Hollywood seems to be continuing their love affair with superheroes. I’m not surprised. Despite the current supersaturation, they are a big deal to people. I’ve talked about superheroes before. Specifically, in the following post if you didn’t read it yet:
It seems fair that I now give some time to the other side of the coin. Supervillains are just as important as their heroic counterparts. On some days, what they do makes a little more sense to us. At least it does as we get older and a little more jaded, and if we’re honest with ourselves. Not that we’re anymore likely to behave like villains than we are like heroes. We do, sometimes, like to root for the bad guy. A lot of them do seem to be having more fun than some of the heroes do.
Have I ever thought of myself as the villain? I’d be lying if I said that I saw myself as the paragon of good. I’ve got flaws and a lot of the time they get the better of me. So as much as I’d like to think I would be the next Spider-Man if I did get super powers, I don’t think I’d handle power very well. I’m just a little too human.
Let me now take some time to focus on a few of my favorite supervillains. I do find that I’m drawn to a few particular rogues galleries (Batman, Spider-Man, the X-men) but, for the sake of focusing on different motivations, I’ll try to mix it up a bit.
THE JOKER: I have to start with the self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime. This character, more than any other, has a grip on pop culture with no signs of letting go. People are fascinated by the Joker and have very strong opinions regarding him. Look at the many interpretations of him in comics and other media. He’s been portrayed differently in television and multiple films (with another on the way), and they’ve all focused on specific aspects of the Joker’s personality. He is a crime lord, a prankster, a psychopath, and a violent anarchist.
He is chaos personified and is guilty of numerous horrors in the Batman canon. The Joker has crippled people, committed physical and psychological torture, and flat-out murdered more than once. And perhaps the most terrifying thing about him is that you can never be a hundred percent sure about the reason. Is it an obsession with Batman? Is it revenge for something we don’t know? Possibly, it may just be the reason given in the Nolan interpretation. He just wants to watch the world burn.
VENOM: While the Joker is definitely Batman’s arch-nemesis, Spider-Man has other villains who could make that claim before Venom. Doctor Octopus and, more notably, the Green Goblin. But Venom is my favorite because it’s a little more personal. Peter Parker gets a new costume that turns out to be an alien symbiote. He rejects it. The symbiote now feels hatred for its former host and merges with ex-journalist Eddie Brock, himself a man with a grudge against Spider-Man and Peter Parker. They become Venom, consumed with desire to hurt and kill Spider-Man. Now Spidey has an enemy who has more intimate personal knowledge of him than any before.
Venom is a psychotic, obsessed, force of destruction. He knows Peter’s secret identity and can bypass his Spider sense. But at the same time, he’s a little conflicted. He’s actually had the occasional temporary alliance with Spider-Man to go after bigger threats. It never lasts, but it has still happened. In recent years the alien has moved on from Eddie and joined up with others, sometimes in a partnership and other times taking full control. However, Venom is a walking time bomb. The symbiote will always explode into violence at some point. It is just a question of when.
DARKSEID: While he’s not the most recognized foe of Superman and the Justice League, Darkseid is serious bad news. I mean, you pretty much have to be when you’re one of the New Gods and rule a place called Apokolips.
Much like another favorite of mine, Doctor Doom in the Marvel Universe, Darkseid is obsessed with domination over destruction. But Victor von Doom has somewhat pure intentions corrupted by his arrogance. No so with Darkseid. He wants to break the universe in both body and spirit. All must be subjugated and worship the power that is Darkseid. And the thing that makes him dangerous is that he could do it. He has THAT much power. With an entire destructive world under his control, Darkseid himself is damn near impossible to take down one on one. The Man of Steel hasn’t really done it. This is why when Darkseid shows up, Superman tends to call for all hands on deck. It usually takes the combined efforts of members of the DC Universe to put the ruler of Apokolips down.
When you are dealing with hatred personified, you really can’t hold back.
MAGNETO: The last villain I want to talk about is Magneto, and I was a little torn about including him in this post. One of the primary foes of Charles Xavier and the X-men, Magneto is complicated. He has been defeated by the X-men countless times but, at the end of the day, they are still not able to accomplish one thing.
They haven’t proved that Magneto is wrong.
The Master of Magnetism is motivated by anger. He has seen firsthand the atrocities that mankind is capable of, having himself been a survivor of Nazi persecution. He sees his fellow mutants facing the same. And unlike Xavier, he does not see peaceful coexistence as even a possibility. The only way to save his people is by force. Humans will never change, and so they must be struck down. If it is truly humans or mutants, then Magneto will see that mutantkind prevails. He doesn’t see himself as a villain, but as someone who is making the hard decision to protect his people by any means necessary.
It’s hard not to sympathize with Magneto. Look at the world we live in. Racism still exists. Homophobia still exists. People get killed far to frequently due to fear and hatred of a difference. The same thing that Magneto sees happening to mutants.
What if he’s right?