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Why Mister Zsasz is one of the most terrifying characters in Batman comics

How does a classic serial killer stand out in Gotham City?

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CHRIS MESSINA as Victor Zsasz leans on a table to talk to a seated EWAN McGREGOR as Roman Sionis, with JURNEE SMOLLETT-BELL as Black Canary in the background, in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN). Photo: Claudette Barius

With Birds of Prey screaming into theaters, we’re shining a spotlight on the DC Comics movie’s cast of characters — from A to Zsasz. There are some long histories behind some of the superheroes and villains, but here’s everything you need to know about Mister Zsasz:

What is Victor Zsasz’s origin story in the comics?

Victor, or Mister Zsasz as he’s known, is the closest thing Batman’s Rogues Gallery has to a run-of-the-mill serial killer. Ironically, that makes him one of Gotham’s most terrifying villains. He has no powers, no pattern, no larger goal. It’s just that he only feels alive when he’s slitting people’s throats, arranging them in life-like poses before rigor mortis sets in, and then carving a tally mark into his body with each kill.

Who created Mister Zsasz?

Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle created Zsasz for the first arc of Batman: Shadow of the Bat, a story all about Arkham Asylum and it’s most terrifying inmates, and still managed to make Zsasz the scariest in the bunch. Other creators have touched on him since (Christopher Nolan even gave him a cameo in Batman Begins), but in his main backstory, he’s the disaffected scion of a rich Gotham family who decided that all of humanity is sleepwalking through life, and it’s his job to wake them up. With murder.

What are Mister Zsasz’s powers or abilities?

He’s just a normal guy, albeit a terrifyingly murderous one.

Who plays Mister Zsasz in the movie?

Yes, that’s actually Chris Messina, from The Mindy Project. Birds of Prey gives us a Zsasz who’s more sadistic than outright delusionally detached. He’s Black Mask’s most loyal henchman and friend.

Has Zsasz ever teamed up with Black Mask in the comics?

One time, Black Mask gave Zsasz a briefcase full of money as a retainer for his services as a hitman, and the killer used it to buy a disused slaughterhouse and turn it into a Thunderdome for homeless teens.

What Mister Zsasz comics should I read?

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4 (1992)

Is there a better way to launch a new Batman comic than by introducing a charismatic and nihilistic serial killer, then letting him loose on a killing spree inside Arkham Asylum itself? No. No, there’s not.

The Batman Chronicles #3 (1995)

When the origin of serial killer Zsasz is revealed in one short story in this anthology title, it turns out he’s Bruce Wayne gone very, very wrong, making him the perfect Bat-foe — and the perfect foil for all the other characters in the Batverse, as well.

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1-3 (2009)

With Bruce Wayne having been dead for a while, Gotham City’s crime families went to war to take advantage of a Batman-free city, giving Zsasz something he’d never expected: a job as killer-on-retainer, courtesy of wannabe crime lord Black Mask in their first ever team-up.

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