Batman #181: Beware of Poison Ivy by Robert Kanigher

When you got that itch
It takes more than calamine lotion to deal with her…

Title: Batman #181 – “Beware of – Poison Ivy!”

Writer: Robert Kanigher

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Joe Giella

Cover Artists: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

Summary: The first appearance of Poison Ivy in “Beware of Poison Ivy!” Poison Ivy challenges the reigning female villains in Gotham City. Batman and Robin are on the move to stop her, but they’re both at risk of falling victim to her charms!

Initial Thoughts

It’s springtime, y’all! A time of renewal, of birth and change. It’s a time… for Poison Ivy.

Places to go, people to kill!
“I’M an eco-terrorist of global importance. I make a contribution.”

Poison Ivy’s probably one of the most well known villainesses out there, and certainly one of the most popular. A creation of the 1960s, Ivy debuted in DC’s “Batman” as a new foe for Batman and Robin to tangle with. A femme fatale with a plant motif, over the decades Ivy evolved from a one-note baddie with a seduction shtick into one of the most complex characters out there.

I am such a good friend
Poison Ivy by Dustin Nguyen – A sketch I snagged as part of a birthday gift for my friend Levy Rasputin

Eco-terrorist, thief, would-be world conqueror, antihero, antivillain, lesbian, bisexual, mother, caregiver, protector, scientist, chemist, florist, botanist, victim, survivor, sadist, murderer, hypocrite, lover, girlfriend, gal pal, ally, villain, hero, Ivy’s been all of them…

And right now she’s dead.

Ivy’s one of the casualties of “Heroes In Crisis,” DC’s latest abomination of an event book written by an overhyped hack of a writer.

Picture it: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman create a safe place for heroes and villains to deal with their problems. They call it “Sanctuary.” Only instead of getting ACTUAL doctors and therapists to help them, the Trinity use a computer program containing their supposed “Best” qualities. Oh and virtual reality chambers where the patients can relive their traumas again and again and AGAIN. SURELY nothing could go wrong.

HIC’s first issue opened with a bloody massacre. The big Trinity arrived to find most of the patients dead, including Roy Harper, a number of C-List heroes DC only uses to pad out these fucking shitfests when they need a body count, and as the second issue mentioned, Poison Ivy.

Ivy, dead and ready for sex
I know when I die I want everyone to see me covered in blood with my cleavage visible and my ass up in the air!

This book’s supposed to explore PTSD through superheroes in a meaningful way. BOY THEY’VE SURE COVERED THAT PRETTY WELL, HUH?

Ivy’s objectified as motivation for Harley Quinn AND grossly sexualized to sell covers. Even though it’s hinted Ivy might be alive (and the Sanctuary killer too), comic readers are pissed by the sexist and hompophobic way she’s been treated. Especially because Ivy went to Sanctuary wanting help!

Ivy’s death and mishandling sparked a movement online, not a massive one but I’d like to say substantial, asking DC to fix the damage. Admittedly, I’m more upset about Roy Harper because of the shitty treatment HE’s been given since 2009. Yet Ivy’s death pisses me off too.

Since I was a kid Ivy’s the first Batman villain I ever really loved. Ever since I used to watch “Batman: The Animated Series” where she was voiced by Diane Pershing…

Or in “Batman & Robin” where Uma Thurman got her chance to shine. The Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face, even Catwoman I can take or leave, but Ivy…

So to do my part I wanted to recap Ivy’s debut story from way back in the 1960s here on a website that doesn’t normally focus on comics. And then I’ll try to review other Ivy comics until DC fixes this mess.

It’s strange knowing the writer who created Ivy’s none other than Robert Kanigher. Kanigher’s not fondly remembered for his work on “Wonder Woman” during the 1950s. At the very least he created the concept of Wonder Girl, and if not for that we wouldn’t have Donna Troy.


Robin's jealous
Is that a can of Shark Repellent in your pants or are you happy to see me?

What’s this? While Robin the Boy Wonder deals with some thugs in suits, Batman’s locking lips with the mesmerizing, polarizing Poison Ivy! Why’s the Dark Knight Detective wrapped around the Floral Fatale’s finger?

Poison poo-poohs the party
Good job, everyone’s gonna forget you next year

It started when dashing millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne brought his ward Dick Grayson to a new art exhibition at the Gotham City Museum. The boys were checking out a display of pop art posters depicting the deadliest lady criminals in the world. Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth. Supposedly, these gorgeous yet evil women are World Public Enemies 1, 2, and 3.

But wait! Someone in the room objects!

A redheaded woman dressed in a daring, leaf-based ensemble proclaims those has-bians are nothing compared to her! This newbie thinks she’s more ravishing AND more cunning because her crimes are perfect. Unfortunately, they’re SO perfect no one’s heard of them!

Bruce steps forward and compliments the woman before asking if she wouldn’t mind proving her claims to, say, the police? The lady is happy to oblige a handsome hunk like Bruce before asking him to call her “Poison Ivy.” A bunch of photographers gather around Bruce and Ivy, thinking a scoop like this is a major find.

Ivy certainly enjoys the attention and asks to freshen up her lipstick to add more voltage to her photos when oops! Darn, Ivy totally forgot that’s not a lipstick tube but a little device to send out an EMP to make all those flashbulbs explode. See, before she goes to the cops (yeh right) she’s gotta commit some imperfect crimes so the world knows who they’re dealing with.

While shielding his eyes, Bruce figures Ivy’s wearing tinted contact lenses so the light wouldn’t blind her like everyone else. Ivy’s impressed a guy like Bruce has looks AND brains before making her getaway.

No really I love this line
Oh my God I love her so much

While the rest of the crowd’s blinded, Bruce takes the opportunity to get into his Batman threads before Ivy escapes. Unfortunately he’s still reeling from the flash bulb explosion and doesn’t realize a nearby open doorway’s an elevator shaft!

Luckily, Batman’s hands brush the elevator cables and he grabs onto them before he hits the floor. Heading into the lobby, Batman doesn’t realize Poison Ivy’s hiding in a nearby phone booth. Luckily for Ivy, she paid off a bunch of goons to take care of anyone exiting the museum before her. Still blinded, Batman’s having a hard time dealing with these mooks while Ivy flees behind him. As Batman starts to get his bearings and fights back, Ivy can’t help but marvel at what a real man he is. Bruce Wayne or Batman, whom should she pick?

Dick Grayson shows up as Robin and lends Batman a hand. Sadly, Batman’s stuck thinking about Poison Ivy and what a shame it’ll be to put such a cutie behind bars. Robin warns Batman to take a cold shower because Poison Ivy’s sure given him a rash, alright! Batman says he’s as human as the next guy (remember that Robin, it ain’t happening again) and can lose his head. But he’s TOTALLY okay now. Really. He won’t have to worry about what happens when he kisses Poison Ivy.

In her lush suburban home Ivy’s focused on eliminating the competition for title of “World Public Enemy.” First she’s writing declarations of challenge against the top contenders. Second, she’ll focus on choosing between Batman or Bruce Wayne for her princely paramour.

So did she always have those framed photos
And I thought the Wakefield twins had trouble picking boyfriends

Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth each react with appropriate outrage over the letters they get. Each woman’s received notice supposedly from one of the other two saying nearly the same thing.

Silken Spider thinks she’s better than Dragon Fly.

Tiger Moth thinks Silken Spider is yesterday’s news.

Dragon Fly AND Silken Spider claim Tiger Mother ain’t hot enough to follow behind them!

The criminal queens are gonna meet at the home of a neutral party to settle the score. However, each crook decides to show up an hour early with their goons for a surprise attack!

While this is happening, Bruce gets a letter inviting him AND Batman to duke it out for Ivy’s affection. Of course, Ivy’s not gonna know Bruce AND Batman accept her invite when it looks like only Batman appears. And he’ll show up an hour earlier too! Robin hopes Batman doesn’t lose his cool when he sees Ivy.

That night the Dynamic Duo arrive at Ivy’s house only to find themselves in the middle of a gang war! As the insect girls notice Batman and Robin descending from the Batcopter, they declare a truce long enough to deal with these meddling males. While Batman and Robin make quick work of the underlings, Batman compliments Poison Ivy for setting up the capture of so many crooks. Robin, ever the faithful wingman, tells Batman to keep it in his long underwear.

Ivy stops the three world public enemies from leaving the party. She went through all the trouble of stealing a crown for the REAL Number One Woman Criminal and she’d HATE for it to go to waste. Fly, Spider and Moth forget their truce and each makes a grab for the crown. Too bad for them Ivy had it wired to electrocute them into submission before the cops show up. Oh did she mention she was wearing shockproof gloves the whole time?

It's shocking how hot she is
Silly Ivy, trix are for kids!

Seeing Batman in action, Ivy’s ready to forget about Bruce Wayne and makes the Dark Knight a twisted offer. Join me, Batman! Together we’ll rule the world as the King and Queen of Crime!

Ivy throws her arms around Batman and passionately kisses him much to Robin’s horror. The Boy Wonder tries to pull his mentor away when he smells something familiar. Chloroform! Ivy’s wearing a special lipstick and Robin deduces she’s got a nose filter on too. While Batman reels from Ivy’s affection, she announces she could’ve used ketchup and Batman would’ve fallen for her!

Ivy tries to escape while Batman’s still befuddled, but he snaps out of it long to, snerk, catch Poison Ivy.

Thank God that's over... or IS IT

But after getting Ivy inside her jail cell, she warns the Dark Knight he’ll never be rid of her. In fact, Poison Ivy declares he’ll help her escape!

Final Thoughts

And there we’ve got Poison Ivy’s debut into the world of comics. As you can see, she didn’t really have much personality beyond being smart and sneaky and hung up on finding the perfect guy. The tidbits about her actually caring about plants and the environment didn’t get added until other writers had a chance to work with her.

I definitely enjoyed how often she trolled everyone, whether it be the photographers or the other villains and I like the idea she was a homeowner who had, like, bills and shit to pay before she decided “Oh well guess I’ll be a supervillain.”

The story’s still pretty sexist and dated though. Women being objectified and pitted against each other, Ivy’s hang up on finding the perfect guy, yikes.

Neil Gaiman’s (I think) the guy responsible for the Ivy most people are familiar with when he overhauled her backstory in “Secret Origins.” At the same time, he worked on connecting most of DC’s plant-related characters like Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, and the Floronic Man by saying all of them, Ivy included, were connected to the same group of botany students.

Gals being pals of evil
Harold, they’re supervillains

Ivy being a queer woman got started in “Batman: The Animated Series” where, even when she showed attraction to Batman there was an undercurrent of lesbian subtext between her and Harley Quinn. Lots of scenes implied the two were lovers even if Harley kept going back to the abusive Joker. What does it say about how poorly DC thinks ahead when they decided to kill Ivy off in the comics after only recently being able to confirm she was in a romantic relationship with Harley?

It's the stripes, definitely
Tiger Moth by Amy Reeder – She may be World Public Enemy #3, but she’s Number One in my heart

One of the things I really enjoyed about Ivy’s debut was the other three villains. The insect girls have always intrigued me despite how little they appeared afterwards. We never find out what they did to be named the top three World Public Enemies, though a modern Batman comic implied those titles only applied to the posters.

Tiger Moth’s definitely my fave, so it amused me to learn years later she appeared more frequently as an individual character than the other two did.