The great thing about comic books is the volume: they’ve been around for a long time and there have been so many issues, reboots, and continuities that there’s never a lack of things to discover. The best thing about comic books is that all that space has allowed things to get weird.
This isn’t just about bad villains—although, there are some very bad villains on this list—this is about villains who went with an overly specific theme. Not, like, a cat burglar who is into cats. Or a man who looks like a penguin. But the extremely granular. Such as:
There is just...so much going on here. It’s a pun on an Chinese-American dish and martial arts. It’s a name given to an actual giant egg villain. And because he was created in the 60s, a giant communist egg. And look at that drawing. How was that ever acceptable? I somehow doubt Egg Fu’s making it into the Wonder Woman movie.
What are you laughing at, Marvel? At DC’s giant communist egg? Because you guys created the Hypno-Hustler, a man who used disco music to hypnotize audiences in order to steal their belongings. There is absolutely no chance that this character, appearing a few years after “The Hustle” was at the top of the music charts, wasn’t named as a pun on that song. You see, he plays disco music and he steals. Also, hypnosis. Which probably has a lot more uses than “picking the pockets of the teenagers at a club.” The Hypno-Hustler as no vision.
I get that it’s hard to come up with themes for all these people. Villains and heroes and sidekicks—everyone’s got to have their thing. And I also get that most writers take inspiration from things in their own lives. Their lives mostly consist of sitting at desks. That does not excuse the veritable glut of villains based on office supplies. Paste Pot Pete (skill: sticking things to other things) smartly rebranded as “Trapster.” The Scissormen are a race of beings with giant scissors for hands. The Living Eraser uses a device on his hands to transport people to a prison dimension. He wipes his hands on them and they’re “erased.” Which makes him more like the living white board microfiber cloth than an eraser. Also, was “living” a necessary part of this name? He was unlikely to be “The Dead Eraser.”
I. LOVE. FLAG-SMASHER. Because it is literally an attempt to personify “anti-patriotism.” No, not anti-Americanism. That would be dumb, but this is even less concrete than that. It’s like they didn’t want to make a villain of Captain America’s too US-centric. So they tried to create a man who generally hates nationalism. He hates it so much! He hates it so much that he waged a campaign to rid New York of nationalist symbols. That’s code for literally smashing flags. He created a society called ULTIMATUM or “The Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind.” He speaks Esperanto, the only language truly devoid of nationalism! Flag-Smasher, because fuck flags, that’s why.
Literally a girl in a goat mask. Incredibly specific with no accompanying special powers.
Have you ever looked around and thought to yourself, “Man are there a lot of signs and symbols in this world?” If no, congratulations, a useful component of everyday life just sort of passed you by. If yes, congratulations, you too can be a confusing villain of Batman’s. Someone who commits crimes while leaving behind a bunch of symbols as clues. Because it’s not a real crime if you don’t purposefully leave behind a calling card.
I think a few quotes from various wikis sum up the strangeness of Polka-Dot Man. First up, the Batman wiki has “The Polka-Dot Man was a cunning criminal whose crimes revolved around the general theme of dots.” “The general theme of dots.” That’s not a general theme. That’s a very specific, and very weird, one. How about this from the DC Database? “Abner Krill decided, for reasons unknown, to launch a crime wave based on spots and dots.” No reason! Just a love of polka dots, I guess. He weaponized the ones on his outfit, too. Just cause.
Condiment King comes from Batman: The Animated Series but absolutely deserves his place on this list. He’s a comedian brainwashed by the Joker into committing crimes. He makes condiment-based puns. At least until he slips on ketchup when Batman chases him down. Yes, as with all villains, his greatest weakness is irony.
I would like some of whatever Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano were on when Ten-Eyed Man was created. How do you create someone with eyes on the end of each of his fingers? More importantly, why do you create a man with eyes on the ends of his fingers? And why all his fingers? Why did the doctor who attached Philip Reardon’s optic nerves to his fingers (comic book medicine is great) not stop at two fingers? How did his brain adjust from being built to accommodate two eyes to dealing with ten? Ten-Eyed just brings up so many questions.
Stilt-Man, a name sure to strike fear into the hearts of heroes everywhere, was already a very odd choice for a villain in 1965. That weirdness was doubled-down on in 2010 with the introduction of Lady Stilt-Man. Like the man with stilts, but a lady. But not Stilt-Lady. Or Stilt-Woman. Lady Stilt-Man.