“I failed you. I wish there were another way for me to say it. I cannot. I can only beg your forgiveness, and pray you hear me somehow, someplace… someplace where a warm hand waits for mine.”
Victor Fries, AKA Mr. Freeze, is probably one of the more sympathetic and tragic villains within Batman’s rouge gallery. A brilliant scientist whose criminal acts derive from a single, sympathetic desire: to finds a cure for his sickly wife. Despite this, Mr. Freeze’s motivation wasn’t always like this; like any other comic book character, he has gone through a series of retcons that have changed his very mentality. Despite this, it was thanks to a single animated episode titled “Heart of Ice” that has left an enduring mark on this remarkable villain.
When first introduced in 1959’s Batman #121, Mr. Freeze’s name was originally “Mr. Zero.” Back then he was a goofier throw-away villain who was only driven by the desire to steal diamonds, AKA “ice” (*que laugh track*). It wasn’t until Mr. Zero’s character was used in the 60’s Adam West Batman series was when his named was change to the more familiar “Mr. Freeze,” which would eventually be utilized in the comics.
It was on September 7, 1992 when Mr. Freeze’s character went through an enduring change for the better. In Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Heart of Ice,” written by Paul Dini, Mr. Freeze was given the tragic backstory that most of have come to know and love. When Mr. Freeze made his debut in the animated series, he is depicted as a grieving scientist who is driven by the desire to get revenge on the Gothcorp CEO who is not only responsible for the *supposed* death of his wife Nora (who is later revealed to be stuck in a cryonic stasis), but his condition that leaves him susceptible to above sub-zero conditions. This drastic new change to Mr. Freeze’s origin not only added more depth to this once goofy character, but made him more human and sympathetic. To add to that this ground-breaking episode helped the animated series win an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.” Like the Adam West series before it, the changes that BTAS had brought to Mr. Freeze’s character were eventually translated into the comics.
Mr. Freeze’s character would later undergo a more controversial change with the launch of the “New 52” line. In Mr. Freeze’s retconned origin, it is revealed that he has had an obsession with cryogenics ever since he first witnessed his mother survive a plunge into the icy depths of a frozen lake with temperatures cold enough to preserve her until help arrived. Although his mother was able to survive this ordeal, she was left with an illness and wheelchair-bound. In hopes of ending her pain Victor pushed her into the same lake that left her in poor health. Victor Fries would eventually grow up and run Wayne Enterprises cryogenics lab, which contains several cryo-preserved individuals. There he meets the love of his life, Nora Fields, a woman born in 1943 who was diagnosed with an incurable heart condition. She was left in cryo stasis when her husband hoped to preserve her life by having her undergo a controversial cryogenic treatment in hopes that she would eventually wake up in a time where she could get treatment advance enough for her needs. When Victor learns of her and how she was the first human to undergo the cryogenic stasis treatment, he begins to develop an obsession with her, giving him the desire to raise her from her stasis. As he tried to do so, none other than Bruce Wayne tried to stop his project as he disapproved of his unregulated experimentation on the woman. Angered by Wayne’s intervention, Victor attempted an attack on him by throwing a chair at him, only to hit a set of cryonic tanks, that sprays chemicals on him, giving him the familiar condition of susceptibility to temperatures above sub-zero. When psychoanalyzed by Batman, it is revealed that Victor never loved Nora, instead he has an unhealthy infatuation with the “idea” of cold, which he sees Nora as the perfect embodiment of.
Mr. Freeze’s origin has, and will be subject to change in order to fit different narratives and changing times. Despite this, it can be seen that Paul Dini had contributed an enduring staple to his origin that has been reused and reinterpreted for each new version of Mr. Freeze, including the more recent live action series, Gotham.
Also, can’t end a Mr. Freeze post without an Arnold Schwarzenegger reference…