Wonder who the Caped Crusader’s worst villain is? It’s THIS guy…
For the complete FILMATION BATMAN INDEX of stories, click here.
I’ve heard it said that Toyman, that classic Superman bad guy, would have been a better Batman villain.
It kind of makes sense. He’s a dude with a gimmick whose trickery would be right at home in Gotham in any era. In the Golden Age, you can imagine a Bill Finger story involving gigantic teddy bears and train sets. These days, taking childhood playthings and darkly subverting them would line up well with the Batman of the Modern Age.
Certainly, exploding toy airplanes or water pistols that shoot acid or annoying pogo sticks would do more damage against Batman than the Man of Steel.
Maybe that’s what Bob Haney had in mind when he wrote Beware of Living Dolls, a 1968 Filmation one-parter starring a villain concocted specifically for the cartoon series: Dollman.
And he is, hands down, the worst Batman villain I’ve ever seen. Certainly on screen. (There have been so many comics stories since 1939 that it’s kind of tough to assign such a dubious honor there.)
John S. Drew and I go to town on Beware of Living Dolls — as well as the entertaining two-parter it accompanied, A Game of Cat and Mouse — on the latest Batcave Podcast. (Click here for a listen or check out iTunes.)
Here’s the gist: Batman and Robin are bedeviled by a series of dolls programmed to commit crimes around Gotham. Standard Silver Age plot, y’know? But the guy pulling the strings — figuratively and literally — is Dollman, “a sinister, gnome-like man,” as the narrator puts it.
Dollman is a creepy little fiend, and I don’t mean creepy in a good way. I mean creepy in a creepy way. He has bright red rouge on his cheeks and a high-pitched voice that’s like fingernails on a blackboard. (Thank you, Ted Knight.)
If you’ve got 6 minutes or so, you’ll see what I mean:
Maybe I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had actually been a Toyman episode. Haney’s plot is solid, if uninspired, and there are some decent action bits thrown in. But Dollman is so shrill and off-putting that he just seems … wrong somehow.
Even the name is unsettling: Not to get too carried away, but there’s something almost predatory about “Dollman.” Hell, comics’ Doll Man was created by Will Eisner, of all people, but I never liked him either. The modern Atom has more or less the same powers — and much better costume and name.
Anyway, as much as I love these cartoons, I couldn’t wait for this one to end. No amount of cheesy Filmation charm could save it — and I’m just glad producer Lou Scheimer and company saw fit to never bring him back.
— For the complete FILMATION BATMAN INDEX of stories, click here.
— For The Batcave Podcast episode on Beware of Living Dolls, click here.