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Monday Musings: Villains!

June 13, 2011

The genesis of this entry is first over Memorial Day weekend my sisters were in town so we went out to dinner at Red Lobster.  The younger of my two sisters–they’re both younger than me, so there–and I got talking about the third Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, to be released in 2012.  We both don’t like that there seems to be about thirty villains in the damned thing at the moment.

This then got me thinking later about the reboot story I was planning to make this story more of a standalone story.  I was thinking that maybe I need a new villain.  But what kind of villain?

Then I got thinking about Batman villains (because really Batman has the coolest rogue’s gallery of any major superhero) and it seems that essentially villains fall into two categories:  Brains and Brawn.

The Brains may not be Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking but they use all their cunning to create havoc and mayhem.  The Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin are examples of villains who aren’t very strong–especially compared to Batman–but they create evil by using their cunning.  Most every Bond villain falls into this category as well because you know Goldfinger or Blofeld or most of those others couldn’t beat Bond in a straight-up fistfight.  But they were smart and ruthless enough to build a whole evil organization so they can outsource the muscle to hired goons.

The Brawns are those who are physically strong but not necessarily the brightest.  Villains like Killer Croc and Clayface are stronger than Batman but he can beat them by using his cunning.

An interesting case was when they introduced Bane.  Thanks to a steroid solution called Venom he was super strong.  But he also wasn’t a dunce.  In the comics he masterminded a scheme to break all the other villains out of Arkham to wear down Batman and managed to break the Dark Knight’s back.  Maybe that’s why I really enjoyed that storyline to the point I actually bought the compilations of the comics.

We could go on for days about which comic/movie villains fall into which categories.  But another question interested me.  Is it better to match strength with strength or have a mismatch?  By that I mean if your hero is smart is it better to match him up with someone else who’s smart or mismatch him against someone physically superior?

You can make an argument for either way I suppose.  Superman vs. Lex Luthor is a clear mismatch but they’ve been foes for 70 years now.  As I mentioned earlier, Batman vs. the Joker is a mismatch in terms of strength, but again they’ve been duking it out since 1940.

Maybe I should do something unprecedented and turn it over to you guys to decide.  Sure.  Go ahead and settle this for me!

Wednesday:  What I want most out of writing right now…


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  1. Villains. Hmm. Best served cliche free wherever possible.

    In most instances that I can think of, a villain with a brain is a far more compelling prospect. The Bond movies are interesting in that there is almost always a main brain and a piece of muscle to back him up, so you get the best of both worlds.

    • Having one Brain and one Brawn does seem like one of the main formulas. Besides the Bond movies I thought of “Die Hard” where you have Alan Rickman as the Brain and then there was the big blond guy who was the Brawn. That is close to what I have in my notes for this story.

  2. I tend to think that brainy heroes and brainy villains make for a better storyline. I don’t like heroes that are all muscle and no brains and the same for villains. Think Dr. Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes. Of course, you could always write a story with no protagonist and no antagonist like George Martin does and just have each chapter a different point of view. Give each person their own motivations so that the conflict that does arise isn’t necessarily villainy…rather it is a character looking toward his own best interest and the other point-of-view character is in the way of that self interest. May the stronger and cleverer one survive!

  3. So? He’s a brilliant writer that also happens to be a sellout and wants to screw 13 year old girls or at least live in a world where he could get away with that behavior. I don’t judge. The man is up front with everything he believes instead of trying to hide it like Congressman Weiner. So yeah…he fascinates me. If he ran for public office, I’d vote for him. He’d lay it out straight…”I’ll do my work in the public office but I’ll grope every woman that works for me and the younger the better hehehe”. We could use more of that honesty in the world.

    • Now that sounds like a good idea for a villain: a brilliant misogynist writer who wants to grope children!

  4. I’m a little frustrated because I had trouble opening my string cheese. Just thought I’d mention that in case this comment comes off annoyed.

    Anyway: BATMAN VILLAINS WERE THE BEST? No way. What about Doc Octopus? I love him. Spidey’s villains were great.

    As an aside: Superman was kind of a dope, wasn’t he?

    Now: brains vs. brawn: The Worst Super Villain EVER was “Doomsday.” I read “The Death Of Superman” in parts, and I’m not sure if they ever explained him just walking to Metropolis and beating up Supes, but he was just this big dumb thing that couldn’t be killed, which struck me as not very interesting. It was like “Superman vs. The Tidal Wave.” Same exact thing.

    So brains are where supervillains should be, but your point about Bane being supersmart and superstrong is a good one; why don’t more writers make a villain be both? I think that’s what the bad guy was in “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” which was a great book.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with any of this. You’re comments are thought provoking but I’m having a bad day, even beyond the string cheese. In closing: Michael, I’m 90% sure your quote is taken straight from Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign.

    • That sucks about your bad day. I don’t know why I came back from lunch today because it’s been one fucking hassle after another. Yeesh.

      I didn’t really read it, but that Doomsday thing was pretty lame. Sometimes dumb monsters can be cool like “Aliens” or “Godzilla”. Maybe it’s because they can do neat things like breathe fire, spew acid blood, etc. Did Doomsday really DO anything?

      Ozymandias in “Watchmen” was another good brain & brawn villain. He was “the World’s Smartest Man” but he could also kick ass on everyone except Dr. Manhattan but Ozymandias was able to even fool him too! I always love that part in the comic and movie when he tells Nite Owl and Rorshach that he already set the space squid/bombs to launch thirty-five minutes ago because it’s so against the grain of traditional comics/Bond movies where the villain sits there yapping, giving the hero enough time to stop him. He did the smart thing and launched his diabolical scheme and then talked trash once it was done.

      So overall, I think we appreciate brains more than brawn.

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