Villainry 102: Ten Villains Who Were Doing Just Fine
.... until those meddling kids (nasty hobbitses, etc.) showed up!
After all, even the best of antagonists can’t stand up against a bunch of kids and a talking dog, a band of unassuming hobbits protected by wizards, rangers who can run for days on end, and elves who can walk on top of snow (Legolas, you bastard!), and a highly resourceful gang of roving wizards and witches! We can’t all be David Xanatos, after all! In no particular order, I give you a bunch of villains who were doing pretty well for themselves.
1.) Voldemort: The Dark Lord. Tom Marvolo Riddle. Moldypants. The Noseless Wonder. Whatever you want to call him, and whatever you might think of him as a villain, Voldemort was actually fairly successful. He had the entire Wizarding World terrified of him for a very long time – so scared that they wouldn’t even say his name! He had fanatical followers, desperate for his favor and praise, ready to carry out his every whim. He even managed a nearly-successful comeback after being defeated once and showed incredible fortitude and power of will – he sucked unicorns to get his life force back and endured his awkward stage of being embedded in the back of Quirrel’s head. There was just no way he could have known that Lily Potter had the Ultimate Mommy Magic to screw him when he went after baby Harry. Perhaps if people understood the incredible power of the Mom Magic, they wouldn’t make fun of poor old Life Giving Magus from Adventure Time so much. Still grossed out by his noselessness. Tom Riddle was actually good looking! Why choose creepy snakeface? Moldypants the Mad Unicorn Sucker – you were defeated, but you gave them a run for their money twice over!
2.) Jadis, The White Witch: She was doing fine in Narnia with always-winter-never-Christmas until random children from an alternate world bust in through a coat closet and faith-spire a ChristLion to kick her ass. I mean, who could honestly see that one coming? You can’t just be prepared for WWII-era evacuee children to pop in, fulfill some wacky prophecies, and lead some armies against you. And that one kid, Edmund? He had such potential! Selling out your siblings for a piece of candy from a stranger? Jadis should have had this gig in the bag, but no one expects the Spanish Inquisition – I mean, Prophecy Closet Children. Come on.
3.) Kefka Palazzo: I’ve already said enough (possibly too much?) about Kefka and why he’s a great villain, but I’ll reiterate here the bottom line of what I said before – Kefka won. He actually won, shattered the world, ascended to godhood, and “enjoyed” the spoils of his win for a full year. As the first of the Magitek knights, Kefka was a lab rat at best and a nihilistic mad clown at worst, but he sure knew how to play the long game and not out himself as the real big bad until he was ready to push the emperor off of the floating continent and embrace his winged angelmonster form. The problem wasn’t that he couldn’t beat his foes – he did. The problem wasn’t that he didn’t know how to succeed – he did. The ultimate downfall of Kefka was that after winning, he didn’t feel any better or less nihilistic about the world. Why rule a thing that was so insignificant? Why care at all? In the end, he just couldn’t be bothered.
4.) Mayor Richard Wilkins III: The Mayor of Sunnydale found his way into the Affable Bastards category in the first article in this series. Closer examination of his character reveals that while he was defeated as the main Big Bad, he’d had a pretty long run of it first. Mayor Wilkins pretended to be his own son for generations to hide that he was immortal and played a pretty impressive long game of ascending to demonhood. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those Scoobies!
5.) Lena, Simone, and Jacques: Speaking of the original Scooby Gang, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island was waaaay better than it should have been. I think a lot of people were surprised at how entertaining the movie was, especially for a direct-to-video release of a modernization of an old cartoon. Lena, Simone, and Jacques were cursed to be werecats, turning people into zombies by sucking their lifejuice out. They had been doing this and getting away with it since the 1700s. That is a pretty significant amount of time for a villainous racket to go unchecked. They literally would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those nosy kids and their dog!
6.) Bowser: Yes, Bowser is always defeated by a pair of Italian(ish) plumbers, but he never fails to kidnap the princess, either! He even plants decoy princesses to keep Mario and Luigi chasing doggedly after him for level after level of pipe-warping madness. You would think, that after how many years of kidnappings, the Royal House of the Mushroom Kingdom would tighten up the security detail on the Princess … unless, it’s always an inside job. You see, I have theories about this. I think Bowser always has an inside agent and that it’s entirely possible that not all of the Mushroom People are happy under the rule of a Princess who is clearly not a Mushroom Person herself. Is it colonialization? Maybe. Is she the human adopted child of a Fungus Person? Possibly. Am I reading too much into this? Most definitely. :-) Either way, it’s time for Bowser to step up his kidnapped princess retention game and bring it on par with his princess kidnapping game. And … did anyone else ever wonder why when you go down a pipe there is often a room filled with gold? Do koopas poop gold? Are we in their sewers? So many questions!
7.) David Xanatos: There is a reason TVTropes.org named the Xanatos Gambit after him. The Xanatos Gambit describes a plan in which all outcomes point to “win” for the planner (usually an antagonist, but not always.) I actually have never thought of Mr. Xanatos as villain – I think of him as
a potential love interest an incredibly intelligent, devilishly handsome, witty conversationalist with strong family ties who sometimes finds himself at odds with the protagonists. Hey, I’m not perfect either. ;-) He reminds me of Tony Stark, and I do seem to have a bit of a type. You know, genius billionaire playboy philanthropists? I’d like to join the ranks of such awesome ladies as Fox and Pepper. We’ll call our club the Genius Billionaire Playgirl Philanthropists Club, and we’ll have fancy, fancy brunches on the rooftops of some fabulous skyscrapers. And we will benefit from time travel, mad science, and other amazing rich people pastimes. Yes, it’s true. Not only does David Xanatos find revenge to be pointless, he is the person who got the win-win Xanatos Gambit its name. May the best man win, Mr. Xanatos! (That’s you, guy. That’s you!)
8.) Sauron and Saruman: I like to call them Team Mordor. Sauron may have been reduced to an eyeball on a stalk, forced to inspire his hordes of orcs and goblins to do his dirty work for him, but he was still pretty badass. In the flashbacks that show him stomping around in his scary armor, wiping the floor with elf carcasses and using humans as projectiles, he was terrifying. As an eyeball-on-a-stalk, he gets points for hanging onto his form in whatever ways he could, much like Voldemort and his unicorn sucking, embedded-in-the-back-of-someone’s-head ways. With his agency reduced, Sauron managed to corrupt Saruman the White and get him started on farming orcs and Uruk-Hai beneath Isengard. That orc-farming racket went on for a good long time before the Ring found its way into the desperate little fingers of a hobbit. Not even Saruman the Wise could have predicted that a scruffy band of adventurers could have rallied Rohan, Isengard, Lothlorien, Mirkwood, and Rivendell to band together. The groundwork for defeating Team Mordor was begun by Lady Galadriel, Gandalf the Gray and Lord Elrond (you just stand there and look pretty, King Thranduil) years and years before any of it ever came to fruition. No one could have expected that Frodo wouldn’t die on the way to Mount Doom, and no one could have expected that Samwise Gamgee was good at more than just gardening. Likewise, Team Mordor could not have known that
Agent Smith Lord Elrond was busy making sure that Isildur’s line survived, bred, and was put through Lord Elrond’s Finishing School for Potentially Returning Kings.
9.) Dolores Umbridge: Often “lauded” as worse than Voldemort himself, Dolores Umbridge is a walking, talking personification of everything that is wrong with school systems today. She’s controlling, exacting, unimaginative, and cruelly punitive. I think she is often interpreted as being the “true” villain of the Harry Potter series because representatives of her kind of administrative, simpering evil are actually present in our world. We don’t have to worry about The Dark Lord, but who can’t produce the name of a former teacher who squashed all creativity and true learning, punished behaviors that ought to be rewarded, and talked down to students? Almost everyone can, or can at least tell the story of someone else who can. Under the authority of the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge tortured a student (Harry’s detentions with the Blood Quill), removed the useful parts of the Defense Against the Dark Arts course, rendering the students even more vulnerable to potential attacks, and also enacted racist policies against anyone who was not a pureblood. She was responsible for rules that prevented werewolves like Remus Lupin from finding employment, she had Hagrid fired because he was a half-giant, and she looked down upon Firenze the Centaur, calling him a “filthy halfbreed.” During her reign of terror, she successfully used her mid-level administrative powers to their fullest extent to cause the most harm possible and likely would have continued had she not been stopped. Even after her removal from Hogwarts she kept right on pushing her policies of prejudice in a government position.
You’re a mean one, Prof. Umbridge! You really are a heel!
You’re as cuddly as a grindylow
You’re as charming as a troll
In the category of Honorable Mention, I need to give props to Dr. Claw – to his credit, Inspector Gadget never actually caught him. He foiled the plan-of-the-week, but never wrecked Dr. Claw’s determination. Next time, Gadget. Next time! Ever the optimist, Dr. Claw has a Ph.D. in Evil, and he who plans and runs away, lives to plan another day! Carmen Sandiego also deserves some acclaim. I don’t think she was ever stealing to make money – she was stealing to prove that she could. The goods could be recovered, but Carmen Sandiego always stole again.
All of the villains above were just going about a not-so-honest day’s work in the growing field of Villainry, when circumstances beyond their control (Prophecy Closet Children, Nosy Kids, Emo Kids, etc.) ruined their projects and plans. It just goes to show you that all of the planning in the ‘Verse sometimes can’t stop a gardener with a hobbit on his back from climbing Mount Doom or stand up to the tenacity of a group of kids who are tired of having their education constantly interrupted by evil.
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
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