Oct 7, 2013

Back Issue Ben: The Best Rogues Gallery in Superhero Comics

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here


The Best Rogues Gallery in Superhero Comics
Back Issue Ben

One of the most oft-asked questions in superhero fandom, and the most frequently incorrectly answered. A rogues gallery is a beautiful thing. The best superheroes that have been shat out of the womb of creation into reality, have always had a striking visual, a sound motivation, a solid supporting cast, and probably most importantly, a great collection of delightful villains to plague them month after month with their dastardly schemes (such as cake stealing, or paste-related crimes).

What follows is a colonoscopy-level examination of the best overall collection of villains per hero or franchise, all in an effort to finally answer that most important of questions in any walk of life, “who is the best?” (of primary importance when it comes to sexual prowess and anything to do with superhero comics).

SPIDER-MAN


Top Dog: A matter of some debate between Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin, and Dr. Octopus. The Green Goblin was the first to unmask Spider-Man as Peter Parker. He also, of course, managed to murder both Spider-Man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and the innocence of the Silver Age, with one toss off a bridge. Even his subsequent death didn’t keep his overall menace from plaguing the book for long after, through replacement goblin after goblin. His eventual resurrection, led to him becoming basically the top villain at Marvel over the course of a year during the Dark Reign status quo.

Dr. Octopus on the other hand, was the villain that handed Spider-Man his first major defeat (aside from the whole Uncle Ben killing situation). He formed the first incarnation of the Sinister Six. He has been shown to be a formidable and frequent opponent throughout the years. All of which led to the long-gestating plan by Dan Slott to have Octopus switch bodies with Peter Parker, killing him while also taking over his life.

But now having typed all that, and being too lazy to delete it, I’m just going to call his top villain J Jonah Jameson and be done with it.

Best of the Rest: The Lizard, Mysterio, Electro, the Vulture, Chameleon, Kraven the Hunter, Aunt May, Tobey Maguire, bills, the Kingpin, and the Jackal.

The Worst: Spider-Man has certainly had his assortment of quickly forgotten clunkers like Mindworm and Banjo. All those also-rans aside, for my money, the most annoying and overrated villain in Spider-Man’s gallery is Venom. He’s one-note, had weak motivation from the very beginning, has changed so often from writer to writer to the point where the alien symbiote apparently makes people into cannibals now, or he’s the protector of the innocent. Every Venom story, for me, has been pretty much the same as the previous, which only leads to increasingly diminishing results. He completely represents the kind of character that looks cool, but has very little else going for him beyond the surface.

My Favorite: The original Hobgoblin. Menacing and mysterious, the original Hobgoblin under Roger Stern was a direct callback to the original Green Goblin’s bids for power amongst the criminal underworld. I just now realized he’s probably directly responsible for my ongoing appreciation of the color orange, and hoodies.

THE FLASH


Top Dog: Flash’s top dog is a monkey, but don’t call him that because he’ll get mad. Gorilla Grodd, that devious telepathic ape from the wonderous Gorilla City. Even typing that sentence makes the world a slightly better and brighter place. Grodd is the 80-watt bulb in the living room of excellence.

Best of the Rest: Captain Cold certainly could make a case for the top spot, along with Abra Kadabra. Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, and the Trickster have had their moments. Captain Boomerang would have at one time been tagged as the worst by me, but after reading the classic Suicide Squad, I have learned to appreciate this often misused character.

The Worst: The Top. For no other reason than that he’s the f**king Top.

My Favorite: The Reverse Flash, Professor Zoom, is just as capable of being the top dog of this gallery, but he’s my favorite so I’m putting him here (deal with it). He has a great opposite-colored Flash costume, and he goes around breaking people’s necks at super speed. He’s also from the future and decided to become a super-speed villain because he was bored, or at least that’s how I choose to remember it. Evil twins always have the advantage over the rest, unless they’re Venom.

SUPERMAN


Top Dog: Easy choice here, Brainiac. No, no, of course it’s that cake-stealing curmudgeon Lex Luthor. I happen to prefer full-on green battlesuit crazy Luthor, but I can appreciate the evil from within aspect of respected businessman Luthor. (Lex Luthor, much like Batman, has never been represented better than he was in the Timm-verse of the various animated series.)

Best of the Rest: The Parasite, Toyman, Metallo, and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Darkseid if you want to count him. Zod, while he exists. Bizarro narrowly misses out on being my favorite, mostly on the strength of opposite world Silver Age craziness that I pretend in my mind was probably better than it actually is in reality. Plus, he’s a very literal cracked-mirror evil twin.

The Worst: Terra Man. Seriously.

My Favorite: Brainiac, but only the animated version, not the ineffective pink pants version. Animated Brainiac was, I think, brilliantly tied in to Krypton, and had that really great voice that was just perfect, as so much of the voice acting was in those cartoons.


BATMAN


Top Dog: To the surprise of no one, it’s arguably the top villain in all of superhero comics, the Joker. I personally prefer my Joker poisoning fish and expecting to be paid for it, instead of your more regular run of the mill homicidal Joker. (Or your “staple my face back onto my head” kind of Joker.) But, that’s one of the great things about the Joker, you can practically do anything you want with him, because, hey, he’s crazy and unpredictable from one day to the next.

Best of the Rest: The Riddler, Catwoman (when she is one), Two-Face, Rah’s Al Ghul, Talia, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Clayface, Scarecrow, and Mr Freeze. I don’t think anyone would argue that Batman has the most famous villains, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best…

The Worst: The Penguin. Just because you’ve been around forever and are famous from television and movies, doesn’t mean your aren’t ultimately an umbrella-based character modeled after the world’s cutest shark food.

My Favorite: Since the Joker is already used thanks to my arbitrary classifications, I’ll have to say Killer Moth, based purely on the leggings.

FANTASTIC FOUR


Top Dog: Dr. Doom should not be relegated to the ghetto that is being Reed Richard’s arch-enemy, and instead be released into the greater wild of the Marvel universe (I know he frequently is already, but he always comes back to the FF). But since he’s here, he’s the top choice, because he’s the top choice in all of villainy, and sometimes he’s the top choice for dinner parties. Ole Vic can spin a good yarn, in the right environment. He also never breaks his word, unless he does, and he’ll kill you, or he won’t. Sometimes he just flat out doesn’t have time for your shenanigans, so he’ll send a perfectly programmed robot duplicate in his place.

Best of the Rest: Skrulls, Namor, The Frightful Four, Galactus (if you want to call him one), exciting comics, Mole Man, Hate Monger, Impossible Man, and Diablo. Annihilus benefitted by being used in the cosmic books during and after Annihilation, but that’s the case with most characters involved with the FF (Doom, Thing, and Human Torch are all better on their own). You could expand this list out to include the Torch specific villains, like the wonderful Wizard, Paste Pot Pete, and the Beetle.

The Worst: The Puppet Master, because he’s creepy looking, and plays with puppets. (Also my main criteria for avoiding Duy.)

My Favorite: Molecule Man. Not entirely sure he really counts as a Fantastic Four villain anymore, but I’m putting him here anyway. I know my love for the character started as a kid during Secret Wars, but I can’t exactly explain why it’s continued like it has. Maybe because he is so powerful, but also lazy, and rarely used. And he has those cool face marks that look like tattoos. He’s like the Mike Tyson of villainy.

THOR

Top Dog: Odin. Surprising, I know. I’ve been reading some of the classic Stan and Jack Journey Into Mystery as of late, and Odin is far more of a problem for Thor than Loki could ever be. He’s meddlesome, demanding, frequently irate. For an all-knowing omnipotent God, he’s tricked by Loki a lot. I mean, a lot! He banishes his son to Midgard, and then gets mad when his son falls in love with one of the natives, and spends most of his time trying to get him back to Asgard, or giving him a hard time about it. Odin, no question.

Best of the Rest: Mr. Hyde and Cobra, Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew, Executioner, Frost Giants, trolls, Surtur, coherence, Ulik, Ego, Malekith, and the Destroyer.  Loki would totally be my favorite now (thanks to the movies) if it wasn’t for the character I picked as my favorite.  (Is there any character that has benefitted more from the movies than Loki, and Hiddleston, for that matter?  Okay, maybe Iron Man.  All of us should get on bended knee and thank whatever deity you do or don’t believe in that Tom Cruise never made that Iron Man movie.)

The Worst: Grey Gargoyle, if only because he looks like the Hamburglar. (That may or may not be true, but that’s how I choose to remember it in my mind.)

My Favorite: The Enchantress. Mostly because she’s really mean, very (comic book) attractive, and she uses that sexuality to trick people into doing things for her. She’s like the comic book version of a Kardashian (only attractive, and fictional).

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Top Dog/Best of the Rest/My Favorite: Batroc. (Shameless plug! -Duy)

THE VERDICT

I’m going to offer this up in terms of a bottom to top ranking process, as determined by a complicated grid of mathematical formulas broken down by categories that are totally relevant (just take my word for it). Please keep in mind that this is my opinion, and know that my opinion, as well as my word, is Odin-level in its importance and accuracy.

6. Batman – overrated bunch of one-note psychos

5. The Flash – overrated bunch of clowns (and not the killer kind)

4. Superman – how good can you really be with Superman as your arch enemy?

3. Thor – underappreciated collection of malcontents

2. Fantastic Four – up here on the strength of Dr. Doom alone

1. Spider-Man – without peer

There you have it. If you disagree, feel free to comment below. (Or email Duy repeatedly, and use strong insulting language. He loves that.)

2 comments:

David Cisek said...

I'm surprised you didn't cover the X-Men, or maybe I'm not surprised.

Top Dog: Magneto, absolutely. What was said about Doc Doom, applies to Magneto except he flip-flops occasionally between good and evil. He is always at his best when evil.
Best of the Rest: Hellfire Club, Sentinels, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Phalanx, Apocalypse, The Brood, and all the sub-groups under those groups. Other than the Fantastic Four villains, are there as many villains that affect the entire Marvel Continuum as much as those of the X-Men?
The Worst: Professor X. It's always his evil dark side persona coming to life. How is it his dark side is always 100X more powerful than his good side?
My Favorite: Should be the Dark Phoenix, but I first started reading when the X-Men first encountered The Brood. Those stories have always stuck with me the most.

Anonymous said...

The fact you consider venom as overrated pretty much invalidates this entire article. He's top 5 spiderman villains BAR NONE. the complete counter point of Spiderman. He is what Spiderman could be, could have been, if he let his emotions consume him and drive him crazy.

And no mention of X-Men..Magneto alone is waaay more potent than Dr. Doom alone

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