This week, as promised, we’re going to talk about the worst of the worst — super villains. This is also the post that wraps up our discussions on protagonists and antagonists. However, we will still continue looking at different types of characters well into September. Next week we will be talking about foils – in a character and plot based way. Let’s dive into super villains first.
Here’s our definition:
Super villain: a fictional villain with superhuman powers or they’re exceptionally evil.
So these guys are villains with superpowers. You’re going to find these characters in comic books mostly. . They’re going to have all the traits that a regular villain is going to have, but they’re going to have an extra something that is going to make them more daunting for our hero to face. The other thing that I find with super villains, is that they don’t necessarily need to have special powers to fall under this category. They can be without these super human abilities, but they are completely stripped of their humanity. They are the absolute worst kind of villain that you can face.
There is a lot of meshing between the types of villains and super villains and if you want to read more about villains and their archetypes please visit my post on villains.
I do have a couple of different types to add to that list that fit super villains a bit more. Here’s my list:
- The Femme Fatale: She’s got the looks, the body to kill for, and a brain to make everything else come together into one lethal package. She is going to know when to use everything she’s got to get what she wants. My favorite example would be Catwoman. She is a thief and she has Batman wrapped around her clawed fingers. She can get away with stealing and her sinister plots – usually – because she plays games with Batman’s affections. She can seduce him into letting her go because he thinks he’s in love with her.
- The Corrupted: They were fighting on the side of good, but they were seduced into going over to the dark side. Sometimes this is what happens when the character has been disillusioned with what was being taught and they find out their life was built on lies. In the Tobey Maguire Spider-man series, we see Ned Osborne, Peter Parker’s best friend, witness the death of his father by Spider-man’s hands. He subsequently finds out his father’s secret identity as the Green Goblin and takes up the persona himself to make his friend and Spider-man pay for their crime.
- The Henchman: They work for the big baddie or the mastermind villain. Their sole purpose is to carry out the overall bad plan to take over the world. I, generally, find them more interesting than the big baddie. The henchman is more ruthless and conniving than the original villain in the story. A good example of this would be in the movie Kingsmen: The Secret Service. Gazelle works for the bad guy in this film, but she does all of his dirty work and usually in very appalling ways that makes the audience cringe. She is more bad-ass than the villain of the story.
- The Machine: Your villain doesn’t have to human in order to gain the name. They are lifeless and this can make them very hard to kill. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron is a perfect example of this type of villain. They don’t feel anything, they’re cold and calculating and they have no emotion, which can make it hard to reason with them.
- The Personification of Evil: Think about the Joker, Darth Vader, etc. They are only in it because they like and love to cause chaos and destruction wherever they go. They don’t care about the people that they will hurt or kill. They just need to get your hero out of the way and to achieve their world domination.
- Supernatural or Extraterrestrial: They’re faceless, nameless and unknown to our human world. They can get at us from multiple places and fighting them can definitely be a difficult task as they have abilities or technology that our heroes cannot combat easily. Think Aliens, Independence Day.
So how do we write fantastic super villains? Well we can start off with a chart like this:
Make sure you have a good origin story for your super villain and here is some tips on that:
- If you want a controlled, cunning villain then don’t have him/her act like a spoiled, petty brat. Make things match up!
- Make sure your super villains actions match up to who they were before they became the big bad evil. So if they hated killing people prior to being evil – don’t make them go on a killing spree just because they can. They’re going to wrestle with this.
- Give them a reason to act! I think I’ve put this on every post for the last two months, but it is true. Any sort of character needs some sort of reason or reasons to act and do what they are going to do. It gives them complexity and makes the relatable to the audience.
- If they don’t start out as they are now – show the process. If your villain has abilities or attitudes they didn’t have before rising to villainy, then you need to show how they are getting those skills and abilities as your story goes on.
- Have them react to their new abilities or roles. Make sure they stay in character for this. If they hate life and then get a new power – they’re not going to be overjoyed about it. Have them react accordingly.
That’s it for the origin stories. I do want to touch on this with female super villains. There are not a lot of them driving a plot, they’re usually a second in command or their sexuality is their main way of battling the hero. Or they go bad because of a love gone wrong. These are massive stereotypes and I can say that I am sick and tired of them. So please try to come up with something unique to get rid of this trend and to celebrate the awesomeness of female villains – and heroes for that matter – without it being kinda degrading to women. I’m not saying you can’t use these things, but don’t make it the driving force behind a woman super villain.
Some things to keep in mind when writing a female super villain:
- It’s not all about her sex appeal and sexuality. Give her some amazing new skills that make her a worthy foe for your hero. She can be smart or have telepathy or something.
- Your female super villain doesn’t just have to fight other women. Have her brawl and use her fists. Women may be a bit weaker then men, but you’re writing a fictional story. You can push the bounds of what is “normal”. Also has no ever heard about self-defense classes? It trains you on how to take down a male attacker very effectively. On top of that, she could be a trained martial artist or she can have superpowers that can giver her an edge. She doesn’t just have to take down her attacker with kicks and good looks – she can use her fists too. Remember there are women boxers and mixed martial arts fighters out there to gain ideas from. I’d love to see a male superhero/hero get their butts handed to them by a woman. It’s new and interesting!
- She can be evil just for the sake of being evil. She doesn’t have to have a reason, like some other male super villains, to be evil. She can like it and enjoy it. My favorite example would be Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. She just wanted to be bad because she could be.
- Romance is dead. Women, in real life, don’t go psychotic if they break up with a man – there are rare exceptions I will admit. We don’t go around designing plots to rule the world after we break up with someone. So why is it acceptable for female villains to do this all the time? It’s incredibly sexist to both men and women. Change it up!
- Get rid of the vamp. Women have so much going for them other than their looks. Recognize this with your female characters. I think it’s not an entirely bad thing – some women do use their looks to get ahead; however, it’s also insulting and sexist. It suggests that men are ruled by their baser instincts and can’t control themselves and it doesn’t really make women look that good either.
Now no matter what you do, don’t forget the chilling evil laugh – it’s a villain prerequisite.
Until next week!
P.S. Here is the top ten evil laughs for some inspiration: