In the Batman canon, by far the most interesting characters are the villains. And not just any villains, but women in particular. While most people always put the Joker at the top of Batman’s threat list, the girls of Gotham are the real ones to worry about. Check out our list of the most deadly women in the Batman archives.
The daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, Talia, has had many run-ins with The Dark Knight. It’s a rather tricky situation here as they can switch between lovers and enemies quicker than you can say “Birth of the Demon”. Talia struggles between the love for her father and the love for Bruce. Ra’s al Ghul leads the League of Assassins (or League of Shadows, however you prefer to see it) and Talia is his right-hand woman. Throughout many of the comics, films and games, Ra’s tries to push for Batman to take over the League of Assassins and Talia often seems to support this idea. However, another thing that makes Talia such a fantastic character is the fact that she is the mother to Robin – Damian Wayne. Damian’s upbringing is not a kind one. Normally, once a character becomes a mother, she is softened somewhat by her love for the child. This often ticks me off when it comes to female characters. Women do not have to become mother-types to feel for an audience to like her. In fact, this is why I don’t like James Cameron’s Aliens. Ripley is an amazing character – a character which still would have been amazing even if a man had been cast. But what happens in Aliens? She becomes a mother-figure and it really screws with all the good work of Alien. Suddenly she’s very much a mum and develops this random bond with this little girl, and surprise surprise, she had a daughter back home. She loses her edge and instead just turns into a mother and fights off another female (the Queen) to protect her young. But this is not the case for Talia. Motherhood does not dull her senses. Instead, Damian was trained by the League of Assassins and was a tiny, little killing machine before he even hit his teen years. Talia may have loved Bruce at times, but deep down she’s cold and determined. A deadly assassin that can get right under Batman’s skin.
Dr. Pamela Isley is an intelligent woman. She’s a botanist with a particular passion; saving the planet’s natural resources. However, as her alter ego – Poison Ivy – she isn’t afraid to go to dangerous and criminal lengths to do so. Poison Ivy is a wonderful character who is a joy to see in comics. She’s visually very beautiful and it’s always fun to see a new artist have a go at drawing her. What is unfortunate about Poison Ivy is that she’s often written off by mainstream audiences after Joel Schumacher’s disastrous Batman and Robin. Uma Thurman’s version of Ivy was a mess. It was hammy and over-the-top. All in all, it made people think she was just some big skank when that is not what she is about. Yes, occasionally sexuality is brought up when Ivy is around, but that’s not just it. She’s clever and has a clear purpose. That’s what makes a good villain. When you know what they’re after. And Ivy isn’t just “Must Kill Batman”, but rather she has a higher purpose – protect Mother Nature. Ivy is also fantastic when teamed up with Harley Quinn, as she can provide the level head that Harley is clearly missing. She is also pretty damn frightening at times. Those of you who remember Batman: The Animated Series may recall an episode where it seemed as if Ivy has reformed. Having married a seemingly normal man, it actually turned out that Ivy had developed a plant which didn’t produce flowers, but sons. I don’t want to spoil it for you but I saw this as an adult and it still freaked me out to the core, so who knows how those kids who saw it when it first aired felt. Poison Ivy is a fantastic villain because she has a goal. Batman just happens to get in the way at times.
Where would the Batman series be without Catwoman? She’s the gem on the Dark Knight’s crown. Selina Kyle is a mainstay of the Batman mythology, as the girl who bridges the gap between the good and the bad. Ultimately, she’s a master thief so should sit in the Rogues’ Gallery. However, she sticks close to Batman and helps him out on more than one occasion. They also share a rather rocky romance. Once again, discount the crappy film version that was Catwoman. Ignore that entirely. Personally, I enjoy Michelle Pfeiffer’s rendition in Burton’s Batman Returns. The film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot deny that the version of Catwoman we see in that film is fantastic. Selina Kyle, an oppressed young secretary – sorry, executive assistant – is abused by her boss and pretty much every man she’s ever come across. However, as Catwoman, she’s strong and able to take back the power that so many men have taken from her. She’s a bitch on wheels and so damn cool. In the comics, more often than not, Catwoman is the one coming to Batman’s rescue. It’s very similar in the Arkham City game, too. To sum up, Selina Kyle is wickedly wonderful. She is also there to act as a counter to Batman. Catwoman is pretty much what Batman could be, if he stopped following his rules. She’s there to question Batman’s morality. And she has fun while she does it.
And now, to the lady who has become a cult icon. The Joker’s main squeeze; Harley Quinn. Harley is a rare find. Created by Paul Dini for Batman: The Animated Series, Harley is one of the only characters to successfully make the transition from TV to comics, rather than the other way around. She appeared as really just a female henchman in the episode “Joker’s Favor” in season one, and eventually became a star. Harley Quinn – or Dr. Harleen Quinzel – is Joker’s lover. They came across one another when Harley was working in Arkham and she quickly fell head over heels. While this may not sound like the strongest female villain on the roster – seeming like the boy-crazy nut – this is actually what makes Harley such a threat. Like Poison Ivy, she has a goal and that is to protect her “Mister J”. This unwavering devotion is what makes Harley an extremely dangerous opponent. While many may complain that her subservience to a man makes her a lesser character, it certainly does not. Harley is not just a minion or underling. Instead, she works independently of the Joker in order to impress him. She is ruthless and wild and pretty damn funny. A stand-out performance from Harley is in the comic “Mad Love” by Paul Dini and Bruce W. Timm. Here, the Joker rejects Harley’s (blatantly sexual – a big thing for a nineties mainstream comic and it was kept in The Animated Series adaptation) advances. So, ticked off and frustrated, she sets out to kill Bats herself, in order to impress her puddin’. What follows is brutal and at times heartbreaking when we see what the Joker and Harley’s relationship is really like. When I read – and subsequently watched – this tale, I gasped. It’s a tough one, but fantastic. Harley has gone through a lot of changes lately – particularly her costume, less is certainly not more, I’m afraid – but she is still a wonderful character. The Arkham City DLC is also a joy, when we see what becomes of Harley in the absence of her love, and she is still brilliant. Personally, Harley Quinn is my favourite villain, never mind gender. But when it comes to the girls of Gotham, Harley reigns supreme.
Now that you’ve had a look at some of our favourites, be sure to have your say and let us know yours. Have we forgotten anyone? Or do you want to tell us your favourite of Batman’s run-ins with the wicked women of Gotham? Also, be sure to pop over and check out our list of favourite female heroes in the comic book world, too!