The first arc of All-Star Batman was nothing short of an outrageous success. It showcased writer Scott Snyder’s ability to reinterpret Batman’s greatest villains in a fascinating, but consistent manner with his new spin on Two-Face. He was accompanied by a true all-time great in superhero comics, John Romita, Jr. whose action looked as kinetic and fierce as ever when combined with inks of Danny Miki. It was a real home run and one that will likely be continued by Snyder and new series artist Jock this week when they turn their attentions to another villain: Mr. Freeze.
Mr. Freeze has been a member of Batman’s rogues gallery since he first appeared in the pages of Batman #121 in 1959, created by Sheldon Moldoff, Bob Kane, and David Wood. Since his first appearance he has been a recurring member in the many Batman books, commonly considered to be one of the hero’s “A-list” villains today. Yet his story is one of growth and reinvention. When he first appeared, Mr. Freeze was a thief with a cold-based gimmick. His start isn’t too dissimilar from that of someone like Captain Cold. Through the years, creators in comics and cartoons would add to his origin and provide the depths of tragedy many fans associate with Batman’s greatest foes. We’ve selected five stories that show off just how great Mr. Freeze has become as a character and why he’s a worthy focus in the pages of All-Star Batman.
So click forward to discover the five greatest Mr. Freeze stories of all time, although it’s entirely possible the newest arc of All-Star Batman will bump one from the list in just a few months...
"Heart of Ice"
Batman: The Animated Series, Season One, Episode 14
Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
We aren’t ranking these five Mr. Freeze stories, but if we were, there’s no doubt that this would have to be number one. “Heart of Ice” debuted in 1992 and it instantly reinvented the character both in the eyes of creators and hearts of fans. This is where the tragic origin of Mr. Freeze’s dying wife Nora was first invented. It gave the character both a reason to commit his crimes and to possess his incredible cryogenic technology.
While the ideas in this episode are filled with potential that has been used repeatedly, the real reason they stuck was the telling of the story, itself. This animated iteration of Batman is often the quintessential version of Batman for many fans, especially those raised in the 90s. Everyone involved with the show understood what made the character tick and delivered some of his best adventures ever. “Heart of Ice” is one of their absolute best episodes too. It not only made Mr. Freeze the villain we know and love today, but told a tale that still evokes tear drops.
Batman (vol. 2) Annual #1
Created by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Jason Fabok
The only problem with “Heart of Ice” is that it set a bar for Mr. Freeze stories that may very well be unsurpassable. That’s what make the first annual of Batman written by Scott Snyder so daring. Rather than return to the same origin, Snyder chose to reinterpret the character again with writer James Tynion IV and artist Jason Fabok. He shocked readers by setting this story up feature the same tragic romance between Victor and Nora Fries, only to reveal that Nora was frozen before Victor ever arrived.
This version of Mr. Freeze is far more deranged than his cartoon counterpart, with the only human part of his personality based on an illusion. It is no less tragic, but far more frightening. While “Heart of Ice” will always be used for comparison, this is a story that shows there’s more than one right answer when trying to present a character. It takes the core elements of Mr. Freeze and offers an effectively chilling new spin.
"In The Line of Duty"
Gotham Central #1-2
Created by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark
If you’re going to discuss how frightening Mr. Freeze can be, then you absolutely have to bring up Gotham Central, the acclaimed series presenting Gotham City from the point of view of the police. Mr. Freeze has never been more threatening than in this introductory story arc. The casual manner in which he kills one officer and kills another isn’t exciting like many superhero battles, is simply terrifying.
We all know Batman is well-prepared to take on the gimmicks of his villains, but those same gimmicks become horrible weapons when confronting heroes with the “super” prefix. Against the men and women of the GCPD, Mr. Freeze is an almost unconquerable threat. Despite his limited appearances on the page, this story adds gravitas to both the character and his “freeze gun”. You’ll never look at them the same after this.
"A Cold Day in Hell"
Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon #1
Created by Royal McGraw and Tom Mandrake
In the wake of Batman’s death in “Batman R.I.P.”, the Bat-line of books was overtaken by “Battle for the Cowl”. In addition to the many heroes and antiheroes competing to be the next Batman, many allies were left struggling just to endure his absence. This one-shot tells the story of Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD working without the benefit of response to the Bat-Signal, when Mr. Freeze arrives and they have to stop him alone.
This story serves as a great counterpoint to the previous entry, as Batman cannot arrive at the end. Mr. Freeze is as scary and powerful as ever, but Gordon and his team must use their wits to defeat him. Again, it highlights why Mr. Freeze ought to be taken seriously and what his form of villainy can bring out in the heroes he confronts.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #201-203
Created by Christos Gage and Ron Wagner
The beauty of Legends of the Dark Knight was that it allowed creators to provide fascinating new spins on the world of Batman without having to worry too much about continuity. “Cold Case” came late in the series’ initial run, but lived up to the promise of the title. This story is as much about the Wayne legacy as the villain threatening it, as Thomas Wayne is accused of decades old murders.
While the mystery isn’t too hard to solve, the path to that solution reveals a lot about both Batman and Mr. Freeze. Their mutual obsession with family and saving those they love makes for a fascinating mirror and no stories have evoked that particular parallel as clearly as this one. All of the best Batman villains help to reveal a key element of the hero in their own tragedies and “Cold Cases” makes the common ground between Mr. Freeze and Batman as clear as ice.