Designing The Epic Villain
With Thanos rising once again to prominence in preparation for the next Avengers movie and in the pages of Avengers Assemble, I was led to think just what qualities we need from our headlining villains.
After endless crossovers featuring the most recent uber-powerful villain, such as the Chaos King Amatsu-Mikaboshi, or the brother of Odin, the Serpent in Fear itself, or even dating back to the debut of the Anti-Monitor, the lure of the omnipotent, all-consuming villain has lost its allure somewhere.
Unless of course, that omnipotent power is Cthulhu or his many variants; which is why the Thanos Imperative was such fun, and in my opinion, highly underused.
However, now Thanos has returned, maybe we haven’t seen the end of the Cancerverse. Let’s just not see the entire universe all at once, eh? Drip feed it, build it back up again, over the course of several years, not months.
As the success of Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom shows, what we want are characters with defined personalities and flaws, faults that can only be demonstrated over time. If you saw Jonathan Hickman’s excellent run on Fantastic Four, we were left in a weird space which demonstrates this perfectly. We wanted Doom to survive, even if he is the worst man since the Red Skull.
Thanos straddles this gap, having found all manner of omnipotence over the years, and learning the hard way that he is isn’t quite designed for it. Thanos does not require power; he merely requires the challenge provided by the acquisition of such power. Like Doom, he can be as much ally as enemy (which is the only place that all-consuming villain is useful, as a backdrop to a character-driven story).
We’ve all seen heroes go bad. From Dark Phoenix to erm, the Phoenix Five; Emper0r Superman to the Plutonian to Titan in ‘Will To Power’. Been there, done that. Maybe repeat it with a more in depth progression, which I suppose Shadowland provided for Daredevil. Shame he didn’t remain evil, he was a cute little Darkseid in the making.
Hmm. Baby-Darkseid. Now there’s a concept…
Concentrating on the personality though, brings two ideas to mind. One is that I hope that Marvel does not destroy all of the great work they have crafted with Thanos over recent years, (mainly at the hands of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning), purely for the sake of creating a rather two-dimensional movie villain. Obviously we cannot expect the movie to deliver such a detailed look at the character, but they managed a good job with Loki, and I hope they maintain the standard with Thanos. The comics should enhance the movie experience, not the movie detract from the comics.
One final point is with such flaws, humour makes the greatest villains. Various Bat-foes aside, this brings to mind the excellent resurgence of Mars Attacks. Remember the excellent series from Topps? Or even better, the hilarious Mars Attacks The Image Universe? Coming January, Mars Attacks many of the IDW properties, and I expect the same ludicrousness to ensue, if a little darker than before of course. But this little fan cannot wait.
Let’s see the Transformers face the awesome shrink gun!