Ventriloquist (comics): Wikis

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The Ventriloquist
Ventiloquist 000000475.jpg
The Ventriloquist depicted on the cover of Batman #475
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance (Wesker)
Detective Comics #583 (February 1988)
(Riley)
Detective Comics #827 (March 2007)
Created by (Wesker)
Alan Grant
John Wagner
Norm Breyfogle
(Riley)
Paul Dini
Don Kramer
In-story information
Alter ego Arnold Wesker
Peyton Riley
Team affiliations (Wesker)
Secret Society of Super Villains
Black Lantern Corps
Abilities Criminal genius
Suffers from dissociative identity disorder, which manifests in a psychotic dummy, Scarface.

The Ventriloquist (Arnold Wesker) is a fictional character, a supervillain and enemy of Batman in the DC Comics Universe. The Ventriloquist first appears in Detective Comics #583 (February 1988) and was created by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Norm Breyfogle. In Detective Comics #827 (March 2007), a new Ventriloquist, Peyton Riley, was introduced by Paul Dini and Don Kramer.

Contents

Publication history

Fictional character history

A meek, quiet man, Arnold Wesker (the first Ventriloquist) plans and executes his crimes through a dummy named Scarface, with the dress and persona of a 1920s gangster, complete with pinstripe suit, cigar, and Tommy gun. His name comes from the nickname of Al Capone, after whom Scarface is modeled.

Born into a powerful Mafia Family, Wesker developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder) after seeing his mother murdered by an assassin from a rival Family. Growing up, his only outlet is ventriloquism.

The issues Showcase '94 #8-9 establish an alternate origin story: After a barroom brawl in which he kills someone during a violent release of his repressed anger, Wesker is sent to Blackgate Penitentiary. He is introduced to "Woody" - a dummy carved from the former gallows by cellmate Donnegan - who convinces him to escape and kill Donnegan in a fight which scars the dummy, thus resulting in the birth of Scarface.

Wesker lets the Scarface personality do the dirty work, including robbery and murder. He is totally dominated by Scarface, who barks orders at him and degrades him with verbal and even physical abuse. Wesker is unable to enunciate the letter "B" while throwing his voice, and replaces them with the letter "G" instead. For example, Scarface often calls Batman "Gatman."

It is often made ambiguous whether Scarface is an aspect of Wesker's personality, or actually has sentience. In the 1995 Riddler story The Riddle Factory, it is revealed that a gangster named "Scarface" Scarelli had once been active in Gotham City, though had apparently died long before Batman's era. A supernatural aspect to Scarface was hinted at in Wesker's origin story in Showcase '94, when Wesker's cellmate creates the first Scarface doll from a piece of gallows wood. 2001's Batman/Scarface: A Psychodrama reinforces this and shows the dummy to be indirectly responsible for two accidents while separated from Wesker (with at least one fatality). The dummy also retained his speech impediment while operated by a young boy and seemed to even show awareness of his name during this period.

In a kids comic based on Batman: The animated series, Wesker tried to reform by working puppets in a children's show with his friend "Froggy"; a new, friendlier puppet. However, the female star of the show was outraged when the show was going to be canceled, and discovering Wesker's previous crimes with Scarface, reunites Scarface with a horrified Wesker. Later, as Wesker and Scarface are getting away (leaving the woman who reunited them behind) Froggy comes out to save Wesker from Scarface, resulting in a car wreck and the "death" of Froggy.

The Ventriloquist is one of many villains in the Rogues Gallery to be confined to Arkham Asylum when Batman apprehends him. One particularly memorable series of events concerning him took place during the Knightfall saga, after Bane had destroyed Arkham and released its inmates. Unable to find Scarface, the Ventriloquist uses a sock puppet in his place for a short time. After robbing a toy store, he procures a number of other hand puppets to fill in for Scarface, including one of a police officer which he refers to as "Chief O'Hara" (in reference to a character from the 1960s Batman TV show). Wesker uses a sock puppet to fill in as an alter-ego until he can find a suitable replacement for Scarface; later, Scarface and "Socko" are set at odds until a standoff occurs, and the puppets shoot each other, leaving Wesker unconscious and bleeding from two wounded hands.

During the events of the Cataclysm, the stress caused by the earthquake apparently triggered the release of another personality within Wesker in the form of the 'Quakemaster', who claimed to have caused the earthquake himself over a video and threatened to trigger another unless he was paid ten million dollars. However, the seismotologist Quakemaster had captured to provide him with information deliberately fed him inaccurate scientific data to provide detectives looking for her with information as to her location, Robin subsequently deducing 'Quakemaster's' true identity due to his speeches always taking great effort to avoid saying any words with the letter 'B'.

In one issue, he is apparently killed, and in a bizarre twist, Scarface appears to still talk and act alive before he is destroyed.This death appears to have been retconned in "One Year Later" (presumably due to the events of the Infinite Crisis crossover). Wesker appears as one of the members of the Secret Society of Super Villains that faces the Jade Canary, who pitches Scarface off the top of a roof.

The death of the Ventriloquist. Art by Don Kramer.

In Detective Comics #818, an issue in what would later become the book Batman: Face the Face, Wesker is fatally shot by an unseen assailant. The puppet Scarface is stepped on and its head crushed. The dying Wesker uses Scarface's hand to leave a clue regarding his murder: a street name. Later in the storyline, it is revealed that Tally Man, acting as an enforcer for the Great White Shark, is responsible for the murder.

Blackest Night

During the Blackest Night crossover, Wesker is among the many deceased villains that receive a black power ring and is reanimated into a Black Lantern. Using his power ring, Wesker creates a construct of Scarface made of black energy.[1]

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Rhino

In many stories, Wesker is accompanied by a loyal bodyguard named Rhino who starts out as a bouncer at the Ventriloquist Club on Gotham’s Electric Street. Rhino is sometimes portrayed as genuinely believing Scarface to be the boss, but more often is shown as humoring Wesker (and sometimes forgetting and addressing the Ventriloquist directly, to Scarface's outrage). Rhino, as his name implies, is a massive, musclebound thug. His real name has been referred to as Frederick Rhino[citation needed], as well as Charles "Rhino" Daily[citation needed].

Rhino also has a sister named Moose, who is nearly as strong and loyal as he is. She takes his place on Scarface's team, in place of her brother who is currently in prison. During an appearance in Legends of the Dark Knight, Moose briefly takes over the role of ventriloquist to Scarface until the puppet could be re-united with Wesker. Rhino is also always partnered with another member of the gang Mugsy. Mugsy is normally a smaller person in size, but is a reliable criminal.

Peyton Riley

The current Ventriloquist, Peyton Riley.
Cover to Detective Comics #843.
Art by Dustin Nguyen.

A new female Ventriloquist, called Sugar by Scarface, has surfaced in the page of Detective Comics. She is a more compatible partner than Wesker, since Scarface no longer substitutes "b" with "g" and is much more compliant with Scarface's brutal methods. She and Scarface seem to have a relationship similar to the Joker and Harley Quinn (also created by Dini), as she seems to believe that the dummy truly loves her. When nearly captured by Batman and Harley Quinn (who has a strong dislike for Sugar, borne out of strong feelings of friendship towards her predecessor), she has Scarface say, "Save yourself."

Unlike Wesker, who was horrified at any damage to Scarface, Sugar rigs her dummies to explode, using this to cover her escapes. She has numerous identical dummies at her hideout, one of which then becomes the "real" Scarface.

In Detective Comics #843, Scarface kidnaps a rival gangster, Johnny Sabatino, and takes Bruce Wayne hostage. While alone, "Sugar" breaks from Scarface and talks to Bruce in what appears to be her 'real' personality. She reveals that she knows Wayne, as she was engaged to a friend of his, Matthew Atkins, "years ago." Her name is revealed to be Peyton Riley, as Wayne recognizes her, and she expresses remorse before the Scarface persona reappears and interrupts their conversation.

In the following issue, Riley reveals her father, an Irish mob boss named Sean Riley, wanted to marry her off to Sabatino, forming a permanent alliance between Gotham's Irish and Italian gangs. Sean Riley therefore assaults Peyton's fiance, leaving him in intensive care. He subsequently becomes an alcoholic, and Peyton is forced to marry Sabatino. This does not lead to the hoped for gang alliance, as Sabatino is an inept gangster. He and Peyton are eventually taken to see Scarface, as Sabatino had cheated him on a weapons deal. Both Scarface and Wesker are impressed by Peyton's intelligence, and gave Sabatino a second chance, taking 30% of his profits.

In Detective Comics #850, she and Tommy Elliot bond over their mutual feelings of being held captive by their own families, and vow that they'll escape together when Tommy comes into his fortune. When Elliot's ailing mother writes him out of the family will, she runs the departing family lawyer off of the road and kills him (calling in a favor from some of her fathers men to "take care of the details"), while Tommy kills his mother. Peyton declares that they can finally be free together - only to be abandoned by Elliot, who later describes her as a "sweet girl, but too needy."

When Scarface's hold on the mobs begins to crumble, Sabatino, now a successful criminal, decides to cement his own position by wiping out the Rileys. After killing his father-in-law, he takes Peyton to a gangster hide-out and shoots her in the head. She is not killed, but recovers consciousness just as Tally Man is killing Wesker nearby. Peyton finds the body of Wesker, and is shocked to hear Scarface talking to her. Although suspecting she may be hallucinating, she forms a partnership with him.

Scarface and Peyton plan to throw Sabatino over the side of his own yacht. Zatanna rescues Wayne and, as Batman, he rescues Sabatino while she tries to talk down Peyton, explaining that dolls and puppets have powerful magic, but Peyton no longer needs to seek vengeance. Before she can have any effect, Moose hits her with an oar. While Batman protects Zatanna from Moose, Peyton makes another attempt to throw Sabatino over the side, but gets too close, and he begins to strangle her with his own bonds. Scarface quietly says "Jump, Sugar" and Peyton sends them both over the side. Before they hit the water, Scarface says "G'bye, kiddo. I loved y..."

During Gotham Underground, Peyton and Scarface, along with Lock-Up,Firefly, and Killer Moth are told by the Scarecrow that Penguin is working for the Suicide Squad.They go attack him, but end up meeting a team of criminals working for Penguin.While they try to escape they are brought to a dead end by Scarecrow. Tobias Whale shoots Scarface, but lets Peyton live, although he informs one of the men escorting her that she is to be "hurt."

Powers and abilities

The Ventriloquist has no superhuman powers and is not a good hand-to-hand combatant. He is a skilled ventriloquist and his Scarface persona is a skilled criminal strategist. The Ventriloquist usually has a handgun of some kind, whilst Scarface carries his trademark tommy gun.

In other media

Television

Batman: The Animated Series

The Ventriloquist and Scarface appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, where they were voiced by George Dzundza. In this depiction, he is a master ventriloquist and can pronounce every sound perfectly as Scarface, a decision Bruce Timm fought for[citation needed] even though DC Comics wanted Scarface to substitute 'B' with 'G' as in the comics. In his first appearance, "Read My Lips," Batman investigates a series of robberies and discovers that the crimes are planned by a mob boss known as Scarface. He traces Scarface to his lair — a deserted mannequin warehouse — and discovers, to his astonishment, that the crime czar is a wooden dummy, manipulated by a mild-mannered man called the Ventriloquist. Even worse, as he makes further developments, he realizes Arnold Wesker, the ventriloquist, has a split personality and it is the dummy who manipulates the Ventriloquist. Scarface and his gang capture Batman by discovering the spying device he put on the Ventriloquist's tie and organizes a fake hit to get the vigilante. Scarface ties and hangs Batman and sets him to fall into a pit full of mannequin hands with sharpened nails pointing up. At this point, by faking and projecting the voice of the Ventriloquist, Batman plays both of Wesker's personalities, setting them to fight against each other. That way, he makes enough time to set himself free and defeat the gang. During the fight, Mugsy, one of Scarface's thugs, shoots at Batman, but accidentally destroys Scarface.

At the end of the episode, Wesker is shown in one of Arkham's workshops shaping some wood. After a nurse congratulates him on his recovery, he rolls it over revealing it was a new dummy head. He takes a knife and makes a "scar" across the face, similar to the original Scarface's. However, the scenes when the dummy is destroyed became recurring in his future appearance, leading to Scarface's temporary "death" until a new dummy is made.

In the DVD commentary to "Read My Lips," Bruce Timm stated that the recurring destruction of Scarface was because, since he wasn't a "living" character, the Fox Kids censors placed no restrictions on its treatment; as a result, the production staff vented their darker impulses by finding a more gruesome way of destroying the dummy each time, culminating in grinding him to sawdust in a building's ventilation fans in a later episode.

The New Batman Adventures

Later, in The New Batman Adventures episode "Double Talk," Wesker finally stands up to and destroys Scarface, thus seemingly ridding himself of his alternate personality. Scarface and the Ventriloquist make their final, non-speaking appearance in "Over The Edge"; the episode is largely a dream sequence, however, so it's unclear if the Ventriloquist remains free of his demons. It is strange that while the puppet was destroyed by ventilation fans, Scarface's shot-up puppet appears in the Batcave's trophy room in Batman Beyond; it is likely that this is the original puppet that was shot up in "Read My Lips".

Movie

Between 1997 and 2003, Mark Linn-Baker was the only person the studio wanted to play the role in a third Joel Schumacher movie. Baker himself confirmed his eventual involvement when promoting The Cleaner in 2001. Later, as Baker promoted other material, he revealed that production hit a brick wall, and he would be dropping out.

Justice League

In the Justice League episode "A Better World", the League visits an alternate dimension ruled by the Justice Lords, a Justice League who goes to extreme measures to ensure peace and is not bound by a no kill policy. In the alternate reality's Arkham Asylum, several lobotomized patients appear before them, courtesy of the alternate world's more ruthless Superman. Wesker is present in the dayroom, and though his forehead is unmarked, Scarface intriguingly bears the two burn scars indicative of the treatment, which apparently had the same psychological effect on Wesker.

Comic books

In the DCAU-continuity comic books, Scarface has his speech impediment from the mainstream DC Universe version. This was explained by Scarface claiming that, while "in prison" after one of Wesker's arrests, he was involved in a fight where a fellow inmate tore his lips off.

The Batman

The Scarface robot holding Wesker.

The Ventriloquist and Scarface also appear in The Batman, where they are voiced by Dan Castellaneta. In the series, Wesker is a ventriloquist who snapped when he was booed off the stage one night, and turned to a life of crime, with his first successful act being the robbery of each and every person in the audience who had booed him. The Scarface dummy itself is not cast in the mould of a 1920s gangster, but is instead based upon the character Tony Montana (who himself is based on Al Capone) in the 1983 film Scarface. In his debut episode, "The Big Dummy", Wesker arranges for the theft of various gadgets which are used to construct a giant Scarface robot, which holds Wesker in its hand in a reversal of their roles, however Scarface still needs Wesker to actually move and talk as he is just an oversized "Dummy". In the end, Scarface is "killed" after he is run over by a train, his last word to Wesker being "Dummy". Wesker is then taken to Arkham Asylum.

In the episode "Fistful of Felt", Wesker returns with a new Scarface. It is then revealed that Wesker once had a TV show known as Cockamanee Junction, which was cancelled. After Batman stops them from stealing dollar molds from a treasury, Wesker and Scarface are seen in Arkham during Hugo Strange's therapy group with the Joker and the Penguin. Strange considers Wesker his main patient and "frees" Wesker from Scarface, by simply removing the puppet and prohibiting access to him. Wesker seems to recover and starts to do kids' parties with a puppet named Mr. Snoots, until Strange takes the next stage into his hands. He places Scarface in Wesker's apartment where he can see him, perhaps to see if Wesker is completely cured, and able to stand up to Scarface's overbearing demands. Upon seeing the puppet, the voice begins to speak from the dummy again. In a confrontation with Batman in a newly opened building for children, the Mr. Snoots puppet confronts Scarface. Scarface and Mr. Snoots start fighting and are both once again destroyed by a train. Wesker is then returned to Arkham.

Wesker and Scarface both make their final appearance in the series in the season five episode "The End of The Batman", being assisted by Wrath and Scorn.

In both Batman: the Animated Series and The Batman, the Ventriloquist's henchmen are Rhino and Mugsy (voiced by Earl Boen and Townsend Coleman respectively in the former series; both voiced by John DiMaggio in the latter).

Video games

  • Ventriloquist and Scarface appear as a boss in the Batman: Dark Tomorrow game, engaging in a gang war with Black Mask using weapons that have been covertly supplied to both sides by Ra's al Ghul to distract Batman during his latest scheme.
  • He is also featured in the "Villain Hunt" minigame in the Nintendo DS version of Lego Batman.
  • Scarface appears in Batman: Arkham Asylum in Warden Sharp's office as an answer to one of Riddler's challenges, scanning him unlocks his biography, in which it says that he was carved by an inmate from a tree, that deathrow inmates used to be hung from. Scarface is also seen in the third of Scarecrow's fear-induced nightmares in place of the Warden, and finally he is seen at the end manipulated by The Joker instead of Wesker. Interestingly enough, Scarface has a glasgow smile carved into his face, likely done by the Joker to imitate his (Joker's) smile. Wesker's Tommy Gun, appears as an answer to one of Riddler's challenges, cased inside the Penitentiary, scanning it unlocks Wesker's biography.

See also

References

  1. ^ Blackest Night: Batman #1

External links


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