Ten All Time Great Villains
TO BE STABBED IN THE BACK
VILLLAINS ARE MORE NEEDED IN FICTION THAN IN REALITY
There have been many villains both fictional and non-fictional. I have attempted to choose the best from both camps. There have, of course, been as many women as men who have taken to evil. I will try to take this into account.
Not all villains remain villainous. Some reform.
Without villains, though, a hero hasn't much to test his or her self against so, in the world of fiction, they are very necessary. Who we choose to see as a villain says something about who we are and the society we live in. Here I can say that in my novels Disco Evil and Ghost Dance I have taken this into account. Who we choose not to take as a villain, who's evil we choose to ignore or are pressured to ignore also says something about ourselves and our society. Here, however, I will deal only with villains we all generally acknowledge to be, indeed, villainous.
THE NAZI DREAM
1. ADOLF HITLER
Most people would acknowledge that Adolf Hitler, who was the dictator of Germany, should top the bill. Certainly, if Hitler did not exist, millions of people would not have lost their lives. Those in Germany who supported him during his rise to power found themselves in positions of power. Those who opposed him often found themselves either dead or in a concentration camp. His hatred of the Jews is legendary. The death camps are also legendary.
How Germany gave up a fledgling democracy such as the Weimar Republic for a dictatorship with Hitler at the head has been discussed many times over the years by historians. Many historians believe that the slide to a dictatorship began in 1919 when one of the first acts of the new democracy was the signing of a treaty that was destined to be unpopular among most Germans.
The treaty, however, had to be signed. A British blockade was preventing badly needed food and medicine from getting to Germany. The food riot of 1918 was an indication that German representatives could not refuse to sign a treaty that shocked and appalled them and have the Great War start up again. Hitler in his speeches would refer to the men who did sign as traitors to the Fatherland. One of those who signed was a German Jew.
Born in Austria, there was something common about Hitler that made powerful people think they could use him and control him. They were wrong. Given the choice between financing the communists or the Nazi party, many financiers chose the Nazis.
When Hitler first came to power he endeared himself to many Germans by getting the factories going again and creating great road works. Germans were convinced they needed a strong leader to get them out of the social and financial mess they were in and Hitler was it. He gave Germans back a sense of pride in themselves. He had archaeologists and other scientists search for proof of the German people's former greatness. The Swastika was adopted as the symbol of the Nazi party. Songs of the old days and of hope and glory were sung by the Hitler Youth.Now the Hitler Youth was Nazi Germany's rather twisted version of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides.
Hitler's first bout at conquest was controversial and didn't seem like conquest at all to many neutral observers. Going against the treaty of Versailles, German troops invaded territory that formerly belonged to Germany. The British did not officially protest against this action. Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia was also made without protest from Britain. It was the invasion of Poland where Britain drew the line. Either Germany gets out of Poland or there will be war. German troops remained in Poland and so, in 1939, the 2nd World War began for the British, the Australians and the New Zealanders.
Hitler was a great motivator and quite ruthless but he lacked the kind of intelligence that makes for a good military leader. His military background before the Nazi Party is rather odd in places. Instead of joining the Austrian army, he ran away. Years later, however, he did join the German army and fought in World war One with some distinction. He only rose as high as corporal but he had one of the more dangerous jobs in any army of the day. He was a runner carrying messages to and from the front. After the war he was able to use his war record to good effect. Even so, he hadn't commanded an army in the field and this would go against Germany during the 2nd World War. Often Hitler's own idealism and lack of military command knowledge and skills got hundreds of thousands of his own soldiers killed for no gain whatsoever.
There were many plans to assassinate Adolf Hitler. A number of times Hitler escaped death at the hands of an assassin.
When the USA entered the war, plans were put together to get rid of Hitler. Various schemes were thought up. Since his power seemed to come from his speech making, there was a ludicrous plan dreamed up of putting estrogen in his food so that his voice would take on a feminine quality and his trade mark moustache would fall out. All American plans to get rid of him, however, were officially abandoned when it was decided that Hitler was more beneficial to the war effort alive than dead. The bad military decisions Hitler made, despite good advice not to do so, were helping the allies to win the war.
After the success of the D Day landings in Normandy, France in June of 1944, the writing was definitely on the wall that Germany could not possibly win the war. Surrender for Germany was the best option but Hitler would have no such talk in his presence. As the war progressed to its inevitable conclusion, Hitler saw his own people as traitors to his dreams. If he could not have a strong and powerful Germany to rule over then there would be no Germany. If he was to be destroyed then Germany would also fall. And so, despite victory for Germany being impossible, the Germans fought on, egged on by their leader. In Berlin alone thousands of American, British, Russian and German lives could have been spared if only the Germans were able to give up against odds that were greatly against them. If not for Hitler, Berlin might not have become a divided city during and after the end of hostilities.
Hitler took his own life. He would not be captured alive by the Russians. He arranged for his body to be burnt beyond recognition so that the Russians wouldn't even have that as a trophy.
In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler outlined what he wanted for himself and for the German people. He marked Jews and Gypsies as unwanted outsiders even if they were born in Germany. If Stalin had bothered to read Mein Kampf then he might not have signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler or would have guarded Russia's borders more closely against German invasion.
Charlie Chaplain sent up Hitler in the film The Great Dictator (1940). He was not the first or the last person to do so.
The original fallen angel. Or maybe instead of falling he just slipped out when nobody was looking. If you believe in this fiend then he should naturally go to the head of the class when it comes to villainy. If not, then he can comfortably take number two spot. Lots have been written about him. Someone even wrote a biography. According to 19th Century artist and poet William Blake, Satan left Heaven to rule over Hell because he was so over the praise God deal in Heaven. Yes, the red fiend was a rebel. Possibly the first rebel in existence. A rebel before there were swank leather jackets and Harleys.
They say Satan's best trick is convincing much of the world that he never really existed. In this he's done quite well.
There is a report that Satan started off as a 'She' entity in the Middle-East and, as she drifted toward Europe, she became a 'He'.
Satan has been depicted in many ways over time. The cinema has had great fun with him. He was a rather swarve, oily back-stabber played by Claude Rains in Angel on my Shoulder (1946). In the film Oh God! You Devil! (1984) he was a God wannabe played by George Burns. In the 1967 film Bedazzled he was as close to William Blake's vision of The Devil as we are cinematically ever going to get as played by Peter Cook. In this film Cook plays The Devil as a rather naughty school boy easily bored and basically after kicks but also with an oh, so vivid nasty streak. Raquel Welch gives a bobby dazzler of a performance as LUST, one of the Deadly Sins. She heats up the screen.
Eater of Planets!
For Marvel comic book fans this is the heavy hitter of all time. Just imagine a humanoid creature who travels through space in a giant space craft eating 'living' planets. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby while they were working on The Fantastic Four, this has got to be one of the greatest fictional villains in terms of what he is capable of doing. Back in the '60s, Stan and Jack were, to the delight of their readership, trying with each issue to 'our fantastic' one another. I have the wonderful results in my comic book collection from this period. They never really, though, topped their creation of Galactus who had to eat planets in order to live. The film makers working on Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) ,starring Jessica Alba, did a superb job with Galactus' herald, the silver Surfer, but not such a good job on realizing, cinematically, Galactus. Maybe, in the end, we have to wonder if Galactus is just too big an ask to put full on the screen. William Shatner came a cropper with trying to put a God-like being on camera in the Star Trek film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). Mind you, the only draw back with Galactus is that he isn't really evil. He is only doing what he needs to do to survive.
POISON HAS BEEN CONSIDERED A WOMAN'S WEAPON
4. LUCREZIA BORGIA
And now for the ladies. The fiendish men can't have all the fun. Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) gained a reputation as a poisoner and a woman, in general, of intrigue. In political circles she was definitely a mover and a shaker. There's no proof that she actually murdered anyone but over time novelists have tended to ignore that particular detail. What we do know was that she was married a number of times and she did have affairs. Centuries later, the somewhat wicked Lord Byron was rather taken with her. It is said she used a hollow ring to poison the drink of her victims.
5. LIZZIE BORDEN
Lizzie's exploits with an ax come with a delightful poem. Did she really kill her father and stepmother? She was acquitted of these crimes but doubt has always lingered. Lizzie Borden (1860 - 1927) supposedly committed these crimes on August 4, 1892. She always claimed the murders were done by a stranger. The killings took place in her home. There is a feeling that the jury may have been influenced unduly by the suffrage movement at the time and also by Lizzie's spinsterhood. Generally speaking, her home life sucked and the jury felt sorry for her. If she really did kill her father and step mother with an ax and got away with it then she does deserve a place here. One theory is that Lizzie's half brother may have committed the murders.
Bathory would have made a great vampire!
6. ELIZABETH BATHORY
Elizabeth Bathory (Erzsbebet Bathory) was a true fiend in female form and absolutely no mistake. She was mad but, then again, it came with the territory. There was a touch of madness running through her family line and that of her husband. Whereas others were able to cover up their bouts of insanity by making them on the battlefield, Elizabeth wasn't quite so fortunate. She was a Hungarian noblewoman who developed a fascination with blood.
When a Gypsy servant told her that bathing in the blood of young women could restore her beauty and keep her beautiful, she gave it a go. The device she used to extract the blood was her own version of the Iron Maiden. She didn't bother killing the girls before putting them in. The screams were like music to her rather pixie-like ears (yes, I have seen a portrait of her) and blood flowed to her bath just as freely. When the blood didn't seem to work Elizabeth was advised to change from peasant girls to girls of a higher social class. Doing so was Elizabeth's undoing. She was put on trial and sentenced to death. It is also known that Elizabeth tortured young women in other ways and also to death simply for her pleasure. She was a rather nasty lesbian.
It can be said Elizabeth was in a way a real life vampire. It has been said that Bram Stoker considered the case of Elizabeth Bathory when putting together his novel, Dracula.
BAD MEN IN THE WORLD OF CAPONE
7. AL CAPONE
Alphonse Gabriel Capone (Al Capone) ( 1899 - 1947) is best known for his bootlegging operations in the American prohibition era. He ran an empire of dodgy booze, speakeasies, prostitution, gambling, drugs, infiltration of the trade unions and murder. For some time he had many officials in his pocket. Legend has it that he personally committed one murder but he was never brought to trial for this crime. It had occurred before he became a big crime boss running many outfits. Al did, however, hire torpedoes (professional killers) to make the hits for him. In the end the feds busted him on tax evasion. Even in prison he managed to, for some time, run his mob. He died at a time when drugs,prostitution and gambling were the big money spinners and not booze. A lot of death and intimidation can be put to rest at Al's feet. Not all the so-called drinking alcohol pushed by the gangsters during prohibition was fit to drink. There were cases of people going blind or mad or simply dropping dead when the bad stuff was on the streets.
THE RED SKULL
8. THE RED SKULL
From the 1940s up to the present time The Red Skull has fought against Captain America, the costumed symbol of the USA. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon created both the Captain America and the Red Skull for Timely comics which eventually became Marvel.
The lad who would become the Red Skull was discovered by Adolf Hitler while working in a hotel. Hitler saw something in the lad's eyes that he could exploit and so the lad was given special training and the Red Skull Mask. In the 1940s the Skull was a master spy and assassin. He killed with poisoned darts and with hand guns. He had henchmen and the best scientific gadgetry the Third Reich could come up with.
In the comics of the 1950s, the Russians revived the terror of the Red Skull by creating the mask for their best spy and killer. This was also the short lived revival of Captain America. The art was great but it just wasn't the right time for the masked hero let alone the masked villain.
In the 1960s the original Red Skull came out of a state of suspended animation and took up once more the cause of world domination. This time AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) provided the backup. The Red Skull came closest to both world domination and destroying Captain America when he stole the Cosmic Cube from AIM. The Cosmic Cub had the power to create matter and thus fulfill the wishes of the one who holds it. You can think of it as a kind of science based Aladdin's lamp. In any event, it was the Red Skull's triumphant ranting that provided the good captain with the means to wrest the cube away from him.
The cube was lost for a time but rediscovered by the Red Skull. Unfortunately for the Skull, his rather convoluted plan to use the cube to humiliate Captain America before disposing of him backfired. It seems that some dastardly villains never learn.
Used in a simple, straightforward way and Captain America wouldn't have stood a chance against the powers within the Cosmic Cube. The best depiction of the Red Skull is on the cover of Marvel comic Tales of Suspense 80 in which the Skull is holding the cube on high in his hand and leering down at the good captain. It is from the 1960s and it is Jack Kirby at his best.
There was a movie made a while ago in which, for some reason, the film makers decided that the Red Skull should be Italian. Naturally, Marvel fans balked at this. We prefer our Red Skull to be a NAZI through and through. We want him to be the creation in real like of Simon and Kirby and in the world of Captain America, Hitler's most evil human creation. I hope the next film to have the Red Skull aboard has him as a proper ranting NAZI evil genius assassin and no mistake. One of Mussolini greatest killers? No, sorry. It really doesn't cut the mustard. For pure evil in a human package he really has to be schooled by dear Adolf.
9. PROFESSOR JAMES MORIARTY
Moriarty was sometimes the sinister presence behind terrible crimes going on in the world of Sherlock Holmes. He rarely got his own hands dirty and it was always a real battle of wits between Moriarty, the master criminal, and Holmes, the master detective.
Moriarty only appeared in two of the original Doyle stories about Holmes but two was more than enough for him to find a place here.He has appeared many times in films as Holmes' chief nemesis.
Professor James Moriarty is oft times depicted as a fashionably dressed rotter with a somewhat thin appearance.
James Bond (Sean Connery) goes up against a man who loves gold and is ruthless enough to attack Fort Knox in the 1964 spy romp masterpiece, Goldfinger.
With henchman like the beautiful and talented Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), Goldfinger, as played by Gert Frobe, had a good chance of pulling off his somewhat fantastic gold robbery. The twist was that he wasn't going to steal the precious metal but make it useless instead and thus rob the American government of its use. Once the deed was done, the gold he already had would then be worth more. He was foiled by Bond.
Murder wasn't beyond Goldfinger and he was happy to be a hands on killer so long as he could get away with it. Based on the 1959 novel by Ian Fleming, the film had a lot going for it and still does.
Here are my 10 all time great rotters both fiction and non-fiction. I hope you have enjoyed the journey. Certainly there are lots and lots more out there in both real life and in fiction.
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