There are plenty of villains with seemingly absurd gimmicks: Riddler has riddles, Boomerang throws boomerangs, and Codpiece…well, Google him sometime. Some gimmicks have stood the test of time, while others have failed miserably (see NFL SuperPro). Just because a shtick is silly, however, definitely doesn’t mean that it’s boring.
Condiment King is exactly the kind of supervillain that you’d imagine – he relishes in food puns and wields condiments as weapons. Though he has upgraded his equipment over the years, he has never been taken seriously and has barely been utilized. Holy guacamole, it’s time to spice up the D-List with Condiment King.
Condiment King was created in 1994 by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and first appeared in the Batman: The Animated Series episode, “Make ‘Em Laugh.” Condiment King’s true identity was Buddy Standler, a stand-up comedian. Buddy donned a pickle-shaped hood, built ketchup and mustard blasters, then tried to rob patrons at an upscale restaurant. However, this was not a scheme consciously concocted by Standler – he was brainwashed by the Joker. I remember watching this episode as a child and thinking it would be impossible for this villain to ever be taken seriously, but it didn’t matter, because he never reappeared in the cartoon. Thankfully, however, Condiment King was not forgotten.
Chuck Dixon and Marcos Martin brought their own iteration of Condiment King into comics with Birds of Prey #37 in 2002. This version of the villain was named Mitchell Mayo, and the young man assaulted police officers at the Gotham City Restaurant Fair by spraying them in the face with ketchup and mustard. An inept fighter, Mayo was swiftly defeated by the then-Batgirl and Robin, and was remanded to Arkham Asylum (sounds like he got himself into quite the pickle).
Wait, what? Isn’t Arkham for violent psychopaths? Sure, Mitchell was a dip, but was he a real threat? The guy was guilty of ruining clothes, whereas other Arkham inmates had committed mass homicide. In a ridiculous twist, Mayo was able to refine his craft while within the Asylum; he worked in the kitchen where he concocted deadly recipes. Why was a villain whose shtick revolved around food allowed to work in the kitchen of an insane asylum? Because comics! When Mitchell escaped, he got into shape, learned how to fight, and upgraded his costume and gadgets (he was as cool as a cucumber). He had also been exposed to Joker toxin, which likely added to his already blossoming instability.
Mitchell made a giant mustard-gas bomb and was ready to detonate it inside a local mall, but Blue Beetle, Black Canary, and Robin arrived to stop him. Mayo managed to spray them with spicy condiments, which only irritated the heroes. Sadly, Condiment King was taken back to Arkham after Beetle knocked Mayo unconscious when he blasted the villain with milk (sounds cheesy to me).
The incident at the mall really showed Condiment King as a villain confident with his ability to cause destruction, and honestly, I think that he was defeated too easily. He briefly had the advantage during the fight with the trio of heroes, and with more practice and experimentation, Condiment King could have been a more formidable opponent. His new look was certainly more threatening, and I believe that Mayo was capable of much more mayhem than the writers allowed.
Later, Mitchell broke out of Arkham once again and tried to rob a bank. He threatened everyone with a spicy bomb, warning those who had asthma that it would be particularly unpleasant. It was apparent, however, that Mitchell was very unstable, and his costume was falling apart. Batman and Robin defeated him very quickly, and I suppose that since he was becoming such a deranged individual, his potential for capably altering condiments and creatively causing chaos was diminishing.
Condiment King later worked with a group of criminals under the leadership of General Immortus. His work with the team was short-lived, however, because a teammate seemingly killed him when he shoved a ketchup bottle into Mayo’s head through his mouth (that must have really soured their relationship). Geez, that was uncalled for, but I suppose you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
Certainly, Condiment King was created intentionally to be silly; he was never supposed to be a serious character in the cartoon. Comic book writers knew that this villain had potential, but they did nothing more than lightly pepper him into the books. Although he was given his own unique persona once he was brought into comics, no writer has granted Condiment King any depth or developed him into a serious threat. I don’t expect Condiment King to ever ketchup to the infamy levels of Joker or Black Adam, but the guy certainly has the ingenuity and potential to complete a successful crime at least once (lettuce see it, DC). After the “New 52” was revamped into “Rebirth,” Condiment King appeared very briefly in an issue of Batman. It’s clear that Condiment King is somehow still alive.
Outside of Batman: The Animated Series and DC Comics, Condiment King has appeared in the video game Lego Batman 3 and The Lego Batman Movie. I was surprised and excited to see him in the movie, but he appeared alongside a slew of other D-List villains and did not contribute much to the overall plot (which is something I’m still very salty about).
I’m happy that Condiment King has been granted appearances outside of comics, but I hope that a writer decides to utilize him in a greater capacity. I’ve eaten some pretty spicy food, so I know firsthand how harsh and irritating it can be. Maybe Condiment King can disguise himself as a chef and mix mind-control chemicals into meals. Maybe he can create deadly ice cream that causes a killer brain freeze. I believe that there are plenty of great stories featuring this villain waiting to be told (but only thyme will tell). His recent appearance in both a comic and a movie mean that this character has not been completely forgotten, and I’m glad, because Condiment King deserves to add his own unique flavor to the DC Universe for years to come.