Justify Your Existence: Batman Villain Edition

Hello and welcome to Saturday here at Living Between Wednesdays! Today we'll be playing a game of "Justify Your Existence", the game in which super-folk of yesteryear tell us, in their own words, exactly why they did what they did. This week we're going to be talking to some Batman villains of yore, and in return we'll be telling them exactly how likely it is that they might make their way back into the comic books of today to bedevil whoever wins that pesky battle for the cowl.

First up, Doctor No-Face, from Detective Comics No. 319.

And who is Dr No-Face? Why, he's Dr Paul Dent, medical researcher and erstwhile chimp-smoother!

Dent's facial features are obliterated by overexposure to his ray! He rushes out into the night, shrieking!

Dr Paul Dent becomes Dr No-Face! He goes on a rampage! His petty, ascotted vandalism has Gotham in the grip of fear! But why, Doc? Tell us your motivation:

Ah, the classic plot: taking revenge on society for the horrible disfigurement that... you caused yourself to have. Well, I guess that it's not like you can erase your own face, right?

What are his chances? Pretty good, if it were up to me. I'm sure that if he were around today he'd be disfiguring beautiful people or holding famous faces for ransom whilst wielding a vial of acid or something but I suppose that that's the style of the time. Check this though: Dr Paul Dent is Dr No-Face while Harvey Dent is Two-Face! They could be cousins and have a familial rivalry and terrorize the Gotham citizenry with their feud! Or Dr No-Face could fight the Question for thematic fun and maybe try to woo her, leading to big laffs! And Cousin Harvey is creepily into Renee Montoya! The plots write themselves, folks!

What does the Internet say? Because I haven't read every comic ever I feel the need to check for repeat appearances. Turns out that Doc N-F was mentioned in 52 as having developed some of the technology that led to the Question's mask, but his name is also listed as Bart Margan, which detracts from some of my fun. Still, the stage is set!

Our next contestant is The Dummy!

As far as I can tell, The Dummy is some guy named Danny, a very short performer who poses as a ventriloquist's dummy while working tthe controls of a larger figure named Matt:

But Danny has a problem: when he walks down the street dressed as a ventriloquist's dummy after a long day of pretending to be a ventriloquist's dummy in a fairly popular show (well, popular enough that that one guy's evidently seen it twice), sometimes people talk like he's a ventriloquist's dummy.

This is not a good reason for crime, Danny the Dummy. This is a good reason to retool your act so that it involves you explicitly puppeteering Matt or maybe so that it's you operating a very small dummy while Matt's dismembered body lies on the stage behind you. Continuing to dress as a dummy and calling yourself The Dummy will still result in people referring to you in a manner that might lead you to believe that they think that you are a dummy, Danny.

What are his chances? Poor. In addition to the fact that he became a criminal for a very stupid reason and that he looks unnervingly creepy, the Dummy doesn't even fill a unique niche. Batman already has a much better ventriloquism-based villain and there's already a more notorious DCU villain named The Dummy who fought the Vigilante and killed his sidekick and stuff.

What does the Internet say? Squat. Danny is not a player.

The Hangman:

The Hangman made an appearance in Detective Comics No 355 as a wrestler who was undefeated and whose identity was unknown and had promised to reveal his identity if he was ever beaten in a fight.

And then, the Hangman starts showing up all aroung Gotham - every time that Batman investigates a crime scene, the Hangman is nearby, running away or loitering suspiciously, and of course they fight and Hangman keeps beating Batman with his awesome wrestling moves and then keeps trying to take unconcious Batman's mask off. Why all the strange behavior, Hangman? (below)




Augh! That's a terrible reason to roam the city staging crimes (it turns out that he was staging the crimes, by the way) and picking fights with a super-hero!

The Hangman turns out to be Telman Davies, a TV newsman who has a secret life as a masked wrestler, just as they often do in real life. Remember the wrestling subplots on Murphy Brown? Classic.

What are his chances? On the theme that he showcased in this story? Bleh. However, Davies was disgraced at the end of the story and had to leave Gotham. He'd have made a great recurring antagonist, trying and failing to wreak his revenge on Batman for ruining his scheme. At the very least he's visually interesting enough to make good crowd scene filler - he could pop up in villain bars and prison escapes and such.

What does the Internet say? Things aren't looking good. A Hangman has made an appearance in Batman comics in recent years, in the series Dark Victory, but it wasn't Davies. He could still get that job as an extra, I suppose, but this makes it far less likely.

It's Signalman!

Signalman is Phil Cobb, an itinerant gangster who wants to hit the big time in Gotham but just can't seem to get ahead. Being new in town, he has a really hard time making friends and inciting them to shake down local shopkeeps.

Phil is a thinking man, a cleft-chinned, green-suited pool hall-frequenting thinking man. He puts his mental muscle to work and comes up with a plan re: how to get a gang going in Gotham. What was that plan again, Phil?

He decides to gin up a reputation by emulating the  crime-style of the Joker and the Penguin! Granted, those two never seem to have any problem drumming up a gang of gangsters in Gotham, but then again they always seem to get caught or seemingly killed as a  result of their convoluted scheming and the Batman's straightforward punching. Maybe it would be a better idea to relocate to a town without a masked champion of justice, or at least with one who has never beaten Superman in a fight?

Or going completely, insanely all-out with a theme and attacking Batman head-on is another option. Signalman is of course defeated (despite his awesome cape) but I'm sure that he makes lots of friends in prison with his effective communication skills.

What are his chances? Well, this one's a little easier, since I know that Signalman made a few more appearances in the Silver Age and showed up in the Secret Society of Super-Villains and so forth. He's been treated as something of a joke for a while now but maybe his time has come. Maybe Mr Cobb has been biding his time and is about to unveil a super-cool new device that disrupts the electrical signals of the brain or takes over the Internet or something. Will 2009 be the year that Signalman comes into his own?

What does the Internet say? Man, Signalman is still around, more than I realized. He's like the new Dr Light, the joke villain that everyone makes fun of. Let's hope that he can make a better, non-rapey comeback.

Okay, one more: The Wheel.

Come on, you know The Wheel, don't you? Frank "Wheels" Foster? Gotham restauranteur? Ran a clandestine gambling den? Captured by Batman? Sent to a prison full of yokels with simple senses of humour?

The Wheel! Remember how he serendipitously escaped from prison when a truck blew a tire and came up with the best plan ever?

That's right, Frank, it's an omen! Wheel crimes, yeah! Though why gate-, truck- or laundry-based crimes were less fateful I'm not sure. I guess that the whole nickname thing meant that he already had some sort of wheel connection going on in his mind but I'd think that the merciless prison-taunting would have seen to that pretty damn quick.

I want you to note two things here, folks: this is The Wheel's first caper, the one where traditionally the villain thwarts Batman and gets away. The second time out is the one where Batman almost catches the villain but ends up with the loot. The Wheel is not fated to be doing this. Also, Batman clearly knows who he is so the mask is kind of stupid.

What are his chances? I see two chances for The Wheel. One, he can show up in an Arkham Asylum scene in a room full of wheels and clockwork and stuff as a background madman. Two, if my plans for Signalman come to fruition and he becomes cool again the Wheel can step in as the low villain on the totem pole. Heck, theyy even have basically the same costume.

What does the Internet say? Sorry, Frank. You're off the radar.

Okay folks, that's it for today. I'd like to thank all of our guests and remind them never to give up hope. You never know when you'll get the chance to shine in a prison riot or Suicide Squad mission or parody comic.

See you next time, existence-justifiers!