Man, I really love villains! The more horrible, scary, and sadistic the bad guy in a fictional story, the better. For me, watching a movie with the classic “hero versus villain” plot, is great. But if the villain sucks, then the hero’s victory is not as impressive, right?
I have always felt that an action-adventure story is only as good as the villain who opposes the heroes, and there have been some iconic villains in comics and action movies: Hans Gruber, The Joker, Ultron, Red Skull, Mr. Smith, Khan, Sauron, Trump (ahem,) and many more.
So, the question must be asked, why do I have such a fixation with the villains of my various fandoms? Is there a repressed super-villain hiding inside me? Do I secretly desire to be evil?
Well, I believe it has to do with my childhood. I was a goody-good in school. I never broke the rules, I always listened to my elders, and I pretty much stayed out of trouble. Yes, I know. Really f***ing boring, if you ask older me. But I never had teachers telling me I had an attitude problem, or anyone calling my parents because I had trashed the yet another classroom. Never happened.
In fact, I was so good that it became an ingrained part of my being. I would read comics and root enthusiastically for Superman, Iron Man, Green Lantern, or Spider-Man, all to defeat the bad guys, and I’d always feel that sense of righteous satisfaction when the bad guy got his comeuppance. (That was long before I enjoyed seeing the hero get his ass handed to him.)
In every TV cartoon, I would root for the good guys. In Jonny Quest, I wanted those evil frogmen to be vanquished. On Scooby Doo, I wanted the bad guy caught and the mystery revealed. And during the early 70s Batman and Robin cartoons, I wanted The Joker, The Penguin, and the Ice Man, all stopped from achieving their dastardly plans.
Then, a strange thing happened to me on the way to the Forum. (Obscure reference.)
One movie changed my view of villains forever, and that movie was the first Star Wars film. When Star Wars came out in 1977, the new villain of the national zeitgeist was Darth Vader. Here, we had a scary villain who could kill you either with his bare hands, or simply by using the Force to strangle a foe from afar. He wore all black, his helmet had a samurai style to it, his voice was mechanical and unnerving, and he had a respirator wheeze that just made him seem so much scarier than any villain I had ever seen. (Except maybe for Richard Nixon.)
It was the first villain I actually liked more than the hero, and that’s saying something. Luke was so annoying for the first half of that film. (I’ll tell you where you can put Tosche Station and those power converters, ya little runt.)
Anyway, I was attracted to Vader’s look, his manner, and he easily had the best lines in the film, such as “You are PAWT of the Rebel Alliance and a TRAITOR. Take her away!” and “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” When Tarkin yells “Enough of this. Vader, release him,” part of me wanted to see just how far Vader would go. Would Vader have actually choked the Imperial officer to death in front of Tarkin at that conference table to silence the braggart? Sadly, we’ll never know.
This was when I would go to the toy section of my local Sears as a kid (because Sears had everything,) and I’d only look at the Darth Vader or Stormtrooper toys. And here comes the “why” of the earlier question: I gravitated to these villainous toys because I could get a small taste of what it was like to be bad without actually BEING bad.
How cool is that? (Or, how disturbing?)
I could imagine I was Darth Vader during recess at school, making wheezing sounds inside my cupped hands, and then when the bell rang, I’d go back to the classroom and revert back to the goody-good I really was. (Ugh.)
Maybe it was the part of my insides that cried out to be bad getting a little love. I don’t know. At any rate, this fascination with fictional villainy has been carried with me to adulthood.
Now, whenever I am in a comic book store and I look at the paraphernalia of comics or movies, I will always gravitate to the villain’s gadgets, figures, and statues. Just a few days ago, I purchased a wizard’s wand from the Harry Potter universe, and you can guess which wand I chose.
Yes. The wand of Lord Voldemort (unofficially known as “Gerald.” No one knows why.) from the films was the only wand I cared to own because it’s so freaking cool. It looked much better than Harry Potter’s wand, and even the Elder Wand looks like it has boils. Voldemort’s wand looks properly scary, with it’s bone-like construction, and the curl at the end for the pinky finger. Such a beautiful design for a wand used by the ultimate dark lord of all evil wizards.
But villains are typically my go-to fandom purchases. Whenever I look at Star Wars products, I only want items with Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Darth Maul, the Empire symbol, etc. (Don’t give me the good guys because the good guys are boring. I should know.) Yes, I root for the good guys, but if I want to buy a figure, I always go the dark route. Buying the good guys would be like… like… well, like buying a figure of my mother. While good will (and should) always triumph over evil, evil is far more interesting to cosplay.
When it’s Lord of the Rings products, don’t give me Aragorn. Give me Sauron! When it’s The Avengers, give me Ultron, Loki, or Doctor Doom. If it’s Green Lantern… Okay. I do want Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern ring because I love Green Lantern. However, I am also interested in the Red Lantern ring of Atrocitus, because why the hell not? (And none of that yellow ring BS. Harnessing your fear as a strength? Lame.)
Anyway, I think this is a healthy expression for a kid. (I mean, who didn’t love Mini-Me?”) As long as the child knows that these are fictional bad guys and to keep our fascination of fictional villains to our enjoyment of our fandoms while remaining good people in real life, everything is fine. It’s one thing to buy a piece of merch for Darth Vader, but completely different if that item celebrates real villainy, like Gordon Ramsey or Sesame Street’s Bert. (shudder)
To me, I will always root for the heroes of any comic book, novel, TV show, or movie, because of my deep-seeded, inner goodness. (I know. I know. Vomit-city. But you’ll know exactly who to trust when the zombie apocalypse begins, and I can handle a mean axe blade.) But if I really want to have fun, I will focus on the villains in my collectibles because it’s so good to occasionally be bad, right? Anyone?… Beuller?…
Psst. This won’t put me on a watch list, will it?