Batman has faced many different villains in his quest to keep Gotham City safe, but perhaps the most frightening one began tormenting young Bruce Wayne even before his parents were killed. While there are many familiar faces that have consistently challenged Batman in his mission, there are a few one-off enemies that have affected Bruce in such ways that even his biggest foes could not.
Grant Morrison is a name many Batman fans know all too well. From the legendary Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth to their critically acclaimed run on Batman in the mid-2000s, Morrison has been an important factor in the popularity of Batman and his image in a post The Dark Knight Returns world. Although Grant Morrison has enjoyed recognition for these contributions to the saga of the Dark Knight, there is one story and villain they don’t receive nearly enough credit for. Batman: Gothic is a five-part 1990 story that appeared in issues #6-10 of the Legends Of The Dark Knight title. Written by Morrison with art by Klaus Janson, Gothic is set in the early years of Batman’s career and finds him at odds with a brand new enemy in the form of Mister Whisper. Mister Whisper is not only an unusually creepy adversary for the Caped Crusader at that point in his career, but he also has a personal connection to Bruce Wayne that helps drive him to want to end Whisper’s reign of terror for good.
Originally a monk in Austria by the name of Brother Manfred, Whisper sold his soul to the Devil to live 300 more years after contracting the plague. He eventually left Austria and, operating under the name Mr. Winchester, became the headmaster of a boarding school attended by Bruce Wayne. His tenure didn’t last long as he resigned following a scandal that involved the deaths of seven students. Thomas Wayne was made aware of these accusations and pulled young Bruce out of the school. Although Thomas was ready to turn in Winchester for his crimes, he never had the chance due to Thomas and Martha Wayne’s untimely deaths the following night. Free to continue his serial killing, Winchester arrives in Gotham City and takes the name Mister Whisper, striking up partnerships with some of Gotham’s most elite gangsters. After taking more victims to his murderous ways, the gangsters devises a plan to kill Whisper so they can take heat off of their operations, eventually drowning him with weights in the Gotham Harbor. It is twenty years before Mister Whisper reappeared and killed all of his former partners one by one, using passages of poetry to taunt them. After their first meeting is cut short due to Whisper jumping off a roof, Batman travels to Austria to learn more about Whisper’s past only to discover he owned the Gotham Cathedral. When Batman returns to Gotham, he finds that Whisper has a plan to unleash a plague on the people and built the Cathedral in a way that would send their souls to Hell instead of Heaven. Batman breaks out of a trap set for him and fights his old headmaster on subway tracks before Whisper disappears and Batman saves Gotham from disaster. After Whisper’s escape, the Devil returns and forces Whisper to join him in hell, ending the killer’s 300-year spree.
Mister Whisper goes extremely under the radar due to the fact that he only appeared in this story and hasn’t been seen since. Although there are other villains Grant Morrison created that show some similarities to Whisper, none of them have had such a personal connection to Bruce Wayne as Whisper did. By defeating a villain so personal to him like Mister Whisper, Batman proved that he is fully prepared to keep Gotham City safe by any means necessary.
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