Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ecology Kills

I began playing Arkham Asylum again after reading a bit about the new Batman Arkham Origins game set to be released in October.  Although the Joker is clearly the main antagonist (as he ought to be in a Batman game), I had forgotten how many other villains had substantial importance to the plot.  Some of the supporting villains in this game were reimagined, saved from the borderline ridiculous reputations created in earlier incarnations.

Poison Ivy is one of these characters.

Almost doomed from the start, Poison Ivy was created in 1966 by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff and debuted in Batman #181.  She is a reaction to the growing feminism and environmentalism of the time and fit right into the "campy villains with a theme" trend of the 50's and 60's.  Connected with plants and ecology, Poison Ivy becomes a vengeful Mother Nature type of character, extracting revenge on people for abuses to the environment.  She is able to manipulate plant-life into becoming semi-conscious, predatory killers.  Despite feminism being a reason for her creation in the first place, she isn't a strong feminist role model.  She manipulates men through pheromones and kills with kisses.  I suppose this could make her a strong woman who doesn't need men to protect her, but she is projecting as a succubus, using sex appeal to gain advantage, which is a pretty negative female stereotype.

must be fun to draw. though
This character could be a lot of fun, but the way that she's been written makes it almost impossible, and not really necessary for her to be included in any Batman stories, ever.  She doesn't like people, and prefers to be left alone with nature.  This makes teaming up with other villains improbable.  There are only so many times she can hold Gotham hostage with enormous killer plants and still be interesting.

So, like Mr. Freeze, she has become one of the classic villains who have gained sympathy and border on anti-hero.  Not only is she a character who's origin includes some sort of drastic change to her body chemistry, but usually when she appears as a villain, she has been manipulated by another greater villain.  However, there has been no recent change in origins to suggest that Poison Ivy is just a delusional crazy person, like Mr. Freeze.

What makes her intriguing is the eco-terrorist angle that hadn't always been fully developed.  Stories involving Ivy as the main antagonist are usually pretty two dimensional.  She hates people for ruining the environment, and so she goes on rampages to punish the polluting public.  There are actual eco-terrorists out there, and creating an extreme supernatural villain bent on reclaiming Earth from the hands of corporate capitalists could be an exciting story.  A one-woman army dedicated to an ecological friendly cause, but psychotically bent, of course, to keep up with the theme around here.

What I don't understand, is why she hasn't been a main antagonist, using other villains to fulfill some sort of larger more devastating plan.  She is, after all, a doctor specializing in biology and botany, and has a background (lots of hands-on experience) in chemistry.  Manipulating and seducing others with natural pheromones is part of her modis operandi.  This should be a no-brainer.  Hush, the Joker, Bane, Two-face and even the Riddler are famous for manipulating multiple villains for an expressed purpose and a devious end game.  So why not Poison Ivy?  Why hasn't this happened yet?

Also, I would like to see an in-depth exploration of her relationship to DC's environmental hero, Swamp Thing.  Why is she just a Batman villain?  Swamp Thing seems like he would be a better and more natural (no pun intended) enemy.

Not exactly what I meant