Batman’s villains are many and varied. The Joker’s chaotic jokes, Two-Face’s split-personality shenanigans, and the Riddler’s deadly games are just a thin slice of the delicious villain-cake that Batman has to eat (battle) endlessly. These enemies have their personalities set in stone; their origin stories, though perhaps approached with different details, result equally: Joker is an insane clown, the Penguin is a malformed mobster, Mr. Freeze is in his suit, searching for a way to help his wife. Most of the villains have this attribute, but not all of them.
Hugo Strange, mad-scientist-psychologist extraordinaire, is not one of the simple villains.
Strap in. We’re about to take a ride through the fourth dimension.
Hugo Strange first appeared in 1940, in Detective Comics #36, as a scientist that used a concentrated lightning machine to create a dense fog, in which he would rob banks. He escapes from the city’s asylum (before it was dubbed Arkham) and uses a growth hormone to turn a number of other escapees into mindless monsters. Batman beats him. This version maintains Strange’s bald head, glasses, and enviable neckbeard. He returned in the ‘70s: Strange is found running a private hospital, which Bruce Wayne checks in to for radiation burns. Strange discovers Wayne’s secret identity and attempts to auction the knowledge. A crime boss named Rupert Thorne tortures Strange to death before he can get the information out of him, but it was really a yoga technique to slow his heart, and later plots against Batman and Thorne, “haunting” Thorne and trying to weaken Wayne before taking his place. He is killed, perhaps for real, when his replica Wayne manor explodes.
Strange seems to be truly dead. In that universe, at least.
The above version is known as the “Earth-One” version. In the Earth-Two version, the origin is the same, up to his apparent death in the forties. Having barely survived the fall, Strange is left crippled and unable to enact his revenge, during which time the Batman of Earth-Two dies. He finally regains his health, and uses his earlier weather machine to take revenge on Batman, Robin, and Batwoman. I know I just said Batman died, but it was the Earth-Two Batman. The Earth-One Batman joined with the other two somehow. Strange was defeated, and ended up using the Cosmic Rod to commit suicide. These events were erased from existence in the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline in 85-86.
We’ve all had days like that.
The next version of Dr. Strange is the “New Earth” version. His origin is similar, but he discovers Batman’s secret identity even quicker – it quickly becomes the running theme for later versions of Strange. He makes his own version of the Batman suit to try and defeat him, attempts to turn public mind against Batman, and kidnaps the mayor’s daughter. He is shot twice and dumped into a river. Having faked his death, he makes his triumphant return by murdering a millionaire. He vows to destroy Batman, in mind and body, using Scarecrow’s toxin. He is nearly successful, but falls into the ocean while fighting Scarecrow.
Deciding he must kill Bruce Wayne if he wishes to become Batman, he kidnaps Catwoman and confronts Bruce Wayne, who maintains his innocence, escaping and returning as Batman. During the fight, the Batmobile explodes, seemingly killing Batman for once. Strange broke into the Wayne manor wearing his Batsuit, fighting Nightwing and Robin, escaping quickly. The explosion did not kill Batman, but did temporarily confuse Wayne, making him forget he was Batman. Strange suffers a breakdown, voluntarily checking himself into Arkham. He participates in a few smaller adventures, featuring Strange in secondary roles, land him on another planet with a number of other villains.
We’ve almost got the threads unraveled.
In 2011, DC combined all of its existing franchises into one continuity. The Hugo Strange in this continuity – dubbed “Prime Earth” – worked at Arkham Asylum, alongside Harleen Quinzel. His first appearance was in 2012. He hasn’t done much of interest, but is a presence nonetheless.
Hugo Strange grew in the public eye thanks to his magnificent presence in the Arkham City video game. He is able to discern Batman’s true identity, and gets Wayne interred as a result. This kicks off the events of the game. His appearance in the game tracks with his comic book look, but otherwise he is an unknown entity.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this strange character corner. Come back soon for more fun fan information!