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Saturday, 5 September 2015

Editorial: The Five Worst DC Villains.

Editorial: The Five Worst DC Villains.

DC Comics has a vast, sprawling superhero multiverse spanning decades, and naturally that means it's had a lot of villains - Batman's rogues gallery alone is vast, and those are just the ones that stood the test of time and were interesting enough to be reused again and again by writers. It's a line-up of villains that include such household names as the Joker, Lex Luthor, General Zod, and the Reverse-Flash (whose power is not, as it sounds, the ability to move very slowly). 

They can't all be winners, though, in fact a lot of them, even the bigger name ones, are pretty goshdarn terrible. Here are the five worst DC villains in our estimations.

5. The Man Who Impersonated Villains, Blackhawk.

Right, okay.

The Man Who Impersonated Villains may have had his own supervillain name, now lost to the ravages of time, but given that he was essentially a man in businesswear mimicking the gimmicks of other, better known villains. In this case, that other, better known villain was the Hoopster, a villain who may actually have only shown up once and whose schtick was that he had a variety of hoop themed gadgets, like a hoop bike and some flaming hoops.

Given that The Man Who Impersonated Villains didn't seem to have any special powers, he presumably went the long way around as far as impersonating the Hoopster went and just constructed all of the Hoopster's gadgets, which is some impressive hard work but does seem a bit pointless when you could be mimicking the gadgetry of Batman or Lex Luthor. 

Neither the Hoopster nor The Man Who Impersonated Villains became regular rogues in the DC Universe - and I'm actually not even sure if Blackhawk still shows up in DC Comics - so it's safe to presume they both retired. Possibly together? Somebody write me that adorable fluff fic.

4. The Riddler, Batman.

I'm engendering a subtle bias here by using a picture of the Jim Carrey version.

Written correctly, the Riddler can be one of Batman's most sinister rogues, a daring and erudite criminal whose deadly riddles force Batman into a game of intellectual cat-and-mouse-by-way-of-chess. Written correctly in an entirely different way, the Riddler can be a fun, light-hearted romp of a villain, providing a welcome breather from the pervasive and often oppressive doom and gloom that can overwhelm Batman's storylines.

But nobody ever writes the Riddler correctly ever, so that's pretty much a moot point.

Possibly the reason the Riddler so often (read: every single time he shows up) gets mangled is that telling and making up riddles is pretty hard, and writing a chain of elaborate riddles conjured from the mind of a brilliantly intelligent madman takes that difficulty and magnifies it by a factor of ten. Most of us just aren't smart enough to write that. 

But you know what is easy to write? A shrink gun that makes Batman small and deposits him in a giant question mark themed maze, okay, let's - let's do that.

Or maybe he gets mangled so much because it's impossible for anyone to believe that a man with the name 'Edward Nygma' could ever be a criminal mastermind. One of the two.

3. Sportsmaster, Green Lantern (and others).

Yes, that is a skipping rope.

The Sportsmaster is a supervillain whose gimmick is various sports. He doesn't have any superpowers to speak of - well, one lesser used version of him has photographic reflexes - but he makes up for it by needlessly complicating his application of ultraviolence by dressing it up in various sports themes. 

Yes, Sportsmaster would never - could never - throw a grenade at you or hit you in the face with a heavy object, that would just be beneath him. Instead he has to disguise a grenade as a tennis ball and hit that at you with an actual tennis racket, like the angriest Prince of Tennis character, or hit you in the face with ... well, probably with a baseball bat, to be fair.

Sportsmaster tends to be given daughters who are much more practical than him, generally using either bows and arrows or knives or other things that are traditionally used as weapons, which really just serves to highlight how silly he is. Stop trying to relive your glory days as a high school athlete, Sportsmaster. Grow up. Become a proper mercenary.

2. Deathstroke, Batman. 

Yes, very dramatic, thank you.

'Not Deathstroke!' you might be saying if you're a part of the surprisingly large cadre of people who adore Deathstroke. It's true, he has a bizarre amount of fans for somebody who essentially brings nothing interesting to the table. 

Deathstroke - predominantly a Batman villain, but he branches out - is a one-eyed mercenary in a charmingly silly mask whose claim to fame is being not quite as good at fighting as Batman. Cue lots of trumpeting about being Batman's greatest rival, a lot of posturing about how nobody ever gets away from him twice (objectively untrue), and a lot of waving swords and guns about.

But weaponsmaster mercenaries are a dime a dozen in the DC Universe. Sportsmaster has pretty much the same skillset, and he at least has the common decency to dress it up with some kind of theme, even if it's a stupid theme. Deathstroke doesn't bother to do that, possibly for much the same reasons that he decided not to bother bringing an interesting backstory or any semblance of personal conflict with Batman to the table.

1. Superboy Prime, Infinite Crisis. 

"Because if you kill people, they die."

Okay, to be absolutely fair to DC here, you're not meant to be in awe of Superboy Prime. In fact, I think it's fair to say that the way almost every fan perceives him - as an intensely whiny manchild who, unfortunately for everyone else, has an imbued with the powers of a god - is exactly how you're meant to perceive him.

(We could talk for quite some time about how Superboy Prime, someone who constantly whines about how things are better in his world, who blames everyone else for everything and appears to have no sense of personal responsibility, and who eventually ends up spending his life posting angry rants on message boards is an extremely unsubtle jab at the less appealing elements of DC's fanbase, but if anything, that's a reason to like him.)

But the thing is, while that's all well and good in theory, in practice, as the villain of a massive crossover event, with a number of beloved characters dying (temporarily) to stop him, it's incredibly grating. It's difficult to get behind a long-running storyline that has a villain who you can't really fear, or like, or be in awe of, because he just won't stop whinging. 

Superboy Prime is a villain you love to hate, and part of the joy of villains you love to hate is getting to see them backstabbed by a bigger, nastier, grander threat - but that never happened to him. 

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