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Poison Ivy: Pamela Isley’s DC origins and powers explained

Batman's been caught in her vines before. Here's what you need to know about DC's Dr Pamela Isley and her villainous alter ego, Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy explained: Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy

She’s the botanical temptress of Gotham. She’s nature’s arm. She’s…Poison Ivy! Batman has a few female foes to face over the years, but any DC fan knows that Poison Ivy (AKA: Dr. Pamela Isley) ranks highly with her sense of style and one hell of an agenda.

Like many others in the DCU, Poison Ivy wasn’t always this way. As a scientific genius with a passion for plants, Dr. Pamela Isley was an unlikely contender to become one of the most memorable DC villains around. But she did it, and we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about this seductive DC character with a green thumb.

Who is Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy (otherwise known as Dr. Pamela Isley), was a botanist who became a cunning supervillain in Gotham City after surviving an attempted murder.

Poison Ivy first appeared in DC comics in June 1966, in Batman #181. Her debut as a Batman villain was all thanks to Catwoman, actually. One of her co-creators, Carmine Infantino, said that Catwoman’s appearance in the 1960s Batman TV series led to a demand for more female villains. As a result, Poison Ivy was born.

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths arc, Neil Gaiman retconned and redeveloped her initial backstory in 1988 in the Secret Origins #36 comic. Since then, she’s starred in her own solo comic books and appeared in numerous Batman movies and TV shows.

Her first origin story depicted her as a young botanist who was persuaded by her mentor, Marc LeGrand (great name), to help him steal a precious artifact that contained ancient herbs.

Poison Ivy explained: Poison Ivy in the comic book

When he later realized that she could rat him out, he decided to murder her by using those same herbs as a poison. The herb was incredibly deadly and hard to trace, so it would have worked…if Pamela hadn’t turned out to be immune to natural toxins.

In other words, deadly and poisonous plant life doesn’t affect her, thanks to the power of the Green (more on that below). She survives the attack and goes on to become a vengeful, cunning villain. She’s also effectively an ecoterrorist, usually doing what she does in the name of environmental preservation.

In a way, she could probably be considered an antihero. She just has a tendency to get very…extreme in her efforts to save the planet.

Poison Ivy explained: Poison Ivy in the comic book

Poison Ivy’s powers and abilities explained

Poison Ivy gets her powers from the Green, which means she has the ability to control all plant life.

This supernatural connection with plants forms a large part of her personality and aesthetic. She’s able to manipulate and mutate plants, such as making giant roots and using vines to trap her enemies.

She’s even known to have plant-like characteristics in some iterations, like carbon dioxide breath and the ability to undergo photosynthesis.

Poison Ivy explained: Poison Ivy in the comic book

On a physical level, Ivy also has enhanced strength and health, which she uses when facing hand-to-hand combat. What’s more, she’s a bona fide genius. She’s highly intelligent, and exhibits great knowledge when it comes to botany and genetics.

One of her greatest (and most well-known traits) is her ability to seduce men and women using her pheromones. This is shown in almost all versions of Ivy, where she’s usually depicted as being incredibly beautiful and manipulative. Because of this, she’s essentially the siren of the DC universe.

Poison Ivy explained: Poison Ivy in the Green in the comic book

The Green explained

The Green is an elemental force that exists in the DC universe and is connected to all forms of plant life.

It’s a cosmic force inhabited by a collective consciousness known as the Parliament of Trees. (We know it all sounds a little weird, but stick with it.)

There are several major DC characters who become affected by the Green, with the most famous being Swamp Thing and, of course, Poison Ivy. This is how Ivy is able to survive her attempted murder and how she later has the ability to control plant life.

In the Post-Crisis arc, her link to the Green comes from having been injected with toxins by her mentor, Dr. Jason Woodrue — an experiment that nearly kills her but connects her to the Green.

Poison Ivy explained: Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy on-screen performances explained

Poison Ivy has appeared many times in animated form and became incredibly popular when she first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series in the ’90s.

She was by Diane Pershing in the animated series, and the environmental warrior element of her personality was emphasized. This is also where she was introduced to Harley Quinn, who would later be depicted as her best friend and, eventually, her love interest.

Her only major motion picture appearance so far has been in Joel Schumacher’s 1997 superhero movie, Batman and Robin, where she was played by Uma Thurman. In this version, she had the benefit of having venomous lips that would kill any poor soul she kissed.

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She also shared the spotlight with Mr. Freeze, but Thurman’s seductive, over-the-top portrayal of Ivy has gone down in history as one of the most famous iterations of Ivy (and one of our personal favorites!). In short, she was the best part of this bizarre Batman tale, and that includes the Batnipples.

We’d love to see Ivy in The Batman 2, or in any of the upcoming DC movies for that matter, but rumors of her role in the Matt Reeves sequel were quickly debunked by DC head James Gunn, who, when asked on Twitter if it was true, bluntly replied: “Nope.”

Poison Ivy explained: Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy

Well, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that there’s room for her in the Gods and Monsters slate, anyway. In fact, we definitely have space for a Poison Ivy solo movie on our DC wishlist. After all, when it comes to putting Gotham in the dirt, nobody does it better!

That’s Poison Ivy! For more DC madness, check out our guide to watching the DC movies in order, and keep tabs on the new movies heading your way, like Superman: Legacy and The Brave and the Bold.

We’ve also got a list of all the best movies to watch now, and you can check out our listing of all the Batman movies in order. For a long read, don’t miss our feature on why Michael Keaton is the best Batman!