Professor Hugo Strange is a supervillain from the DC Universe who is commonly an adversary for Batman. No only is he the first recurring villain for the Caped Crusader, but he is also the first of Batman's villains to discover Batman's secret identity. Outside the comics, he has made appearances in the Batman animated television series, the Batman Arkham City video game, and in the Gotham television series.
Professor Hugo Strange first appeared in Detective Comics #36 as a scientist who used a stolen "concentrated lightning" machine to generate a dense fog every night, allowing his gang to rob banks unseen, though he knew that Batman posed a threat to him. Batman, who already knew of Strange's experiments, began investigating him after one of his henchmen killed a man. When his henchmen are apprehended, Strange vowed to set a trap for Batman as the next target on his list of crimes. When Batman arrived, over a dozen of Strange's men were waiting for him, and one of them knocked him out with a blackjack (later called a baton or nightstick). He woke up in Strange's lair, where Strange hanged him from his wrists and lashed him with a whip. Batman broke the ropes, gassed the room, and defeated Strange, who was jailed but planed to escape. In Batman (vol. 1) #1, he escaped from Arkham Asylum (then known as Manhattan City Asylum as the comics took place in Manhattan, New York instead of Gotham City) with a gang of criminals, then broke out "five insane patients" and used them as test subjects, turning them into hulking 15 ft. tall monsters by administering a powerful artificial growth hormone that acts on the pituitary gland. They wore bulletproof clothing, and he released them to wreak havoc in Gotham City while his men committed robberies. Strange administered the serum to Batman after the giants captured him, saying it will work in 18 hours. Batman tricked two of the monsters into killing each other, and then saved himself by creating a drug that prevents any abnormal secretions from the pituitary gland. He was then able to kill all the other monsters, and sent Strange to his apparent death in a fall, although he suspected that the mad scientist has survived. In Detective Comics #46, Strange started spreading a fear-inducing powder (possibly the earliest form of Fear Gas) around the city until a punch from Batman again sent him falling to his apparent death.
He returned years later in the 1970's in the "Strange Apparitions" story arc in Detective Comics #469-479. Having survived his earlier "death" (how this happened is never explained), Strange left Gotham City and went to Europe for several years, where his criminal career was successful. Seeking a challenge and wanting to pit his wits against Batman, Strange, now using the alias of Dr. Todhunter, began running a private hospital named Graytowers Clinic for Gotham's wealthiest citizens—where he held them for ransom and changed them into monsters. When Bruce Wayne checked into the hospital to recover discreetly from radiation burns he sustained while fighting Doctor Phosphorus, Strange found out that Wayne is Batman and proceeded to wreak havoc on his personal life. Strange then attempted to auction off the identity of Batman to Gotham City Council president "Boss" Rupert Thorne, the Penguin, and the Joker. Thorne had Strange abducted and beaten by his men to reveal Batman's identity, but Strange apparently died before he could tell him. Strange's ghost then came back to haunt Thorne, driving the council president insane. Thorne confessed his long career of corruption and was sent to Arkham Asylum.
Strange's ghost returned again to haunt Thorne in Detective Comics #513, #516, #518, and #520 and Batman (vol. 1) #354, leading up to the appearance of the real Hugo Strange in the last panel of the last page of the fifth issue mentioned here. As revealed two issues later in Batman (vol. 1) #356, Strange had indeed survived the beating from Thorne's men by using yoga techniques to slow his heartbeat to an undetectable level. It was also revealed that Strange artificially created the "ghost" that haunted Thorne using strategically-placed devices that simulated the "ghost's" appearances, which drove him to confess to the authorities. Upon his return, Strange used the devices again to bring back the "ghost" in order to have his revenge on Thorne. Subsequently, Strange attempted to weaken Bruce Wayne through the use of drugs and robots called Mandroids, with the ultimate goal of usurping the mantle of Batman. The plan failed, and Strange apparently died once more when he attempted to kill Batman by blowing up a replica of Wayne Manor with himself in it, stating that if he could not be Batman, then no one could. Batman survived the explosion.
Later, Strange returned yet again (the Hugo Strange that "died" in the explosion was revealed to be just another Mandroid made by the real one) in Batman Annual #10, in another attempt to destroy Batman and Bruce Wayne, this time attempting to financially bankrupt Wayne by using various tricks to force three Wayne Enterprise shareholders to sell their stocks to him, allowing him to bankrupt Wayne. He also attempted to frame Batman as a criminal. However, Strange was defeated and sent to prison. Batman casted further doubt on Strange's deductions of his identity by claiming that he hypnotized Strange to give him a fake idea of Batman's true identity just before Commissioner Gordon showed up to make the arrest, leaving Strange doubting his own mind as he wondered if Batman was attempting a complex double-bluff by letting him think that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
The Earth-Two version of Strange had a similar early history to the Earth-One version and also survived the fall that he experienced in Detective Comics #46. In The Brave and the Bold #182, it is revealed that he was left paralyzed by the fall but, after years of physical therapy, he regained enough movement to write out the surgical techniques needed to repair the damage to his body—and bribed a surgeon to perform the operation. The surgeon lacked Strange's skill, and the operation left Strange physically deformed (the surgeon was then killed for his failure). Strange used one of his devices to capture Starman's Cosmic Rod to use its power to attack everyone and everything that Batman held dear. He generated a storm in Gotham to obtain the device, which created a dimensional doorway to Earth-One, bringing that universe's Batman over to Earth-Two, which allowed him and Earth-Two's Robin to join with Earth-Two's Batwoman in defeating Strange. Strange realized that he was, in fact, angry at his own wasted life and deformed body, so he used the Cosmic Rod to commit suicide.
In the Post-Crisis continuity, Strange was reintroduced in the "Prey" storyline as a psychiatrist enlisted to help a police task force capture Batman. While brilliant at his work, Strange was depicted as being equally unbalanced: he was so obsessed with Batman, he took to dressing up like Batman in private, convinced that he understood the darkness that drives Batman, when he really constantly underestimated Batman's strength.
According to Commissioner Gordon, Strange was "abandoned as a child, grew up in state homes. A bright kid, but he apparently had a hell of a temper. Nobody knows how he put himself through college and medical school." He was raised in an orphanage on the lower East Side of Gotham, not far from the infamous "Crime Alley", in the heart of a part of Gotham known as "Hell's Crucible". Strange became a Professor of Psychiatry at Gotham State University, but had his tenure suspended due to his increasingly bizarre genetic engineering theories. At some point, he was approached by an Indian man named Sanjay, who sought Strange's aid in curing his sick brother. Strange agreed to help, and Sanjay works loyally by his side from that point onward. Borrowing money from gangster Sal Maroni, who was in the employ of Gotham's criminal kingpin Carmine Falcone, Strange set up a laboratory. He then bribed a corrupt orderly to give him incurably insane inmates from Arkham Asylum—those who have been institutionalized for so long that they will not be missed.
Strange's experiments have literally monstrous results, with his test subjects turning into gigantic, mindless "Monster Men", possessing superhuman strength and cannibalistic instincts. Strange used these Monster Men to raise the money that he needed to pay back his Mafia connections. Batman became involved after discovering some of the gruesome remains of the Monster's Men's cannibalistic rampages. When Strange sets his creations free at an illegal poker game, helping himself to the victims' money after the slaughter, his Mafia connections began to grow suspicious. Batman tracked Strange down, but was captured by Sanjay and thrown to the Monster Men as an intended meal. Batman not only held off the creatures, but used them in part of an inventive escape. Strange was enthralled by Batman, believing that he had found a genetically perfect man. He created one final Monster Man using a drop of Batman's blood, and while his creation still had many of the flaws of its "brothers", it lacked most of the grotesque disfigurements that had plagued Strange's earlier creations. Strange was forced to destroy his lab in order to evade capture. Soon after, he turned the Monster Men loose, including Sanjay's brother (who had also been mutated in a failed attempt to cure him), at Falcone's estate, where Strange's Mafia connections were staying. Strange wanted a fresh start, and realized that the Mafia is still a link to his experiments. In the battle that followed, all of the Monster Men were killed, along with Sanjay (who was attempting to avenge his brother). Strange escaped amid the chaos, and succeeded in eradicating all links between himself and his experiments. Confident that he could not be linked to them, he began to appear on TV as a psychological expert on the Batman.
It is possible that the events of Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's "Prey" storyline take place at this point. Partly due to Hugo Strange's appearance on TV as a psychological expert, Captain Gordon was ordered to assemble a task force to capture Batman (with Strange working as a consultant to it, in order to deduce Batman's secret identity). As the task force's investigation progressed, Strange grew increasingly maniacal in his obsession with Batman, going so far as expressing a desire to become Batman and dressing up in a replica Batsuit. To that end, Strange attempted to kill the Caped Crusader and permanently replace/impersonate him. However, Strange repeatedly underestimated the level of physical conditioning that is needed to be Batman (e.g., incorrectly theorizing that Batman was driven into activity by a personal tragedy suffered within just the past five years—while Gordon already knows that a lifetime of training would really be required). Strange also diagnosed Batman with various personality disorders, such as explaining Batman's use of a costume as symptomatic of multiple personality disorder, whereas Gordon more accurately explained the Batsuit's intended purpose as "scaring the pants off criminals". Strange eventually concluded that Bruce Wayne is most likely Batman, brainwashed the task force's commander into becoming a lethal vigilante (as part of a plot to turn public sentiment against Batman) and kidnaped the Mayor's daughter while dressed as the Dark Knight. Despite Strange's attempt to psychologically "break" Batman by creating recordings and mannequins of Thomas and Martha Wayne blaming Bruce for their deaths, which he set up in Wayne Manor, Bruce was able to collect himself and focus in the Batcave. The following day, he confronted Strange and tricked him into doubting his own hypothesis about Batman's secret identity, claiming that his parents live in Paraguay and that he has no idea what Strange is talking about when he discusses mannequins. Strange was ultimately exposed, but he was shot twice by the task force when he attempted to escape dressed in his replica Batsuit, and fell into a river. Hugo Strange was then presumed dead.
In Doug Moench's "Terror" storyline, Strange mysteriously returned. He decided to work with another of Batman's enemies, the Scarecrow, and used him as a tool to help him capture Batman, while simultaneously having fallen into a further delusional state, as he engaged in a "relationship" with a female mannequin dressed in Batman's cowl, reflecting his warped dual admiration and loathing of Batman. The Scarecrow turned on Strange when Strange's therapy proved effective enough to turn the Scarecrow against his "benefactor", tricking Strange into falling into the cellar of his mansion base where the twisted psychiatrist was impaled on a weather vane that the Scarecrow had left in the cellar earlier. The Scarecrow then used Strange's mansion as a trap for Batman, but his attempt to use Strange's plan failed when he only learned of Strange's plan to use Crime Alley as the scene of a trap while ignorant of the reasons why that alley is so significant to Batman, with his "trap" merely consisting of luring Batman into the alley and decapitating a former classmate of Crane's in front of Batman. With Catwoman's help, Batman located the Scarecrow's hideout and caught the Scarecrow in the cellar with Strange's body before the house was destroyed in a fire, but lost sight of Strange, with it being unclear whether Strange had actually survived the fall onto the weather vane-he claimed that he lured rats to himself by using his sweat so that he could eat them-or if the Scarecrow and Batman were hallucinating from exposure to Crane's new fear gas, although Batman concluded that the subsequent explosion of the house had definitely killed Strange.
Dark Moon Rising: Batman and the Monster Men, "Prey" and "Terror" all take place during Batman's early years. In the modern timeline, Strange returned in a four-part storyline called "Transference". Initially appearing in his own Batsuit, he captured Catwoman with the aid of his henchwoman Dora-a former patient whose identity issues have been 'focused' by Strange so that she will act as Catwoman, albeit wielding a gun-and attempted to interrogate her about Batman's current status, Strange dismissed the existence of Batman's new allies by proclaiming them to be "parasites", as he could not accept that Batman would share his "power". He was then shown posing as a psychiatrist doing standard stress evaluations at Wayne Enterprises. While Bruce Wayne was on the couch, Strange druged him with a powerful hallucinogen in order to coax Wayne into admitting that he is Batman. Wayne was able to escape using a cleaning fluid from the office storage cupboard to start a fire, dressed as Batman to fake the Dark Knight's death when the Batmobile exploded just as he lands in it, and triggered a post-hypnotic suggestion in himself, forcing him to completely repress the Batman aspect of his mind until Robin and Nightwing could defeat Strange. Faced with Nightwing and Robin each denying that Wayne is Batman and Wayne's own obvious lack of combat reflexes, Strange became concerned that his theory that Bruce Wayne is Batman had been disproved and that he may have actually killed Batman. Faced with this conflicting situation, Strange had a mental breakdown and voluntarily turned himself in at Arkham Asylum.
Following that, Strange reappeared as the head of a gang of supervillains attempting to take control of Gotham's East Side, then controlled by Catwoman. Catwoman joined Strange's gang, then allowed its members to "find out" that she intended to betray them, faking her death when they attempted to eliminate her. Although she defeated and imprisoned most of the gang, and even convinced Strange to leave the East Side alone, Strange still mocked her by pointing out that he had faked his own death far more often than she had.
In Batman (vol. 1) #665, Batman told Tim Drake that a huge man dressed like a combination of Bane and Batman had beaten him up and he suspected that the impostor had used "Hugo Strange's monster serum and daily Venom shots" to gain his size and strength.
Strange took part in the miniseries Salvation Run. He was among the supervillains imprisoned on another planet.
Strange also appeared in The Batman Adventures, which is set in the DC Animated Universe. Issues #35-36 of the comic book provide him with a tragic backstory: he witnessed the murder of his son David by mob boss Rupert Thorne and was so overcome with grief that he sought to literally erase the memory with his mind control technology. The plan backfired, however; following the experiment, he could remember nothing but his son's death. After Batman stopped him from killing Thorne, Strange was imprisoned in Arkham Asylum.
The New 52 Edit
The New 52 (a 2011 reboot of the DC Comics universe) introduced the reader to Hugo Strange's son Eli Strange for the first time. Eli was first seen playing a game of poker with the Russian Mob, betting a valuable bracelet, winning big and cleaning house. Before he could walk away with his winnings, the mobster forced him to play another hand, in which he discovered Eli's sleeve was loaded with cards. Before he could give the order to have him killed, the mobster's thugs realized that their bracelet (Eli's was a fake replica) had been stolen. Catwoman pounced from the ceiling and took out the entire group of criminals. She thanked Eli for being her distraction (the two having been working together the entire time) and told him to run home to his father, which he was last seen doing.
Later, Strange used Eli to oversee an operation to dose Gotham with fear gas. The Scarecrow led Batman to believe that a small boy in a picture would be harmed unless he put a stop to it. Arriving at the scene, Batman realized that the small boy was actually Eli. He managed to avert the disaster and Eli is arrested.
During the Forever Evil storyline, Hugo Strange is among the supervillains recruited by the Crime Syndicate to join the Secret Society of Super Villains.
DC Rebirth Edit
Hugo Strange appeared in DC Rebirth during the Night of the Monster Men crossover event. Although apparently ignorant of Batman's identity, he was determined to prove his superiority by attacking Gotham with a group of "Monster Men" created from corpses of former patients as representations of what Strange perceives as Batman's greatest flaws: his ego, grief, manipulative nature, childhood, and basic fear, ultimately provoking Batman into a confrontation at Strange's office penthouse headquarters. Strange wore what he termed a "suicide suit"-a near-replica of the Batsuit without the cape and cowl that was rigged to detonate if its wearer is subjected to any physical attack-on the assumption that Batman would have no choice but to surrender the cowl to him as the "true" Batman. Nightwing was able to defeat the final monster-an amalgamation of the previous ones-by literally leaping inside it to inject it with a pre-prepared antidote, while Batman outwitted Strange by having Clayface cover the penthouse in an airtight seal prior to the confrontation. It resulted with a delirious Strange losing consciousness while Batman was still standing, with Nightwing musing that Strange failed to realize that Batman's flaws were actually his motivation in protecting Gotham.