If you like this post you may also like: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Something About Superheroes, Agents of Shield and the Five Stages of Grief, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and this Guardians of the Galaxy Review.
Noah’s Top Ten Villains
Heroes are nothing without a good villain to act as their foil. While trying to place these into my personal pantheon, I tried to consider what makes a good villain, and I came up with an equation of threat versus malevolence. More on that as we go along.
What do Shredder and Galactus have in common? They are two of the only supervillains who are motivated by hunger! How many times has Shred-head threatened to turn our favorite quartet of teen turtles into a tasty soup? The reason Shredder tops over Galactus and makes my list is that Galactus really is JUST hungry. He doesn’t give a rusty penny about the sentient beings walking all over his food, he just is there to get his grub on. Shredder is bent on world domination through his ninja clan…and getting to sample some mutant munchies is more of an afterthought. There also is something to be said about a cool looking character, and Shredder has that. He’s pretty much the only villain to make my top ten that doesn’t have some sort of genius level of intelligence, but I just couldn’t leave him off.
9. Dark Phoenix
Jean Grey is perhaps one of the most complex characters ever created. In one of the most referenced tales in all of Marvel Comics, The Dark Phoenix Saga, Jean contacts and gains access to the Phoenix
Force, a cosmic entity that is the manifestation of life and passion. In a delicate mental state she is manipulated by Mastermind, himself a fairly low level villain in the grand scheme of things with the ability to implant fantasies into the minds of others. It is revealed in this story that the more powerful a mind he tries to manipulate, the easier it actually is for him. And when he gets access to one of the most powerful mutant minds on the planet who just happens to have the ability to tap into an entity of literally unlimited power…bad things happen. The Phoenix force is corrupted and the Dark Phoenix is born, and goes on a rampage where she, basically on a whim, sucks up the energy of a star, killing billions of sentient life forms that kind of relied on that star to survive. Not many supervillains can claim to have a death count in the billions.
We all know the mob is evil. And through all of comics, there is one man who rules the mob with a fist of iron, and that is Kingpin. But there is another reason I adore this guy, and it’s from a personal place.
He’s a big fat bald dude. Just a normal guy. But through his will alone he trained so that he could be the fat man without any super powers that fought Captain America to a standstill in hand to hand combat.
It is revealed that he is extraordinarily strong for being corpulent, and has been trained in several forms of martial arts, and he is also a genius that takes advantage of situations to come out on top. You’ll soon see that I have a lot of affinity for the guys who can take on the heroes in personal combat, but choose to use other means to engage in battles against them.
He lives by the creed ‘Survival of the fittest’. Of course it helps when you are an immortal mutant who stumbled upon advanced alien technology. Apocalypse is neat because he is so malleable. He is brilliant, technological, and has the ability to manipulate the elements of his body, so he can recreate himself into whatever he needs in any given situation. That is a writers dream. Here is a villain who can be whoever you need him to be in order to tell the story you want to tell. He can be a melee combatant and has been shown to have the ability to singlehandedly take out entire teams of heroes. He is a strategist who uses his Horsemen to break down defenses before going after his masterstroke. He frequently converts heroes to be his Horsemen, so it’s fun to play with who he brings over to the dark side. He is also immortal, so while you can defeat him, he is never beaten, and will always come back for more.
6. Lex Luthor
When you think about Lex Luthor, he really just doesn’t want to see his fellow members of the human race worship an alien. His original story was one of a mad scientist type, but that was later altered to another bald genius, sometimes drawn as portly, who through vast wealth and other resources manages to take on the very best of the best heroes. He sometimes wears a power enhancement suit that gives him the physical capability to go toe-to-toe with big blue, but he often relies on his wits and schemes to take Superman down a peg or two. Despite all this, he manages to get the population of the United States behind him and is rightfully elected as President. Of course, he uses his office to advance his nefarious plots, but name me a president who hasn’t, and after he is ousted from office he starts a religion. He is commonly presented as the single smartest person in the entire DC universe, but again, is just a regular human being. I also love it when he is forced to work with the heroes against a greater threat, such as in the DCU online game. If you haven’t seen the trailer for that, look it uo. It’s free to play and is a fun little MMO…if only for the character creation alone.
Ultron is the ultimate incarnation of a creation made for good going horribly awry. Avenger Henry Pym (Ant man/Giant man) invents a computer system with artificial intelligence based on his own brain patterns, and just as quick as you can say Skynet he goes nuts and tries to kill off his creator, and try to steal his girl, Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp). He goes through some upgrades and creates a weapon called The Vision to take out the Avengers, but the Vision turns into a good guy and Ultron gets smashed. But like any good sentient computer, he has a hidden backup for just such an occasion, and comes back in a new Adamantium body which is impervious to harm.
Brainiac is cut from the same cloth, but resides over in the DC Universe and usually takes on Superman. He was first portrayed as a robot in a green-skinned humanoid form, but then became a strange sort of sentient skull starship with tentacles. In both cases, they learn from the mistakes they make and are guaranteed not to make them again. They each have perfect memory, technological capabilities beyond the reckoning of mortal men, and an absolute ruthlessness and cold precision of a machine.
4. Emperor Palpatine
Not Darth Vader, not Darth Tryannus, not Darth Maul, but the man in the shadows who made all the others: Darth Sidious. Emperor Palpatine himself. The sole reason he is not higher up on the list is due to the fact that we just don’t know his backstory. Who was he before he became the Senator from Naboo? Was he in fact the mysterious Jedi Sifo-Dyas who originally ordered the creation of the clone army before his ‘death’? Why does he want to rule over the galaxy? How did he fall to the dark side of the force? But despite all these questions, it is his actions once he emerges as the true Dark Lord that are so long reaching and skillfully maneuvered. Watching Palpatine manipulate events on a galactic scale is like watching a chess grandmaster play his finest game. Each move is calculated and sets up something that won’t happen for another twenty moves, but by the time you see the danger closing in around you, it’s already too late. And talk about ability to deceive! He somehow manages to keep the fact that he is an ultra powerful user of the Dark side a secret from the elite ruling council of the Jedi, and even Yoda himself doesn’t know he is Sith until Anakin rats him out. Even without a backstory, his tale is much more credible than the horrific nonsense that was thrown at us to explain how Anakin becomes Vader. If you doubt my conclusions here, ask yourself this: how many of the villains you can name would be defeated by Yoda…and then remember that Yoda only fought Palpatine to a draw.
3. Dr. Doom
Look up Ego in the dictionary and you will see Otto Von Doom staring back at you through his mask. He wants to rule the world because he believes there’s just nobody better for the job. It’s almost as if ego IS his superpower. But when you break it down, Dr. Doom is similar to Batman in many respects. He’s mostly a normal guy who happens to have a lot of resources. Now, Doom also has some magical capabilities, but those are not what he typically uses in his schemes. It’s hard not to enjoy a villain who just cannot fathom that he is usually to blame for his power grabbing schemes going awry. It’s always the fault of ‘that blasted Richards!’ Throw in the fact that he is the lawful ruler of Latveria and therefore has the most infuriating legal loophole of diplomatic immunity, and a legion of doombots to do his bidding and run his household, and you have the picture of a man who is arrogant beyond arrogant, egotistical beyond all ego. He is Doom.
The greatest evil is to become what you hate. And that is the glory, and tragedy, of Magneto. As a youth he was a prisoner at Auschwitz and forced to remove the dead bodies from the gas chambers. He survived that horrific experience by the emergence of his powers, and vows to never let the same sort of tragedy happen to his new family, the whole of mutantkind. But through his efforts to lead ‘homo superior’ to what he sees as their rightful place as the rulers of humankind, he turns into more of a dictator than his Nazi counterpart, never letting the death of innocents hinder his plans to place mutants atop the ruling class of the planet. Deep down, he really just doesn’t want to see mutants wind up as slaves, but he fails to see that in his fervor to make that a reality he became the very vision of fear that tattooed itself on his arm and his heart as a child.
1. The Joker
How do you consistently match up against the world’s greatest detective? Become utterly unpredictable. Penguin has his avian based crimes, Calendar man has a day/month theme, Catwoman was mostly after jewels, Two-Face has a duality theme, and Riddler just plain likes to leave clues. All those patterns mean that Batman doesn’t really have to work too hard to get the upper hand on them.
But the Clown Prince of Crime, when written at his best, is a force for chaos opposing the Batman’s attempts to instill order. He knows Batman will find him, and catch him, and put him back into Arkham, but he just doesn’t care. It’s all about the game for him. He isn’t in it for the money, he isn’t in it for power, he is evil just because it’s the only way to get Batman to match up against him. In The Dark Knight Returns, Joker had been languishing in Arkham mute ever since Batman went into retirement. When his return is broadcast on the news, a gleam enters his eye, and a whisper escapes him, “B..B..B..Batman… Darling.” Batman is more than a foil, he is the one true love of the Joker. He will never kill Batman because he is his sole reason for being, and Batman will never kill him because that would make him a killer. It’s this endless loop, this perfect circle of back and forth that makes Joker the absolute best villain ever created.
Dr. Crane took the phrase, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” and made that into a motto. His tactics fighting Batman rely on using gases and other chemicals to induce fear, and while Batman is fighting his own inner demons, he is free to loot the city. Most of the villains in the Rogues gallery from Gotham try to outwit the Caped Crusader, or pride themselves on pitting themselves against him.
Scarecrow is pretty much the only one smart enough to figure out a way to just keep Batman busy with himself. He doesn’t have much ambition beyond greed and in some cases revenge, so he lacks the punch of some others who made the list who aspire to global and even universal domination, but I really think he is a neat supervillain.
What do you say to a guy who aspires to romance Death herself? Obviously he’s off his rocker, but love can inspire some pretty wicked deeds, and Thanos is inspired to collect the Infinity gems into the Infinity
Gauntlet, giving him the powers of a God. So what does he do with his newfound power? He kills off half of everyone. Ever. As a present to his girlfriend who as ever remains aloof and cold to his advances.
For more on Thanos, just wait for Avengers 3.
Yeah yeah, blah blah, he has all the same powers as any other Kryptonian under a yellow sun. I got two words for you that are all I need to have Zod in the honorable mentions list: Terrance Stamp.