Six Underrated Batman Family Villains

Gregg Katzman

When you think of Batman's rogues gallery, who comes to mind? We're guessing many of you thought of Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Riddler, Clayface, Penguin, Bane, Harley Quinn, or Mr. Freeze, right? There's obviously a few other big names we didn't include, but the point is there's a good amount of memorable Batman villains and odds are you can recall at least one or two good stories with those characters. They definitely have plenty of appearances in several titles, too. I mean, even Victor Zsasz keeps popping up. However, there's several villains out there who deserve more love from DC and, when compared to the Bat family's evergrowing list of threats, we believe the following baddies are often underrated.

Zeiss

When you think of enemies Batman has trouble with in hand-to-hand combat, people like Prometheus or Bane probably come to mind. Well, there's one dude out there who gave Batman all kinds of trouble and he has yet to appear in The New 52 (as far as we know, that is). Thanks to some spiffy goggles and impressive speed and reflexes, Zeiss can read his opponents and counter almost everything they send his way. Just like many other villains, his ego can pose a problem for him, though. Batman was unable to beat him in hand-to-hand combat and then needed Cassandra Cain's help and a plot device to capture the skilled fiend. Zeiss had a lackluster follow-up in which Batman let himself get stabbed so he could get close and pull off one hell of a punch on Zeiss' face -- a move the swift fighter didn't expect at all. This bad guy also put Catwoman through a world of hurt before she used equipment to turn the tide. He's kind of like Taskmaster mixed with Constantine Drakon and he absolutely deserves to get a standout role in one of DC's upcoming issues. He may not have what it takes to be one of Batman's iconic villains (then again, any character can be truly great with the right writer), but there's potential there and he certainly deserves another story.

Massacre

Batwing is armed to the teeth and wearing some oh-so-fancy armor. Yet this dude, who is armed with just a bulletproof armor and a machete, became Batwing's twisted nightmare. The guy is a killing machine and he thinks his slaughtering is for the greater good. (It's a long story, so read the first BATWING arc if you want all the details.) With a cool design and a frightening presence, Massacre was easily one of the more memorable villains in the earlier stages of The New 52. The big guy is more than just an intimidating combatant, though. This isn't someone who's killing just because he enjoys it and he isn't taking lives for money. He has a tragic beginning and was manipulated into thinking his constant killings are just. After his first major story arc, the guy is in need of some serious soul-searching. Considering he was last spotted in Gotham, it's only logic a potential follow-up could incorporate someone from the Bat-family. Batman may be a little too much for him, but there's strong possibilities for a great story here. Think of a more formidable Zsasz mixed with a twisted anti-hero mentality ("I'm killing all of these people, but it's because they deserve it!") and you've got Massacre, a man who should most definitely receive a follow-up story arc. If Dick Grayson one day returns to Gotham, I could see Massacre being the antagonist in a solid story.

Killer Croc

We wanted to avoid using the very well-known villains, but Killer Croc just had to be included. For a fair amount of you, Croc is a one-dimensional joke. He isn't bright, he hasn't offered a compelling story, and you probably think it wouldn't take the Dark Knight very long to deal with him. And you know what? It's an understandable opinion to have. How many times has he been portrayed as a foolish and useless villain who flails and chomps before being removed from the picture? I mean, we've seen Batman take him down with one hit, no one can forget the rock line from the animated series, and the big fellow was even humiliated by Harvey Dent at one point. Despite a number of embarrassing showings, I feel like this baddie doesn't get the level of credit he deserves. Not only is he more physically imposing than some may think (Wayne once had to use explosives to take him down; he's been able to take punches with ease multiple times), but his shifting mentality and dark background can open the door to way more depth and emotional material. We saw hints of this in his Villains Month issue and while the tall villain has a good number of appearances in The New 52, the handling of him tends to fluctuate from writer to writer and we've yet to get a truly powerful and must read story about this longtime enemy. The rise of Killer Croc. Let's have it, DC.

Nobody

Massacre may be one of the most interesting villains The New 52 introduced early on, but BATMAN AND ROBIN'S Morgan Ducard, a.k.a. Nobody, left the strongest impression. Like a violent reflection of Bruce Wayne, Nobody has substantial ties to Bruce's history (Bruce trained with Morgan's father and he became quite jealous) and he played a huge role in Damian Wayne's journey. Nobody wanted to wipe out Batman Incorporated and dish out his own kind of justice. And his version of justice means putting scum six feet under. He may not be as skilled as Batman (not many are), but he makes up for that with a seriously cool armor which allows him to cloak and generate powerful sonic attacks. His agenda against Batman produced a gripping story and it ended in a jaw-dropping way. And yes, there's one hell of a fight between these two as well. It's a shame he had so few appearances, but one excellent story is better than eventually turning into a has-been. That said, Peter J. Tomasi says he and Patrick Gleason have discussed bringing back the character and will do so if they can find an organic way to reintroduce him.

KGBeast

Anatoli Knyazev, a.k.a. KGBeast, made his debut as a seemingly unstoppable assassin. Highly trained and extremely proficient at taking a life, the Caped Crusader had an incredible amount of difficulty stopping the Beast from killing his targets. This guy was so tough and dedicated to his mission that he even chopped off his own hand to prevent Wayne from capturing him. And no, he doesn't have a healing factor. He's just a human who's ridiculously well-trained and will stop at nothing to get the job done. The guys like a human Terminator, so it's a shame to think he later had some appearances as a jobber. For example, Nightwing had no problem at all getting rid of the guy. That's not a jab at Grayson -- he's obviously a gifted hero -- but KGBeast's opening story, "Ten Nights of the Beast," presented him as someone who could possibly even give Deathstroke a run for his money. Anatoli has appeared in The New 52 (NEW SUICIDE SQUAD and AQUAMAN AND THE OTHERS), but neither story comes off as his next big story. Thankfully, he did receive a pretty decent redesign in AQUAMAN AND THE OTHERS. This guy should be a cold-hearted and insanely difficult enemy for anyone in the Bat family to take on, so here's hoping he one day gets a proper appearance in Gotham.

Hugo Strange

Yes, Hugo Strange received a prominent role in Batman: Arkham City (until it was revealed he isn't even the big bad...) and first appeared way back in 1940, but when people think of villains who can mess with Batman's head, he's usually not a character that immediately comes to mind. We all know just how smart Bruce is (he's called the world's greatest detective for a reason, people), yet Strange has been able to get in the hero's head more than once and the two have an interesting dynamic. You could even say Hugo wants to be the "Superior Batman." Or maybe it would be "Better Batman" in this case. Hugo doesn't loathe him; he respects him and wants to improve on what Bruce has done. He thinks he can become a better, more ruthless Batman and his brilliant mind has brought him close to accomplishing that. This foe respects Batman so much that he refused to reveal who's behind the mask, even after suffering vicious beatings. He's also got a thing for faking his own death, so you can never be 100% sure that you've seen the last of him. Hugo's appeared in The New 52 a handful of times, but he's yet to receive a noteworthy storyline. Hopefully that'll change soon because anyone who can get in Bruce's mind and mess with his emotions deserves some attention.

Which Batman family villains do you think are underrated and in need of another good story?

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