How Batman & Robin’s Director Guilted Arnold Schwarzenegger Into Playing Mr. Freeze

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Let’s put Mr. Freeze’s history into its full context. He debuted in 1959’s “Batman” issue #121 in the backup story, “The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero” (by Sheldon Moldoff and Dave Wood). Yes, in his initial appearance, he was called Mr. Zero.

In this nine-page tale, Mr. Zero is already a criminal and he regales his origin to his henchmen with flashbacks; he was a scientist who invented a “freezing gun” but was accidentally dosed in the chemical solution he used. As a result, he’s unable to breathe outside sub-zero temperatures, hence why he wears a suit to keep his body temperature low. With his disfigurement in one hand and his new invention in the other, he did what anyone in Gotham City would do — become a supervillain.

Mr. Zero was intended as a one-off villain. Moldoff’s story even ends with his frozen condition being cured; Batman unleashes steam to thaw out himself and Robin from Zero’s iceblocks, and when it hits the villain, it restores his health. The final panel of the story is Mr. Zero smiling at this good fortune while Batman declares, “Let’s see if the law can straighten out your distorted mind.”

Why wasn’t Mr. Zero forgotten by history? The 1960s “Batman” television show, starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader. The series’ fourth two-part episode, “Instant Freeze/Rats Like Cheese,” loosely adapted “The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero.” However, it reinvented the villain, giving him an ice-colored suit (rather than the flamboyant pink-and-yellow costume of Mr. Zero), blue-tinted skin, and a new name: Mr. Freeze.

Mr. Freeze appeared in three episodes (played first by George Sanders, then by Otto Preminger, and finally by Eli Wallach). Then, in 1968, Mr. Zero returned to the comics in “Detective Comics” #373 (by Gardner Fox), now bearing the name and look of his TV counterpart.

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