WAYNE’S WORLDS: The Villains Rule

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

I find this quote extremely appropriate when I think about DC’s recent Year of the Villain event.

The biggest creation from Scott Snyder is NOT the Court of Owls. Instead, it’s the Batman Who Laughs, and he took center stage in recent comics! I always hate it when heroes go bad, and we saw that happen with Hawkman, Supergirl, and several others. Still, villains are often what make a story great, after all!


Let’s be real here – heroes need to be challenged or else we don’t care about their fight against evil. The reason some villains never really catch on is that they don’t have the resources to seriously take on the person their working against. I always yawned when the Prankster took on Superman. Puh-lease. However, I’m always intrigued when Bizarro, Cyborg Superman, or another Kryptonian fights the Man of Steel. I remember when Batman actually attacked Darkseid in Justice League Unlimited on Cartoon Network and when he confronted the White Martians in Grant Morrison’s JLA. I remember gasping out loud and not being able to figure out how he could possible survive. THAT’S when you know you’re seeing a hero taking on a great villain!

I often cheer for a new or revamped villain to join a hero’s rogues gallery. A good example is The Wrath, created by Mike W. Barr, who was resurrected in Detective Comics as an “anti-Batman.” He’s a mirror image of Batman, but in a criminal way.

We all can list the throw-away baddies. My favorite was a Marvel villain called Banjo, who was called that because “he hates it when you pick on him,” as the cover said. Ouch. I also remember Catman (who Gail Simone actually turned into a very interesting character later in his existence), Calendar Man, and Demona.

“Moustache-twirling” villains used to be all the norm when we needed someone to cheer against. But more recently, comics have presented antagonists who instead have conflicting agendas (a la Star Trek). Sandman stands out to me in Marvel, and Paul Dini’s version of Mr. Freeze always resonates with me in DC.

The best DC example of this is Catwoman. She “swings both ways,” as it were, between doing the right or wrong thing. Some characters are more interesting if we are NOT sure what they’ll do next. I like that with some folks as well, but not all. “Sometimes a villain is just a villain,” to paraphrase a popular quote.

Speaking of Trek, there’s a danger to bringing back an “unbeatable” foe that Next Generation and Voyager fell victim to. While extremely popular and scary, the Borg became watered down versions of themselves the more often they appeared. We knew they would be overcome, so the danger level seriously diminished over time.


Some fans take their respect for villains to a deeper level, though. Certain baddies have always had their own admirers, and sometimes their own comics. As a Batman fan, I was surprised years ago when the Joker was given his own title. The aforementioned Selina Kyle has her own monthly ongoing right now, just to mention another.

If you attend just about any comics convention, you’ll see people wearing the costumes of their favorite heroes. Others will be portraying their favorite villains. I continue to see Heath Ledger’s Joker, for instance.

When I ask people to explain their love of a villain to me, it often has to do with someone being able to act on their impulses without worrying about consequences. “The Joker does whatever he wants to whoever he wants,” one fan told me. I don’t necessarily want to go around behaving like the Joker, as the recent massacre in a Colorado theater illustrates. But there are also other reasons, such as they can relate to a villain’s past.


What I like about DC’s event is that they’re often doing for the DCU’s baddies what Mr. Johns did for the Flash’s Rogues: Helping us understand what’s making these characters do what they do. (That’s not always the case, though!)

I enjoyed Mr. Tynion’s writing on the various issues of the event itself, as always! Regarding the Batman Who Laughs, I’m fascinated to see what that guy will be up to next! Having Bruce Wayne turn into a Joker, well, that was just genius! And it isn’t completely over yet, so stay tuned!

Whether you love a bad guy/gal or love to hate that same character, great stories require great villains! You’ll have to excuse me while I go read my collected edition of Penguin: Pain and Prejudice written by Gregg Hurwitz again!

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