It’s often been said that a hero is only as good as their villain. But what does it take to create a truly great bad guy? Characters like the Joker don’t simply grow on trees! Many of the most iconic heroes, like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Captain America, have villains who are just as memorable as their counterparts. However, not every adversary can stand up alongside Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom, Green Goblin, the Red Skull, or Batman’s impossibly deep rogues gallery.
In SYFY WIRE’s latest original video, DC co-publisher and comic book legend Jim Lee and a panel of comic experts dive into the question of how to build a baddie. For Villainy 101, we’re breaking it down into three categories. The first is “Hateful Heroics.” Essentially this recognizes the villain as the hero of their own story. The best bad guy is someone who doesn’t believe they’re a bad guy at all!
“You have to remember that for the villain, the hero is the antagonist,” explained screenwriter David S. Goyer. “I love creating villains whose dastardly plans actually make a strange kind of sense. It’s just that their methods for enacting them are perhaps a little extreme.”
The second step in establishing a good bad guy is to test the hero. If beating a villain isn’t a physical or mental challenge for the hero, then what’s the point? The adversary has to pose a credible threat in order to make the reader wonder if they could actually win. There are some ineffectual supervillains out there (looking at you, Condiment King!) who could never be taken seriously. Only the most worthy of threats can become great baddies.
Finally, the third step is making the villain stand out from the crowd. It’s not enough for them to simply be evil. Anyone can be evil. The mark of a great villain is how they do it, and how they choose to present themselves. Showmanship is a must, people! Look how well it’s worked out for the Joker. He’s so iconic that the Joker has proven to be impossible to kill off.
For more details about building a better villain, check out the full video!