Top 10 Most Tragic Batman Villains

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Top 10 Most Tragic Batman Villains

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Joey Turner
Batman has a tragic backstory and so do the franchise's villains. Our countdown includes Joker, Two-Face, Baby-Doll, and more!
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Top 10 Most Tragic Batman Villains


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Tragic Batman Villains.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most sympathetic enemies the Dark Knight has ever gone toe-to-toe with -showing that they aren’t all just psychotic monsters. We’ll be diving into some heavy story elements, so expect spoilers ahead.

Which villain do you think had it worse? Let us know in the comments who you think was the most tragic of the Bat’s rogues gallery.

#10: Joker


Sometimes, all it takes is one bad day… and an ambiguous one at that. Joker’s origin is constantly shuffled around, but each story usually has a tragic element mixed in. One day, he could be the son of an abusive parent; another day, he could be a struggling comedian who wanted to support his pregnant wife; or he could’ve just been a mentally sick man crushed by society’s toxicity. But the various origins do tend to have one tragedy element in common – falling into a vat of chemicals and emerging horrifically disfigured and off his gourd. No matter the story, it sadly all ends the same – one bad day that drove him to become the Clown Prince of Crime.

#9: Dr. Robert Kirkland "Kirk" Langstrom [aka Man-Bat]


In this variation on the famous Jekyll and Hyde story, Dr. Kirk Langstrom experimented with bat DNA in the hopes of being able to cure hearing problems. However, when he tested it on himself… something went HORRIBLY wrong, and he ended up transforming into the monstrous Man-Bat. While Batman did help reverse the transformation… that didn’t mean the beast was gone for good. In fact, more than once, he’s found himself becoming Man-Bat, sometimes on purpose, sometimes involuntarily. There are times when Kirk can control the beast and can act as Batman’s ally, but who knows how long that will last before the mental tug-of-war is over and Kirk loses himself forever?

#8: Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot [aka Penguin]


We all know the Penguin as a refined crime boss with an arsenal of weaponized umbrellas… and a face not even a mother could love. His upbringing, however, was even less attractive – he was tormented as a child because of his penguin-like appearance and didn’t have any human friends. Unfortunately, not even his family’s wealth can buy him happiness, as he remains an outcast of society because of his deformities. In some versions of his childhood, not even his own FAMILY wants him around,and is quick to reject and neglect him. There’s a price to pay for such shallow prejudice, and in this case, that price is the creation of one of Gotham’s deadliest criminal masterminds.

#7: Mary Dahl [aka Baby-Doll]


Introduced in “Batman: The Animated Series,” Mary Dahl was once the adorable scamp “Baby-Doll” in a long-forgotten sitcom. Don’t let her childish appearance fool you; she’s actually in her 30s. Born with a condition that keeps her from aging, her career took a nosedive when she left the show and couldn’t find other long-lasting acting jobs. She finally snapped and abducted her former co-stars in a desperate attempt at finally having a happy life and a family that loves her. Unfortunately, reality is a cruel eye-opener – Mary’s life can never be normal thanks to her condition and history, and her hopes of finding true happiness and love are nothing more than a heartbroken fantasy.

#6: Arnold Wesker [aka Ventriloquist]


This poor guy doesn’t look like much of a threat, but there’s a dark side hidden behind his timid appearance. A tragic event early in Arnold’s life caused him to develop a dissociative personality disorder, which led to him creating a ruthless mob boss persona for his disturbing puppet, Scarface. While Scarface runs the operations, Arnold himself usually takes the backseat as the dummy’s chauffeur – basically making him a slave to his second personality. The most tragic part is that even if he can overcome his disorder, there’s no telling how long it will last before he suffers a total relapse and goes back to being a dummy’s dummy.

#5: Basil Karlo [aka Clayface]


Admittedly, Basil Karlo – the original Clayface - had a LESS sympathetic upbringing in the original continuity. He was first just a vengeful actor who was good with make-up, and then retconned into a petty actor who borrowed samples from his monstrous counterparts to become the ULTIMATE shapeshifting monstrosity. His more modern backstories bring a more tragic tale to tell. A struggling actor who relied on a toxic substance to save his dying career, only to end up mutated into the metamorphic criminal abomination we know him as today. Thankfully, in recent stories, he’s been given a chance to redeem himself of his crimes by becoming an unexpected ally for the Dark Knight, but that does little to make up for having his old life and identity ripped away from him.

#4: Harvey Dent [aka Two-Face]


Harvey Dent was once Gotham’s most promising district attorney, dedicated to the goal of making the city safe again. Tragically, a horrible accident left him hideously scarred on one half of his face. After that, something snapped inside Harvey and he became “Two-Face” – an unhinged criminal mastermind with a double-sided gimmick. He relies on flipping a coin to decide whether he acts like a hero or villain, believing that it is the only source of fairness in the universe. As he himself once said, [“you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”] Sadly, he became the latter and a slave to luck and chance because of life’s unfairness.

#3: Harleen Quinzell [aka Harley Quinn]


She’s undeniably the best breakout character from “Batman: The Animated Series” …and also one of the most heartbreaking. Harleen Quinzel was once a psychiatrist with a promising career, but all that changed the minute she met The Joker. Taken in by his charisma and web of lies, she fell head-over-heels in love with him and became his new “henchwench,” Harley Quinn. Unfortunately, despite her devotion to the Clown Prince of Crime, he treats her like garbage and physically/emotionally abuses her on an almost daily basis. Thankfully, recent stories have shown her stepping out of Joker’s shadow, and even starting a relationship with Poison Ivy –who, ironically, is a lot less toxic than Joker.

#2: Jason Todd [aka Robin aka Red Hood]


Jason Todd was the second to take up the mantle of Robin. Unfortunately, his rebellious attitude didn’t sit well with fans, so DC set up a poll for fans to decide whether or not he’d survive his latest encounter with the Joker. Spoiler alert… he didn’t. Wow… so Batman lets his own sidekick be bumped off, but lets his murderer live? Did Jason even matter to him at all? That’s just the mindset poor Jason has when he is resurrected and becomes the Red Hood – a vigilante with no qualms about using lethal force, unlike his so-called mentor. While he’s still a bit of a punk, you can’t blame Jason for being angry and for questioning his own self-worth.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Paige Monroe [aka Calendar Girl]

Waylon Jones [aka Killer Croc]

Andrea "Andi" Beaumont [aka Phantasm]

Charles "Chuck" Brown [aka Kite Man]

#1: Victor Fries [aka Mister Freeze]


When we first met Mister Freeze, he was just another gimmicky baddie. But when his character was re-invented by “Batman: The Animated Series,” he became the most tragic villain of all. Victor Fries was a scientist hoping to cure his wife of her fatal disease, but a lab accident left him incapable of surviving outside of freezing cold temperatures or his cryogenic suit. While his demeanor is and his actions are as cold as his element, he never wanted to be a villain. Everything he did was for the one shining light in his life – his beloved Nora - and he’s been denied a chance to be happy with her. That hurts worse than any punch Batman can throw.
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