DC Histories: Mr. Freeze

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the frosty Mr. Freeze.

Batman (Vol. 1) #121 (1959) Cover

Introduced in 1959, Freeze originally went by the name ‘Mr. Zero.’ Zero was a scientist who was working on creating an ice gun. For the gun to work, it had to be powered by a freezing solution. During the gun’s creation, Zero’s hands slipped and the freezing solution splashed all over him. This caused him to only be able to survive while immersed in a deep freeze. He designed an air conditioned suit for himself to survive in the real world. Immediately, Zero turned evil and started using his ice gun to commit crimes. During his first confrontation with Batman and Robin, Zero became exposed to hot steam, which completely cured him on his condition.

From Batman (Vol. 1) #121 (1959)

That would have probably been the end of Zero if the Adam West Batman television show hadn’t been developed. On that show, many of Batman’s most notorious villains made appearances including the Joker, the Riddler, and Catwoman. After making their way through Batman’s A-list villains, producers they began looking around for other criminals. Mr. Zero, who hadn’t appeared since his 1959 debut, was deemed to be acceptable except for the name. Now, he was dubbed Mr. Freeze. Everything else about him remained the same. With that, Mr. Freeze made his first appearance in Batman‘s seventh episode which first aired in 1966.

Mr. Freeze wouldn’t return to comics until 1968, when he once again battled Batman. He would appear sporadically for the next twenty years. During these brief returns, Freeze was never a criminal mastermind. Aside from the odd collection of thugs he paid, he was a loner without any big plans aside from his next score. He simply wasn’t very threatening. For example, here’s Freeze as he appeared in 1991. Here, his unique look is patterned after an action figure from the Super Powers line. He posed absolutely no threat to anyone and the Joker easily dispatched him using only a water gun and a joy buzzer.

From Robin II #1 (1991)

Mr. Freeze didn’t start to become a rounded character until Paul Dini took a crack at writing him in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. In the episode ‘Heart of Ice’ it was revealed that Freeze’s real name was Victor Fries. A biologist, Victor was married to the love of his life, Nora. When Nora became stricken with an incurable degenerative disease, Victor decided to put her into cryo-stasis until a cure could be found. Something went wrong in the lab and Victor’s machines were damaged, covering the scientist in the cryo-compound. Victor was transformed. He was now confined to a suit that kept his body at sub-zero temperatures. Obsessed with curing Nora, Victor began committing crimes to help fund his wife’s care.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPVzmNWIS6o

This version of Mr. Freeze was an instant hit. Knowing a good story when they heard one, the editors at DC pulled this origin of Freeze over into the comics. Years later, Freeze’s origin was retold with art by the late Seth Fisher. It followed the earlier Animated Series version very closely. The art was a thing of beauty.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #193 (2005)

Nearly every time Batman and Freeze fight, Freeze is inevitably taken out by Batman either raising the temperature in the room they’re fighting in or by cracking Freeze’s helmet open. It is always a one-sided fight, even with Freeze’s homemade cold gun and the augmented strength that he receives from his suit.

From Batman (Vol. 1) #525 (1995)

Though Freeze’s weak spot is obvious and fairly easily exploited, his ability to instantly turn a summer’s day into a frozen wonderland is still reason enough for him to be a threat. More times than not, Batman is a step behind Victor and is only able to stop the scientist after he’s killed dozens of people.

From Batman: Gotham Knights #59 (2005)

In recent years, it’s become more and more obvious that Freeze has been breaking from reality. Although his wife died shortly after he became Mr. Freeze, Victor started seeing Nora wherever he looked. When he was asked by the Penguin to kill a group of pregnant women, Victor agreed until he came to a girl who he thought was his wife. To make things right with Nora again, Victor kidnapped the girl, brought in a priest, and demanded that he and his wife get remarried. Though the priest was killed, Batman managed to save the young girl from an icy death.

From Detective Comics (Vol. 1) #805 (2005)

After getting free from Arkham shortly thereafter, Victor decided that without Nora in his life, he wanted to die. Towards that end, he began collecting pieces of art and people that reminded him of his pasts. After freezing them all with his cold gun and taking over an ice rink, Victor tried to wall himself into an icy tomb. Once again, only the timely intervention of Batman allowed for Victor’s plans to be upended.

From Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #191 (2005)

I have one favorite Mr. Freeze moment, although it didn’t happen in regular DCU continuity. Several times, Gotham City has been the subject of intergalactic attack by Predators, movie villains who famously went toe-to-toe with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover. In their third attack on Gotham, a pair of Predators made their way into Freeze’s liar. There they killed all of Victor’s henchmen. When they turned to add Victor’s corpse to the pile, they couldn’t see him. Though they were merely a handful of feet away from each other, Victor’s cold internal temperature kept him invisible to the Predator’s thermal vision. Thinking that no one is there, the Predators walked away. It’s a great moment.

From Batman Vs. Predator III #2 (1997)

Mr. Freeze has already appeared in the New 52. During the Night of the Owls storyline, Freeze is one of the people on the Talons’ list of important Gothamites to kill. Apparently, Victor had been working with the Court of Owls. It was his technology that allowed them to reanimate people. Victor left the group and, for that, they attempted to kill him. Only timely interference by Jason Todd and his friends allowed Victor to keep his life.

From Red Hood and the Outlaws #9 (2012)

Freeze’s New 52 origin is being presented over in Batman Annual (Vol. 2) #1. Is Freeze’s origin the same as it used to be? Is the love of his wife once again behind who Freeze is and why he does what he does? We’ll just have to find that out together.


Jeff Reid wishes that he had an ice gun, especially when it’s as hot out as it was last weekend. To hear him complain about the heat some more, follow him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. The Arnold Swhartzanager Mr.Freeze is my favorite.

  2. Nice synopsis. I liked Freeze’s appearance in Gotham Central, as well. I thought that was tops.

  3. I think you forgot the Mr. Freeze that most non-comics readers know courtesy of the Governator himself.

    Reasons for inclusion:

    “You’re not sending ME to the COOLER! ”
    “I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy. ”
    “Ice to see you! ”

    and finally
    “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age! “

    • Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      I tend to shy away from discussing characters’ appearances in outside media unless it has a direct impact on how the character is used in the comics. If a character has a very long history of appearing in things outside of comics, it can really add too much to an article to comment on it all. I decided against mentioning Batman and Robin because it had no impact on the comics and, frankly, it was awful.

    • Totally fair.

      I agree with your last three words above all else.

    • I always wondered where Freeze found those ice skating thugs

    • Gotta be a lot of wanna-be hockey washouts needing work.

  4. The art from The Legend of the Dark Knight 193 looks amazing and I was like whoah where is that guy now, looked it up and found out he died in 2006 =\

    • If you can find it, I HIGHLY recommend the Batman: Snow tpb that collects all of this story. It was co-written by JHW3 too.

    • Seth Fisher drew one of my favorite Batman’s. I’ll have to pull Snow off the shelf for a re-read soon.

    • This really was a great story. I can remember it vividly. Definitely check it out if ya can. Might be the best Freeze story outside of TAS.

    • I’ll keep adding the praise of this story. Seth Fisher was an AMAZING artist, sadly I found out about him after he died, and I’d recommend everything he’s done. (including Iron Man/FF: Big in Japan and GL: Willworld)

      The bit with Batman trying to find a group of sidekicks was a bit boring, but everything involving Freeze was great.

  5. Freeze’s appearance in the first issue of Gotham Central really set the tone for that series.

    • I love that appearance. It really hammered home how dangerous Batman’s rogues are if you’re just a cop with a gun and a badge.

  6. Cool.

  7. Have Freeze and Capt Cold ever gotten together?

    • Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      As far as I know, they’ve only met up in the DCU animated universe. Every villain who has cold powers (including Freeze, Captain Cold, Icicle, Killer Frost and others) joined up together and took over a small African nation in Justice League Adventures #12. It’s a fun issue.

  8. Do you think he suffers from permanent “shrinkage” due to the cold?

    Q: What makes Mr. Freeze stiff as a board?
    A: Nora!

  9. I also like the version of freeze in Underworld Unleashed. In green lantern it showed that freeze was upgraded by neron and no longer needed the armor to make his ice. Basically turning him into Iceman.

  10. I think the other version of him from the 1966 series really set the look for the character, I think that was the first to feature blue skin and the more techno/ non welding style suit.

    http://comicsroots.webs.com/mr.%20freeze%202.jpg

  11. You forgot to mention that Mr. Freeze was portrayed in the Adam West Batman show by director Otto Preminger, famous for his zionist film Exodus

  12. Nice article, but there’s one error. You said, “Mr. Freeze wouldn’t return to comics until 1973.” He actually returned in 1968. Specifically, it was in Detective Comics #373.

    • Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

      Good catch! My brain went screwy there for a moment. I pulled the ’73’ from the end of the issue number and slapped it onto the year. The article has now been fixed. Thanks!