PYG IN THE NEW 52 & REBIRTH ERA
In our last entry, we examined the origin of Professor Pyg and his Modern Age chronology. Professor Pyg’s backstory, characterization, and origin were left intact through the transition from Modern Age to New Age, following 2011’s Flashpoint series. There are slight retcons to the arcs in which he or his son appeared—notably, in regard to the latter, the erasure of Batwoman, whose debut gets pushed back in the New 52—but overall (besides the shortened DCU timeline in general) everything is pretty much as it was before. Picking up from where we last saw Pyg (during the events of Batman & Robin #16) and where we first met his son (during the events of Batman Incorporated #3-5), only a short amount of time has passed. Pyg is still in prison once the New 52 begins, and that is where we see him first in Batman Vol. 2 #1-2 (by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion, November-December 2011), during an Arkham Asylum riot scene. (Sumo, who looks like the Circus of the Strange’s Big Top but is a totally different character, is there too.) As we will see, Pyg’s New 52 life is pretty much all Arkham-related, for the most part. A lot of issues, which I won’t bother listing below, simply show Pyg as a background character at Arkham.
Pyg cameos in the Batwoman arc entitled “Blood is Thick,” specifically in Batwoman Vol. 2 #22 (by JH Williams III, W Haden Blackman, Trevor McCarthy, and Guy Major, September 2013), in which DEO leader Mr. Bones attempts to recruit a bunch of Arkham inmates to go after the Bat-Family. In a great short sequence, Cameron Chase interviews the Mortician, Black Mask, Fright, and Pyg—asking them their thoughts on Batman.
Pyg then shows up in the less-than-stellar 2014 “Gothtopia” arc (by John Layman, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, and Blond). And shortly thereafter, Pyg shows up, along with literally every other villain in the DCU, in Forever Evil (by Geoff Johns and David Finch, 2013-2014) and its Arkham-related spinoff (by Peter Tomasi, Scot Eaton, Jaime Mendoza, et al, 2013-2014), which sees Pyg performing a number of horrible unnecessary surgeries on poor victims.
Besides Forever Evil: Arkham War, Pyg doesn’t really get any memorable action in the New 52 until Batman Eternal (by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, et al, 2014), appearing as a primary player in the first handful of issues. Issue #1 begins with Commissioner Gordon and Batman engaged with an escaped Pyg. Batman himself escapes from a Pyg death trap and switches to a robot mech-suit to help Gordon rescue some kids from being turned into Dollotrons. While Batman corrals Pyg, Gordon chases Pyg’s accomplice, Derek Grady, into the subway. There, Gordon sees a false image of a gun—secretly projected by Brazilian metahuman Dr. Falsario—in the perp’s hand, which he shoots at. The bullet flies through the false image and hits a station power box. The power box, clearly rigged to explode, blows up and causes a massive derailment that results in the deaths of 162 train riders. Gordon is demoted and arrested for police negligence and manslaughter! In the shadows, the mystery Big Bad notes to himself that his evil plan is underway. Who is responsible for the chaos? Is it a returning Carmine Falcone, who has teamed-up with corrupt Mayor Sebastian Hady? Could it be Cluemaster and his evil wife Crystal, who are shown meeting with Firefly, Lock-Up, Signalman, Lincoln March? Maybe its new asshole Commissioner Forbes, who has always hated Gordon and now has his position? What about the mysterious arrival of Jason Bard? How about Blackgate Prison’s Warden Agatha Zorbatos, who has always had it in for Gordon, and now has him dead to rights in the general population of her nightmarish penitentiary? Or could it be Pyg, Grady, and Falsario acting as a singular unit? A great setup for a weekly series, no? Too bad Batman Eternal would throw a big fat dud week-to-week for fifty-two weeks straight. While it certainly deserves hate, this ain’t no Batman Eternal review, so I’ll stop trashing and move on. Not long after the framing of Gordon, an angry Batgirl wails on Pyg’s henchmen (including Mr. Toad!) before being stopped by Batman for using excessive violence.
By the time Batman Eternal #5 (by Tynion IV, Snyder, Seeley, Layman, Fawkes, Andy Clarke, and Blond, July 2014) rolls around, three days have passed since Gordon’s frame-up and arrest. Super genius Red Robin deduces that Pyg’s involvement on the night of the accident is immaterial—Pyg’s victims that night were actually infected by a highly advanced nanotechnology before he got to them. Having traced the nano-virus to the Philip Kane Memorial Projects, home to Harper and Cullen Row, Red Robin goes there to investigate. A nano-swarm virus spreads across Gotham, but Pyg has nothing to do with it. He’s just a red herring.
In Batman Eternal #6-9 (by Fawkes, Snyder, Tynion IV, Layman, Seeley, et al, July-August 2014), Arkham Asylum gets taken over by ghouls linked to the spirit of Deacon Blackfire. Meanwhile, explosions rock Gotham. Pyg’s laboratory gets burnt to the ground, courtesy of Pyg’s associate Bixby “Roadrunner” Rhodes (Tiger Shark’s partner), who has betrayed Pyg to work for Falcone. Batman responds to the conflagration only to get into a fight with Pyg and dozens of Dollotrons. Batman wraps-up Pyg in a nice little package for the GCPD, but Commissioner Forbes lets Pyg go free! Later, Pyg gets revenge for the destruction of his lab by blowing-up Rhodes’ car dealership, although Rhodes somehow miraculously survives without so much as a scratch. Batman leaves Gotham to continue his investigations into Falcone/saving Gordon in Hong Kong. There, he meets Alfred’s daughter Julia Pennyworth and the remnants of the semi-defunct Batman Incorporated finally die completely.
Batman Eternal #10 (by Layman, Snyder, Tynion IV, Fawkes, Seeley, Riccardo Burchielli, and Dave McCaig, August 2014) begins two days after Rhodes’ car dealership was blown up. Falcone abuses a restrained Catwoman, but while doing so accidentally spills the beans that he is working on behalf of someone else. Pyg and his animal-human hybrid monsters known as “Farm Hands” then attack Falcone head-on, capturing him and prepping him for unnecessary surgery. As the media and police surround Falcone’s HQ, Batman swoops in via Batplane, takes down Pyg and his Farm Hands, and rescues Catwoman. Catwoman reveals that Falcone is merely a pawn in a bigger game. Like Pyg, Falcone is also nothing more than a red herring. Pyg also appears in non-noteworthy cameos in Batman Eternal #12 (illustrated by Mikel Janín and Jeromy Cox, August 2014) and Batman Eternal #16 (illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz, September 2014). If you want to know whodunnit then check out the series for yourself—I won’t spoil the ending here.
Pyg’s next big appearance is in the “Robin War” crossover arc, specifically in Teen Titans Vol. 5 #15 (by Will Pfeifer, Scott Lobdell, Ian Churchill, Miguel Mendoça, Norm Rapmund, Dexter Vines, and Tony Aviña, February 2016). Pyg and his Dollotrons get involved in the Court of Owls-fueled conflict, which includes the Teen Titans, We are Robin Gang, and Brother Blood’s Church of Blood cult.
After that, Pyg is seen in a cameo in Black Canary Vol. 4 #9 (by Matthew Rosenberg, Moritat, and Lee Loughridge, April 2016). Black Canary’s popular band plays a terrible private gig for a grossly wealthy teenage girl, who turns out to be a Falcone. Add to this Super Sweet 16 nightmare the fact that Gotham Underworlders show up, including Black Mask and Pyg!
Next, Pyg re-appears working for his old master Simon Hurt in Nightwing Vol. 4 #16-20, entitled “Nightwing Must Die!” (by Tim Seeley, Javi Fernandez, and Chris Sotomayor, May-July 2017), which is a “Rebirth”-branded arc, but technically takes place in the New 52 because it occurs in continuity just prior to the “Superman Reborn” issue (Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics #975) that officially rebooted the New Age of DC Comics aka The Rebirth Era. (When all the continuity-alteration dust settled in 2017, this arc basically wound up being canon in both the New 52 and Rebirth Era, but it’s best not to dwell on this for too long or your head might explode.) Despite his myriad little appearances in the New 52, Pyg is really only his true twisted self when in close proximity to Hurt. And we get that feel quite strongly here. In the arc, Nightwing has been living in Blüdhaven for about two-and-a-half months now and has been dating Shawn Tsang (the former super-villain known as Defacer) for roughly the same amount of time. While Nightwing is on a trip to Gotham, Deathwing attacks Shawn in her Blüdhaven apartment and kidnaps her. Who, pray tell, is Deathwing? He’s an evil Dollotron version of Nightwing, created and sent to kidnap Shawn by Pyg on behalf of Hurt! Pyg even goes so far as to compare Shawn to Eliza Doolittle! We soon meet a seriously messed-up Dollotron version of Robin too. Nightwing and Robin are eventually able to rescue Shawn from the clutches of Pyg, who has set up a grotesque art gallery in Paris. After Pyg goes down, Hurt trades up Shawn for the Boy Wonder, kidnapping the latter. Nightwing and Shawn—who dons her Defacer gear—go after Damian in Egypt, defeating Deathwing and Hurt to rescue the Boy Wonder. During this fight, Nightwing gets slashed with the seemingly cosmic-powered “Blade of Nothing,” which causes him to see visions of alternate versions of himself. This ties-into and acts as a prelude-of-sorts to the Dark Days/Dark Nights: Metal mega-arc. Deathwing turns on his masters and fights Hurt. (This is one of the rare times a Dollotron fights off Pyg’s influence.) They both disappearing into thin air after stabbing each other with the “Blade of Nothing.”
And the rest of the New 52 for Pyg reflects the Modern Age (more-or-less). His stuff from Damian: Son of Batman and his death in Batman #666 end his tale once again, just as it did before.
For Pyg, his history and future in the Rebirth Era pretty much reflect what they were in the Modern Age and the New 52. However, his story continues after “Nightwing Must Die!” with appearances in Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 2 #14 (by Scott Lobdell, Joe Bennett, Sean Parsons, Veronica Gandini, and Blond, November 2017) and Batgirl & The Birds of Prey #15, entitled “Manslaughter” (by Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Roge Antonio, and Marcelo Maiolo, December 2017). In the former, Pyg and his Dollotrons take on Red Hood (former Robin Jason Todd) for the first time ever. (Red Hood made a Dollotron his sidekick back in the day, but he never actually fought Pyg or the other Dollotrons.) Artemis asks Pyg if he’s ever met Red Hood before, to which Pyg replies, “In continuity? No.” Besides that funny line, this Pyg appearance is one of his weakest as he is basically fodder for the second incarnation of the Outlaws. In Batgirl & The Birds of Prey #15, Pyg fights the latest incarnation of the Birds of Prey and gets a few more decent lines in, but he quickly succumbs (along with all the genetic-males) to a citywide virus spread by the misandry group known as the Daughters of Gotham.
PYG IN ALTERNATE CANON & OTHER MEDIA
Pyg has become very popular in recent years, and deservedly so. In the cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode “Knights of Tomorrow!,” Pyg and Eduardo Flamingo, based on the Morrison versions of the characters, make a small joint cameo. In the cartoon series Beware the Batman, Pyg appears as one of the primary antagonists. He’s still a mad surgeon obsessed with perfection and transformation, but this version of Pyg (along with his sidekick Mr. Toad) is re-interpreted as a British eco-terrorist, who dresses in Victorian clothing. Pyg also appears in the Beware the Batman spin-off comic book, which is based on the show.
In regard to other non-canon comic appearances, Pyg can be seen in the online-first series Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman #16 (by Jason Badower, Caitlin Kittredge, Scott Hampton, and Jason Badower, November 2015), in The Shadow/Batman #1 (by Steve Orlando, Giovanni Timpano, and Flavio Dispenza, December 2017), and in the Batman: Arkham Knight spin-off comic book (by Peter Tomasi, et al, 2015-2016). (We’ll briefly address Pyg’s video game appearances below.)
Pyg appears in the live-action Bat-Family prequel TV show Gotham, portrayed by Michael Cerveris. Producer Bryan Wynbrandt is a big fan of the character and wanted him to have a big role in the show, hence his inclusion. Pyg first shows up in the fourth season as a revenge-hungry serial killer who assassinates corrupt cops and covers their faces with the severed heads of pigs. In later episodes, Pyg gets more of a Hannibal Lecter treatment, murdering and surgically cutting-up his victims, then cooking them into meat pies. He then sadistically cuts up his own face in prison. In a big twist, Pyg reveals that he is actually totally sane, that his “insane persona” was merely part of a grand conspiracy orchestrated by the Falcones to ruin anyone under Penguin’s criminal umbrella, including various mobsters and bad cops. In the end, Pyg gets a fatal bullet for his trouble.
In video games, Pyg appears in the extremely popular Batman: Arkham Knight. In the game, Pyg has his usual look and MO, kidnapping people and turning them into “perfected” Dollotron servants. He leaves a trail of deformed corpses in his wake wherever he goes. His other video game appearance is in Injustice 2. Pyg cameos in Red Hood’s game ending in which Red Hood saves Scarlet from him.
Pyg has yet to appear in any feature films, although, in The Lego Batman Movie, an ad for “Lazlo’s Slaughter House” can be seen. The ad depicts a man wearing a Pyg-like pig helmet. The animated Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, out now, features Pyg in his feature film debut, voiced by the amazing James Urbaniak. We’ve yet to see any live-action incarnation of Pyg on the big screen, but I’d bet on it happening in the near future, especially with DCEU’s shared movie universe expanding.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading about the life and times of Professor Pyg! Until next time.