Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Villainy's Victors- My Top 100 Villains in All of Fiction

Lets face it: The classic story of the hero's journey is almost utterly useless without a villain. In many (I'd even venture most stories), the hero generally wins in the end. There is nothing inherently wrong with this form of storytelling. It's a classic story form and one people really have never tired of. Since we go into most stories expecting the good guy to win, generally, the stories are entirely dependent on the scope of the conflict the hero must face. The conventional wisdom runs the greater the scope of the obstacle the hero overcomes, the more invested we are in the story. The obstacle can generally be an external force or it can come from the internal flaws of the protagonist. Possibly the most common form of external obstacle come in the form of another person: in other words, the villain.

In the spirit of fun, I have decided to compile a list of my 100 favorite villains in all of fiction. This list will include all forms of media; novels, comic books, anime, and even video games. These villains are ranked only by how much I felt they enhanced the stories in which they appeared. This list will include villains of all kinds from supergenius evil masterminds to malevolent deities and even mindless monsters. On that note

1OO) Ben Courtman from I Am Legend:

Ben Cortman is not the most complex of characters. Generally, that would be a fatal flaw for a villainous character. After all, there are a lot of character who are evil for the sheer sake of being evil and they are (to a large extent) interchangeable.

What makes Ben Cortman work is that he's not evil. Evil. after all, is a human construct. And Ben Cortman is no longer human.

In the book, I Am Legend, Cortman, is one of million of people infected by a plague that transforms them into ravenous vampires. Most of the vampires are barely human, ravenous beasts who exist to do nothing to feed. Later in the book, it is discovered, that some of the vampires have retained there sentience and are trying to rebuild society.

What makes Ben Cortman stand out is that he straddles these two worlds. His sole goal is to break into the home of Robert Neville, the main protagonist, so he can kill and eat him. However, he shows a greater intellect then most of the other feral vampires (including a rudimentary ability to speak, constantly yelling the phrase "Come out, Neville"!). He's barely more then animal but he's also bear enough resemblance to the man he once was . It is this disturbing contrast that makes him one of the more unsettling antagonists in fiction and worthy of inclusion on this list.

99) "Judge" Holden from Blood Meridian:

Judge Holden is definitely a villain that can be accused of being evil for evil's sake. Loosely based on an (alleged) historical figure, Holden is a member of the Glanton gang, a group of depraved killers and robbers operating under a semi-legitimate pretext as Indian hunters.

Holden, though, by far is the worst of the lot and by far the most, contradictory. He is more intelligent then the other members of the gang, proficient in several languages, and is an amateur naturalist, constantly sketching plants and animals in a book he carries around. He is also a ruthless killer and, quite possibly, a child murderer who worships war above all things.

He also may be far more than that. Most every member of the gang has met the Judge, on their own, at some point in the past. He seems capable of almost supernatural feats of strength. He is associated with the fiddle and, at the end of the book, alleges that he is immortal. Indeed, the character is often referred to as a "Devil."

Whether he is mere psychopath or Satan himself is ultimately beside the point. In the end, every one who joins Judge Holden in his pursuit of violence meets a bad end, some at the hand of other parties (with some implied assistance from the Judge) and, in at least one case, at the hands of the Judge himself. Ultimately, Judge Holden is a powerful metaphor for the dehumanizing effects and the destructive nature of a life of violence.

98) The makers of the Cube from Cube:

The movie Cube has a premise that should be familiar to any horror movie fan. A group of people wake up trapped in a prison without any idea how they got there. In this case, the prison is designed in the shape of a large cube, composed of several smaller hollow cubes. Many of these cubes are harmless but most contain death traps built to kill any one who enters. In order to survive, the protagonists have to work together but as the movie progresses they begin to sucumb to paranoia and desperation.

What gives the film a Kafakesque twist is the reason that the Cube exists. As the movie progresses, we find out that one of the prisoners worked on designing the cube. He reveals that the Cube was a project that was begun by some nebulous organization that has been in development for so long that nobody remembers why they started working on it in the first place. As the Cube expanded, the organization realized that they had a rather large structure filled with death traps that was completely pointless. Thus, in order to justify the Cube's existence, they started putting people inside it.

Later films would provide would contradict this explanation but considering that 1) they were written and directed by different people and 2) I didn't see them, I feel safe ignoring them completely. What made Cube scary was not that the villain was some maniac serial killer or an organization with an agenda. In fact, aside from one character, we never get to see anybody else who was behind the Cube project. It's the idea of the Cube markers that make them worthy of inclusion on this list: The idea that the person responsible for putting the characters though Hell is not some mastermind but rather group of people who are desperate avoid admitting that the giant killing machine they built is a massive waste of time and resources. Sometimes the best villains are the ones we never get to meet.

97} The Emperor from Star Wars:

This is a character of whom I can honestly say I have no idea why he's on the list. The Emperor is pretty much a stock evil overlord character. He's the shadowy power behind the evil Empire, responsible for every bad thing that happens though out the films. I think perhaps my fondness for the character comes the shear joy he takes in being evil. He just looks so happy when he blast everyone with his force lightning.

My affection for this character is, strangely enough, only enhanced by the prequel trilogies. This may be because his function in the movie is to make all of the other characters suffer. In fact, an argument could be made that this makes him the hero of that trilogy.

96) The First of the Fallen from Hellblazer-

Hellblazer is the comic book series which has the honor of being the longest running comic from DC Comics' Vertigo line of mature readers title. It ran for three hundred issues and resulted in one movie detailing the life of London conman and magician John Constantine and his encounters with the supernatural.

With a title like Hellblazer, it's no shock that most of Constantine's enemies tended to be demons. However, none of these enemies was more of a threat than the First of the Fallen. The first angel to be cast out of Heaven, he was actually older and more powerful than the Devil himself. (As you can see from the clip above the movie adaptation just made the character into Satan).

Unlike most demons, The First's threat wasn't in his ability to manipulate others. Instead, he was a far more physical threat. Though he isn't above trickery to gain souls, his most formidable weapon was his not inconsiderable strength and a variety of unpleasant magical spells. This combination meant that he really didn't need to rely on the cunning employed by the lesser demons.

And yet despite all his power, he can not have the thing he really wants: John Constantine's soul. He's come close a few times but he's never really gotten it. His prize is always snatched away from him at the last moment and it's in those moments when you can see the true nature of the character. He maybe the most powerful demon in existence but ultimately, the First is like a angry child whose destructive acts are the metaphysical equivalent of a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his new toy. (Hell, it not like Constantine's soul is that big a prize. The First just has a grudge against the guy.)  It's this contrast between his vast power and ludicrously petty behavior that makes this character interesting to me.

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