The final villain’s piece is the comics. There’s a lot of villains out there, but here are a list of our most beloved.
I first saw the film Battle Royale about 10 years ago, when I snuck into the room my older brother was watching it in and lingered there until the end credits, mesmerised by the bloody violence I was seeing. What I didn’t know at the time, and what I only found out a couple of years ago, was that the film was based on a book of the same name. I also found out that the film wasn’t the only adaption either. There was also a Battle Royale manga. My interest suitably piqued, I tracked down a copy of all 15 volumes and started to read.
In the film, main villain Kazuo Kiriyama is a volunteer for the Battle Royale programme who gets his jollies killing people, shooting up the landscape with a big grin on his face, but in the manga, he’s a complete different beast. Cold, emotionless, a student like the rest of the kinds, he stalks across the island like an unstoppable bogeyman, silently and mercilessly dispatching his classmates without any sign of satisfaction or remorse. Whole volumes of the manga are dedicated to the efforts of single characters, making you really care about their plight, only for him to turn up in the last few pages and kill them almost instantly. It’s a pretty heart-breaking read at times.
All the other characters are scared of him and all have a story to justify that fear, like the time he plucked out a belittling gym teacher’s eye or bent another boy’s fingers back until they broke, one by one. Once the games begin, he more than lives up to his fearsome reputation, proving to be deadly, resourceful, highly intelligent and completely unstoppable.
Kiriyama loses some of his monstrous allure towards the end of the manga, when it tries to explain why he’s the way he is (the result of a car crash and a partial lobotomy) and makes things incredibly maudlin by having him whisper that he can “feel again” as he lies there dying. Sometimes, evil is best left unexplained. Still, my misgivings about that aren’t enough to overshadow the impact he casts over the course of the manga. He’s a fearsome and terrifying character, all the more so because he’s just a student trying to excel at the task he’s been given.
There are a great deal of complex comic-book villains out there. Many have troubled lives and tragic backstories. Others support dangerous causes and fight for misguided beliefs. Some find themselves trapped in a desperate spiral of violence and revenge. Even the Joker, insane as he is, is driven on some level by a kind of twisted philosophy.
Not so Doctor Doom.
Victor von Doom has probably the simplest, most single-minded motivation of any villain I can think of: Doom believes he’s better than you, and therefore he deserves all your stuff. Your money, your technology, your power, your unconditional loyalty – all of it. You owe him your whole life, for the simple reason that he’ll make more use of it than you will. Because he’s better than you. Because he’s smarter than you. Because he’s Doom.
It’s such a pure, extreme display of egomania that I can’t help but love the guy. He’s so proud and so vain and so utterly, completely self-centred. It’s amazing how well that single motivation can work – it should be a ridiculous caricature, yet it’s given us one of the most enduring and compelling villains Marvel has. Even his iconic look – his metal mask and armour – is a product of his incredible vanity.
I love Doctor Doom for all the wrong reasons. I love his simplicity. I love his ego. I love his constant third-person monologues. But above all, I love his absolute unwillingness to work with anyone else, because they’re all so far beneath him. The irony being that, if he was only willing to accept help, even occasionally, he’d probably be ruling the universe by now.
Shane isn’t the kind of antagonist who starts out bad and that’s all we see of him. A pillar for Lori and Carl in the face of the event that hospitalises Rick in a coma prior to the outbreak, Shane seems like a decent enough guy. However, following a typical tragedy character arc, over the course of the first main story in The Walking Dead, we realise that Shane isn’t necessarily a nice guy, and bar the zombies, becomes the first real bad guy in the series.
It was Shane who was there to help pick up the pieces after Rick’s accident and he then does so much to tear things apart once Rick returns. The relationship between Lori and Shane was perfectly fine under the circumstances that they’re thrown into, so you can’t really fault him on that. But what is problematic is that Shane, ultimately, descends down a path of jealousy and paranoia that eventually sees him trying to kill Rick and become a monster of the heart. Perhaps what makes this all the much worse, is that his death also meant the true end of innocence for Rick and Lori’s son Carl, forced to shoot and kill Shane in order to save his father.
Or as one might say: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.