harley quinn catwoman poison ivy
Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy.

These Are the Best Female Batman Villains

Who run Gotham? Girls.

There is an old saying that goes, “behind every great man is a great woman.” That is especially true for Batman—only the great woman might be busy stabbing him in the back. Or standing in front, delivering a roundhouse kick to his face. The villains of Batman’s world all heavily influence his history and mission. But it’s the female villains who really keep Batman on his toes. Here are the best lady villains to fight the caped crusader.

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Duela Dent

Duela Dent’s—also known as Joker’s Daughter—history in the comics is murky. Prior to DC’s New 52 reboot, Duela Dent joined the Teen Titans to atone for her father Harvey Dent’s (Two-Face) crimes. Down the road, and after the reboot, Duela claimed to be the daughter of several Gotham villains. She claims the Joker is her spiritual father. Duela wears a skin mask of the Joker over her own face, thinking this makes her more beautiful. As the Joker’s Daughter, she spreads her form of grotesque beauty wherever she goes.

Lady Shiva

Lady Shiva straddles the line of hero and villain. Maybe she is best described as a chaotic neutral. In the pre-New 52 universe, and after, her origin story dealt with her mastery of martial arts and rivalry with her sister. The two developed such powerful skills that they could sense an opponent’s movements before they happened. After her sister’s murder, Lady Shiva began her mission of vengeance and searching for a good fight. She has both worked as an assassin and fought against them.

On the other hand, Shiva proved to be an ally for Batman at certain times. She trained Tim Drake who would become one of Batman’s sidekicks. When Batman himself sought training after Bane broke his back, he went to Shiva for help. Shiva respects skills and follows a warrior code. She even fought her own daughter, Cassandra Cain (Batgirl), in a battle to the death. Positive or negative, Gotham has felt the power of Lady Shiva.

Talia al Ghul

Unlike Duela Dent, Talia al Ghul actually is the daughter of one of Batman’s mortal enemies. Although Talia lacks superpowers, she is a master of combat, weapons, and a genius. Her father, Ra’s al Ghul, made sure her training was the best from a young age. She also has access to al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit which can restore life and youth. Talia followed in her father’s footsteps to villainhood in her own right.

However, Talia and Batman were more than just foes. They two have shared an on/off relationship throughout the years. Sometimes they are fighting, whereas other times they are embracing. Talia genetically engineered a son between the two — Damian Wayne — to be the ultimate fighter. Yet she kept Damian’s birth a secret from Batman until it suited her. Dropping Damian off at the Wayne mansion, she used her son to distract Batman and keep him out of her way. In The Dark Knight Rises, Marion Cotillard brought life to the supervillain trying to avenge her father.

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn holding up two guns in The Suicide Squad.

Harleen Frances Quinzel, a former psychiatrist and Joker’s ex-lady, has blown up in pop culture. Created for Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn took over DC and became a fan favorite. Joker wormed his way into her head when she worked as his psychiatrist Arkham Asylum. Harley has no special abilities except for the power to fully commit herself. To paraphrase James Brown, she doesn’t know Kung Fu, but she knows crazy. Her signature weapon is a comically large mallet. However, she can take down anyone with whatever she gets her hands on.

Appearing in comics, cartoons, and live-action films, Harley’s infamy rivals that of Mister J. Margot Robbie’s on-screen performance of the villain gave the character depth that fans responded to.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy Gotham City Sirens Comic

Of all Batman’s villains, Poison Ivy is one of the few with actual superpowers powers. Although she may be skilled in hand-to-hand combat, Poison Ivy’s true abilities lay in her genius and connection to plants. Once a promising botanist and biologist, Dr. Pamela Isley’s normal career stopped when a colleague poisoned her. Despite ingesting a large dose of toxic plants, Dr. Isley emerged even better as Poison Ivy.

Here is the thing about Ivy: yes she is technically an ecoterrorist but I get where she is coming from. Contrasting with the wealthy citizens of Gotham (cough – Bruce Wayne – cough), Ivy actually tries to save the planet from pollution. Maybe her methods get a little extreme and murderous. However, she appears to be the only one trying to stop climate change.

Even Batman cannot resist her charms. As seen in Batman & Robin, Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) used her toxic abilities to turn the Bat and Boy Wonder against each other. Yet Poison Ivy’s true love is Harley Quinn. Together, they make one amazing power couple.

Catwoman

catwoman zoe kravitz

Finally, there is Catwoman. Also known as Selina Kyle, Catwoman first appeared in Batman #1. Published in 1940, Catwoman became Batman’s first female villain. Catwoman expertly fights in hand-to-hand combat and uses gymnastic movements to her advantage. Her cat theme continues in her tight-fitting catsuit and sharp, retractable claws. For ranged attacks, she uses a bullwhip with the precision of a surgeon.

Beginning as a successful cat burglar, Catwoman became so much more in Batman’s life. The two have an epic romance that has spanned through the comics, cartoons, and films. A fan-favorite character, Catwoman turned into more of an anti-hero than a true villain. During certain story arcs, she robs from the rich to help animals in need. Catwoman embodies the devil-may-care attitude. She does what she wants with whomever she wants.

Back in 1992’s Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer became an icon as Catwoman. With her patchwork suit and amazing whip skills, a new Catwoman era was born. Anne Hathaway played the role in the Christian Bale In the newest Batman film, Zoë Kravitz wears the kitty ears as Catwoman.

Which one of Batman’s female villains is your problematic favorite?

(images: DC Comics, Warner Bros.)


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Author
D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.