Batman’s Rogues Gallery is made up of some of the most iconic villains in pop culture. Each of them are meant to test The Dark Knight’s resolve, to push him beyond his limits. The best Batman villains are the ones that attack Bruce Wayne on a psychological level. A character that’s capable of playing mind games with Batman is Doctor Hurt. The villain is one of the most recent additions to the Rogues Gallery, but Hurt has a history stretching back to the Caped Crusader’s early career. With his intellect and penchant for psychological torture, Doctor Hurt is a Batman villain you need to know about.
Referencing the past
Doctor Hurt is based on an scientist that appeared in 1963’s Batman #156, which featured a story called Robin Dies at Dawn. During the arc, Batman took part in a NASA experiment that caused him to think that Dick Grayson was in danger. The scientist had a major presence throughout the story, though he was never named. Grant Morrison decided to use the character, turning him into the villain that would become Simon Hurt. Morrison explained his process in an interview with Wizard Magazine.
“There’s a doctor who’s got some good lines in the original story Robin Dies At Dawn, and he’s never named. I thought, “What if he’s a bad guy?” That became Dr. Hurt. I thought, “Wow…there was a guy who had access to Batman’s psychology for 10 days. That’s my villain!” I also thought it was a way to sort of reinvigorate those old stories, as a service to DC, to sell some more of the older books and collections.”
Morrison intended for there to be a large amount of mystery surrounding the character. There were a lot of clues and call-backs to the Robin Dies at Dawn story and Hurt made his first full appearance in Batman RIP.
An immortal mastermind
Simon Hurt was born Thomas Wayne, an ancestor of Bruce who lived during the 17th century. Hurt had a connection to the supernatural, wanting to summon the Bat-God Barbatos. During a summoning ritual, he came into contact with the Hyper-Adapter, a dimensional creature sent by Darkseid to oversee Batman’s journey through time after he was hit with the Omega Effect. The events were chronicled in The Return Of Bruce Wayne. Corrupted by the Hyper-Adapter, Hurt gained the power of immortality.
Decades later, Hurt worked as a psychiatrist at Willowood Asylum. He created a secret cult called The Black Glove and planned to destroy the Wayne legacy. Eventually, he oversaw The Isolation Experiment, which gave him access to Bruce’s psychology.
Deducing Batman was ‘powered by tragedy’ he set out to create three replacement Batmen who had ties to the GCPD. He traumatised them on a mental level with the intent of making them better crimefighters. He was able to plant a post-hypnotic suggestion in Bruce’s mind, using the words ‘Zur-En-Arrh.’ This phrase is a reference to another classic Batman story that took place in Batman #113.
Having compromised Bruce’s mind, Hurt influenced him with the phrase and sent him out into Gotham without any memory of his former life. This demonstrated Hurt’s cunning. Very few people have been able to break Batman mentally, yet Hurt got inside his head without Bruce being aware of it. Using The Black Glove, Hurt carried out a character assassination of Martha Wayne, making it seem like she was a criminal.
Hurt got the better of Bruce a second time by managing to conceal his identity. Batman wrongly assumed Hurt was an actor called Mangrove Pierce. Seeking to cause more chaos, Hurt claimed himself to be Bruce’s father. Batman figured out it was a lie, but Hurt managed to escape in their first confrontation.
I think the most terrifying thing about Doctor Hurt is that he represented the fear of the unknown. He wore different identities, shrouding himself in mystery. It allowed him to outwit Batman and Joker, with the latter referring to him as The Devil. Hurt even had Joker working for him, though the Clown Prince of Crime eventually got even by burying him alive.
Morrison has described Hurt as an “empty space” with people using their imagination to fill in who he’s meant to be. It could be argued the imagination is the essence of fear, with Hurt twisting expectations to fit his own narrative.
“I think the readers have kind of done that themselves. I tried to obviously direct people into the gaps and the spaces, and the whole thing with Doctor Hurt was that he was “the hole in things.” That’s how he describes himself. We see him in the form of this missing painting and as this gap in the story. Like you say, it isn’t really a mystery because we kind of knew the guy was there since the Black Glove. We knew Doctor Hurt was the Black Glove, but who is Doctor Hurt? Is he the Devil? Is he Bruce’s father? Is he some other person?”
“I wanted to do that so people would engage with it and talk about it. And they really did. Everyone came up with their own ideas, and I love that about that particular character. He is that kind of empty space in the story that people can plug their own imaginations into.”
Based on his skills in deception, Doctor Hurt has earned his place as one of Batman’s most dangerous enemies.