Purple suit, caked-white face, delirious, hand-in-the-cookie-jar grin: the Joker. In 1989's Batman, Jack Nicholson played the role as a coked out 'toon far past loony, at ease in the company of rapists or ravers. In 2008's The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger plays the role like a congenitally hallucinogenic child tight roping over hellfire, dragging behind him the world like limp teddy bear. The newer version is obviously a dark turn for a character with such a light-hearted name, but, so it seems, the entire Batman franchise has taken a dark turn since Batman Begins. In honor of Ledger's, not to mention Christian Bale's and Aaron Eckhart's, deeply troubling yet ever so enticing portrayals of a few of our favorite comic book characters, we will now take the opportunity to speculate on future twists of the Caped Crusader's most endearing friends and foes.

Michelle Pfeiffer purred so pretty in Batman Returns some of us wanted to grab her tail just for the excitement of her hiss. Black leather and sharp claws, we wouldn't have had it any other way. But, what if we could? Imagine, Megan Fox prowling around like a high-end hooker not even a politician could afford. It would, indeed, be difficult to top Pfeiffer's rendering, but do you really care? After Halle Berry, are you not scratching at your own skin for a less commercial, more courageous interpretation while still maintaining the sex-kitten-you-never-fall-asleep-with aura?

When we think of Penguin, we think small. We think ghastly, roly-poly Danny DeVito gnawing some poor campaign intern's nose off. We think black teeth and balding. Why not think of Paul Giamatti? Beady eyes and a sophisticated almost-lisp, Giamatti could raise Oswald Cobblepot from the sewers and plop him right into a boardroom, right smack in the leather chair at the end, licking at a cigar while guzzling sardines and muttering out the corner of his mouth about Batman.

A villainous Ace Ventura in green spandex, Jim Carrey dialed in the Riddler of the '90s, an ideal comic sidekick. Carrey's performance is not to be argued with for its comedic pleasure. That said, Carrey's performance, like Nicholson's Joker, can be left in the past, the character resurrected like a lanky Chucky. Resurrected not with Carrey's over caffeinated verbal spews and off-the-wall zaniness but with Tim Roth's hoarse, hysterical shrieks, darting eyes, and exactingly limber posture a la Four Rooms. The new Riddler's craze would not be found in the neck's striations but in the quivering lips and twitchy eyes. There would still be riddles, but more Dr. Seuss than Cat in the Hat to the rhyme.

Mr. Freeze:
Charisma does not bulge in the veins of muscles. A frozen tear can still be found worn on the face, not layered beneath an iced, metal costume. Arnold was the Terminator, not Mr. Freeze. He was not a desperate scientist driven to save his wife from slowly slipping out of his grasp. He was a cold slab of meat contorted to grunt makeshift lines marketed for T-shirts and toys. Crispin Glover is the freak. The tragically sullen actor previously relegated to roles as a hair-obsessed nemesis of Lucy Liu and crew and as a lesser McFly has brooded long enough in wannabe blockbusters. He is ready to clutch so tightly to his frozen spouse that he breaks off her ring finger and, in turn, wears it around his neck, nuzzling at it with steely lips before going into battle against Batman.

Poison Ivy:
Like someone sipping on ice water and blowing in your ear, Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy whet the appetite left starving since Catwoman but failed to send shivers down the spine. A scantily clad Scarlett Johansson prancing around pernicious Venus Flytraps, her full lips pursing the kiss of death, that would nearly wither the strongest oak or set bloom the most sullen rose. The husky whisper may grate the ears of the most devout fan, but the smoky seduction would certainly warm the theater like a greenhouse.

An anabolic extra does not equate a super villain. Michael Clarke Duncan equates an actor still untapped. The pathos of Green Mile meets the comedy of The Whole Nine Yards in Duncan, an actor who can transform Bane from an oversized, glamorized henchman into an enraged, frustrated villain who could easily trade quips with the likes of Shaq or fists with the likes of Ali. Bane does not have to be Poison Ivy's pet; he can petrify Batman all on his own while still being able to carry a scene rather than simply a body.

Masked and mysterious like Chris O'Donnell or earnest and innocent like Robin the Boy Wonder? Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick of The Omen could harvest behind his deathly eyes the newly orphaned Robin, frightened and painfully aware. James Franco's haunted eyes and shattered smile could hold up the delicate façade of a fledgling hero raised in the Dark Knight's dungeon. But, even more intriguing would be Evan Rachel Wood interpreting Carrie Kelly's Robin, frighteningly complex as only a teenage girl could be.

Yes, the old acts were fun. Yes, as The Dark Knight co-writer David Goyer rawly declared, "Batman has been published for 70 years. In the first movie, we used Ra's Al Ghul and the Scarecrow, who had not been in the movies before, and had not been in the '60s TV show before. There are dozens if not hundreds of other characters that fit that bill. Everyone says it's got to be the Penguin or Catwoman [in the next film]... well I completely disagree." But, why disagree when it is so much more fun to imagine. Agree with the above choices? Disagree? Distressed at the absence of Mad Hatter and Clayface on the Silver Screen? Post your comments; perhaps the execs will see the signal.

Story by Tim Peterson

Starpulse contributing writer