Ever since the first teaser trailers for Batman: Arkham Knight came out, one burning question was seared in the minds of many – who is the Arkham Knight? For all you diehard Arkham fans out there, you’ve probably plowed through the campaign to uncover his true identity by now. As full disclosure, if you have not played or beaten the game yet, you’ve been warned – SPOILERS AHEAD. In 3… 2… 1….
The Arkham Knight is none other than Jason Todd – Batman’s former protege and the second Robin. For more details on his reveal, check out this article. In hindsight, Jason Todd was an obvious and perfect fit for the Arkham Knight, especially when you factor in his characterization in famous comic book arcs such as Under the Red Hood and Battle For The Cowl.
The Batman universe arguably has the best villains around in the DC Universe, Furthermore, the concept of an “anti-Batman” villain is an idea that has been experimented with many times in the comics. In this feature, we highlight 5 comic book villains that would give Jason Todd a run for his money as the Arkham Knight.
Hush / Dr. Thomas Elliott
While more recent compared to other villains, Hush became an instant fan favorite with the release of Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. Hush was a criminal mastermind that created an elaborate scheme of lies and manipulation against Batman using both his greatest villains and closest allies. All the while, Hush operated from the shadows until he finally revealed himself to Batman at his weakest.
Hush was none other than Thomas Elliot – a former childhood friend of Bruce Wayne (and in his adult life – an expert surgeon) who secretly was a sociopath that harbored an irrational envy and hatred of Bruce. But Wayne had no idea – Elliot was always the childhood friend/rival and chess partner. Elliot was a powerful adversary due to being a master strategist and having the ability to read & anticipate his opponents which was apparent in how he played chess. Elliot excelled at this so much that it inspired Bruce to hone his mental faculties when becoming Batman.
It wasn’t enough for Hush to merely destroy Batman. Hush won’t stop until he usurps the identity and wealth of Bruce Wayne himself. Under Paul Dini, Hush’s modus operandi began to factor more of his expertise as a surgeon. In the comics, as well as the “Identity Thief” side quest in Arkham City, Hush was shown to surgically alter his own face to appear identical as Bruce Wayne after killing and skinning his victims. By the end of the game, the ultimate fate of Hush was unknown as he managed to escape.
What if Hush also wanted to co-opt the Batman persona but twisted it into a cruel parody? What a shock to us fans it would have been to if we were to see Bruce Wayne’s face looking back at us after removing the Arkham Knight mask?
Dr. Simon Hurt
One particularly striking and defining characteristic of the Arkham Knight is the uncanny and incredible sense of purpose and focus in directing all energies towards the single objective of destroying Batman, his legacy, and Gotham City. There is perhaps one other Batman villain to display such fanatical fervor – his name is Dr. Simon Hurt.
Originally based on an unnamed psychologist from a 1960s Batman story called “Robin Dies At Dawn”, Grant Morrison created, quite literally, one of Batman’s most diabolical villains. The true identity of Dr. Hurt was always ambiguous – it was hinted that could have been a devil worshiping ancestor named Dr. Thomas Wayne, a demon, an avatar of Darkseid, or the Devil himself.
What was always consistent with the character is that he a master of psychology, guile, manipulation, and malevolence. Armed with secret knowledge about Batman, Dr. Hurt assisted the Black Glove in Batman R.I.P. in an all-out campaign of psychological and physical warfare against Batman. In Dr. Hurt’s final gambit, Bruce was left in Gotham City lost, naked, disoriented, and an amnesiac.
Dr. Simon Hurt would make a surprising but fitting reveal as the Arkham Knight considering both their unsurpassed strategy, tactical mastery, guile, and mercilessness. Similar to Jason Todd, Dr. Hurt has intimate knowledge about Bruce which he consistently turns to his advantage. Finally, the Arkham series was never afraid to embrace the supernatural stories from the comics such as Ra’s Al Ghul and the Lazarus Pits. What a plot twist for the ages it would be if in Arkham Knight you were actually facing off against the Devil himself?
The First & Second Wrath (Elliot Caldwell)
If there was someone who would beat out Jason Todd as the ultimate “anti-Batman”, you’d be hard-pressed to find a contender that can beat Wrath. The mantle of Wrath was adopted by two criminal-vigilantes – the former’s identity was never known while the latter was the former sidekick of the original named Elliot Caldwell.
Wrath is the ultimate “anti-Batman” considering that he’s simultaneously similar yet antithetical to the Dark Knight. The original Wrath was the son of two criminal parents who died at the hands of Jim Gordon during a shoot-out on the same night Bruce’s parents were killed. Wrath was forever scarred by these events and became a sociopath. Inspired by Batman, the original Wrath created a twisted parody of the vigilante persona that hunted down cops.
Elliot Caldwell, the second Wrath, would become Wrath after the death of the first. He served to be an even closer foil to Bruce Wayne by also being a man of wealth, having years of worldly training, and having access to incredibly advanced and lethal tech. Not only did he despise cops, he also swore revenge on Batman – as all were agents of “justice.” Within the Arkham series, it would not be difficult to adapt the character either. Perhaps the parents of Elliot Caldwell, as criminals, were incarcerated and later killed under Hugo Strange in Arkham City, driving him mad and swearing vengeance on the city, its cops, and the Dark Knight himself.
Talon (the Court of Owls)
In the popular Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo run of the New 52 Batman, the duo created not just one “anti-Batman” – but an entire league of “anti-Batman” assassins called the Talons belonging to the dark cabal known as the Court of Owls. With Bruce Wayne setting his sights on changing Gotham for the better, the Court of Owls voted to assassinate him. When the first attempt had failed, they grew tired of their cloak and dagger games and sent out all of their Talon assassins (who were essentially undead and unkillable) to kill the Bat-Family and reclaim Gotham City.
Similar to Batman and Jason Todd/Arkham Knight, these Talons possess incredible fighting abilities and resources at their disposal to easily wage an all-out war within the city without hesitation or mercy. Perhaps the strongest element that ties the Talons closest to the Arkham Knight is their dual assertions that each is superior and more powerful than that of the Dark Knight himself – along with the murderous intent to prove it.
Damian Wayne / The Heretic
One of Grant Morrison’s greatest contributions was the creation of Damian Wayne – the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, as well as the fourth Robin. While trained to become the ultimate assassin, under Bruce’s care he adopts father’s sense of justice and morality. Ultimately, Damian had died a hero’s death during a war on the Bat-Family waged by Talia al Ghul & Leviathan. The killing blow was struck by a mysterious warrior called “The Heretic” who was revealed to be an artificially grown and aged clone of Damian.
Within the Arkham universe, it is long established that the Bat-Family exists in this continuity; It is plausible that Damian may already exist in the Arkham timeline. Arkham City gave strong nods to the past romantic history between Batman and Talia, with Talia hinting at a night of passion they had shared in Metropolis. Perhaps she conceived & gave birth to young Damian Wayne and kept it a secret from Batman.
Tying this to role the League of Assassins and Ra’s al Ghul played as the puppeteers behind Arkham City (alongside the deaths of both Ra’s and Talia), perhaps an artificially aged Damian Wayne or a clone similar to “the Heretic” was raised by what was left of Ra’s network. The Arkham Knight could have been a dark, misguided Damian Wayne/The Heretic who swears vengeance on his estranged father for the death of his mother and grandfather and vows to finish the work that Ra’s started.
Given Damian’s/the Heretic’s elite grooming and training as master assassins combined with the full logistical, military, and financial might of the assassins’ guild, amassing an army and manipulating the actions of Batman’s rogues gallery is something completely within the realm of possibility for this darker, alternate take on Damian.
Were you surprised by the reveal of the Arkham Knight as Jason Todd? Do you believe any of these anti-Batmen would have made for a better incarnation of the Arkham Knight? Feel free to comment and share below!