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Capes On the Couch - Where Comics Get Counseling

May 26, 2021

 Issue 124 - Victor Zsasz

  • Victor Zsasz created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in Batman: Shadow of the Bat  #1 (June 1992)
  • Formerly wealthy man, scion to a business empire - when his parents died, he sank into depression, and lost everything gambling - as he was preparing to kill himself, he encountered a vagrant who tried to rob him, and Victor said he realized the man was operating as a “robot” on base emotion and desire - he killed the vagrant to “free” him, and marked his body
  • There is no MO to his choices - although he prefers to slice the neck, he will kill however he can, and ritualistically marks his body for each kill
  • The number of kills must match the number of marks - marked himself after stabbing Alfred, only to discover Batman saved his life, and he said his skin was “crawling” because the tally was off
  • Regularly escapes Arkham every time he is held there
  • Considered by Batman to be the nemesis he hates the most
  • Although he typically works alone, he does occasionally partner with other criminals - was working with/for Black Mask at one point, and during the War of Jokes & Riddles, he sided with the Riddler

  • Issues (05:34)
    • Nihilistic view of the world
    • Ego to think of himself as a “savior” to others (11:00)
    • Compulsion of marks (16:52)
    • Kills because he enjoys it (24:15)
  • Break (30:03)
    • Plugs for BetterHelp, ITK, and Gail Simone
    • A: This podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp. Is there something interfering with your happiness or preventing you from achieving your goals? BetterHelp will assess your individual needs and match you with a licensed professional therapist. You can begin communicating within 48 hours.
    • D: It isn't a crisis line, it's not self-help, it is professional counseling done securely online. BetterHelp has a network of over 15-thousand counselors, with a broad range of expertise. You can log in and message your counselor anytime, and get timely and thoughtful responses. You can also schedule regular video or phone sessions, no waiting room required. 
    • A: BetterHelp is committed to facilitating great therapeutic matches, so they make it easy and free to change counselors if you feel you don't have a good connection. It's more affordable than traditional offline counseling, and financial aid is available. BetterHelp wants you to start living a happier life today. Visit, that's better h-e-l-p, and join the over 1 million people taking charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. 
    • D: Special offer for Capes on the Couch fans, get 10% off your first month at
  • Treatment (31:52)
    • In-universe - Use electrolysis to change the number of marks on his body and see what happens
    • Out of universe - (36:03)
  • Skit (43:49)
    • Hello Victor, I’m Dr. Issues. - Hello Doctor. And which professional school of therapy do you subscribe to? You appear to be too modern for Skinner or Freud. I peg you for a Beck man.
    • I appreciate the guesses, but I find that locking myself into one particular mindset does a disservice to my patients. No one fits neatly into a set of labels. - Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong, Doctor. The overwhelming majority of people walking this earth are zombies. Sheep. Slaves. They know nothing of free will or independence. It’s my job to free them from their prisons.
    • Ironic that a man confined under lock and key talks about freeing others. - As Dean Martin said, “life’s really funny that way”. And I do enjoy a good laugh.
    • I wouldn’t have pegged you for a Rat Pack guy...and even then, would’ve gone with the Chairman. But enough banter, what’s with the killing? -So my intuition let me down for once. I figured this was more of a chess match, feeling each other out. You delivered the first blow. So be it. I want to save the world.
    • That’ off the beaten path -*tsk tsk tsk* You tried to be hard-nosed, get to the point, then backtrack when I show my hand? You definitely are an eclectic man.
    • How am I supposed to believe that you want to save anyone when you end their existence AND keep score? -It’s actually very easy once you see all of the pieces lined up properly. Who was it...Sherlock I think...when you have eliminated all other possibilities, the only one remaining must be the answer, no matter how improbable.
    • So that means I’m supposed to follow you down the rabbit hole to see how you came to that conclusion. -It’s only natural.
    • Living is natural. -So is death. 
    • So is survival, struggle, resistance, challenge -And defeat, despair, inevitability. PAIN.
    • All a part of the human experience...and all can be healed, except death. You bring people to that conclusion too quickly. -Are you familiar with hospice, doctor? Imagine if you knew that everything is coming to an end, sooner than you think. How would you live those final days? Would you really be pushing papers and worrying about binary code on a screen with visual inputs to dull your mind? Or would you maintain intimacy with those closest to you? Wouldn’t you want to spend every waking hour with those you care about? Now imagine you could have that life, right now, without the agony of breathlessness or your body riddled with tumors. The freedom to have all of the urgency, without the suffering of losing your mind to dementia. I grant that freedom, and I do it graciously.
    • *pause* The best and worst part of that diatribe is that I find myself resonating with any part of it. It means that we have a connection. I’m going to chalk it up to both of us remaining human on a base level, and nothing more. -I’m glad to let you dip your toe into the water. Now, will you have the courage to dive in?
    • Are you trying to remain civil when discussing this? Because as polite as I may sound, I’m actually disgusted. -*slight anger* Don’t show faux disgust when you just admitted that you have a twisted mind...the kind of mind that most don’t understand. Let me in. 
    • You’re really trying to make this that kind of session, where I get so empathetic that I misplace my ethics. You’re not even close. I’m not going to be an added mark on your visceral scorecard. -*quick switch to excitement* You FINALLY got to it. I’m impressed. Usually therapists comment within the first 30 seconds of meeting me. What took you so long?
    • It’s an obvious thing. I figured you were tired of people asking, so I wasn't going to do it for the millionth time. I wonder though, what happens when you have no more space? -There are fact, there is one area that I keep a hidden set of marks that no one knows about.
    • -*interrupting* I am NOT that kind of doctor so -Oh don’t be so childish. That's not what I meant. Just a few spots that I have left over, so I savor those occasions...a little bit extra. You know who I’m talking about, right? 
    • Batman. -Exactly. 
    • But you don’t obsess over what hasn’t happened yet. You go over what you’ve done...again, and again. Sounds droll to you, dull to me. -Then I can make it droll to you. There’s one mark that’s incredibly special to me. It’s my most cherished. In fact, without it, I don’t think I can go on like this. It would absolutely devastate me if anything happened to it. 
    • Fascinating. Perhaps we can delve into that specifically, who was it? *stutters* I...I...this is embarrassing...2..3...4…
    • What are you doing? -I can’t tell you about that mark until I actually get to it *keeps counting, quicker* 47...48..49…***whispering sounds, then excited*** yes...YES! Here! Come quick, I can show you! Here, on my arm!
    • Okay then, let me just ***gags while Zsasz laughs*** -You foolish man. You walk into your own demise for the sake of pitiful transference? I’ll have you know, I have made it my personal mission to maintain my strength through a series of isometric exercises...there is no way that you can escape my grasp. Tell it true about what they say about your life passing before your eyes?
    • *physical struggle, brief* *Doc is gasping but can still talk* I wouldn’t know. - *clearly pissed off* How...HOW?
    • Who knew that doing Tough Mudders for fun and having self defense training for acute care situations would come in handy so well? *pause* Aw crud, call in a medical consult, I may have injured something here...and there’s blood somewhere. -There will be more than blood when I…*realizes he has been cut* you don’t cut your scratched me...Do no harm indeed… but touches’s wrong. The count is wrong. You’re not dead but your scar is with me! This is not the way!
    • *whispering to someone* and next time have the injection ready ahead of time -You’re not listening? Are you really just going about your day as if you haven’t destroyed the balance of my being?! This is on your head. You will never be forgiven. Yours will be swift, when you LEAST expect it! ...GET THAT NEEDLE AWAY FROM ME! I WILL NOT HAVE MY BODY DEFILED! YOU ARE ALL MONSTERS! RESTRAINTS MEAN NOTHING TO ME!
  • Ending (51:43)


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