Fourcast! 70: Say Hi To The Bad Guy

December 13th, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

-We cold open on a discussion of a recent issue of Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire.
-Esther doesn’t like Skinner Sweet much
-And she doesn’t believe that his name is awesome, either
-This one is about villains, and how villainous is too villaionous for villains to be.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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4 comments to “Fourcast! 70: Say Hi To The Bad Guy”

  1. I tend to think that every villain should be one you love to hate. They should be guys you like to see show up, because they have quirks, motivations, and character. For me, that’s where most comic book villains fail to interest me.

    Jean Loring isn’t a good villain, because her motivation made no sense. Dr. Light isn’t at all likeable or compelling, he’s just the Rape Boogeyman, with a single-minded purpose. Max Lord is a terrible villain, because nothing that made him likeable as a protagonist, has transitioned to his incarnation as an antagonist. Ditto for every X-Men villain, who has no qualm or doubt about murdering a bunch of teenagers. I don’t want to see these characters in stories, because I don’t care if they win or lose. Because there’s nothing to them.

    But, not so with characters like Dr. Doom, Bane, Sinestro, or Magneto, who do have more complex motivations than killing [Hero X]. Or even villains like the Spot or Rocket Racer, who have limitations on their villainy, when it comes to killing people and such. Stuff like that allows me to empathize with the villains, on some level, and understand their motivations. I may not agree with how far they’ll go to achieve their ends, but I can respect that they remain somewhat consistent in their motivations.

    That’s also why stuff like Morrison’s take on Magneto as a crazy old terrorist, or Waid’s take on Dr. Doom as an unrepentant monster, never hit with me. I believe the reasoning in both cases was that Morrison and Waid wanted to point out that was the characters’ “true” characterization, and all nobility or heroism was just pretense. Which is far, far less interesting to me, than a villain that actually does have moments where their villainy falls away, and their humanity shines out, however briefly.

    Spider-Man’s rogues gallery has done much the same thing. Characters like Sandman or the Rhino, who had streaks of benevolence, where just made mentally unhinged, and murderous, respectively. The Vulture’s now a crazy guy that spits acid. The Chameleon’s no longer the suave, gentleman villain he was in MODOK’s 11. He’s just a sadist.

    I understand that there’s a temptation for writers to show a villain as you’ve never seen them before, but doing stuff like that just makes them so, so much less interesting to me. They stop being characters, and start being plot devices, whose only purpose is to move the story to its conclusion, in the most binary and straightforward way possible.

  2. The 4cast crashed part way thru for me sadly. But the part I did get made me think of two villain related things for super-comics. First Busiek’s Tarnished Angel arc for Astro City. Which followed recently paroled super-villain Steeljack and had an entire neighborhood where the mid-card and lower bad guys and their families lived…

    Also the Unwritten Rule in Empowered, and how adhering to it makes the one guy who doesn’t (Wiley Pete) that much scarier…

  3. What you guys talk about is everything that makes up my favorite villain of the past 5 years, Doctor Simon Hurt.

    He plays up the theatricality aspect to the limit. His plans make perfect sense from inside the comics world but fall apart as you pull back. His name is fantastic for a comic book villain, and his Origin is a mystery or a hole with enough clues until it is finally revealed. In the finale he goes down in a spectacularly magnificent way that just makes you grin. You want the guy to get beaten and when he does it is oh so sweet.

    Also he is a villain who will only ever work once. Once you pull the 30 year plan of Isolation chambers, demonic rituals and Ghosts of Batman, anything he tries to do if he is ever brought back will seem like secondary to that.

  4. @Rick: Prometheus is the same way. Fantastic gimmick, great intro, and was taken off the stage at the end of his story. I’m glad he hasn’t appeared in any comics since.