The Poisonous Origin of…Poison Ivy (1966/1989/1995/2013)

Gotham is a filthy city. It’s grimy, smoggy, and filled with corruption. Scum seeps from its pores. A cesspool.  It’s been the location of biological weapon attacks, from joker toxin to venom to fear gas. It’s had a couple of plagues, and it’s history is littered with rotting corpses. And like most cities, it is a threat to the Eco system surrounding.

But sometimes nature fights back. An earthquake once brought the city too it’s knees and it had to be rebuilt almost from scratch. Had it not been for Batman, and lex Luther ironically, Gotham may have never gotten back on its feet.

But sometimes people don’t let nature take its own course, some people take it upon themselves to become natures agent. Some people like Pamela Isley. But it’s not always for the better. At least not for the residents of Gotham. These people can be just as destructive as the city is. That is why Pamela Isley calls herself Poison Ivy.

Ivy is a longtime villain of Batman, who plays a large role in The Long Halloween. She is able to place a wedge between Batman and Catwoman because of her ability to cloud his judgement and take  hold of his affections.

 When she was introduced by Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff in Batman 181 (1966), but the book didn’t tell us much about her. She invites the top 3 female villains (who ranked 1-3 and oddly seemed to be okay with being ranked where there were and had also never appeared before) to a battle to prove to each case other that they were in fact number 1. She tries to prove that she is number 1, and takes the three of them out. Batman tries to stop her, but her feminine wiles are to much for him and he lets her get away, after a kiss of course. In this version she isn’t obsessed with plants, nor does she have any powers, just a few tricks.

Time goes on and more elements of her character are added in, such as her affinity for botany and her poisonous powers, and in Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham gave a new origin for her in Secret Origins 36 (1989).

 Poison Ivy is up for possible release to join Task Force X (Suicide squad). A reviewer pays her a few visits to see if she’s right for the team. It doesn’t go well. While going over her history of a love for plants and botany being the only source of pleasure in her child hood she slowly uses her pheromones to steal his affections. She eventually tells him or her experimentation at the hands of Jason Woodrue (of Swamp Thing) and that that is how she got her powers. (In Batman and Robin Woodrue is played by John Glover [Lional Luther from Smallville] I always thought that this was just a throw in for the fans, but I was wrong.) Shen then convinces him to take her outside. She tries to except Arkham, but he comes to his senses and called for help. She doesn’t make the team.

The next story comes a couple years later in Alan Grant and Brian Apthorps Shadow of the Bat Annual #3 (1995) and tells a new version of Ivy and Batmans first encounter.

 After half an issue of boring Bruce Wayne at a party, the party is attacked by Ivy, who poisons the party (through the wine that Bruce did not drink). Bruce confronts her and she gives him a kiss… Of death. Her lips are poisonous and he has an hour until he dies.

She leaves and he chances after her as Batman. She eventually captures him and gives him the same poisonous kiss that she gave to him as Wayne. But she gives him a little bit more information this time. She tells him that there is an antidote that she will never give him… A second kiss.

I thought that this trick was clever, but the story wasn’t told very well. The best part was when they hint to Batman 181 by having the 3 villainess’ appear as the band at the party. The next and final issue we look at was done quite a bit better. It’s my favourite of these books.

 This comes from Derek Fridolfs and Javier Pina’s Detective Comics 23.1 villain special (2013). It uses the current events of Forever evil as a backdrop to tell a chilling telling off her New 52 origin.

Typical of villain origins it gets into the abusiveness of her parents, but I enjoyed how it is done. They talk about how her father abused her mother but would use flower as a means of apology and manipulation. It got to a point where their yard was full of flowers. Then it got to a point where apology was no longer an option and the flowers were used to hide her dead body. She talks about lessons she learned from her father in how she would manipulate and control the others around her, and how she would deviate from his errors. I found it to be very well written and expertly Juxtaposed the origin with the chaos of Forever Evil.

Poison Ivy is not my favourite villain, but I have definitely come to appreciate her more through these tales. I suggest you read them as well and maybe you will as well.

Thanks for reading!

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