Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous…you know the rest) adds another lowbrow but cult favorite rogue of Batman to its cast. Deadline is reporting that scarred, knife-wielding serial killer Zsasz will be played by Chris Messina (The Mindy Project). Zsasz will be in league with crime boss Black Mask (Ewan MacGregor), possibly in a henchman role.
Messina co-starred with could-be former Lois Lane Amy Adams on HBO’s Sharp Objects this year.
Zsasz, whose first name is Victor, was created by Alan Grant and famed Batman artist (the late) Norm Breyfogle. Breyfogle most notably drew Zsasz in the character’s debut and his origin story told in Batman Chronicles no. 3 (1996).
Zsasz’s first appearance was in 1992 in the pages of Batman: Shadow of the Bat issue 1. The issue was part one of a four-part arc called “The Last Arkham.” Zsasz was a psychotic and manipulative inmate at Arkham who managed to brainwash a prone Jeremiah Arkham into doing his bidding. Batman had himself committed with the help of Commissioner Gordon in order to put a stop to Zsasz’s nighttime killings that were facilitated by bribed guards and a secret passage.
His pivotal turn came during Knightfall where he was one of the first Arkham escapees, set loose by Bane and his men, rounded up by Batman. In part 3, Zsasz held hostages at a girl’s boarding school until Batman showed up to fight and capture the madman. Brandishing a knife and wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, Zsasz’s tally scars marking each one of his victims were on full display from head to toe.
In the origin that played out in Batman Chronicles, it was revealed Zsasz comes from a wealthy background, much like Bruce Wayne and Black Mask, and was a self-made businessman. He gambled away his fortune, however, losing everything he had left to Penguin. After suffering a nihilistic epiphany that life is innately meaningless, he fell into depression and attempted suicide. Thwarted by a homeless man he stabbed to death, Zsasz snapped and became convinced it was his duty to set people free from the pointless shackles of life.
Zsasz proved popular enough to earn a spot as a prominent Arkham inmate in Batman Begins played by Tim Booth. He is also a recurring character on Gotham where, played by Anthony Carrigan, he is often found appropriately as Penguin’s right hand. Oswald technically owns Zsasz, after all.
Birds of Prey is being directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, who wants to make action movies centered around women in the lead roles. Zsasz mostly stalks women so he is the perfect foil for a gang of heroines who want to lay the smackdown on a criminal who threatens Gotham’s female population. Reports indicate the plot has something to do with a young Cassandra Cain absconding with something belonging to Black Mask; he may send Zsasz after her if the murderer really winds up working for Mask.
Life may be insignificant to him but Zsasz’s life soldiers on in Batman comics from New 52 to Rebirth and video games including Arkham City. Now he will be the most unexpected movie star.
What do you think? Are you excited for Zsasz on the big screen? Is adding him to Birds of Prey a good idea?