Most supervillains are terrible, here are 24 small ideas for better ones
“But why?” The hero says, as around him a screening crowd of orphans burn. The villain actually has a value system that is at least slightly relatable.
- Meritocracy. The villain has had it with stupid people who don’t know what they’re doing being in charge. She’s going to take them out, and put some capable ones in their place. Maybe she’ll break a few rules and a few little fingers on the way.
- Equality. How can one person hoard everything, while others starve? The villain’s aim is simply to level the playing field. And levelling Tony Stark’s house (and the Eiffel Tower) is just part of the process.
- Freedom. The villain has had enough of these restrictive rules! Naturally he’s got to kill the cops, and blow up an aircraft carrier, and melt the pentagon. Do as much as he can to destroy the Fascist state and let the people be who they are.
- Self. He just wants to be rich. And powerful. And have fun. Why should it always have to be some complicated Templar plot to turn back the world clock? What happened to plain old dollas and titties?
- Order. You see how crazy and confusing things are right now. If people were just told what to do, and stopped doing anything else, then it would be simple. Unfree, maybe, horrible, maybe, but simple. Organised.
- Honesty. These lying liars. Why must they lie? I’ll cut out their dishonest tongues and then they shall lie no more! The world I make in their place will be a more open one.
- Purity. You think I’m neurotic for always washing my hands before shaking yours? I’m SAFE Tony. You’re taking a risk every day. Now, once my nerve agent gets into the water supply, everyone who is predisposed to carry infectious diseases will die, painlessly, and we can remove their bodies. Then we’ll all be safe. Well, safer. We could always kill more. People with peanut allergies, for example. No more of them, no more peanut allergies…
- Punishment. Everyone has sinned Alice. I’m here because you cheated on your maths exam in year eight.
- Happiness. I’m forcibly plugging people into a simulated reality in which Ed Milliband is Prime Minister, America enacted common-sense gun legislation and Conan O’Brien stayed writing The Simpsons. So what if it is technically slavery? These people are enjoying their lives. Reality could never live up to this. Their imaginary children can afford imaginary mortgages!
All of these are insane, but they all have an emotional core to them that exists in actual humans.
Who hurt you, evil villain?
10. Jealousy. I have an IQ of 175 and have created a new form of renewable energy that is powered by grapes. But nobody wants to go for a beer with me, nobody will have sex with me, and nobody will give me any money for my amazing ideas. They say it’s because I’m an “arsehole”. Well I don’t want to be left out of the party any more. I want what she’s having! I’m going to take down everyone who doesn’t deserve what they’ve got!!!
11. Authority. My dad. My head teacher. The head of my improv comedy troupe. They all were dicks to me. I’m going to dick right back!!
12. Loneliness. It’s simple. This villain can’t keep up a relationship. He can’t keep up a friendship. It’s unbearable. So when he does see someone he’s just way too intense and drives them away again. There’s a hole in him and he’ll fill it with murder.
13. Boredom. This little lady has been around for more than three thousand years. She’s read all the books. She’s eaten every kind of tomato. She’s made out with every species in the universe. It’s all the same to her now. She’s going to have some fun, and that means doing something a little bit extreme.
14. Disorder. My foster parents were bad people. They hit me. They threw me down the stairs. They humiliated me in front of their friends. But it was my mother’s anger that hit me hardest. I never knew what would set it off. I tried to moderate it by pleasing her, but I could never understand her patterns. If only I knew what set her off. If only I could control her rage! I need to understand and control everything!
15. Loss. She was happy once. Good once. But then everything was taken from her. Now she has nothing left to lose.
16. Hunger. Amazing what an empty belly and a cold hard bed can do to focus the mind. Gotta steal to eat. Gotta eat to live. And he has acquired a taste for human flesh.
A villain is interesting when there is some real pain they are trying to rectify.
The villain’s powers should 100% not be “super tough, and can punch hard” because that is a) boring to fight against and b) the same set of powers that every villain – especially every Disney Marvel villain – has.
17. Heat. Yes this villain can make fires with his hands, but due to conservation of energy, he has to draw the energy from somewhere, and makes icicles with his arse at the same time. I’m sure this could be turned against him somehow.
18. Freeze time. But it only lasts a few seconds, and she has to build up her power between shots by eating huge quantities of banana bread and resting for hours. This is extremely inconvenient and means she has to be clever about the use of her powers.
19. Jump forward in time. But only forward. Oh wait that would make for terrible stories. Scratch that.
20. This is stupid. It’s not their powers that make supervillains so consistently boring to watch. It’s their nonsense plans and boring personality.
21. Hollywood execs should have no end of supervillain archetypes to bend into their film characters, after all, they live, work with and marry them every day.
22. Almost everyone thinks they have good intentions. This is especially true of villains. So stop making them boring arseholes with no reason for why they do, who believe themselves to be evil.
23. Make them interesting arseholes who have a sizeable fanbase.
That is all.