Superheroes may be glorified from here to Asgard, but no matter how fast they can swoop in to intercept a ticking time bomb or save a planet before it explodes all over the galaxy, it’s often the villains who you end up wanting to cosplay.
Why? Because they look cool.
Sure, the good guys have their share of masks and capes and hammers no one else can wield, but it's always the rogues and the rebels who have the armor, weapons and headgear you would totally recreate for your next con if you only knew how. Killer visual concepts are created around some undeniably disturbed (and disturbing) characters. Costumes that are more terrifying than anything you’d see in a haunted house are reflections of the evil that pulses inside.
Channel your inner villain and blast your way through these 11 villains who take the idea of being dressed to kill seriously.
While hardcore Watchmen fans were dying for Ozy to wear the purple tunic and gold tights he rocks in the comics, you just can’t deny that the black and gold suit — with an echo of iconic purple — is more dangerously regal. It’s so much like a futuristic version of an Egyptian pharaoh that can even forgive those barely visible nipples on the torso. Even that backward half-circlet on his head looks more like a modern symbol of power than an ancient relic. I might get annihilated for this, but Ozymandias is one of those rare cases where the movie costume just crushes the comic version.
Venom, Spider-Man 3
Never mind the mostly forgettable movie that spawned a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. Just forget it was Topher Grace (yes, Eric Forman of That '70s Show) under the suit. Venom could have just crawled out of the comics, because those insectile eyes and dagger teeth are that eerily realistic. The webs of symbiote gloop are something that wasn’t originally in the comic but leveled up the costume to really show how much the symbiote has taken over its human host. Go to any con and really look at some of the scariest Venom figures
Whiplash, Iron Man 2
If there's anything more awesome than Tony Stark's robo-suit, it's the dark version powered by Whiplash's version of the Arc Reactor. The Mark II Whiplash armor is an evil reflection of Iron Man in every way possible. Where the hero blazes in red and gold, the villain flashes in gunmetal. While one is a sleek robotic exoskeleton that shoots through the skies and swoops to the rescue, the other has a heavy-metal Frankenstein look that wouldn’t be out of place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Whiplash also has those electrified whips that don’t care what they slice through. By the way, if his armor looks CGI to you, it's actually 3D-printed.
Mister Freeze, Batman & Robin
Try to freeze the whole Arnold Schwarzenegger thing out of your head for a moment. The armor that keeps Mr. Freeze alive in temperatures that would turn the rest of us into human icicles — you have to admit, it's pretty awesome. From the metal exoskeleton and headgear that provide his internal air-conditioning to the wings he can activate, this is probably the best thing you can do after a lab accident that makes you unable to survive above a certain temperature because you messed with cryogenics too much. It’s hard to decide what's cooler — the cryo-tech suit or the Freeze Ray. The action figure version from my '90s childhood even shot (plastic) blasts of ice at Batman.
Thor's nefarious brother is burdened with glorious purpose — and a gloriously badass costume. As if the thought of a scorned god taking over the world doesn't make most people tremble in their skin, those menacing horns and a scepter that flashes with multiple blades say he will impale everything in his way, literally or otherwise. It gets fiercer. Just when you thought those gleaming horns were enough to scatter hordes of people from miles away, he wants more and gets more. Just look at those gladiator horns that are the evil answer to Thor's more Roman-style helmet in Thor: Ragnarok. Loki always has to one-up somebody.
The Joker, Batman
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Jack Nicholson's incarnation of Gotham's most notorious (and sarcastic) villain is not just scary but also the most scary-accurate Joker ever. That radioactive purple coat, orange shirt, checkered pants, teal vest and matching tie could have jumped right out of the pages. If he faced his two-dimensional self in the comics, it would be as if he was staring at his corpse-like visage in the mirror. Think colorless skin void of humanity and perma-grinning lips stained with Bat-blood (plus Jack Nicholson's inborn creep factor). What exactly is in that makeup? Only your undertaker knows for sure.
Green Goblin, Spider-Man
Supervillains may be notorious for wearing black, black and more black, but Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin made black look basic when he whooshed in on his Goblin Glider wearing the sickest green armor ever in 2002's Spider-Man. It's even metallic and doubles as storage for pumpkin bombs and strategically hidden blades. The sculpting on the arms and torso is just unreal, and don't get me started on the gold eyes you only have to look into once before he flashes those blinding gold teeth and sends you swinging from building to building. If you think this mask will haunt you every time you close your eyes, just look at the prototype.
Hela, Thor: Ragnarok
The Goddess of Death can be nothing less than badass (that headgear makes even Loki's horns look tame), which is why it took concept artists forever to bring their final vision out of the darkness. Samurai armor was an unlikely inspiration for the headpiece to rule all headpieces. The suit is as impenetrable as it looks, if you remember that scene where it actually healed around a stab wound, and the bullet-absorbing cape is the stuff of villain dreams and hero terrors. Even if you were an Asgardian, tell me you wouldn't be downright petrified of the queen of the underworld who no sword or hammer can kill.
The Joker, The Dark Knight
If Jack Nicholson's Joker is eerily dressed to perfection, Heath Ledger's iteration of the character is a visual breakdown of everything it means to be human. He still wears the purples and greens of his grinning predecessor, though he blends into the shadows of Gotham more by avoiding an acid-bright color spectrum. That smudged greasepaint and massive scar of a mouth are more than just magic tricks. Makeup artist John Caglione recalls being inspired by Ledger's facial contortions as the actor rehearsed. Purposely veering away from Nicholson's flawless funeral makeup, he would paint over those warped expressions again and again to put a smile on that face.
If a zombie Nazi soldier wearing a gas mask with two gaping eye holes doesn't make you want to scream, there's something wrong with you. The uniform alone is nightmare fodder until you realize what's under it. His masochistic surgery addiction resulted in a body that is more metal than human — which is what happens to someone who performed a bizarre kind of plastic surgery on himself to remove his own lips and eyelids. You can't help but get creeped out by that steampunk-looking piece of gadgetry he calls a torso, never mind when what are supposed to be hands emerge from his coat sleeves to reveal knives flashing in the rain.