I don’t know if it’s the Party conventions of the past week and a half (political joke uhthank you) or the fact that I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I think it’s time to break out my top ten favorite super villains. While I don’t know that a hero is only as good as his villain, (Superman started out fighting corruption and mobs, Batman was a detective) I do admit that a good villain makes for a great story. Over the years we’ve been given more villains than heroes it seems as writers attempt to bring on the next legendary foil for our heroes. but only a handful have had staying power to torment our heroes again and again and again. What follows is a list of my favorites. This is not a list of the greatest villains ever. This is not a list that I think should be anyone’s definitive list. It’s simply my favorite super villains to come along since the dawn of the super hero.
As with my favorite super heroes, I will begin with the honorable mentions.
First on the list is the newest villain on the scene lately, THE RED HULK. I can hear the collective groan of you the fearless readers. Allow me to expound just a bit. I’m a huge fan of the Hulk. In fact, you can read just how big of a fan I am by reading this article from my top ten list. The thing about the Hulk is that he has seldom ever found himself actually beaten down. There are very few villains that can match his strength. Enter THE RED HULK. I know that a lot of comic book readers are shaking their heads in disgust right now, but let’s look at the facts.
At the time of writing this, the actual identity of Big Red is still up in the air. Granted there have been some obvious clues as to his identity, but let’s face it, when things are spelled out that much in a mystery like this one, the first thought is “red herring.” So, I’m not convinced that Doc Samson has gone all red and hulked out on us.
Couple with the mystery, a character who calculatingly beat the Hulk near enough to unconsciousness to subdue him, but kept him conscious enough to keep him from turning into Banner. In fact, he dispatched the real Hulk long enough to have an unimpeded fight with The Mighty Thor.
His motives are unclear, but his power is unmistakeable, and I’m a huge fan of the “dark reflection” type villains as this top ten list will clearly show.
Next on the honorable mention list is a villain that is not so much a villain as a force of nature in the worst sense. With an insatiable hunger (for planets) and practically limitless power, GALACTUS makes for one of the most formidable foes in the Marvel Universe. Let me clarify before I go on to prevent any confusion. I am referring to Galactus of the 616 Marvel Universe, not the cosmic swarm Galactus of the Ultimate Universe.
I don’t know if it’s really fair to call Galactus a villain. It has been stated many times in comic history that Galactus is neither good nor evil, he simply exists to feed. The problem is that when he feeds worlds die. When worlds die, beings die. That’s not really a good thing. I think it’s a combination of the hopelessness for the inhabitants of the worlds that Galactus chooses to devour along with the fact that Galactus exists beyond the concepts of good and evil in a sense. On one hand, he must know the billions of lives lost when he feeds, on the other hand, if he cared at all for anyone other than himself, he would simply not feed and allow himself to fade into non-existence. One of my favorite arcs involving Galactus was in Walt Simonson’s run on the Fantastic Four back in the early nineties. Right after The Acts of Vengeance, Simonson came onto the Fantastic Four title as writer and artist. In his firt adventure with the team, Simonson took our heroes on a time-spanning journey along with Thor and Iron Man into the not so distant future where the Universe was ceasing to exist. At the end of the second or third issue of the arc it was revealed that Galactus was at the core of the destruction of the Universe as he had grown exponentially in size and was devouring space and time accordingly. In the end, to save the future, Galactus had to use the Ultimate Nullifier to destroy everything. Great story, great “villain.”
The next honorable mention goes to another somewhat cosmic being. Like Galactus he was made famous through the art of the great Jack Kirby. In fact, while Kirby collaborated with Stan Lee to bring Galactus to the pages of Marvel, the next villain on the list was a creation all Kirby’s own. Surprisingly, this villain wasn’t introduced in a Crisis or huge crossover event as you would expect given his current reputation, rather he was introduced in the unlikely pages of SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN. I’m referring to the anti-life equation seeking Lord of Apokolips, Darkseid.
I was first introduced to Darkseid on Saturday mornings while watching Superfriends. I knew then that he was a much bigger threat than Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom ever were, but I didn’t know just how evil he really was in the source material from which his character was taken. Throughout the years, I’ve come to enjoy stories involving Darkseid and his search for the anti-life equation. His battles with Superman and the Justice League are the stuff of legend. His uneasy truce with the New Gods of New Genesis is always engaging to read. His treachery knows no bounds and he has surrounded himself with a truly creepy group of lackeys from his right hand man Desaad to Granny Goodness and all the others.
On Superman: The Animated Series, and later Justice League Unlimited, Bruce Timm and crew gave us a Darkseid that brought out the anger and frustration in Superman like no one else could. Anytime Superman can cut loose of someone it’s fun to watch. Anytime someone can make Superman angry enough to do so, it’s even funner (or more fun if you like). However, Darkseid is a bit limited in what kind of stories can be told with him in conjunction with our major characters, so he merits an honorable mention rather than a top ten spot.
Finally, in this part of my list of honorable mentions comes one of the more interesting villains on the list at all. He was a hero turned villain. In fact, he has become one of the more vile villains in the galaxy. He turned his back on a brotherhood, and on those who needed his protection to pursue selfish means and unwarranted vengeance. This isn’t to say he was always good. In fact, he obtained his powers through less than heroic means. While it may sound like I’m talking about Darth Vader, I am referring to Sinestro.
Since most of my initial exposure to comic book characters came from Saturday morning cartoons, it follows that I learned of Sinestro while watching THE CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS. Sinestro appealed to me as kid because he was the antithesis to Hal Jordan. In fact, he carried a weapon that was fueled with an energy that presented itself as Jordan’s one weakness – yellow. Silly? Maybe. However, to a kid on the living room floor in front of his television it made perfect sense as well as good television.
Recently, the rogue Lantern from Qward returned in force to the comic book world, spawning a war with Green Lanterns across the galaxy. For what makes Sinestro evil is not the color of his ring, but the desire to rule as a dictator, to strip away the freedom that sentient beings should enjoy. His battles with the Green Lantern have been some of the best battles in comic books as he trained Hal Jordan and (as previously stated) used Jordan’s weakness as his weapon.
If a villains ability to go toe to toe with a hero makes him a good villain, then Sinestro’s got it. Couple with that the history Sinestro has with the Lanterns along with the agenda he brings to the table and you have yourself an interesting villain that makes his appearance in a comic worth checking out.
So, there you have it, the first installment of my list of favorite Super villains. There are five more honorable metions to go before we jump into the list itself. As always, offer your thoughts on these or predictions on favorites in the comments section. Remember, though, this is a safe place to geek out. So, while I encourage you to be critical, I also encourage you to be cordial. Let’s not go the route of the peopel this blog is about.