If comic book nerds love one thing, it's the opposite sex. Or the same sex. Really, sex of any kind, but aside from that, if comic book nerds love one thing, it's arguing about rankings. This year I plan on embracing my inner nerd nature fully, and thus I begin by lobbing a virtual parcel of dynamite into the frothy nerd-swirl of a comic book rave by asking:
I bet that's the first time you've heard the words "frothy" and "nerd" in the same sentence and not broken out in a nervous sweat.
On your marks ... get set ... ARGUE! Next Tuesday the poll will close and we'll have our official ranking by the HeroMachine community of the greatest villains of ALL TIME!
DoomLand never did overtake DisneyWorld's numbers.
- Dark Pheonix: Having appeared in far fewer stories than anyone else on the list, the Phoenix Force (via Jean Gray) has had a huge impact on fans for decades. And I respect Marvel for keeping its (her?) exposure so limited, an impulse that is almost impossible for comic publishers to ignore. Leaving the death of billions and the possession of one of their more popular character to the main storyline where it first appeared heightens its impact, much like the death of Gwen Stacy standing stark and powerful in its historical moment.
- Darkseid: Superman doesn't have the most spectacular rogue's gallery, which when you're dealing with someone who is, by virtue of his marketing power alone, virtually indestructible, isn't hard to understand. But Darkseid's sheer malevolence and granite-faced evil manage the feat. Besides being one of the few to go toe-to-toe with Superman, Darkseid has also spawned (literally, in some cases) a number of other classic characters, from Granny Goodness to Mister Miracle to DeSaad.
- Dr. Doom: IGN argued that Doom is really the Fantastic Fifth, such an integral foil to the Four that without him, they would not be nearly as successful. His force of personality elevates him to the same stature as the front-line villains against whom he struggles. The scene from "Secret Wars" where he's being flayed by The Beyonder and yet struggles on in his quest to make its power his own is, for my money, one of the all-time classic bits in comics history. Plus you have to love anyone who refers to himself in the third person. "Doom hungers! Doom would like his Twinkie now, knave! No one denies Doom his creamy filling!" Awesome.
- Lex Luthor: Lex makes it on the list pretty much by riding Superman's coattails. Cape. Whatever. I do think it's interesting the way Luthor has evolved over time in response to the prevailing cultural concept of what the most pressing evil is, from the "mad scientist" of the Fifties to the "Greedy Corporate CEO" of the Me-First Eighties and Nineties. Plus, as a Bald American, I appreciate that someone would be so ticked off at losing his hair, he would turn to a life of super crime. Finally, someone to show the world how much our fleshy noggins appall us!
- Galactus: Galactus is like the Borg of the Marvel Universe, relentless and implacable and utterly powerful. Unlike the Borg, he never had a "Hugh" or scantily clad vamp version of himself, which is definitely to his credit. But come on, dude eats planets. Dark Phoenix makes the list for killing billions but that's like a mid-day snack for Galactus. And he can pull off a giant purple magnet helmet!
- Green Goblin: Were his nefarious exploits limited to killing Gwen Stacy and taunting Spider-Man, he'd probably not make the Top Ten. But over time, Norman Osborne has evolved to become a world-class villain, having managed to control his madness long enough to appropriate control of significant chunks of the United States government. That suppressing the Green Goblin portion of his personality has led to his greatest triumphs just sets up the inevitable fall. I'd rank him as the most recent addition to the list, but definitely a worthy one.
- The Joker: Much like his arch-nemesis, The Joker has the unique ability to be reinterpreted by a multitude of writers and artists without ever losing the essence of what makes him great. I find that remarkable. Whether he's the madcap prince of comic crime of his early incarnation, or the maniacal murderer of Miller's "Dark Knight", or even the chilling anarchist of the latest film, The Joker manages to mirror Batman's various incarnations like a twisted, evil mirror.
- Kingpin: My favorite version of the Kingpin is from the Frank Miller "Born Again" Daredevil series. This vast, bloated, cold-blooded criminal businessman, driven by a blood thirst to pursue even the most insignificant threats to his kingdom, brooding like a disgusting spider over his empire ... he's just the best "Mob crime lord" archetype out there.
- Magneto: Another "mirror" type villain, Magneto's complex world-view forces you to treat him as more than just another spandex-clad yahoo out for world domination. Even while you deplore his methods, a part of you can't help but understand why he does what he does, and even sympathize with his goals. None of which prevents you from fearing him, which to me is the hallmark of a great villain.
- Red Skull: My sense is that the Red Skull's star has fallen in the last twenty years or so, and I don't know how much longer he'd make this list. But he's still the best Nazi-style villain in the offing, and as the quintessential Captain America villain, I think he still merits inclusion.
Rather than pick one of those ten, I want to sit back and hear your arguments for why you'd rank them the way you do. What criteria do you use for picking one over another? Is it sales, or impact on the main titles in which they appear, or personality, powers, or what? Is it important that we sympathize with our villains as we do with Magneto, or is it all right to find them completely alien as in most incarnations of Galactus?
Can't wait to hear what you all come up with!