Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who Has the Best Primary Villain?

Any company, any character...


david_b said...

All great villains are defined by their protaganist, the depth/complexity of their adversarial relationship, and their supposed rationale for why they're evil in the first place.

The Goblin's always been a personal favorite, but someone here mentioned that if you took out the 'secret identity acknowledgement' aspect, the Goblin would just be another two-bit costumed villain.

True, but you also have to look at the lengths (or depths) to which a villain will inflict pain and his warped rationale. For instance, why hasn't Doom found a way to strike at Reed Ricards by knocking off Sue? It is not in his superior aristocratic nature.

As for best primary villains, I'd vote for Joker, Magneto, Gobby, and Doom.

Edo Bosnar said...

With acknowledgement to your awesome Christmas banner, I'd say Darkseid is one of the best primary villains. The problem is defining whose primary villain he is: just the New Gods and specifically Orion, or some others as well? (For example, the Great Darkness Saga made him probably the best Legion adversary ever.)
Otherwise, I'd say a top contender for having the best primary villain is Captain America: he has Red Skull, arguably the most perfect villain. Why? First, he's a friggin' Nazi! Who doesn't hate Nazis? Second, he's just so irredeemably evil (none of that kind of warped nobility of Dr. Doom, or the occasional tragic nobility of Magneto, none of the potentially sympathy-garnering insanity of Joker or Green Goblin, none of the 'honorable crimelord' mystique of someone like Kingpin).

William said...

If we are going to approach this logically and not with too many emotions involved about who our personal favorite or favorites are, you really have to go with The Joker.

Here's why…

First of all he's been around the longest. But beyond that, since his inception, he's gone from being just another one of Batman's adversaries to being nearly as important to the Bat-Franchise as Batman himself.

Not only has he long been Batman's greatest nemesis in the comics, he was also the most frequent villain used in the hugely successful Batman Animated Series, and both of the recent Batman Arkham Asylum/City games, all voiced by the surprisingly multi-talented Mark Hamill.

To ad to that, he was the main villain in two-out-of-three of the best and most successful Batman live-action movies. Even though the Joker was portrayed as a radically different character in both those movies, (first by Jack Nicholson and then by Heath Ledger) they both were extremely effective and memorable performances that took the Joker to new heights of menace which redefined his character, while still managing to stay true to the core concept.

So, to sum up, you have the comic-book version of the Joker. Then you have the Hamill Animated Series version. The Jack Nicholson movie version. And the Heath Ledger movie version. My personal favorite being the Mark Hamill portrayal. But anyone of these four could be considered a "definitive" version of the character.

I always thought that Lex Luthor was very memorable in the movies as well.

On the other hand you have the Green Goblin, (or should I say, the Green Power Ranger?) who's appearance in the first Spider-Man movie was one of the worst things about the film. Dafoe's over-the-top performance was reminiscent of Tommy Lee Jones' terrible and hokey portrayal of Two-Face in "Batman Forever". Plus there has never been one truly memorable or original version of the character in any other medium such as animation or video games.

The same thing hold true for Doctor Doom. He's been handled pretty well in the comics, but in other media he's just sort of two-dimensional. I thought the live-action movie version of the character was just God-awful. (What's wrong with Marvel anyway?)

Lemnoc said...

Nobody's gonna mention Mister Mxyzptlk?

Doug said...

Lemnoc, I'm sure that's by design...


david_b said...

william made some excellent points, but I can add one more about the Joker..:

Let's look at the time/energy exercised to imitating him, being the best form of flattery. Villains like the Trickster (another outing for Hamill's winning villain portrayals from 'The Flash'..), Prankster, Joker's Daughter, even the Goblin's (or Jackel's) laughter was Jokeresque in nature.

As for his popularity, he's undoubtably the most famous villain, if trade pubs and compliations are of any indication. I'd dare say his shooting of Babs Gordon may thrust him into the Harry Osborne realm of savage violence.

J.A. Morris said...

Tough to answer, I'll say Doom because he's more complicated and because he's faced just about everyone in the Marvel U at least once. Even Luke Cage and Shang Chi tangled with Doom (yeah I know, sometimes it was a "Doombot"). His feud with Richards goes back before the days of the FF too, which makes it more than just another "hero vs. villain" story(I know about Luthor and Superboy but that was a retcon). His status as a Head of State also makes him unique among villains. And he has a "moral" code of sorts, even if he applies it inconsistently.

But I'd say Joker is the scariest. Of course I'm talking about the Bronze Age version. Remember the scene in the "joker fish" story where he shoves a thug in front of an oncoming truck?

I think Osborn's resurrection is one of the worst things to hit comicdom in my lifetime. And now he's not just a Spider-Man villain, he's all over the Avengers and other books in a Luthor type role.

Anonymous said...

OK, considered but didn’t make the list:
The Brood
Mysterio (very underrated & under-used IMO).
The Riddler (always loved him in the hokey 60’s show and thought Jim Carrey was not actually the worst casting for him, either. A character with a lot of potential for leading plot, therefore almost more protagonist than antagonist).
The Yellow Claw
Hydra (AIM, Secret Empire, Them, etc)
Edo – to your point about Nazi’s – how about Baron Blood? You can’t beat a Nazi vampire!
Hard to choose between Dormammu and Nightmare. I always found Nightmare more sinister.
The Enchantress
Mastermind (based purely on the Jason Wyngarde issues)
Count Nefaria (come on, killed an Xman!)
Doc Ock (way superior to the Goblin for me)
Dark Phoenix (just to be controversial)


Fu Manchu
Doc Doom
Red Skull
Baron Zemo (The Red Skull is nastier, but let’s not forget who killed Bucky)
Korvac / Michael was a great story and a great villain.
Ultron (invincible, evil, Freudian back-story, what more do you want?)

But my final finalist is Mephisto. Those stories where he torments the Surfer really upset me when I was little. And, of course, he is pure evil as well. That’s important.

So the answer is the Surfer, but because of Mephisto, not because of Galactus.


J.A. Morris said...

Richard, "you can't beat a Nazi vampire" is the funniest thing I've read in a while! But it's true, it makes you wonder if the Baron will make an appearance in the next Cap movie, with vampires being "in".

Karen said...

Before he became the comics version of Ed Gein by skinning and wearing his old girlfriend, I think Dr. Doom was just about the perfect villain. Despite his megalomania he had a certain dignity and even charm.


Doug said...

Whoa, Karen...

What??? I obviously don't know what you're talking about. Can you elaborate for those of us who are not up on current FF lore?



Anonymous said...

Yeah....I mean Doc Doom had a girlfriend? Who knew ?


Karen said...

Here's the ugly facts: During Mark Waid's run on FF, he had Doom kill Valeria, his only love, and turn her skin into a special magical armor. I don't know all the details and I don't really want to know them. That's just not Doom to me.

If you want to know more check out the Wikipedia entry or look here: http://marvel.wikia.com/Doctor_Doom%27s_Mystical_Armor


Fred W. Hill said...

Eek! I hadn't previously heard about that particular Dr. Doom story either. The first Dr. Doom story I remember reading was his last major story arc during Kirby's run, during which he blew up a huge chunk of Latveria in an attempt to wipe out the FF, who were saved by one of Sue's force fields, although it appeared a great many unfortunate Latverians met their demise. In that and the classic story in which Doom stole the Silver Surfer's cosmic power and ran amok, Kirby made Doom appear truly frightening, far more so than in his previous appearances where at times he was almost comical (imagine that in our comics!).
Of course, the Joker is far more famous than any other superhero villain and on that basis alone Batman would get the nod as having the Best Primary Villain, with Lex Luthor in at second. I'd put Dr. Doom at third, if only in the comics themselves -- as William noted, thus far there aren't any classic live action depictions of Doom or even a memorable animated version that I'm aware of.
Regarding Dafoe's depiction of the Green Goblin, I would have liked it a lot better if they managed to come up with some sort of mask that would allow us to see Dafoe's facial expressions as the Goblin rather than that ridiculous plastic thing they used. On the other hand, Molina was great as Dr. Octopus in the 2nd film and he's as much a primary villain for Spidey as the Goblin, maybe more so.

MattComix said...

If we're talking about these characters as they were in the Bronze Age, I would say Darkseid. As intended by the King he is the primary villain of the New Gods. Yet as much as I love Kirby I really, really enjoy having Darkseid as a Superman or Justice League foe.

Nowadays most of the comicbook villains just kind of blur together for me in a sea of generic horror movie style psycho-sadists or guys wearing business suits in shadowy office scenes.

Though I will say the transition from mad scientist to a CEO of Evil Corp type actually worked for Lex Luthor. His deceit and greed allowed him to be the true flipside to Superman's truth and justice.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I have to go with Daredevil and the Kingpin. Kingpin was originally a Spider-man villain, but Frank Miller used him so brilliantly that he is forever associated with DD.

I think what makes him so great is that he isn't actually that ambitious. He doesn't want to take over the world, just run his own little underground empire. Thus he is not constantly failing in big schemes. That makes him more dangerous, I think.

Runner up: Captain America and the Red Skull. The hero of WWII and the last remaining Nazi leader still fighting decades after the war is over? How can you not love that?

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