Oh villains, they dominate our entertainment media, and sometimes steal the movie or show from our main protagonist. My favorite class of villain by far is the comic book villain. Those big bad guys that originated from comics, then transcended into the media through multiple TV shows and movies. Over the years comic villains continue to captivate audiences with their plans to disrupt the established order, bring the hero’s to their knees and rule the world. There are lots of memorable ones out there, but this is a list of my own personal top 10 favorite comic book villains, not a list of who’s the most popular. Now I’m definitely going to add some variety to this list, otherwise it would be overstuffed with nothing but Batman and Spider-Man villains.
#10 The Shredder (Ninja Turtles)
Say what you will about the Ninja Turtles franchise, their corny, their silly, their products of the 80’s, and I still like them on some level. More to the point, I really like their main adversary ... the Shredder. Considering how silly the concept of Ninja Turtles is, this guy could have easily been a lame duck bad guy like from Power Rangers, but the creators behind Shredder gave him a much appreciated level of menace, and a darker over tone. Just look at the guy, he’s like a Samurai Darth Vader, which is awesome. Sure he’s had his goofier renditions like in the classic 80’s cartoon, but every other portrayal of the character from the comics, to the movies, and the latter day TV shows have always been pretty cool. The Shredder really shined in the 1990 Ninja Turtle movie, and was arguably one of the coolest comic book movie villains of the time. There’s not much depth or complexity to the character, but he’s certainly memorable, and a perfect start for my countdown.
#9 The Governor (The Walking Dead)
When the world is stuck in an apocalyptic zombie crisis, the Governor is the last man you’d want to meet. He’s a ruthless survivor, rules whatever land he can with an iron fist, and in many ways is far more dangerous then the undead zombies roaming the planet. Honestly, I haven’t read any of the actual Walking Dead comics, but from what I’ve seen of this guy in the hit AMC TV series, he absolutely disserves to be amongst some of my favorite comic book villains. In the show he’s played by David Morrissey, who is just spot on in the role, and finds a perfect balance between real scares and wicked charms. While he’s both a skilled fighter and expert shooter, his most dangerous weapons come from his cunning mind and silver tongue. He’s a man with complex character turmoil, but has also brought destruction and tragedy to the shows surviving hero’s on nuclear levels. No one else makes the eye patch and black coat look as intimidating as him.
#8 Sabretooth (X-Men) & (Wolverine)
Every classic superhero has an evil opposite ... for Batman it’s the Joker, for Spider-Man it’s the Scorpion, and for Wolverine it’s Sabretooth. A beastly half man, half wolf mutant with sharp claws and the same healing powers of Wolverine, which makes him the perfect opponent. Throw in the fact that their brothers, and it makes their feud all the more exciting and personal. Throughout all the comics, movies and TV adaptations, these two have hated each other’s guts, and their battles are awesome. Not much else to say about Sabretooth, he’s just the perfect adversary to go against Wolverine, and it’s always a thrill when these two wild men clash.
#7 The Joker (Batman)
No list of greatest comic book villains is complete without the famous clown prince of crime. Like the Joker even needs an introduction, he’s Batman’s most iconic adversary, and personal opposite. One is a noble hero who hides in a dark form, while the other actually is a heartless monster that hides under a bright and colorful appearance. Batman and the Joker might just be the most perfectly matched hero and villain in all of comic book history, and just about every portrayal of the famous villain is outstanding. From Cesar Romero, to Jack Nicholson, to Mark Hamill, to Heath Ledger, the Joker has been brought to life by several talented actors in all forms of media from movies, to video games, to animated TV shows. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Mark Hamill from the animated series, and “Batman Mask of the Phantasm.” That’s not to put down any of the other talents, they all give great credit to the character, and have further launched the characters popularity into the mainstream. I have to admit, even though The Joker is the most iconic of Batman’s adversaries, I personally don’t think he’s the best, in fact there are two others yet to come on this list that I think are just a pinch better. With that said, the Joker will forever be immortalized in the villain hall of fame.
#6 Kingpin (Spider-Man) & (Daredevil)
“This city isn’t a caterpillar, it’s not going to spin a cocoon and wake up a butterfly. It crumbles and fades ... it needs to die before it can be reborn.”
One of the scariest things on the planet is someone who has fear, and has learned to master it. The only thing that can be more terrifying is a psychopath with fear, and has control over it. Daredevil is a superhero who has shed his fear, and by contrast, his greatest enemy uses fear as a driving force ... both against his enemies, and for himself. To the people of New York, Wilson Fisk is nothing more than a respected Philanthropist, but under his guise is the mighty ruler of all the cities underworld crimes. The Kingpin is very different from your typical comic book villain. He doesn’t have any super powers, or a costume, he’s just a man who always has an ace up his sleeve ... usually in the form of having everyone you love with a big gun pointed to their heads. Also, while Daredevil is commonly is main adversary, he’s also one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes too. He was the biggest reoccurring villain in the classic 90’s Spider-Man cartoon, and voiced very well in that show by the late Roscoe Lee Browne. He was also played very well by the late Michael Clarke Duncan in the live action 2003 “Daredevil” movie. Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of the Kingpin in the 2015 “Daredevil” TV series is probably the most human ... yet most terrifying portrayal of the character I’ve seen thus far.
#5 Slade (Teen Titans)
“I will never stop, not now, not ever, I am the thing that keeps you awake at night, and the evil that haunts every dark corner of your mind.”
The Teen Titans are no strangers to powerful and older adversaries, but Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, is in a different class of villain, and Robins personal enemy. Slade has gone from anti-hero, to small time assassin, to leader of a criminal empire, and is always large and in charge. This characters modern day fame ignited with the animated “Teen Titans” TV show in the early 2000’s, and sense has become one of my absolute favorite bad guys from the comic book universe. He was a villain shrouded in mystery, his voice could give you chills, and he knew that the most effective way to take out the hero’s is by turning them against one another, usually in very violent ways. Ron Perlmans sinister voice acting from the animated TV series was a huge credit to the character. His legacy has continued through various Batman video games, and he also stood out once again as a threatening adversary in the 2014 animated film “Son of Batman”. I swear, this guy needs to be featured in a live action movie or TV series, because he’s just too cool to leave on the animated drawing board.
#4 Two-Face (Batman)
“You either die a hero, or ... you live to see yourself become the villain.”
Personally, I think the most interesting villains are the ones born from tragedy, and Two-Face is perhaps the most depressing of all. District Attorney Harvey Dent represented a chance for peace in a corrupt city, but he eventually stood out as the biggest failure of Batman’s career, as well as a dark reminder of the price that comes from standing up to evil. Like most of Batman’s foe’s, there have been many different renditions of this character, but the core concept still remains the same. This was once a respected man that did great serves to his city, even aided the hero on several occasions. However, after one unfortunate event, everything changed. Now his scared face represents the two sides of society ... justice and corruption. Unfortunately, in the case of Two-Face, he’s about as corrupt as they get. Most portrayals of the character from the TV shows and films have been stealer. In fact I’d go so far to say that Aaron Eckhart’s version of Two-Face from the 2008 film “The Dark Knight” is my favorite theatrical portrayal of any of batman’s classic foes.
#3 Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man)
“Those who do not share my vision ... will be crushed by it.”
From organizing the sinister six, to causing the death of Gorge Stacy, to his sinister plots as “The Master Planer”, Doctor Octopus still stands as one of Spider-Mans deadliest foes, and personally my favorite of all his classic adversaries. There’s just something about an evil doctor with four deadly robotic arms fused to his back that makes him so iconic and memorable. Just the fact that both spiders and octopuses have eight appendages makes them a perfect match. He’s the villain I remember most from the classic 80’s cartoon and is usually the one marked alongside the wall-crawler, at least at Universal. Naturally, it was his appearance in the 2004 movie “Spider-Man 2” that launched him into absolute greatness, and secured his reputation as one of Hollywood’s greatest comic book movie villains.
#2 Mr. Freeze (Batman)
“Rest in peace my love, the monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish ... best served COLD!”
Batman probably has the most famous rouge gallery of villains out of any superhero, and of all his classic adversaries, Mr. Freeze has always been my personal favorite. Now obviously there have been several different variations of the character over the years. Sometimes he’s portrayed as a ruthless monster, like in the early 2000’s show “The Batman”. Other times he’s been portrayed as a comedic goofball bad guy like in the 1997 movie “Batman and Robin”. However, when the character is done right, he just outshines all the others ... well, in my opinion. Paul Dini’s conception of the character from the 90’s animated Batman series is the perfect example of this character done right. In this story, Mr. Freeze has a frozen wife who could possibly be saved from a critical disease, but every time the chance came to save her, the opportunity slips through his fingers. When compared to Batman’s tragic back-story, Mr. Freeze actually has it far worse. Batman’s parents are only dead, he can morn them and move on with his life, but Mr. Freeze cant morn his wife, nor can he save her. He’s literally and figuratively frozen in a situation that he just can’t escape. The thing that’s eating away at his soul, and making his heart so cold isn’t greed, power or vengeance ... it’s HOPE! That’s a brilliant concept for a villain, and when you combine that with his menacing voice, signature gun, and all around awesome design, he honestly stands out to me like the Darth Vader of Batman enemies. Even the versions or Mr. Freeze that ignore his complex back-story can still be very exciting to watch, as he’s more than a match for our dynamic hero.
Before I reveal my #1 favorite comic book villain, here are some honorable mentions ...
The Scorpion (Spider-Man)
Loki (The Avengers) & (Thor)
And my all time favorite comic book villain is ...
#1 Magneto (X-Men)
Villains just don’t get any better than Magneto, he’s powerful, methodical, tragic, heroic, complex, frightening, intimidating, vengeful, and just about everything you need for a great character. He’s like the Shakespeare villain of all comic book villains, and is every bit as sophisticated and classy as his characters too. The most frightening villains always seem the most human, but are always hiding something sinister. Shaped by the atrocities of world war II, Magneto’s contempt for human kind is far more vengeful, and makes his goals to liberate mutants from their human oppressors all the more personal. Magneto is scary both as a metaphor, and as one who believes he’s taking the right actions against others who in his mind should be branded as villains. Taking his character another step further is his relationship slash rivalry with his adversaries the X-Men. Most villains just want to see the hero dead, but in the case of Magneto, it actually tares at his soul to wage war against people who where his closest friends, and almost brothers in a common struggle. Ian Mckellen’s performance as Magneto in the live action film series is “in my opinion” one of the greatest movie villain portrayals of all time. Whether it’s the comics, animated TV shows or theatrical movies, Magneto is hands down my favorite comic book villain, and personally one of my all time favorite bad guys.