Again, full disclosure: I have read comics here and there, but I don't fashion myself an expert. This is all opinion, and it's well within anyone's rights to disagree. There's nothing wrong with a respectful debate over opinions. Furthermore, I have a few characters that I consider to be true favorites, but it was incredibly difficult rounding out my top 5.
That being said, let's begin!
5. POISON IVY
The first time I saw this character, it was on Batman: The Animated Series back in the 90s. I was probably five or six, and while many of my friends said that they liked the Joker best, or Mr. Freeze or the Riddler or the Scarecrow, I always found myself far more interested in Poison Ivy. Though, admittedly, it started off as little more than a boy's infatuation with a female's physical beauty.
Poison Ivy got her start in life as Pamela Isley, a gifted scientist, who pursued her life's ambition in the scientific field of botany (the study of plant life). She was still beautiful then, but from what I could tell, very naive and introverted. She would only find the inner strength to assert herself, after an experiment-gone-wrong left her with the power to generate mind-altering pheromones, among other powers.
Poison Ivy's capabilities include the power the generate and manipulate all manner of plant-based pheromones, toxins and spores (as well as an immunity to all manner of drugs, toxins and pathogens, plant-borne or otherwise). Though her most aggressive power is the ability to control the growth and movement of plant life. Her expertise in the field of botany is put to deadly use, in her criminal career.
And what has become the goal behind all of her mayhem and havoc-wreaking? Does she want money, fame or infamy, or to win somebody's heart? No. Her motivation is a combination of the sweetest and the most cynical of all: as an eco-terrorist, Ivy loves plants more than people, and has dedicated her life to preserving and restoring the plant kingdom by any means necessary.
Okay, now I saw her sad tragic back-story on Avatar: The Last Airbender, how she followed in the evil footsteps of her evil father, becoming evil to continue the evil legacy of her evil ancestors. I have also seen the issues she's had with her mother, and how she kinda sorta helped the Gaang in the comics. That all being said, I still see Azula as almost entirely evil, and I was rooting for her to lose.
Though, don't confuse my desire for the bad guy to lose, as meaning that I hate Azula. Hate is the furthest thing from my mind when I think of Azula. In fact, she is highly entertaining as a villain, and I enjoy seeing her give the good guys a run for their money (and lives). Her powers, her attitude and her character development, in my eyes, left absolutely nothing to be desired within the course of ATLA.
Azula's powers, from the very first time you see her in season 2, are not to be trifled with. Where Zuko was 'pretty talented', Azula was prodigious. While Zuko gave it all he had and seemed to fall short, Azula seemed barely to care as she thoroughly rustled all of your jimmies. All of them. To top it all off, she was smug, sarcastic and condescending, like it was all just a game to her.
At just 14 years old, Azula was an insidious, cunning liar, capable of manipulating nearly everyone around her through fear, deception and betrayal. Such was her proficiency at strategy that she did in mere weeks what her ancestors had been trying for years; takeover the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se. Had it not been for that inconvenient psychological break, victory would have been hers...
3. GORILLA GRODD
The fact that one of The Flash's most daunting villains is an ape, is a source of endless entertainment to me. There is just something about the incongruity between his appearance and his intellect that makes me cheer every time I see Grodd on the scene, and every time I read/hear Grodd's voice. That being said, though, I am fully aware, Gorilla Grodd is no joke.
He is a delusional warrior-king from an African civilization of sentient gorillas. He was raised according to a prophecy declaring him savior of Gorilla City. Then the Flash stumbles upon their land and ruins the prophecy (which, apparently, wasn't meant for Grodd, but for the Flash). Feeling cheated out of the burden of his glorious purpose, he fights the Flash, and the two have been enemies ever since.
He is very pompous and self-sure, but with his towering genius intellect, it is rather difficult to argue with the depths of his ego. After all, he has shown himself to be a clever manipulator, a ruthless mastermind and overall a major tactical threat, time after time. Worse yet, his cunning intellect is paired together with strength, durability and agility far surpassing ordinary gorillas.
Worse yet, Grodd possesses powerful psionic abilities. Though not often used, he has a certain level of Telekinesis. He can also perform Telepathy, which not only allows him to read minds, but also project thoughts, and even project his mind completely into another body; in essence, Mind Control. Most frightening of all, by consuming the brains of defeated enemies, he gets even smarter...
Now, don't take this the wrong way: I am not a Satanist (it is implied that HIM is a demon or perhaps even The Devil himself, with the HIM being an acronym H.I.M standing for His Infernal Majesty, AKA Satan). That being said, I really do like HIM as a villain. I believe his brand of badness, unlike other villains on the Powerpuff Girls, could translate into something frightening in ANY fictional medium.
Of course, he seems something funny to look at, at first: his cheeks look like they have blush on them, and he appears to be wearing a dress with a boa, and high heels. Worse yet, his voice is often soft and lofty, like What's-Her-Face in the pink from the Hunger Games series. Yet, as many PPG fans are aware, HIM is the only villain that the girls have faced, that they seem to truly fear.
Why do the girls fear him, you ask? Oh, just because of his vast supernatural powers, not the least of which includes flight, transformation, manipulating minds and getting stronger in the presence of negative emotions. And based on his appearance in Speed Demon, when the Girls traveled to the future, he's got a really long lifespan (again, many believe him to be immortal, or pretty close).
Oh, and why does he attack the Girls, and the citizens of Townsville? Is it because he wants money, power or fame? No, his name already seems to be known well enough that he's earned He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named status like Harry Potter's archenemy Voldemort. And if he wanted world domination, his vast array of powers seem to make it easy. In short, he torments the Girls FOR FUN...
And of course, I saved the best (*ahem* worst) for last. Vril Dox started life as a brilliant scientist on the distant planet Colu. In older versions of the character, he started on his mission purely out of scientific curiosity. Though, more recently, it's been retconned so that he started his defining crusade as a result of developing an artificial intelligence, and working to avoid the horrible future it predicted.
Either way, Vril Dox has made it his mission to preserve the very best resources and the very best specimens of various alien civilizations, for his own private collection. He captured his home city on Planet Colu, the Kryptonian city Kandor, and has attempted several times to take the city of Metropolis. In the New 52, he is even closely tied to the inner workings of human society, including the Internet.
From his original stated goal of saving planets from destruction by the predicted menace of The Multitude, though, it's obvious that he's now taking over planets and destroying them with an overwhelming, single-minded drive for more power. Combined with his hobby of genetic modification, in hopes of evolving to physical and mental perfection, the Collector of Worlds has a deeply creepy god complex.
Though, the quality I find most creepy and fascinating , is the means by which he gets what he wants. Here, we see an alien scientist with a 12th-level intellect (whatever that means), who has a planet-sized ship and android scouts, but is also perfectly willing to make use of any means he can get his hands on to win, be it technology, genetic tampering...even the use of psychic or Kryptonian powers.
Of course, so many other villains come to mind, that I really fear, and hate the qualities of. I could go on and on listing the bad traits of other villains, because over time, many writers have done a great job of making my skin crawl. Yet, at the end of the day, some villains' traits come forth with a particular darkness and resonate deeper than most others. Each is a true credit to the title 'villain'.
What do you think of my picks? Maybe somebody should be a little higher, or a little lower on my Top 5 Countdown? Let us know in the poll and comments below!