The Ventriloquist

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Detective Comics #808 © 2005 DC Comics. COVER ART BY DAVID LAPHAM.

The Ventriloquist

(pop culture)
Who's in charge here? With Batman's odd foe the Ventriloquist, it's never easy to tell. Created by co-writers Alan Grant and John Wagner and artist Norm Breyfogle and first seen in Detective Comics #583 (1988), Arnold Wesker is a nebbish crime-family heir who manifests his repressed anger—seething since he witnessed his mother's gangland execution years earlier— through his ventriloquist's dummy, Scarface. A puppet version of an Edward G. Robinson–like Prohibition- era mobster in a pinstriped suit and fedora, Scarface remorselessly butchers rival racketeers with a working miniature Tommy gun. Drawing inspiration from a long history of fictional deadly dummies, including the movies The Great Gabbo (1929) and Magic (1978), Grant and Wagner (and later scribes) adroitly keep readers guessing as to whether the schizophrenic Wesker is actually puppeting Scarface, or if the dummy supernaturally has a life of its own. Real-life ventriloquists have difficulty pronouncing the letter “B,” a fact played for laughs in Ventriloquist tales, in which Scarface calls the Dark Knight “Gatman.” A regular inmate of Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Wesker becomes psychotic when separated from Scarface. The Ventriloquist's stature in the Dark Knight's mythos was cemented when the villain and his dummy were featured in three episodes of television's Batman: The Animated Series (1992–1995), beginning with 1993's “Read My Lips”; George Dzundra played both roles, and Kenner released a tie-in Ventriloquist/Scarface action figure. “The Big Dummy” brought Scarface and the Ventriloquist (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) back to animation in 2004 on the WB's animated The Batman (2004–present).