CCI: Comic Character Investigation #8

1 avril 2011 Non Par Comic Box

[ENGLISH] This month: Mister Freeze. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 73 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.

The Chilling Presence of Mr. Freeze

Villains based on the elements can be hit or miss. One in particular blew into comics along an unexpected cold front. His name is Mr. Freeze and he is arguably the “coolest” villain based on an element in comic history. He first appeared in Batman #121 and has been tormenting the Caped Crusader ever since. In that issue, you will find the classic specialized suit and freeze gun and his real name, but originally he was called “Mr. Zero.”

Not a bad handle for a bad guy but his real last name provided the option we know today and this was the one that stuck through his wintry wars against the Dark Knight. Bob Kane invented him, a creation which doubtlessly would have been absorbed by fans as more significant if Kane had not created one of the Big Three. Still, we must acknowledge his cold creation in 1959 as one of the finest Batman enemies and one who would entertain us through several venues.

Mr. Freeze made the transition across mediums very smoothly. In the Batman Animated Series the execution of the character was fantastic as it brilliantly and seriously explored his origins. Victor Fries is not only a cold, calculating inventor who can bring your core body temperature low enough to kill you, he is represented as someone who was once not such a terrifying monster but rather a man of great love and passion for his sick wife Nora. Mr. Freeze wears a special suit because he cannot survive outside a sub-zero environment. This became his natural state after an accident among the machinery being used to find a cure for his wife who he kept cryogenically frozen until he could be successful.

He was also a predominant character on the 1960’s Batman live-action series. Assuredly the show was a campy farce of the famed super duo for the sake of young TV viewers at the time, yet the seriousness of Mr. Freeze was somewhat maintained. Played alternately by actors Eli Wallach, George Sanders  and even director Otto Preminger he appeared in quite a few episodes. He made it to the big screen in Batman & Robin as well, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Somehow though, it was the animated series which captured Freeze the best. Superb voice acting, attention to his origin story and a brilliant touch of compassion for this man and his loss gave Victor Fries a soul for us to experience.

Victor became more than a misguided genius with the ability to freeze you with his amazing devices.  He was a multidimensional character who viewers could feel and even relate to through his pain and suffering, familiar aspects of our humanity. Characters like this do not come along every day. Someone deep and reflective and with a strange warmth for his wife which opposed his villainous nature. Here was a man worth watching and  reading about, a man who may even represent what anyone who loves and has lost might become. Freeze then, is our darkest self, still holding onto an ember of love in a life too cold to fan it back into flame. A character who can reflect us so deeply is the best kind of creation. Ones who do not show us parts of ourselves can often leave us . . . cold.

[James Parducci]

James Parducci is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.