With Christopher Nolan’s hyper-realistic depiction of the Batman Universe, we can’t help but remember that certain villains in the Batman mythos bear a surprising similarity to certain real-life criminals. Below are some examples and they're pretty good. After all, would you ever expect a real-life Mr. Freeze? Not likely. Other villians, like Catwoman, would be a bit more believable, but either way, you wouldn't expect normal, rational people to commit ridiculous crimes, nonetheless replicating a fictional character, right? Well, stranger things have happened.
This list takes a look at all the real-life Batman criminals, or at least the wannabes.
This list takes a look at all the real-life Batman criminals, or at least the wannabes.
Batman Villain: The Penguin
Modus Operandi: Though non-comic-fans may only know Penguin as the sewer-dwelling psychopath from Tim Burton’s second film, the Penguin as originally conceived is a much classier brand of villain. Everything from the monocle to his weaponized umbrella scream I’m-so rich-I-laugh-in-the-face-of-practicality, meaning that Penguin is probably more similar to Batman than he is his fellow criminals. Whether holding up a bank or riding a dinosaur, Penguin is sure to find a way to use his umbrella for pretty much anything.
The Real Life Villain: An Unknown KGB Assassin
In 1978, Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was assassinated in London by an umbrella specially modified to fire a poisoned dart. Despite the fact that he attempted a similar assassination just a few days later, the assassin was never caught. Several years of speculation and controversy ended when the Iron Curtain fell, and similar devices were discovered in KGB compounds.
After a little bit of thought, it doesn’t actually seem that weird of a weapon to choose. After all, it rains a lot in London, and who wants to carry around both an umbrella and a blowgun full of sarin? A poison-shooting umbrella is pretty much the Smart-Phone of international spy-work.
The biggest difference between the KGB assassin and Penguin is that the real-life version was never caught. After 30 years of investigation, police are still on the case – but since London is a little out of Batman’s jurisdiction, we don’t think it’s likely they’ll make much progress.
Batman Villain: Mr. Freeze
Modus Operandi: “Ice” you might have guessed, Mr. Freeze has a “cool” theme that’s sure not to leave you “cold”: his usual strategy is to “shoot people with a cryogenic freeze ray until they die.” Presumably in utter agony. He also makes a lot cheesy puns.
Before becoming a villain, Mr. Freeze (real name “Victor Fries,” whose last name also sounds similar to the word for “very cold,” in case you didn't notice) was involved in an industrial accident that left him unable to survive outside of his cryo-suit, making him one of the few Batman villains to suffer from a crippling disability.
The Real Life Villain: Richard “Iceman” Kuklinski (Plus a couple of normal people)
As a contract killer working for the Decavalcante Crime family in the 1950’s and 60’s, “Iceman” practices murder by killing homeless people, eventually perfecting a strategy in which he would freeze the corpses of his victims for a length of time before thawing them out and disposing of the body – thereby misleading the authorities as to the time of death. Of course, this didn’t work at all, – but we guess the idea is kinda cool.
Of course, Kuklinski didn’t survive routinely at subzero temperatures like Freeze – but apparently that’s something people do. This Canadian girl was frozen solid for 24 hours when she was 2 years old, pronounced legally dead, and came back fine; and another guy survived being frozen in his car in Sweden for two months. Who'da thunk it?
No word on whether either of them plan on becoming super-villains – which means we’re forced to assume that they are.
Batman Villain: Harvey Two-Face Dent
Modus Operandi: As you can tell, Dent has a pretty noticeable defining trait – and it isn’t his personality. After being scarred by an acid attack in the courtroom (or having his face set on fire in an explosion, or whatever), “Two-Face” earned the horrific scarring that separated his face and personality into two distinct halves: the reasonable Harvey Dent and the psychopathic Two-Face.
Real Life Villain: Juan “Two-Face” Rivera-Velez
This “Two-Face” (yes, that’s his real nickname) was an enforcer for the Morales crime-family in Camden, New Jersey, and in 2009 was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for committing a whole bunch of murders.
Of course, Rivera Velez’s scars came from a car-crash, not a court-room acid attack, and didn’t play a role in his crimes (though it must’ve assisted in the all-important intimidation factor). And he was never a lawyer. So, basically, the guy is nothing like his namesake except for those scars.
But still! Look at those scars! And then remember that at one point he kicked down a door and said “I’m an enforcer!” That must’ve been awesome! Except then he murdered people, which probably wasn’t awesome. Man, it’s almost like the stuff that happens in comic books isn’t cool if you make it too realistic.
Batman Villain: The Riddler (And Cluemaster*)
*Because We're Grown Up Now and Can Stop Pretending Those Are Two Different People
Modus Operandi: Crazy people who obsessively leave riddles (or clues) at the scenes of their crimes. No one can ever figure these clues out except Batman (and anyone reading the comic who’s more than eight years old).
Real Life Villain: Rodney Alcala
Frankly, there’ve been a few serial killers who have adopted the Riddler and Cluemaster’s brilliant strategy – the most famous of which are Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer, who both sent multiple messages to the police daring them to catch them. Unlike their comic book counterparts, Jack and Zodiac were never caught, and they were more refined and brutal rather than silly and campy.
So instead of talking about them, let’s talk about Rodney Alcala: the Dating Game Killer, so named because he won a televised game show in the middle of his murder-spree.
Yes, we’re serious. Check out all the “riddles” and “clues” he leaves over the course of this video:
In case you can’t watch that, the choice quotes are “The best time is at night... because that’s the only time there is,” and, “I’m called the banana, and I look really good. Peel me!”
And in case that wasn’t enough, the guy actually won the competition, but Cheryl Bradshaw (the bachelorette) refused to go on a date with him because he was too “creepy” and “serial-killer-ish” (okay, we made that last one up). Still, you know she was thinking it – the other contestants reported that he freaked people out, and at this point he had already murdered at least one person.
Now, is it unfair for us to pull some quotes out of context from a TV Show that’s basically a sexual innuendo contest? Yes, that’s totally unfair. We’re being unfair to a convicted child murderer. We’ll do our best not to lose any sleep over it.
Batman Villain: The Mad Hatter
Modus Operandi: Jervis Tetch is probably one of the most reasonably crazy Batman villains out there, compared to “Ice to meet you!” and “I’m a murder clown!” thinking that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland stories are real is pretty straightforward. He also uses a lot of mind-control stuff, since otherwise he’d pretty much just be a short dude in a hat.
Real Life Villain: Some Moldovan Dude!
Vladimir Kozak (fun fact: because comics got popular during the Cold War, every Eastern European name sounds like a comic book villain) was an alleged “hypnotist bank robber,” who managed to rob several banks in Eastern Europe’s poorest country using hypnosis techniques.
We should probably mention that none of his supposed “powers” were ever actually observed, and despite being a veritable God, he only managed to steal about $40,000 (enough for a pretty nice, but not too flashy, German car).
Also... like, really? And this has happened more than once? Well, you know what they say about Russia. (They say that they hypnotize bank tellers.)
Batman Villain: Catwoman
Modus Operandi: Springing from creator Bob Kane’s hilariously sexist belief that “cats are as hard to understand as women are.... you have to keep them at arm’s length,” Catwoman is a cat burglar who dresses like a cat. She steals stuff, and she’s sexy enough to where male writers get anxious if they don’t mention how sexy she is every single goddamn time they bring her up.
Real Life Villain: Catwoman, seriously!
After a burglar made off with $86 from a high end shoe store in the East Village in New York City, this composite sketch made her something of an Internet celebrity.
And we don’t want to condone crime here, but if is this is a composite sketch of you, then we're going to say, Bravo! Because you’re Catwoman. And that's kinda awesome.