(WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman: Arkham City & Batman: Arkham Knight)
Batman is famous for a lot of things; one of them being his quite frankly impressive rogues gallery. He arguably has some of the best villains in all of comic books (there’s a reason they keep popping up in other media). He also has some of the scariest or, at the very least, creepiest, especially in the Arkham games. One of my favourite aspects of the series was seeing their take on the many bad guys of Gotham, how they’re integrated and being able to beat the crap out of them. So, here’s my personal list of who I consider to be the scariest villains from those games.
Oh and just a heads up, Scarecrow’s not on this list. I want to mix things up a bit.
1, Mr Zsasz
Zsasz was never a major threat throughout the series. He doesn’t have any superpowers, he’s not highly intelligent and he doesn’t have any proper combat experience. But what makes him scary is how simple he really is. Not mentally, I mean, but in terms of his motivations. He doesn’t want money or power; he doesn’t even want to cause chaos. All that matters to him is ‘the mark.’
Zsasz is a serial killer but he doesn’t have a pattern. It doesn’t matter to him who he kills so long as he kills someone, which makes him unpredictable. This is possibly the most dangerous aspect to any villain. You don’t know where they could be, what they might be about to do or when they’re going to do it.
The worst part about Zsasz, though, is how easily he fell into insanity. He became a gambling addict after his parents’ death and ended up losing everything, eventually spiraling down into depression. This is something that could theoretically happen to anyone – not the exact events but just losing everything. With nothing to your name, you’d probably lose all meaning in life. The only reason why Zsasz is still alive is because he accidentally killed some guy trying to mug him and that set him off on his dark path.
He might not be the most powerful villain running around in Gotham, but I still say that he’s one of the scariest because there’s a very tiny bit of him existing in all of us, just waiting for the right push.
2. Calendar Man
You’ve got to give credit to the Arkham games if they can take a villain as goofy and unintimidating as Calendar Man and make him somewhat scary. In the comics, he’s just a petty criminal with a silly gimmick so how do you make him fit into the darker tone of the series? Make him a serial killer, of course.
Unlike other villains, we never really see Calendar Man commit his crimes but, in Arkham City, you can hear all the lovely details about them from the man himself. He’s just so calm and relaxed as he describes his murders, like he’s recounting what he had for breakfast that day or where he went on holiday. You can’t help but imagine if he was this composed during his killings or if he’s hiding a more deranged facet of his personality.
There doesn’t even seem to be a limit to who he kills. He had no issues murdering both of his parents and even killed a random woman he stalked on Valentines (which probably wasn’t the only one). And with so many holidays throughout the year, the people of Gotham can’t even relax. Can you imagine counting down the days till Christmas, worrying whether Calendar Man’s going to dress up as Santa and kill some kids or something? He’ll even perform crimes on the most mundane of holidays like Talk Like a Pirate Day and Groundhog Day.
Calendar Man may lack the unpredictability of Zsasz but that in turn makes him threatening. You know when he’ll strike. You know the exact day. And you have to wait for whatever deranged murder plot he’s got planned, praying that you won’t get involved.
3. Mad Hatter
Another example of a villain that, when you take at face value, doesn’t seem all that threatening. He’s just some short dude dressed like a fantasy character. You can find loads of them at Comic-Con. But Mad Hatter is unfortunately a lot more than that and he certainly lives up to the ‘mad’ part.
What Mad Hatter lacks in brawn, he more than makes up with brain. He is the only villain in the Arkhamverse that is capable of mind control. Baddies like Scarecrow and Copperhead could manipulate what Batman would see but Mad Hatter has the means of actually taking control of him. Can you imagine that? A Batman working for a control freak like the Hatter? If it wasn’t for Batman’s strong will, he could have the Dark Knight kidnap all the Alices he could want.
Oh, that’s another thing. The games imply he’s a pedophile/rapist. … Weren’t freaked out by him already? You should be now. The worst part about it is that there’s no one Alice. Hatter’s fixation will flip from girl to girl as he desperately tries to find her. He’ll even dress up his girl of the week like her, forcing clothes and a wig onto her. In context, it sounds really messed up.
And the worst part about it is that, unlike other villains like Joker or Penguin that are aware that they’re crooks and proud of it, Hatter has no idea that what he’s doing is wrong. Isn’t that scary? Someone hurting you and committing many atrocities and genuinely thinking that they’re completely innocent.
4. Hugo Strange
Batman’s most dangerous enemies aren’t necessarily the ones that carry guns or swords or have superpowers; it’s the ones that can get in his head, and in the terms of the Arkham games, Dr. Hugo Strange arguably came the closest.
Admittedly, we never really saw him do much in Arkham City but the fact that he figured out who Batman was just through psychoanalysis quickly made him a huge threat. But what makes Strange slightly terrifying for me is what we learn about him via the audiotapes you can unlock. He was able to manipulate so many people to work things to his advantage. He pitted Catwoman and Two-Face against each other, tricked Mayor Sharpe into becoming his puppet and manipulated Mad Hatter (a man with mind-control technology) to work for him. The guy isn’t someone who believes he’s smarter than everyone else like Riddler – he really IS smarter.
Plus, take note of one of his many speeches towards Batman. The one about how Batman is in fact responsible for all the criminal scum that has ‘infected’ Gotham. Want to know why it’s scary? Because he’s sort of right. Batman’s existence has resulted in the creation of some of the criminals he’s encountered. You can’t help but wonder if Gotham may have been a little bit better if Batman wasn’t around.
There is, of course, one aspect that makes Strange’s logic complete bullshit but also adds another level of creepiness to him – the fact that he is completely insane. For a man that has a great understanding of the human mind, he has no clue that he’s just as crazy as some of the inmates of Arkham City. He has a severe God complex, has no qualms with ordering his men to kill people and, if Riddler is to be believed, sometimes puts on a Batman costume and cries to himself. This is the last guy I want rooting around in my brain.
5. Professor Pyg
I don’t know about the rest of you but this guy scares me. Throughout Arkham Knight, you come across corpses stringed up in random places, each with opera music playing nearby. I remember progressing through this mission, constantly wondering just who was doing this. There seemed to be no reason or connection; I was desperate for answers. When I eventually found Pyg, though, I almost wished I hadn’t.
Everything from the way he moved to the way he talked made me uncomfortable. The overdramatic tones, the change in pitch, the random squeals, his own scarred face, that unsettling pig mask; he is, without a doubt, bat-shit crazy. But not in a ‘oh he needs help’ kind of way; more in a ‘rabid animal that needs to be put down’ kind of way.
So what’s his crime? Kidnapping people that have some sort of defect, no matter how minor, and ‘fixing’ them. And by fixing them, I mean mutilating their bodies and essentially turning them into mindless zombies that feel no pain. Something he’s no doubt being doing for God knows how long. How many men, women and children has he mutilated over the years? Actually, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know. The only reason Batman was able to stop him was because he made the bad decision of having his travelling circus make a pitstop in Gotham City.
The worst part about him is that I can’t understand him. With other villains, I can sort of understand how and why they got to where they are or, at the very least, what they’re doing. With Pyg, I have no clue why he does what he does or how he ever got to this point. He does say he’s pursuing physical perfection and clearly has a God complex of his own, but why? He’s just obsessed.
And, to make things even worse, in his audio logs, he talks about a son. Yeah, somehow this nut-job fathered a kid. How? I don’t know. And he loves to go on and on about his mother, who I don’t even think is alive (and is described as just an effigy he most likely constructed). I would call Pyg a psychiatrist’s wet dream but I don’t think all the money in the world would be enough to convince a psychiatrist to take him as a patient.
Some probably find Pyg too hammy (ha!) to take seriously, but for me, he’s the scariest villain I’ve ever encountered in the Arkham games. I’ll take the bullets, the hallucinations, the psychological warfare and the giant monsters over this one crazy bastard with a knife.