Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Favorite Villains

We thought that, in honor of Halloween, discussing our favorite villains would be appropriate.

It's really hard for me to pick a favorite villain, because I so often find myself liking the villain more than I like the protagonist. I know why, though: Protagonists - especially in YA fiction - are supposed to be placeholders. You're supposed to be able to easily pull Harry Potter or Bella Swan or Eragon out of their books and drop yourself in and live the adventure through them. That's how those books work. This means that the authors have more leeway to create villains than they do with protagonists. Villains can have intricate backstory and strong personality traits and intense characteristics that the good guy isn't supposed to have, because it would make him less of an "everyman."

A lot of the villains I really like aren't true "villains" either. I like gray area. The best villains aren't pure evil, cackling maniacally and/or giving an overwrought speech about his evil deeds or plans while the "good guy" is hanging on for dear life. They make a bad decision that turns out worse than they expected, and they have to figure out how to deal with the consequences. Or they are former "bad guys" who are rehabilitated and have to contend with what that means for them. Or they are given a rare opportunity and do the less-than-noble thing, which most of us wouldn't want to admit to, but would probably do in the same situation.

With all that long-winded explanation, I can finally tell you... I really like Doctor Dee / Doctor Destiny / John Dee from Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes. (Cue the groaning by everyone who knows that Neil Gaiman wrote that, and is sick of me talking about him and his work.)

Dee is pretty evil. You don't expect a nice person to say things like "I think I'll dismember the world and then I'll dance in the wreckage." (You also don't expect sane people to say things like that, and Dee was being held in Arkham Asylum, so you can take his dialogue with a grain of salt.)

I don't want to give anything away, because every panel (it's a graphic novel, remember) is a gem. But the best part of his story arc is when he holds hostages in a diner for 24 hours. It's great writing and great artistry and it's just wonderful in a terrible way.

He's a DC Comics villain, but I'm not familiar with anything he's done in any other comics, so I can't speak to those.


On the left: Doctor Destiny as you may know him from the Justice League. On the right: Dee as he appears in Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes.

My favorite villain is from Disney (cue the collective groans) but it's from back in the day when Disney knew how to do it right.  I love Maleficent.  I think she's great and conniving and excellent.  She's the classic example of a woman scorned.  She really has no scruples.  Think about how long she held a grudge.  She waited sixteen years for her revenge.  I mean, that takes some patience.  All because she didn't get invited to a christening.

And she did some intricate planning, too.  Briar Rose had to prick her finger on a spindle, where she fell asleep and her prince had to hack his way through a thorn filled rose patch to get to her and wake her with a kiss.  That is, after he fought Maleficent who turned into a large and fearsome dragon.   

Disney's Sleeping Beauty isn't the first place that Maleficent shows up.  We first see her as a wicked fairy godmother in Perrault's original Sleeping Beauty (which, if you get the chance, you should read.  It's very naughty and dirty and not at all fit for children.)  She then showed up again in Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty, but her name was Carabosse.  The story for all of these fairy tales is the same; Maleficent curses Briar Rose, the prince has to rescue her and Maleficent has to fight him.

Inevitably, she always loses, but she's one of the most powerful witches, one of the most alluring and one of the most vicious fairy tale characters.

1 comment:

  1. Cassy, I concur entirely about Maleficent being a great villian. She is depicted so well in the movie--her look is a perfect reflection of her evil..and green fire?! I mean, c'mon, that's pretty awesome.

    That being said, I was thinking maybe my favorite villian (or at least the meanest villain EVER) would be Lisbeth Salander's father in the Millenium trilogy. Now that is one messed up human being. In all my reading, I've never come across a baddie as sadistic as him. As a literary character, he really scared me (which never happens). There's my two cents :)