Another classic villain is coming to Gotham this year, as if the many monsters from Arkham Asylum weren’t enough to deal with. Benedict Samuel will be Jervis Tetch, a stage hypnotist who comes to Gotham City to look for his missing sister Alice… and whose personal demons and obsessions will transform him into the lethal Mad Hatter. The Lewis Carroll-based villain already appeared in the Batman 1960s tv series, portrayed by David Wayne in a much more… cartoonish way. In the show, he was a villain with a hypnotic device (the Super-Instant Mesmerizer) integrated in his top hat, a thief obsessed with precious hats. Obviously, his most desired trophy was Batman‘s cowl, which he tried to steal many times. Gotham‘s portrayal will be obviously darker than Batman‘s one, closer to the comics in some disturbing way, and adding an even more disturbing fixation from the Mad Hatter for his sister. Waiting to see Samuel with the top hat in the episode Look into My Eyes, let’s meet the original Tetch.
Jervis Tetch was never a happy child: his sloppy, short-sized and overall ugly appearance alienated the other kids from him, and he grew up pretty much alone. His only friends were his books, and he became particularly fascinated by Lewis Carroll’s works, namely Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass; in particular, he grew fond of the chapter A Mad Tea Party, taking a liking for the Mad Hatter character. Eventually loneliness exacted its toll, and Jervis developed an obsessive-compulsive disorder and a form of psychosis showing in a childish and somewhat playful personality; even growing up, Jervis was still a child inside… but with a growing intellect that made him a genius. At university he studied neural science, and his research granted him a place in Wayne Enterprises the moment he graduated. In Gotham he lived in a boarding house run by a single woman, Ella Littleton, who lived with her teenager daughter, Connie; still quite childish, Jervis got along pretty well with Connie and her friends from high school, and he spent more time with them than with his colleagues. It was during this time that he invented one of his first mind-controlling machines, a device able to hypnotize any person, making them susceptible to Tetch’s orders. At school, also, Connie became pregnant, and fearing her conservative mother’s reaction she claimed she had been raped by somebody in the baseball team. Distraught, knowing how much Jervis cared about Connie and how much he trusted her, seeing her as some sort of second mother, Ella went to her genius guest, and convinced him that the Gotham Hawks (the high school baseball team) were “bad kids” who had hurt Connie, and that they had to be punished. Wanting to please Ella, Jervis used his device on one of the players, and forced him to build a pipe bomb and to bring it to the locker which the entire team gathered in: when the bomb exploded, the Gotham Hawks got killed, much to Ella’s pleasure. This first murder made Jervis Tetch cross the final line, and he completely lost his mind, becoming delusional, psychotic, schizophrenic, and even more obsessive.
Losing all bonds with reality, Jervis Tetch modelled his appearance and personality on the ones of the Mad Hatter, his favourite character from Lewis Carroll’s novels. After a series of robberies meant to finance his ongoing researches on hypnotic devices (the first of which, to the detriment of Gotham Yacht Club, put him against Batman for the first time), the Mad Hatter finally found his true purpose, and started descending more and more into folly: like the character he borrowed his appearance from, he developed an obsession with headgear (to the point that he only ate food on which a tiny hat was put), and even built Wonderland, a headquarters resembling Lewis Carroll’s world, a demented fantasy of a madman full of animatronics resembling the books’ characters and paid goons dressed up as anthropomorphic animals. Of course, there was no Mad Hatter without Alice, so Tetch started kidnapping young girls resembling the literary heroine, dressing them up as Carroll’s Alice and forcing them to be the main guests of his “Tea Party“. Whenever he got tired of an “Alice”, or the girl became too rebellious to be submitted with his hypnotic devices, the Mad Hatter either killed her or sold her as a slave on the black market, thus gaining more money for his inventions. It was following the trails of one of the kidnapped girls that Batman finally located the Mad Hatter and arrested him, freeing his last Alice. Being literally as mad as a hatter, Jervis Tetch was sent to Arkham Asylum, where he became famous for being one of the most dangerous inmates ever: a moment he was extremely friendly and cooperative, the moment after he was a homicidal maniac ready to slit the throat of whatever nurse, doctor or even fellow prisoner he had at hand. As most of Arkham’s inmates, the Mad Hatter eventually found a way to escape (the first time thanks to Bane‘s all-out assault on the asylum), and took shelter in Hill Mansion, the house of former mayor Hamilton Hill: the villa was deserted, since Hill’s twin sons had been arrested as child molesters. The Mad Hatter transformed Hill Mansion into his new Wonderland, and resumed kidnapping children as guests. He had even found his new Alice: the runaway Barbara Gordon, who seemed to be perfect for the greatest Tea Party ever…
Jervis Tetch is a severely disturbed individual: a scientific genius, he also possesses a borderline personality, he’s extremely childish, violent and unpredictable, he suffers from a serious form of delusional psychosis and more often than not he speaks in rhyme. As the Mad Hatter, he uses his remarkable genius to build mind-controlling devices he disguises as hats: the hat latches onto the intended victim’s head, making it nearly impossible to remove it by force, and is powerful enough to bend also the mind of superhumans; due to his mental illness and his weak and tiny physique, he’s nearly unable to physically confront anyone, so he usually relies on his trademark poison gun or even regular revolvers, and he uses his mind-controlled puppets against his enemies. Manipulative and chaotic, friendly and joyful or sadistic and brutal depending on the mood (that can change in a matter of seconds), the Mad Hatter is just as intelligent as he is deranged… and that says quite a lot.