Ask Chris #329: The Official Handbook Of Extremely Obscure Batman Villains
Q: Hey, so in The Lego Batman Movie, there’s a character called The Mime. What’s the deal with that? — @comicsfan4life
A: That signal, shining in the sky — someone needs me to explain an extremely obscure Batman villain to them! I have been training for this day my entire life.
It might come as a surprise, but I actually haven’t seen The Lego Batman Movie yet — although I definitely want to. As I understand it, though, the Mime is only one of several c- to z-list Batman foes who show up and somehow also manage to get toys out of the deal. So my question is, why stop with the Mime?
The LEGO Batman Movie has what is probably the most impressive roster of characters that any superhero movie has ever had, and it’s still pretty staggering how deep they went into the bottom of the barrel for some of the cameos. But at the same time, there are a lot of villains that don’t need any additional explanation. Like, nobody really needs a primer on Poison Ivy, and if you’re reading about comic books online, there’s probably a good chance that you don’t need me telling you about Catman, either. Even if he’s presented along with a few other scrubs in the movie, that dude was a headliner in an ensemble book that ran for years.
At the same time, while Calendar Man has never really managed to crack the A-List, he’s also a pretty well-known character thanks to high-profile appearances in books like The Long Halloween, and the Arkham games. And with someone like Gentleman Ghost, there’s really not much to tell. He’s a gentleman and a ghost. And he rules.
Still, there are a few that could use a spotlight, so excuse me for a moment while I dig out my Obscure Batman Villain File Cards and get us started. And what better place to start than the one you asked about: The Mime!
There’s this weird period in the late ’80s and early ’90s where the Batman books were still sort of doing the gimmicky one-note villains of the Silver Age, but with the darker sensibilities of the era that pretty much dictated that they should all be terrifying murderers. It’s how you get stuff like that one Peter Milligan/Jim Aparo story about a librarian who killed people and left them in different parts of the city in leather jackets with the Dewey Decimal System number that corresponded to their careers stitched onto the shoulders — which is amazing, by the way. And it’s also how you get the Mime.
The heiress to a fireworks manufacturing fortune, Camilla Ortin rebelled against her father and his noisy industry by studying the silent art of mime with the famous Marcel Marceau. Unfortunately, her act proved to be fairly unpopular — there’s a lot of this story devoted to people, including Robin, talking about how much they hate mimes in general — and for some reason, this drove her immediately to the kind of thematic crime you can only get in Gotham City.
She started her reign of shushed terror by stealing all the clappers out of the church bells in Gotham City, and then moved on to shooting people with a silenced pistol when they interrupted her act. She even mimed a criminal giving up in order to lure Batman into range to hit him with a 10,000 volt charge from her gloves, which seems like the sort of thing people did a lot in comics in the ’80s that, in retrospect, seems a bit impractical.
Eventually, she set her sights on Gotham’s loudest event, a concert by the band Blister Twister, where they were performing a heavy metal cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” (seriously), and was quickly apprehended.
This may come as a shock to you, but there are actually three different versions of Zebra Man running around in the DC Universe. The one that appears in The Lego Batman Movie — distinguished by his mohawk — is actually the second, although considering that he and the first guy have the same powers and appeared about 30 years apart, you could make a case that they’re probably the same guy.
There is, however, one crucial difference. The original Zebra Man was a scientist whose experiments with magnetism left him (and later,…