Those who grew up in an age when comics and sports ruled our childhood worlds will remember our superheroes, our action stars from so many different comic book heroes; guys like the Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Spiderman, Superman, Captain America, Batman, the Green Hornet, Garth, Rip Kirby, Kerry Drake, and simply so many more; icons of a bygone era before the internet; nay, well before the internet if one may say. These guys pervaded young impressionable consciousnesses with their bravery, bravado, muscles, slickness, macho attitude, and the assurance that in their universe there was always justice. Christian Bale was a kid and Val Kilmer probably a struggler in Hollywood when we were reading and rereading Batman. Toby Maguire was probably a Spiderman comics fan too years before he played the iconic crime fighter.
But hey, do stop and consider this. We all have our favorite crime fighters from the golden era of comics. How many of us though; remember the criminals – the bad ones that copped all the punches and let the good guys bask in the glory. Yup, they played a role too and skilled artists aided by some great writers really fleshed out their characters. Let us go down memory lane and check out these top ten fictional bad guys that existed as the nemeses of our favorite crusaders.
1. Joker – This guy would probably make Hannibal Lecter shrink in fear. He radiates pure evil. The Joker frequently tops the list of most awesome comic book villains. Not just that he scores highly, very highly whenever lists of fictional characters are drawn. That’s a super achievement and Jerry Robinson, who is credited with having come up with the concept of this character, should be proud. The Joker is from the DC Comics universe and the arch enemy, arch nemesis of the caped crusader of the night – Batman. The reason for his appeal can be described in one word – whimsy. His crimes are homicidal, maniacal, brutal, whimsical, and his appearance with that ever-present evil smile is the stuff that comic book nightmares are made of. His grin, BTW, is attributed to him falling in a vat of chemicals.
2. Great White Shark – The terrible tribulations of Warren White, a crooked financer, in the Arkham Asylum, led to the birth of the Great White Shark – a super villain who is more than a bad ass weirdo in the Gotham universe of DC Comics. You can get an idea of how rotten the guy is when the Joker says that he is “the worst person that I have ever met”. Hey, before I forget, this guy is a relative recent addition to the list of notorious comic book baddies. He is the creation of writer Dan Slott and artist Dan Slook. After having made his first appearance in 2003, the Great White Shark has been successful in running his crime syndicate from the inside of a mental asylum.
3. Doomsday – What can you say about a guy who’s on the wrong side and possesses the power to take out Superman. And he actually did kill Superman. Doomsday is the most muscle-bound, strongest, and vilest villain ever to have “graced” comic book universe. He is the creation of writer / artist Dan Jurgens and is a denizen of the DC Comics world since 1992. When he destroys Superman he does so by using brute force and not by using the Man of Steel’s vulnerability to Kryptonite. The artwork and drawing of Doomsday does justice to what his creator had in mind. He’s hellish and insane beyond insane, but not without some very cool attributes that make for fascinating reading from the time of his birth on…where else but Krypton. He predates the birth of Superman by thousands of years and has spent his time emptying entire planets of its denizens and killing do-gooders.
4. Lex Luthor – Is he the brainiest super villain ever? He’s certainly one of the oldest and most enduring comic book villains out there. He made his debut way back in 1940 and has since then crossed swords with the man of steel several times over. From being a criminal mastermind in the early issues to being a mad genius of a scientist in the later ones, he has had Superman lovers on the edge ever since. The Lex Luthor evolution timeline is an interesting one – the guy was a big Superboy fan and almost gifted him the antidote to kryptonite. The reason for Luthor’s enduring popularity, even though he is a villain, is that he has survived and thrived in a world of super-powered creatures without any super powers of his own – all he has is his intellect and malevolence.
5. Venom – A villain with a difference; because this here is no villain at all, you see! It’s an alien symbiote that is sentient and always looking for hosts to influence so that it can carry out its mischief. As far as concepts go, this is one is simply superb. Although called a symbiote, it is actually a parasitic being alien to planet Earth. This E.T almost took complete hold of Spiderman’s mind and body and if not for timely intervention by Reed Richards, who knows what would have happened to Spidey. He would have probably taken leave of his spider senses. Venom is a shape-shifter and can mimic human shapes. It requires adrenalin to function and very often as it shifts from host to host, it leaves its previous host dead. You can always watch Spiderman 3 to learn what we’re talking about.
6. Galactus – Galactus is the most powerful entity inhabiting the comics universe, period. He is almost God-like in his powers but very bad by nature. He gobbles up a world or two when he is hungry. How does he do that? Ask the guys at Marvel that came up with this fascinating character. If this guy was on the side of the good, there wouldn’t be any other superheroes needed at all! Galactus is an old-timer. He is from a time that was before the Big Bang. That’s billions of years ago. He was born on the planet Taa. Not only can he annihilate planets, he can actually create new ones. In one of his magnanimous moods, he may offer the inhabitants of a planet a day or two to escape before he chomps up the good bits of the planet. But it’s not like he can’t be defeated. The Fantastic Four combined with the Silver Surfer and defeated Galactus using the Ultimate Nullifier, that’s one serious weapon.
7. Ra’s Al Ghul – He’s the Demon’s Head and the lord and master of all he surveys. The stories involving this dastardly baddy have a special charm because of his genesis, the early plots, ideas such as the Lazarus Pit, and the fact that Ra’s is more than 700 years old. He was been wronged by an Arab prince a few hundred years ago and has ever since taken it on himself to rid the world of all evil. Yup, you heard that right! It’s just that he wishes to do so by destroying human-kind and starting all over again. And this is where Batman and Ra’s disagree. He’s a brilliant chemist, particularly skilled in germ warfare, a superb martial artist, and fencer. He’s also very rich. Ra’s actually discovered that Bruce Wayne is Batman’s alter ego and wanted to make Bruce the heir to his empire that includes the League of Assassins.
8. Apocalypse – This is his moniker, his mom and dad, whoever they were named him En Sabah Nur and he’s a mighty mutant, the most advanced in the universe. He’s also immortal and a recurring pain for the X-Men in the Marvel Universe. This guy is immortal and can alter his body at the molecular level, or is it atomic? In any case, he can take on a gigantic size, use his body as armor, harness the energy around him, turn his limbs into deadly weapons, and do a lot. He’s a champ with celestial technology, the kind we earthlings know little about. He’s not pleasing to look at but he’s got the IQ that is miles ahead of genius level. He wears a bio-armor. He doesn’t like weaklings and is forever trying to orchestrate situations so that only the fittest survive.
9. Darkseid – He first appeared in 1970 in an issue that featured not Superman but his pal Jimmy Olsen. Today, he is one of the most feared and “respected” villains in the comics universe. He rules the planet Apokolips, which the keen eyed amongst you will recognize, is apocalypse spelled badly. But he brooks no jokes and when peeved he unleashes the feared and deadly “omega beam” from his eyes. The bloke was called Uxas before he went on a family-killing spree dispatching his mother and brother; after the deed was done he felt Darkseid suited him better. Darkseid’s raison d etre is the anti-life equation and his quest for this equation can be fulfilled only on Earth.
10. Saint of Killers – A confederate soldier that ends up on God’s throne. He sold his soul to the Devil and then shot the devil dead. Fate took away his happiness and his chance at redemption when his wife and daughter were cruelly snatched away. He burned with hate; pure hatred so cold that it froze hell when he died and went there. That’s when the devil struck a deal with him and made him an angel of death armed with two Walker Colt revolvers that never run out of ammo, never jam, and each shot counts for a kill. The Saint is immortal and can easily shrug off a nuclear attack. He has appeared in 48 issues of Vertigo Comics but is loved by fans of this genre. When a good guy goes bad, he gets sympathy and when the character is as interesting as that of Saint, you want to read on!