Aug 18, 2014

Supervillain Hall of Fame, Part 3: Straight Outta Apokolips

Supervillain Hall of Fame, Part 3
Straight Outta Apokolips
Ben Smith

Sometimes in life you make decisions, decisions that you have no choice but to follow through to completion. Having children, getting a pet, killing a chicken, writing a comprehensive series detailing the greatest heroes and villains to house a fictional comic book hall of fame of your own devising, and ranking each and every single character on an escalating scale of deserving inclusion, based on a set of pre-established categories of distinction also of your own devising. Some might call this a mistake, a lapse in judgement, a colossal waste of time. I am one of those people. (Just kidding! I am in no way being forced to complete this at gunpoint by my editor-in-chief. Psst, please send help.)

As I said, this list was devised using a pre-established set of categories (which you can easily locate by using the internet to locate the previous chapters ) each of which was assigned a point value from one to ten, subsequently divided to create an overall average score per character, and then completely disregarded so I can rank the villains however I want.

(I hate introductions. Introductions are like glitter, once you use any you can never get rid of it. The one and only reason I know that is because Mrs Back Issue Ben calls glitter the herpes of art supplies, and not because I have ever applied glitter to my face and/or body. Let’s move on.)
Herpes and glitter aside, let’s continue this colossal burden with part three.

17. Apocalypse

Resume: Age of Apocalypse, Archangel, powers, origin, movie, cartoons

Apocalypse is one of the primary villains that fans probably like in concept, if not always execution on the comics end. He was the title character of the popular Age of Apocalypse event, but barely appeared (from what I’ve read, and I admittedly haven’t read it all yet). His most entertaining storyline, was his original appearances by co-creator Louise Simonson, when he altered Angel into the much more interesting Archangel. (As big a Walt Simonson fan as I’ve become, it’s weird that I only recently realized he was the artist on a lot of these issues, especially the iconic cover to X-Factor #24.) Apocalypse has appeared in almost all X-Men multimedia adaptations, including the influential 90s cartoon, and teased at the end of the first season of the highly underrated Wolverine & the X-Men animated series. Bryan Singer has already revealed he will the villain of the next live action X-Men movie, which has me genuinely psyched.

16. Professor Zoom

Resume: costume, powers, origin, killing Iris Allen, The Return of Barry Allen, New 52

One of my personal favorites, the Reverse-Flash is the one villain the close-knit Flash villains “the Rogues” will not accept into their ranks, because he’s too crazy. He’d be a favorite of mine for the bright yellow costume alone, but when you add in his bonkers origin as a jealous psychopath from the future that purposefully replicated the Flash’s powers, well, you have a villain straight after my heart. He most famously and shockingly killed Barry Allen’s wife Iris, and was in turn killed later on by Barry before he could murder his new fiancé. The Flash would then go on trial for the murder, before sacrificing his life to save the planet during Crisis on Infinite Earths, but all three of them would eventually get better, because it's comics (and because Geoff Johns was way too into the Super Friends as a kid). Zoom was the primary villain of Flashpoint, and therefore was at least partially responsible for that storyline being responsible for resetting the DC universe for the New 52, so that alone keeps him out of the top 10.

(Shameless plug for my favorite Zoom story. -Cranky Editor Man)

15. Two-Face

Resume: Tim Drake, cartoons, Tommy Lee Jones, The Dark Knight, origin

I know I’m alone in this, but I really don’t find the majority of Batman’s villains all that interesting. Just because they’re famous doesn’t make them great, but I could be wrong. It’s happened before. Two-Face is one of the more painfully obvious Dick Tracy-esque examples of Batman’s rogues, with his name and shtick extremely apparent based on his physical appearance. He’s been a major part of every Batman adaptation, most noteably in the mega-hit The Dark Knight. Tommy Lee Jones chewed so much scenery as the character in Batman Forever, you can see bite marks on the sets. I’m also alone in this, but I preferred the last “season” of Batman the Animated Series, with all the character revamps, which Two-Face had a memorable story as the villain partially responsible for Tim Drake becoming the new Robin.

14. Venom

Resume: popularity, costume

There’s not any characters I can dislike as much as Venom, but there’s no denying he’s arguably Marvel’s most popular villain. (I got into a discussion with friends about this once, and I think the only one that could possibly be more popular is Magneto, and even then, I think Magneto might only be more well-known. But the difference between well-known and popular is nebulous at best.) Venom has never been the centerpoint of a good comic book storyline, and is actually responsible for purely awful ones more often than not. He’s the epitome of style over substance, as his popularity is solely based on his cool costume and appearance (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s as good a reason as any to like something). Venom has had some success as a supporting player in the Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers, and is serviceable in his current incarnation as a heroic vessel for longtime Spider-Man pal Flash Thompson (even though I personally don’t like Flash as a superhero). Venom was the worst part of the worst Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man 3 (Tobey’s laughable crying scene aside), and the worst Spider-Man cartoon, Unlimited, which is quite an accomplishment. The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon was excellent, but gets points deducted for far too many “bros” on the part of Eddie Brock, each one steadily more annoying than the last. In summary, I hate Venom.

(Okay, I think Ben is just wrong on this one. Venom isn't popular; the visual of an evil Spider-Man, or the black Spider-Man costume, is popular. Venom just happens to be wearing it. With absolutely no data to back me up, I'd be willing to bet that the name recall for Venom is significantly lower than the people who remember the costume.-Cranky Editor Man)

13. Red Skull

Resume: origin, “costume,” the Cosmic Cube, Captain America, movies, cartoons, Agent Smith

The Red Skull is another one of the few unrepentantly evil villains in the Marvel universe. His origin as an evil bellboy is up there with the greats, and he’s always seeking to acquire the Cosmic Cube, one of the all-time great weapons (I could be biased based on all the time I spent drawing transparent cubes during class). (The Cosmic Cube gave the greatest comics-related website its name. -Cranky Editor Man) He’s been a major part of most of the classic Captain America runs, including the superb Brubaker tenure. He’s as integral to the character of Captain America that I don’t mind if he’s a constant presence in the books, like a supporting character (same with Magneto and the X-Men). Currently, he’s running around with Professor X’s brain in Uncanny Avengers. Red Skull was the big bad of Captain America: The First Avenger, serviceably played by Agent Smith (I could look up his real name, but he’s Agent Smith). Agent Smith (okay fine, Hugo Weaving) is almost always very good, if not great, whether he is playing an elf lord or a vindictive vigilante named V. Weaving is basically the Karl Malone of the acting world. He’s always going to give you the same solid performance, if not ever breaking into transcendent. That’s as good a description of the Red Skull as anything.

12. Darkseid

Resume: The New Gods, Jack Kirby, The Great Darkness Saga, cartoons, popularity

Despite his relation to the criminally overrated New Gods, Darkseid is one of the top villains of the DC catalog. I always have a fascination with the big cosmic bad guys like Apocalypse and Thanos, but for some reason Darkseid isn’t as fun. The main reason being is that instead of being an unstoppable force that the heroes can barely overcome, he’s frequently beat down by the likes of Superman, or even (pathetically) by Batman. During Final Crisis, DC thought that the ultimate embodiment of evil would look especially menacing while inhabiting the form of dumpy Mel Turpin, which is a microcosm of why DC continues to fail us all as of late. The Great Darkness Saga stands as his only evergreen comic book story (okay fine, The New Gods Saga counts, but it sucks, admit it, you only like it in theory). (What's Wrong with the New Gods? -Cranky Editor Man) When Darkseid truly shines is in cartoons, where he’s more often treated appropriately as the scariest and most dangerous being in the universe (the Superman/Batman animated movies excluded). He was the perfect bad guy to serve as the capper for the Timm-verse, and when Luthor reconstitutes him instead of Brainiac in the penultimate episode, it is a legitimate (figurative) fist-pump moment. Too bad his comic appearances almost always suck.

11. Sinestro

Resume: Sinestro Corps War, mustache, popularity, origin, fear, colors, space Hitlers

I tried my best to get Sinestro into the top 10, but I just couldn’t do it. He’s been one of the most consistent and entertaining characters since his return in Green Lantern: Rebirth, with Geoff Johns even infusing him with an understandable point of view. He’s also a purple space Hitler, which is a bonus along the lines of evil bellboy. The Sinestro Corps War is one of the most satisfying storylines of the new millennium, and his fear corps led to the introduction of even more colored corps, which can be a negative or positive depending on the fan (positive for me, I love it). Blackest Night, and all the subsequent Green Lantern internal epics, have maintained the remarkable consistency of the Green Lantern line, and Sinestro is right in the center of that. He’s currently headlining his own series, which has been promising so far. Unfortunately, all of the Green Lantern adaptations have been disappointing, to include the animated movies, cartoon, and the live-action movie, so Mark Strong in particular didn’t get a chance to shine as an evil Sinestro. That’s a shame, because with all the (overly done) backstory out of the way, a second Green Lantern movie would have had the chance to be pretty good, based around a conflict between Hal Jordan and the purple space Hitler.

(Sinestro sucks. -Cranky Editor Man)

That does it for the also-rans, next time, we’ll delve into the top 10 most diabolical villains in superhero comic book history. I’m sure you’re all holding your breath in anticipation.

1 comment:

karinations said...

Also agree with Cranky Ed about Venom. No one I deal with in my personal life that doesn't read comics knows Venom. Despite the 2007 movie. As a related aside, my 5 yr old nephew always asks (when coming across an action figure in his collection) is this Venom or black Spider-Man?
I always tell him to look for a silly tongue. That's Venom.

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