If there’s one thing that promotions for Gotham, Fox’s new Batman prequel series, want you to know, it’s this: Sure, we might not have Batman, but we have so many of his famous rogues gallery. The pilot alone — which coincided with Batman’s 75th birthday this year (really, he doesn’t look a day over 35, but to be fair, that cowl covers up a lot of his face) — features versions of the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman, and mob boss Carmine Falcone; with three quarters of a century’s worth of comics, movies, and TV shows at their disposal, producers have hundreds more bad guys (no, really) to choose from for future episodes.
But not every villain the Dark Knight has faced is worth translating to television. Any series that’s been around for 75 years is sure to have had its share of off moments, and with literally thousands of Batman comics published during that time, there are plenty of adventures he would like to forget. If any of the following guys show up in Gotham, you can rest assured that the bottom of the barrel is very, very close to being scraped.
11. Kite Man
Not many supervillains can boast of being inspired by a true comic great, but Kite Man — whose secret identity was “Chuck Brown” because clearly, naming the character “Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” would’ve been too much of a giveaway — is, in so many ways, a villain who stands out from the pack. Take, for example, his choice of combat shtick: He flies through the air with a giant kite strapped to his body, and when forced into hand-to-hand combat situations, uses smaller kites as weapons. Truly, this man is obsessed. Blame, perhaps, an unfortunate tree-based trigger event from his youth.
10. Calendar Man
The clue to Calendar Man’s M.O. is in his name — in both of his names, in fact: His secret identity, Julian Day, references the Julian calendar. Yes, he’s a villain who’s all about days, weeks, and months, with his crimes linked to particular anniversaries or specific dates. If this seems a little research-intensive, it’s worth considering that he probably doesn’t have too much else to do when he’s in prison than count the days. Literally.
Created for the 1960s Batman TV series and played by Vincent Price, Egghead was more memorable for his enjoyment of egg-related puns than anything else he managed to get up to during his relatively short criminal career. If nothing else, he did have a fun range of weaponized eggs to use at appropriate moments. (And, really, when isn’t a laughing-gas egg appropriate?)
Although this villain, who debuted at the height of Batmania back in 1966, is little more than a cut-rate Riddler (he leaves clues to his crimes in advance instead of riddles, but other than that, he’s pretty much just biting Edward Nigma’s style), he does have a better origin. Cluemaster, a.k.a. Arthur Brown — sadly, not the god of hellfire — was a desperate former game-show host who turned to crime to make ends meet. If nothing else, he should serve as a cautionary tale to real-life game show hosts hitting hard times. In fact, has anyone seen Summer Sanders lately …?
7. Killer Moth
If you can get past the stupid name and the fact that he’s chosen a moth as his inspiration, Killer Moth is actually a pretty ingenious idea. Setting out to become “the anti-Batman,” Moth hires himself out to other criminals as a distraction for the Dark Knight, taking the “anti-Batman” thing so far as to create a fake millionaire-playboy identity, called Cameron van Cleer. I mean, that’s dedication.
6. Mr. Polka-Dot
Fate dealt a sorry hand to poor Abner Krill, and not just by giving him the name Abner Krill. After an unsuccessful attempt at a life of crime that, for reasons never quite explained, centered around dots, spots, and decorative circles of many types, he went into retirement for decades … only to reappear as a psycho with a baseball bat. That comeback ended with him in the hospital, and when he next appeared — having reacquainted himself with the lure of the polka dot — he got killed by another villain. That never would’ve happened to Mr. Plaid, let’s be honest.
5. Crazy Quilt
A famous painter who paid the bills with a second job as a master criminal — come on, it’s not as if the painting thing would have ever really worked out — Paul Dekker was blinded when one of his minions double-crossed him and shot him in the head. That, obviously, wasn’t the end of things; he regained his eyesight thanks to yet another experimental medical procedure — but he could only see as long as he was looking at garishly bright colors. What else could he do but build himself a helmet that projected garishly bright colors, blinding his foes while allowing him to see?
4. Penny Plunderer
Thanks to a traumatic childhood experience — being caught stealing pennies, which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t sound that traumatic, but who can say? — Joe Coyne turned to crime. But not just any crime. No, Joe can only commit crimes that are penny-themed.
3. Mr. Camera
As the narration from the first of the character’s two appearances (Batman No. 81, from 1954) helpfully explains, “Mr. Camera was so-named because of the curious camera-lens helmet he wore — and because he employed all sorts of photographic devices in his criminal raids.” Yes, this was a criminal who wore a helmet shaped like a camera. To ensure that you knew that he was indeed a supervillain and not just some kind of photography fetishist, he also wore a cape.
As the name might suggest, Orca was an evil whale — well, not exactly. Orca was actually an evil whale-woman, a marine biologist who underwent an experimental gene therapy using orca genes to help her … shattered spine … and, okay, maybe we should just skip over that whole origin thing. As can only be expected from comic-book science, this gene therapy gave her the powers of a whale, which translates into “she’s really good at swimming and is also fairly strong.” Two attributes that would be useful if she were fighting Aquaman, perhaps, but as a Batman villain? A little bit out of her depth. (Pardon the pun, blame the Egghead residuals.)
1. Sin Fang
Even for 1940, when Sin Fang made his first and only appearance, he had an astoundingly dubious crime signature. For all intents and purposes, he looked and acted like a stereotypical Chinese crime boss of the day, but — get this! — he was actually a white guy named Sheldon Lenox who was simply playing on everyone’s inherent racism for … reasons.