Batman: The Animated Series features many notable villains, some even more powerful than their comic book counterparts.
Over the past few decades, villains from classic superhero stories have undergone dozens of characterizations and retcons. As the rules for what can and cannot be displayed to the public change, the villains change with them. They constantly swing between being light-hearted mischief-makers and terrifying horror monsters. One version of a villain can be a greater threat than another.
This is true for the villains in Batman: The Animated Series. While most of the villains are slightly toned down for the series, other villains are stronger and deadlier than their comic-book counterparts. Some have better powers and fighting skills. Some have greater resources, and some are just more competent threats. A few, however, are strong not because of how dangerous they were but because of their ability to change.
The BTAS version of Clayface is actually a combination of two versions of the villain from the comics. The first version was an actor like his animated counterpart, but he didn’t have any powers. Instead, he wore a monster costume from one of his movies. The second version is named Matt Hagen, like in the series. He does have powers, but they’re temporary. Unless he renews them every few hours, he reverts to an ordinary man.
Clayface’s powers in the BTAS are permanent, with few limitations. Not only can he imitate anyone, but he can also produce deadly weapons and is immune to most weapons. Although his condition almost kills him at one point, he’s brought back in the New Batman Adventures. This version of Clayface is the most definitive, turning the villain into one of Batman’s most dangerous enemies.
While the BTAS gave Mr. Freeze a sympathetic backstory, his powers and abilities remained more or less on the same level they were in the comics. However, there is one area the comics didn’t explore until his appearance in the series: his immortality.
In the comics, Mr. Freeze’s condition slows his aging process. In the series, it destroys his body. To counter this, Mr. Freeze found a way to survive, preserving his head in a robotic support system. His intellect prolonged his existence, not his condition. The genius and will to survive displayed by the BTAS version of Mr. Freeze are far beyond what they were in the comics.
The Riddler is one of Batman’s more intellectual villains. Instead of fighting with his fists, he fights with his wits. Despite this, however, he was rarely a serious threat, both in the comics and in onscreen adaptations, until the last decade when artists made him more dangerous more frequently. However, Batman: The Animated Series beat them to the punch.
This version of the Riddler doesn’t just set traps. He builds whole worlds. The first was a mechanical maze. The second was a virtual reality world. In each world, Batman and Robin are forced to play Ridder’s games to save a life. Building and controlling such a large space is a testament to the Riddler’s genius and need to stroke his ego at the cost of human lives.
The Ventriloquist is another one of those Batman villains that were made scarier in the animated series. Unlike the original Ventriloquist, the version in the series was given a fictionalized split personality disorder. This, plus his incredible talent for ventriloquism, made audiences question whether Scarface was truly a figment of the Ventriloquist’s mind or an independent entity. It’s strange to watch but in a good way.
This version is more memorable because the Ventriloquist has a redemption arc. After a long struggle, the Ventriloquist finally stands up to his other personality and subdues him for good. The Ventriloquist is one of the few Batman villains who genuinely turn over a new leaf without it being undone. (His brief appearance in The New Adventures isn’t being counted since the episode was only a nightmare.)
Although Lloyd Ventrix’s character is supposed to be based on the Mirror Man from the comics, he has more in common with the Invisible Man from the novel of the same name. The original Mirror Man used mirrors to create illusions and built a device that allowed him to see through objects, a feat that nearly uncovers Batman’s identity.
Lloyd Ventrix, on the other hand, can turn invisible, which is just as threatening. However, he’s also more menacing. Far from being a kooky crook, he’s an example of real horrors experienced by people with abusive ex-partners. He tries to guilt-trip his ex-wife into giving him what he wants and kidnaps his daughter when he doesn’t get it. Ventrix is not only better equipped but also nastier and takes what he wants regardless of the harm he causes.
Maxie Zeus is one of the more interesting villains in Batman’s Rogue Gallery. He’s a competent criminal but also completely trapped in the delusion that he is the Greek god of lightning. He’s arguably on par with the Joker in that it is impossible to reason with him, no matter how many lives are at stake.
Like all Batman villains, he uses a vast array of equipment, but his best tools are seen in the animated series. He possesses a special rod that gives his victims an electric shock and steals an electron discharge cannon to use on his enemies. His ability to acquire such powerful weapons and his inability to escape his delusions made him a dangerous enemy for Batman.
Like most of Batman’s villains, the Clock King was tragic. However, he wasn’t nearly as competent or as clever in the comics as in the animated series. In fact, he was made the butt of jokes many times and isn’t respected by heroes or villains.
In the animated series, though, the Clock King is a genuine threat. He is a master strategist, planning everything down to the last detail and maintaining perfect control over his actions and reactions in every situation. His cleverness and excellent timing elevated him to an opponent worthy of Batman. It’s a shame he wasn’t used to his full potential more often.
Created for the animated series, Roxy Rocket is a former stunt artist who turned to crime. She gets her name from the rocket she uses for transportation and is an adrenaline junkie who gets a kick out of putting herself in dangerous situations.
After her appearance on the show, she appeared in a couple of tie-in comics. However, unlike her cohorts, Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya, she never became popular. Her comic book counterpart lacked charm and charisma, and the artists couldn’t find anything good to do with her. Perhaps she was just destined to be a one-time villain. Nonetheless, she was a thrill to watch.
The Sewer King was another character created for the animated series. This nasty villain turned children into slaves, forcing them to steal from local citizens and punishing them if they stepped out of line.
Although he only appeared once in the series, he made another appearance in the 52 comic storyline. However, rather than being a menacing crook who preyed on children, he became a hapless minion for a greater villain and was quickly killed off. It’s strange that they would bring back the Sewer King just to kill him off. It probably would’ve been better not to include him in the comics at all. The Sewer King was one of those characters that did better as a one-time villain rather than a consistent presence.
Infamous throughout the Batman fandom as the man who murdered Robin’s parents, Tony Zucco rarely gets any characterization beyond his role in forging the future Boy Wonder, at least in the comics. Onscreen versions often have larger roles in the story and are greater threats.
This was true for the version in the animated series. In this series, Tony Zucco returns to Gotham under an alias years after his murder of Robin’s parents. However, it doesn’t take long for Robin and Batman to realize he’s back in town. Zucco is apprehended, of course, but he puts up a decent fight. He even manages to drive Batman into a corner. It just goes to show that a warrior can never afford to underestimate his opponent, even a two-bit crook like Tony Zucco.
NEXT: 8 Things Batman TAS Changed From The Comics