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Batman's Enemies:Professor Hugo Strange

Updated on July 5, 2015
John Lavernoich profile image

JOHN LAVERNOICH is the author of six published books, as well as a significant number of published short stories and articles.

Professor Hugo Strange, as illustrated by Brian Bolland.
Professor Hugo Strange, as illustrated by Brian Bolland.

Batman's Rogues Gallery remains one of the most famous -- not only in comic book history, but also all of literature -- partly because, for decades, comic book fans (as well as non-comic book fans who've seen and heard the character's various mass media incarnations) have been entertained by the battle of wits between the Caped Crusader and such classic super-villains as the Joker, the Catwoman, the Penguin, and Ra's Al Ghul, who still remain in the public eye today.

And yet, in late-1939, only a few months before the Joker and the Catwoman debuted in Batman (1st series)#1 (Spring 1940), Batman first encountered an enemy who was slightly different from many of the costumed super-villains that the Dark Knight would face in the decades to come, but who would prove to be no less deadly: Professor Hugo Strange, the criminal genius who had more in common with Sherlock Holmes' arch-enemy Professor Moriarty than with the Joker -- or even Lex Luthor. Professor Strange first appeared in Detective Comics (1st series)#36 (February 1940), courtesy of Batman creator/artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, in which the villain used a scientist's fog making machine in order to carry out his crimes -- the character would make two more appearances in Batman (1st series)#1 (Spring 1940) and Detective Comics (1st series)#46 (December 1940), with Professor Strange supposedly -- and I use that word strongly -- falling to his death in the latter issue. After that, Kane and Finger never used the villain in another story that they worked on during the majority of their work on the Batman comic books from the late-1930's to the mid-1960's -- especially as colorful super-villains like the Joker and the Penguin became more in vogue.

In 1977, however, the writer-artist team of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, then working on Detective Comics, did revive Professor Hugo Strange (in Detective [1st series]#471-72 [August-September 1977]), who discovered that Batman and billionaire Bruce Wayne were one and the same -- only to end supposedly (and again, I use that word strongly) beaten to death by henchmen of corrupt political boss Rupert Thorne, who would end regretting his actions when he was haunted by Professor Strange's ghost and suffered a mental breakdown by the end of the Englehart/Rogers team's run on Detective.

Almost four years later, Professor Hugo Strange came back in the pages of The Brave & The Bold (1st series)#182 (January 1982), courtesy of Alan Brennert and Jim Aparo, only to commit suicide by story's end. As for how Professor Strange came back from the dead, only to die for good -- that was the Earth-2 version, since his first three appearances took place on it. (Professor Strange's first three comic book appearances also took place on Earth-1, where that Earth's version staged a comeback in Detective#471-72.)

As for Earth-1's Professor Hugo Strange -- he returned during Gerry Conway's run on both Batman and Detective in 1982, first by haunting Rupert Thorne again and bringing forth his second downfall in Batman (1st series)#354 (December 1982), where it was revealed that the villain was still alive, then by trying to destroy Batman, only to (there's that word again) supposedly die in an explosion in Batman (1st series)#356 (February 1983). As such, the Professor Strange who was killed in the explosion was in reality a robot -- he returned over four years later in Batman Annual#10 (1986), where Batman finally captured and jailed him; the story marked the villain's last appearance for the next four years. (The story in Batman Annual#10 took place a few months after the end of the Crisis On Infinite Earths limited series which eliminated DC's Multiverse and left just a single Earth -- though DC would revive it in 2006.)

In 1990, Professor Hugo Strange returned in Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight (1st series)#11-15 (September-January 1990-91), as Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy revealed a bit about the villain's back-story (since Bob Kane and Bill Finger didn't give him one when they first created him back in 1939), including the fact that he was a prominent psychiatrist whose obsession of Batman drove him criminally insane. Ten years later, Professor Strange returned, not only in Batman: Gotham Knights#8-11 (October-January 2000-01), but also Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight#137-41 (January-May 2001). After that, Professor Strange's appearances in the comic book have been rare -- though it should be noted that in recent years, when the DC Universe was rebooted, the villain's son Eli was introduced, and who played a role in another of his father's plots to destroy Batman.

In the past few decades, Professor Hugo Strange has made several on-screen appearances in several DC animated TV series and home video games in which Batman played a prominent role -- including 2011's Batman: Arkham City. Come this fall, Professor Strange will appear during the second season of FOX's live-action TV series Gotham, which takes place not long after the murders of Bruce Wayne's parents (and long before he grew up to become Batman).

Please visit John Lavernoich's official website: johnlavernoich.weebly.com

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