Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Freeze is Coming

Many Batman villains are highly intelligent with severely warped psychosis.  Mr. Freeze is a good example of a highly intelligent scientist bent to extreme measures, making him turn to crime to fund his obsession.

Created in 1959 by David Wood and Sheldon Moldoff, Mr. Zero is a prime example of the thematic camp villains of time that committing crimes based on their theme. Mr. Zero's name was changed on the Batman television show to Mr. Freeze, which was then changed in the comics to match.

Mr. Freeze has a few origin stories, all of them resulting in his body chemistry changing, requiring his need to wear a supersuit that keeps his temperature below zero. Originally, Mr. Zero was researching cryo-technology, weaponizing it. His freeze weapon backfired and turned him into a sub-zero freak.

Paul Dini re-imagined the character as a brilliant scientist whose wife Nora became terminally ill. Dr. Viktor Fries cryogenically freezes his wife until he can find a cure.  An accident during research gives him his peculiar body chemistry. He goes on crime sprees to fund his research for a cure for Nora. This is usually the origin mostly used for Mr. Freeze, and often leads to sympathy for the character, as he does everything for love. This, of course, doesn't really fit with the deranged, obsession filled lunacy of the rest of the Gotham villains.

I never felt Mr. Freeze really belonged in the same category as other Batman villains for this reason,  and figured eventually he would become an anti-hero, like Catwoman. In Arkham City, for example, he is instrumental in finding a cure for Batman's ailment. For a character so lame and one dimensional, he is one of the more famous characters.

Scott Snyder recently changed the origin again in the 2012 Batman Annual #1 as part of the Court of Owls storyline. Snyder's origin is far more interesting and twisted, and definitely gives Freeze another darker dimension, putting him higher on the Batman villain hierarchy. The origin story begins much the same way, Dr. Fries is a scientist specializing in cryogenics and devotes his career to finding a cure for Nora. An accident with the crygenic chemicals turns Fries into the cold suit wearing criminal. However, Snyder twists the story, making Nora not Fries's wife, but a famous crygenically frozen terminal patient. Dr. Fries writes his doctoral thesis on Nora and becomes obsessed with her, believing in his mind that she is his wife. This, of course, erases any sort of sympathy or nobility linked to the character in the past. There is no longer an ambiguity to the character. Freeze is no longer just a petty criminal with a theme and super weapon, but also an obsessed psycho with delusions who belongs in Arkham.  

Snyder's origin makes this so much creepier

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