Welcome to the D-List: Ventriloquist
Three villains have assumed the mantle of “Ventriloquist” throughout the DC Universe’s history. Arnold Wesker and Peyton Riley, at separate times, partnered with the mobster-dummy, Scarface. Both villains carried around the seemingly-sentient dummy with them, though it’s likely that Wesker and Riley suffered from multiple-personality disorder and Scarface was not actually alive. So how threatening were a couple of psychologically damaged individuals carrying a wooden dummy? Who cares?! Wesker and Riley have since been killed, and Scarface has disappeared. The latest Ventriloquist, Shauna Belzer, and her dummy, Ferdie, had a brief introduction into DC comics and are currently being featured in only one book. However, Belzer and Ferdie have much more talent than their predecessors, so it’s time for the D-List to shine a spotlight on the latest Ventriloquist’s act.
Shauna Belzer was introduced by Gail Simone in Batgirl Vol. 4 #20 in 2013. The comic began with a brief origin showing Shauna, as a child, at a birthday party for a girl who clearly did not want her there, prompting the other kids to make fun of the young Belzer. A ventriloquist who was hired for the party observed the situation and, in an attempt to cheer up the unpopular child, had his dummy tell Shauna to “turn her frown upside down.” Shauna noticed weed-killer in the girl’s backyard and decided to spike the punch with it in order to teach the other kids a lesson. That’s right, she thought the best way to deal with bullies was to murder them. (“Spare the rod…” am I right?) She also decided to bring the ventriloquist’s dummy home with her, naming it Ferdie.
Though this didn’t grant Shauna much of an elaborate origin tale, it was interesting to see the eerily stoic face on a child immediately after committing mass murder. Her introductory issue flashed forward to an audition for the TV show “Gotham’s Got a Star.” Shauna Belzer, now a young adult, appeared on the stage along with Ferdie, ready to perform their act. Shauna looked extremely pale and emaciated, giving her a sad but spooky presence. Shauna and Ferdie opened with a dirty joke, much to the dismay of the judges (bunch of prudes). Surely Shauna had spent some years perfecting her act, right? She must have been capable of more than just dirty jokes. (How do you like my foreshadowing?)
One of the judges, Ms. Xavia, interrupted the performance, and tried to nicely suggest that “Gotham’s Got a Star” wasn’t right for Shauna. Belzer apologized for Ferdie’s behavior, hoping that she could continue her act. Another judge, Mr. Quentin, not only insulted Shauna’s appearance, but he claimed that he could see Shauna’s lips moving when Ferdie was speaking. Shauna’s entire demeanor immediately changed, and boy, this comic went into scary territory quickly.
Ferdie motioned to give Mr. Quentin a hug, but right before the dummy made contact, drills protruded from his hands and he killed the man. How did Ferdie move on his own? When security arrived, Shauna showed everyone her telekinetic talents by activating the tasers on the guard’s hips and electrocuting them (quite a shocking turn of events). Shauna took Xavia hostage at knife-point and left the theater. Batgirl, who was in the area and noticed people fleeing from “Gotham’s Got a Star,” confronted Shauna. However, when more security guards arrived, Shauna displayed another talent. She mimicked Xavia’s voice and threw it so that it sounded as if the words were coming out of the judge’s mouth, telling the guards that it was the woman in the cape that had tried to kidnap her. (Who’s stupid enough to actually fall for that?) The guards actually attacked Batgirl, allowing Shauna to escape with her hostage (*double face-palm*). However, Batgirl managed to track Shauna to her residence in the suburbs where this already unsettling story became even more disturbing. When Barbara entered Shauna’s home, the deadly new Ventriloquist used her parent’s dead bodies to attack the hero.
There are many twisted villains in comic books, but this woman used her parent’s corpses as weapons, and that really displayed the sick and twisted behavior that Shauna was capable of. Some villains steal, but don’t kill. Some villains kill because of a cause that they feel is noble. Shauna Belzer killed because she was a self-centered, psychotic young woman with telekinesis and a dummy. Gail Simone created a terrifying new character in Shauna Belzer. A villain with no limits and no master plan to take over the world, Shauna simply wanted fame, attention, and reassurance that she was special and talented. Her combined lack of coping skills in dealing with disappointment and the extremely powerful ability of telekinesis were a recipe for destruction to the unfortunate citizens of Gotham City.
Batgirl managed to overpower both Ferdie and the animated corpses, and Shauna was taken into police custody. Shortly thereafter, Ventriloquist was featured in her own issue of Batman: The Dark Knight, which further explored her origin and revealed that she escaped from custody after the incident with Batgirl. While in the back of a police car, Ventriloquist telekinetically controlled two police officers, making them lift their guns and shoot each other. In hindsight, it probably would have been wise to tell the cops that Shauna could move things with her mind. Way to go, Barbara…
During a city-wide blackout in Gotham, Shauna set up an old play-house for a performance. A group of citizens and a cat who were wandering the streets noticed lights coming from the theater amongst the dark city and entered out of curiosity. A sign promoting Shauna’s act coupled with a feast (for the cat’s sake, I hope it was a fancy feast), free for the taking, welcomed them, and they sat in the theater after dinner. Shauna was busy backstage giving an interview to a dead reporter and her dead cameraman (maybe they’re right when they say journalism is dead). This was where Shauna recounted her origin in detail.
Shauna had a twin brother who, from an early age, got all of the attention. The boy was complimented for his looks and even his singing voice, landing a record deal, while Shauna was ignored. The young girl was not only resentful over the attention that her brother received, but was bullied because she was unattractive and talentless. Shauna did discover that she had a talent, when, after school one day, Shauna thought about moving a mean girl off of the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, and it happened. A car slammed into the girl and she was instantly killed. Later, when Shauna and her brother were on a swing-set, she used her telekinesis to launch the boy through the air and smashed his face into the concrete, killing him. His name was Ferdie. That’s right, Shauna named her dummy after her dead brother – though it is a pretty dumb name. (Oh! It’s a dumb name for a dummy! Well that’s freakin’ genius.)
At the theater, Shauna began her performance for the group of people, but some hoodlums entered and began to terrorize the audience. Shauna unleashed Ferdie on them and the dummy drilled into their eyes and kneecaps. By the end of the fight, however, everyone in the theater was dead. Shauna had poisoned the food that the innocent people had eaten when they entered (not even the kitty survived).
The first three comics that introduced Shauna Belzer into the DC Universe were extremely dark and unsettling, moreso than I can express in words (though my subconscious had no trouble expressing it through the night terrors she caused). When she was bullied in her first appearance, I assumed that she would grow to become a villain because of an unfortunate childhood. I did not expect to see her immediately kill those children or murder her own brother when she realized she was telekinetic. When she initially appeared on the stage of “Gotham’s Got a Star,” she seemed like a sad, frail young woman. It was interesting to watch her entire demeanortransform from a meek girl into a psychopathic killer in the course of two panels. So, the deadly incidents from her youth were clearly not isolated, but the beginnings of a violent human being completely detached from reality.
At New York Comic Con 2014, Gail Simone announced an upcoming Secret Six comic book that she was going to be writing for DC. While the entire roster of villains comprising the Secret Six was kept mostly…well, a secret, Simone revealed that Ventriloquist would be a member of the team. I immediately knew that I would be getting the book. Secret Six has featured a variety of villains throughout DC’s history, but this team would be getting an awesome new character and I was extremely excited.
Though Secret Six is a great comic, it has a decidedly different tone when compared to Shauna’s origin issues – there are many funny, light-hearted moments. Shauna Belzer had scared the crap out of me until this point, but in Secret Six, she, and especially Ferdie, bring a lot of humor to the team dynamic rather than anything too disturbing. While I do appreciate that Simone has continued to utilize this character, because of Secret Six’s tone and large cast of characters, Shauna has not gotten much of a spotlight. In fact, Ferdie has gotten much more dialogue and engaged in more physical combat than his Ventriloquist. While that may sound like a huge point of contention, Secret Six has been a good book and I’m always happy to see an unpopular character used. Still an asset to the team, she telekinetically slammed Superman repeatedly into the walls of a cave when the hero tried to apprehend the team of criminals. Watching Superman get beat up has made the book totally worth it. Unfortunately, Secret Six is going to be cancelled because of DC’s upcoming “Rebirth” reboot. However, the book’s cancellation does not mean that Shauna Belzer is being cancelled along with it.
Shauna is truly a sick and disturbed villain, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her ideas of stardom, including violence – and boy, has she been violent. She may be a scrawny, pale young woman, but Shauna’s super-human powers make her a very serious threat. Though not likely to be a sentient dummy, the small size, maneuverability and deadliness Shauna can use through Ferdie, and the power to mimic and throw voices, make her a match for even the most capable heroes.
Shauna Belzer has never appeared outside of DC comics, but that is excusable only because she is a relatively new take on a semi-classic villain. Regardless of the tone of whatever comic book features her, she is certainly an interesting and creepy villain who deserves more utilization and character exploration. While it’s sad to see a good comic get cancelled, I believe that thus far, Shauna Belzer has at least been afforded the chance to establish herself as a dangerous comic book villain. I am certain that this Ventriloquist will still be performing after the reboot and continue to terrorize audiences in the DC Universe for years to come.