The Stench of a Supervillain (getting too close for comfort)

A few weeks ago I had a lot of fun allowing myself to mentally ramble on about the various physical impressions that I would imagine some superheroes to have. Today I thought it’d be entertaining to do the same kind of exploration of super villains, just a very small selection of the ones that I’d like to think about (is there ever an end to these kind of lists?). Personally I’ve always thought that super villains aren’t just people with evil intentions, but also people who’re inexplicably rejected by society. I say inexplicably, but I’ve met a few people who cannot figure out why they’re so unpopular, and from outside it can be pretty obvious. Perhaps they started out small, maybe at first only a few people didn’t want to be near them because they wore the wrong clothes, or their breath smelled, or their hair was dirty. Maybe at first only one person rejected them, but it was someone important, and it started something. However small it began, the sense of rejection has festered and grown into a full blown fury at the world, until the anger spills out in all kinds of hostile ways which, in a sad and predictable twist of fate, only serve to frighten everyone away until there’s nothing left to do but hate and blame. Super villains strike me as the sort of people who grew this way, from the twisted seeds of societies rejection, into full-blown monsters, railing against the world.

(As always, these mental sketches are based on the comic book characters, not on the movie or the cartoon versions. Those are very different.)

Poor Loki was never particularly pretty or clean, but after eons spent bound by the entrails of his son, and with the venom of a snake constantly dripping on him, he reeks. This is not a recipe for a healthy, sweet-smelling man, not only because the entrails binding him, but of course there are many other factors to consider involved with long term captivity. Combine entrails and corrosive snake venom with the accumulation of all those years unshowered, (creating an epic build-up of grease and sweat) and he’s probably covered in his own waste… Unless the Norse gods don’t produce waste, which I freely admit, is entirely possible. But even if he doesn’t produce waste, he’d still certainly have some kind of acrid build up of old, dried up snake venom all over him, and effluvia which seeped from his son’s entrails. You can certainly see why he’d be bitter.

Two-Face is a mess, and simultaneously very neat and tidy. I’m not sure how he maintains this dichotomy, but we all know that he does. The skin on one hand feels perfectly smooth, the nails on that hand are perfectly manicured, and his touch very delicate. On the other hand, he’s a wreck; dried skin flakes from him, and oozing scabrous wounds cover him. His handshake more like the rustling of small, nocturnal animals. He smells (somewhat predictably) alternately fabulous and horrendous. It’s one of those things where upon first meeting him, you’re initially captivated by the delicate scent of flowers and honey, but almost immediately upon taking a deep breath to inhale this intoxicating smell, you’re overwhelmed by the hideous taste of acrid, rotting, dead things. It sticks in the back of your throat like a sticky effluvia, impossible to shake for hours after leaving his presence. As soon as you can, you run home to wash your hands and brush your teeth, but the sickly sweet stench is only gone after a long nights sleep, and even then, the memory of it still makes you sick.

With his handmade suits, expensive silk shirts, and shiny leather shoes, Lex Luthor is pretty much the antithesis of the filthy, downtrodden rejects of society that form many villains. But he isn’t quite right, behind the facade there is something very wrong. Under all of that soft, lovely, perfectly pressed goodness is someone who isn’t happy with himself, who isn’t mentally quite in touch with reality and oozes with a barely sublimated anger and resentment. His nails may be beautifully buffed, and his face perfectly styled, shaved and moisturized. But no matter how much overpriced cologne he wears, he’ll always have that nervous energy in abundance, producing just a little too much adrenaline, and ultimately leading to a pervasive, strangely sweet smell, only present in the truly insane. Get really close and his instability is unmistakable, the glint in his eyes and the strangely twitchy movements of his head will always betray his power-hungry paranoia.

Poison Ivy is famously beautiful but deadly, as we all know too well from the comics, but how tactile is she really? How enticing can this woman be, if her pheremones all all mixed and altered to create her affinity with the plant life of this earth? Her green-hued skin must retain the sticky feel of dew and sap, long dried onto waxy leaves. Her body exudes a slight smell of the vegetable matter that is so much a part of her, that it runs in her veins. It seeps from every pore, this strange mixture of roses, mulch, and freshly cut grass, and when she’s sad, it’s like the rain has hit, and the damp smell of these things fills the air. When she’s excited and happy in her environs, the cloying perfume of lilies begins to creep out of her, sensuous and thick. Ivy’s breath is bad, not stale or old, but that vegetable smell is there, now mixing with the bitter taste of apple seeds, a strange and unnatural thing to find in a human’s breath.

Venom is one of those rare and strange supervilians, not evil by inclination so much as by nature. Not a he, or a she, but a thing, initially barely sentient, or at least undetectably so, it had very little of it’s own feel or smell (back when it bonded with Spider-Man initially). But over time, it grew in scope and feel until it became what is now recognized as a parasitic alien life form. Unlike all of the aforementioned villains, Venom never was human, and so it never turned away from or was rejected by humanity. It’s much less of a person and more of a thing, and the alien nature seeps from it at every moment. Every one it bonds with is forever tainted by it’s weirdly chemical composition, it’s strange, otherworldly smell of tar, rubber, red wine and fixative. The slippery, slidey aspect of it’s amorphous nature leads it to leave a slightly shiny residue in it’s wake. Nothing really obvious, or apparent, but it’s nasty and uncomfortable, nobody enjoys it’s passing.

Like Venom, Galactus is no mere human gone awry. This is the alien bad guy to end all other villains. His sheer scale would cause massive environmental changes, which in turn would have a massive effect on the weather. As he pierces clouds, simply by dint of being so huge and moving to consume the earth, they open and pour rain down. The assumption would be that by just “being”, Galactus brings the biblical smells of fire and brimstone, as the heavens open up from his disturbance and empty their contents upon us. There would be lightning and thunder, and it’d rain so hard that it would feel like the beginning of the end, even if he were defeated. His armor and helmet are slick with some alien lubrication, not greasy as they would, had they originated on earth, but effective all the same. His general air of otherworldly doom is enhanced by this functional, engine-like smell and sound.

Sonia Harris has strong shoulders and close-set eyes. When she walks, she inadvertantly bounces just a tiny bit, because there’s usually music in her head. Once in a while, her fingers get sticky with spray mount which takes ages to come off. She’s often tired because she stayed up late checking her email.


  1. I would think Poison Ivy smells like roses in the day; but at night she smells like mulch.

    What is up with that Galactus costume? Guess we wouldnt know who you were unless you put a big ‘G’ on your chest.

  2. This article smells like coriander.

  3. Do you think that Loki still has the same impression as a woman? He definatly doesn’t seem as offensive to the senses in his woman form, though he probably has a different type of off-putting indicator about him.

    When I see woman Loki, I think of the femme fatales in the old noir movies…a mix of sweet expensive perfumes and strong cigarrettes.

  4. About the Loki smell – I think that is a difficult thing to determine. I don’t think it is fair to assume that Thor would smell better than Loki. Sure, Loki is evil, but how different could their bathing and grooming habits be? They’re both vikings, more or less.

  5. @TNC, if that indictment holds for the big G man, shouldnt it hold for all other heroes with their first initial emblazoned on their costumes? Superman, Green Arrow, Daredevil, Animal Man, too many more to count…

  6. I wonder what Catwoman smells like.  Meow!

  7. A few more supervillains that must smell rancid:

    1.  The Blob – I don’t believe they make industrial sized deodorants (by the way I’d swear he sat next to me on an airplane once)

    2.  Doctor Doom – You try dominating the world in a full suit of armor on a hot day

    3.  Modok – I doubt those small arms allow him to access many bodily areas with the loofah sponge 

    4.  The Toad – Two words.  "Fly Breath"

    5.  Skunk Man – OK, I just made him up (but he would not smell like roses)


  8. This article is complete boll– no wait…

    I wonder if Tao’s abilities in any way relate to smell.

  9. @Bebop: Litter?

  10. @brianbear Thor isn’t tied up with his son’s entrails, having venom dripped on him for eons. I don’t think all the showers (or however Norse gods bathe) in the world would get that smell out.

    @zenman I had the same thought about constant, full-body armor on Doom. Nasty.

  11. cool list. Two-Face’s hygene and perfect manucure on the right side always made me wonder as well.

     As far as actully bad smelling villains, I bet  Vermin and Kilelr Croc have heinus smells as well. 

  12. @Sonia: Oh you just wanted to talk about Norse gods bathing and you know it!

  13. I dont think Galactus really smells anything in particular. Isnt he tecnically just a blob of matter that takes shape of what the person sees him as?

    Maybe Silver Surfer smells like lemon time, we dont know

  14. Galactus smells like Ikea.

  15. I always wondered if Starfire smells like coriander.

  16. @Tork: I can believe it, it looks like he’s missing peices to that green armor on his head…

  17. .skcollob etelpmoc si elcitra sihT

  18. And there he is.

  19. JoeCasey smells like Britney Spears

  20. great article. I’d always assumed that the mad scientist villains would smell really bad. the whole living-in-your-head insanity thing tends to lead to personal hygiene neglect. I always figured the mad thinker’s hair stood up like that because he never washed it.

  21. @JumpingJupiter Funnily enough I did think about that. Norse is scandinavian or something, right? Those folks are all about their spas and saunas, so I reckon it’s probably some kind of weekly elaborate, hours long ritual, where they soak and talk about mead and women. Probably in amazing natural springs, the kind you get in death valley, that are surrounded by snow and somehow steaming hot.

    @Tork Or is it that Ikea smells like Galactus?

    @John42 Good point, they probably smell a little like a crack house or something equally nasty and chemically.

  22. norse gods actually produce mothballs as waste. that’s where mothballs come form and why norse gods are never eaten by moths. DUH!

  23. ahhhh sonia i love your articles. they are so intresting on a take of fashion or the charicteristics of the Comic world!!

  24. Just got around to reading it – brilliant article. Better than the previous one. Also Catwoman might also smell of disinfectant – she always gets hurt. And expensive perfumes.

    What I’m interested in finding out is which superhero or villain smells like Epoxy glue… That stuff reeks. Like a pile of garbage that’s been cooking under the hot sun for several days. 

  25. @zenman, You made up less than you know. Mike Allred had a character called "Skunk" who appeared in The Atomics!

    See the link:

  26. Galactus: The Cologne
    For that musky scent which says, "Baby, I’m going to consume your world!"

  27. Wouldn’t Galactus smell like just before it rains, or the smell after the first rain?

  28. Take two!

    Galactus: The Cologne
    For that rainy scent which says, "Baby, I’m going to consume your world!"

  29. Apparently, you’re all crazier than me. Impressive.