clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Phantasm finally hit the comic book big time — now do Baby Doll

New, 8 comments

A plea for the lost lady villains of Batman: The Animated Series

Batman/Catwoman #1 is on shelves, and it’s a milestone for DC Comics. Not because of Batman, or Catwoman, but because of Andrea Beaumont, the Phantasm.

Andrea first appeared as the eponymous antagonist of 1993’s Mask of the Phantasm, one of the best Batman movies ever made. But despite Phantasm’s clout in the Batman mythos, Batman/Catwoman #1 is the closest its namesake has ever come to appearing in the main DC universe.

I have three things to say about this. First: This is great! Second: Why did it take so long? And finally: Now do the rest of them.

Put Baby Doll in mainstream continuity already.

Chillin’ like a villain

The effect of the DC Animated Universe on the villains of the main DC universe has been so complete that it’s difficult to perceive. In the broader culture, these shows’ inventive (and often sympathetic) takes on characters like Mister Freeze, the Ventriloquist, and Brainiac have fully eclipsed the comic book counterparts on which they were based. This is one of the things that Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series are rightfully famous for.

These shows are less well known for adding banger after banger of female characters to a canon that, in 1993, was even more staggeringly male than it is today. It’s easy to forget that there was no Batgirl in DC Comics while Barbara Gordon appeared B:TAS. It had been five years since her final costumed appearance in the comics, and there wouldn’t be another Batgirl until 1999.

For the most part, the DCAU had to create from whole cloth to get more female characters on the screen. The metric of any good superhero character is whether or not other creators want to pick them up and use them — and by that metric, the DC Animated Universe was an enormous success.

Latina police detective Renee Montoya was adopted by comics creators before the show even aired, based solely on early looks at production materials. Breakout Joker henchwoman Harley Quinn was introduced to comics in 1999, and the rest is history. The same year, Lex Luthor’s loyal bodyguard Mercy Graves debuted in Detective Comics, later to appear in Titans, Supergirl, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Superman villain Livewire (voiced by a fresh-off-of-Tank Girl Lori Petty!) leapt onto pages in 2006, and has since appeared in Smallville and Supergirl.

Hell, even Roxy Rocket made it to comics. But you know who hasn’t?

Baby Doll and Calendar Girl

Calendar Girl is the villain of the episode “Mean Seasons,” a homicidal and deeply insecure former model out for vengeance against the employers who shunned her the moment she turned 30. In my professional opinion “Mean Seasons” is one of exactly two times that a version of Calendar Man — who is like the Riddler but if he could only do riddles about one subject — has been interesting. And the other time is hyperspecifically locked to a single storyline. Now, I’m probably the only person out here stumping for Calendar Girl to make it to comics.

But there’s really no excuse for Baby Doll having never appeared in core DC Comics continuity. The story of Mary Dahl, the former child star of a Leave it to Beaver-esque hit who turned to kidnapping and murder out of generalized rage after a medical condition arrested her growth and trapped her in the inescapable perception that she was a dimple-faced little girl fit only for generating laughs and awwwwws?

That’s exactly the kind of medically implausible and potent metaphor that great superhero villains are made of. And it worked. Even though there hasn’t been new “Baby Doll content” since 1998 (not counting brief appearances in out of continuity comics like Batman: White Knight and Li’l Gotham) a quick search for “batman baby doll” does not turn up a legion of stuffed toys.

Two decades later, fans are still talking about how Baby Doll’s mere two episodes punched them in the gut, referring to her as “underrated,” and wondering why she’s never made it to comics.

She was even partial inspiration for one of the ultimate villains of the final season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Babydoll doesn’t even have to be a core Batman villain — with the tone of Batman comics these days, she could feature with younger heroes like a Robin or Batgirl, or as an antagonist to the Teen Titans or Young Justice teams. But what’s clear is that she resonates with fans, and has for years despite a lack of new appearances.

Please someone put Baby Doll in DC continuity, so that I can focus on carrying this cross for Calendar Girl.