Batman: An Unexpected Villain Has a Strange Obsession With the Dark Knight
Amer Sawan
Batman Villains feature header
Batman Villains feature header
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Harley Quinn #5 by Stephanie Phillips, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, Andworld Design, on sale now.
It's no secret that Hugo Strange has an obsession with Batman, and the need to prove that he is superior to the Dark Knight has been a motivating factor in his life for years now. Despite repeated failures to prove his superiority, Hugo still holds on to the old obsession, even possessing a bat-suit that he wears in private to pretend that he is Batman. In Stephanie Phillips, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Andworld Design's Harley Quinn #5, the titular therapist got into the heart of what this obsession reflects about Hugo's sense of self-worth.
Hugo was reminiscing or perhaps fantasizing about a fight he had with Batman on the rooftops of Gotham City. He was wearing his own bat-suit and trying to convince Batman that of the two of them, he was better suited to be the Dark Knight. All the while, Harley commented that she understood the urge to emulate Batman, but dressing up as him and then trying to kill him is a bit extreme.
Harley began attributing it to a developmental issue, the equivalent of a child mimicking adults. If this theory is correct, then Hugo's obsession is based on the notion of developing his own personality, perhaps seeing in Batman something he wants to be himself. The Caped Crusader is a stalwart protector, feared, but also respected. In short, Hugo might want to be a hero. It would certainly explain his very public attempt at making the S.A.F.E. program a success, to garner the reputation of a hero even though his methods prove to be barbaric.
But when Harley began her second attempt at freeing her friends from Hugo's custody, she got a second glimpse into his psyche when she discovered a secret room full of Gotham hero and villain plushies, as well as the villain's bat-suit, built in a very shrine-like manner. When confronted by the man himself, Harley took him down with her own unique skillset, disproving Hugo's assertion that she's also trying to be like Batman in the process.
While confronting the deranged doctor Harley began chipping away at his ego, insinuating that Hugo's habit of dressing up like Batman is an attempt to make himself feel more significant than he really is. She then drove the point home by telling him point blank that dressing up as someone important did not make him important.
This revelation is not that much of a stretch in light of his previous actions. Nearly every time he has appeared, Hugo has attempted to prove his superiority to Batman. If Harley's assessment is accurate, then Hugo's obsession with the Dark Knight stems from feelings of worthlessness so extreme that they prompt incredibly dangerous reactions to assert otherwise. So whenever Hugo Strange causes havoc in Gotham, it is in actuality a sad attempt to prove to himself that he matters.