Aug 11, 2014

Supervillain Hall of Fame, Part Two: The Second One

Supervillain Hall of Fame, Part Two
The Second One
Ben Smith

Due to overwhelming fan demand (ha!) I’ve decided to continue what is destined to become my life’s work, creating an all-encompassing fictional Comic Book Hall of Fame. I’ve completed the inaugural superhero class, as well as the special room housing the greatest weapons ever conceived, and now I’ve begun arguably the most important wing of these hallowed halls of history, the villains.

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

(I hate introductions. Introductions are like the human appendix, everyone has one, but they’re useless. From time to time one blows up and kills somebody. I may or may not have lost control of that analogy, I’m not sure what the burst appendix is analogous to, except maybe the death of human decency that’s certain to follow reading this.)

Painful body functions aside, let’s continue with part two.

25. Black Adam

Resume: powers, Geoff Johns, popularity, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam

Unlike his arch-nemesis Captain Marvel, Black Adam has fit in seamlessly into the modern DC universe. While DC has never seemed to have much use for a second heroic Superman since acquiring the characters in the ‘70s, you can never really have enough villainous versions, and Black Adam fits that bill perfectly. He also benefits from a modern day Magneto-like update of him having an understandable point of view, he just wants to protect his people, even if he sometimes slaughters entire opposing nations to achieve it. Geoff Johns has seemed to have a particular affinity for the character, which is the quickest way to popularity for a DC character over the past 10 years. Black Adam was one of the title characters of one of DC’s animated movies a few years ago, and has made appearances on Batman: Brave and the Bold.

(Do you realize Black Adam appeared in one — ONE — Golden Age story? How many people show up once in the original material and then just take off decades later? -Cranky Editor Man)

24. Kingpin

Resume: Born Again, Spider-Man, Daredevil, movies, TV, cartoons, girth

Kingpin has pulled one of the rarest tricks in all of superhero comics, he’s become one of the top villains of two different high profile heroes, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Kingpin debuted in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #50 (famous for Peter quitting and throwing his costume in the trash, as he pensively walks away) and served for many years as one of the many mafia stand-ins in the Spider-Man comics. He was eventually snatched away by Frank Miller, who wanted to create as near to a crime comic as he was allowed at the time (it was a more regulated era) as the writer and artist on Daredevil. Kingpin became the arch-enemy of Miller’s Daredevil, culminating in the Born Again storyline, one of the most famous storylines in Marvel history. He has been a fixture of the Daredevil comic ever since, while still showing up in Spider-Man, and eventually any other Marvel books that need an imposing mob figure. He maintained a prominent role in the early ‘90s Spider-Man animated series, which was as atrocious in quality as it was influential in attracting a whole new generation of fans. Michael Clarke Duncan was suitably cast as Kingpin in the live action Affleck movie, but underserved by a lackluster overall film. Hopefully, Vincent D’Onofrio can revive the Kingpin’s prominence in the upcoming Netflix Daredevil series.

(You guys ever try figuring out which villains and supporting cast members should migrate from one superhero to another? Kingpin, for example, debuted as a Spider-Man villain, and then went nowhere until Miller moved him over to Daredevil. Sabretooth was an Iron Fist villain until they moved him over to Wolverine. I think Poison Ivy would make a great Wonder Woman villain, and Michele Rodriguez should be a permanent fixture in Daredevil. -Cranky Editor Man)

23. Deathstroke

Resume: costume, Arrow, Identity Crisis, The Judas Contract, social security benefits, Teen Titans Go

Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, was the most prominent villain created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez for their seminal run on The New Teen Titans, which was one of the only DC books selling like a Marvel comic in the early ‘80s (Marvel dominated the era). Deathstroke has an appealing skill set and a cool costume, and luckily for him, you don’t need much more than that to become a popular comic book character, because there’s not much else to him. (Just like Doomsday, I think that one run should have been Deathstroke's run. Read the whole thing; his story ends right there. -Cranky Editor Man)  He was a major player in the classic Teen Titans storyline, The Judas Contract, famous for introducing Dick Grayson as Nightwing. He had a memorable fight scene alone against the Justice League, in the abominable mini-series event Identity Crisis("Abominable" is being generous. -Cranky Editor Man) In other media, Slade Wilson was the top villain of the early seasons of the underrated Teen Titans animated series, and has also been a standout character on the first two seasons of the TV show Arrow. However, his greatest achievement was inspiring the creation of Marvel’s Wade Wilson, better known as Deadpool. (Deadpool is neither a full hero or villain, hence his exlusion from both of these lists. Same with Black Cat, Larfleeze, and Galactus. Go ahead and consider all of them inducted in a special category. You can even make up your own name for it.) (Well, I'm not doing it! Make your own list! -Cranky Editor Man)

22. Sabretooth

Resume: Wolverine, movies, cartoons, Mutant Massacre, powers, popularity

There’s really no mystery as to why Sabretooth is popular among fans, he’s an evil Wolverine. The interesting thing about Sabretooth is that he was introduced in an Iron Fist comic, was primarily a Power Man and Iron Fist villain in his early appearances, before finally being drawn into the X-universe and finally facing off against Wolverine for the first time following the Mutant Massacre crossover event (yes, disgruntled internet fans, despite what you may choose to remember, there were crossovers back when you were a kid also). (Sabretooth NOT being created for Wolverine is kind of mind-blowing. It's like if General Zod wasn't created for Superman, or if the Wrath wasn't created for Batman. -Cranky Editor Man) Their status as arch-enemies was sealed for good in the classic Wolverine #10, in a flashback story that shows how Sabretooth murdered Wolverine’s lover Silver Fox. That story was adapted for a standalone Wolverine episode of the early ‘90s X-Men cartoon, a cartoon as influential for creating new fans of the concurrent Batman the Animated Series, only much much more awful to watch. Sabretooth is popular enough to warrant a role in the very first live-action X-Men movie, but unfortunately being played by a pro wrestler is surprisingly not the best way to make a lasting impact on an audience, and he was mostly forgettable. Liev Schreiber delivered a much more memorable performance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but the movie was decidedly average overall.

21. Ultron

Resume: Age of Ultron, origin, powers, cartoons, movie, Ultron Unlimited, Next Avengers

Ultron represents the comic book version of the tried and true sci-fi concept of the artificial intelligence trying to wipe out humanity and take over the planet. Ultron has an ongoing oedipal conflict with his creator, Hank Pym, and a lineage involving The Vision, Jocasta, and Victor Mancha. While he’s had a consistent history of entertaining appearances, the only one that could be considered a standout is Ultron Unlimited, during Busiek and Perez’s Avengers run. The Age of Ultron crossover event was uneven at best, and largely disappointing for most fans that don’t love anything having to do with Hank Pym or Ultron. My personal favorite is Ultron’s role as the central villain in the Marvel cosmic event Annihilation: Conquest, which produced history’s greatest superhero team, the modern Guardians of the Galaxy. His biggest drawback is that he’s essentially unbeatable, thereby making it difficult for writers to keep coming up with new ways to defeat him. Ultron has made appearances in all Avengers cartoons, and was the villain of the very underrated Next Avengers animated movie. I expect Ultron to take a significant leap in popularity and significance following his starring role in the upcoming live-action Avengers sequel.

20. Mystique

Resume: powers, look, movies, cartoons, Rebecca Romijn, Jennifer Lawrence

Mystique was a present element of the X-books for a long time, mostly as the leader of the government sponsored Freedom Force team, and surrogate mother of popular X-woman Rogue, but she was not considered to be on the same level as top evil mutants like Magneto or Sabretooth. All that changed when supermodel Rebecca Romijn covered her naked body in blue paint and scales, and had a star-making turn as Mystique in the first two X-Men movies. Following that, the popularity and prominence of the character increased dramatically in the comics. When Fox rebooted the X-Men movie franchise with X-Men: First Class, they cast young up and coming actress Jennifer Lawrence as a younger Mystique, which would turn out to be one of the all-time casting coups when she would win an Academy Award for Best Actress just a few years later. She would reprise the role for X-Men: Days of Future Past, with Mystique having a central part in what is probably the best X-Men movie yet. All that aside, she is one of the more interesting mutant villains, with constantly changing motivations and loyalties based solely on what is best for her, and complicated parental dynamics with Rogue and Nightcrawler.

18. (tie) Harley and Ivy

Resume: cartoons, popularity, cosplay, Batman, The Joker, Arleen Sorkin

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are the peanut butter and chocolate of supervillains, they are pretty great on their own, but even better together. Harley Quinn is the crowning achievement of the groundbreaking Batman the Animated Series, created specifically because Paul Dini liked Arleen Sorkin, and quickly becoming popular enough to transition over to the comics, where she has remained extremely popular ever since. Poison Ivy had a largely forgettable history as a lower tier Batman villain before being revamped and highlighted on, again, Batman the Animated Series. Many villains benefitted from the hugely influential cartoon series (expecially Mr. Freeze) but when Harley and Ivy teamed up in one of the best episodes of the entire show, one of the all-time great comic book duos was born. Any comic book convention is as guaranteed to have Harley and Ivy cosplayers as it is to have vendors selling comics, proof positive of the pair’s enduring legacy as two of DC’s most popular characters. Unfortunately, neither character has provided quality comic book stories on a consistent basis, despite regular fan demand.

That’s a good a place to stop as any, with a one-two punch of Harley and Ivy cosplayers, and naked Jennifer Lawrence. That should help to wash the bad taste of Black Adam, Deathstroke, and Marv Wolfman out of anyone’s mouth. Only I’ve just ruined it all by using Marv Wolfman and mouth in the same sentence.

Next time, it never ends.

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