'Gotham': Inside the Comic Book Roots of the Maniax

Jokers, delusional professors and pop stars are just some of the predecessors for the newest bad guys on the Fox drama.
Courtesy of FOX

They've just been freed from Arkham, and they're planning to take Gotham — the city and the Fox drama — by storm, while causing as much trouble for Jim Gordon as possible. But who are the over-the-top Maniax? As ever, the comic book mythology of Batman holds some hints to that answer.

Jerome Valeska

As audiences already know from the character's debut appearances in the first season of the show, Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) is a former carnival worker who may or may not one day become the Joker. Certainly, he's got the laugh for it, even if comic book mythology has tended to suggest that the Joker didn't really have much of a sense of humor prior to the accident that dyed his skin white and his hair green.

Barbara Kean

Barbara (Erin Richards) spent the first season of Gotham as a red herring: in comic book mythology, Jim Gordon's first wife was named Barbara (as is his daughter, although she's better known as Batgirl), so it only made sense that Barbara was Gordon's fiancee when introduced. After she murdered her parents, however, she's been a very different woman — one that brings to mind a certain psychotic femme fatale soon to enjoy a big-screen debut in next year's Suicide Squad, in fact.

Aaron Helzinger

He might not seem like anything beyond a big dumb galoot right now, but Aaron's (Stink Fisher) comic book alter-ego would go through experimental surgery to reduce his anger issues, only to end up becoming the rage-filled supervillain known as Amygdala. As Amygdala, he is super-strong, but also mentally impaired — so it might be a good idea for Aaron to avoid agreeing to any surgeries anytime soon, no matter how convincing new crime boss Theo Galavan might make it sound.

Robert Greenwood

Greenwood (Dustin Ybarra) doesn't have a direct counterpart in Batman comic book mythology, but that doesn't mean he doesn't bring certain Batman villains to mind — especially with his cannibalistic tendencies. Could he end up being a non-lizard-man analog to Killer Croc, who has been known to eat those who get in his way (especially in the Batman: Arkham Asylum videogame series)?

Arnold Dobkins

Arnold (Will Brill) is another character who doesn't have a direct comic book descendant, in large part because superhero comics tend to shy away from villains primarily known as rapists as opposed to any other distinguishing feature. (While sexual violence isn't an unknown quantity in the genre — Dr. Light is a villain known as a serial rapist thanks to the 2004 series Identity Crisis — it's thankfully shied away from, for the most part.)

Zaardon

The delusional figure who believed he was a Roman warrior sent out with the express purpose of being arrested and freeing the Arkham inmates was an original character created for the TV show, but his historical delusion has its roots in two earlier Batman villains: King Tut, an Egyptologist who ends up believing that he's an Egyptian ruler reincarnated, created for the 1960s Batman TV show and played by Victor Buono, and Maxie Zeus, a former history professor who becomes obsessed with Greek mythology and convinced that he is Zeus himself. Of course, neither of those characters ended up dying in their first appearance. Sorry, actor David Fierro.

Maniax

Even the name chosen for the collection of supervillains has its roots in comic book mythology — kind of. There is a group known as the Maniaks in the same fictional universe as Batman, but they're far from the same kind of group as Gotham's new villains. Instead, they were a fictional pop group that debuted in the 1960s series Showcase who once teamed up with a comic book version of Woody Allen, of all people. If only the Maniax would turn their attentions to music instead of murder, then the citizens of Gotham could sleep easier at night. Unfortunately, as will be seen in tonight's episode, that's pretty much guaranteed not to be the case — much to the misfortune of one familiar face.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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