Top 10: Anti-Batmen by Jerry Whitworth
Recently, Warner Bros. announced the forthcoming release of the third and reportedly final entry in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham trilogy with Batman: Arkham Knight. This third entry has been eagerly awaited, both to return to the engaging gameplay of the series and to continue the story from Batman: Arkham City which included the death of the Joker and the League of Assassins left leaderless. Fans were given Batman: Arkham Origins to satisfy them while awaiting the third Arkham game (and likely help spawn a new Arkham series more closely under Warner Bros. influence) but Origins received mixed reviews at best, plagued with glitches and bugs (which included forcing players to restart games from scratch), sales short of Arkham City (but comparable to Arkham Asylum not including DLC), and falling prey to virtually every inherent problem with producing a prequel (playing on areas of content found in, and expanded upon, City despite taking place before Arkham Asylum). For Arkham Knight, Gotham’s rogues like Scarecrow, Two-Face, Penguin, Harley Quinn, and Riddler team-up to menace the Dark Knight as a new threat created for the game will be introduced. The eponymous “Arkham Knight” is being created in part by DC Comics superstar creator Geoff Johns and has been described in a demo provided to the magazine Game Informer as a “militaristic Batman” with an “Arkham A” on his chest who shoots Batman at the end of the demo. Anti-Batmen (villainous characters who share characteristics with the hero) are not exactly a new concept. The Three Ghosts of Batman are in fact a team of anti-Batmen and during the event Battle for the Cowl, the likes of Jason Todd and Two-Face take up distorted versions of the bat’s cowl for their own purposes (on parallel and the Anti-Matter Earth, Owlman is a villainous analogy of the Caped Crusader). Lets examine some memorable anti-Batmen.
The earliest anti-Batman, Killer Moth was prisoner 234026 who read about Batman and his war on crime inspired to take up the mantle of an “anti-Batman” (who facilitated criminals rather than defeat them) upon his release. Using hidden funds 234026 kept law enforcement from finding, he uses data on the Dark Knight to construct a Mothcave, Mothmobile, and costume/arsenal as well as setting up a false identity as philanthropist Cameron van Cleer. This identity allowed 234026 to befriend the wealthy and powerful, including Bruce Wayne, as his dual identity as the Killer Moth appeared to criminals, offering them a portable infra-red Moth-signal (invisible to the human eye) that could summon him and his assistance for a price. Initially, Killer Moth was a success, preventing Batman and Robin from capturing crooks. The villain would battle the Dynamic Duo on Gotham Bridge, inevitably falling to his apparent demise. However, 234026 would return a few months later using his influence as Cameron van Cleer to bring a treasure to Gotham he planned to steal as the Killer Moth. The plot would fall through as van Cleer’s identity would be blown. 234026 returned, capturing Bruce Wayne for the purpose of taking his identity, having a plastic surgeon alter his face as the rogue assumed Wayne’s life. Batman’s dual identity would be uncovered by the villain who posed as the Dark Knight to build up the idea he fears the Killer Moth (drumming up business for the anti-Batman). Wayne would escape as Moth’s gang turned on their leader, believing he double-crossed them and dropping him in a hail of bullets (mangling his face and damaging his memory). The villain wouldn’t return for some time, eventually extorting money from the wealthy in a protection racket foiled by Barbara Gordon as Batgirl in her first adventure (for a time, Moth would become somewhat of a nemesis to the young heroine). Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, Killer Moth’s identity would retroactively be revealed as Drury Walker who went on various misadventures relegated as one of Batman’s B-list enemies before being transformed into the bug monster Charaxes (later killed during Infinite Crisis). Another unknown criminal would take up his mantle.
A former pawn of the secret society known as the Court of Owls, Lincoln March is C.O.O. of March Ventures and formerly a mayoral candidate for Gotham City. Claiming to be Bruce Wayne’s young brother Thomas Jr., March said he was recruited and groomed by the Court to replace Bruce Wayne following his assassination by the secret society. However, Bruce would survive and March was betrayed, left for dead. March managed to secure the Talons’ Electrum formula and used it to save his life and make him nigh-immortal. Poisoning some elder members of the Court, March revealed himself to Batman (who he deduced was Bruce Wayne) and pinned the blame of their parents’ death on him (swearing vengeance). However, the issue became unresolved when March was caught in an explosion and his whereabouts, or if he’s even still alive, are unknown. In combating Batman, March employed a super powered suit intended to be used by the Talons making him seemingly more than a match for the hero. March’s story was that Martha Wayne was caught in a car accident orchestrated by the Court of Owls that resulted in March being born impaired, sent to the Willowood House for Children where the doctors there would treat him. When the Waynes died, however, their secret son was lost to the world as the facility was no longer supported by the Wayne fortune, falling into disarray and under corrupt management. The story mirrors the Earth-One Thomas Wayne, Jr. who was struck by a car as a child making him dangerously mentally unstable and was institutionalized at Willowood Asylum. This Wayne would eventually become the assassin known as the Boomerang Killer which led to Batman discovering his past. Thomas would die after Deadman used him to return to his career as an acrobat only for Batman to discover this and free his brother. Thomas took a bullet intended for Batman, giving his life for that of his sibling.
Inspired in part by the character V from Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, Anarky was hinted to be the Joker’s biological son but this would later be shown to be false (as DC editorial would never sign off on the idea). Anarky was Lonnie Machin, a child prodigy who as a pre-teen became the anarchist Anarky wearing prosthesis to appear to be an adult and employing the homeless to combat injustice generally caused by the wealthy that oppress the common man. Batman would come across Anarky’s handiwork but the youth would apparently die in an explosion (the Caped Crusader decrying the use of violence to bring about social change). Machin would reemerge, his philosophy changed more towards the belief of Neo-Tech, faking his own death to focus on his work as Anarky to bring about a utopia on Earth (again running afoul of the Dark Knight). Following a massive earthquake that decimated Gotham, Batman put his foot down on Anarky’s activities and forced him to abandon the city. Anarky moved his headquarters to beneath the Washington Monument creating highly advanced technology (notably the artificial intelligence MAX and long range teleportation comparable to Boom Tubes) for his plans, eventually finding his focus changed when he learned he was adopted. As he investigated, his past seemed to lead to the Joker as his biological father, the concept that in time he himself maybe consumed by the madness that gripped the man who became the Joker weighing heavily on his mind. Anarky would be seen sparingly in public after this, at one point saving the Justice League of America after they were de-aged by Klarion the Witch Boy and assisted the group to break into their own headquarters. Terrorists would use Anarky’s name in bombing Star City prompting the anti-hero to clear his name and bring the culprits to justice alongside Green Arrow. Later, the villainous Ulysses Armstrong would capture Machin and turned him into the living computer Moneyspider (previously used as Machin’s hacker alias) while Armstrong took up the Anarky mantle (the writer intending to turn Armstrong into Robin’s nemesis). After Robin freed Moneyspider from Armstrong’s control, the human computer became a supporting character in the vein of Barbara Gordon’s Oracle identity. Anarky would be used in recent history as part of Beware the Batman and Batman: Arkham Origins as a full-on supervillain (rather than anti-hero) with an obsession with spreading chaos and using explosives to bring down the establishment (more in line with Anarky’s imitators, like the Star City terrorists and Ulysses Armstrong).
Son of the wealthy Sionis family and heir to the Janus Cosmetics empire, Roman Sionis’ life revolved around masks. Specifically, Roman’s parents only cared about how people viewed them, so much so their son’s well being was a non-issue. The neglect, both physical and mental, warped Roman’s mind, filling him with rage, angst, self-loathing, and a hatred and fascination for masks (literally and figuratively). Roman would fall in love with a model named Circe but his parents disapproved of a marriage that wouldn’t benefit the Sionis name. Soon after, Roman’s parents would die in a mysterious fire. Inheriting the company, Roman ran Janus into the ground leading Wayne Enterprises to save the company, keeping the surviving Sionis on as a mere figurehead (as Circe moved on for greener pastures). The experience would unhinge what was left of Sionis’ sanity, leading Roman to go to the Sionis family crypt where a series of events inspired the man to remake himself and seek revenge against Wayne Enterprises (whom he blamed for his failures). Taking a piece of his father’s ebony casket, Roman carved it into a mask he donned. Now as Black Mask, Roman formed the False Face Society gang (no relation to the Batman villain False Face), its members wearing Roman’s collection of masks as the group targeted the board of directors from Wayne that took over Janus (as well as orchestrating a crime wave in Gotham). It wouldn’t be long before Batman surmised who Mask was and his next target would be Bruce Wayne. Setting a trap, Batman and Robin took down the gang and Black Mask (Roman’s mask permanently fused to his face in a fire in the experience). The villain would return repeatedly, developing a reputation as a torturer, but would eventually take over organized crime in Gotham following a botched protocol developed by Batman and usurped by Stephanie Brown (daughter of the Cluemaster who has operated as Spoiler, Robin, and Batgirl). Black Mask would be rather successful in this venture, gaining the attention of Batman and his allies, but he would turn Catwoman’s life upside down. Pushed too far, Catwoman would eventually kill Sionis. His mantle would be inherited by Jeremiah Arkham. Black Mask would make a cameo in Batman: Arkham City and would be featured in Batman: Arkham Origins (though, most of the game featured the Joker masquerading as the villain).
A childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, Tommy Elliot was the son of wealthy parents that despised his abusive father and complacent mother. Elliot as a child would try to murder his parents, cutting the brakes on their car only for his father to die and mother to be saved by Dr. Thomas Wayne. Some years later, Bruce Wayne would lose his parents which made Elliot jealous, forced to tend to his mother (who would contract and survive cancer). Elliot would eventually fall in love with Peyton Riley but his mother disapproved, cutting him off from his fortune. Elliot would smother his mother as Riley killed the family lawyer and burned the new will. Elliot would abandon Riley and travel the world like Bruce Wayne had, harboring an irrational grudge against his former friend. Elliot would become a famous surgeon who, through a series of events, aligned with the Riddler (who, in an epiphany, realized Bruce Wayne was Batman). Elliot adopted the identity of Hush (covered in bandages and wearing a trench coat) who manipulated Batman’s worst enemies into working together against the hero. Joined by a resurrected Jason Todd, the trio tore Batman apart physically and mentally. When Batman finally faced Hush in combat, Elliot employed several behaviors of different villains that made Batman unable to decipher his identity. Batman would uncover Hush’s identity and the villain would trouble him again on several occasions. Eventually, Hush would capture Catwoman and use her to get to Batman as Elliot had plastic surgery to look like Bruce Wayne with plans to take over his life. The plan would fall through until Batman disappeared, leading to Elliot emerging as Wayne but under the watch of Dick Grayson. The deception would eventually lead to his undoing when Jane Doe would remove his face after becoming infatuated with him. Hush would appear briefly in Batman: Arkham City.