state, Dr Langstrom has no control over his actions. He often clashes with Batman before the vigilante can administer an antidote or Man-Bat gets away. He often believes that Batman is responsible for his daughter’s passing or that he himself has caused the loss of his entire family, though that is later proven not to be the case.
10. Deadshot – Floyd Lawton
This lethal assassin has often been referred to as the world’s greatest marksman and has a longstanding rivalry with Deathstroke.
When Floyd was very young, he deeply admired his older brother, the only member of his family who ever associated with him. So when their mother convinced his older brother to deal with their father, Floyd immediately tried to stop him and was locked outside. Not one to be stopped, Floyd climbed a tree with a rifle with the plan to knock his brother’s weapon out of his hand.
Unfortunately, just as he pulled the trigger, the branch he was sitting on broke, and he accidentally saved his father by hitting his brother and mortally wounding him. He earned the title of “man who never misses” soon after that, a cruel reminder to himself about what had transpired so many years ago.
Despite their opposing morals, Batman and Deadshot deeply respect each other.
11. Poison Ivy – Pamela Lillian Isley
Dr Pamela Lillian Isley was once a botanist with great promise and a deep love for plants. Her fall into villainy came in the form of her botany professor Marc LeGrande. Young and naïve Pamela fell for her professor and assisted with stealing ancient herbs contained in an Egyptian artefact. Her professor, not wanting to be implicated for the crime and having planned his next move around retrieving them, poisoned her with the untraceable herbs and left her dead.
Fortunately, Pamela survived this and discovered that she had developed an immunity to natural toxins and diseases and an empathic bond with plant life. As a result, she soon took on the alias Poison Ivy. She became the most renowned and ruthless eco-activist in the world, determined to save the planet from the evils of humankind through any means necessary.
12. Red Hood – Jason Todd
Several characters in the DC universe have taken on the alias Red Hood, but one of the most notable, besides the Joker, was the second adoptive son of Bruce Wayne, Jason Todd.
Jason Todd has two origins. The first is vastly similar to Dick Grayson: he is the son of two deceased acrobats who takes on the mantle of Robin after being adopted by Bruce Wayne. He’s overly cheerful and sports red hair before dying it black.
His second, more memorable back story shows Jason as a reckless child living on the street who ripped parts off cars for cash to look after his substance-dependent mother. After his mother overdoses, he continues to look after himself the way he looked after her and first meets Batman while trying to steal the tires of the Batmobile. Bruce takes the young rage-fuelled orphan under his wing and trains him to be the new Robin.
Jason eventually learns to master his rage and follows Batman’s practice of not mortally wounding those he captures, proving to be the most enthusiastic of all his wards. After learning that his mother hadn’t been his biological mother, Jason looks for her, only to land in the hands of the Joker, who leaves him in an explosion.
After Jason is resurrected and breaks out of his coffin with his bare hands, he is found by Talia al-Ghul, who restores his health and memories through one of the Lazarus Pits. After learning that his adoptive father spared the Joker’s life, even after everything he had done, Jason officially takes on the mantel of the Red Hood and begins to cause havoc all around Gotham.
13. Harley Quinn – Dr Harleen Frances Quinzel
Before she became the Joker’s number two and a Batman villain, Harleen was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum and a brilliant one at that.
Harleen received high grades in all her classes and was also a talented gymnast. She became fascinated with the Joker while doing research at Arkham Asylum and, after being allowed to analyse him, fell madly in love with the psychopath. She broke him out and would continue to serve him loyally despite everything he made her suffer.
She and Joker have one of the most twisted relationships in comic book history. While Harley is in love with the Joker, he only manipulates her for his own benefit and regularly threatens to get rid of her when she does something wrong. Fortunately for Harley fans, she has recently begun to realise how toxic the relationship is and has broken away from it.
14. Two-Face – Harvey Dent
Two-Face is a villain obsessed with duality, whose crimes often involve the number two and carries around a coin with two opposite sides that he flips when making choices.
As a child, Harvey Dent’s father regularly harmed him, which caused him to develop several mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, he rose above his past through hard work and became the youngest district attorney to operate in Gotham City. He was dedicated to his job and even became a friend to Batman.
Unfortunately for Dent, Sal “Boss” Maroni appeared in court and threw acid in his face during a trial, horrifically scarring half his face. After the accident, Dent escaped the hospital and quickly descended into madness, developing a second persona and taking on the alias Two-Face.
15. The Penguin – Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot
The Penguin, one of Batman’s most popular villains, is an eccentric criminal mastermind who manages the Iceberg Lounge and is best known for his different umbrellas.
Oswald was born to a wealthy family, and his overprotective mother forced him to carry around an umbrella because his father lost his life in a battle with pneumonia. Because of his bird-like nose, short stature and waddle caused by a hip ailment, other children often taunted him with the name “The Penguin”.
This vehement rejection from his peers caused him to become evil, and he used his vast intelligence and scientific skills to weaponise his umbrellas.
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16. Mr Freeze – Dr Victor Fries
Mr Freeze is one of Batman’s least villainous and, upon his revamped introduction, was most beloved by fans.
As a child, Victor’s parents, worried about his habit of freezing animals, sent him to boarding school. He felt like an outcast, but a girl named Nora soon befriended him. They fell in love and got married.
Unfortunately for Victor, he soon learnt that his beloved wife had been stricken by a fatal degenerative disease for which there was no cure. Now a successful cryogenicist, he got Nora’s permission to cryogenically freeze her until he could develop a cure.
Unfortunately, GothCorp’s CEO soon halted Victor’s research by cutting his funding and pulling the plug on Nora. This resulted in an accident that would force Victor to forever wear a suit that would remain at sub-zero temperatures to survive and take on the alias Mr Freeze.
Most of the crimes he commits are done so that he can continue to fund his research and, hopefully, one day cure his wife.
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Who of Batman’s villains do you think has the most tragic backstory?