Batman has a great rogue's gallery. Nearly eighty years of incredibly creative people having to turn out new ideas every month means you have better villains just based on the law of averages. Granted Batman has no shortage of stupid villains, no matter how hard DC tries to make them bad-ass, but he's still got a great list of antagonists.
Unfortunately, some of them will never work in a movie. Here's why.
The Riddler doesn't work for one simple reason: he's obnoxious, and obnoxious in way that hits too close to home.
The Riddler's defining trait is his deep, deep insecurity about his own intelligence. All of his crimes have the smell of flop sweat as he desperately tries to prove to himself how much smarter he is than everybody else. And that's what makes the character work on the page: at root, he's that obnoxious know-it-all from grade school even the biggest nerd wound up decking at some point. Batman beating him senseless is a hoot.
Can you imagine two hours in a room with that guy, though? He didn't work in Batman Forever, for various reasons, and it seems unlikely he'll work in the future without a truly drastic, Joker-level reimagining.
Here's the problem with the Penguin: with his gimmicks, he's stupid. Without his gimmicks, he's just another crime boss. Batman Returns had to turn him into a mutant just to make the character work credibly, it's that bad.
The comics have done a good job of placing the Penguin in Gotham's underworld: he's the one crime boss who can handle Batman, so of course he runs the criminal underworld. But he's mostly ditched the birds, the umbrellas, and pretty much everything else that, well, makes him any sort of supervillain. Why use the Penguin when you can just sub in any of a dozen of another crime bosses in the Batman canon with less makeup?
The Ventriloquist, or at least Arnold Wesker, works on paper because you're never totally sure if Wesker is just a man with a split personality, or if he really is possessed by some darker force compelling him to commit crimes. At his best the Ventriloquist is damn creepy.
It'd be a spectacular role, but it would have to be a brilliant actor giving the performance of his career just to keep audiences from laughing at him.
There's just no plot there. A gritty reimagining of Clayface is certainly possible: just take the villain back to his roots as a master of disguise. But then what? You've got a guy running around impersonating people. He's a secondary villain at best without the shapeshifting powers and the tragic backstory.
Yes, Superman is a Batman villain. Maybe not in the sense that the Joker is a Batman villain, but more often than not, Supes has been the bad guy in a Batbook. Not deliberately, of course, but when a writer needs to introduce somebody who doesn't grasp the term "moral grey area", Superman is showing up sooner or later.
Hell, this happens to Supes a lot in his own books. When DC rebooted him back in the '80s, he heard about Batman and immediately raced off to arrest his ass. He got schooled within thirty seconds of meeting him, but still, Superman was the bad guy in that plot.
The main problem here is that, as a general rule, audiences like Superman and do not want to see Batman curb-stomp him. They'd much rather see Batman and Superman working together, not wrestle with some form of moral conundrum.
That said, we still want to see the fight. Come on, Warners, you know you want to.
I want more like this!
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