Tag Archives: Batman

Top 5 Rogues Galleries in Comics – #1

Well after more than a year away, and LOTS of life changes, I’m back to finish what I started. I’ve missed this so much. Let’s get back to it.

The finale of the Greatest Rogues Galleries countdown as voted on by you the readers…and it’s really no surprise that it was none other than the Caped Crusader, Batman. He’s almost universally regarded as having the best villains in not just comics, but in pop culture as a whole.

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Batman

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As if there was anywhere else to start on a list of Batman villains than his nemesis, the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. Rarely is a villain so singularly focused on wreaking havoc on a hero. He is responsible for the torture and death of second Robin, Jason Todd, and the paralysis of Barbara Gordon, just to make Batman and his ally Jim Gordon suffer. The Joker swings back-and-forth between calculated and methodical to erratic and spontaneous. This is really the only thing that makes him such a threat to Batman, because physically and mentally, the Joker is no match for the Dark Knight. But the fact that he’s completely unpredictable, makes him impossible to figure out. It has been discussed at length that in many ways Batman and Joker are really just two sides of the same coin…and whether either of them could exist without the other. Which just makes their relationship even more interesting and dynamic.

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Ever since her creation as a sidekick for the Joker in the incredible Batman: The Animated Series cartoon, Harley Quinn has been an extremely popular and beloved character in the DC universe. So great was her popularity that she was quickly adapted into the comic universe as well. Originally the psychologist assigned to the Joker at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, due to a significant amount of manipulation on his part, becomes obsessed with the Joker, leading her to help him escape and becoming his new sidekick/punching bag. While she is utterly devoted to him, he sees her simply as a pawn to control, using her to do his bidding so he can pull the strings from a position of safety, a shield to keep Batman busy, and just straight up physically and emotionally abusing her on a constant basis. In recent years, she has become somewhat of an anti-hero, as a member of the Suicide Squad, but her obsession with the Clown Prince of Crime has yet to be fully broken.

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One of the most complex and interesting relationships in comics is that of Batman and Catwoman. He stands for order and justice…she stands for, well, nothing but herself really. With Batman being the greatest detective and crime fighter, and Catwoman being the world’s greatest thief, one would think they would be firmly entrenched as adversaries. But with Selina Kyle showing occasional flashes of goodness and with her crimes being typically on the smaller scale, focusing on burglary, she has remained on the Dark Knight’s radar, but rarely does he go out of his way to stop her. They have also worked together on multiple occasions, with her even taking a few forays into anti-hero territory, and have an undeniable, intense sexual tension that makes their relationship so compelling.

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Another incredibly developed villain in the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery. Once the DA of Gotham City, Harvey Dent worked closely with Batman and Commissioner Jim Gordon to crack down on crime in their city (never more on display than in the fabulous graphic novel The Long Halloween). As a way of striking back, one of Gotham’s major organized crime leaders, Sal Maroni, throws sulfuric acid in Dent’s face, permanently disfiguring the left half of his face and eventually driving him insane. He became obsessed with duality and develops a form of split personality disorder, though both personalities seem to exist simultaneously and are aware of the other…and both hating Batman (the Two-Face half for his constant interference in his schemes, and the Harvey Dent side for his imagined betrayal of Batman leaving him as the vulnerable member of their alliance). This has lead to yet another great relationship between Batman and his villain, because while Batman has to stop Two-Face, he wants to do so in a way that doesn’t hurt the old Harvey Dent, who he believes (some of the time) is still there and can be redeemed.

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While the Oswald Cobblepot doesn’t have the intricate relationship with the Dark Knight as the previous villains have, he has remained a major, compelling member of his rogues gallery. Coming from a very wealthy family and using that inherited wealth to create a criminal empire, the Penguin is simply a real-world type gangster, gun runner, and thief, with a violent temper and an arsenal of weaponized umbrellas. The Penguin may not seem like much of an opponent for Batman. But he is a criminal mastermind and a rather large coward, continually running away while Batman takes out his crew, leaving him to live to fight another day.

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Convinced of his own intellectual superiority, Edward Nigma is obsessed with proving he is smarter than Batman who is regarded as a genius and the “world’s greatest detective,” so he often tries to put Batman in deathtraps that he believes are unbeatable. Due to his overestimation of his own brilliance, this is never the case. And also due to his compulsion to leave riddles at the scene of his crimes, he many times is the cause of his own defeat. Despite this, the Riddler has proven to be one of the most intelligent, logical adversaries of the Caped Crusader even deducing Batman’s secret identity in the Hush story arc.

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Formerly a brilliant psychologist and biochemist, Jonathan Crane is obsessed with the concept of fear. His obsession led him to perform dangerous fear-inducing experiments on his patients and students, leading to his termination and the murders of those responsible. This sends him down a path of a career criminal. While not a particularly physically formidable opponent for Batman, the Scarecrow’s fear toxin has been an incredible tool used to explore the tortured psyche of Bruce Wayne.

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With a body pushed to near human peak levels, genius level intellect, and an iron will forged in the dark, almost unbearable conditions of a Santa Prisca prison, the man known as Bane is easily one of Batman’s more formidable opponents. He is the Caped Crusader’s equal in almost every regard, and that’s before his strength, speed, and stamina are pushed to superhuman levels by the drug known as Venom. Most recognizable as the “man that broke the Bat” when, during the Knightfall story arc, he exhausted Batman (from breaking out all of his villains from Arkham Asylum), deduced his secret identity, and then ambushed him inside Wayne Manor, leading to Bane breaking Batman’s back. While Batman eventually recovered and defeated him, Bane has remained a consistent thorn in his side ever since.

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Due to the resurrective properties of the Lazarus Pits, Ra’s al Ghul has been the leader of the ancient order of the League of Assassins for centuries. A master strategist, swordsman, hand-to-hand combatant, and alchemist that has perfected his skills over hundreds of years, al Ghul is among the most dangerous villains in Batman’s rogues gallery. The League’s purpose is to infiltrate and destroy decadent centers of civilization…with Gotham as a primary target. While Ra’s al Ghul is very much an adversary to the Dark Knight, he also holds Batman in high regard for his ability, respectfully referring to him as “Detective.” Ra’s respects his ability so much that he wishes for Batman to take his place as the head of the League. Batman is also in love with Ra’s daughter Talia, who eventually becomes the mother of his son, Damian Wayne.

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Easily one of the most sympathetic villains in comics, Victor Fries, a cryogenics expert, cryogenically freezes his terminally ill wife, Nora, to buy him time to find a cure. During an experiment, something goes wrong and his body’s physiology is reversed so that he must remain in freezing temperatures to stay alive. To accomplish this, he creates a refrigerated containment suit. Driven by his obsession to save his wife, he also develops a Freeze Gun that instantly freezes objects to sub-zero temperatures, and sets out on committing crimes to fund his research. This leads him into constant conflict with Batman. With his tragic origins and motivations, and cool (no pun intended) abilities, Mr. Freeze has become a popular and endearing villain of the Dark Knight.

There you have it folks. The greatest rogues galleries in comics. I promise to be around more often. No more year long breaks. I’ve got lots more to say and as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. See you next time.

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Reader’s Poll: Who Has the Best Rogues Gallery in Comics?

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What good is a hero without great villains? No matter how incredible or interesting the protagonist in a story may be, if he/she is not met by equally incredible or interesting antagonists, the story just feels flat. Aside from Star Wars‘ Darth Vader, who is without a doubt the coolest bad guy in pop culture, there’s no better place to find villains than comic books. So which hero has the best rogues gallery? You as the reader get to determine which ones I write about. Vote below and I’ll feature the top 5 vote-getters in a future post (might be a multi-parter).

 

Top 5-ish Batman Graphic Novels

As you all I love Batman. He’s one of my absolute favorite superheroes, second only to Spider-Man to be exact. He’s the world’s greatest detective and hand-to-hand combatant. The Dark Knight has easily the best rogues gallery of any comic hero. But he also stands alone as the character with the best graphic novel collection, and it’s not close. I was going to make this a list of the top 5, but I came up with six and just couldn’t find it in myself to knock one of them off. Besides, it’s my blog and I can make my own rules. I’m such a rebel. *Insert eye roll* I listed the writer and artist for each novel as well. Without further ado, here…we…go:

 

5*. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (Grant Morrison/Dave McKean)

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Beautifully painted artwork from Dave McKean sets this book apart from just about any other Batman story out there. It also delves deeper in the scarred psyche of the Caped Crusader than most. See Batman face his own madness to survive the night inside Arkham Asylum is a riveting read.

 

5*. Batman: Hush (Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee)

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I don’t know if there’s a writer that grasps the modern version of Batman quite like Jeph Loeb. Add in art from my all-time favorite comic artist Jim Lee, and you have the perfect foundation for an amazing Batman novel. They do not disappoint. A masterful puzzle of a story that also served to introduce a fantastic new villain to the Batman mythos.

 

4. Batman: Year One (Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli)

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If Loeb isn’t the best modern writer for The Dark Knight, than it would have to be Frank Miller. Tracing the first steps in the career of Bruce Wayne’s war on crime, Year One gives an incredible re-envisioning of his origin. Also includes some of the absolute greatest Batman quotes ever written. David Mazzucchelli’s pulp-inspired artwork helps set the tone for this throwback. Heavily influenced the film Batman Begins.

 

3. Batman: The Long Halloween (Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale)

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As far as overall story arcs go, this might be my favorite among Batman’s many graphic novels. Winding and intricate, with incredible plot twists and misdirections. Much like Arkham Asylum and Hush, The Long Halloween includes several of Batman’s villains as major characters, which helps to make it an even better treat. Was, with The Killing Joke, the basis for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

 

2. Batman: The Killing Joke (Alan Moore/Brian Bolland)

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The greatest story of Batman’s nemesis, The Joker. Never before has he appeared so prominently. Written by comic legend Alan Moore, the book is filled with all the violence, high drama, philosophical introspection, and twists that Moore is known for. Batgirl’s sexual assault and paralysis at the hands of The Joker is one the most iconic and controversial moments in comic history.

 

1. The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller/Klaus Janson)

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The essential Batman graphic novel. This is the story that returned Batman to his darker, brooding nature. Seeing an aging Bruce Wayne return to defend his city from a new threat that the police are unable to stop, while taking on a new Robin to train is some of the most fun you’ll have reading a Batman comic. Violent, gritty, and as dark as The Caped Crusader gets. Go out of your way to read this one if you haven’t.

Greatest Comic Artists – Part 2

In today’s installment, we have a father and son, a couple of comic book hall of famers, and some of the grittiest artists comics has to offer.
John Romita, Sr. – (Spider-Man, Captain America)
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With so many great artists having drawn the character, you can’t really say that there is a definitive Spider-Man artist. But if there is one, it might be John Romita, Sr. He was the artist for most of Spidey’s defining moments in the 70’s. With his son following in his footsteps, he also created one of the greatest legacies is comic history.
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John Romita, Jr. – (Spider-Man, Daredevil, Kick-Ass, Iron Man)
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Undaunted by the immense shadow cast by his father, John Romita Jr. became a legendary artist as well. And while his humble nature won’t allow him to admit it, I’d argue that his skill probably surpassed that of his famous father. After notable runs drawing for Spider-Man and Daredevil, Romita Jr. went on to co-create the ultra-violent Kick-Ass.
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Denys Cowan – (The Question, Deathlok, Steel, Power Man & Iron Fist)
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One of the best in the business at telling a story with artwork and framing an action scene. Gritty, emotional art is his calling card. Denys Cowan is so good that he managed to actually make Steel seem interesting. Cowan even drew the cover art for GZA’s album Liquid Swords. He has since gone on to work for BET.
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Frank Miller – (Daredevil, Batman, Sin City, 300)
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The standard bearer for gritty, ultra-stylized comic art. Also an acclaimed writer. Miller is credited with saving the Daredevil franchise and returning Batman to his darker roots by turning both into the violent vigilantes we know them as today. Created the Sin City franchise and drew/wrote some of the Caped Crusader’s greatest stories, including The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One.
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Steve Ditko – (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, The Question, Blue Beetle)
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Originally working in Jack Kirby’s studio, Ditko eventually became a major artist in his own right having created Dr. Strange and co-created Spider-Man and The Question. His tendency to focus on intricacy and fantasy elements allowed him to become a legend in the realms of science fiction, horror, and the supernatural.
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Come back next time where I’ll finish the list of the greatest comic book artists of all-time!

Greatest Comic Artists – Part 1

Comic books have given us some incredible stories…stories that we remember for the rest of our lives. But regardless of how great a comic writer may be (and there are some truly great ones out there), it would just be a story without great artwork to go with it. The art in a comic sets the tone, conveys the emotions the characters are feeling, and helps fill in the gaps of the story that dialogue can’t. Here’s the first installment of some of the best:

Jack Kirby – (Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Captain America)

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Where else to start on a list of the greatest comic artists than with The Godfather of comic artists himself? There is a reason one of the comic book halls of fame is name after this man. He was the artist behind some of comics most iconic characters, having co-created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and the Avengers. He helped usher in the modern era of comics, where characters stopped looking like cartoons, and took on more realistic qualities

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Charlie Adlard – (The Walking Dead, Savage, Judge Dredd)

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No one makes use of shadow quite like Charlie Adlard. Which is useful considering the work he’s most known for, The Walking Dead, is published in black-and-white. He also does a fantastic job giving each character a realness that few artists can.

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Neal Adams – (Green Arrow, Batman, Deadman)

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Possibly the greatest cover artist in the history of comics. But while he is prolific at creating cover art, he is still an incredible talent drawing panel-to-panel. Arguably the quintessential Batman artist, and most definitely the definitive artist for Green Arrow.

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John Byrne – (X-Men, Fantastic Four, Superman)

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While he was the artist (and writer) behind the Fantastic Four’s “Second Golden Age”, he is most known for his extensive work with Chris Claremont on The Uncanny X-Men during the late 70’s into the early 80’s. He was the pencil behind benchmark X-Men stories like “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past.” There is no artist more widely associated with the X-men…except maybe the next guy…

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Jim Lee – (X-Men, WildC.A.T.s, Batman)

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Hands down my all-time favorite comic artist. When I think of the X-Men from the comics, the 90’s versions of the characters are what immediately come to mind. Jim Lee’s fantastic art and stories are the major reasons for that. He also helped start Image Comics with his WildC.A.T.s and Gen13 franchises. He has also had long, impressive runs drawing for Batman and Superman as well. He is also a current co-publisher for DC Comics.

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100 Greatest Comic Book Characters of All Time – Part 15

Because I’m kind of just ready to move on to other things, instead of just giving a 5 character entry with descriptions, I’m just going to list the Top 30 with a picture. Sorry if you were enjoying it in the original format. Maybe one day I’ll go back and finish it that way. But until then, here goes:

 

30. Jesse Custer

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29. Dr. Strange

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28. Green Goblin

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27. Darkseid

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26. Thor

Thor

 

25. Nightcrawler

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24. Rorschach

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23. The Thing

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22. Martian Manhunter

 

 

21. Jean Grey

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20. Cyclops

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19. Deadpool

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18. Lex Luthor

Lex Luthor

 

17. Mr. Fantastic

Mr Fantastic

 

16. Catwoman

Catwoman

 

15. Daredevil

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14. Nightwing

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13. The Flash (Barry Allen)

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12. The Hulk

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11. Wolverine

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10. Iron Man

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9. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

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8. Magneto

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7. The Joker

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6. Dr. Doom

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5. Superman

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4. Captain America

Captain America

 

3. Wonder Woman

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2. Batman

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1. Spider-Man

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100 Greatest Comic Characters of All Time – Part 12

The countdown continues, with more cigars than a walk-in humidor.

45. Hellboy

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A Nazi-hating, monster fighting demon with a love for cigars and a right hand that is the key to the end of the world. Summoned as a baby during a thwarted Nazi occult ritual, he was discovered and raised like a son by the British Professor Broom. His power is matched only by his wit and a sense of responsibility instilled in him by his father.

 

44. Rick Grimes

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The primary protagonist in Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic The Walking Dead. In a world of terrible violence and brutality, few have suffered as much as Rick Grimes. He lost his wife and newborn daughter and had his right hand cut off (all by psychopath The Governor), had to cut off his girlfriend’s hand and allow her to be eaten to protect his son, and has seen person after person who’s safety he was responsible for die often gruesome deaths. All the while he has shown himself to be a master strategist, a tremendous leader, and a bonafide badass.

 

43. Lucifer Morningstar

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DC Comics’ version of the Devil. Modeled heavily after the Satan in Paradise Lost with the face of David Bowie (may he rest in peace). Originally appearing in the pages of Sandman, he eventually went on to star in his own series. As one would expect from a character based on Satan, he is silver-tongued, charming, and seductive, but can be extremely violent and unforgiving.

42. Nick Fury

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The long-time director of spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury has stories dating all the way back to the second World War, where he was the leader of the special ops team the Howling Commandos. Upon suffering fatal wounds from a mine shortly after the war ended, he was healed using the experimental Infinity Formula which essentially stopped him from aging. Known for his ability to always think 2 steps ahead of his enemies and his devotion to secrecy (sometimes even from those he trusts most). While, in recent history, Nick Fury has rarely been the central figure of any particular story, he has been on the periphery of many of Marvel’s biggest story arcs, many times being a key figure in setting them into motion.

 

41. Jim Gordon

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The police commissioner of Gotham City, and arguably Batman’s greatest ally in his fight for justice. With a history as long and developed as the Dark Knight’s, Jim Gordon is the greatest supporting character in all of comics. He is as complex as a non-primary character can be: willing to bend the rules to get things done in a city as dark and corrupt as Gotham, yet has a strict moral code when it comes to right and wrong (something the writers of the TV series Gotham seem to have missed)… is a paragon of virtue among the police force, yet hasn’t been an angel in his personal life.