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When I say “bad” I mean “good”. So “what does make a good super villain?” Is it their origin story? Is it the villain’s will to beat the hero that makes them evil? Or just being plain evil, Super villains are the contrasting element of the hero. So when a new villain pops up in comic book continuity, there are very few elements that writers and/or sometimes artist come up with while creating a good villain.
Throughout the many years comics have been around a few things have stayed consistent – Villains. Villains are what define the hero in the most dramatic and epic battle of all time. Take Joker for example he is one of my favorite villains. Batman created him when they were battling over a vat of toxic chemicals. As Batman took the final punch and knocked him into the chemicals, the unknown past of what the Joker was before is now gone. He will forever be Batman’s responsibility. I’ve sat down and thought this over… is it the villain that defines the hero, or is it the hero that defines the villain? Looking at many villains in any and possibly every comic book publishing company you can see these questions answered.
Looking at Batman it was crime (evil, villainy) that made him who he is. You can also see this with Spider-Man, but it was more of looking out for himself and getting rich and famous.
Spider-Man should’ve taken care of the Symbiote in the first place, however he left it to the Fantastic Four and it eventually found Eddie Brock. So now, Spider-Man has a villain that is tougher than he is and can expose his identity at any give time. A brand new Venom is coming this year that is supposedly “good” will he truly be “good?” Knowing the writers at Marvel comics they will probably turn him into a villain again once the host dies off or becomes some other person. However this is a concept that can be seen with other characters to – like Daredevil.
Other than the fact that most villains turn good then back to bad, the origin story of a villain might make a good villain. When creating the perfect villain for a specific comic publishing company, they need a good backstory. While most characters don’t have this or have yet been revealed, there is one villain (that comes to my mind) when I talk about origins. Going back to the Joker, his real name hasn’t been revealed let alone his origin! We’ve had countless origins told for him in the old days of the beginning years of big name comic companies, but Joker’s identity has stayed secret for nearly 70 years! So the Joker having maintained so much popularity over the years has been a key element in getting a good villain.
Creating iconic story arcs like The Killing Joke, Shadowland, Dark Reign, and others have been great inspiration for adding or taking out some heroes and/or villains. In Dark Reign, the good guys actually lost and the bad guys were in control of mostly everything. With an evil villain like Norman Osborn (A.K.A. Iron Patriot and Green Goblin) he was really a bad guy. Even creating his own Dark Avengers, Norman was really the top cat of crime. However, when he lost his “so-called” sanity he was easily beaten and placed in jail. So does the story arc of a villain make them who they are? Does power in evil hands make a great villain?
What about Villains that aren’t really well… Villains? I know by now your thinking of whom I’m thinking of – Deadpool! Yep the Merc with a mouth was a good villain to say the least being one of the guys that murder for money was what made him a decent villain. However, I guess the lack of interest in this character during the late 90’s and early 2000’s made readers forget about him. But now you can’t go anywhere without seeing him. Even joining Wolverine’s X-Force was a big step in his character from being comedic bad guy to Merc with a “heroic” mouth. Even in his solo series he’s at least called himself a “hero” more than twice. While Deadpool is crazy and cunning at the same time he does operate with other known villains.
Whatever makes a good villain; it must be something really good. Because of every great hero there is an equal or opposite, great villain. With so many villains in this day and age, if writers and/or artist want to create legendary villains they need to get the great hero. Or else we will just see many villains robbing bank from bank and them not being as evil and dark as they are in most series.
Check out the heroic side of this by Dustin Cabeal - What Makes A Good Superhero?