The following article has been submitted to use by Max Byrne. You may remember him from our recent “Confessions Of A DC Geek” article that he was interviewed for. Max is a massive DC fan – Check his YouTube vids out and see for yourself, great collection of items.
Anyway, our thanks to Max (Twitter: @maxybyrne), please enjoy this great article – John.
“I’m not trying to start no East Coast/West Coast feud with Marvel Comics, but… DC has the best villains!” – David Ayer, director of Suicide Squad, San Diego Comic Con, July 2015.
A quote designed to whip up the DC loyalists in the crowd and create extra buzz around the as then yet to be completed Suicide Squad film for sure. But is that statement true? Some would wholeheartedly agree, others would not. It is of course, entirely a matter of personal opinion and preference. In the humble opinion of this writer however, Ayer could not have said a truer word. There is no rogues gallery in literature that can compete with DC Comics, no set of villains that have permeated into popular culture quite like those making their home in Gotham City, Metropolis, Central City and the farthest reaches of the known (and unknown) universe. Whether they are ruthlessly ambitious captains of industry, illogical psychopaths, alien despots or tragic victims of circumstance, these characters have endured for just as long as their more lauded opposite numbers that operate on the right side of the law.
For every shining hero like Superman, there is a line of villains such as Lex Luthor, Doomsday, Zod and Metallo lining up to bring him down. For Batman to have endured for 79 years there has to be an endless line of foes such as The Joker, Two-Face, The Riddler and Mr Freeze to overcome. The success of The Flash on the page and the small screen could never be realised without a Rogue’s Gallery of Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, Mirror Master and Reverse Flash.
So what makes the DC roster of villains so special? It’s the heights that they have to reach to best the DC heroes. Generally speaking, DC’s heroes are larger than life, iconic creations that are almost god-like, compared to Marvel heroes that are more flawed, down to earth characters. Their flawed nature often leads to them making mistakes that any decent villain can exploit and gain the upper hand from, whereas DC’s more stoic, heroic characters are less prone to errors. This mainly means that their villains have to beat them by simply being better at that moment in time. The struggle between the two takes on a more epic quality, and there are often times where the reader can genuinely wonder if the hero can actually win. Sometimes they don’t at all, as the villain is just better than they are, leaving them out of their depth. It’s a win-win situation in the long run as they give the hero an even greater obstacle to overcome at the end of the story arc, making the protagonist look even stronger as they eventually best their antagonist.
Another thing that makes the DC villains so good is their direct relationships with their opposite numbers, which are well developed and beautifully matched. Take Lex Luthor for instance, a man with no physical super powers, but blessed with a supreme intellect and unquenchable ambition. He was used to being above everybody in his home city of Metropolis in terms of success, wealth and status, only to suddenly have his limelight taken by a flying God from another planet. It was only to be expected that he would do everything he could to reclaim his throne from Superman. In his eyes he isn’t inherently evil as such; he is merely removing an opponent from his path. The symbiotic relationship between Superman and Luthor is almost that of man against God, with man seeing himself above God and striving to place himself on a higher pedestal.
Another example would be how DC positions its villains as opposite sides of the coin to its heroes, such as Batman and The Joker. Batman is a straight down the line; see everything in black and white, no room for compromise hero that refuses to deviate from his obsessive war on crime. Everything for him is a moral absolute. The Joker, on the other hand, is an agent of chaos that seemingly lives his life with no rhyme or reason, no consistency in his choices and he has a blatant disregard for human life. His moral spectrum is the complete opposite of Batman, as is the colour scheme of their respective costumes. Two sides of the same coin, yet so utterly different at the same time. Every time the two engage each other as opposition the reader literally has no clue where the story will go next, which makes for a gripping story that never seems to end the same way twice.
The DC villains have captured imaginations across the fan base, and permeated into the global consciousness too. Those unfortunate to have never read a comic book in their lives could easily describe The Penguin, Catwoman and Brainiac if they had to, and as the films and TV shows continue to expand, the likes of Black Manta, Dr Sivana and Cheetah will also enter the mainstream. Countless more people will discover for themselves that half the fun of reading a comic book is rooting for the villain……..
Well, many thanks to Max Byrne for writing this article and asking for submission on to our website, I’m sure you’ll all agree that it is a cracking read and confirms what we already know, that not only is Max a massive DC Comics fan, but that DC Villains are certainly the best.
Please, go follow Max on Twitter ( @maxybyrne ), he’s always up for DC chat and such a top bloke.