Perfect Candidates for Costumed Aggression

mallah with mask 80.jpgAlienated, ranting about how the world could be perfected if only the fools would listen, plotting intricate schemes, focusing great minds on tiny slights, losing their beloved and scarred by experiments gone awry, revenging themselves on the world, supervillains are where it’s at. Here are some of my favorite
villains–in alphabetical order to avoid retribution.

Dr. Doom (many Marvel titles)

Victor von Doom is the industry standard. He seeks world domination. He has a country, a time machine and “Doombots.” He mixes science and the mystic arts. He’s polite. And he recognizes that supervillainy is about aesthetics. Supervillains focus on process. It’s not that you destroy the hero, it’s how you destroy the hero that’s important. Sure, it causes supervillains trouble sometimes—even puts them in jail or makes them flee their newly-liberated fiefdoms like Latveria or Kahndaq. But there’s more to life than good governance. There’s industrial yet slick armor, uniformed minions, time machines and living by your own code.

Emperor Zombie (Amazing Screw-On Head)

Cheerful is the word for Emperor Zombie. And, despite his flies, Emperor Zombie is amazingly cheerful as he unlooses unspeakable evil or kills Amazing
Screw-On Head’s man-servants one after another. His companions rock,
especially in the animated version (a tommy-gun toting chimpanzee! A
lycanthropic lady!) And he brings his steampunk schemes to fruition in an evil skull balloon.

mallah and brain 250.jpgHarley and Ivy (Batman: The  Animated Series, Batman Adventures, GothamGirls, Batman: Harley and Ivy)

Catwoman’s my favorite bat-villain, but right now she’s more an anti-hero—or maybe anti-villain. She is to crime what Batman is to the law. So individually, and especially as a pair, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy
rock the bat-villainy. Harley as the Joker’s long-suffering girlfriend and Ivy as a femme fatale can get stale. But together they expand their possibilities with mallets and carnivorous plants. Who doesn’t like to see the ladies empower each other—especially with super serums?

Huang Yaoshi (Legend of Condor Heroes, Return of the Condor Heroes, Legendary Lovers, Ashes of Time)

Huang Yaoshi isn’t necessarily evil, but he will break even his students’ legs if they cross him. He’s a touchy, well-dressed recluse with crazy powerful
martial arts, a beautiful, talented daughter and the only copy of the ultimate martial arts manual. That all spells hijinx with a capital H. Plus, his wife’s body is frozen in a chamber beneath his house, waiting for the day when he can revive her. I guess I’m just a softie for mercurial hermits who love their daughters and just want to be left alone with their dead wives.

The Idea Men (The Tick)

It’s hard to choose just one villain from The Tick. Man-Eating Cow is neat.
Chainsaw Vigilante’s got a great look with his suit, chainsaw and smiley face mask. But even though I’m trying to focus on single supervillains, I’ll go with the Idea Men because they’ve stripped supervillainy to its essentials:  nice outfits, a blimp and a Big Idea—stealing a lot of money so they won’t have to work.

Mojo Jojo (The Powerpuff Girls)

Most chimpanzees who become superintelligent and wear clothes after transformative experimental accidents become heroes, but not Mojo Jojo. Mojo Jojo turns to a life of mad science, crime and despising the “accursed
people!” His oration is great, but what made me love him was his indignant exclamation, after an illegal search of his volcano top observatory lair, “We are citizens! Evil citizens, but citizens nonetheless!” Indignation and self-entitlement are central in mad science and villainous monologues.

The Monarch (The Venture Bros).

The Monarch was raised by butterflies, filled with the toxic sap of milkweed—rendering him immune to all poisons—and tools around in a giant flying coccoon. Sure, there are cooler origins and powers, but the Monarch is true to himself. Where other supervillains might pretty up their motivations, loving Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and hating Dr. Venture are good enough for him.

Monsieur Mallah (Doom Patrol, Teen Titans)

In a world filled with evil gorilla masterminds, it’s hard to choose one. Gorilla Grodd has a mind control helmet, is alienated from the goody-goodies in Gorilla City and plans to turn everyone intogorillas. The Venture Bros.‘ King Gorilla is gay and has sharp shoes. And Mike Mignola’s Kriegsaffe are German. But I have a soft spot for Monsieur Mallah. He’s French. He’s a talented scientist and surgeon. He wears a beret and bandoleer. He knows his ordinance. He’s the supervillain gorilla Che or John Rambo. And he’s so alienated, I have no idea what he’s alienated from, unless it’s the peacable world of mountain gorillas.
Of course, one of the things I like about
Doom Patrol is that being a gay French Gorilla genius in love with a brain in a cannister is alienating enough. He doesn’t need another reason to join the Brotherhood of Evil.

Steeljack (Astro City: The Tarnished Angel)

Formerly the Steel-jacketed Man, Carl “Steeljack” Donewicz is super strong and
nearly invulnerable with his steel skin and hair. He’s so metal he scrubs with steelwool in the shower. But it’s not his career as a heavy that I love—it’s the Steeljack who tries to reform, but doesn’t have a chance. And not just because he’s a steel Robert Mitchum, he’s seen as a muscleheaded patsy. Physically and
narratively, he embodies the hangdog sadness of Robert Mitchum’s noirs. Knowing he’s done the right thing is all he gets.


Horribly disfigured by an unspeakable evil raised during an experiment gone terribly wrong, Carol Borden bides her time behind faceless steel till she can show the disbelieving fools who they trifle with.  She’ll also be writing at theToronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness Blog about movies for the next few weeks.


7 replies »

  1. I’m ashamed to admit that I know less about most of these villains than I should. I always had more sympathy for the villains than I felt towards the heroes, so maybe that’s why my friends gave me the cool moniker I proudly bear today. My favorite villain is probably The Brain from Pinky and The Brain, but I also have to admit that I always admired the (while not strictly speaking villains) random acts of insanity by Daffy Duck, or the stubborn vindictive temperament of Slappy the Squirrel. Make the world shape itself in our image and it’ll be a better place!


  2. Nobody ever gives Nightshift his due respect
    What gives? You hipster kids only respect print.
    Print print print. Bah! Only a supervillan who
    might also be a superhero who only questionably
    exists or probably doesn’t exist because nobody
    ever put him/her/it/they/glorp in a printed book,
    magazine, comic book, newspaper, zine, or online
    is worth fantasizing about. Well, I’m not gonna
    stand for it, I tell ya! *tromp trOMP TROMP TROMP
    Or not.
    Nightshift’s Hat


  3. I was super unimpressed that Gotham Girls was included as an extra on the Birds of Prey dvd box set. I don’t want real people! I just want more cartoons set in the B:TAS Gotham! Boooo.


  4. >Regards,
    >Nightshift’s Hat

    I have to commend you for your bravery, Steve. I thought you would have turned around and fled the scene as soon as Carol mentioned steampunk.
    But it looks like you soldiered on. Very good.
    But, anyways, your earlier point…
    >Nobody ever gives Nightshift his due respect

    >What gives? You hipster kids only respect print.
    >Print print print. Bah!

    I think the Judging Panel is the real power behind the throne with all those supervillians.
    Their influence crosses comic universes.
    >Only a supervillan who
    >might also be a superhero who only questionably
    >exists or probably doesn’t exist because nobody
    >ever put him/her/it/they/glorp in a printed book,
    >magazine, comic book, newspaper, zine, or online
    >is worth fantasizing about.

    The truly insidious thing about the Judging Panel is that their presence will NEVER be revealed.


  5. “Indignation and self-entitlement are central in mad science and villainous monologues.”
    This explains… so very much about the world.


  6. matthew–
    i totally agree. if this were a just world, it would be a gotham girls box set with the birds of prey pilot included as an extra.


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