Mr. Freeze: The Most Sympathetic of Batman’s Villains

Good day, everyone! I hope your week is going well. For this week’s post, I want to focus on another Batman villain the way I did the Joker many weeks ago. This time, I want to look at Mr. Freeze, Batman’s most underrated and sympathetic opponent.

Mr. Freeze (originally named Dr. Victor Fries and called Mr. Zero) was created in 1959 by Bob Kane, David Wood, and Sheldon Moldoff. At first, he was a somewhat ridiculous, generic ice villain, of which there were several in the Silver Age (the Flash’s Captain Cold being another notable example). And Mr. Freeze remained an unremarkable sometime foe of Batman for decades, despite a slight bump in popularity during the Adam West years based in no small part by portrayals by such esteemed actors as Eli Wallach. That is, until the 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series entitled “Heart of Ice.”

The animated version of Mr. Freeze (voiced by the late, great Michael Ansara) was an entirely new take on the character defined by his sorrow and his quest for vengeance against the company that pulled funding on his studies to cure his wife (then in suspended animation) of an undisclosed terminal illness. The resulting seizure of his lab by its big businessman owner (Ferris Boyle of Gothcorp in some versions) ended with Victor Fries being bathed in a cryogenic formula that drastically lowered his body temperature and made it nearly impossible for him to survive exposure to even the mildest environment without the aid of an armored suit.

Image of Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Victor_Fries_(DCAU)

Image of Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Victor_Fries_(DCAU)

Ansara’s deep, agonized voice lent itself well to his depiction of Mr. Freeze as a broken man gone cold both inside and out, consumed with nothing but his drive to avenge his wife and himself against Ferris Boyle (pun likely intended). Freeze would go on in his later appearances in the Animated Series to discover that his wife, Nora, still lived on in suspended animation, and he would suffer further degradation to his physical condition due to the nature of the accident that day in his lab. He even made a much later appearance in an episode of Batman Beyond.

This animated version of Mr. Freeze remained the most notable and visible for several years until the travesty that was Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, where the character was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This version, which is (sadly) the version most mainstream audiences remember, was a ridiculous spoof of a man who made painfully corny puns about the cold. For a lighthearted, groan-inducing romp down memory lane, here is a collection of them from YouTube:

Despite the film, the comics version of Mr. Freeze remained largely informed by the Animated Series version until the New 52, when Scott Snyder reinvented him once again, but arguably for the worse. For years, it was accepted that Freeze was not insane, a rare exception among Batman’s rogues gallery, but simply driven by an inhuman rage masked by a cold, apathetic exterior.

In the Batman annual that came out during the “Night of the Owls” storyline, Snyder altered the accepted perception of Mr. Freeze by effectively making him as imbalanced as any other Arkham resident, revealing that his view of reality is flawed to the point where Nora was never actually his wife, but a young woman suffering from some fictional terminal illness who had been in suspended animation for decades. Further, the hard-hearted capitalist that pulled the plug on Victor Fries’s labor of misguided love was somehow Bruce Wayne. This was an odd collection of choices that made everyone involved far less likable.

Image of Nora Fries from Batman: The Animated Series courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://www.comicvine.com/nora-fields/4005-50698/

Image of Nora Fries from Batman: The Animated Series courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://www.comicvine.com/nora-fields/4005-50698/

I honestly hope that someone who succeeds Snyder as writer on Batman undoes this little quirk, being as I feel it destroys what made the character unique and actually not such a bad guy. For now, though, these are my thoughts on the character and his history. What do you think of Mr. Freeze and his various incarnations? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow my personal blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts, and tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Suggestion for additional reading:

Gotham Central vol. 1

Suggestion for additional viewing:

Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero

My numerous comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #15

Wonder Woman #33

Robin Rises: Omega #1

She-Hulk #6

Elektra #4

Avengers World #9

Rat Queens #7

The Witcher #5

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11 thoughts on “Mr. Freeze: The Most Sympathetic of Batman’s Villains

    • A large portion of it has been, but I think he has been too focused on his own changes to the character at several points. And, honestly, I’m kind of tired of the Zero Year stories.

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  2. Mr Freeze is my favourite cartoon character. I think he is better written in this medium than in comics in general for several reasons. First, in the cartoon, he is sympathetic because of his back-story but with some actions later. If it is important to bring depth to his character, which he did later add even more depth and sympathy. Victor only attacks Boyle; he saves the world after Batman has reasoned in his second appearance (Deep Freeze). Moreover, he is capable to have an almost good relationship with Batman: a mixture of respect and compassion. Then if he attacks innocent, it is only to save Nora, except in cold comfort, but I consider this episode as out of character. More importantly for me, he is able to save and to love a little Inuit orphan. This breaks the image of the ice block incapable of loving anything, except his wife. The relationship between Koonak and Freeze is very important to me, first of the depth of the character, then for the obvious parallel with Bruce and Dick. Thereafter, he was marred by cold comfort, for comics who followed this episode, even though there were several good passages, especially with Nora.
    Beyond manages to give us a good Freeze, but it still clutters with tragedy and inconsistencies and omissions. It makes the episode frustrating and depressing at the same time. Then, in the comics before the reboot, Freeze was more ruthless, less sane and more … nasty. I do not see this Freeze capable of redemption, remorse or save orphans who drowned near his home in the North Pole. I think comics are wanted to make him darker and edgier, but by doing this; they have sapped much of his depth in favours of his dangerousness. Somehow the change in the reboot was almost inevitable, very unfortunate, but almost inevitable because of the direction taken by the staff of DC.

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