By M. D. Wilson
I’m not a supervillain. But I write under the guise of one, the evil overlord King Oblivion Ph.D., on my humor website, the International Society of Supervillains. I am, at best (worst?), a spoilsport (as you’ll soon become keenly aware), but writing from the perspective of Dr. King has given me a lot of insight into the realities of supervillainy and just how unfairly its proponents are portrayed in comic books, a medium unabashedly in the pocket of the superhero-industrial complex.
So as a public service, the comics-culture mavens who run the Newsarama blog have asked me, some guy who writes about superhero douchebags, ice cream flavors and upcoming films under an evil-guy pseudonym, to put my considerable expertise to use and educate you, the propagandized comics-reading public, about some supervillain myths. Meanwhile, I’ll also be injecting the harsh light of real life into light-hearted fantasy. Enjoy!
MYTH : They always lose.
WHAT THEY GET WRONG: Comics have recently gotten a little better about throwing their fictional supervillains something a little closer to a win, with a cabal of bad guys in charge over in the Marvel Universe and page after page of hardcore heart-ripping-out action going down on the DC side of things. But let’s not kid ourselves. Just as inevitably as Martian Manhunter will no doubt magically unzombie-fy, the heroes will figure out some way to ruin all that villain success. The big two comic publishers know what side their bread is buttered on. I mean, Dark Wolverine has a (probably short-lived) series going, but Wolverine (…Light Wolverine?) is in basically every Marvel comic ever published.
REALITY: Here’s the thing. Real-life villains are winners. Don’t believe me? Well, Goldman Sachs, that investment bank that the government bailed out with $10 billion in loans last year? They pulled down $3.4 billion in profits last quarter. That sounds like a win to me.
Yeah, supervillain extraordinaire Bernie Madoff is in prison right now because he bilked so many people out of their money, but 1) He only got caught after he obtained and spent most of the billions 2) He was able to do it for 18 years before getting caught 3) You know his fancy high-priced lawyers will figure out some way to get him out. You know they will.
MYTH: They are openly evil.
WHAT THEY GET WRONG: In comics, supervillains call their teams things like The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants or the Dark Avengers (See? They’re like the good guys, but dark.) Even Lex Luthor, comics’ best example of a “legitimate” businessman headed up the Legion of Doom and/or the Secret Society of Supervillains – two groups whose motives are anything but secret, based on their names.
(And yes, I know my website is called the International Society of Supervillains, but that’s a comedy site, and I’m making a point here. Focus.)
Hell, the Red Skull, whose latest plan involved trying to take over the presidency with a puppet candidate while running the a non-evil-looking corporation called Kronas, is a man who wears business attire… and a red skull-shaped mask.
REALITY: Sure, you may get the occasional crazed serial killer who goes on the witness stand and says something like, “I’m glad I killed him, and I’d kill him again!” But they are the exception to the rule, and most genuine super-criminals give their all to make do-gooder-types think they’re on the up and up. Mafiosos say they’re in waste disposal, for instance, rather than calling themselves The Brotherhood of Evil Italians. And North Korea is officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, not “Dark Korea.”
MYTH: They single-mindedly and unceasingly strive for their evil goals.
WHAT THEY GET WRONG: In most mainstream comics (of course, there are some exceptions, all of which I’m sure you’ll point out in the comments), superheroes lead full lives outside of costumed crimefighting. They get married, they end their marriages through pacts with demons, they have day jobs, they go to college, they hang out in remote arctic fortresses, and so on. But supervillains live for two things: The destruction of that foolish hero and world conquest. Even when they do normal activities, like dating, it’s almost always part of some scheme to get closer to the hero or take over a nuclear power facility, like that time Doc Ock was engaged to Aunt May.
REALITY: I don’t have any real-life, concrete proof on this one, but I can assure you that, sometimes, when I’m fully engulfed by the King Oblivion Ph.D. persona (because I am a crazy person, if you haven’t noticed), all I want to do is get in a hot tub and watch a few episodes of “Dexter.” Because professional hatred really takes a lot out of you.
MYTH: They come back from the dead all the time.
WHAT THEY GET WRONG: For a time, the Joker died about every other week, but he just kept coming right back. And hey, remember when Norman Osborn was dead? Oh, wait, no, he just went to Europe. Magneto has died a bunch of times. Most recently, Grant Morrison wrote a death for him. But, ha-ha, just kidding, that turned out to be a different guy who just looked a lot like him! And DC’s big summer event right now is all about dead people coming back to life.
REALITY: Hitler update: He’s still dead.