November 20th, 2010

coin flipping through the air

The Lives and Times of Batman's Moriarty: Professor Hugo Strange

Note: This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to a character who, as you might quickly deduce, is not Harvey Dent.

When I set out to create about_faces, I'd intended to have it feature all things Two-Face 90% of the time, with the other 10% dedicated to looks at the rest of the Rogues Gallery, and how they too have been used (and misused) over the years. However, I'd neglected all the other Rogues in favor of Harvey.

That is, until today. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your thoughts. :)




He predates the Joker at Batman's first arch-nemesis, and he invented fear toxin before the Scarecrow ever came along.

He exploits Batman's secret identity in ways Ra's al Ghul never dared, attacking Batman in ways that Hush and Dr. Hurt would later try to less success. He even pulled a Kingpin-style tear-down on Bruce exactly one month before Daredevil: Born Again was released, and had already beaten Kraven the Hunter in the plot to kill his enemy and usurp his identity.

He's made only a handful of appearances, two of which are considered among the greatest Batman stories of all time. By all accounts, he should be Batman's greatest enemy, and yet he resides in obscurity.

He's the Most Interesting Man in the World Professor Hugo Strange. That name, I realize, evokes one of two reactions. 1.) "Who?" or 2.) "Oh, yeah, that guy. What about 'im?"

Now, while I personally love the classic Bat-Rogues dearly--while I still consider the Joker to be the greatest and Two-Face to be my favorite--I've become increasingly intrigued by ol' Hugo in all his iterations. Particularly his original appearance, where--it became apparent to me--that Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Hugo to be the Moriarty to Batman's Holmes. A true Napoleon of Crime for the Depression Era.






So who was this first attempt at an arch-villain for Batman, and what set him apart from any of the other forgettable enemies from the pre-Joker era? Why did the Joker almost instantly usurp his place at Bat-Rogue #1? And what did he have that led him to be resurrected as a major threat a whole thirty-seven years later?

Let's find out together, as we explore the many lives of this mysterious(ly enduring) foe who can plague Batman like no other single villain can even today.

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Thankfully, Steve Englehart came up with a way to not just resurrect this notable but one-note villain, but to up his threat levels while also deepening his complexity. Indeed, as of this post, we've only scratched the surface of the great character that Hugo Strange has become.

If you're interested in these reading these stories in their entirety, they can be found reprinted in volumes of Batman Archives and, more affordably, Batman Chronicles.




EDIT: For comparison's sake, I cobbled together these relevant panels between Hugo and the Joker: