There are Great Villains out there in both Fact and Fiction
We have our Villains
Nothing illustrates best what you are expected to be against than a villain.
Right now over a hundred young Muslims who have decided to leave Australia to join Islamic State rate high on the lists of fools, fanatics and villains.
Is death such an attractive prospect? And if these young Muslims do decide they want back in, should Australia accept them back? If they do return would a jail sentence be enough? Perhaps they shouldn't be allowed back under any circumstance.
Today bankers and banks rate high as villains. They rate almost as high as bankers and bank establishments did during the Great Depression.
Insurance company high flyers also rate very high in this regard and for good reasons. Greed is no longer considered to be good. The 1980s are gone and we live in an age where there seems to be a greater separation between the haves and the poor.
Not all villains have been men. Some have been women. Sometimes it is a question of politics as to whether a person is seen as a villain or not.
Lucrezia Borgia, for example, has long been thought of as a villain. Being illegitimate perhaps much of her villainy had to do with getting along in a world where she didn't belong. It is hard, however, to excuse murder.
Today there are mixed feelings about Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. There are many in Great Britain who, to this day, would have her as a great villain. There are economists, however, who say she was the sort of hardliner needed at the time to help the economy along.
The jury is still out on Australia's only female prime minister, Julia Gillard.
Propaganda does play its part. The invasion of Belgium by the Germans during the First World War gave rise to some horror in both art and word.
The average German soldier was accused of bayoneting Belgium babies and doing terrible things to young Belgium women.
The truth was that the German invaders of the day were not that much different from the British, French and Belgium soldiers that were against them.
Attacking the defenseless was not the German soldier's way at the time. There were, however, fear of sniper attacks from civilians that turned some German soldiers against innocent civilians.
To discover true brutes in German uniform you would have to fast forward to World War One. I am not suggesting that the German soldiers of the First World war were little angels.
On the other hand, these Germans were not as bad as they were made out to be in order to stir up men to join in a war against them.
During the First world war the Kaiser was painted by the British and the Australians as the greatest of villains.
Much was made of the villainy of German U-boat attacks during WW1. In fact, the German U-boat helped to get the Americans to enter the way on the side of the British rather than the Germans.
During the 2nd World War the greatest of allied villains was Adolf Hitler.
In recent years, Saddam Hussein has filled this role. Of those men mentioned so far, the old Kaiser probably doesn't rate as much as the others do when it comes to villain material.
Spin works best if there are villains around. Light shines best out of darkness. Empires thrive when there are stories being told about heroes besting their opposite numbers.
Would Hercules be such a big deal if he hadn't slain the Hydra?
Would 'Saint George for England' have been such a rallying cry if there wasn't this belief floating around that this noble saint had slain a dragon?
Then there are the true heroes of our times such as the firemen and medics who risked their lives during 9/11. There are also the true villains of our times such as the creeps responsible for 9/11 and for the Bali bombing.
Saddam Hussein would definitely rate as a fairly recent villain who got his just deserts in 2006.
Mind you, if the villainy comes from us rather than a perceived them it is sometimes hard to recognize it. A good example would be the Bali nine. These idiot Australian mules were arrested in 2005 for trying to smuggle heroin from Bali into Australia.
They have been sentenced to death by firing squad and my sympathy doesn't go out to them. I personally don't care if they are Australians or not. Two in fact have received the death sentence. One was an okay artist.
Drug smuggling is wicked and, if the Indonesians want to shoot them or hang them over it, I say fair enough.
Strangely enough, they still don't rate very high as villains to most people despite the damage heroin can do to communities everywhere. Maybe they're just too stupid to make the top grade of villainy.
I will set out for you five fictional villains that seem to touch upon what is definitely not British and therefore against what the British people would like to stand for.
I will also set out for you five fictional villains that seem to touch upon what is definitely not American and therefore against what the USA would like to stand for.
Tojo, Hitler and the Red Baron
British Views on Villainy
Simply put if it isn't cricket then it isn't British or part of what the British Empire or Commonwealth would approve of. Therefore a villain who isn't very sporting and doesn't deal in fair play is technically perfect.
In real life Adolf Hitler was such a rotter. He made promises he did not keep which is a big no-no.
Hitler also arranged for a great many people, who's only crime was to be born into what he felt was the wrong religion, to be executed. Then there was the business of allowing the murder of unarmed refugees by his Luftwaffe.
Another real life rotter would be Joseph Stalin who murdered or allowed to starve to death millions of his own people.
Mind you, in the 19th Century, England had allowed many an Irishman who could have been saved to starve to death but, even so, it was agreed by the 20th Century that it simply wasn't the thing to do.
A third top example of real life villainy would be the Prime Minister of Japan during World War Two, Hideki Tojo. Being the head of the military he was ultimately responsible for the disgraceful nature of the Japanese prisoner of war camps during WW2.
Tojo was executed by hanging in 1948. The major complaint the Japanese had at the time and in future years at this procedure was that the Americans should have made it a public hanging.
In the end, Tojo and the 2nd World War had brought nothing but misery and destruction to the Asian and South-East Asian part of the world which includes Japan.
Not all real life enemies, however, are or have been considered villainous. Baron Von Richthoven, for example, though a highly successful fighter pilot, was never a rotter.
The Red Baron fought the British during the Great War with a sense of chivalry.
There's a story about the Baron coming across an allied fighter pilot whose machine guns had jammed. The pilot was trying to free up his guns but without success when the Baron came alongside him. Shooting the allied pilot out of the sky would have been so easy yet all the Baron did was salute his helpless enemy and fly off.
Such acts, of course, take Baron Von Richthoven forever out of the class of villain. When he was finally shot down in 1918 he was honored by Australian infantry at his funeral. Such a thing would never happen to a true scum bag. In other words, he was a decent enough sort, just on the wrong side.
Now on to five fictional villains the British see as definitely not in the spirit of their Empire or Commonwealth.
MORIARTY IS A NASTY PIECE OF WORK
Professor James Moriarty is the continuing thorn in the side of Arthur Conan Doyle's most enduring hero, Sherlock Holmes. He may of only featured in few of Doyle's original stories about Holmes but Moriarty, thanks to cinema and television, has come down to us as a first class scum bag.
Tall and often depicted as somewhat skeletal, Moriarty has a first class mind Holmes can appreciate even in a first rate criminal. Certainly, in the Sherlock Holmes movies of the 2nd World War, Professor Moriarty is totally lacking in moral fiber and is quite happy to work with the Nazis provided he is paid well for his services. His major weakness is his vanity.
In the television series Elementary, Moriarty is a woman played by the sexy Natalie Dormer.
THE DARLEKS HAVE APPEARED IN MANY A DOCTOR WHO EPISODE
Davros, the horribly mutated creator of the Daleks, has been a top villain and nemesis of Doctor Who for some decades now. He has appeared on television and in paperback novels.
Originally Davros had jack-booted followers, reminiscent of the Nazis, which he traded in for creatures inside machines whose sole purpose was, is and will be to either kill or dominate. He made sure that his creatures, the Daleks, were without pity only to have them, on more than one occasion, turn on him. It has often been Davros' scientific knowledge vs The Doctor's.
Wizards abound in the world of Harry Potter
3. LORD VOLDEMORT
The Harry Potter novels by J. R. Rowling would not have much going for them without the dastardly actions of Lord Voldemort. Harry survived an attack by this lord when he was very young but his parents were killed.
In attacking Harry, Voldemort was diminished and it was years before he could make a comeback. Over the pages of J.R. Rowling's novels both Harry on the side of the good and Lord Voldemort on the side of evil gather their wizardly forces for what becomes one almighty showdown.
Through the novels we discover that Harry's father was not really so good and that, in his youth, he did rotten things with his magic, making at least one future enemy for his son. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger go through thick and thin with Harry, often providing their friend with either moral support or knowledge with which to use against common enemies such as R. K. Rowling's dark lord.
DRACULA IN FLIGHT
Count Dracula has been around since Bram Stoker created him in the late 19th Century. He took on an air of nobility in Marvel Comics' '70s series Tomb of Dracula but, in general, he's a blood sucker and tends to mentally and physically dominate those weaker than himself.
In the Hammer movies Dracula has been done away with numerous times but always manages to make a come back. The movie Van Helsing (2004), starring Australian actor Hugh Jackman, provided a more aristocratic Dracula but still a nasty piece of work.
Von Stalhein was known for his monocle
5. Erich Von Stalhein
Biggles' greatest nemesis remains Erich Von Stalhein. James Bigglesworth (better known as Biggles) was created by Captain E. W. Johns way back in the 1930s.
Mind you, Biggles fought during both the First and 2nd world wars and had plenty of action in between and after the major hostilities came to an end. Throughout, from time to time, he locked horns with Von Stalhein.
Biggles had more respect for Von Stalhein during the First World War and a little after the First World War than he had later on.
Biggles back then could see Von Stalhein as simply someone fighting for his country just as Biggles was doing. It was just a shame they were on opposite sides. When Von Stalhein turned Nazi and then, later on, a spy for hire Biggles' respect for him evaporated. He still remained a devious customer to deal with.
THIS COULD HAPPEN IF TWO MAJOR RELIGIONS WENT MAD
THE VILLAINS THAT INSPIRE THE PEOPLE OF THE USA
Nowadays mad, fanatical Muslims must be at the top of the list when it comes to what the Americans recognize as first grade villainy.
Of course mad, fanatical Christians can be just as bad. Its the mad, fanatical bit tagged onto a religion, any religion that does the damage.
Bombers that are happy to blow themselves to pieces along with others in the name of a cause and a god are not the sort of people one is likely to be able to reason with. This makes them really scary.
It can be said though that the upsurge in mad, fanatical Muslims has resulted, in recent years, in an equally disturbing upsurge in mad, fanatical Christians keen on attacking Darwin and establishing Creationism or something similar to it in schools in the USA.
No suggestion here that all Christians or all Muslims are mad or in any way fanatics. Most Christians and Muslims are, thank goodness, sane. Very few, I am glad to say, are nut cases. Unfortunately, the nut cases can be rather vocal.
Bank managers have recently been considered first class stinkers by the general public in the USA and a lot of other countries because of the financial crisis started by bank managers' greed not that long ago.
Now on to five classic fictional villains that I believe have some influence over the minds of Americans even to this day.
THE BLOODLESS, GREEDY ROTTER
1. SNIDELY WHIPLASH
This may be a strange choice to some to lead off with since Snidely, to my own reckoning, has only appeared in the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons and in a best forgotten live action film about Dudley (1999). Also, the action takes place in Canada rather than the USA.
Even so, the malicious Snidely Whiplash comes from a long line of villains that can be traced back to stage villainy of the 19th Century that is definitely as red, white and blue as the heroes who foiled their dastardly plots.
In the early 1890s there were many foreclosures on loans because the American economy was in serious trouble and a lot of people were out of work. Sounds familiar? Bank managers were perceived as greedy and, yes, villainous.
There's the old business about the poor widow being chucked out into the cold, snowy, wind swept night because she is a little behind on her mortgage payments.
The laugh of the stove pipe hat wearing, heavily moustached bank manager, or representative of the bank, at her plight. Give her a couple of crying kids and you have real melodrama. Then a hero arrives with the money to save the widow and her children or with the law because the moustached villain hasn't been playing fair with the widow. To applauding audiences the villain is biffed by the hero and all is well. The villainy has been foiled!
Memories of foreclosures no doubt persisted and the stove pipe had wearing, heavily moustached bank manager type villain made it into the silent era of film making. Unfortunately his horrid laughter was on a card but he could still twirl his waxed and quite long moustache and smile with hideous glee at someone else's misfortune.
His type fitted in nicely to the early movie serial episodes of The Perils of Pauline where he got to do more active things like tying pretty girls to railway tracks where they stood a good chance of getting run over by trains.
In any event, the biggest and nastiest down turn in the American economy came soon after the Wall Street crash of 1929. By then more sophisticated bad guys showing the plight of the common man or woman were called for at least in live action cinema. The moustached villain, however, remained a mainstay in the cartoons throughout this time period.
The foreclosing, moustached bank manager type did well in the 1960s and should have done well in 1999 in the revised shape of one Snidely Whiplash. His main aim, however, was to get the girl though if he picked up lots of illicit cash on the way he wouldn't be complaining - not at all!
LEX LUTHOR IN ALL HIS GLORY
2. LEX LUTHOR
For many decades now the opposite number to Superman has been Lex Luthor. He made his first appearance in 1940 and has been going strong ever since in the comics, in the movies and on television.
Lex has changed over time. Nowadays he is more human and the reasons why he hates Superman are far more complex than what they used to be. There is the belief that he might have been a better man if Superman hadn't stolen his thunder. There is the possibility that, as either inventor or businessman, he might have sought only to do good if he had not developed a kind of inferiority complex and thus had to take on the man of steel as an arch villain.
In the television show Smallville it may well have been Clark Kent's (Superman's) reluctance to share his secrets with Lex that sent him over the edge. Green kryptonite from the planet Krypton is Superman's biggest weakness and Lex came to know this and has, over the years, continually used this knowledge to try to defeat his number one enemy.
THE RED SKULL AS A BAD ASS NAZI WITH ATTITUDE AND, IN THE EARLY DAYS, A WINNING SMILE
3. THE RED SKULL
A disillusioned and angry young man was taken under Adolf Hitler's wing and was trained to be the biggest bad ass Nazi of all time, barring Hitler of course. This young man Hitler mentored became The Red Skull.
When Captain America first went up against the Red Skull it was on American soil and the Red Skull was head of a spy ring that went in for assassinations on the side.
Even back then the Red Skull made it plain that he hated democracy and that he believed in a master race. Over time the hating of democracy and the belief in the master race has persisted. Whatever the Red Skull can do to harm the USA he is more than willing to do. It is fortunate that Captain America has been around to stop him.
In one movie the Red Skull was made out to be an Italian. Why? I have no idea. Me? I prefer the Red Skull to be a definite, card-carrying, dirty tricks pulling German style Nazi of the old school and no mistake!
YOU GOTTA LOVE THAT JOKER AND HOW HE BRINGS JOY TO THE COMMON MAN
4. THE JOKER
Of all the criminals The Batman has ever gone up again The Joker would have to be the worst. This is made clear when you realize that The Joker was responsible for the death of one of the lads who took on the role of Robin, Batman's crime fighting assistant.
The Joker's sinister laughter after a kill can be unnerving. What is even more so, however, is the condition he oft times leaves the corpses in. The Joker developed a poison that leaves his victims with a ghastly grin on their faces.
The origin of the joker has been told, with some variations, numerous times. Basically, he fell into a vat of chemicals and came out with a white face and a permanent smile. It affected his mind making him somewhat insane. There is one Batman movie that has it that it was The Joker, before he fell into the vat, who killed Bruce Wayne's parents in a botched robbery and thus created The Batman. In the comic book history of The Joker, however, this has not always been so.
The Dark Knight (2008), has the Joker's grin caused by mutilation rather than chemical bath.
The Joker often sets the tone for a Batman adventure. If The Joker is around expect the story to be grim with a lot of fun twists and turns in the plot.
DOCTOR OTTO HIT BY RADIATION
5. DOCTOR OCTOPUS
Early in his career, Spider-man went up against a multi-armed super villain that easily defeated him first go. Spider-man, however, took another shot at the multi-armed super villain and won. Was there more to the story?
Actually, Doctor Otto Octavius, who became known as Doctor Octopus, was once a research scientist using specially constructed artificial arms in order to experiment with radioactive materials.
An explosion in his lab made the artificial arms part of his body and turned his thoughts away from science and toward crime. Doctor Octopus, also known as Doc Ock, has appeared in numerous comic books and in one live action Spider-man movie.
THAT'S IT FOR NOW
I have presented ten fictional villains for you. I hope you have enjoyed the read. Maybe one of these villains is an old time favorite of yours. Certainly they have contributed to the way we feel about the world and how we view our heroes, fictional and otherwise.
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