by Jim Harvey
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Re-Shaping The Image of Mr. Freeze
For years, Victor Fries was a much-mocked figure in Batman Rogue's Gallery. First appearing in 1959 in Batman #121, he was quickly forgotten, dismissed as a lame, one-note villain with a terrible costume and flat characterization. Even a couple of attempts to revive him in the 1980's failed miserably. More than 33 years after his original appearance, it took two animation creators to fix this character and rocket him to the top of the Rogue's Gallery.
Producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, fresh off Tiny Toon Adventures, were working on getting an animated series together based on the comic book icon Batman. They thought Freeze was a character with much potential, but realized he needed a lot of work.
"Early on in the development process - before we'd hired artists, directors, etc, Paul, Mitch Brian, and I were working on the bible when the subject of re-vamping certain villains came up," says Timm. "I had a sudden flash! Freeze gets critically wounded when his cryogenics experiment goes awry. From that point on, he considers himself 'dead,' dead to emotions, dead to humanity, literally 'cold as ice,' inside as well as out."
According to Dini, it was a challenge to reinvent a character who, for a majority of his history, was generally disliked by fans. One of the goals was to make Mr. Freeze more than just a stock villain, a bad guy who would show up, cause trouble, and then disappear for another week. Dini and Timm wanted this character to make an impact.
"I always felt that he was a special character," Timm says. "I didn't want to over-use him, didn't want him to become just another 'villain of the week.'"
"We could start fresh with only his gimmick and his name and maybe make him into something special," Dini explains. "With Mr. Freeze, we had the chance to create a character who was as emotionally cold as he was physically. Always good traits for a villain."
It was these traits that would revolutionize the character for his first appearance in the episode 'Heart of Ice.' According to Timm, his and Dini's ideas for how Freeze should be portrayed meshed perfectly.
"A few months later, when Paul was working on the actual script, he had a sudden flash of his own: the image of Freeze in his cell," says Timm. "His tears turning to icy snowflakes, an image which never appears in the finished cartoon, strangely enough! This gave him the springboard for Freeze's motivation. He then combined my 'dead, cold, emotionless' Freeze with his 'bleeding heart' Freeze and, voila!"
In 'Heart of Ice,' fans would be treated to a completely new version of Mr. Freeze. Unlike in the comics, he now had an emotionally charged motivation. Even though he stated many times that he was "dead to emotion," Mr. Freeze was driven by primal feelings of revenge and hatred, specifically towards the man who had caused so much pain in his life.
Mr. Freeze, also known as Dr. Victor Fries, was a scientist who worked for Gothcorp. A brilliant as he was, he was unable to cure his wife Nora of a deadly disease. His experiment to place her into cryogenic storage was interrupted by Ferris Boyle, C.E.O. of Gothcorp, and his security guards. An explosion from the fight resulted in Dr. Fries receiving critical wounds, wounds that filled with deadly coolant, forcing him to live in a sub-zero environment. Creating a suit that keeps his body at 50 degrees below zero and enhances his strength, he set out to seek revenge on those who had wronged him. This all played out in a tragic, emotional security tape in 'Heart Of Ice.'