Almost Infamous: Wanted – Great Villains

by Dan Gagnon

Bring-on-the-Bad-Guys-1-206x300 Almost Infamous: Wanted - Great VillainsGreat heroes are defined by their villains!

Dr. Doom, Joker, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Bullseye, Doctor Octopus, and Thanos immediately bring to the comic reader’s imagination a particular story arc that helped define not just the villain, but more importantly, the heroes that they battled.  The costume, powers, name, and background of a comic book hero are important to developing the hero, but superheroes are truly defined by the quality of their rogues’ gallery.

I love Nova, Booster Gold, and the Thunderbolts.  But when compared to Spider-Man, Flash, or the Avengers they fall short.  Not because they aren’t great heroes, but because their creators could not establish a rogues’ gallery to get the reader to invest in them.

Batman began by fighting mobsters and crooks, but his writers soon discovered that the Dark Knight required more creative villains – opponents that could challenge him and entice the reader into believing that our undefeatable hero just might get defeated.  Entire story arcs have been devoted to fleshing out a villain that readers can truly root against.  Heroes that overcome awesome foes become legendary!

Building the Perfect Villain

Thus, to make great comics the true challenge for creators is to create great villains.  Someone who is just as powerful or clever as our hero – maybe even more so – but with a fatal flaw that our hero (and readers) can discover and exploit to defeat them.  This flaw might be a weakness the hero discovers in the villain’s power set, it might be something in their history the hero can find, or it might just be hubris or overconfidence.  A great creator allows the reader to discover this alongside their hero giving the reader that “aha” moment before the hero defeats his nemesis.  This allows the reader to relate to the hero, almost guaranteeing they will continue to follow their comic book adventures.

Even corny seeming villains can rise to comic book infamy with the right backstory and a gifted creative team to expand on them and breathe life into them.  Imagine this discussion in the creator’s bullpen:Penguin-1-211x300 Almost Infamous: Wanted - Great Villains

“The Penguin????”

“Yeah!  He’ll be a short guy with a big nose that waddles when he walks.  His costume could be a tuxedo!”


“Yeah!  Don’t worry… we’ll give him a cool umbrella for a weapon.  Look out Dynamic Duo!”



We all know the villains that got it right despite their name or powers.  Kingpin, Red Skull, Two-Face, The Leader, Kraven the Hunter, Mister Mxyzptlk, and Harley Quinn all come to mind for me.  All of these evil-doers started with an interesting premise that grabbed readers’ attention and made them hungry for more about the character.  Future story arcs then developed them into the villains we love to hate.

For every Green Goblin developed there is a Stilt-Man, a Gibbon, and a Frog Man

Villains Almost Infamous: Wanted - Great VillainsThis thread is going to explore those that didn’t get the big break.  What about those villains who could have been epic, but just missed out on their bid for infamy?  Who, with a little tweaking, could become the next big deal?  For comic collectors, once you hear the rumor on who the next villain appearing in the MCU might be, it’s already too late.  Speculators will already have driven the price of key issues through the roof.  The most successful investors and collectors already have the comic before the rumors hit.  Perhaps some of the overlooked bad guys we highlight will be the next Red Guardian or Taskmaster.

I welcome your ideas in the comments on which villains should be considered “Almost Infamous”.

Next up:  Graviton


You may also like


Tony May 13, 2020 - 12:57 pm

Matador from Daredevil #5

Dan Gagnon May 13, 2020 - 2:43 pm

I love classic Daredevil villains. I remember Matador teaming up with Man-Bull in Daredevil #129. Consider him added to the list!

Brooke May 13, 2020 - 2:12 pm

Thanks for the thorough analysis! I enjoyed reading this.

Dan Gagnon May 13, 2020 - 2:35 pm

Thanks Brooke! Future posts each focus on a particular villain. Be sure to let me know if you have anyone you’d like me to feature!

Derek Kirklewski May 13, 2020 - 2:13 pm

Great read! Can’t have a good hero arc without a great villain…

Dan Gagnon May 13, 2020 - 2:38 pm

Thanks Derek! I hope you agree with next week’s choices for villains who missed the big time!

Patrick May 13, 2020 - 3:12 pm

I always thought that D’Spayre had great potential

Dan Gagnon May 13, 2020 - 4:18 pm

Ooh, great idea! He has shown up in so many different comics from Spidey to Hulk to Dr. Strange to the Avengers (with some x-men thrown in). With a base that broad he is officially added to the list and will be featured soon. Thanks!

Jay May 13, 2020 - 8:26 pm

Molecule Man, Diablo and Purple Man never get their credit.

Dan Gagnon May 13, 2020 - 9:45 pm

Agreed. I thought Molecule Man would hit it big when he was picked for the original Secret Wars series. I think writers are afraid he is too powerful and go with the simple solution of just “dumbing him down”. Purple Man has so much potential. I liked him in Daredevil, but his appearance in Netflix’s Jessica Jones was creepily well done. Diablo has been a favorite of mine since the early Fantastic Four days. For a character with limited super powers he’s mixed it up with some of Marvel’s biggest names. I’m adding them all to the list. Thanks!

Pugilisticphilosopher May 14, 2020 - 3:09 am

I think one villain who could have been better utilized is Chemistro. First appeared as a foil for Luke Cage in Power Man back in the 70s. Only made a smattering of appearances in that title and later in Power Man and Iron Fist before “going straight “.

Dan Gagnon May 14, 2020 - 11:31 am

Agreed! The original Hero for Hire had a lot of great villains with simple, well defined powers. Those not familiar with him, please check out the cover to Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #12 to see what we are excited about. Consider him added to the list! Thanks!

Brett The Comic Guy May 14, 2020 - 7:08 am

There were characters like foolkiller who they tried 4 times to make successful but each time fell short. So much potential but did not maximise on it.

Dan Gagnon May 14, 2020 - 11:36 am

He would be fun to look at. Unlike many villains who change alter egos, his various incarnations are very different from one another. Steve Gerber sure came up with a lot of great villains. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m adding him to the list!

steve centonzo May 14, 2020 - 7:56 am

Machinesmith or the Tinkerer because they build tech that is used by countless other villains, therefore they plague many , many heroes by proxy

Dan Gagnon May 14, 2020 - 11:38 am

Great idea. The villain behind the villain will be a great twist to look at. Our list keeps getting great villains added to it. Thanks Steve!

Dylan May 14, 2020 - 7:49 pm

Mephisto is the perfect villain.

Dan Gagnon May 15, 2020 - 9:21 am

Agreed. And Marvel has played him pretty well. So well, in fact, that I fear he doesn’t qualify for Almost Infamous… any thoughts on this?

Dylan May 15, 2020 - 10:02 am

True – he’s a pillar in the Parthenon that is Marvel Comics. I hope that when he gets his time to shine on the big screen as the Silver Surfer’s main foe, that they do him justice. It won’t be easy to re-create the “calculating and smooth evil” that he exudes in SS3. While we are on the subject, I don’t think the Surfer himself has ever been accurately depicted on screen either. Maybe Marvel’s new interstellar focus will help them get it right, and we can finally watch it all play out on screen.

Miguel H May 15, 2020 - 5:44 pm

Two words : Egg Fu

Dan Gagnon May 16, 2020 - 10:40 pm

Ha! Thanks Miguel. Most on my list are Marvel villains. This classic Wonder Woman foe might be a fun way to start in on the DC side of things.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: