Ventriloquist (comics)

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The Ventriloquist
Ventiloquist 000000475.jpg
The Ventriloquist depicted on the cover of Batman #475
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearance(Wesker)
Detective Comics #583 (February 1988)
(Riley)
Detective Comics #827 (March 2007)
Created by(Wesker)
Alan Grant
John Wagner
Norm Breyfogle
(Riley)
Paul Dini
Don Kramer
In-story information
Alter egoArnold Wesker
Peyton Riley
Team affiliations(Wesker)
Secret Society of Super Villains
Black Lantern Corps
AbilitiesCriminal genius
Suffers from dissociative identity disorder (which manifests in a psychotic dummy, Scarface)
 
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The Ventriloquist
Ventiloquist 000000475.jpg
The Ventriloquist depicted on the cover of Batman #475
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearance(Wesker)
Detective Comics #583 (February 1988)
(Riley)
Detective Comics #827 (March 2007)
Created by(Wesker)
Alan Grant
John Wagner
Norm Breyfogle
(Riley)
Paul Dini
Don Kramer
In-story information
Alter egoArnold Wesker
Peyton Riley
Team affiliations(Wesker)
Secret Society of Super Villains
Black Lantern Corps
AbilitiesCriminal genius
Suffers from dissociative identity disorder (which manifests in a psychotic dummy, Scarface)

The Ventriloquist (Arnold Wesker) is a fictional character, an enemy of Batman in the DC Comics Universe. The Ventriloquist first appeared in Detective Comics #583 (February 1988) and was created by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Norm Breyfogle.

In Detective Comics #827 (March 2007), a new Ventriloquist (Peyton Riley) was introduced by Paul Dini and Don Kramer.

Publication history[edit]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Arnold Wesker[edit]

A meek, quiet man named Arnold Wesker (the first Ventriloquist) plans and executes his crimes through a dummy named Scarface the Puppet, with the dress and persona of a 1920s gangster (complete with pinstripe suit, cigar, and Tommy gun). His name comes from the nickname of Al Capone, after whom Scarface is modeled.

Born into a powerful mafia family, Wesker develops dissociative identity disorder after seeing his mother assassinated by thugs from a rival family. Growing up, his only outlet is ventriloquism.

The issues Showcase '94 #8-9 establish an alternate origin story: after a barroom brawl in which he kills someone during a violent release of his repressed anger, Wesker is sent to Blackgate Penitentiary. He is introduced to "Woody" — a dummy carved from the former gallows by cellmate Donnegan — who convinces him to escape and kill Donnegan in a fight which scars the dummy, thus resulting in the birth of Scarface.

Wesker lets the Scarface personality do the dirty work, including robbery and murder. He is totally dominated by Scarface, who barks orders at him and degrades him with verbal (and even physical) abuse. Wesker is unable to enunciate the letter "B" while throwing his voice, and replaces them with the letter "G" instead (for example, Scarface often calls Batman "Gatman").

In the 1995 Riddler story The Riddle Factory, it is revealed that a gangster named "Scarface" Scarelli had once been active in Gotham City, though he had apparently died long before Batman's era. A supernatural aspect to Scarface was hinted at in Wesker's origin story in Showcase '94, when Wesker's cellmate creates the first Scarface doll from a piece of gallows wood. 2001's Batman/Scarface: A Psychodrama reinforces this and shows the dummy to be indirectly responsible for two accidents while separated from Wesker (with at least one fatality). The dummy also retained his speech impediment while operated by a young boy and seemed to even show awareness of his name during this period.

In one issue of The Batman Adventures, the comic book based on Batman: The Animated Series, Wesker tries to reform by working puppets in a children's show with "Froggy", a new, friendlier puppet. However, the female star of the show is outraged when the show's cancellation is announced, and, having discovered Wesker's previous crimes with Scarface, reunites her hated boss with the murderous dummy. Later, as Wesker and Scarface are getting away, Froggy comes out to save Wesker from Scarface, resulting in a car wreck and the "death" of Froggy.[1]

The Ventriloquist is one of many villains in the Rogues Gallery to be confined to Arkham Asylum when Batman apprehends him. One particularly memorable series of events concerning him took place during the Knightfall saga, after Bane had destroyed Arkham and released its inmates. Unable to find Scarface, the Ventriloquist uses a sock puppet in his place for a short time (aptly named Socko). After an ill-fated team-up with fellow escapee Amygdala,[2] he procures a number of other hand puppets to fill in for Scarface, including one of a police officer which he refers to as "Chief O'Hara" (in reference to a character from the 1960s Batman TV show). Later, when Wesker does indeed find Scarface, Scarface and Socko are set at odds until a standoff occurs, and the puppets shoot each other, leaving Wesker unconscious and bleeding from two wounded hands.[3]

During the events of the Cataclysm story arc, the stress caused by the earthquake apparently triggered the release of another personality within Wesker in the form of the 'Quakemaster', who claimed to have caused the earthquake himself over a video and threatened to trigger another unless he was paid $100 million. However, the seismologist Quakemaster had captured to provide him with information deliberately feeds him inaccurate scientific data to provide detectives looking for her with information as to her location. Robin subsequently deduces 'Quakemaster's' true identity due to his speeches always taking great effort to avoid saying any words with the letter 'B'.

In one issue, Wesker is apparently killed, and in a bizarre twist, Scarface appears to still talk and act alive before he is destroyed. This death appears to have been retconned in "One Year Later" (presumably due to the events of the Infinite Crisis crossover). Wesker appears as one of the members of the Secret Society of Super Villains that faces the Jade Canary, who pitches Scarface off the top of a roof.

The death of the Ventriloquist. Art by Don Kramer.

In Detective Comics #818, an issue later included in the trade paperback Batman: Face the Face, Wesker is murdered by an unseen assailant. The puppet Scarface is stepped on and its head crushed. The dying Wesker uses Scarface's hand to leave a clue regarding his murder: a street name. Later in the storyline, it is revealed that Tally Man, acting as an enforcer for the Great White Shark, is responsible for the murder.[4]

During the Blackest Night crossover, Wesker is among the many deceased villains that receive a black power ring and is reanimated into a Black Lantern. Using his power ring, Wesker creates a construct of Scarface made of black energy. He is shown murdering many police officers.[5]

In The New 52 post-Flashpoint continuity, Arnold Wesker is now living, his death apparently erased from reality in the DC Universe. He appears in Batman: The Dark Knight #2. Implied to be in possession of the Venom steroid, he clashes briefly with Nightwing.

Peyton Riley[edit]

The second Ventriloquist, Peyton Riley. Cover to Detective Comics #843, art by Dustin Nguyen.

A new female Ventriloquist, called "Sugar" by Scarface, soon surfaced in the pages of Detective Comics. Batman responded to a police scanner call - witnesses said Catwoman had been shot. He got to the body, which had a note on it that read "dummy." A counter started at 4 seconds - he got out as the place exploded. When he got back to his car, there was a dummy posing as Robin. He shot it with a grapple and it, too, exploded.

Batman had the police exhume Arnold Wesker's body, but the coffin was empty. Bruce went out disguised as Lefty Knox to see what the underground was saying. Within a week, he heard the Ventriloquist was making a come back at the Iceburg Lounge. "Lefty" attended the big show - as the curtains parted, Wesker sat with Scarface in his lap. A beautiful blonde whom Scarface calls "Sugar" knocked over the dead body, picked up the dummy, and continued on. When she was questioned by an audience member, she shot him. Scarface told the room he was working on a plan to take over the city, but would have to remove Batman from the equation first. He called Batman out, knowing he'd be in the audience. Bruce threw his voice and made it look like one of the other criminals was confessing. A batarang flew and took out the lights. Scarface opened fire. Batman swooped in and grabbed the woman and the dummy. He separated them and realized the dummy was a bomb. The woman escaped. Batman informed Gordon of what had happened.

Sugar is a more compatible partner than Wesker, since Scarface no longer substitutes "b" with "g", and she is far more willing to commit violent crime. When nearly captured by Batman and Harley Quinn (who had been close to Wesker after he tried to cheer her up when she was initially sent to Arkham while the Joker was still on the loose), Sugar has Scarface say, "Save yourself." Unlike Wesker, who is horrified at any damage to Scarface, Sugar rigs her dummies to explode, using this to cover her escapes. She has numerous identical dummies at her hideout, one of which then becomes the "real" Scarface.


During Gotham Underground #2 (January 2008), Sugar and Scarface, along with Lock-Up, Firefly, and Killer Moth are told by the Scarecrow that the Penguin is working for the Suicide Squad. They attack him, but end up meeting a team of criminals working for Penguin. While they try to escape, they are brought to a dead end by Scarecrow. Tobias Whale shoots Scarface, but lets Sugar live, although he informs one of the men escorting her that she is to be "hurt".

In Detective Comics #843 (April 2008), Scarface kidnaps a rival gangster, Johnny Sabatino, and takes Bruce Wayne hostage. While alone, Sugar breaks away from Scarface and talks to Bruce in what appears to be her 'real' personality. She reveals that she was engaged to Wayne's friend, Matthew Atkins, "years ago." Her real name is revealed to be Peyton Riley, and she expresses remorse for her crimes before the Scarface persona reappears and interrupts their conversation.

In the following issue, Riley reveals that her father, an Irish Mafia boss named Sean Riley, wanted to marry her off to Sabatino, forming a permanent alliance between Gotham's Irish and Italian gangs. Sean Riley therefore assaults Peyton's fiance, leaving him in intensive care. He subsequently becomes an alcoholic, and Peyton was forced to marry Sabatino. This does not lead to the hoped-for gang alliance, as Sabatino proves to be an inept gangster. He and Peyton are eventually taken to see Scarface, as Sabatino had cheated him on a weapons deal. Both Scarface and Wesker were impressed by Peyton's intelligence, and give Sabatino a second chance, taking 30% of his profits.

In Detective Comics #850 (November 2008), she and Tommy Elliot bond over their mutual resentment of their families, and vow that they'll escape together when Elliot comes into his fortune. However, Elliot's ailing mother does not approve of their relationship, and when Tommy refuses to stop seeing Peyton, she writes him out of her will. Peyton subsequently runs the departing family lawyer off of the road and kills him (calling in a favour from some of her father's men to "take care of the details"), while Elliot murders his mother. Peyton declares that they can finally be free together - only to be abandoned by Elliot, who later describes her as a "sweet girl, but too needy."

When Scarface's hold on the mob begins to crumble, Sabatino, now a crime boss in his own right, decides to cement his own position by wiping out the Rileys. After killing his father-in-law, he takes Peyton to a gangster's hide-out and shoots her in the head. She survives, however, and regains consciousness just as Tally Man is killing Wesker nearby. Peyton finds the body of Wesker, and is shocked to hear Scarface talking to her. Although she suspects she may be hallucinating, she forms a partnership with him.

Scarface and Peyton plan to throw Sabatino over the side of his own yacht. Zatanna rescues Wayne from something, and, as Batman, he proceeds to rescue Sabatino while Zatanna tries to talk down Peyton, explaining that dolls and puppets have powerful magic. Before she can have any effect, a thug named Moose hits her with an oar. While Batman protects Zatanna from Moose, Peyton makes another attempt to throw Sabatino over the side, but gets too close, and he begins to strangle her with his own bonds. Scarface quietly says, "Jump, Sugar", and Peyton sends them both over the side. Before they hit the water, Scarface says "G'bye, kiddo. I loved y..." Riley has not appeared since.

Shauna Belzer[edit]

In The New 52, a new Ventriloquist debuted in the pages of Batgirl. This Ventriloquist (unrelated to the previous incarnations) stole her puppet "Ferdie" from a children's ventriloquist at a party and became a psychotic killer not long after.[6]

Powers and abilities[edit]

The Ventriloquist has no superhuman powers and is not a good hand-to-hand combatant. He is a skilled ventriloquist and his Scarface persona is a skilled criminal strategist. However, he is unable to pronounce any word with a letter "B" accurately without moving his lips, giving Scarface a speech impediment. Wesker usually carries a handgun of some kind, while Scarface carries a trademark Tommy gun. However Wesker tends to show that he and Scarface hold two different personalities and he and Scarface can sometimes argue amongst each other, which tends to work as an advantage to Batman in several occasions.

The second Ventriloquist is much more skilled in ventriloquism than her predecessor, and is capable to pronounce all speech patterns with more proficiency when in her Scarface persona. Unlike the first one, the second ventriloquist's personality does not contradict Scarface's and is much more willing to do cruel acts, especially since she believes that the dummy and her are in a romantic relationship. Coming from an elite mafia family, she is also a brilliant criminal mastermind.

The third Ventriloquist is, possibly, a metahuman capable of controlling other beings. Her psychotic mind often leads those to gain their own personalities.

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

The Scarface robot holding Wesker in The Batman.

Video games[edit]

Miscellaneous[edit]

Use in popular culture[edit]

The characters Ben Woodman and Trilo Quist of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games appear to be based on Wesker and Scarface's relationship as Ben appears to be timid and constantly stutters while Trilo is clearly the dominant one.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Batman Adventures Annual #1
  2. ^ Detective Comics #659
  3. ^ Detective Comics #664
  4. ^ Detective Comics #818-819 (June–July 2006)
  5. ^ Blackest Night: Batman #1-3 (2009)
  6. ^ Batgirl Vol 4 #20 (July 2013)
  7. ^ Read My Lips Commentary

External links[edit]