Beware the Batman debuted last weekend, and with it we got our first look at an entirely new version of Batman's rogues gallery. Rather than sticking with tried-and-true big name villains like the Joker, the Riddler or even the KGBeast, the producers of Beware have decided to go for deeper cuts, using villains that have never been used on a cartoon before. We've seen a couple, but they've also teased a few new ones with an ad running in this month's comics.
That's why today, we've decided to figure out who a few of these new faces are -- or at least, who a few of them might be.
Professor Pyg & Mister Toad
Of all the villains appearing on Beware the Batman, I'm going to go ahead and guess that Pyg and Toad are the ones that had to have the biggest changes made in order to be suitable for Cartoon Network. Originally created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely in the pages of Batman and Robin, they were a little creepier than their animated counterparts. Toad was pretty minor, getting killed by other members of his creepy circus-gang in the second issue, but Pyg was a pretty major part of that entire run, using strange science and the occasional dance number to turn people into mindless, horrifically scarred "Dollotrons." While I'd be pretty excited to see a Saturday morning cartoon take on Dr. Hurt and The Hole In Things, I'm not really holding out hope that this will be the case.
For the show, they've been rebooted into a pair of eco-terrorists inspired by The Wind in the Willows, which is about as far from melting people's faces, stripping in front of a wire mother and dosing Gotham City with a psychotropic drug as you're likely to get.
If you'd asked me a year ago to make a list of characters that would never in a million years appear as major villains on a Batman cartoon, there's a pretty good chance that Magpie would've edged out even Orca the Whale Woman for the top spot. Despite her obscurity, though, she actually has a pretty important role in the grand scheme of things: In John Byrne's Man of Steel #3, she's the very first villain that Superman and Batman fight as a team.
Her real name is -- wait for it -- Margaret Pye (ugh) and she's described by Batman as "a little girl who loved pretty things, a trifle too much perhaps." And since she was born and raised in Gotham City, that combination of liking a specific thing and having a name that lent itself to a pretty horrible pun obviously led her to become an incredibly theatrical kleptomaniac. Incidentally, in her return appearance, she was literally distracted by Batman holding up a shiny object and broke down crying, after she initially escaped the Dynamic Duo when Robin accidentally snapped the straps on her costume and looked away to avoid seeing her topless. This is not a joke. Batman #401.
That Jason Todd. He used to be such a nice boy.
Anyway, the show refers to Magpie as a "deranged villainess," one of comics' favorite phrases, and she's been given a pretty thorough redesign. The obvious comparison is to Lady Gaga, but let's be honest, it's not hard to imagine her wearing Magpie's original outfit too.
All right, look. I'm not saying that I laughed out loud last year at Comic-Con when they told me that Anarky was going to be the primary antagonist of an entire Batman series, but I'm not saying I didn't do that, either. Seriously, if nothing else, Beware the Batman is doing a nice job of giving us stuff that we didn't expect.
In the comics, Anarky first appeared in Detective Comics #608 as the creation of artist Norm Breyfogle and writer Alan Grant, whose design request for Breyfogle was reportedly "V For Vendetta meets Spy vs. Spy." He was a new vigilante who prowled Gotham's streets, motivated both by a sense for justice and by his anti-authoritarian politics. After an issue of mystery, he was revealed to be exactly the kind of person you'd expect to run around calling themselves "Anarky" -- namely, a teenager -- wearing a complicated harness that made him look taller. It's also worth noting that this led to one of the single best panels of Breyfogle's considerably awesome career:
For the show, Anarky's original red and gold color scheme has been switched over to a stark black and white, and while I wonder if that's designed to echo the monochromatic look of V, the addition of a hood sure does remind me of Marvel's Moon Knight. Then again, I don't think anyone's going to have a problem with Batman punching out Moon Knight.
Talk about a deep cut, this dude's one that even I had to look up to remember. If memory serves, he was divided into three sections, and had to be reassembled by a pair of children in order for them to gain entrance into the Hidden Temple, where -- wait, sorry. Had my notes mixed up. Wrong Silver Monkey.
This guy was an assassin for hire created by Chuck Dixon and Steve Lieber back in Detective Comics #685, back when Batman and Robin were spending a lot of time karate fighting dudes with names like King Snake. He was a student of the Monkey Fist school and was at one time ranked second only behind the fearsome Lady Shiva, making him one of roughly eight thousand people who were ranked second behind Lady Shiva. He also fought Green Arrow a lot. Because Chuck Dixon, that's why.
For one brief, shining moment when I saw this ad, I had hope that this was actually going to be a new version of Egghead, Vincent Price's character from the 1966 Batman TV show. Sadly, that was not to be.
Instead, it's (sigh) Humphry Dumpler, first spotted in Dan Slott and Ryan Sook's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. Rather than just being an it-had-to-happen use of a public domain nursery rhyme name, though, Dumpty actually has a pretty interesting gimmick that fits the source material. He's obsessed with taking things apart and putting them back together again, and while I doubt the cartoon is going to go into him dissecting and stitching up his dead grandmother (oh, 2000s comics), his obsession with machinery and his lack of knowledge about how it actually works could lead to some great set pieces.
Finally, we have the two characters in the ad that I'm actually not sure about. First, the green fellow in the center:
I've been told by others that this is a redesign for The Key, a Justice League foe that dates back to a Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky story in 1965. His deal was that "psycho-chemicals" gave him ten senses, plus a key-shaped laser gun and an army of robots. He's pretty complicated. Either way, his presence on the show has been confirmed, but to be honest, there's not much about this redesign that would make me think that's who he is, even with the drastic changes that other characters have seen.
If it's not the Key, then my guess -- owing to the glowing green color scheme and the metal armor-type costume -- would be that this is Dr. Phosphorus, a radioactive evildoer first apearing in Steve Englehart and Walter Simonson's Detective Comics #469. The thing is, Phosphorus was used in The Batman, so that might put him out of the running.
The obvious choice here would be Talia, especially considering that the IMDB credits Lance Reddick as Ra's al-Ghul for upcoming episodes. That said, if the idea for Beware the Batman is to get away from villains that have been used in other cartoons, then Ra's and Talia should probably be off the table right from the start. They were prominent villains on the original Batman: The Animated Series, as well as more recent appearances on Brave and the Bold. The actual design seems more reminiscent of Morgan le Fey, but she has the same problem of having appeared on BATB.
If it's neither of them, then my money -- and my hopes -- would be that this is Doug Moench and Gene Colan's Nocturna, a relatively obscure villain first appearing in 1983, whose major contribution to comics was a little thing called the Jason Todd Custody Battle. She was hit by a laser that more-or-less turned her into a vampire because that's how comic books roll, and spent most of her villainous career teaming up with The Thief Of Night, but eventually adopted Jason Todd and tried to get married to Batman.
I think Wikipedia sums up her last Pre-Crisis appearance best: "Nocturna, having been stabbed, was last seen being put into a balloon by Jason Todd which he then set off into the air." I don't know about you, but that's definitely how I want to go out.