Before the DC Comics Relaunch Mr. Freeze was pretty firmly established in the eyes and minds of readers. You see, back in 1992 Paul Dini reimagined Freeze for modern audiences in Batman: The Animated Series, and DC Comics recognized and took advantage of a good thing by adapting that same version of the character for the comics.
So for the past twenty years Mr. Freeze has been a tragic story about a man who wanted to save his wife. A disease killing her, her sought to freeze her long enough for a cure to be found, but he wound up in an accident that turned him cold. Freeze has been a sympathetic villain for as long as I’ve been reading about him, a man on an impossible quest that has done things he can’t take back, but his potential madness always held in check by the potential possibility of getting back his wife.
Now, Victor Fries was still a brilliant man that worked with cryogenics and was turned into Mr. Freeze by a horrible accident. It’s just…Nora wasn’t his wife. He’s never been married. Nora was Nora Fields, a girl born in 1943 that wound up being the first person put into cryogenic research. Victor Fries wrote his doctoral thesis about her. He took the job at Wayne Enterprises just for the excuse to study her.
He fell in love with an ideal of a woman he never met, became obsessed with a woman he never met. Bruce Wayne fired him, but Victor snapped and attempted to attack him. In his rage he broke open the cryogenics materials, spraying himself, and creating Mr. Freeze. Bruce Wayne became his mortal enemy, making him into a monster while refusing to allow him to save his wife. Despite, again, not his wife.
But why might this be?
Because when Victor was a boy he was walking through the snow with his mother and she fell through the ice. She didn’t die, but she was never quite right again. In a wheelchair, displaying dementia, Victor pushed her back into the ice to put her out of her own misery.
Victor Fries…still tragic, just not for the same reason.