The Supervillain Hall of Fame
Part One – Henching Ain’t Easy
As with the previous chapters, this list was devised using a pre-established set of categorical determining factors, each of which has been assigned a point value, divided to create an overall average score, and then completely disregarded so I can rank the villains however I want. The illustrious Cranky Editor may or may not choose to again provide grumpy commentary where he deems fit.
(I hate introductions. Introductions are like first dates, except instead of the possibility of sex, you get me awkwardly trying to introduce my arbitrary list of greatest villains. Ironically, that is pretty representative of what a first date with me is like.)
Without further ado, I present to you (that rhymed), the inaugural class of the 30 greatest supervillains in comic book history (part one).
(Note: Galactus is not a villain, but a force of nature.)
Resume: Superman 2, Terrence Stamp, Man of Steel
If this list were based solely on movies, General Zod would rank much, much higher. Unfortunately, this is an all-encompassing look at the greatest in comic villainy, and frankly, Zod is severely lacking on that whole comic side. His comic appearances are either ancient, inconsistent, or inconsequential. DC has never fully decided what they wanted to do with him, and that has led to Brian Azzarello’s Doomsday-like version, or the straight from the movies version used by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner. Finally, Man of Steel sucked, embrace it.
Resume: The Death of Superman, Justice League the Animated Series, animated movie
Doomsday represents the opposite end of the spectrum from General Zod, in that his one claim to fame was as the unstoppable destructive force that killed Superman, in the much celebrated Death of Superman event from the mid-90s. An event that brought media attention upon a comic story for arguably the first time, and spawned a slew of speculators to the hobby that eventually almost destroyed the industry. Ahem, as far as Doomsday goes, he’s the perfect example of a character that should have been used once, and only once. Unfortunately, starring in the most famous storyline of an entire decade, in comics that sold millions of copies, makes you extremely well known, and extremely popular (plus, that whole casual fans liking super strong characters). Comics have never been known to waste an opportunity to get sales, so Doomsday has returned again and again. He did have some pretty great appearances on the Justice League cartoon, so there’s that.
(If they kept Doomsday's appearance to the death, it'd have been fine. But noooo.)
Resume: The Dark Knight Rises, amateur chiropractor, lucha libre, Batman and Robin, cartoons
Bane is inexplicably popular among casual comic fans, mostly due to most casual fans valuing power and strength above things like entertaining comics (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Bane’s initial claim to fame was obviously breaking Batman’s back in the ‘90s. Unfortunately for him, it’s hard to follow an opening act like that, and he hasn’t done much of consequence since (other than as a member of Gail Simone’s underrated Secret Six comics). Bane has also had the distinct honor of roles in the two worst Batman movies ever made, narrowly beating out Chris O’Donnell for that prestigious distinction.
Resume: Superman the Animated Series, Geoff Johns, Brainiac Attacks, Brainiac 5, Luthor
Much like General Zod, Brainiac has been handled much better outside of comics, except it’s the animated series where Brainiac shines. I love the change of Brainiac being from Krypton, making his relationship with Superman that much more personal (and I do so love that vocal performance by Corey Burton). Brainiac hasn’t ever been much of a factor in the comic books (other than the Bottled City of Kandor), until Geoff Johns revamped him during his Action Comics run (I enjoyed Brainiac in the criminally underrated R.E.B.E.L.S. series also). The best part of his role in the comics is arguably his “descendants”, Vril Dox/Brainiac 2 and Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Superheroes, both of whom I love dearly (see the aforementioned R.E.B.E.L.S. comic). I much prefer Brainiac’s robotic skeleton look from the ‘80s, which he famously sported when he creepily merged with Lex Luthor during Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. (Designed by George Perez! -Cranky Editor) That trick would be repeated to fantastic effect, when Luthor and Brainiac “teamed-up” during the greatest animated series of all time, Justice League. The Flash nearly sacrificing himself to defeat them is one of the rare moments that makes my robot heart start beating again, bringing much needed blood and oxygen to my severely deprived brain and extremities, and a tear to my moisture-deficient eye. Anyway, did I mention Brainiac had the coolest voice from the entire Timm-verse? (Please ignore that last statement. Ben is drunk. -Cranky Editor)
Resume: Colin Farrell, killing Elektra, movie, cartoons, Thunderbolts
Resume: Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, X-Men 3, cartoons, origin, power, popularity
Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (featuring a hilarious Australian voiced Wolverine). Being Xavier’s half-brother adds that ever important personal connection to the heroes that makes many villains so great. Juggernaut wasn’t the worst part of X-Men 3, but nobody survives being a part of the worst X-Men movie ever made, except McKellen. And Patrick Stewart. And Hugh Jackman. And Ellen Page. Everyone really, except for Juggernaut. Thankfully, Cyclops remained dead for many years.
26. Ra’s al Ghul
Resume: Neal Adams, Talia, Batman Begins, cartoons, Lazarus Pits, Damian, Liam Neeson, Taken
Ra’s al Ghul’s greatest achievement was giving birth to his smoking hot daughter, Talia, who in turn gave birth to history’s greatest Robin, Damian Wayne. Beyond that, he made his first appearance in a classic tale produced by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, where he sword-dueled a shirtless Batman in the desert. Additionally, in the Son of The Demon graphic novel, we were gifted with the legendary panel of a shirtless Batman, still wearing his cowl, about to bed down and impregnate Talia. Ra’s may just be the greatest facilitator of great scenes and panels in comic book history. He’s the John Stockton of comic villainy. Most importantly, he helped further transition Liam Neeson into America’s ultimate badass, as part of Batman Begins (the first half of which represents the greatest Batman movie of all time). Similarly, this gave the internet a never-ending stream of “trained Batman and Anakin Skywalker, etc” memes, which matters to someone, I’m sure. Ra’s al Ghul is the John Stockton of villainy, and the Angry Cat of memes. (Cranky Editor: What does this even mean? Isn't Angry Cat the Angry Cat of memes? Also, I'm not sure it shouldn't be Talia in this spot.)
That does it for part one of the inaugural class of the Supervillain Hall of Fame, which promises to provide you with the most diabolical villains that have ever schemed inbetween the pages of a superhero comic book, or hammed up a silver screen, or Corey Burton’d up our ear canals, with the sweet, syrupy sound of evil.
Join me next time, for … the second part. Sorry, that wasn’t more colorful, but it makes up for it in accuracy.