Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out last month, and people are already talking about what’s next for our favorite DC characters. Ben Affleck is officially confirmed to star and direct in the next Batman standalone movie. The big question is, of course, who’s the villain going to be? We’ve had nine Batman movies so far, so most of the greatest villains have already been adapted. Don’t get me wrong, they haven’t all gotten good adaptations. I would love to see somebody take another crack at doing Mister Freeze or Poison Ivy right this time. The Riddler is also particularly overdue. Right now though, I’m here to talk about the heavy hitters that have never gotten their chance at the spotlight.
Azrael has spent most of his career as an ally to Batman, but he’s also behind one of the greatest battles in Batman history. Azrael is Jean-Paul Valley, born into the cultish Order of St. Dumas who indoctrinated him to become their perfect warrior. Jean-Paul would function as an “Angel of Death” to the Order’s enemies, slipping into a trance whenever he accessed his skills. In the classic Knightfall storyline, Bruce Wayne began mentoring Jean-Paul to become a possible replacement Batman in the event of his own death. He did eventually take over as Batman while Bruce was recovering from Bane breaking his back. Jean-Paul slowly slipped into madness as his programming took over his psyche, however. He quickly became more dangerous and violent than Batman had ever been, even letting civilians die while he pursued criminals. The story of Bruce Wayne recovering and challenging his younger replacement to prove he’s still worthy would make an excellent movie.
9. Lady Shiva
Lady Shiva is unique in the pantheon of Batman villains because she doesn’t really hate Batman or want anything material. Shiva is the deadliest fighter in the world, having dedicated her entire life to the study of martial arts. She travels the world pursuing whatever interests her, usually trying to find someone who might be a worthy challenge. She helps train those who are interesting to her and effortlessly kills those who are not. Shiva has appeared several times in Batman’s life to test his abilities and attempt to coerce him into exploring his true potential through murder.
There have been many different incarnations of Clayface, enough for them to form their own union. The original and most recognizable is Basil Karlo, an actor turned serial killer who developed shape-changing powers in a chemical accident. He’s one of the weirder villains to occupy Arkham Asylum, more of a monster than a lunatic in a costume. Clayface is great because he works for stories in two different genres. He’s built for creepy mysteries thanks to his flair for the dramatic and his ability to turn into anyone Batman knows. He’s also built for terrifying monster stories, as he’s extremely difficult to hurt, he can grow to huge sizes, and he can drown people inside his body.
Man-Bat has always been Gotham City’s very own Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Kirk Langstrom is a brilliant scientist and close friend to Bruce Wayne who developed a serum that turned him into a terrifying bat-monster. Man-Bat continues to wreak havoc whenever Kirk has a triggering episode, often hindering Kirk’s attempts to cure himself of this bizarre condition. Bruce has to find a way to stop Man-Bat from hurting innocents without inadvertently harming his friend Kirk.
6. Mad Hatter
The Mad Hatter has never really been in the big leagues, and admittedly he tends to be more of a distraction than a driving threat. Jervis Tetch is an Arkham patient whose insanity has run the spectrum from “light-hearted eccentric” to “raving lunatic” over his many years in publication. His obsession with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland leads him to repeatedly act out events from the book. Usually this means kidnapping young blonde girls, using the “mind control” technology in his hats that he invented. His abductions make for great detective stories, and it’s always fun to see Batman and Robin fight through his colorful mind-controlled henchmen dressed as the Walrus and Carpenter.
5. The Court of Owls
The Court of Owls haven’t been around for very long in the comics (debuted in 2011), but they’ve made the biggest impact of any Batman villain introduced in the last five years. They’re a secret cabal of Gotham’s wealthy elite dedicated to staying in power by any means necessary. They’ve stayed in power for centuries by employing a series of immortal assassins called the Talons, killing anyone who gets in their way or threatens to expose them. This includes several members of the Wayne family. The Court of Owls would make for a fantastic movie villain because their conspiracy tests the limits of Batman’s detective work, and the Talons test the limits of Batman’s fighting ability.
4. Black Mask
Black Mask has never really gotten the respect he deserves. He’s had a couple animated appearances, but most of them portray him as a simple gangster. Pretty disappointing for the second guy after the Joker in the exclusive “murdered a Robin” club. Black Mask is just as sick and twisted as any other Batman villain, with a particular penchant for torture, but his corporate sensibilities set him apart. After his family business went bankrupt, Roman Sionis decided to approach crime like a business. He found this much easier than running a conventional business, and eventually rose to become the number one man in the Gotham underworld. In addition to all that stuff, Sionis has a great creepy backstory connecting him to Batman. His wealthy parents ran in the same social circles as the Waynes, and he grew to despise his parents for how fake they acted in public. They were terrible people behind closed doors, but they put on “masks” in public to be more well-respected like the Waynes. This made young Sionis develop an obsession with masks and an obsessive hatred for the Wayne family. His original mask was carved out of his mother’s coffin after he killed both his parents, but a later accident with fire caused his face to burn into a permanent charred black skull.
3. Hugo Strange
Hugo Strange was the first recurring Batman villain, a mad scientist who terrorized Gotham with his creations, the Monster Men. Later stories have depicted him more as an evil psychologist, and most incarnations show him figuring out Bruce Wayne’s identity. Strange happens to be just as insane as the patients he treats, and multiple times he’s tried to kill Batman so he could take The Dark Knight’s place. He approaches Batman like a specimen to be dissected and studied for his own curiosity. Strange is extremely manipulative when constructing plans, and has no problem destroying innocent lives for his cruel experiments.
2. Red Hood
Red Hood is the grown-up version of Jason Todd, the second and most violent Robin, who was killed by the Joker during the events of A Death in the Family. Todd is resurrected and returns years later as Gotham’s newest vigilante. Having personally felt what happens when you refuse to kill someone like the Joker, Todd makes it his mission to wipe out crime by wiping out criminals. He puts his Batman training to use waging a one-man crusade to slaughter the city’s worst criminals. Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Jason Todd is fascinating because they absolutely cannot coexist, but Jason still loves Bruce as his adopted father and Bruce loves Jason as his prodigal son. Jason forces Bruce to examine the rules that he lives by, and ask himself how much good he’s actually doing.
Hush, also known as Tommy Elliot, was created to be the antithesis to Batman. Tommy and Bruce Wayne were best friends growing up, but Tommy had horrible abusive parents instead of kind ones. He tried to kill his parents by cutting their brakes, and he swore revenge against the Wayne family when Thomas Wayne saved his mother’s life. While Bruce was traveling the world, Tommy was forced to stay at home taking care of his bitter terrible mother or risk losing his inheritance. Years later when he discovered that Bruce Wayne was Batman, he decided to destroy Bruce’s life by manipulating every Gotham villain into a complicated conspiracy. Hush is just as deviously intelligent as Batman (he’s a doctor, honey) but he carries a variety of guns and he’s not afraid to kill anyone he has to.