"A hero is only as good as his villain." If you've trolled around the internet long enough, you've probably seen this phrase before. It kind of falls apart philosophically (a fireman who saves a life isn't made any nobler by how crazy awesome the fire was), but it rings very true in determining how interesting our greatest superheroes and their stories are.
That being said, I should establish a few things on this list. I'm not judging on how powerful a villain is, otherwise we'd just have the Galactus, the Doomsday, the Anti-monitor, ect. I'm judging who is the most Yin to their hero's Yang. Which pairings most complete each other, or who's values most completely contradict each other.
#9: Sinestro/The Green Lantern Corp
Sinestro very much represents the antithesis of the Green Lantern Corps. He once was a highly respected leader amongst their ranks, but then he began fooling around with yellow energy. Deciding he looked better in yellow, he started to forge his own yellow rings. He handed them out at some parties, and before you know it, the Sinestro Corps, one of the single biggest thorns in the Lanterns' collective side, was formed.
The reason that Sinestro is one of the most perfect antithesis' of his hero is because of how clear the symbolism is. His Corps derives their power from Fear, and the Green Lanterns get their power from Will. Because he once was a Lantern, he literally represents what happens when willpower isn't strong enough to overcome fear. A constant struggle exists in the DC universe that also exists inside each and every one of us. And Sinestro is that dark wolf living inside us that we must never feed.
#8: The Red Skull/Captain America
Many of the villains on this list evolved in the years after their creation into the iconic antithesis of their hero, but not Red Skull. He was always meant to be a direct challenge to the values held true by Steve Rogers. The character of Captain America was created to represent American ideals, and the character of Red Skull was very clearly created to be the polar opposite.
The Red Skull made his first appearance in Captain America Comics # 1 in 1941, also the first comic to feature Captain America. He was created at a time when we needed to remind American youngsters what they hate most: Nazis. The point of course was to encourage American spirit and valor during the time of war. Many years off were the stories that explored why decent men would join the Nazi party; 1941 was no time for that. The Red Skull exemplifies one country demonizing its enemies. Once considered Hitler's personal protege, the Red Skull deserves to make this list for many reasons, but one very important one rings true: he actually managed to kill Captain America. How many other supervillains can really say they killed their nemesis?
# 7: The Reverse Flash/The Flash
Many men have taken the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster, the Flash. And always a man in yellow is there to challenge him. "Reverse-Flash" is a moniker taken by as many men as have called themselves "Flash". I will focus on perhaps the most prominent: Eobard Thawne, aka Professor Zoom (three names, one guy).
In his later incarnations, Thawne is a 25th century fanboy of the ancient legendary hero, the Flash. Through studying and whatnot, he discovers that the Flash got his extraordinary powers through pretty ordinary means: Chemicals in a lab and a lightning strike. "Hey we still have chemicals in this century... and lightning!" he must of though to himself, because next thing you know, he's using the speed force to travel through time and wreak havoc on Barry Allen's life.
Eobard cannot kill the Flash because of the paradox it would create. He exists because the Flash lived to inspire him centuries later. So instead he just goes around killing everyone the Flash loves. Like various love interests, and Barry's mother.
Because of time travel, He manages to kill Barry's mom before young Barry even hits puberty.This then causes Barry to go back in time to stop him, creating an alternate universe. This leads to the creation of the New 52 universe, making Eobard responsible (indirectly) for one of the biggest real-world events in comics this century.
#6: What should have been multiple Existential Crises/Deadpool
The single thing that most oppresses every single superhero is the simple reality of their situation: futility. They are fictional. No matter how hard they fight, they cannot ever save a single human life, when the real world actually is littered with problems. The knowledge of this futility is a burden only one man has to bear, and that's Deadpool. He alone knows that he lives in a fictional world, with fictional people, and that he's a comic book superhero, and he handles this knowledge well.
If any of us were to find out that our lives were absolutely meaningless except to entertain higher level "real" beings, we would probably enter a completely sordid depression. How does Deadpool handle his self-aware nature? How does he sleep at night knowing that him, and everyone he's ever known, don't really matter? That everything they do is controlled, probably to his loathing, by fat nerds who write comics? How does he handle what should be a complete existential breakdown. He makes a lot of jokes. Usually bad ones. Usually about sex. And he bangs a lot of women.
#5: The Frailty of the Human Race/Ozymandias
I might get some slack for this, but the way I see it, the human race was it's own villain in Alan Moore's Watchmen. Ozymandias was just the one who decided to do something about it. Yes, he arguably is supposed to be the villain of the book. And yes he blew up New York city and about 20-million other people. But in doing so, he saved the human race (again, arguably. Stupid Rorschach).
And killing so many was no small sacrifice on his part. He felt every single cry shouted out when he extinguished so many of his fellow man. But he represented the part of us that is willing to sacrifice something to save ourselves. He is to the human race, what survival instinct was to James Franco in 127 hours. He was the lone voice of the human race that when faced with extinction, stood up and said "Not today." So dare I say it again, we were the villains. And Ozymandias is the hero.6766+3.
So often in storytelling we see a simple and classic premise that finds our hero pitted against a strong and dangerous foe, who is his physical superior in every way. Through wit and wisdom, somehow, our David always manages to cast Goliath down. But what happens when your hero is the hyper-strong, Mjolnir-wielding God of Thunder? He puts down hordes and hordes of enemies twice his size regularly. Who do you have your hero fight when he is the Goliath?
The answer of course, is one of the reasons we love these brothers. The hero is the Brute, usually using strength to solve his problems, and the Villain (or anti-villain) is forced to use his cunning to face the God of Thunder. This reverse of the usual dichotomy is a refreshing change of pace from what we have come to expect.
But there's a more important reason that the god-brothers make it to number 6 on this list. It's because, of course, they're brothers. Loki's struggle is one that everyone with an older sibling who has a big shadow has had to deal with. His motivations are so easily recognized, because his jealousy is a part of us. And once he realizes that he's adopted, his fear that his father has always love Thor more becomes a reality. And his questionable actions become a lot more understandable.
#3: Lex Luthor/Superman
I will loathe and rant at anyone who dares say a word against Lex Luthor. He's received several comics of his own that all explore his existential nature and his extreme will. He's essentially Batman the villain when it comes to preparedness, intelligence, and refusal to fail. He became president once, even in a country that still revered superman highly (albeit that was short-lived).
But what we're talking about here is the dichotomy of hero and villain. What makes Lex Luthor interesting in relation to Superman? Well firstly, all the criticisms of Superman himself are generally merited. He is overpowered. Completely. It's literally like a bunch of kids just starting shouting all the cool stuff they could think of for a hero. Heat vision and ice breath? Both of those literally carry a complete superhero by themselves in other comics (Cyclops from X-men and I don't know, ICEBREATH MAN). And when you go further into his past, his repertoire get's even more ludicrous (like hypnotism). Cry all you want, fanboys, but I've read all the comics as well. And Supes is OP.
So naturally to create real threats for a God like Superman, you need to create other Gods, like Darkseid and Doomsday. But, no, there lives a mere mortal man who would dare stand up to the God that walks amongst his people. There exists a single person that, if provoked, could wipe out the whole of the human race, and though there are some that could see the problem, only one dares to act. Superman represents greatness that man can never achieve, and Luthor hates him for reminding the human race of their limitations. So he decided that he must be greater still, so that mankind can still be limitless.
Would you rather here the story of an omnipotent God who deftly beat down all his foes,
Or the mortal man who dared defy him?
#2: Magneto/Professor X
Charles Xavier's oldest friend. And greatest enemy. His powers, at least at first, seem relatively weak. But he holds a greater power. The same power that men like Che Guevera, Adolf Hitler, and George Washington all held. The power to unite his people. He fights for the mutant race, believing that the human race will eradicate them if they do not fight for they're existence. Magneto believes that if the mutants all united, they could live in peace by destroying the humans.
Charles Xavier believes that if the mutants fight for coexistence, then the humans will eventually accept them as equals.
The biggest, most terrible truth in their world, is that they're both right. If all the mutants united to show a support for nonviolent coexistence with the humans, they would eventually be accepted. But if all the mutants united in other ways, they certainly could eradicate the humans. If either Professor X, or Magneto, went to the other's side, they would be victorious. They are literally the only thing standing in each other's way.
Of course they were very close friends, and Magneto grew up a victim of the Nazi regime. So that leaves Magneto sitting with one of the best-written back-stories in comics.
If you didn't see this coming, then stop reading this article. I'm serious, right now. I have no idea what brought you here in the first place, but you're clearly on the wrong page. You've wasted your time, and mine (not really) when the site you're probably looking for is something like "redtube.com". Go ahead, copy that link. In the future, Quick Protip: if you're doing this much reading, you're on the wrong site.
Right. So those of you still with me, obviously knew that this was coming. And there's a good reason it was. The Clown Prince of Crime and Batman go together like Playstion and Xbox. Like Sherlock and Moriarty. Like a lingering sense of personal rights and the NSA. They exist to destroy each other, but they exist because of each other (some of those three i listed in the metaphor may have been half baked) (still stands for Joker and Batman though).
Clowns (at least when Joker was first created) were supposed to represent Joy. Bats were supposed to represent fear and darkness. In the backwards city of Gotham, the Clown is terror, and the Bat is hope. So many great stories have been devoted to their relationship. So much has been inferred and drawn about these two. The Joker is in some demented sort of love with the Batman. The Batman's physical power holds no power over Joker. Neither one will kill the other, one out of morality, one out of love.
Batman and Joker are the closest thing to soul-mates either one will find. The Batman tries not to think about this, but the reason he's always been the only one who could stop the Joker is because he understands him like no one else ever has. And this causes fear. The Joker understands Batman like no one else ever has, and this causes love. That's why the Joker refuses to find out who is under the cowl (he has had the opportunity several times).
Also Joker kind of quits being a menace whenever Bruce Wayne is out. When Dick Grayson took over while Bruce was "Dead" joker would break out of Arkham sometimes, but then just kind of chill in churches and kill birds. And in Frank Miller's seminal Dark Knight Returns, the Joker is found to have been completely catatonic while Batman was in retirement, and only woke up when he heard that Bats was back.
So what do you think? Who did you like? Who did I miss? I know there are plenty, shout out in the comments.
And on a side note, which villain do you guys think most completes Spider-Man? I really wanted Spidey on this list, but I honestly couldn't think of any one villain who really represented his antithesis. Voice any opinions in the comments. If you make a suuuuper good case, maybe I'll edit it in.
So blame Spidey for it being an awkward list of 9.