(Note: This post contains spoilers for Gotham and Steven Universe)
I don’t know why, but we seem to be going through a golden age of villains. Heroes are all right, but I do love a really good baddie, and recently, there have been plenty to choose from. Here are my current favourite villains:
The Penguin (Gotham)
I’ve been a fan of Batsy and Friends for a long time (particularly Gail Simone’s Batgirl run), but I haven’t read much about the Penguin. I saw Batman Returns when I was quite little, and remember being slightly freaked out by Danny DeVito’s version of the character – but DeVito’s Penguin is a fluffy little chick compared to Gotham‘s take on Oswald Cobblepot.
Gotham‘s Penguin is cowardly and desperate and scheming and utterly, utterly terrifying. While I was watching, I couldn’t help but remember Mr Croup’s line from Neverwhere: “you must never imagine, that just because something is funny, it is not dangerous.” Over the course of the series, many people dismiss the up-and-coming Penguin as a ridiculous little man. These people tend to regret it.
And yet, there’s a part of me that still ended up rooting for the Penguin. He’s violent, unscrupulous and self-serving, but so are nearly all the other crime bosses in Gotham, so you can’t feel too sorry for them. He’s also interesting, multi-layered, and strangely sympathetic (and not just because he loves his mama). I can’t wait to see how he develops as Gotham continues.
Jasper and Peridot (Steven Universe)
I may have already mentioned my adoration of the show Steven Universe. One of the things I love most about it is the representation of female characters – including female villains. There have been many female villains who are little more than a collection of sexist stereotypes (“She’s overtly sexual, and not particularly nice! NO-ONE COULD BE MORE EVIL!”)
Steven Universe has two villains (so far, anyway), and they’re as different from these stereotypes – and from each other – as anyone could be.
There’s Jasper, a hench-as-hell giant with a chip on her shoulder about fusing, who will stop at nothing to bring the rogue Gems back to
the evil Empire Homeworld. Jasper is a juggernaut, such an aggressive fighter that it takes a Fusion Gem to stand a chance against her, as shown in this fight scene:
I’ll be honest – I just wanted an excuse to post this video again
It’s so rare that a female villain gets to be the muscle – I loved seeing it in Jasper.
The same goes for Peridot, who is the polar opposite of her commander.
Peridot is weedy, whiny and peevish, and I kind of love her for it (particularly her habit of calling people “clods”, which is an insult that really doesn’t get used often enough). Once again, she’s the type of antagonist who’s usually male – like Walter Peck from Ghostbusters, or Edward Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (I know there’s a very good case for the heroes actually being the villains in both of those films – and you never know, it might turn out that way in Steven Universe too). Here’s a clip that pretty much sums up her entire character:
The Elves (Discworld)
I’m currently reading The Shepherd’s Crown, and while I’m completely distraught about one plot point which I’m not going to even mention here (as well as missing Terry Pratchett more and more deeply with every page I read), I was thrilled about one thing in particular; the Elves are back.
I can’t find an illustration of the Elves, so here’s Paul Kidby’s version of Granny Weatherwax, who would have been the greatest villain fiction had ever seen, if she hadn’t decided to be good instead
Elves are probably the most common fixture in fantasy novels, and many of them are carbon copies of Tolkien’s smug bunch. Pratchett’s elves owe a lot more to folklore by way of Shakespeare. Like the Penguin, but with beauty and glamour instead of sweaty insecurity, they’re a lot more dangerous than they seem:
“There was something about the eyes. It wasn’t the shape or the color. The was no evil glint. But there was…
… a look. It was such a look that a microbe might encounter if it could see up from the bottom end of the microscope. It said: You are nothing. It said: You are flawed, you have no value. It said: You are animal. It said: Perhaps you may be a pet, or perhaps you may be a quarry. It said: And the choice is not yours.”
The Elves scare me on a primal level, which is always something I enjoy about a fairytale (it may be published in 2015, and incredibly self-aware, but The Shepherd’s Crown is a fairytale nonetheless). I’m not sure what the Elves have in store for Tiffany and the other witches yet, but based on their past actions, it’s going to be…interesting.