Let’s talk about antagonists. I love writing them. I established an early fondness for them thanks to quirky and inept villains on programming I saw when I was a child. Sure my standards have gone up considerably it is important to note I picked up a few key things from them.
Control. A potent antagonist knows when to hold them and when to fold em’. A good villain plays to win but expects to lose. Loose cannon villains even do this. Think of Joker, while he’s bat shit insane, he knows when to stop laughing and lay down some cards. Also a good villain needs to learn to retreat.
Charisma. Antagonists that you hate are important. But what about the people that follow him/her? Sure the occasional lone monster is nice, but when they have support and a personality that draws people towards them that is when a villain really shines. Sometimes the charisma is completely false, or in some cases the individual is so incredibly inept people flock to him thinking: Yeah. When this guy falls on his face and breaks his nose. I’ll be there to pick up the pieces.
Cruelty. Antagonists need to be relentless in their goals. Some decided to make it blatant, while others mask it with sugar coating. The thing that stays the same is an unwavering dedication to accomplishing their goals even if there are a few victims in the way.
Consistency. Antagonists have an M.O. for a reason. It’s one of the things that makes a villain a villain. They usually start superior to the hero but have a bad habit of stagnating. Breaking this mold is fine of course. But then the consistency becomes a steady unwavering slope of power. The hero needs to beat this by being adaptive.
Camaraderie. Antagonists that don’t work alone tend to be more successful than lone wolves. And by that I mean they get more accomplished. It’s also a matter of scale. If a hero has friends, you need friends. Ask any RPG last boss ever. The whole: I’m big and fill the entire screen. I can totally take out you guys 1 on 5. It. Does. Not. Work.
Cunning. Antagonists need smarts to cover other faults. It’s not entirely required but it makes up for a lack of sheer firepower. The villain in question relies on duping their victims into turning on themselves.
Crush! Antagonists sometimes just need to just throw up their hands and just mess stuff up. It could mean tearing a car in half with their bare hands or ordering a tactical strike by their armies.
Chuckle. Evil laugh. Nuff said.
Cobra Commander: (G.I. Joe) Con: 8 Cha: 10 Cru: 6 Cst: 2 Cam: 8 Cun: 1/*10 Cr!: 4 Chu: 3
Cobra commander is an idiot. I won’t front. But I love him. He is a perfect example of how a complete moron can get by with good PR skills. His grunts are fiercely loyal. You know why? They are all morons. They look up to him. They simply see him and go: hey! If this guy can become a military savant, so can I!
He balances this by keeping a volatile mix of competent underlings, mercenaries and specialists. I could probably write an article alone about his baffling brilliance. If he would stay out of the command and just handle their PR exclusively. The world would be sitting under Cobra flags and saluting. I mean really? Taking over the world with an evil rock band? Fail.
On the upside, he is not to proud to cut his losses. COBRA RETREAT!!
*When he actually listens to the people that work for him that aren’t morons. IE never.
Skeletor (He-man): Con: 2 Cha: 4 Cru: 8 Cst: 8 Cam: 5 Cun: 8 Cr!: 9* Chu: 7
Skeletor would be much more efficient of an antagonist if he cut back on the evil laughter (but not too much! His Nyahaha was great.) He wasn’t a particularly stupid villain considering he was up against He-man he should have been more successful. He had no real grunts to speak of and a army of skeletons or something might have helped. His minions were all idiots and Evilyn was too busy plotting to stab him in the back to be a real asset.
*Skeletor goes toe to toe with He-man and he’s a powerful magician second only to Evilyn.
Dr. Claw (Inspector Gadget): Con: 10* Cha: 8 Cru: 8 Cst: 3 Cam: 1 Cun: 8 Cr! Chu: 11
Dr. Claw was an enigma. You never saw him, but you always saw mad cat. You saw his emotions without seeing his face. But this guy if he did anything right, always had a backup plan. Most of his failures came from his minions. If he hired smart people (and maybe changed the salute… it promoted brain damage…) he would be able to pack Penny and brain in a box to abudhabi and win.
*The closest gadget (or penny) has gotten to Claw is in the opening sequence.
Shredder (TMNT): Con: 5 Cha: 3/9 Cru: 5/10* Cst: 3 Cam: 2 Cun: 3 Cr!: 5/9* Chu: 5
Oh Shredder. You were basically a dude with claws but we loved you. He is a miserable villain in his T.V. incarnation and in the comic book he was the guy at the end of a kung-fu flick. In the comics (and new TV series) the foot soldiers being human helps. A lot. It shows that he has a gaggle of decent ninjas at his hand a foot. (see what I did there?)
*TV Series / Comic Books. While on TV he’s all but helpless if outnumbered; Shredder whoops the turtles hard unless all four are in perfect synch.
Gargamel (Smurfs) – Con: 2 Cha: 2 Cru: 10* Cst : 10 Cam: 1 Cun: 7 Cr!: -3 Chu: 6
Ok. Garamel almost doesn’t warrant a mention but this guy was a jerk. He was a grouchy old man with a ‘get off my lawn’ mentality. He was however a fairly smart guy that lacked execution. I blame his poor eating habits. The one thing going for him is his cruelty. Smurfette was a fake smurf made to turn the smurfs against each other. It worked brilliantly. It also marked the one time ‘Vanity’ could save the day with his lack of… draw to Smurfette.
*Gargamel is trying to eat the Smurfs. Eat them. That is all.
Steelbeak (Darkwing Duck) : Con: 8 Cha: 8 Cru: 7 Cst: 5 Cam: 8 Cun: 8 Cr: 8 Chu: 9
This often overlooked villain really had his act together. Successful business man (chicken?), pulled the other rogue gallery together, and he was no slouch in combat. His only really bad drawback was his lack of consistency in his approach. If he ever bought a gasmask he would have taken over St. Canard easily.
Steelbeak had style and kept his cool well. It had much more impact when he became irritated. (Fear the nice ones). Bonus points for that irritating chuckle he frequents. It sounds like a slow deliberate machine-gun.
Joker (Batman the Animated Series): Con: 2* Cha: 10 Cru: 10 Cst: 10 Cam: 4 Cun: 9 Cr!:6 Chu: 10
The clown prince of crime gets high marks, but drops the ball when it comes to trading blows with bats. He also rarely gets away. Thus spends a lot of time in Arkham. To call this guy a loose cannon is an understatement. As mentioned before he manages some cool plans. That keep batman guessing. (at least for the first half of the episode).
It is worth mentioning that this guy has amazing PR for being an insane clown. The people that work for him vary from complete nut jobs (Harlie Quinn) to 9-5 thugs. However Joker doesn’t really play nice with other villains. So his Camaraderie score suffers. He’s the epitome of my way or the highway.
His M.O. is crispy. He leaves clues toys with his victims and makes a joke of everything. Plus his laugh is the stuff of nightmares.
*Joker probably starts with a 6. But loses 4 because of the fact that he gets the giggles whenever he starts winning.
David Xanatos (Gargoyles) Con: 11 Cha: 8 Cru: 6 Cst: 10 Cam: 3 Cun: 10 Cr!: 5 Chu: 7
If you haven’t seen Gargoyles you missed out on a great show. But this guy was immortalized by his brilliant contingency plans. He was too much villain for a bunch of statues. He actually never was beat… the story sort of resolved itself.
Bloth (The Pirates of Dark Water): Con: 2 Cha: 5 Cru: 10 Cam: 2 Cun: -3 Cr!: 7 Chu: 7
It’s not really fair to pick on Bloth that bad considering how short this series ran. But the ‘failure’ of this show had nothing to do with him. He was a decidedly primitive villain and it worked.
His single minded desire for treasure, his untold cruelty and his dislike for skin pigment. Made him a nice foil to Ren and company. Please. Someone pick up this licence and make it live. It was ahead of it’s time.
I’ll be doing a follow up with more relevant villains. but I just wanted to bring up the foundation first. The stuff I grew up with.
After that I’ll be showing some of the antagonists in Dimanagul and what I learned from these and other villains shaping them.
I really enjoyed this. Look forward to reading more from you.
I write these musing posts once a week on Wednesdays. Fridays I post a 1,500 to 2,500 word short story. Thanks for visiting!