He’s a villain who likes to leave a mark.
One of the next big DC movies hitting theaters is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), an ensemble superhero adventure featuring an unlikely alliance between Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Huntress and Cassandra Cain. This new team will find themselves going up against at least two major Batman villains – Black Mask and Victor Zsasz.
We’ve already taken a closer look at Black Mask and his role in Gotham City’s underworld, as well as the Birds of Prey themselves. But what about Victor Zsasz? The villain will be played by Chris Messina in the upcoming film, so here’s everything you need to know about this homicidal maniac and why he just won’t stop killing.
Victor Zsasz Explained: The Basics
Batman has fought plenty of sadistic and deranged villains over the course of his career, but few can boast a body count as high as Victor Zsasz’s. This villain has a single-minded preoccupation with murder. He believes that life is meaningless and he’s doing his victims a favor by freeing them from the burden of their own existence.
The only thing that gives Zsasz pleasure is taking lives and carving more tally marks into his flesh. And at this point, his body is covered in scars.
Victor Zsasz’s Powers and Abilities
Zsasz has no superhuman abilities (unless you count that one time he briefly transformed into a Man-Bat). However, he’s an extremely deadly opponent who’s been known to catch even Batman off-guard now and then. Zsasz is far stronger than he looks, as he tends to spend most of his prison time conditioning his body and preparing for his next killing spree. Zsasz prefers knives over all other weapons when doing his killing, and he’s a deadly fighter at both close and long ranges.
Zsasz’s only true weakness is his own, deranged mind. He can be thrown for a loop if he’s made to view his victims as humans rather than disposable bodies. He also has a pathological need to ensure that his tally marks correspond to the exact number of lives he’s claimed. For instance, Zsasz once marked himself after believing he had murdered Alfred, and he became obsessed with correcting his mistake when he learned the truth.
Victor Zsasz: Origin and Background
Victor Zsasz was created by writer Alan Grant and artist Norm Breyfogle and first appeared in 1992’s Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1 in a storyline called Batman: The Last Arkham. In that tale, Zsasz manages to brainwash Arkham Asylum’s new head, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, and sneak out every night to continue his killing spree. Batman is forced to fake his own insanity in order to infiltrate the asylum and uncover the truth behind Zsasz’s actions.
It wouldn’t be until 1996’s Batman Chronicles #3 that readers learned Zsasz’s origin story. As that book showed, Zsasz was once a successful and wealthy businessman who became a chronic gambler after the deaths of his parents. Zsasz eventually gambles away his entire fortune and nearly commits suicide until he’s attacked by a beggar. This attack awakens Zsasz to the notion that existence is meaningless, and he kills the beggar as a “reward” for opening his eyes. That beggar would become the first of many lives Zsasz claimed.
Zsasz has gone on to play a recurring role in the Batman comics. However, he tends to be a supporting character rather than the central villain of any given story. For example, Zsasz was one of many villains Batman faced during his prolonged war with Bane in Knightfall, and Zsasz resurfaced again in the story No Man’s Land. Zsasz often works as a hired killer for crime bosses like Penguin and Black Mask (hence their relationship in the Birds of Prey movie, no doubt).
Zsasz’s most recent comic book appearance came in 2017’s The War of Jokes and Riddles, which chronicles a massive, destructive gang war between Joker and Riddler that took place during Batman’s second year on the job.
Victor Zsasz: Beyond the Comics
Given the grotesque nature of his crimes, Zsasz doesn’t tend to appear in the more family-friendly Batman movies and TV series. He made his film debut as a minor character in 2005’s Batman Begins (played by Tim Booth), where he was shown being put on trial for murder and then escaped along with numerous other convicts in the film’s climax.
Zsasz has also played a recurring role on the TV series Gotham (played by Anthony Carrigan). That series has depicted Zsasz as an enforcer working first for Carmine Falcone and then for Oswald Cobblepot.
Zsasz has appeared in several DC video games, including Injustice 2, Batman: Dark Tomorrow, and Batman: The Telltale Series. His most significant role has come in the Batman: Arkham Asylum series, appearing as a boss character in the first game and returning in both Arkham City and Arkham Knight.
Zsasz will again appear in live-action form in 2020’s Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, this time played by Chris Messina. In this film, Zsasz reportedly works as a hired enforcer for Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.