11/10/2014

What makes a good villain?





A asthmatic body-builder.
The Joker, Bane, Ra´s Al Ghul, Vaas and Pagan Min. What indeed make a good villain? That is a question that I guess has as many answers as it has people asking it, and while I do not claim to speak for everyone I am going to give my thoughts upon the subject. This is of course linked to the current crop of super hero tv series and movies that we have been graced with lately. Especially as a good villain can save a bad story and wise versa… Nolan-Bane… I am looking at you…



Actually let us start there. In the comics Bane is the perfect specimen intelligent, loyal, and with a strong moral code. But unhindered by conventional morals and without any real ties to other people. Add to this a most of the time hyper stimulated body with enough power to punch through brick walls.  It is easy to see why Bane is a serious threat for most of the DC hero gallery. So how this man-monster keep getting casted as a fairly stupid henchman I do not know. Now I will admit that Nolan-Bane fair better than the Batman and Robin version… That one was… Special…
Would the real Bane please stand up...

But that is the way I like my villains, smart and ruthless. Preferably with a slight sprinkle of crazy. Nothing in my mind is as scary as a villain that you do not know what he or she will do. The Joker from DC or to a lesser degree Norman Osborne Green Goblin really well capsulate this. Especially the Joker is a brilliant but very deranged mind. Completely unbound by the rules and laws of modern society he is more akin to a force of nature. Now the Joker unlike poor Bane have had two really good live action representations and a down right brilliant for the most time representation by the way of Bruce Timm´s Batman and Justice League cartoons.

Anyway, as I said I need my villains smart, but that of course poses a problem, the story for most part dictates that they do something really stupid in order for the hero to win. Monologueing, overly elaborate deathtraps, refusing to flat out kill the hero and so on and so forth. Now things like that works for the more crazy villains that take some pleasure from torturing their nemesis… Or in the case of the Joker have a very strange love/hate relationship with the object of his obsession. But for someone like Lex Luthor or Wilson Fisk to not kill the hero when they have the chance just make no god dam sense. Now as I noted I understand from a narrative standpoint why this has to be but from an in universe it simply does not work. And it annoys me greatly.

Another great villain is of course Ra's al Ghul. Another Batman villain and a definite power behind
the throne player. Obsessed with ridding the world of evil, but going about it in the most pants on head stupid way one can imagine… By ninjas and long enough political plays to make a VtM elder impatient. Ra´s is granted immortality by a magical well called the Lazarus pit. Being a super-genius he has taught himself… Well… everything. Having tactical and reasoning skills on the level of Batman and the added bonus of a few hundred years of experience. Being a zealot he see his work as being the very definition of good and thus is completely immune to normal logic. Now what makes Ra´s so great in my mind is the combination of being a constant threat and not only having the mental upper hand on most heroes in the DC universe but through his organization he has the means to force pretty much any hero to follow his designs, at least initially without it feeling all that forced. Now the fundamental problem with Ra´s is of course that he is at the mercy of the people writing him… hence how a super level intellect sometimes act in a way that can at best be described as stupid beyond belief. Such as trying to make Batman his heir, you would think that one zealot would recognize another.

Reaching outside of the realm of comic’s I have to admit being a little bit in love with the Moriarty as portrayed in BBC´s Sherlock. Again smart, insane and very very unpredictable. I feel this version borrows a lot from the modern day Joker both in his almost loving dedication to Sherlock but also the sort of carefree and almost jolly disposition combined with a hair-trigger bestial rage. A perfect adversary for the cold and controlled Sherlock.










Now I recently come across a new trailer for the next FarCry game and it´s poster boy Pagan Min. Now if you have not seen it, take a few seconds and have a look…



… And welcome back, now tell me how you cannot love that guy.  As a villain of course. He is insane but unlike Vaas he has an element of refinement. Not as much a force of nature but rather a personification of modern society with all its polish on the surface and some really ugly bits under that very polished surface. Now I do not know how he will turn out in the game itself but so far it is looking very promising.

So why am I attracted to this kind of villain, I guess that I do see a small bit of myself in them, in the way that one tend to do. While not a genius by any stretch of the imagination nor a sociopathic monster. I take some pride in having at least above average intelligence and I have always had some problems with relating to strangers so in a way these kind of villains become an image of what I could become if I just let all the constructs of society fall away. By the same token I prefer heroes that are in some way flawed. Now it does sound very pompous and arrogant to speak about the constructs of society, I have never seen war and true suffering up close and to be honest I have no bloody intention of ever doing so. But that is not to say that there have been many times in my life that I felt powerless and while most in a time like that would turn to a hero for their power fantasy. I turned to the darker and more sinister side for mine. I am sure that there are some brain-blenders out there that would have things to say about that but in honesty when the choice was between someone who is active to one that is reactive… I´d go with the active one.

So… Who is your favourite villain?

 Now that October have kicked off properly I will be building up towards All hallows eve at what point I intend to have a give-away of some stuff including but not limited to some digital comics and other nice digital goodies. So keep an eye on the blog and follow me on twitter @TWiddesgard to make sure that you do not miss the announcement or any other tidbits.