• Member Since 21st Nov, 2014
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Eric Michael Kline


I like fantasy. I like heroes. And unsurprisingly, I idolize Master Tolkien.

More Blog Posts11

  • 233 weeks
    A bit of some bad news

    I'm afraid I have some bad news in regards to the story. About a few days ago, my 4 year old laptop up and died on me which pretty much destroyed the latest chapter. I was hoping to get it up by month's end but now I'm afraid it won't be out until Feb.

    0 comments · 141 views
  • 239 weeks
    Additional Info

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    0 comments · 179 views
  • 239 weeks
    Villainy 101

    And so the identity of the Shadow has been revealed. I know it was pretty obvious from the start but at least I hope I made it dramatic enough.

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    0 comments · 276 views
  • 239 weeks
    I'm back baby!

    Greetings to all my readers. It's certainly been a while hasn't it? My goal was to finish this story within a year but it seems as though life had other plans for me. Over the past few months, I've had to spend an unexpected hiatus on personal matters. You see, I suffer from depression but a new therapist and new medication has done wonders for me. It's also forced me to take a good hard

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    1 comments · 162 views
  • 265 weeks
    The Discord Effect

    So let's talk about what I've done in this latest chapter. Mirror Discord being defeated by the Shadow following his possession of Mirror Sombra is what's known as a Worf Effect; when the biggest and strongest character is defeated by the villain as a means to show how much of a threat the villain is. Not only did the Shadow defeat MD, but also managed to seal his powers, and by extension those

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    2 comments · 186 views
Dec
10th
2015

Villainy 101 · 8:26am Dec 10th, 2015

And so the identity of the Shadow has been revealed. I know it was pretty obvious from the start but at least I hope I made it dramatic enough.

Now then, in this post I'd like to talk about what makes a great villain. Without a doubt, the villain is the most important character in any work of fiction. They are more than just an obstacle for a hero to overcome. They are the driving force of a story and the standard by which the hero's own character is measured. They are the reason the hero exists and the means through which the hero proves his or her worth.

The problem, as with with Sue characters, is that the definition of what makes a great villain varies from individual to individual. Some say the villain needs to be powerful. Others that they need to be vile and cruel. And others say they need to be tragic and on some level even sympathetic.

These are all well and good but I've noticed a pattern in villains that are regarded as iconic and the greatest of their genre. Specifically, a great villain needs to meet three criteria:

1. The villain was originally a nobody: If you look back over the 20th century, you'll notice that all of the worst despots (Hitler, Mussolini , Pol Pot, Stalin); none of them came from the elite nobility. In order to stand at the top, a villain needs the drive of someone who crawled their way out of the gutter through their own determination.

2. The villain is a credible threat: In order to challenge the hero, the villain can't be a pushover. Neither of course can they be invincible as then one winds up with an insufferable Villain Sue. Thus they require a careful balance of weakness and strength to be effective.

3. The villain is a metaphor: The villain can't just be evil. He also has to embody a force or concept. In fact, the entire conflict between the hero and the villain isn't just a battle between two characters but a reflection of a conflict in the real world.

So now that we know what makes a great villain, let's look at some examples of truly great villains:

LEX LUTHOR

Origin: Originally a generic mad scientist villain, Lex Luthor was re-imagined during DC's Infinite Crisis reboot as the self-made corrupt billionaire we know today who rose out of poverty to stand at the top of the world.

What Makes Him a Threat?: Most villains try to take over the world. Luthor already does. With his economic and political connections, along with his infinite wealth and resources, Luthor can commit practically any crime without fear of reprisal while his scientific knowledge enables him to construct weapons that can counter the combined might of the entire Justice League.

What does he represent?: Pride. Despite all his power and influence, Luthor knows that he is still overshadowed by Superman; the one person he can't bully or bribe into submission. And the fact that Superman's virtue compels him to never use his power for personal gain only adds insult to injury since in Lex's eyes, power is meant to be used. In stories that depict him in a more sympathetic light, Luthor is shown to believe that Superman causes more harm than good because so long as mankind knows that he is watching over them; humanity will become complacent and dependent, effectively losing their ability to advance and grow. Either way, there's something inexplicably human about Luthor that almost makes you want to root for him. Which is more than one can say about our next entry.

THE RED SKULL

Origin: Born Johann Schmidt, the Red Skull spent his youth drifting aimlessly until a chance encounter with none other than Adolf Hitler set him on the path to infamy. Trained by the Fuhrer himself to be his personal enforcer, the Red Skull, like his enemy Captain America, was frozen in suspended animation to unleash his terror upon the modern world.

What Makes Him a Threat?: What Batman is to superheroes, the Red Skull is to supervillains. In a universe filled with individuals that can decimate an entire city in one attack and cosmic horrors that devour planets like popcorn shrimp, the Red Skull, despite lacking any powers, is widely regarded as the most dangerous threat to the entire Marvel world through his intelligence, resources, and sheer ruthlessness. In instances when he does gain powers; be it injecting himself with Cap's serum, gaining the cosmic cube, or more recently implanting himself with brain tissue from Charles Xavier; it takes entire groups of heroes just to stop him.

What Does he Represent?: Just as Cap represents the very best aspects of humanity (courage, compassion, justice) the Red Skull embodies the very worst (terror, cruelty, tyranny). To him, the weak are fit only to be culled by the strong. In fact, a few years back, Marvel and DC collaborated on a Cap/Batman crossover where Joker joined forces with the Red Skull, only to switch sides when he learned Skull was a former Nazi. And when the Joker of all people finds someone to be morally reprehensible, that says a lot. And speaking of the Clown Prince of Crime...

THE JOKER

Origin: While his origin varies between versions, the one regarded as most canon by the fandom was established in Alan Moore's one shot The Killing Joke, where flashbacks revealed that the Joker was originally a failed comedian who; after losing both his wife and unborn child in a freak accident, being strong-armed by criminals into helping them break into a playing card factory, and then falling into a vat of chemicals that permanently disfigured him; became convinced that life was pointless and decided to share the joke with the rest of the world.

What Makes Him a Threat?: Most criminals and villains have understandable goals or reasons for what they do. The Joker however, commits vile acts for their own sake simply because he can. And between his intelligence and unpredictability, there's no way of knowing what he'll do next.

What Does He Represent? Most consider the Joker to be a symbol of chaos. But he's actually a symbol of nihilism. In fact, the conflict between him and Batman is a metaphor for Neitzsche's philosphy of nihilsim vs anti-nihilsim and the dangers of the former. Batman is anti-nihilism; the world may not be perfect, it may not always be black and white, and we may have to bend the rules in order to get things done; but it doesn't invalidate the values and beliefs we hold. To the Joker however; random injustice proves that there is no justice, anyone can be corrupted so no-one is innocent, the very fact that you have to compromise your morals just to get by proves that morality is an illusion, and because nothing is guaranteed life is meaningless; all of which is embodied during his monologue towards the end of The Killing Joke:

And that's what makes the Joker truly terrifying. When you look past his gimmick and listen to what he's saying, you begin to fear that he's right.

SAURON

Origin: The Original Dark Lord (true Morgoth proceeded him in Middle Earth's history but he only appears in the Silmarillion which was published after Tolkien's Death) often imitated but never duplicated; Sauron was originally one of the Maiar, lesser Ainur spirits who served Eru Illuvatar, the creator god of Middle Earth. Seduced to evil by the fallen Valar Morgoth, Sauron succeeded his master after the other Valar defeated Morgoth which led to Sauron to continue waging war on the free peoples of Middle Earth.

What Makes Him a Threat?: Although one of the lessur Ainur, by mortal standards Sauron is a god. Even though he remains trapped in his fortress due to losing his ring and with it the majority of his power, his armies are still free to strike out across Middle Earth, while any who find the One Ring ultimately lose themselves to its power and by extension him.

What Does He Represent? Superficially, Sauron embodies all the dictators of the early to mid 20th century. At his core however, he embodies the corrupting power of evil. Once pure himself, Sauron now seeks to corrupt and turn all of Middle Earth to suit his own vision. And the key to doing so was the One Ring, through which he would gain dominance over the various rulers who bear the other rings of power and through them their kingdoms.

SMAUG

Origin: The last of his kind, Smaug the Golden raided the Dwarven city of Erebor, forcing it's people to flee into exile and seizing its treasure for himself.

What Makes Him a Threat?: He's a giant fire breathing Dragon. What else is there to know? Amazingly, Tolkien's notes revealed that even greater dragons existed in Middle Earth; such as Glaurung, the progenitor of their race; or Acalagnon the Black whose mass dwarfed entire mountain ranges. Even still, it'll take more than the stare to defeat him

What Does he Represent?: In Pre-Christian European myth, Dragons embodied the primal, chaotic, and destructive aspect of nature. This forms the basis of the mythological archetype of kaoskampf (chaos struggle) where a folk hero representing order and civilization slays a dragon and in doing so earns mankind the right to reign dominant over the world. Following Europe's conversion to Christianity, Dragons were redesigned as a metaphor for sin, greed in particular as dinosaur bones, which inspired belief in dragons, were often unearthed while mining for gold and other precious minerals. As Tolkien drew inspiration from both Germanic paganism and his own Catholic belief, Smaug embodies both interpretations; being an unstoppable force of nature that is ruled by his own pride, greed, and wrath.

So now that we've seen what makes a great villain, let's look at what makes a bad villain

ESDEATH

Akame Ga Kill is without a doubt one of the worst animes I've ever seen. And Esdeath is a major reason why. I swear, every time I see this chick, it makes me nauseous. First of all, she is ridiculously overpowered, having power over ice that surpasses practically every other character in fiction with the same ability; being able to freeze an entire city with barely any effort or forming giant balls of ice that can crush whole armies in one hit. Even worse is how the writers give her new powers according to the plot regardless of whether it makes sense to or not; such as being able to use her ice powers to "freeze" time or forming ice armor around herself that she uses telekinesis on to make her fly.

But what really makes me dislike her as a villain is how the writers can't give her a defined personality, instead having her act however they want her to in a particular situation. Originally introduced as a sadistic social darwinist who kills for pleasure, she falls head over heels in love for the naive main character, turning her into a love sick puppy whenever he comes around her. Then, despite her belief that the strong have every right to abuse the weak, she condemns a rival group of Imperial soldiers for killing civilians without just cause. Every effort to humanize her and add depth is so tritely done that it backfires and she comes across as even more two-dimensional than before because she HAS no real personality and only exists as the very worst kind of villain, a Villain Sue.

Plus, on an aesthetic level, I find her blue eyelashes to be visually distracting.

So, in conclusion, it takes more than malice and might to make a great villain. It takes the same level of depth that makes a great hero.

-To Be Continued.

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