We’re trying for something a little different this time, folks. Something a little fun and a little funky. This time around, we’re going to talk about a group of people who completely lack fashion sense and would need some serious redesign if they were ever translated into live-action media. With people everywhere talking and theorizing about the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises, I thought we should look at the Batman’s worst-dressed enemies.
Get ready to giggle.
Paul Dekker was a painter who later suffered an eye injury. Now all colors seemed obscenely bright and garish to him, painful to look at. He became the criminal Crazy Quilt, dressed in a patchwork outfit meant to make other people feel as he did. Though, if you think about it, with his condition, this outfit probably caused more pain for Quilty than anyone else. I mean, if you see normal colors as bright and painfully clashing, wouldn’t a costume designed for such a purpose just exacerbate the problem?
Crazy Quilt later made himself a helmet the could hypnotize and disorient his enemies with crazy colorful lights. Alas, this did not prevent him from getting beat-up and imprisoned by Batman and Robin. In fact, Robin became Crazy Quilt’s object of vengeance, since the Boy Wonder beat him up more often than the Dark Knight.
Recently there’s been a lady Crazy Quilt and she actually seems to pull off the look better than Dekker ever did. Either way, once you’ve seen this outfit and that helmet, you never forget it.
Some people, when they become a costumed hero or villain, get inspired by a specific symbol or icon. Batman was inspired when a bat crashed through the window. The Green Lantern’s symbol is the lantern that acts as the source of his power. But Phil Cobb wasn’t a guy to sweat any details. He just liked symbols and signals and became fascinated by how society seemed to be driven by them, so he became the Signalman.
He fought Batman a few times, once turning the Bat-Signal into a heat beam, another time trapping Batman inside it. He also briefly became an anti-Green Arrow called “the Blue Bowman.” In general, he’s never done anything major to register on the super-villain scale in a big way. And why should he? That cape. Those clashing colors. And those ridiculous shorts! What is with those shorts?
The main problem here might be that there’s no cohesive identity and it shows. This is just a bunch of random decorations and images thrown together. Signalman, it would be good if you picked a single symbol or icon. Otherwise, you’re as generic as “Theme-Man” or “Guy in Costume.”
Remember when the pocket calculator was new, cutting edge technology? Naturally, DC decided that there should be a villain who corrupted said device for evil uses. Enter Noah Kuttler AKA the Calculator. Now, if you break it down to what this battle suit could do, it was actually pretty cool. Its sensors and operating system could scan an enemy and accurately predict what they would do in battle. Give the suit enough information, it could even enter the realm of psychohistory (one of Asimov’s cooler ideas) and predict how the general populace would behave. And the helmet could project solidified holograms that could be operated as weaponry in a way that mimicked the Green Lantern power ring.
Sadly, it’s hard to get people to listen and acknowledge that you’re potentially quite dangerous when you look like a tool. Seriously, a keypad with simple math symbols on it would get you beat up in high school, much less by the likes of Batman and Aquaman. After vanishing for several years, you might’ve expected Kuttler to re-appear with yet another costume based on cutting-edge tech such as the iPhone. But instead, he kept the name Calculator and simply dropped the costume, becoming a hacker and information broker for DC supervillains. He’s been doing much better now operating that way, but one still has to wonder if his old battlesuit isn’t hanging in a closet, waiting for someone to wear it again.
Charles Brown (known as “Chuck” to friends) decided to use jet-propelled kites to commit serious crimes. Basically, imagine if Charlie Brown of the Peanuts gang got so angry at the tree that kept messing with his kite, he decided to use kites as an instrument of revenge against society. In fact, that would have probably been a cooler story that what Kite Man provided us. He dressed up in silly costumes and despite the fact that he had high-tech jets that could’ve acted as a rocket pack, he insisted the kites were necessary to make him a bad-ass super-villain.
So naturally, this kite-armed individual decided to take on heroes that surely even he had a chance of beating up. Or rather, that would have been the smart move. But no, instead, he decided to fight the Batman (big mistake!) and, later on, Hawkman and Hawkgirl (heroes armed with maces, bigger mistake!!!).
Drury Walker was a no-name criminal who decided to set himself up as the anti-Batman. But unlike the Wrath or Prometheus, he decided to do it without being intimidating. By day, he masqueraded as rich playboy Cameron Van Cleer. By night, he was the Killer Moth, based in his Moth-Cave until criminals could summon for his aid with the Moth-Signal, at which point he’d arrive in his Moth-Mobile and take care of any pesky cops or vigilantes so his clients could escape. Of course, he wasn’t very good at this and criminals realized that shining a light into the sky to announce their presence was not the smartest idea.
And hey, look at what our boy is wearing. I know a couple girls who have knee high socks with that color pattern! Maybe Drury decided that an anti-Batman needs to be the opposite of intimidating, someone who would be invited to kids’ parties before guest-starring on Sesame Street. In the 1990s, they changed Killer Moth into a mutated creature called Charaxes, but no one can ever forget this outfit here.
THE TEN-EYED MAN
Wow. Hey ladies, I’ve got my eyes on you! Hey, now! I can see you in my pants! No, seriously, look at my belt. It has an eye!
Okay, weird jokes aside, let’s look at this guy. Phil Reardon, a guy who was injured in the eyes by a grenade and then, while he was guarding a warehouse, mistook Batman for an intruder and fought him. The real intruders had planted a bomb in the warehouse and it went off, completely blinding Reardon. But that’s okay, because an experimental operation attached his optic nerves to his hands, allowing him to see through his fingers.
Just think about that for a moment. You’d need to have your hands out in front of you the whole time just to walk and if you made two fists you would be instantly blind. On top of that, what is with this look? Mohawk and a lot of eye badges? Really? Like having eyes in your fingers isn’t creepy enough. This villain was so lame, writer Marv Wolfman made it a point to kill him during Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Recently, Grant Morrison re-invented the concept by introducing a cult of mystics known as the Ten-Eyed Men of the Empty Quarter, mysterious warriors who tattoo eye symbols on their fingers, hunt down demons and are able to cut out the darkness of people’s souls.
Julian Gregory Day (wow, named after not one but two calendars) was a very clever criminal who decided to commit crimes based on holidays, seasons, the days of the week, etc. To be fair, he actually did pull off quite a number of successful robberies each time he went on a crime spree, not being captured by Batman until the he finally tried one heist too many. If he’d stopped some of those crimes at an earlier date, he could have easily retired and enjoyed his riches.
But while Julian Day can be intimidating when he’s wearing the clothing of a simple patient of Arkham Asylum, that’s lost the minute he puts on his official costume. His default look was a rather ridiculous hooded outfit with a sash and calendar pages stapled or taped together as a very flimsy cape. Though, you have to admit, a man who runs around in this costume must not be afraid of anything.
But that’s not all. The Calendar Man adopts a different costume for different crimes. For a Wednesday crime, he dressed as Odin (whose other name Woden later gave us Wednesday). For a Thursday crime, he dressed up as his own version of Thor (from whom we get “thor’s day”). For a spring crime, he dressed up as a… flower guy… Yeah…
For a summer crime, he dressed up as a man bursting with fire and decorated by the sun. For a winter crime, he dressed up as a living snowman. That’s right. There is a comic where Batman fights what seems to be Frosty the Snowman. And all of these costumes were ridiculous, gaudy and lame. For a time, during the 90s, he adopted a different, creepier guise, but that was short-lived. So for sheer volume of awful costumes, the Calendar Man totally wins.
And that brings us to a close for now. There were other villains we could’ve talked about, but then again we could be here forever. Rest assured, there will be other best of and worst of lists in the future.
CONVENTION ALERT! If you are at WonderCon in San Francisco this weekend, I am wandering around. You can find me in panels dealing with superhero psychology and trauma, panels concerning the Green Lantern film, the Doctor Who panel, and probably just walking around the floor. So if you spy me, come up and say hi!
Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off.
Alan Kistler writes the comic book history/fashion column Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. He is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle.