Who is your second-favorite Batman villain, and what could they do to make it to number one?
This is a toughie, because, like Batman himself, his rogues gallery is infinitely malleable. When we say “Joker,” to we mean Heath Ledger’s homicidal maniac from THE DARK KNIGHT? The darkly camp puppet master from Morrison and McKean’s ARKHAM ASYLUM? Caesar Romero’s elfin agent of chaos? Which Joker are we talking about?
In that way, it can be hard to say what such a character can do to elevate him or herself to Number 1, as they are already so defined. Frank Gorshin is not going to rise from the grave, put on a green bowler and redefine his classic role. Even if Gail Simone was given the go ahead to write more Catman stories, they would be in the new continuity, and effectively a different character.
But, if we were to take them entirely on their archetypal basis, I would have to put Bane as #1 and Joker as #2. The best Batman villains are who Bruce fears he is—a two-faced liar, a tuxedeod fatcat putting on airs he hasn’t earned, a genius who uses his intelligence solely to make others feel stupid. The Joker is who Bruce Wayne sees in the mirror: a clown in a silly suit, parading around, wasting everyone’s time and money. Bane, however, is what Batman fears he may become: a man without limits, who will literally do anything to achieve his goal.
Personally, I am more drawn to the story potential of the latter: Batman vs Evil Batman is more compelling than Batman vs Evil Bruce Wayne. Which is not to say such a story CAN’T be compelling; the aforementioned ARKHAM ASYLUM makes Joker more interesting by giving him power within Arkham akin to Wayne’s power in the outside world. But you’d have to really commit to the idea, really build up the Joker as Batman’s equal. Most writers present the Joker as an agent of chaos to Batman’s order—and that’s fine—but that’s a less interesting story.
Also, it’s kind of been done to death, am I right?