So a while ago I did a Top Five Portrayals of Comic Villains from the Marvel Universe – so I figured it was only fair that I give DC a try as well. Whilst I was never a huge fan of DC (aside from Batman and a few others) I am really enjoying the Cinematic DC Universe and their animated Universe never ceases to impress. Whilst there are many who consider Marvel the leader in the cinematic world at the moment, with shows like Arrow, The Flash and even Gotham, DC has proved it’s not far behind Marvel.
And like Marvel, DC has its fair share of nasty villains – including two of the most iconic villains in comic history (one of which will appear on this list) and they have had some fantastic actors portray them over the years. So I’m gonna give credit to what I consider to be the best portrayals of DC villains, based on the shows I’ve watched.
I hereby present to you now, my Top Five Portrayals of DC villains. Listed in no particular order.
Bane – Tom Hardy
Thankfully, The Dark Knight Rises undid all that, making Bane the dangerous criminal that he should have been in the first place. And boy did they excel themselves! Tom Hardy may seem like an odd choice at the time, considering he was mostly famous known for his roles as British gangster types – but he really took to the role of Bane and actually made his pretty terrifying.
In the film, his backstory is a little different to the comics. Rather than being a mercenary that was tested with a super steroid called Venom (which gave him superhuman strength), he was a member of the League of Shadows that was excommunicated, now out to fulfil the wishes of the late Ra’s al Ghul – until it turns out that he was working with Ra’s daughter Talia all along, saving her from a prison riot. The changes made the character had some fans raising their eyes – and his voice has become a subject of a lot of mocking. I gotta be honest, I’m not too keen on the voice myself, but not because it’s muffled – it just sounds too much like Sean Connery. But that aside, Tom Hardy’s Bane does at least come across as physically imposing and threatening. He’s a guy with little to no empathy and is able to power his way through most enemies – he can’t be bought or reasoned with and will get rid of you once he no longer has need of you. And when he breaks Batman’s back, his speech to him about leaving him to die in the prison that “made” him is quite chilling.
I do wish they kept in the Venom thing – it would have been cool seeing Hardy bulked up with Venom and then fighting Batman, but this Bane is a HUGE improvement over the crappy Bane in Batman and Robin. Bad voice aside, Tom Hardy is still a threatening character and his presence on the screen is just amazing. He really took to the role and did the character justice. It may not be his best role to date, but it’s certainly one of the best roles of the character, in spite of all the changes made.
Ra’s al Ghul – Matthew Nable
In Season 3, Merlyn brainwashes his daughter (and Oliver Queen’s sister) Thea to murder Sarah AKA The Black Canary. Oliver Queen travels to fight Ra’s al Ghul, but is defeated. Surviving the attack, Ra’s makes an offer for Oliver to join his league and become the new leader. Thus follows an interesting and pretty dark series where Oliver has to make some tough choices.
Nable’s version of Ra’s is a cold and calculating villain. He rarely (if ever) raises his voice and usually speaks in a calm and casual manner. Sadly, the same also applies when he kills someone. He has absolutely no hesitation in killing and will do so without a second thought – but at the same time he does have a kind of twisted code of honour. He mostly never kills out of spite, rather seeing each fight as a chance to test his opponent. For him, killing is a way of life and he has lived long enough to know that death comes so easily. Oh and did I mention that he’s practically immortal due to the Lazarus Pit?
I think what I like about Nable’s role is that he downplays Ra’s, preferring to go for a more controlled performance – which many consider Ra’s is anyway. Nable plays this Ra’s as a demonic warrior, devoid of mercy and kindness. At times he does show appreciation to warriors he thinks are worthy and even makes them generous offers. But if you refuse him – you better watch your back! And that’s what makes him a dangerous enemy to Oliver Queen, the fact he’s able to turn the very city he protects (and even his friends) against him in his quest to make him the new Ra’s. And as well as brains, he’s one of the few enemies that can match Oliver blow for blow and he is one of the few villains to defeat him outright.
Ra’s definitely brought some dark elements to the show and most of that is down to the almost machiavellian performance of Matthew Nable. Now that he’s out of the picture, it will be interesting to see what Merlyn does next.
Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin – Robin Lord Taylor
Penguin is a small time gangster that works for Fish Mooney – a crime boss under the control of Don Falcone – who has aspirations to be at the top of the food chain. Nicknamed Penguin for the way he waddles, Penguin resents his lower class status and seeks to overthrow her. Eventually his dealings lead him to work with Falcone’s rival Maroni, and then Falcone himself – before finally starting an all out war between all Maroni, Falcone and Mooney – which ends in Penguin seemingly defeating Fish and killing her (it’s since been said that Jada Pinkett Smith will not reprise her role as Fish, thereby confirming her death).
I have to say, Robin Lord Taylor is an actor I am not familiar with – but he really dives into this role – no pun intended! He plays the Penguin as a soft spoken, rather polite young man with high aspirations (and some mother issues), but if you annoy him he won’t waste a second making you suffer for that mistake. And despite being somewhat wimpy, he has been shown to be able to take down bigger guys than him. Mostly though, Penguin tries to avoid direct combat – using his brain to his advantage. And his intelligence is what makes him a frightening foe. He’s able to think many moves ahead, planning everything that will turn it to his advantage. His manipulation of Maroni and Falcone eventually leads him to overthrow Fish Mooney and he becomes a “valued” member of Falcone’s team. There are times when he has himself been outsmarted, and even come close to losing his head, but he somehow always has a contingency plan and escapes relatively unscathed. Mostly anyway.
Oswald may be a devious little scamp – but Taylor’s performance of him almost makes his character… likable. I mean yeah sure, he’s a psycho – but the more we follow his story, the more we understand why he wants this. He’s been mistreated and looked down on all his life and he wants to prove himself to be better than people think he is. I actually found myself rooting for him a couple of times. Taylor carries his performance of Oswald Cobblepot off with aplomb and grace. I can’t wait to see the moment he gets his umbrella!
Captain Cold – Wentworth Miller
Played by Wentworth Miller of Prison Break fame, Leonard Snart is a cold (pun intended) and calculating Rogue (Rogue, gettit? Oh read the comics!) that uses a cryogenic gun developed by S.T.A.R. labs – earning him the name Captain Cold. Occasionally teaming with Mick Rory/Heatwave (ironically also played by Prison Break co-star Dominic Purcell) and his sister Lisa Snart, Captain Cold has given The Flash a run for his money, despite not being a metahuman. He’s also one of the few villains to know Barry Allen’s secret identity.
I love the character of Captain Cold. There’s just something about the way Wentworth Miller plays him with such cold stoicism that just makes him fun to watch. The way he keeps a straight face when he cracks a joke is always funny – one example is when he frees a metahuman group, kills one of them and then remakes “he owed me money”. And the dynamics with his sister and partner is really well put together. He’s the cool and collected one and Mick is the one with the temper – and his sister is pretty flirty and funny too. So far, he’s one of the few villains to have evaded capture (not including that one time where his sister broke him out) so he’s a pretty real threat to The Flash.
What I’m really interested in seeing is how Captain Cold is apparently going to be one of the major cast in Legends of Tomorrow – hinting towards an anti-hero role. I’m not sure if he was ever an anti-hero in the comics, but I’ll take it! Wentworth Miller is always fun to watch so I’ll happily watch more of him!
Not much more to say. Captain Cold in The Flash is awesome – and Wentworth Miller is awesome too! What more do you want?
The Joker – Mark Hamill
Voicing The Joker in both Batman: The Animated Series and the Arkham series, Mark Hamill’s Joker – I believe – is the absolute best portrayal of Batman’s most endearing foe. He has the cold hearted psychotic streak of Heath Ledger, the clownish spectacle of Caesar Romero and the ruthlessness of Jack Nicolson. And when you put them all together, Mark Hamill creates a Joker that not only encompasses all of the above, but creates his own character entirely.
I honestly think that there have been few psychotic characters like The Joker in any Saturday Morning cartoon. Batman: The Animated Series was already dark for a kids show, but the Joker made it even darker. Being one of Batman’s most dangerous foes, Mark Hamill’s voice just makes your skin crawl with each breath. It’s a voice that lacks any empathy and yet disguises true horror between lines of humour and sadistic laughing. It’s a voice so recognisable that many fans consider it the gold standard by how The Joker should be portrayed – in the same way that Kevin Conroy is the standard on how Batman should be played. No doubt fans of Arkham Asylum felt like they got a real treat when they found out that he was in game.
I also have to give another shout out to Mark Hamill in The Flash, who played the villain known as the Trickster, using a similar voice to The Joker. He even got in a little pop at Star Wars as well! XD
Put simply, Mark Hamill captured The Joker in all his psychotic, clownish nature – bringing the character to screaming life with each word he utters. I consider The Joker from Batman: The Animated Series the best incarnation of The Joker full stop. And that’s why I’m placing Mark Hamill as the best portrayal of the classic DC villain.
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