Thursday, April 28, 2016

Who's The Worst...Top Tier Villain?

Martinex1: There is an old adage that the villain makes the hero. If the bad guy is nuanced, complex, abundantly evil, scary, manipulative, and potentially stronger than the protagonist, the conflict becomes much more intense because the outcome is unknown and the hero is going to have to be on his "A" game.


Sometimes, I dismiss a comic book story simply because of the nemesis. When the mastermind of mayhem doesn't look like he could manage to swipe a stick of chewing gum, I question the headliner's abilities. Seeing Spider-Man fighting the local purse snatcher for a six issue arc would not convince me to keep buying the book. But somehow, some of the weakest, weirdest, and most off-beat villains make it into a hero's main gallery of rogues.  How that evolves I don't know. So I pose a simple question to you, who is the worst top tier villain? Who is portrayed as a world class threat, but you are pretty sure could be handled by the local chapter of the Cub Scouts?
I supply some examples here that I would classify as head scratchers.  How about you?


Anonymous said...

The Vulture - he's about 80 years old and he can fly...oh no, that's so terrifying !!!

dbutler16 said...

The Penguin is the first name that popped into my head (short, overweight, no superpowers, carries an umbrella) but Vulture (see Colin's comments) and Mole Man (short, stocky, nearsighted - any relation to George Costanza?) are other contenders.

Redartz said...

Fun topic Martinex1; here's what came to mind first:

The Riddler; he poses puzzles. Basically.

The Vulture; see Colin's comment.

The Mad Thinker: brilliant, but obviously not as brilliant as Reed Richards. Problem solved.

J.A. Morris said...

Martinex1, these are all good examples.

I'm going to disagree slightly about Mxyzptlk. One of Superman's weaknesses is magic, the imp from the 5th dimension brings the magic in every appearance.

I think Mole Man is the worst of this bunch and probably only a "top tier" foe because he first appeared in FF#1. Speaking of FF villains, I also think Puppet Master gets boring in a hurry. The only thing he brings is that he's Alicia's stepfather. I'm not sure if Phillip Masters is considered a top tier villain.

Kraven was a tough opponent for Spider-Man in his early appearances, and that's a great Romita drawing of the hunter. But I'm guessing that even in the early 1960s, "celebrity big-game hunters" were already kind of anachronistic.

I think a lot of Penguin's popularity today stems from Burgess Meredith's great portrayal of the character. Otherwise he's just a little person with gadgets.

Doug said...

In The Torch mini-series that I've read and reviewed (Monday post to come in three weeks, I believe), the Thinker is a major villain. He is written so well, you actually think he's going to get over the top this time. Check it out if you've never seen the series.


Humanbelly said...

I guess the key phrase is "top tier", right? 'Cause Spidey alone has quite a gallery of one-punch-and-should-be-done opponents that have managed to give him trouble over the years (Enforcers, Meteor Man, etc) that aren't exactly cracking his rogues' top ten. Objectively, not only are Vulture and Kraven reallllly questionable opponents-- but honestly Doc Ock should be as well (just gotta get past the arms for one good pop). And unless I'm mistaken, both the Jackal and Hobgoblin, for all their gadgetry and machinations, weren't actually super, were they? Or am I mis-remembering? But, like the Mole Man, I do enjoy them all! They just don't pass muster under close scrutiny.

Let me chime in from the Hulk-centric quadrant--- and I'm going to submit The Rhino, who sort of switched from the Spidey stable to the Hulk stable. Unfortunately, even back in '67/'68 The Rhino's amped-up suit and strength didn't come close to putting him on comparatively even footing with the Hulk, but since they looked good against each other, the match-up continued to happen periodically.


jim kosmicki said...

I always kind of liked the Vulture because he was always portrayed as just being mean. He was like the ultimate grouchy old man - every kid knew one, but this one did have at least some powers to be capable of even more nasty acts.

as for Spidey - the Kangaroo was almost as bad as the Leapfrog. Which brings up Daredevil - I've long contended that through his first 100 issues or so, Daredevil had the lamest Rogue's Gallery - the Gladiator was the strongest, but again, those spinning blades would be as much a danger to himself as anyone else. And Electro was a Spidey villain first. Daredevil Annual #1 has his Rogues gathering into a group ala the Sinister Six, and together they don't seem all that difficult to beat, much less by themselves.

dbutler16 said...

Having been in a major motion picture, does Whiplash count as a "top tier" villain? If so, then add him to my list.

Anonymous said...

What are you on about Martinex? - Mr Mxyzptlk was a great villain. Powerful, and hard to defeat - you try getting someone to say "Kltpzyxm" and see how easy it is!

Everone loves a Dr.Doom or Darkseid, but I think theres a lot to be said for oddball villains. But theres a fine line between being dumb and being brilliant.
One of my faves is the Red Ghost. Or, rather, his super apes...
And without the Mad Thinker there'd be no Mad Thinker's Android!

I find bland villains more annoying. Like, Count Nefaria... what was he all about? Not unusually ridiculous relatively speaking (well, apart from the name) but hardly "top tier". Just another dude who wants to run the world (why?). Thats so boring.


Pat Henry said...

Stilt man. Gotta be Stilt man, right? He took on a lot of Marvel's top brass but—really—he should have been easily toppled by any one of them.

Humanbelly said...


Where's that LIKE button, again-?


Anonymous said...

Marvel Super-Villain Team-Up - Mole Man and Stilt Man! That should happen.

Also - the Joker. Geezer with green hair who laughs a lot. Big whoop.


Anonymous said...

Fun topic Martinex. But, as others have already said, the question within the question is "Who is top tier?"

With that in mind I'm going for the gusto (and I realize this is probably blasphemy to some) Lex Luthor! I just never cared for the guy as a true nemesis for Superman. Now I was never a big buyer of Superman comics so my impression of him is probably colored by the first 2 Chris Reeve movies. I loved both of those movies but Hackman largely played Luthor for comic effect while a super powered group like Zod and his cronies seemed more interesting as a match for Supes to me.

Maybe if he had Kryptonite...or the power of a Red Sun...or...


Anonymous said...

And yes, good one Pat Henry. "Toppled". Hahaha


Martinex1 said...

Thanks for all the comments today. Yes, when I was thinking about this post I had in my mind a particular character and that was the Penguin. How would you rank the Penguin in Batman's list of rogues? Obviously Joker is #1; where does Penguin fall...2.3.4? He's got to be up there...right? To me he always seemed a cartoony remnant from the golden age, something akin to the Newsboy Legion or of that ilk. Surely not a major Batman villain!!! But there he is

So I started thinking about the top ten or twelve villains for major comic characters, and there are just some weird ones in there. Daredevil definitely had a weak set of nemesis early on (although I like the Trickster, Cobra and Hyde). I'm not even sure who Iron Man's major baddies were beyond the Mandarin so there are some weak contendors in his top ten. Even with the Avengers, you get past Kang, Loki, Ultron, the Masters of Evil and there are some really strange leftovers.

I have to agree with Tom on Lex Luthor. As you know, I have limitations in my DC knowledge, but Lex is definitely an example of why I did not buy Superman's book often. And I have to say I liked Brainiac, Zod, The Parasite, etc but Lex was the major enemy. That threw me. Not to mention how often he appears in film. On the other hand, I liked Flash's rogues immensely.

So that is how I was thinking "top tier". Hope that helps. (By the way I think Doc Oc was non threatening as a physical adversary as well).

david_b said...

Sean brings up a point about The Joker.... With the latest treatment of 'The Killing Joke' being celebrated and released shortly.., it's amazing what good imagination can do with, as Sean lamented, essentially a 'geezer with green hair who laughs alot'.

Certainly with Batman ish 251 (which I luckily nabbed off the original comic rack back in 1973), his own limited '70s comic title, Nicholson's and Ledger's portrayal, Mark Hamill's memorable voicings, there's been sufficient mileage done over the decades for Batman's most nefarious and supposed villainous-doppelganger.

Makes me wonder how some other 'not-quite-worthy' villain from either side of the fence would have faired with similar attention.

Like most here, I'd go with Stiltman.., especially when the very **concept** of his supposed threat is flimsy and insipid with the likes of 'Paste Pot Pete', you can't help but wonder what he brings to the battle, other than a nice aerial DD comic cover shot.

Anonymous said...

The Prankster and the Toyman: How can they possibly be among Superman's top villains?

- Mike Loughlin

Redartz said...

Tom- good call on Lex Luthor;I almost mentioned him. Essentialy a rich mad ( pretty cranky, actually) scientist.

Martinex- interesting outlook on Penguin you offer. His stock has risen dramatically, in my eyes, due to the excellent portrayal in Gotham by Robin Lord Taylor...

Martinex1 said...

You may be right Redartz! I have only seen about 15 minutes of Gotham. I've heard it's good though.

dbutler16 said...

Tom, I agree, good call on Luthor! One of my least favorite villains, and yet he keeps showing up in every Superman movie!

Toppled, heh heh.

Anonymous said...

It seems like half of Batman's villains are just "gimmick" types with no powers. Shouldn't be much of a threat to anyone.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

Why is Luthor so revered? Any Lex lovers out there? We know there are iconic Joker stories; are there any great Luthor stories worth reading?

Doug said...

Personally, I thought John Byrne's take on Luthor was far more interesting than what had come before.


William said...

I had a bit in my stand-up act that basically asked "Why does the Gotham City PD need Batman to take down criminals that they should be able to handle themselves?"

And I even used the Penguin as an example.

SCENARIO: A bank is being robbed by the Penguin and his gang, and the police arrive on the scene.

COP 1: "Oh no, it's the Penguin, we'd better call Batman."

ROOKIE: "Huh, why? What's so dangerous about the Penguin?"

COP 1: "What are you talking about, rookie? He has an umbrella that is also a machine gun!! We can't handle something like that. We'd better wait for Batman."

ROOKIE: "But what is Batman going to do that we can't?"

COP 1: "Y'know, he's going to throw his boomerang thing at him and knock the umbrella out of his hand, and then punch him in the jaw."

ROOKIE: "But… but we have actual GUNS! Why can't we just shoot him if he doesn't drop his weapon?"

COP 1: "Look kid, you're new to Gotham I understand, but that's just now how we do things around here. If a guy has a whacky gimmick, we let Batman handle him. If a guy leaves a riddle, or has green hair, or a freeze ray, it's Batman's department. Simple as that."

ROOKIE: "But he doesn't even work for the Police Department! He's a vigilante for god's sake! Are all you people crazy?"

COP 1: "All right, if you want to go and take on a guy with an umbrella gun, be my guest. It's your funeral. No wait! There goes Batman! See he threw his boomerang thing and now he's punching him in the jaw. Case closed. Let's go get a donut."

Anonymous said...

Galactus is a classic villain, brilliant concept, but that costume of his makes me wince. All that purple, and those horns...but I guess that's a different topic.
I think Kirby finally got the look right with the Celestials.

Anonymous said...

Angle Man, M.P., what about Angle Man?
And disagree about Galactus - the big G was stylish. Sounds like your real problem should be with the Purple Man.


Garett said...

Hey William, I'd like to see more of your standup comedy-- especially with superhero topics. I remember your earlier video--funny!

Penguin and Luthor were best by Meredith and Hackman in tv/movies.

Anonymous said...

Good call on the Penguin, Martinex1! While it's true he and Mole Man shouldn't be too much trouble for the Batman and the FF respectively, they always seem to be at or near the top of favourite villains for our intrepid heroes.

It's always bothered me that some villains, top tier or not, looked like they gave so much trouble when considering the difference in power levels, e.g. someone like Tarantula holding his own against Spidey despite Spidey having super strength, spider-speed and reflexes, and a nifty spider-sense to boot! I think it's been a question of writers in general trying to dumb down or minimise the abilities of their heroes just so that the villain could last a whole issue!

- Mike 'where do I get tickets to see William do his standup routine?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I think it's more about power "inflation" rather than downplaying powers or abilities. At one point, Batman or Spider-man, or Wolverine could've been taken out by a lucky punch by an ordinary (if somewhat crazy) guy. Just like any one of us! Now they're invincible. I alwaysd liked the Penguin and the Riddler, but maybe that's my inner early-seventies child talking. Two dangerous lunatics with high-tech weapons!
On another note, Sean, you disreputable scoundrel of questionable reasoning, what are you going on about now?

Anonymous said...

Agree with Jim & others about the Vulture being a grouchy old man – he rates quite high on the ‘Get-off-my-lawn’ scale.

The Mandrill. I mean, just…what?

I always found DC villains silly. It always seemed like they thought up a cringeworthy pun or just terrible name and then invented a villain as an excuse to use it – Rainbow Rider, Crazy Quilt, Condiment King, Ten eyed Man, Signalman, the Fisherman. Although….Hemo-Goblin. Superb.

Wonder Woman had a villain call ‘Egg Fu’ who really delivered the full trifecta: he was rubbish, he was ripped off from 3 Marvel characters and he was pretty racist.


Ian said...

The Jackal and The Hobgoblin do have powers.

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