The artificial intelligence known as HARDAC (Holographic Analytical Reciprocating DigitAl Computer, obviously) has only appeared in 3 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (1992's "Heart of Steel: Part 1", "Heart of Steel: Part 2", and "His Silicon Soul"). It was created by the surprisingly non-evil mad scientist Karl Rossum after the death of his daughter in a car accident. Unfortunately, creating an artificial intelligence because you're lonely and want it's help in creating robot replacement of your daughter isn't necessarily the best idea, and listening to its creator's grief only convinced HARDAC that human frailty is a weakness that must be purged. Therefore it concluded that the only rational way to end suffering is to replace humanity with "duplicant" robots (I did mention that this is an artificial intelligence created by a mad scientist, right?). HARDAC wass fairly successful in it's goal, replacing Karl Rossum, Commissioner Gordon, the Mayor of Gotham City, and figuring out that Batman was Bruce Wayne before Batman succeeded in destroying it and freeing the others (HARDAC had kept them alive to study them both to get information about them it couldn't find in computer databases and also because it had trouble duplicating human emotion). Still, before it's ultimate destruction HARDAC managed to create one last duplicant of Batman. Unfortunately, the Batman duplicant was damaged and believed itself to actually BE Batman. Driven mad by the belief that "he" was trapped in a robot body, the Batman duplicant sought out Karl Rossum to repair it. There it met the real Batman, completely lost it, and ended up repairing itself enough to realize the truth. The Batman duplicant then tried to revive HARDAC using the Batcomputer. When Batman tried to stop it, the Batman duplicant seemingly killed him. Since the duplicant was programmed to think like Batman, and Batman doesn't kill, the logical paradox broke it's computer brain and it destroyed the Batcomputer, HARDAC, and itself.
I had initially thought that it was just childhood nostalgia that made me love HARDAC so much. But rewatching the episodes made me realize there was considerably more there. The best villains are ones that are either a foil to the hero (think the Joker) or a dark mirror of them. And HARDAC is certainly the later. Born out of loss and tragedy, HARDAC embarked on a monomaniacal quest to make sure that no one would ever have to feel that pain again. While replacing all of humanity with immortal indestructible robots might not seem like the sanest way to prevent car accident fatalities, it's hard to argue that dressing up as a bat and throwing batarangs at muggers isn't exactly most people's first thought on how to reduce crime either. This similarity to Batman is only exacerbated when HARDAC's programming gets trapped inside the Batman duplicant and it finds itself unable to violate Batman's moral code. A literal mirror image of Batman, without his humanity, struggling to break free of it's programming so that it can force the world to be free of suffering (and humanity). It's just a shame that it gets blown up in the Batcave at the end of it's last appearance.
"Why do you resist, HARDAC's goals are identical to your own. Picture
a world completely free of crime, free of suffering, free of frailty."
Which brings us to what I would change or improve about HARDAC to make it work as a reoccurring Batman villain, and it doesn't take much. Namely: instead of being blown up and it's robot body being left to be dismantled by Batman, have it be blown into one of the countless underground rivers in the Batcave and swept out to the waterways beneath Gotham City. There, heavily damaged, the HARDAC/Batman duplicant would be forced to come up with a new plan. With Batman's moral code hardwired into it's digital DNA it wouldn't be able to enact it's plan to replace humanity with duplicant's (even if it could manufacture them while damaged and living in the sewer). No, building duplicants would be out, but if you're a robotic intelligence with a compulsion to be Batman, even in the sewers you could find enough scrap material to put together some kind of crimefighting robot. Suffering must be eradicated after all and imprisoning criminals down in Gotham's catacombs doesn't violate any code against killing. And when Batbots start abducting criminals, will anyone really believe that Batman isn't behind it? And what happens when someone stumbles onto HARDAC's Batcave?
|Art by the Amused Animator JJ Conway|
"How has there not always been a psychotic broken Batman robot living underneath