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The Batman is finally here, which means it’s time to start discussing what we’d like to see out of this blossoming franchise reboot.
Director and co-writer Matt Reeves has said that while he is starting to think about potential sequel ideas, he really wants the first movie to enjoy its deserved time in the spotlight after five long years of development, writing, production, a global pandemic, production again, months of anticipation, and finally, a wide theatrical release. So let’s give Reeves some time to celebrate and decompress.
In the meantime, we’ll just have to pick up some of the creative slack with a list of classic Dark Knight villains we’d like to see in the potential follow-up projects (HBO Max shows not included). Of course, the gritty world of The Batman is both grounded and believable, meaning that any baddie who rears their head in this version of Gotham City also has to feel like they could actually exist. In the piece below, we’ll not only list a number of prime antagonists Reeves can turn to for more installments, but suggest how the filmmaker can tone down the campier — and in some cases, supernatural — elements from the comics.
***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for The Batman!***
Let's just get it over with and address the psychotic clown in the room, shall we? The Joker will most likely be the main antagonist of the first sequel to The Batman, given the fact that the character (played by Eternals’ Barry Keoghan) strikes up a maniacal friendship with Riddler (Paul Dano) at the end of this movie.
Joker is so obviously the safe choice — the proverbial Batman market has been flooded with different interpretations of the iconic baddie ever since the ‘60s-era television series starring Adam West. We want to see a member of the rogues gallery who hasn’t really shown up onscreen before. So yes, Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime is always welcome, but let's at least have him remain the background for a movie or two.
9. Professor Pyg
Lazlo Valentin, aka Professor Pyg, is almost like the Leatherface of the DC Universe. The dude wears a creepy porcine mask and has a penchant for hanging things — be it flanks of butchered livestock or terrified human beings — on meat hooks (see the image above).
Even if Valentin isn’t the main antagonist in one of the sequels, his unparalleled skills as a deranged surgeon obsessed with gruesome bodily perfection would make him perfect as the type of doctor underworld thugs turn to when they need someone painfully tortured. Reeves might want to go all RoboCop 2 on us and have someone order Valentin to cut into a victim while they’re still alive. Yikes!
8. Mad Hatter
Alice, we’re most certainly not in Wonderland anymore.
Obsessed with Lewis Carroll’s creation of the same name, the Mad Hatter takes advantage of his technological prowess to construct a collection of hats equipped with specific powers. It’s all a bit campy for the world of The Batman, though we could see Jervis Tetch showing up as an unhinged criminal with a flair for old school top hats.
A shape-shifting blob of ever-melting goo probably wouldn’t fit into the grounded reality Reeves has created, but there is a way to feature Clayface in a more realistic context. In fact, the villain (created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger) didn’t originally start out in the viscous form we all know and love today. He actually began comic book life as Basil Karlo, a washed-up actor who adopted the mantle of a character he had once played in an old horror movie.
If Clayface were to face off against Robert Pattinson’s Caped Crusader, all Reeves would have to do is make him a master of disguise in the vein of Sherlock Holmes. Alternatively, the filmmaker could also take full advantage of growing Deep Fake and A.I. technology that would allow the villain to assume any “form” on social media platforms.
Automatonophobes, beware! Unable to tell the difference between reality and delusions, ventriloquist Arnold Wesker believes that his dummy — an old-fashioned mobster by the name of Scarface — is truly alive and capable of giving out orders.
When under the influence of the inanimate crime boss, Wesker is wildly dangerous and unpredictable. If Riddler was inspired by the elusive Zodiac Killer of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, then it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to base a live-action version of The Ventriloquist on Son of Sam (a serial killer in the late ‘70s who claimed he was compelled to kill under orders from his neighbor’s dog).
Two episodes of the original Twilight Zone (“The Dummy” and “Caesar and Me”) — as well as R.L. Stine's Night of the Living Dummy — are great examples of how you can achieve goosebumps — pun intended — by allowing the puppet to pull on the strings for a change.
5. Calendar Man
Say what you will about Calendar Man, but the dude really has found his niche. Should one of The Batman sequels opt for a time-oriented villain, then we’d suggest rolling Calendar Man and the Holiday Killer (see below) into one single character.
If that is the route Reeves wants to take, then Calendar Man's true name, Julian Gregory Day (a cheeky nod to the Julian and Gregorian calendars) would almost certainly have to go. There’s already precedent for this since The Batman goes with the Riddler’s original birth name, Edward Nashton, rather than the more on-the-nose Edward Nigma.
4. The Court of Owls
The Court of Owls actually feels like a natural extension of the first movie’s exploration of corruption and conspiracy in an urban setting. The idea of a secret cabal of shady billionaires who truly control the fate of Gotham City would certainly up the ante, making Carmine Falcone’s control of the town’s officials look tame by comparison.
Moreover, Reeves has an opportunity to draw parallels to real-world backlash against the small segment of the population that controls the vast majority of the world’s wealth. Hell, why you're at it, you lump Bruce Wayne in with the apathetic elites for not doing anything useful with his family's fortune (something Gotham's new Mayor, Bella Reál, actually calls him out for at Mayor Mitchell's funeral).
3. Mr. Freeze
This one could work if the sequel is set in the dead of winter (à la Batman Returns). Make Victor Fries a deranged scientist who tortures his enemies by dipping their appendages into vats of liquid nitrogen until they’re frozen solid and crumble into a million little pieces. He’s lost his prestigious academic standing and turns to a life of crime in order to fund last-ditch-effort experiments that may result in a cure for his ailing wife.
2. The Holiday Killer
The Batman clearly owes a debt of gratitude to The Long Halloween storyline from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Much like the influential comic, the film kicks off with a mysterious homicide on the spookiest night of the year, and it’s up to the brooding Caped Crusader to figure out the identity of the killer before the bodies start piling up.
That might feel like too much of a retread for a subsequent installment, but utilizing the Holiday Killer (a villain who, as their name suggests, strikes on major holidays) opens the door to a much larger narrative scope when compared with The Batman’s shorter time frame.
1. The Phantasm
"Your angel of death awaits..."
With Selina Kyle skipping town at the end of The Batman, Bruce Wayne is need of a new femme fatale. Look no further than Andrea Beaumont, aka the Phantasm, a woman who — in the 1993 animated film — caused the Dark Knight to be blamed for a string of high-profile assassinations. The two were also in love, though Bruce had no idea of Andrea’s murderous moonlighting and ultimately chose the life a brooding superhero when their relationship, which nearly ended in marriage, tragically fell apart.
Pattinson has already credited Mask of the Phantasm as a major influence on his performance and Reeves’ script (co-written with Peter Craig) does lean into some of that movie's broad narrative strokes, particularly when it comes to Gotham’s general distrust of vigilantes taking matters into their own hands. However, the idea of Batman being forced to clear his name after everyone — Gordon included—turn their backs on him, only for the bad guy to turn out to be the person Bruce thought would give him a shot at a normal future, sounds like it would fit perfectly in this noir-inspired mythos.
The Batman is now playing in theaters everywhere.