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Hugo Strange(pop culture)
Batman had barely been in print for a year when Professor Hugo Strange reared his ugly head in writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane's Detective Comics #36 (1940). Typifying the stereotypical mad scientist with his egg-headed bald pate and thick-lensed, round-framed eyeglasses—and a creepy beard to boot—Strange's diabolical reputation is renowned, although little is actually known of him—Bruce (Batman) Wayne calls him “the most dangerous man in the world!” Strange proves just that as he chokes Gotham City with artificially manufactured fog so that his henchmen may pillage under its veil. No stranger to the dark, Batman becomes involved, and he is apprehended and even savagely lashed with a bullwhip by Strange before breaking free. In two other appearances during comics' Golden Age (1938–1954), Professor Strange mutates asylum patients into zombies and attempts to seize control of the United States with his “fear dust,” but falls to his presumed death in 1940, the victim of DC Comics' softening of Batman's original foreboding tone. Publishing climes were darker in 1977 when the creative team of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers resurrected Hugo Strange in Detective #471–#472. Running a private hospital catering to wealthy patients, Strange discovered Batman's true identity when an injured Bruce Wayne checked in. The professor planned to auction this information to other villains but took the secret to his grave when Boss Rupert Thorne tried to torture the info from him—although Strange's ghost lingered long enough to give Thorne nightmares. Strange was reintroduced in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #11–#15 (1990-1991), penned by Doug Moench and penciled by Paul Gulacy. “Prey,” a five-issue story arc in set early in Batman's career, presented Strange as a psychologist hired to advise a Gotham police task force on the methodology of the Dark Knight, then considered a vigilante. Strange ferreted out Batman's Wayne identity, but instead of aiding in his apprehension became obsessed with the hero, even masquerading as Batman. In subsequent appearances, Hugo Strange has been engulfed by a psychotic fixation upon Batman, desiring nothing short of “becoming” the Masked Manhunter, and even, as has been his pattern since his inception, regularly returning from the dead to attempt his goal. In a 2000 encounter Wayne resorted to hypnotizing himself to forget his Batman identity to dupe the mad professor. “Over the years, Hugo Strange has developed into much more than his initial ‘mad scientist' roots,” observes Matt Wagner, writer/artist of Batman and the Monster Men, a 2005 miniseries set early in Batman's career (“I jokingly call it ‘Batman Year 1.5,” adds Wagner). “As one of only a handful of his enemies to have ever deduced Batman's secret identity, he represents an intellectual threat far removed from and, in a way, far deadlier than some of his flashier counterparts.” Weary of alliances with Batman's other “flashier” enemies, Professor Hugo Strange prefers to work alone, the wheels of his demented mind always turning, even when he is imprisoned in Arkham Asylum, to concoct new ways of overthrowing Batman. Ray Buktenica voiced Hugo Strange in the episode “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne” (original airdate: October 19, 1992) of Batman: The Animated Series (1992–1997), loosely adapting the 1977 comic story. Strange has cameoed in the Justice League Unlimited (2004–present) and was seen in a heftier and hairier incarnation in the “Strange Minds” episode of the WB's The Batman (2004–present), with 1960s TV Riddler Frank Gorshin lending him voice.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.