Villains Unite!

Perhaps I have been stuck at home too long now. So far I think I have watched the movie Underdog thirteen more times than is healthy.

But it’s made me wonder about villains. Dr. Bar Sinister is the evil-doer in this particular movie, going toe-to-toe with the wonderous Underdog. Admittedly, even the hero is cartoony but the villain is at least as phony. Yes, I know it’s for kids…I’m not that slow. Still.

What makes a great villain? Why is someone like Batman’s Joker so scary and someone like Batman’s Mr. Freeze so not? Goofy powers? I mean, the Penguin can lean towards the comical…but Danny DeVito’s portrayal definitely freaked me out. Then there’s Superman’s Lex Luther–odd land-grab plots aside, he’s a fairly decent villain…definitely maniacal enough to hold attention, if not necessarily scare the pants off of you.

I Wonder Pop Culture

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I figure a good villian is one a part of you likes. A great villian is one you like despite yourself. Even the Reavers end up evoking our sympathy in Serenity.

  2. I think it has to do with how believably the potential the villain has for defeating the hero. I’ve never felt like Batman would have an issue defeating the Penguin, or even that one guy who uses clockwork monsters…I think that’s who I’m thinking of. When a villain is introduced, it’s up to the storyteller to paint this individual as an adversary worthy of the hero.

  3. I think the best conflicts come when the villian and hero are two sides of the same coin, a la The Hero’s Journey. Both have the same strengths and weaknesses, but use them differently. Then if you identify with the hero, you automatically identify with the villian. And if they have the same strengths, you can believe that the villian can win.Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader, Harry Potter/Lord Voldemort, Frodo/Gollum, etc. etc.

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