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Hot Take: The Villains in ‘Batman the Animated Series’ Might Be the Best in the Entire Franchise

Kidding! We all know they're amazing. But which ones were the best of the best?

Batman Animated Series Rogues Gallery

I am not exaggerating when I say that I think Batman: The Animated Series is one of the best pieces of Batman media ever created and one of the greatest animated shows of all time. As a kid, I watched the episodes with rapt attention. And as an adult watching them, they actually hold up.

Their storylines worked intricate, complex tales into a half-hour children’s show. The animation and style were in a class all their own, with a mix of modern items and vintage aesthetics. But the best part of the series had to be the villains. The show mixed in characters from the Batman comics with newly invented baddies to create a tapestry of awesome evil. Although it was hard to choose, I mean, they are all great, here are my picks for the best villains from Batman: The Animated Series. And they’re some of my favorite from the entire Batman universe. Here are the best Batman: The Animated Series villains.

Baby Doll

Baby Doll Batman Animated Series

(image: Warner Brothers)

Adult themes ran rampant in the series, adding layers and nuance to the show. The villain, Baby Doll, is a prime example of that. Created for an episode that aired twenty-eight years ago, Baby Doll still haunts me. She first appeared in the episode, also called, Baby Doll. Here’s her very creepy backstory, Baby Doll starred on a hit television show of the same name, where she played the loveable but mischievous little girl in a family comedy. Having a rare medical condition, she aged mentally and emotionally while maintaining the physical appearance of a toddler.

The network canceled her show after her cute Shirley Temple-like looks and use of a baby voice no longer received high ratings. Mary Dahl (Baby Doll’s real name) fell into a depression over her loss of stardom and frustration with her appearance. Realizing she only experienced happiness with her make-believe family, she kidnapped them and cemented her place as a Gotham villain. A scene brought the fight into a room filled with funhouse mirrors—where she saw what looked like a grown-up version of herself. It is so heartbreaking that she just wanted to be seen and feel normal.

Tygrus

Tygrus Batman Animated Series

(image: Warner Brothers)

The only villain sadder than Baby Doll is Tygrus. Tygrus first appeared in an episode called, “Tyger, Tyger”(a reference to a poem by William Blake because this show has everything). Created in a lab by mad scientist Dr. Emile Dorian, Tygrus is a hybrid of cat and human. Yes, he helped kidnap Selina Kyle, but being raised on a deserted island by a mad scientist skewed his concepts of what was good or bad.

When Selena Kyle turned into another cat person, he helped her become human again. He watched, sad and lonely, as the only other being who understood him left. Side note, being a human-cat creature would be awesome—so I am not sure why Selina gave it up to go back to a crime-ridden city, but we all make our choices.

Catwoman

Catwoman Batman Animated Series

(image: Warner Brothers)

In the series, Catwoman (and her alter-ego Selina Kyle) looked similar to Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the character in Batman Returns. She is also less of a jewel thief and more of an animal activist who makes a nice living stealing. Even Batman doesn’t stay mad at her long. For most of the series, he is too busy flirting with or helping her to fight her. Catwoman goes to fancy parties with the wealthy, just to steal for animals. And she has an adorable black cat named Isis that goes with her on heists. It is a great way to live. #LifeGoals

Mr. Freeze

Mr. Freeze Batman Animated Series

(image: Warner Brothers)

Of all the pre-existing villains, Mr. Freeze may have undergone the biggest change for the show. Instead of being a garden variety megalomaniac who had cryogenic chemicals dumped on him, he became a much more tragic figure. Dr. Victor Fries still had chemicals dumped on him for stealing, but he did it all in the name of love.

Freeze needed the money to fund his research to discover a cure for his wife’s terminal illness. Not to mention the cost of keeping her alive in a cryogenic chamber. He didn’t want to take over the world, he just wanted to save his world. The backstory change was so compelling, that it became the official one for Freeze in new iterations of the character.

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn Batman Animated Series

(image: Warner Borthers)

Although Harley Quinn may have started out as a sidekick for Joker, she took on a life of her own. For such humble beginnings, she has done well for herself over the years and might be one of the most popular DC characters today. Invented for the series, Harley Quinn stood out among Joker’s other lackeys.

Her unique accent, nicknames for Joker (who else would call him “Puddin”?), and love for her two pet hyenas made her special. Fans adored her, so she appeared in more episodes. Fireworks flew when she and Poison Ivy teamed up in a girls-only episode. However, Quinn’s relationship with Joker is problematic, and so I’m happy that DC has moved the quirky character onto better things … like Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy

poison ivy smiles

The series toned down Poison Ivy’s meta-human abilities. In the comics, she is actually part plant and naturally exudes pheromones. Although I would have loved it if she had green skin in the show, her character still rocked as a brainy, plant-loving ecoterrorist. Using gadgets, natural toxins, and intricate plans, Ivy did everything she could to save the plants of the world. That includes massive property destruction and attempted murder.

Committed to seeing her vision become reality, she is a force to be reckoned with. The only human she had any love for was Harley Quinn (who adorably called Ivy “Red”). As a good friend, Ivy told Quinn her relationship with the Joker was not healthy. Even at that point, I wanted them to run away together (thankfully DC is giving the fans what they want).

Joker

(image: Warner Brothers )

Joker is THE Batman villain. You can’t have one without the other. This version of the Joker became a lot more focused on causing hilarious chaos, rather than just robbing banks. In one episode, he painted the water of Gotham to make the fish look like him. Or in a Christmas episode, he wrapped up Commissioner Jim Gordon like a present. He became zanier, rather than violent, more like his name implies. The series marked the first time Mark Hamill voiced the character and set a new tone for Joker’s greatness.

Batman would be nothing without his Rogues Gallery, and the animated series made so many great additions to it. Which villains (because you can’t pick just one) were your favorite?

(feature image: Warner Brothers)

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D.R. Medlen is secretly a selkie that will one day return to the sea. In the meantime, she spends her days fangirling over anything from comic books to folklore podcasts, and everything in between. She lives that hobbitcore life while teaching her offspring the ways of the nerd.