There’s a saying that Marvel has the best heroes but DC has the best villains, and Batman’s Rogues Gallery is living proof of that statement. Batman: The Animated Series, has often been called the definitive adventures of the character and comics, and that’s easily understandable. That’s especially true given the complexity of the Dark Knight’s famous foes.
While some villains like the Joker and the Scarecrow are agents of chaos and vengeance, several baddies are made into monsters against their will. In fact, many of these characters are not only sympathetic but could be 100% redeemed given the right circumstances.
Clayface might have an impressive morphing ability, but this power comes with a price. The tragedy of Matt Hagan is a blend of Phantom of the Opera and Cronenberg film. Clayface isn’t just a man-made monster, he’s an addict in need of treatment.
Hagan/Clayface didn’t choose his life, it was literally forced down his throat by Roland Dagget and his gangsters. Perhaps if he were treated like an addict in need of recovery rather than a lunatic at Arkham, he might not have become the behemoth fans know today.
What made Harvey Dent’s story such a success during the series was the fact that he was introduced as a recurring character early on in the series. The more viewers came to know him as Gotham’s DA, the more tragic his fall from grace was in the end.
Two-Face was born out of trauma and a horrific accident. Had Rupert Thorne not discovered Dent’s psychiatric history, he might have been cured with further therapy.
8 The Mad Hatter
“A lonely wretch named Jervis Tetch…” While the later versions of the character definitely pushed the villain into more psychopathic territory, the animated version is definitely the gold standard in terms of character and sympathetic nature.
Tetch was a brilliant scientist who sought only to open the brain’s full potential, but love and loneliness make people do unhinged things. He’s acting out of a broken heart, a theme that plagues many villains. It might not have worked out with Alice, but there are plenty of fish in the sea.
7 Poison Ivy
Her plant-based powers might put her on a supervillain watch-list, but imagine what Ivy could have done with her powers had she used them for good. With her pro-environment ideas, she could have helped save the world rather than destroy it with vegetation.
Her heart was in the right place, but her methods weren’t. Had she joined forces with the EPA or some other organization, she might have had an impressive career. But, her overzealous nature is what lands her behind bars every single time.
Although he was cured of his affliction, a special mention definitely has to go to Man-Bat. Dr. Langstrom is practically the victim of a horror movie in his debut as the monstrous mutant. The keyword in this scenario being victim, but that’s the danger of self-experimentation.
His motives weren’t even maliciously driven, he was literally a scientist trying to find a way of extending the human lifespan. The mutation was an accident, plain and simple. If it wasn’t for Batman, Gotham might still be plagued by his nightly hunts.
5 The Ventriloquist
Arnold Wesker has split personality syndrome and was even declared sane in the later seasons of the show. The problem lies in his wooden tormentor, Scarface. A puppet is nothing without its puppeteer, right?
Once the dummy is out of the picture, Wesker can live at least a semi-normal life. Similar to Two-Face, it’s the other personality that’s the major threat and not the man himself. Fortunately for Wesker, Scarface is a lot easier to separate than Harvey’s alter ego.
4 Baby Doll
Baby Doll’s story arc is one of the most tragic in the entire series. Not only does Mary Dahl have a condition that essentially keeps her in the body of a toddler, but it’s something that affected her life, acting career, and eventually her psyche.
Criminal career aside, Dahl would have an excruciating ordeal with or without her acting career. There are social implications, physical limitations, and other ladders she’d have to climb to maintain a normal life. She might not be Arkham worthy, but some serious therapy would definitely help.
3 The Penguin
Similar to the Phantom of the Opera, Oswald Cobblepot is only the Penguin because man’s hatred of him has made him so. The Penguin isn’t some super-powered maniac who escaped from Arkham, but a mob boss with a physical deformity that affects him every day.
As demonstrated in the episode “Birds of a Feather,” society is the real villain in Penguin’s arc. Had Gotham’s social elite not ostracized him, he might have found some way to fall back into society. At least he’s got his nightclub going for him.
2 Mr. Freeze
Of all the villains in Batman’s Rogues Gallery, there are none so heartbreaking than that of Mr. Freeze. A scientist injured in an accident caused by a corrupt businessman, Freeze only commits his acts of villainy out of love for his dying wife.
While his actions might not be ethical, everything he does is for his beloved Nora. He’s not in it for money, power, or himself, but to save the life of another. If she can be cured, he can be saved.
1 Harley Quinn
Outside of the animated series, Harley earned her redemption. But given the acts of violence she’s been through at the hands of Mr. J, she should have had some sort of wake-up call a long time ago. Even Batman sympathizes with her plight in the show.
Had she left the Joker earlier on, perhaps after that fall from the window in “Mad Love,” she might have been well on her way to becoming an asset to Batman or at least a fan-favorite antihero sooner.
NEXT: 5 Reasons Why The Joker Is Batman’s Best Villain (& 5 Alternatives)
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