Sunday, 3 November 2013

TEN RULES - How To Tell If A Character is a Super Villain.

Even Super Villains need advice.

Most movies have villains. whether it's just another term for the antagonist or an actual character that behaves in a villainous manner.  Then there are Supervillains.  The Supervillain is more than just a villain, but how much more and how can you tell?

The first assumption that most people will jump to is that a Supervillain has superpowers.  It's fair comment, but having superpowers doesn't even work for Superheroes (or Batman isn't a superhero and if you definition of superhero means Batman isn't one, it's:  Just. Plain.Wrong.

And if anything called "Super" has to have superpowers I'd don't know as much about super models as I thought.

OK, so... is the nemesis of a Superhero, right?  But Bond villains are called  Supervillains.  And this applies to a wide range of action and blockbuster films.

So, how do we define a Supervillain; here's my attempt:

Code Name

While not compulsory for a Super-villain to have one, having one used to be a pretty good sign.  These days, however, computer screen names and avatars are making Code Names more prolific.  And if they don't come up with one for themselves, the papers or internet probably will.

Distinctive Look

Being above everyone else means the villain has to look the part because normal rules of appearance don’t apply and because it looks good on film.  This includes being bald.  There are a number of reasons that Super-Villains have a distinctive look:
  • Because they can.
  • Because they never looked normal and were bullied, but will have revenge.
  • Because of that incident that marred them and started them down the path to being a villain.
  • To hide that that they never looked normal or their marred appearance.
  • May come from a different culture/time period/planet.
  • As a disguise because people don't look past the "look".
  • Because it’s cool.

Builds giant Hideouts, Vehicles or Monuments or has a giant Hidden Base

As part of their megalomania.

Shadowy Past

You don't just suddenly become a supervillain, there must be some shadowy past there and the best shadowy past is a criminal or espionage background.

Criminal past: Even a petty criminal past.
Espionage past:  Even working for the "good guys" in a spy role is a good starting point for being a Supervillain.
Past with Bad Organisations:  The Nazis, the Soviets, the mob, terror groups.  You don't start at the top, but these groups give you experience and contacts.

This, of course, means that the best shadowy past is:

“Former” KGB:  Since (in the Western narrative) the KGB were the villains of Cold War stories former KGB is a villainous past.  Plus there’s always a question mark with the word “former”.  In Cold War era stories it didn’t seem possible to be former KGB.  With espionage, especially evil espionage, you cannot quit.  Former KGB implied “current KGB pretending not to be anymore”.  If someone actually did break away from their evil espionage masters it required a lot of manipulation, espionage skill, murders, blackmailing… and all those things that marked someone as a capable super-villain.  Post-Cold War and the soviet collapse individuals emerged as the new elite.  Gangsters, businessmen, politicians.  A lot of these were associated with “former black marketeer” or “former KGB” because they had the connections, power, money and information to thrive in the chaos.  And there’s always that thought that maybe there’s a conspiracy: “former” KGB secretly running things.


If they're going to be a supervillain, they've got to be a villain.  And that involves some criminal activity.  Obviously.

But beyond even that:

Casual Criminal:  The super-villain displays sociopathic or psychopathic behaviour and believe that they are above all others.  Not only should they rule the world but normal rules of behaviour do not apply to them.  Thinking nothing of ordering or committing murder for little or no reason is the most extreme or obvious, but simple theft or arrogance it also a good indicator.


Some villains are full time villains.  Others hide behind – or more importantly use – a veneer of legitimacy or even use their villainous schemes to support their legitimacy.

Working For The Greater Good

Often claims to do evil for the greater good.  Taking over the world is for the greater good, because you wouldn’t take it over if you didn’t think that the world would be a better place if you ran it.


A lot of super-villains are highly charismatic.  How do you take over the world if you can’t convince people to follow you?


Without getting hung up on definitions of genius, super-villains are often scientists or inventors and if not masterminds at manipulation, strategy or planning.

Action Villain

The Super-villain is the antagonist in an action hero or super-hero’s story.  The hero fights his way through many tough henchmen to finally face the main villain.  There are ways around a weak super-villain.  Magical transformation, high-tech weapons or armour, trickery.  But the best way to avoid a let-down ending (or the hero to seem to be bullying a weaker opponent or killing the villain in cold blood) is to make the villain an action villain, the equal and opposite to an action hero.  Someone who can stand his ground in the final fight.

~ DUG.

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