Off My Mind: Can Comic Book Villains Ever Be Stopped?
As I was cruising around our site, I came across this David Finch picture of Lex Luthor. David Finch is an amazing artist and he really captures the smugness of Luthor. The image just shows that Luthor will do what he wants. He knows he can get away with it. That brings about my question, can villains ever be stopped?
How many times has Luthor's plans been thwarted by Superman? How many times has the Joker been captured by Batman and sent to Arkham Asylum? How much grief will Norman Osborn give Spider-Man until he's stopped once and for all? The heroes fight for justice but it feels like that justice is never achieved. The villains are caught but soon end up back on the streets to create more shenanigans within a story arc or two.
Every hero needs a good villain, right? What would our comics be if they didn't have anyone to fight? Writers would have to constantly create new villains and turmoil for the heroes to deal with. Having a good rogues gallery does make better stories. I'm constantly reminded of a line from a song off U2's No Line On The Horizon, "Choose your enemies wisely 'cause they will define you." All the great heroes have really cool villains. But what does it say about the hero if they have to keep fighting the same villains over and over?
Let me be clear, I'm not saying heroes need to take a Punisher style of fighting and pull a trigger on the bad guys. Whether or not heroes should kill would be another discussions (perhaps we'll save that for a later date). Heroes in comics have to sacrifice so much. Most fight evil out of a sense of duty. They don't get paid for what they do. Often their personal lives are affected or simply do not exist. What must it be like in those quiet moments when they're washing their tights or having a frozen TV dinner? How would it feel to fight and capture a villain, only to have them return once again?
Where does this leave us? If villains were stopped once and for all, whether it was through extreme actions or a really good prison, what would happen to the heroes? Would they know what to do with themselves if they didn't have to fight the same villains over and over? What would our comics be like? Is the existence of heroes dependent on the villains that are running around? Will we ever see an end to the antics of Lex Luthor or the Joker? What would you like to see with the villains? Should they be stopped/incarcerated once and for all or do you like seeing them come back all the time?
Bad Guys go bye bye and the heroes retire. end of story. but evil always seems to rebound, so for every villain you put away, another will following shortly behind. Superman calls it "The Never-Ending Battle" for a good reason.
It's a double edged sword, you can kill 'em without becoming like them etc. I'm sure any heroes who actually think about the fact that the villain they just put away will more than likely be out within the month would probably drive themselves nuts, so it's best not to think on it
I'd say it's the GOOD villains that never go away. Luthor and Joker are classic examples of GOOD villiains, as in those that have strong characters, are related, and fun to watch. Think about how many "villains" we might only see one or twice then never again (or at least until they're reimagined) simply because a "bad guy" does not a villain make.
It's become cliché now, to have honourable good guys that will never kill... even if though they know the villain will go on to kill again & again.
Then again, for all the times that psychotic murdering villains are caught & incarcerated, they're never given the death sentence :p
Luthor is a good villain, at least he used to be. He never got his hands dirty and always had an alaby (spelling?) now he is in the thick of it, no longer having his cronies doing the work and built him self a battle suit to fight the man of steel. When the suit no longer worked he just started using his wits.
Alot of characters are rediculous. I have a huge problem with this continuous circle of putting away bad guys and them getting out again. The worst of them all is Arkyhm Assylum. Holds all of batmans bad guys and they ALWAYS get out quicker then the time it took to walk the down the hall to their cells. You would think Bruce Wayne would be smart enough and rich enough to build an absolute indestructable facility more secure then every other prison on earth combined. With the tech his company creates and could even alliance its self with Star Labs No one should ever get out.
This might have been out of character for superman but its the right decision. I think batman seems more out of character, yea Amanda Waller has some good points and reasons to fear but to let doomsday go free would be signing a death warrant for millions.
Even if they kill or actually incarcerate the villains of old new ones will take their place. Also once the big villains are taken out the super powered heroes can go beyond earth to continue to protect.
I say kill them or send them to the phantom zone or find some way to actually contain the villains.
that's the beauty of comics though: the innate representation of duality. without villains, there wouldn't be heroes & vice-versa... it's a sensationalized vision of Life in extreme balance... shutting the villain down would in essence be putting the hero down... the trials & tribulations are the stones which sharpen the heroic blades... its a process... dont question the cycle man... thats not groovy...
Nope, villains often won't be stopped because heroes are often only half the dynamic of a story. As Heath Ledger's Joker said to Batman, "Why would I want to kill you?!?! ...you complete me!" Batman doesn't want to admit it but the reverse is also true. Villains are the personification of what heroes fight against and the Joker is the ultimate test of Batman's no-kill rule. Joker defines Batman's refusal to compromise his beliefs, even in extreme circumstances. In the case of Green Lantern, Sinestro plays a foil to Hal Jordan by presenting an alternative option to creating order and daring to ask why his method isn't just as valid.
Marvel is a little different since it tries to play the characters-you-can-relate-to angle. While some Marvel heroes have foils (Daredevil - Kingpin, Iron Man - Mandarin, Hulk - everyone around him) a lot of them don't seem to have long-lasting opposites. Some past foils even lose their meaning in their hunt for redemption ( Eddie Brock, Juggernaut). The reason these redeemed foils fail is because writers fail to give them a new opposite to bring their new direction into focus. Without a character to contrast themselves against, the redeemed foils become uninteresting and sales crumple.
Why is it that Marvel's heroes seem to do well without consistent foils but its redeemed villains dissipate? Marvel's heroes do well because they're defined by the events that happen to them. The X-Men are successful because it's about a group of people dealing with bigotry while attempting to police the extremists in their own ranks that would validate the bigotry. You don't need a consistent villain for that. Spiderman has a massive rotating rogues gallery but he's defined by his perserverance in the face of all the personal problems his double life creates. Captain America's best stories have revolved around asking whether the US still cherishes freedom the way it once did (see storylines where Steve gives up the Captain mantle). Wolverine is defined by his Kurosawa-samurai approach to life (some may disagree on that).
Thus in the case of Marvel, a hero's foil is not an individual but events that show how a hero faces adversity and his/her villains are easily discarded like candy wrappers. In the case of DC where the foil is often an individual, the foil will never be truly killed because without him, the strife that the hero confronts would not exist.
GOLDEN COD wrote a great response and I agree with it, nicely said. DEGRAAF also makes a great point regarding how easily the super villains manage to escape wherever they're being detained.
Regarding Lex Luthor, even if he manages to get captured and is incarcerated, he would STILL be able to pull some strings behind bars. He is that devious and resourceful but I"m tired of Luthor. Something needs to be done with him. Kill him off? I don't know, I have some ideas mind you but I just feel he's way too old hat and while a challenge to Superman, he needs to go or have something totally wild happen. Simply put, the Joker needs to die. Enough. He's been around too long, he's killed too many people, and the fact the DCU heroes have turned a blind eye and/or been too weak to deal with him doesn't make sense to me. I think other heroes would have stepped in despite Batman's posturing, and done something to Joker by now. I think DC is just keeping him as a foil to Batman because he's so recognizable. I think that is antiquated thinking on DC's part. Batman's acquired new baddies in his rogue's gallery, so having Joker gone is akin to the mythological hydra; one villain gone, another one appears to replace him.
There are plenty of villains in the Big 2 universes who've not had their moments, and I say let these "2nd tier and 3rd tier" bad guys do some damage for a change, really upset the balance for the heroes. Do something with the old ones like I said, either incapacitate them, kill them off, what have you, the possibilities are endless. The stories with them have become old. DC and Marvel--do something new with the bad guys!!
when the bad guys go away the good guys will fight eachother. CIVIL WAR
think of it this way you go to work and in your opinion your boss is the bad guy now ya ll dont fight with fists over it but if he pisses you off you call in sick and leave him high and dry or you quit on him without giving proper notice.
if you the boss the employees are the bad guys steal time and not working but still wanting pay
cops are the bad guys in real life sitting there setting up speed traps instead of stoping crime or solving murders NO NO they are there to cost you a few hundred bucks for going over the speed limit. The city needs its MONEY!
if you a cop the citizens are the bad guys everyone is suspect THEY ARE ALL EVIL and your the LAW so go bust em and fill your quota.
if your a student the teacher is a bad guy giving you work nitpicking your essays and costing you a A grade cuae you think he dont like you.
if you the teacher the students are all evil....little snots stealing your youth with no respect you went to college to make low 38 grand a year and be a baby sitter? so there moms and dads can go to work and not raise there own kids!!!
you see where i am going with this? none of the people I mention are EVIL they all are just normal good people who life have putt aginst eachother from there own perspective. Thats waht would happen to the heros if there was no pure EVIL villans in the world. The heroes would fight eachother argue over issues even argue with the Gov and president cause they have no unified fight with "evil" men
It's a no win situation
Be nice if they'd actually kill some of these villains. I wonder how many people have died because heroes refuse to kill. You'd think that once they caught some of these people they'd put some mean ass super heroes on guard duty.
A small number of baddies have turned good or just abandoned crime. Sandman has stuck to the narrow path for decades now. Trickster and Pied Piper have flip flopped back and forth a few times. I can't even count the number of times that Deathstroke has switched sides.
The only example I can think of of a criminal abandoning crime and just trying to return to a normal life is Molten Man. He fought Spiderman and Daredevil a few times, but will now only use his powers on those rare occasions when he needs to protect his family.
I think it's an excellent point. There's always going to be conflict because it's in our nature. Once the enemy of my enemy and I have defeated our mutual enemy, do we become each other's enemies? That peace that heroes are always fighting for is such an illusion isn't it :P. Reminds me of Ozy in Watchmen and his attempt to end the Cold War by creating a universal external threat and Metal Gear Solid 4 strangely enough because it envisioned a world with the exact opposite situation, where proxy wars are constantly being fought to fuel the economy. One could argue that today's reality isn't much different and this actually is no different then the Big Two's constant revival of heroes and villains because the show must go on in the name of money! The show could stop but then we'd have to create another show...
In comics the hero, like all the characters, is immortal. They live on forever and ever. So their fight with the bad guys will never end because there wont be an end as long as people still want to read them.
Batman was created years and years before I was born, years and years and years and years. Spider-Man was created during the 60s. In real time most of the heroes would be old or dead, but in the comics they are still young. So in Comic Book time not much time has passed, so even though they have faced their enemies too many times to count in their time its only been like 10 years or something.
Can supervillains be stopped? Ask Justice Lords. You can't stop the villains until you start killing them or perform brain surgery on them (by the way, Doc Savage used brain surgery and he is still one of the good guys). "Maximum security" prisons are joke, especially if shady government agencies are offering reduced sentences in exchange fo villains' service.
to quote Morgana McCawber (from Darkwing Duck): "...the bad ones always come back..."
Even if a villain dies, you can bet their legacy draws up something of that same nature for the hero to face. This is the fundimental question: can a world exist without evil?
Without evil, you can bet the majority of the great heroes we know and love would not exist. Therefore, villians themselves have to exist in one form or another forever in order for there to be heroes.
Take the joker for example, Batman and he have faced off so many times. He has died a few times, but he always comes back. Even in the year 1000000 (in DC's One Million arc), he exists in the form of the Laughing Virus
Without a antagonist, who does the Protagonist go up agianst?
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