Who doesn’t love a good villain? In every form of storytelling, you need a strong antagonist. Cinema has Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs), Darth Vader (Star Wars), and HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey). Television has J.R. Ewing (Dallas), Boyd Crowder (Justified), and Gus Fring (Breaking Bad). Literature has Sauron (The Lord of the Rings), Satan (Paradise Lost), and Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes). Comics, however, provide the most iconic and lasting bad guys in our culture…outside of Darth Vader anyway.
Sometimes we love them…sometimes we love to hate them. But the best villains are an irreplaceable part of the story. Villains come in all forms in the world of comics and are compelling for lots of different reasons. Regardless of what it is, there is something about them that is captivating.
I personally believe that the truest gauge of the greatness of a comic hero is the strength of his/her foes, particularly the arch-enemy. If you’ve ever seen the M. Night Shyamalan flick Unbreakable, then you’ve heard the phrase “…in the comic, you know how you can tell who the arch-villain is going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero!” If you really analyze some of comic’s most iconic heroes and their villainous counterpart, you see this is very true. Their diametrically opposing personas set them on a collision course that creates the essence of the story. Batman is a sentinel of order and justice; The Joker is an agent of chaos. The X-Men strive to create a world of peace between human and mutants; Magneto fights to create a world in which mutants rule over mankind. Superman is an alien with practically every super power imaginable; Lex Luthor is a human with no super powers whatsoever. Spider-Man sacrifices of himself and uses his “great power” to help others; the Green Goblin uses his power to benefit himself and sacrifices others to achieve his goals.
With all of that in mind, starting tomorrow I’ll be starting my “25 Greatest Comic Book Villains” series. Over the next five days I’ll list five big bads a day with a brief description of what makes them so incredibly villainous. Hope you enjoy the countdown.