Greetings from the Odinson,
When it comes to super heroes nobody has bigger and better heroes than Marvel and DC. These are the Big Two, the companies that set the standard for others to follow. Their characters have endured for so long that they have reached iconic status. Say the names Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, Wonder Woman or X-Men and all across the world people, young and old, recognize them. But heroes are only as great as the villains that challenge them. If the threats weren’t big enough, then the amazing exploits of our champions wouldn’t seem so amazing and their tales would have dissipated into the mist of time and forgotten. For every Secret Origin, for every First Class, for every hero there is a villain, several in fact, these dastardly ne’er-do-wells that either want to rule the world or simply worship chaos.
So whose heroes have the biggest challenges? Whose Rogues Gallery consists of the wickedest and most dangerous super villains ever conceived - Marvel’s or DC’s? In this 5-part column, the Odinson intends to find out. There’s only one place to start and that’s with the companies’ two biggest stars.
Rogue War Part 1: Batman’s Rogues vs. Spider-Man’s Rogues
In Gotham City there is a place where the sane dare not venture. It is a foreboding old structure that houses the most criminally insane and diabolical minds in the world. The place is called Arkham Asylum. This where Gotham City imprisons the most dangerous criminals, but no mere walls of brick and mortar can contain these fiendish Rogues. The Batman is a dark and menacing figure, and his foes are a dark reflection of himself.
Two-Face is a tragic figure indeed. Once upon a time, Harvey Dent was Gotham’s District Attorney, and he fought just as hard as the Batman to keep the streets of Gotham safe. But a terrible incident left his face horribly scarred and his mind fractured. Obsessed with the number two, a side effect of the dual personalities constantly jockeying for position inside his head, a flip of the coin is the difference between life and death for Harvey Two-Face’s victims.
The Batman is the world’s greatest living detective, and it’s a good thing too. Some of his foes have the most devious minds and can concoct the most outlandish traps and pitfalls ever to challenge a champion of justice. Edward Nigma is just such a Rogue. As the Riddler, his crimes are always accompanied by purposely placed clues and riddles to lead the Caped Crusader on a merry chase that usually culminates with a wicked trap. Oswald Cobblepot is the diminutive disfigured mob boss known as the Penguin, a villain with an affinity for birds and a collection of trick umbrellas designed to confuse and murder his adversaries. Catwoman is a master thief and quite possibly the most complex of Batman’s Rogues for she is just as likely to help the Caped Crusader save the day as she is to claw his eyes out.
The dark halls of Arkham are filled with fiendish foes that challenge the Dark Knight both physically and mentally. The Scarecrow is a former psychologist and an expert in fear that has concocted a fear gas that causes his victims to experience horrifying hallucinations and, if not treated in time, death. Poison Ivy, an alluring beauty, can kill with a kiss. And Jervis Tetch is the infamous Mad Hatter, a technological wizard who’s quite insane. He uses his super science to enslave others to his will.
There are also those Rogues that challenge the Caped Crusader in a different way by pushing his physical skills to their limits. Killer Croc is a disfigured criminal whose reptilian outer appearance reflects his brutal personality. Bane is a hulking brute whose already great strength is augmented even further with the use of a performance-enhancing substance called Venom. Dr. Kirk Langstrom is a scientist that while trying to find a cure for deafness creates a serum from the DNA of bats, but the serum has an unusual side effect. It transforms him into the monstrous creature the world has come to know as the Man-Bat. All three of these monsters are physically stronger than Batman, and they push the Dark Knight’s endurance to its limits every time they face off.
Batman’s most tragic adversary is Mr. Freeze. Dr. Victor Fries was a brilliant scientist trying to find a cure for his wife who had fallen ill with a fatal disease. He placed her in cryogenic sleep to preserve her but when she died he lost his mind, and his humanity. After an accident, Freeze is forced to spend eternity trapped inside a temperature-controlled exosuit. Now his heart is as cold as the subzero degree temperature he must remain in or he will die.
One of Batman’s most challenging foes is Ra’s Al Ghul. Ghul is the leader of the notorious League of Assassins. He’s as smart as Batman and worse, he knows Batman is actually Bruce Wayne. To make matters even more complicated, Bruce Wayne and Ra’s daughter, Talia, have a son together named Damian (see Son of the Demon and Batman and Son). Ra’s Al Ghul is made even more dangerous by the fact that he is virtually unkillable. He has lived for over a century and can recover from mortal wounds by bathing in the mystical waters of his infamous Lazarus Pits.
But far and away the Dark Knight’s most dangerous adversary is the Joker. Nobody perplexes and challenges the Batman like the Clown Prince of Crime. Utterly insane, the Joker is not motivated by anything in the world other than chaos and has left a body count in his wake of astronomical proportions. Fiendishly clever, he has concocted a substance called Smiley Gas that murders its victims and leaves them with an eternal grin that matches the Joker’s own. His partner in crime is Harley Quinn, a former psychologist that worked at Arkham Asylum but when she tried to match wits with the Joker she was driven insane and developed an unnatural attraction for the villain. Bane may have broken Batman’s back, but nobody has ever hurt Batman the way Joker has. In A Death in the Family, the Joker murdered Jason Todd, the second Robin, and in The Killing Joke, the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, crippling Batgirl and sentencing her to life in a wheelchair (all this is pre-New 52 of course). The Joker and Batman are destined to fight forever until the day one of them is dead.
Now Spider-Man’s Rogues bring a whole different kind of challenge to the table. There’s a personal connection between our hero and many of the foes he fights. Dr. Curt Connors was one of Peter Parker’s professors. He lost his arm in the war and was working on a formula involving the regenerative properties of reptiles to help wounded vets grow back their lost limbs. Unfortunately, Connors formula backfired, and now he transforms into the monster known as the Lizard. The Green Goblin is secretly Norman Osborn, head of the mega corporation Oscorp and father to Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s best friend. Doctor Octopus was once romantically involved with Peter’s Aunt May and they even almost got married.
Spider-Man is known for having the proportionate strength and speed of his namesake, but the Rogues he goes up against have powers and abilities even more varied and strange than his own. Sandman is a small-time crook whose body chemistry was altered, and now he is a living mass of earth and sand, virtually untouchable and nearly unbeatable. Electro has the power of electricity at his disposal and should be a Magneto level threat, but he’s held back by his own mental shortcomings. Eddie Brock, a former photographer for the Daily Bugle’s rival newspaper, bonded with the alien symbiote Spidey brought back from the Secret Wars and now, as Venom, Brock and the symbiote seek revenge of Spider-Man whom they perceive has wronged them. And Carnage is a combination of Venom’s symbiote offspring and the psychotic mass murderer Cletus Kasady.
Guys like the Chameleon and Mysterio are troubling for the Wall-Crawler because one is a master of disguise and the other a master of illusion. Kraven the Hunter is the greatest hunter in the world and the only Rogue on this list that can actually claim that he has killed his hated foe. The high-flying Vulture is a master criminal and a master of the skies that can out maneuver his adversary and strike with lightning lethalness. Morbius, the Living Vampire, is a scientist that has been inflicted with a strange kind of science-based form of vampirism. And the Rhino is a small time crook now trapped in a hulking suit that gives him the power of his namesake.
The Hobgoblin, using stolen technology from one of the Green Goblin’s old hideouts, continually attempts to assert himself in the criminal underworld’s hierarchy. Speaking of New York City’s criminal underworld, the mob families of the Marvel Universe are run by the most colorful crime bosses this side of Dick Tracy’s Rogues Gallery. Guys like Hammerhead, Silvermane, Tombstone, the Rose, and the Kingpin of Crime himself, Wilson Fisk, make Spider-Man’s life tougher with their constant criminal schemes and the perpetual Gang War always threatening to tear the city apart.
Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery Rounds out with: Scorpion, Molten Man, Hydroman, Jack o’ Lantern, Spider-Slayers, the Jackal, and J. Jonah Jameson.
WINNER: Spider-Man’s Rogues
Where, for the most part, Batman’s foes challenge the Caped Crusader’s sanity and detective skills, Spider-Man’s foes are just physically more powerful. Other than the Joker and Ra’s Al Ghul, Ra’s with his sheer resources and the Joker with his chaotic and unpredictable behavior, Batman’s Rogues don’t really seem all that challenging for the Dark Knight. Batman is smarter than his adversaries and he’s physically able to easily defeat most of them. Poor Petey always has the deck stacked against him. Doctor Octopus is smarter than Peter Parker. Guys like Rhino, Venom, and Carnage are stronger than Spider-Man. Foes like the Lizard and Morbius are not only stronger but faster than Spider-Man as well, and they pose an even bigger challenge, as Spidey is always trying to defeat them without hurting a friend. There’s more pathos when Spider-Man tangles with an adversary than seeing Batman punch out yet another crazy person.
In the end, if these two devious groups of villains were to throw down for the Heavyweight Championship Belt of Villainy, it’s Spidey’s Rogues that would prove victorious.
Rogue War Total: Marvel 1 / DC 0
The competition continues next week when the fiendish foes of the Last Son of Krypton face off against the Gamma-powered enemies of the Jade Giant.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell