While we’re still waiting for the new Batman movie, it’s time to revisit the iconic figure’s 75-year-old rogues’ gallery. Namely, we’re going to compare the acting skills of four of the most popular Batman villains from the past and see which one is still the best. The answer might surprise you.
The Riddler – The Most Popular Batman Villain Of All Times
If there’s one villain whose notoriety has never faded it’s the Riddler. Weighing in at a comparatively rotund 172 pounds with a fondness for puzzles and witty banter, the cunning mastermind has been featured in everything from serials to theatrical releases. Thanks to his popularity, the Riddler ranks third on the all-time list of the most popular Batman villains. Despite this, when it comes to portraying the iconic character, the screenwriter behind the new Batman movie, Richard Donner, admits that he’s afraid of the Riddler.
“I’ve always been intimidated by the Riddler,” Donner reveals. “I’m a real fan of the character and I always wanted to write something for him. But I’ve never really gotten around to it. So he’s a character I’ve always wanted to tackle. Now I have the chance to do it, I’m excited at the challenge.”
One of the things that makes the Riddler such an interesting character to study is that unlike most of Batman’s other rogues, he’s never been a true one-trick pony. Depending on the era, the Riddler has been known to be a master of numerous sciences. With an expertise in linguistics, mathematics, and chemistry, the Riddler was the genius who invented the Joker’s famed explosive jelly and could’ve easily stolen the Batman mantle from Arthur. Of course, the Riddler’s greatest claim to fame is always going to be his mastery of puzzles. Indeed, it’s been widely reported that the Riddler is the first character to appear in Batman comics who consistently pulls in the audience with his brainteasers.
The Penguin – A Popular, Yet Complex Character
Not strictly a villain, the Penguin has long been a supporting character in the Batman saga. However, it was not until the character appeared in the 1960s serials that he really started to establish himself as a fan-favorite. A master of disguise and intimidation, the Penguin is a complex character whose popularity has made him the third most popular Batman villain of all time. Indeed, many fans often cite the mute supervillain as the driving force behind the recent renaissance of the Batman franchise. In 2016 alone, the Penguin was featured in nine different media outlets including video games, television shows, and movies. So, it’s fair to say he’s been around for a while and still remains popular today.
If we were to pick the Penguin as our modern-day comparison, we’re faced with a classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Did the serials shape his character or does he in fact come from the serials? While the character’s defining trait has always been his unhinged love for penguins, his appearance in the 1960s serials definitely gave birth to the modern-day Penguin. Noting that it was the era of swoon-worthy penguins, the character’s distinct look with his bulbous, flat nose and small ears stuck out like a sore thumb. Since then, the Penguin has stuck with the trend and evolved into an unrepentant fashion victim whose outlandish outfits and whimsical proclivities have become a symbol of the character. Indeed, the character’s recent appearance in the hugely successful flop comedy, Overwatch, proved that the Penguin is not quite done dominating the box office yet.
The Joker – A Most Influential Character Who Hasn’t Relinquished Heirship
Forbes currently lists the Joker as the richest fictional character with a net worth of around $500 billion. He’s certainly influenced much of popular culture including film, television, and even music. Perhaps the best comparison to the Joker is the great William Wallace. An early adversary of Superman, the World’s Greatest Athlete grew tired of watching his hometown get stomped on by the Man of Steel so he took it upon himself to even the playing field. Like the Joker, Wallace was an underdog who used his smarts and daring to conquer his foes. Indeed, some sources state that the Joker’s appearance in the 1940s serials inspired the entire Batman lineage. With his insane laughter and homicidal tendencies, it’s no wonder the Joker is the first villainous character whose face you’ll instinctively recognize upon seeing him.
The Riddler, Penguin, Joker, And Now,…
… Our final comparison is to the most recent addition to the Batman rogues’ gallery, the terrifying Mr. Freeze. Not only does this villain pose a significant threat to the Dark Knight, he’s one of the most popular villains in the entire franchise. Indeed, in 2016 alone, the blue-collar supervillain was featured in nine different media outlets including feature films, television shows, and video games. To further establish himself as an iconic figure, Mr. Freeze made his cinematic debut in an animated feature film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Since then, the character’s popularity has only continued to grow. While in Freeze’s case, his status as a villain is a recent development, his fame precedes him. Indeed, the character first appeared in a comic book way back in 1946 and fans have eagerly awaited his big-screen debut ever since.
If we compare the aforementioned villains based on the generations of fans that have grown up with them, we see that the Riddler is still the king of the hill. Indeed, it was only in 2016 that audiences finally got to see the Riddler in action after 75 years of waiting. Still, given that he’s the third most popular villain, it’s impressive that the screenwriter behind the new Batman movie has finally decided to give him the cinematic treatment. However, even the great Robert Downey Jr. has admitted that he’s a little nervous about tackling the character. “I always thought the Riddler was a bit of a stretch for me,” Downey said. “It’s one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had to play but I’m really looking forward to it.”
With the cinematic releases of the new Batman movie imminent, we’ll soon see if this villain’s status as one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise is still deserved or if his reign is coming to an end. For now, it’s enough to know that with the help of some of the most modern technology, Donner has finally given the Riddler the film treatment he deserves.
What do you think, is Robin the right choice? Do you have a different opinion? Be sure to comment below!