With Fox’s Gotham having returned, it’s clear that the once-clandestine syndicate crime and corruption of the series’ titular city will apparently foam to the surface in an outrageously ostentatious fashion. If the season’s advertised subtitle “Rise of the Villains,” wasn’t enough of an indication, the previews are showcasing an ever-expanding criminal cavalcade of names and faces familiar to DC’s Batman comic book lore.
However, if Gotham continues the template set by its inaugural season, then many of the aforementioned villains set to “rise” will be those that are destined to tangle with the still grade school-aged Batman in the ensuing decades, such as Oswald Cobblepot (the eventually rotund, aristocratic, umbrella-brandishing Penguin), Selina Kyle (the eventual larcenous sometime lover of Batman, Catwoman), Edward Nygma (the eventual query-obsessed supervillain, The Riddler), and now, the deranged Jerome Valeska (the presumed future Joker), just to name a few.
In that spirit, we thought we’d put on our (Batman logoed) thinking caps and discuss which other characters from the vast variations of the Batman mythologies we hope could make their way to the small screen on Gotham.
10. The Gray Ghost, a.ka. Simon Trent
While the continuities of DC Comics have had a number of different characters going by the name “Gray Ghost,” perhaps the most memorably poignant rendition belongs to a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series “Beware the Gray Ghost.” By way of show’s signature stylistic quasi-1950s flashbacks, we learn that young Bruce Wayne used to look forward to nights in front his family’s black and white television watching a show about a mysterious nighttime vigilante known as The Gray Ghost.
Eventually, we learn that in the present, the actor who decades earlier played Gray Ghost, Simon Trent (voiced, appropriately enough, by Adam West) fell victim to typecasting and was left penniless, barely scraping by just to pay his rent. With Gotham in the midst of a siege by a mad bomber using Gray Ghost memorabilia, Batman, after ruling Trent out as a suspect, eventually teams up with his costumed childhood idol to foil the plot.
Seeing as Gotham continues to cover a time period in which young Bruce Wayne is in the earliest psychological stages towards his eventual vigilante turn, there would be a great opportunity to revive the Gray Ghost as a running trope on the series. Manifesting as kind of a show-within-a-show, young Bruce could be occasionally seen watching “The Gray Ghost” show on television, as we witness him slowly start to get ideas implanted into his young mind.
9. Lady Shiva, a.k.a. Sandra Wu-San
Introduced in 1976 in the pages of Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter as a vengeance seeking femme fatale assassin, Lady Shiva evolved into one of the most ubiquitous women in the DC Comics universe. While she's usually depicted with a tinge of moral ambiguity, the practically unrivaled fighting skills of Shiva/Sanda Wu-San has also made her into an honorable sort of character and even a member of the heroic female group Birds of Prey at one point.
Escaping a brutal past involving the death of family and the League of Assassins, Shiva became an enabler of heroes, having trained crime fighters like Victor Sage, a.k.a. The Question, young Tim Drake who became the third Robin, and Cassandra Cain, who inherited the mantle of Batgirl. Plus, after Batman was left with a broken back at the hands of Bane as a psychotic Azrael roamed the streets as his costumed replacement, Lady Shiva helped Bruce Wayne recover his crime-fighting mojo with extensive training.
As a potential character on Gotham, Shiva could show up shedding some blood, eventually meeting the young Bruce Wayne and recognizing a darkness that resides in the boy. Besides giving Bruce some early combat lessons, Shiva’s presence could also be a way to introduce Gotham to a rendition of the League of Assassins, obviously differing from the one on Arrow. This aspect could also provide young Bruce with the very idea that seeking out such a group might be a way to acquire the skills necessary to become the Batman.
8. Matches Malone
This recurring trope in the Batman comic books since the early 1970’s involves the Caped Crusader utilizing the art of subterfuge to get information from the criminal underworld disguised as a small-time thug named Matches Malone. Of course, while the real Matches was always depicted as an actual criminal and arsonist, many of the details about his character have been significantly altered in the aftermath of the universe-resetting Crisis on Infinite Earths.
However, the constant theme regarding Matches has always been his inevitable demise and Batman’s pilfering of his identity for undercover purposes. Interestingly enough, Matches’ post-Crisis depiction actually provided a bit of redemption for the petty criminal, who felt guilt over some deaths his fires caused and faked his death. Having a crisis of conscience, he eventually resurfaced to confess, only to be killed by the Ventriloquist’s hand-draped persona, Scarface.
Since Gotham is still very much in a stage where the corruption of the crime families are the primary source of the dilapidated city’s issues, it would be extremely easy to introduce the actual Matches Malone as a small-time, though well-known criminal. Serving as a bit of an Easter Egg shout-out to comic fans, we could see Matches as he builds the reprobate reputation that Batman will one day utilize to his own advantage to fight crime not with his fists, but with a fake mustache, a garish leisure suit and a pair of aviators.
7. Vicki Vale
A mainstay in the Batman comic book storyline going back to 1948, Gotham Gazette reporter Vicki Vale was introduced, quite transparently as an attempt to recreate the dynamic enjoyed between Superman and Lois Lane. The initial appearance of the scintillating stunner was also based on a pinup of a young Norma Jean Mortensen, a.ka. Marilyn Monroe. Decades later, Kim Basinger’s blonde bombshell portrayal of the character in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, cemented the actress as an iconic sex symbol of the late 1980s and early 1990s period (And provided a source of sexy sampling lines in Prince’s “Batdance”).
Despite having suspected Bruce of being the Batman at various times, Vicki was often alienated by his isolationist tendencies. As is often the case with Bruce Wayne’s depicted love interests, there has always been an on-again, off-again nature to his relationship with Vicki, who often came close to finding out Bruce’s secret, but never quite got there. However, Vicki often found herself on the frontlines in the crosshairs of Gotham’s criminal activities, once even targeted by the League of Assassins and drawing the ire of Catwoman.
A potential appearance of Vicki Vale in Gotham could depict her as an inquisitive young girl about Bruce’s age who interviews him for some school paper. Perhaps she could end up getting herself entwined in some criminal-centric abduction scenario that eventually inspires her journalistic career path and eventual fixation on the would-be Batman. However, they would have to tread lightly, lest the destiny-laden relationship become too Smallville-esque.
This floating, funny-looking magical imp had long become a punchline for the rather deplorable, painfully cornball state into which the Batman comic book series fell in the 1950s. A playful, but powerful being from another dimension in the same vein as Superman nemesis Mr. Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite was simply a fan of Batman who, dressed as his human crime-fighting hero, tried to utilize his powers to help the Caped Crusader, often to disastrously inconvenient results.
Cultural shifts in the 1970s brought Batman back to dark grittiness, leaving characters like Bat-Mite to be forgotten for decades. That was, until the 2000s when Bat-Mite made sporadic manifestations in the post-Crisis continuity; notably in the 2008 “Batman R.I.P.” storyline in which villains Simon Hurt and Professor Milo drugged Batman, temporarily leading him to believe he was “Zur-En-Arrh,” a brutal other-dimension version of Batman originally depicted in the 1950s. During that hallucinogenic state, Bat-Mite appeared to him as a manifestation of his ethical subconscious, trying to keep him from crossing lines.
Through a similarly mind-altered storyline, we could get some version of Bat-Mite to feasibly show up in Gotham. As we have been seeing, the groundwork for Bruce Wayne’s inspiration for becoming Batman is being slowly constructed. Thus, a potential episode where Bruce is drugged, perhaps with neurotoxin from the future Scarecrow Jonathan Crane (played in Season 1 by Charlie Tahan), could provide the context for a variation of Bat-Mite as the subject of a profound vision.
5. Clayface, a.k.a. Basil Karlo
Interestingly enough, of all the proposed Gotham characters on this list, Clayface is the one that is actually already confirmed, as indicated earlier this year by the show’s producer John Stephens. However, when it comes to Clayface, a name doesn’t necessarily narrow things down. The Batman lore has portrayed numerous versions of the terracotta terror as numerous individuals. We, however, are going with the original version, who debuted way back in Detective Comics #40 in 1940; a mere two issues after Robin debuted.
Initially depicted as a bitter former actor named Basil Karlo (an obvious amalgam of Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff), Clayface started out as a dapper-dressed Phantom of the Opera-inspired menace who wore a clay mask (Thus, the name). However, the protean pile of mud most fans know came about in the second rendition, Matt Hagen, and later through Preston Payne and even as a woman named Sondra Fuller. However, an imprisoned Karlo eventually managed to adopt those powers for himself, arriving back on the scene as the definitive Clayface.
It’s extremely doubtful that Gotham will be going “full Clayface” with the more iconic, muddy mess depicted in the comics. However, if they loosely follow the recent New 52 reinvention of Basil Karlo/Clayface, a dynamic could be created in which Karlo, a desperate has-been actor, turns to The Penguin for an underworld edge and gets himself infected with an experimental clay (as opposed to the New 52 story’s usage of a mystical Navajo connection), transforming him into a monster who can alter his appearance. His desire for revenge against Penguin could be an ongoing storyline.
4. Blockbuster, a.k.a. Mark Desmond
Making his debut in 1965, the original villain known as Blockbuster was a chemist named Mark Desmond who, in a Steve Rogers-esque manner, was a small, scrawny man who used a serum (in this case of his own creation,) to grow in stature and bulk. However, unlike Captain America over in Marvel Land, Mark Desmond experienced the unfortunate side effect of being transformed into a troglodyte-browed, brawny, bellicose brute, also losing his ability to speak.
Compounding things, Mark’s brother Roland, who was designated to care for the mighty mental invalid, exploited his abilities for calamitous crimes. Manipulated by the deviously calculating brother, Mark became the villainous Blockbuster, wreaking havoc across the DC Comics universe; notably in Gotham City, where he has tangled with the Batman Family numerous times. However, even after being freed from Roland’s control, Blockbuster continued his criminal career, battling the Justice League as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains. Eventually, he ended up in the clutches of Amanda Waller, forced to utilize his abilities as a member of the Suicide Squad until his suffering fatal wounds on a mission at the hands of the entity known as Brimstone. Later on, Roland took a similar serum and became the second Blockbuster.
The story of the original Blockbuster certainly has potential to work in the semi-realistic universe of Gotham. The idea of a well-meaning scientist being turned into a horrific brute that’s manipulated by his evil brother is a powerful idea that’s accessible to audiences across the board. Thus, his depiction would not necessarily be that of a brazen villain, but a destructive tragic victim of circumstance.
3. Nocturna, a.k.a. Natalia Knight
With the alluring albino Natalia Knight, who first appeared in the comics in 1983, we could potentially have another young female foil with whom the child Bruce Wayne of Gotham could deal; more importantly, one that’s NOT named “Selina Kyle.” Like Bruce, she lives an aristocratic life of luxury. However, unlike Bruce, she was not born into that life, but was instead brought into it as a wayward urchin on the streets of Gotham, adopted by the wealthy Charles Knight.
Unfortunately, after said adopted father was murdered, it was discovered that the fortune she and her step-brother Anton Knight (also her lover,) enjoyed was acquired through crime. Having become accustomed to this overly opulent lifestyle, she, along with Anton, sustained it by turning to crime under the nom de guerre Nocturna; a practice that often resulted in regular run-ins with Batman. While having a weakness to light due to an accident with a laser that drained the pigment from her skin, she is a formidable fighter and skilled thief.
In a radical departure, the New 52 universe reinvented Nocturna’s origin, depicting her as a vampire who (controversially) used her powers to seduce Batwoman Kate Kane. However, for the more realistic grounding of Gotham, a traditional depiction of a teenaged, snow-skinned Natalia, living in the same aristocratic circles, becoming a potential, ethically-toxic love interest for young Bruce Wayne could be interesting for the show. In trying to lead young Bruce down the primrose path we could even see her tangling with Selina Kyle, which would be a worthwhile angle to pursue, seeing as Nocturna is, in many ways, the anti-Catwoman.
2. The Ventriloquist, a.k.a. Arnold Wesker or Shauna Belzer
To the layman, the idea of a meek-looking spectacled rotund middle-aged man holding a goofy looking dummy being a formidable villain to Batman is a laughable proposition. However, with the Ventriloquist, we have arguably one of the most pathologically demented characters in the Batman mythos.
An intriguing case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, the traditional depiction of The Ventriloquist, who debuted in 1988 as Arnold Wesker, is an example of how an individual with an unassuming, docile exterior can channel criminal cunning and white-hot psychotic rage through a personified object; in this case a puppet he named “Scarface.” A typically timid man, he one day unleashed unprecedented rage and killed someone in a bar fight, landing him in Blackgate Prison. There, his fascination with ventriloquism started when he came to believe that his abusive cellmate’s puppet was talking to him, inspiring to kill his tormentor and escape. Eventually, he became a powerful drug kingpin, accumulating vast resources and personnel. –all of whom take their order from “Scarface,” and NOT Wesker.
Interestingly enough, after Wesker was killed, a new Ventriloquist named Peyton Riley took his place. However, yet another interesting update on The Ventriloquist occurred in the New 52 universe, with a new Ventriloquist in a demented woman who murdered her family emerging. As far as a live-action depiction on Gotham, we could probably go either way on which version to use, since the stories of Wesker and Belzer are mostly similar, save for some minor details. Regardless of the form, this would be an amazing villain for Jim Gordon to be freaked out by and for Harvey Bullock to unleash killer wisecracks towards.
1. Killer Moth, a.k.a. Cameron van Cleer/Drury Walker
Killer Moth was originally depicted in 1951 as a criminal con man who, obsessed with Batman, rolls into Gotham and attempts to become his polar criminal equivalent. Later revealed to be named Drury Walker, Moth came onto the scene adopting the identity of a wealthy Bruce Wayne-like society type named “Cameron van Cleer.” Befriending Bruce Wayne and other members of Gotham's high society, Walker/Van Cleer utilized misbegotten resources and took up the winged, antennae-helmeted, tropical candy-striped striped tights mantle of “Killer Moth.”
Fancying himself the anti-Batman, Moth took it upon himself to actually help criminals escape justice, rather than apprehend them. Additional conceits in brazenness resulted in the acquisition of a “Moth Signal,” “Mothmobile” and even a “Mothcave.” Yet, as silly as this all sounds, Moth was successful enough to figure out that Bruce Wayne was Batman (A revelation that was quickly nullified conveniently with head-trauma-related amnesia). Moth also experienced some interesting turns later on in the DC Comics pre-New 52 continuity, including a deal with a demon that transformed him into a hideous human-moth hybrid called Charaxes.
However, for the purposes of Gotham, the idea of a Drury Walker/”Cameron van Cleer” being a depraved young parallel to Bruce Wayne could be quite workable as a repertory antagonist. With the show arriving at the point where Bruce is inching closer to his Bat-inspired mentality, there will likely be a number of stories showcasing characters who represent what Bruce could have become if he steered down different paths. It would be interesting to see a closely aged, equally wealthy “Cameron van Cleer,” as an anti-Bruce Wayne, utilizing vast resources unscrupulously, not to help the city, but to curry favor with a lawless element for his own egotistical, vainglorious agenda. Some obligatory references to his fixation on moths wouldn't hurt, either.
There are obviously a myriad of Batman characters from which to choose. Have any others in mind for Gotham? Head down to the comments section and let us know!