In the world of comics, there are plenty of iconic villains. Joker, Thanos, Doctor Doom, Darkseid. All of them have been established as characters that can destroy the world if given the chance. There are also villains who are content to stick to the shadows, carving out a quieter path to infamy. Onomatopoeia is one of those villains.
The character gets his name from imitating noises around him, like gunshots and dripping taps. On the page, the sound translated into speech bubble written in creepy font. Very little has been revealed about Onomatopoeia, with his face never being shown on panel. An enemy of Green Arrow and Batman, Onomatopoeia has a mystique that makes him scary as hell.
A superhero serial killer
Created by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester, Onomatopoeia first appeared in 2002’s Green Arrow #12. The character quickly established himself as a serial killer of superheroes that didn’t have any powers, collecting their masks as trophies. In his first appearance, Onomatopoeia murdered a female hero called Virago.
Kevin Smith has spoken about his creation of the character and why he chose to have him mimic sounds.
“When I did Green Arrow, I went with Onomatopoeia for a villain, just because I loved that word, and it kind of formed the character inasmuch as he would say sounds out loud. It only kind of works – I think – on a comic book page because if you have a gun going off, they usually write BLAM! and then you can have, you know, the character saying “BLAM!” in a word balloon, but like if you tried to do that cinematically you can’t really rock it.”
“A gun in a film sounds completely different. It doesn’t read as BLAM! and so to have a dude say BLAM! after a true gunshot, all these people would be like “he’s just retarded”. I think it works great in print and on a comic book page. I don’t think that character would translate very well outside of that.”
During The Sounds of Violence arc, Onomatopoeia targeted Green Arrow’s son, Connor Hawke. Green Arrow managed to save Connor, though Onomatopoeia tried to finish the job while Connor was recovering in hospital. He killed several doctors and would have succeeded in killing Connor if not for Green Arrow and Black Canary working together.
Getting the better of Batman
The character’s next major appearance occurred in 2008’s Batman: Cacophony. Onomatopoeia freed The Joker from Arkham, giving him money to finance a gang war. He managed to escape from Batman by mortally wounding Joker, forcing the Dark Knight to save his enemy. At the end of the series, it was shown that Onomatopoeia lived a normal life as a loving husband and father to two children. His family were unaware of his secret, highlighting the villain’s duplicity.
Onomatopoeia returned in the limited series Batman: The Widening Gyre, posing as a vigilante called Baphomet. He helped Batman defeat villains like Deadshot and Calendar Man, gaining Bruce’s trust. He even unmasked himself, but as Batman didn’t know what Onomatopoeia looked like, it didn’t reveal the deception.
At the end of the story, Batman introduced Onomatopoeia to a disguised Silver St Cloud. After Bruce put away his utility belt, Onomatopoeia mimicked the ‘KA-KLAK’ sound and slit Silver’s throat.
Shrouded in mystery
Despite some of Onomatopoeia’s backstory being shown, his face has never appeared on panel. All that is known about his appearance is that he’s a white male. The character has proven to be an expert marksmen, favouring two semiautomatic handguns. Adding to the mystery is whether or not Onomatopoeia has abilities. In Green Arrow #15, Oliver Queen shot him with six arrows but it didn’t slow him down. Onomatopoeia even caught an arrow in mid-air with his teeth, suggesting he’s enhanced in some way.
The mystery surrounding Onomatopoeia makes him chilling. It could be said that his greatest weapon is using the fear of the unknown to his advantage. Smith has expressed interest about bringing his character into the TV verse of Arrow.
“Instead of just doing the actual sound – which to me, in the real world, would be like the dude from Police Academy making noises with his mouth – he’ll just have little cards. Business cards that have typewritten words of whatever the fuck. So instead of him saying ‘blam,’ you’d find this card on your desk and turn around and ‘blam,’ he’d shoot you and stuff like that. Which I think is a little more chilly, you know, for doing it in live action.”
“On a comic book page, those big word balloons with a tiny word in it were so fucking sweet. It looks beautifully graphic, like, at the same time it creates an image of ‘this is weird.’ But I don’t know if audibly making noises would ever work in the real world, so I think those cards would be badass, man. So [you read] ‘slit’ and you’re like “slit?”, and then all of a sudden you turn around he cuts your fucking throat and dude just cocks his head Michael Myers style and watches you go down.”
In the TV show Gotham, there’s a character called Martin that is taken into Penguin’s care. Martin never speaks and uses a note pad to communicate. There’s speculation that the boy could grow up to become Onomatopoeia. If that is the case, then it would be an awesome way to introduce the character to a wider audience.
With his mysterious background and quirky nature, I think Onomatopoeia is one of the most intriguing villains created in recent memory.