“I Am the Night.” “No, I Am.” “Shut Up, Y’all, I’m Totally the Night.”

13+ Villains Who Exist Primarily to Serve as Evil Mirror-Universe Versions of Batman

1. Killer Moth
Play the superhero role long enough and you’re bound to score yourself a doppelgänger, a nemesis that borrows a bit of your visual style or backstory to provide an obvious contrast to your unflinching heroism. Spider-Man gets Venom, Green Lantern gets Sinestro, the Flash gets Reverse-Flash (and way to earn the paycheque coming up with that moniker, people) and Batman — well, Batman gets half of Gotham’s Most Wanted, when you think about it.  In retrospect, though, some villains should have not have tried so hard to emulate the Dark Knight. Take Killer Moth; originally just another inmate at Gotham Pen, he decided criminals needed a costumed protector just as the law-abiding citizens had one in Batman. So upon his release, he outfitted a cave with the latest in crime-abetting technology and headed out in his Mothmobile whenever summoned by criminals using a special infrared Moth-Signal. Sidekicks? Hell, he had two of ’em, costumed henchmen dubbed “Pupa” and “Larva.” He even had the good sense to copy Batman’s multi-functional utility belt, though that appears to be the only bit of sensible fashion he blatantly copied from Gotham’s defender. Despite modern attempts to toughen him up (he did some time as an acid-dripping insectoid cannibal — ah, the ’90s), he remains one of Batman’s sillier adversaries because seriously, a moth???

2. The Wrath
While Killer Moth was content to rip off Batman’s mission and paraphernalia, the Wrath is probably the closest DC has ever come to creating a true anti-Batman. His story: the young son of a pair of violent criminals, he witnessed his mother and father gunned down in a standoff with the police. Shattered by the experience, he devoted his life to hunting down all representatives of law and order… all the while wearing a bitchin’ cape and mask that kind of looks familiar (with pointy ears helping to form a W on his mask, a nice visual touch). For extra-spicy synchronicity, his parents were killed the same night Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot dead. You may safely assume his one and only battle with Batman in 1982 did not result in any cathartic bonding over their shared childhood traumas. He stayed pretty much forgotten as a character until 2008, when he was brought back in both a Batman Confidential storyline and a Kids’ WB episode of The Batman chillingly titled “The End of the Batman” (spoiler: it wasn’t). In both instances, the new and improved Wrath fought the Dynamic Duo with an evil Robin at his side… which sounds redundant, I know, but just roll with it.

3. Prometheus
The Batman presented in the JLA series of the late ’90s was the team’s chief tactician, a man whose presence among gods and aliens was justified by his ability to anticipate and plan countermeasures against any attack. Prometheus — a man who (all together now) witnessed the death of his criminal parents at a young age and swore to avenge their deaths by annihilating the forces of law and order — takes that idea to the nth degree, utilizing a special helmet that can instantly upload the physical skills and knowledge of others directly into his brain, allowing him to instantly develop strategies and counter-moves against anyone he fights. He might have someday graduated to “interesting,” or at least served as a useful object lesson on why Batman should not rely too much on high-tech gadgets, but an arrow through his brain courtesy of a very cheesed-off Green Arrow put the kibosh on that. Just as well.

4. Hush
So named because he preferred working behind the scenes and using proxies to rain the pain ‘pon Batman’s head, Hush started out as Wayne’s school chum, Tommy Elliot. Like Wayne, Elliot was born into a wealthy family; unlike Wayne, he suffered at the hands of a brutally drunk father and a mother who turned a blind eye for the sake of her lavish lifestyle. He tried killing his parents by cutting the brake lines in their car, but he only succeeded in killing his father; his mother’s life was saved by Bruce’s doctor father, a fact Elliot never forgave Bruce for. Then Wayne went and lost his parents, and Elliot (unaware of Wayne’s promise to fight crime) had to witness his former friend live the life of leisure he had always wanted. It was only after his domineering mother pushed him too far that he finally gave himself the orphan status he always wanted; freed from her manipulating ways, he travelled the world and eventually teamed up with the Riddler to take down Wayne once and for all. Man, you’d think a guy this rich could afford some decent therapy to get over his rage… oh, you say his psychiatrist was one Dr. Jonathan Crane? Never mind.

5. Night Slayer
As moviegoers witnessed in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne spent his younger years traveling the globe in search of those who could teach him the skills he
would need in his crime-fighting career. From mysterious teachers in the Orient (identified as the Society of Shadows in the film), Wayne learned martial arts, misdirection and the art of stealth… the same skills that would later be taught to a fellow named Anton Knight. The son of a Gotham City mobster who went abroad to study and prove himself, Knight mastered martial arts and the ability to appear to blend into the shadows (a handy skill for a Gotham thief) before returning home to start his criminal career (and boff his sort-of-adopted sister, Natalia, on the side — holy quasi-incest!). Alas, while his ninja-like stealth and minimalist attire might have led to a steady career changing community-theatre sets, he went a little nutty-stabby when he found his sorta-sister/lover in the arms of a certain vigilante, and he soon found himself in a brightly lit room receiving a patented — and richly deserved — Batman beatdown.

6. Black Mask
No one knows why Gotham’s high society tends to breed so many psychologically disturbed souls; it’s not as if they can’t afford the therapy sessions. But alas, sanity was likely never an option for Roman Sionis; dropped on his head as a baby and raised by petty parents he couldn’t stand for wearing (metaphorical) masks in public, Sionis cracked when they forbade him from marrying a pretty working-class girl, prompting him to burn down his parents’ house with them inside. Yeah, that seems… disproportionate. His obsession with masks turned into a full-blown psychopathy after he bankrupted his cosmetics company with a line of untested face paint and carved a mask from his father’s coffin to start life anew as Black Mask, the Mobster Guy Who’s Really, Really Into Masks. Really. You know, like some other traumatized scions of Gotham’s upper crust we could mention.

7. Owlman
This one is a bit of a cheat, since he’s obviously meant to be a “mirror universe Batman” more than the other masked malefactors on this list. And with good reason: Owlman hails from a parallel Earth where all the good guys are evil, and vice versa (think about that one Star Trek episode where Spock rocked the goatee). In JLA: Earth 2, readers learned that Owlman was originally Thomas Wayne Jr., and he saw his mother and younger brother, Bruce, die at the hands of a police officer. Equipping himself with a belt and weapons similar to those used by his other-dimensional counterpart, he became a master criminal and ally of “Boss” Gordon (the evil version of our own Commissioner Gordon). He graduated from costumed criminal to universal threat in the 2010 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD, a story that saw Owlman try to wipe out all of existence by blowing up Earth-Prime, the world he believes all other parallel worlds are copied from (and whose destruction would lead to the annihilation of all other Earths). One can almost imagine our own Bruce Wayne taking the same logical path to nihilism following his own brush with tragedy… making his more life-affirming activities seem that much more heroic.

8+. Court of Owls
Speaking of owls. DC rebooted its entire lineup in 2011, re-organizing its titles into 52 brand-new titles organized by theme (The Edge, The Dark, Batman Family, etc.). The first story arc in the relaunched Batman title saw our hero confronting the Court of Owls, a mythical shadow organization that is
supposedly made up of the true rulers of Gotham (as of this writing, the true nature of the court has yet to be revealed; they appear on page as well-dressed men and women wearing stylized owl masks). Their field agents are known as Talons, and these masked enforcers demonstrate Batman’s both finely honed flair for drama and physical prowess, with the added bonus of being virtually impossible to kill. Other villains may copy Batman’s fashion or tools, but the Court (or whoever is behind it) understands Batman’s real power lies in his ability to create and sustain a legend — and they will stop at nothing to create a legend of their own to supplant him. “Beware the Court of Owls/That watches all the time/Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch/Behind granite and lime/They watch you at your hearth/they watch you in your bed/Speak not a whispered word of them/Or they’ll send the Talon for your head…”   

9. Catman
Truth be told, it’s hard to say if Catman belongs on this list or on a list of obvious
Catwoman imitators, especially since he was originally brought in to sub for a temporarily reformed Selina Kyle (and figured he could do a better job on account of her being a mere woman — line forms to the left, ladies). As it turns out, big game hunter Thomas Blake (geddit?) turned to cat-themed crime after a chat at the Richie Rich club in which a fellow member jokingly suggested that he and Bruce Wayne both become costumed crime fighters to fight off the ennui that comes with counting your millions. Seeing little profit in stopping crimes (and intrigued by the chance to match his hunting skills against those of the Dark Knight), Blake turned a sacred piece of African cloth into a supposedly enchanted costume and embarked on a new career as… one of DC’s longtime running jokes. Rest assured, he has since entertained the occasional second thought.

10. Deadshot
Not an obvious choice, granted, given Floyd Lawton’s rather lethal form of anger management therapy, but let’s review. Young scion of a wealthy family? Check.
Suitably tramautic event in his early years including the tragic death of a family member that shaped his future vocation? Check. Obsessive master of a set of skills that put him among the best living practitioners of his chosen craft? Check. Versatile with a number of weapons but famous for his use of one particular type of weapon? Check. An ordinary mortal relying on nothing more than his skills and smarts to survive in a world full of meta-humans? Check. Known for operating solo and within other groups that need someone who can cut through the crap and do what needs to be done? Check. Regularly at the mercy of changing editorial directives that see him threatening to blow up a kindergarten one minute and defending a downtown neighborhood the next solely because it’s home to a former lover and the daughter he never knew he had? Check. Really, it’s only a matter of time before another writer decides Lawton and Wayne were once classmates at Gotham Prep School, swapping stories about how they’ll be friends forever and would never, ever shoot a bullet or throw a batarang at each other.

11-12. The Reaper/The Phantasm
When normal people suffer the loss of a family member via violent means, they may turn to drugs or therapy to help them grieve. But folks in Gotham tend to take a… well, more proactive approach when something like that happens to them. Batman, of course, is Exhibit A, but he was not the first to don a cape and cowl and seek out muggers and psychos to get in touch with his inner rage. Years before Wayne started busting heads, Judson “the Reaper” Caspian dished out his own lethal brand of justice after a burglar killed the prominent businessman’s wife; his return to Gotham and old habits after many years abroad sparked 1987’s “Batman: Year Two” storyline. The Reaper’s general appearance and motives were co-opted by the titular villain in 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the first and only theatrical release starring the animated Batman of the ’90s. This time, the person under the mask is actually Andrea Beaumont, a young woman determined to hunt down and execute the mob bosses who ordered her parents killed (for extra-angsty goodness, she also just happens to be the first love of young Bruce’s life). “They took everything, Bruce,” she says to him at one point. “My dad, my life, you. I’m not saying it’s right, or even sane, but it’s all I’ve got left. They had to pay!” Sounds like sentiments her ex-fiancee might understand, if not for the whole stab-stab-kill-kill part.

13. Bane
Billed as “the man who broke the bat” because he actually did it (and it was only a bit of comic-booky medical science that made it possible for Wayne to walk
again), Bane is a far more fascinating character than his first movie appearance would have you believe. On the surface, their lives couldn’t have been more different; where Wayne was born into wealth and privilege, Bane was born in a prison in a corrupt Latin American nation. He never knew his mother, and he was forced to serve the life sentence his father escaped. Small wonder his adult self volunteered for an experiment designed to chemically enhance his already-massive strength and escaped from prison shortly thereafter (administer strengh-enhancing drugs to hardened criminals? What could possibly go wrong?). Not just another set of muscles (he’s also a brilliant tactician with a photographic memory who’s able to deduce Batman’s identity), Bane sees he and Batman linked by destiny, and he travels to Gotham to break Batman, a symbol of fear, just to prove he is the master of fear. But bygones, etc. — after embarking on a quest to learn who his father was and discover that he and Bruce Wayne might actually be (dun dun dun) brothers, Bane even teams up with Batman on a few occasions before falling back into old habits. Or maybe he’s now a hero again. One never knows what’s going on these days over at DC headquarters.

 

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