Written By Mykul Harford
You can’t have a good super hero without a good super villain. It’s a story as old as time; just like the chicken and the egg, you cant have one without the other. That’s not just in regards to comic books, but in almost all forms of media. A good hero or protagonist, is primarily judged by their adversary. A hero is also shaped and molded by the conflicts and characters he or she has to face. Whether they know it or not, it’s often because of these rogues that they do what they do. The question is, can one survive without the other? Good v.s. evil; it’s been a struggle since the beginning of time. Stories have been passed down for generations depicting this epic battle, so what better way to showcase this divine struggle than in comic books? What could be better than reading or watching your favorite heroes match wit and brawn against a colorful costumed foe?!
Comics in the early days were more meant for humor and amusement, rather than action and morality. The true super villain didn’t really come about until a little bit later on. The Golden Age of comics pitted our heroes against mostly gangsters and small-time crooks and thieves. Sure there may have been one or two enemies who obsessively worked to bring down our hero, but the vast array of super-foes were more so a product of the Atomic Age. With a new age of science and technology upon them, comics became less focused on war and romance, and more so on science fiction and outer space. More elaborate enemies were being created with even more intricate origin stories. With every good villain must come a good origin. Colorful backgrounds and even more colorful costumes turned on readers of a whole new generation. Our brave heroes weren’t just fighting normal men and women. Now they were being faced with super powered beings; often times, entirely different species!
Monsters and aliens, and products of war; confused and misunderstood, these super emissaries opened up a whole new world for the comic book industry. Now the bad guys were coming out of the woodwork. Some characters such as Spider-man, Batman, and The Flash, have so many enemies that it’s nearly impossible to name them all. While many other heroes, barely even have a handful. Some characters need this vast array of villainy, while others can get by with just a couple. The true question remains, can one exist without the other?
Without an adversary or a conflict to face, our heroes would have nothing to do. Sure they can get down all the cats out of all the trees, but without someone to really flex there muscles on, their potential is being wasted. An effective story has to have some sort of conflict and resolution. The success of that story is usually measured by the relationship between hero and villain. Whether or not the hero wins, or whose right and who is wrong; the best comic book stories feed upon that villainous turmoil.
Some of the best baddies are the ones that connect to the hero on a psychological level. The characters that know how to get under the hero’s skin or know their secrets. Many of the more popular evil-doers are the ones that make the reader relate to them or feel a sense of empathy for what they are doing. Characters like The Punisher or Black Adam, exemplify this. One of the most popular forms of villainy is the anti-hero, or the villain turned hero.
Oftentimes, the villain is even more vital than the hero is. The bad guy is usually the one setting things in motion, while it’s the hero who merely responds. One might think that without the hero around, there would be no villains, either. Do most super villains simply show up as just a challenge to our heroes? Or, if there were no bad guys to take down, would the hero just hang up his cape and retire? Truth is, no one really knows; but its clear that even in comics today, the super villain is imperative.
What is it that makes comic readers identify so well with the bad guy? Is it simply easier? Do we find it easier to give in to temptation, rather than take the high road or make a stand? Or is it because the super villain is our embodiment of fear; our nightmares come to life? Regardless, the villain in comic books has proven to be a vital and completely necessary part of our world.