For those of you who missed out or don’t remember my dive into the story bible for Batman: The Animated Series, the original origin for Mr. Freeze was more in line with his comics origin, a criminal who got dosed with chemicals during a botched crime. They also took the 1966 Batman approach and added a revenge factor but instead of a robbery the story bible originally went with this:
Once a shifty cryogenics “expert” running a body freezing scam, Mr. Freeze eluded the police in his lab only to be found out by Batman. The two fought and Freeze was knocked into a cryogenics chamber where he was frozen into a near-death state. After he was revived he discovered he could only live in sub-zero temperature, and vowed to make Batman pay for what happened to him.
Funny thing is this is kind of what you would actually see in the later Batman cartoon, Kids WB’s The Batman, which also dropped the gun in favor of outright Iceman powers. It would be the episode “Heart Of Ice” and writer Paul Dini who would drop this idea, instead making him the victim of trying to keep his wife in hibernation while trying to find a cure, only for a unscrupulous businessman to be the cause of his getting dosed. This wife, Nora Fries, is one of the characters to debut in the DCAU and become part of the regular DC Universe along with the likes of Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya (who was ruined by giving her a horrible personality, the gay thing not part of her original profile but not the biggest sin committed against one of my favorite characters from the show). So now the Nora origin is officially not only canon but part of Mr. Freeze’s multiversal continuity.
Since today put me too close to the deadline to get one of the desired commentaries done today it’s a good thing I keep larger videos on hold for this sort of emergency. Sasha Wood of Casually Comics focuses on a lot of the more interesting and sometimes weirder aspects of comics history. Playlists include Lois Lane’s many loves and near-marriages both with and without Superman, the history of all the various Clayfaces (missing the one from the aforementioned The Batman though–did he not appear in tie-in comic The Batman Strikes?), and recently started one with the crazy history of Supergirl. (Wait until she gets to the shapeshifting sentient goo who slept with Lex Luthor and later became an angel by merging with a ritual suicide victim.) In the following video she goes over the origin of Nora Fries in and out of universe as well as the various incarnations in later comics, movies, video games, and TV shows.
So, Nora was originally a motivator for Freeze, a sort of McGuffin for his character arc. She’s the unattainable goal, a symbol of what Victor has lost and part of his tragedy. I don’t think that’s a bad idea. I know, there are folks out there who hate the idea, especially if it’s a woman character. Every girl parts character must now have agency as if that will somehow make up for the lack of such they see (and occasionally right about) happening for so long. We can debate that case by case or at all but the point is the idea of a person or either gender being a tragic symbol rather than their own character isn’t a bad idea. Cowboy BeBop did the same thing with Vicious and Julia, and we saw what happened in the live-action de-make when they tried to flesh them out, only to make her a horrible person and make one of the badasses of fictional villainy into a wuss. Doing that with Nora is also something I disagree with, as is the idea that Victor forced this on her despite her protesting. It comes off as cynical, damaging Nora in the former case and damaging Victor in the latter.
When she’s woken up her story is basically over, the first DCAU tie-in story where both Victor and the doctor help the other because they both love Nora. That’s really where it should have ended as far as Nora Fries/D’anjou goes. Instead they ruin her happiness and damage Nora anyway by creating a loveless marriage meaning nobody gets a happy ending. Instead, have the story where Freeze has to rescue Francis as the epilogue to the Nora Freeze story and move on. She is no longer the unobtainable symbol, though I will agree with Sasha that flipping the script and having Nora try to save Victor is a good way to make her a proper character other than forced freezing or turning evil. As far as her relapsing and dying it really doesn’t work as it ruins pretty much the entire arc just to be unnecessarily tragic, while many of these “just getting on with her life and finding happiness” comes off a bit more cynical, like they found a new way to make Nora suffer, just with her awake to “enjoy” it now. Sometimes it’s better to leave a symbol a symbol for the sake of the narrative, and yes you can totally do the same thing if a male character is symbol for the woman’s character arc without being a character himself. It’s not about gender, it’s about the character’s journey into heroism or villainy. Nobody demanded more characterization for the guy who killed Inigo Montoya’s father. They just wanted to see him prepare to die to complete Inigo’s arc.
Freeze’s becoming a head could have worked; maybe now he’s trying to save himself, as we see in the Batman Beyond episode “Meltdown” in the same way Nora wants to help either reclaim Victor’s full body or save his soul. Instead his new characterization in The New Batman/Superman Adventures, the Batman: Gotham Adventures tie-in comic, and the Batman: Vengeance video game I swear I’m still trying to figure out how to run on Windows 10 so I can finally do that let’s play series I promised years ago is that because he can no longer have dreams that nobody else should either and it just doesn’t work for the character’s…characterization.
So that’s the history of Nora Fries and her time with Victor Freeze. What do you think of her and what’s your favorite version? Don’t forget to tell Sasha over on her channel…and congratulate her because she’s about to become a mother for the third time. (Time of this writing.)