iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #87 – Comic Book Villains

Show Notes

Superheroes are the lifeblood of modern comic books, and without supervillains, there’s nothing for all those guys in capes to do. There are some villains who electrify a book when they show up, while others only elicit laughter. Ron, Josh, and Conor explore some of the best, scariest villains out there, and what makes them work so well in the stories we love.

Is Captain Cold truly evil? Is Galactus just a big, hungry guy? Does the Red Skull do anything not evil? All of this will be lovingly argued in this week’s show.


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  1. You guys are right, when you think of some villians your not too scared of them. When someone like The Trickster comes in, I dont gasp in horror…Hell I’d probably laugh at him. But if someone like Joker or Thanos comes in I’ll be wetting my pants and hide somewhere. All villians are evil, there is no in between that I think Ron was trying to get at. If your robbing a bank, killing someone, trying to take over the world, or even hurting people to run away from the hero….That’s all bad and you cant just say someone is misguided. Geoff Johns Rogues title right now is making us like those villians since they are the heroes of the book. But more often then not they are villians and we need to hate them because we need to love our heroes.

  2. Ron’s got a point — even in the Manichean world of superhero comics there are relative shades of evil. Some villains’s villainy seems to stem mostly from their opposition to the protagonist/hero, which is why someone like Catwoman, for example, can shift relatively seemlessly from "bad-guy" to "good-guy". Further, the term "evil" is cheapened by its application to the merely cruel or unethical.

  3. I love how many times you guys say bat shit crazy in this podcast.  I’ll get back to you on my favorites, but off the top of my head I would say Dr. Doom.

  4. I don`t think of the Marvel villians as more goofy but as more human and with more depth. A villian like the Joker can be great but if you have too many of those there`s something lacking with no backstory or much of a motivation.

    DC practically having their silver age until Crisis makes them seem like they are behind Mavel in modernizing their villians and turning them all series. Things like Identity Crisis always seemed like DC trying to be like Marvel, which I don`t care for since I look for different things at both companies so both of them being the same isn`t a good goal. It`s easy to take away the fun when modernizing a villian which is a shame sometimes. Dr. Light seems like damaged goods now.

    Mole Man doesn`t seem as goofy to me when I think of people with those big black glasses on to block out the sun, same sort of thing.

    Dr. Doom all time favourite villian, you just can`t beat that guy.

  5. Man, what a great topic!  Loved the podcast, guys.  There’s one group I’d like your opinion on, though. The drama queens!  Quicksilver, in particular, comes to mind. 

    The villains out there who are generally well-intentioned good guys, but can’t really see beyond their own world and its priorities- we all know people like this, the troublemakers who use "following your heart" or "sticking to your guns" as an excuse to be a melodramatic bastard-face.  Righteous indignation that would otherwise just be really irritating is jumped up to national or global threat levels when you give these types super powers.  A lot of folks like this tend to follow the reform/revert/reform/revert cycle so common to the X-books, but they’re all over the place.  I’ve found it to be a pretty realistic (and quite possibly unintentional) characterization that lends great realism to comics.  

     Joker may be the villain we’re scared of, but these types are the villains we HATE.   


    p.s. Sorry, can’t resist.  "Analogue!" 

  6. My favorite, The Profile. Hands down. No contest.

  7. I agree that the Joker is the best villian, but one must consider sheer volume and quality in comparison to others.  He’s one of our oldest villians culturally and most celebrated outside of comics in other media.  Others don’t get a fair shake because of lack of recognition.

    I agree with Josh and Conor about how we fear that which cannot be explained by reason or logic.  However, you’re forgetting the MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY–the villian has to see what he is doing as right, good, and even necessary. 

    This is what provides a villian with layers beyond campy world domination and hackneyed schemes.  If a villian wants to kill or destroy because he thinks it is right then the villian becomes memorable based on motivation.

    The characters’ morality, or notion of it, is what makes us read!!!!!!!!!!

    Ask any actor or writer what makes a good villian and they will all answer that. 

  8. How about the concept of white-collar vs. blue collar villans. 

    Flashes Rouges Gallary and most of Spider-mans are downtrodden SOBs trying to make it day by day in a world full of capes.  They are your working class villans who are not really manipulating the world around them but reacting to circumstances for the most part.  These are the "mom-and-pop store" variety of villans who bust their humps and come of as average schmos  and as such don’t don’t seem as scary.

     On the other hand Red Skull (especially with the rolled up shirt sleeves), Lex Luthor, the Joker, Dr. Doom, all try to manipulate the world around them to get to their ends.  They’re far more devious, have long term plans and elaborate schemes.  They are the corporate-types of the comic world with grand machinations and long term goals for the most part.  These are the guys with the bigger brand name recognition and truly have more of the "Oh sh*t" factor you guys mentioned in the videocast.

    Not to say the working class villans can’t do some henious things (such as Dr. Light in Identity Crisis), but they wont have the 40+ issue grand schemes like Red Skull in the current captain america.  Serious what would serously be able to read, let alone believe a grand scheme that would destroy a hero coming from Batroc the Leaper or someone else of his ilk.

  9. Sorry, last line should have read … "What reader would be able to able to read, let a lone belive a grand scheme designed to destroy a hero coming from Batroc…"

  10. Red Skull at the movies.  Good times. 🙂

    I agree, Joker is the best villian.  I like shades of grey as much as the next guy, but when Joker shows up, sh*t happens.

  11. I’m going with The Joker too. That guy, even as pencils and inks, scares the crap out of me. And the dynamic between him and Batman is eternal; he’s what Bruce would have become if it weren’t for the moral codes Thomas Wayne instilled in him.

    And I agree, "Fool’s Gold" is indeed an evil movie!

    Great show guys 🙂

  12. Probably the closest to the Joker in the MU was Carnage, but they sacrificed him to the Sentry, which was something of a shame all told as there’s most certainly a place in the MU for a superpowered serial killer.

     Ultron really should be scarier than he actually is, a robot with almost limitless power and no regard whatsoever for human life.

     I think the thing I seel with the Marvel universe is a lot of scope for the rogues gallery to be used better, even people like Arcade could, with a bit of retooling, actually become scary, but Marvel seem farily reluctant to pull the trigger on any of them. Hell if you ran a Max series with Arcade as the antagonist, and wrote him in a way similar to the Jigsaw Killer in the Saw movies you’d have a bonafide villian to work with from that point onwards.

     It’s just frustrating that there’s so much potential, but it’s rarely put to good use.

  13. @amuldowney – that description of the drama queen villains seems to match George W. Bush pretty precisely.

    @eocine – read the much ignored Wolverine/Gambit: Victims mini by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Arcade is pretty scary in that. Good luck finding it though.

    and to josh and conor and everyone else who shares their opinion about this, I don’t think that a villain who see’s what he or she is doing as right is the scariest. Don’t they all anyway, and isn’t that just explained away as mental instability? I actually see people like the Joker or that ice cream truck driver/child abducter/killer guy from early Spawn stories (Billy something?) as people who know that what they are doing is wrong, but do it anyway as being much much scarier. They seem more sane to me, but just have these compulsions to do what they do.

    And what defines insane? Is it how a character acts or is it how a character thinks? I’m inclined to think it has more to do with how they think. For all the similarities between Mirror Master and Bullseye, I get the impression that Mirror Master doesn’t enjoy being a killer for hire nearly as much as Bullseye does. Bullseye really truly relishes every kill. If it had been him popping up to "scare" Animal Man during Morrison’s run, good ol’ Buddy Baker would have come home to his wife and children with kitchen utensils and dagger-sharp crayola’s through their eyes (respectively).

  14. Favorite villain in comics: Mr. Sinister

    Most annoying: Mystique. Seriously guys, stop letting her on the team, she’s just gonna betray you like she does EVERY TIME!

    Most frequent "oh shit" villains: Darkseid or Thanos, Apocalypse, the Sentinels

    Most unexpected villain: Lyta Hall in Sandman. Her descent into vengeance was so gradual, you start to understand why she wanted Morpheus dead, even though he was (more or less) the main character.

    Most underused villain: anyone who’s main power is time travel. Seriously, can we just stop being picky little bastards about time travel and let the little ideosyncrasies and inconsistencies and potential time paradoxes go? Can we please just enjoy wacky time travel shit the way we used to when we watched Back to the Future? Kang is a really compelling villain, but god forbid some fanboy points out how his interactions with continuity somehow don’t make sense. It’s a friggin comic book, it’s not always going to make sense, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    Best villain of all time though has to be Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. I don’t care how many Jedi younglings Vader killed, or how many alien races the Phalanx enslaved. Drago killed Apollo Creed. That just aint cool.

  15. The reason why Villians can never work together long enough to have the shit really hot the fan and lots of people die is because they all have diferent things to acomplish. In the end hatred is too open ended. Heroes on the other hand have that bit of kindness in them that figt for justice and the fact that most of them want the same thing. Kindness begots Kindness. But as you can see in Final Crisis Libra is taking out the human factor of things, and of course when you have villians that all want the same thing well you get Henshaw and Mongol destroying Coast City, or when you have a Smart Villian Manipulating lesser ones, like Ra’s Al Ghul in Trinity.

  16. I would say that the difference between the Red Skull and Rogue trooper dudes is not that there evil is at different purity. I would say it is to do with how simple minded they are and how much power they actually have. I would notsay the difference lies in a ‘evil meter’ kind of thing.

  17. XD!!! I LOVED THAT Redskull cut out part as Ron was making a point that Redskull does everything evil. Made me wonder what other crap Red Skull does evil.

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