Andy’s Top 5 Favorite Marvel Villains

I’ve got writers block.

Well, scratch that. I’ve got a variety of different topics I could write about, it’s just none of them are really appealing right now. And if I’m not super pumped to write about it, chances are you are going to be even less pumped to read about it. And since I’m all about delivering the goods to my loyal compact car full of readers, I decided today I’d just write a blog about my all time favorite Marvel villains, a topic we were thinking about talking about on the podcast but then never got around to it.

5) The Juggernaut

Coming in at number 5 on the list is that man that cannot be stopped, the bearer of the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, the Juggernaut, b*tch! Although I’m one of the few “Marvel”ites that is not a huge fan of the X-menJuggernaut makes my list because I’ve always loved his costume, his unbelievable power set, and the sense of relentless never ceasing terror he delivers as a villain.

In fact, I’m so glad he got a shot of redemption in the recent Deadpool 2 movie in terms of an onscreen presence since his weak ass first outing in X3: The Final Stand. I think they did a decent job hyping what a true unstoppable monster this guy is and how the moment he enters the picture in a battle, as the kids say, that sh*t gets real!.

No better example of what I’m talking about can be found in my opinion other than Roger Stern’s all time classic “Spider man vs. Juggernaut” story from ASM 229/230. This single 2 issue arc is so incredible that I actually included this in our podcast Top 10 list of Character defining single stories in comic book historyI would highly recommend going back and listening to that list if you haven’t already, but in case, you heart reading vs. someone telling you about something, here’s the general gist.

This single story both defines old Juggy and Spiderman alike and many just view it as a retelling of the David vs. Goliath story, but I view it as much more nuanced that than. The Spidey/Juggy slug fest from this two issue run still has the ability to deliver the goods because it really builds Juggy to be the most unstoppable force ever…well that is until he runs smack into the “real” most unstoppable force ever: Spider man’s sense of responsibility.

Yes, it’s been touted many times in the past, but really that’s what this story is about: Spider man’s sense of responsibility never waivers even in the face of hopelessly overwhelming odds. Similar to that moment in ASM 33 where he lifts the crushing enormous weight to save Aunt May’s life, this story again tests Petey Parker’s resolve in a way that few Spidey tales have.

And anyone worth a salt should tell you, that’s when Spider man books really become a force unto themselves. When they tap into the heart of what makes Spiderman a real hero, someone to be admired and respected. The determination, self discipline, and will to never give up on the things that matter to him deep inside, that’s what makes Spiderman someone we can all learn from and sets a good example for those that want to follow.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that the action in the Spidey vs. Juggernaut match up is pitch perfect. See below as my favorite example from the story:

image

Yeah, you forget how incredibly strong Spider man actually is until moments like this swinging a 3 ton wrecking ball like it’s a dodge ball on a string. The Juggernaut proceeds to just shrug this attack off, again helping to build the tension of the story to a fever pitch.

As an aside, the rematch is almost as good in ASM #626-629. Part of the incredible “Gauntlet” run, I love the fact that they brought Roger Stern back to the book to write it. It really bookends this story and makes it truly epic in scope.

Especially, in the way that it shows how Juggernaut ultimately took a page out of Spiderman’s book in terms of determination and escapes the concrete tomb that Spiderman left him in at the end of ASM 230. Plus, Roger Stern is one of the best Spidey writers ever…‘nuff said.

If you haven’t read the story in a little while, I would suggest going back and revisiting this classic. I think it’s well worth the time.

4)Morgan Le Fay

The Witch is Back! Yes, I do agree that this one is somewhat of a cop out when it comes to being a Marvel villain, as she technically is not a Marvel creation, but instead a character they lifted from classical literature, in this particular case, the Arthurian Sagas from the British Isles. However, Marvel also lifted the Norse God, Thor, from literature and made him their own character, and nobody anywhere cries foul over that one.

In fact, speaking of Thor, I was half tempted to fill this space with another crafty female practitioner of the mystic arts, with the Enchantress, but I feel Arthur’s evil half sister has been a stronger villain in more stories I’ve liked than Amora. A frequent opponent of the Avengers since her modern reintroduction in the Bronze age, Morgan really has got an opportunity to shine in some of those battles.

My personal favorite occurred early in the tremendous Kurt Busiek run on Avengers where she manipulated Scarlet Witch’s reality warping powers to gain control of the Asgardian super weapon, the Twilight Sword. From there she remade the entire world into a Middle Ages style Ren Fest, complete with a red, white, and blue knight commander version of Cap and Hawkeye as a lovable Robin Hood style rogue.  Of course, the Avengers upend her apple cart after three issues and end up freeing the Scarlet Witch, but for an Avengers fan in the late 90s that had waited for decent stories to be told about Earth’s Mightiest, that Morgan Le Fay story breezes in like a breath of fresh air.

Plus she’s the main antagonist in probably my absolute favorite thing to come out of the Hickman Secret Wars “Battleworld” tie in series released a couple years ago: Weird World. This is insanely great tale of a bunch of throw away Marvel characters such as ArkonSkull the Slayer, and the Magma men from the failed Marvel Toy/comic crossover, Crystar. Sporting unsettling yet beautiful art by Mike Del Mundo and a solid story by Jason Aaron, Morgan fits so well as the villain of that story, that it’s really hard to think of anyone better for the part of the cruel overlord reigning over a savage garden of Eden. If they only made Masters of the Universe comics this good, I could die a happy man.

Oh yeah, she also kicks ass as one of the main bad guys in unfairly often overlooked original Spider-woman comic from the 70s, and she’s had the pleasure of knocking boots several times with my all time favorite villain on this list…oops…better not spoil it.

3) Kang the Conqueror

Speaking of that great Kurt Busiek run on Avengers, how could any greatest Marvel villains list be complete without that Terror of the Time Stream, the Prince of Possible Futures, the main reason why all of the Marvel continuity is royally screwed up yet gives every single writer a creative out to justify any changes they want to make to screw it up more: Kang!

Probably second only to my number 1 villain on this list in terms of the number of stories I’ve really liked with him as antagonist, the artist formally known as Rama Tut, has been in my opinion the best Avengers enemy since his introduction back in Avengers #8. Not only does his first appearance occur during one of my favorite runs of any comic with Avengers #1-10, but  that first battle between the original team and the sultan of seconds may be in fact still the best. And that’s saying a lot given the number of other quality stories we’ve been given over the years. But still that first battle, where Kang comes in cool as a cucumber riding on his floating futuristic aero bed, before dispatching the Avengers without breaking a sweat is something awe inspiring and really the first real test of this young team’s grit and determination. Yep, it might have taken 8 issues, but that battle against Kang was the Avengers real baptism of fire, that put up or shut up moment, where they had to battle back from overwhelming odds to win the day thanks in large part to solid teamwork and the timely intervention of the Wasp (who finally got a chance to shine as a true member of the team).

You can tell a lot from first impressions, and as you can tell from the above, I feel Kang hits the ground running. From there he’s involved in such great stories, as the Kooky Quartet’s trip to the year 4000 in Avengers #23-25, his duel with the Grandmaster from Avengers #69-70, The Celestial Madonna Saga from Avengers #129-#135, The Council of Kangs from Roger Stern‘s 80s Run of Avengers, to the previously mentioned Kurt Busiek mega story line “Kang Dynasty” and his subsequent work on Avengers: Forever, the Iron Lad story from Young Avengers, the Uncanny Avengers “The Apocalypse Twins” storyline…the list goes on and on and on.

So much so that I can honestly say that Kang is the Definite Avengers villain, more than Ultron, more than Baron Zemo & the Masters of Evil, more than Loki. It’s truly a shame that his movie rights are locked up currently with Fox, so that he hasn’t had the big screen MCU reveal that he deserves as an Avengers baddie. He has opened up more avenues for great storytelling with his time travel shenanigans than any other bad guy, and with a laundry list of alternative identities that would rival Hank Pym, there’s no doubt that sooner or later, someone is going to come along with yet another great Kang story. It’s just a matter of time…

 

2) Mysterio

Proving that not all of the villains on my list have to be world conquering mega bad guys, we’ve got as my number 2 as a solid entry from the classic Spider-man Rogues Gallery, that master of illusion, the crown prince of CGI, old fish bowl head himself, Mysterio!

Sporting one of the most bad ass costume designs in all comic bookdom thanks to the incredible work of the legendary Steve Ditko, I have to say that largely he is one of my favorites not because of his power-set or the fact that he has so many solid comic stories, but because that costume is so damn cool.

In fact, I’ve spent most of my life wishing that Mysterio had some sort of different power set than he actually does, just so he has gravitas to match his overall look. The character actually looks like he should be one of the main bad guys for another Ditko designed comic, Dr. Strange, what with the faceless glowing head, the long flowing cape, and ever present swirling gas clouds. To me he actually looks more impressive from a thematic sense than the main Dr. Strange bad guy, Dormammu, and I feel as if Ditko settled on the flaming head look only because he had blown his creative load on Mysterio and he couldn’t take that character back after the genie was out of the bottle.

I would have loved for Mysterio to be a straight up sorcerer, like some strange occult master, ready to put the mystic whammy on Spidey at a moments notice. If all of his special effect powers were magic based, not only would he been infinitely more bad ass and a true threat to ol’ Web Head, but it would have also allowed for more interaction between Spider-man and Dr. Strange, both of which were Steve Ditko creations and as a result, I feel fit together like PB&J.

Besides I never bought  how Mysterio had enough money to afford all the elaborate technological trappings he would need to pull off some of these “special effects”. Sure, he robs banks and such, but come on. In Web of Spiderman issue 90, he has a colossal robot version of Galactus complete with Venom powers fighting Spidey, I think that cost a little more than your run of the mill cash grab. But if you swap those powers out with legit magic, then everything makes a lot more sense. I’m just saying…

Then again, someone other than myself must have been able to put all that goofy power set aside and look at the villain as someone that could be truly striking if given the correct treatment. It warms my heart to no end to hear that they are considering  Jake Gyllenhaal is in talks to portray Mysterio in the untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel, something I think is years overdue, given the fact that Sam Raimi was considering Ol’ Bowl Head as the villain for Spiderman 4. It would have been great to see as he was considering Bruce Campbell to play the part, finally making sense out of all those cameos he had in previous movies. Oh well, the MCU hasn’t failed me yet, so I’m sure we’ll get a interesting take on my favorite Spidey baddie next year.

1) Doctor Doom

And of course, if there was any doubt as to who my number 1 Marvel villain would be: The “OG” in the Metal Mask, that Godfather of Machiavellian Machinations, the man that can whoop you six ways to Sunday with either science or magic, the one, the only: Victor Von Doom.

There are so many things I could say about Doom, that I seriously don’t know where to begin. I mean, he’s not only on my short list of favorite Marvel villains, but he’s on my short list of favorite comic book characters…period. It’s the reason why when I finally got an opportunity to meet Mark Waid last year I asked him so sign my copy of Fantastic Four #67 (for those playing at home that’s the Unthinkable Prologue, with the bad ass Doom going Super Saiyan cover), and that’s all because of my love of the Doomster.

Really, so many incredible stories have been written about him that I feel I could write an entire blog with just my top Dr. Doom moments. Ooh…that does sound like an awesome blog for a later time…put that in my back hip pocket.

But, as I was saying, no villain I feel brings the type of raw complexity of purpose than as Mr. Grimm would call him “Tin Grin”. I’ve said on some of our podcasts, that the best villains are often the “hero” of their own story. The ones that mix a sense of nobility and work within their own moral code in everything they do. Doom has that in spades. In fact, his whole character is based on the notion that he truly feels as if he is the most capable person on the face of the planet to lead humanity: He’s the smartest, strongest, full of the grit and determination to make the hard decisions that others won’t for the good of all. In fact, those that like the character of Iron Man only have to look at Dr. Doom to be the ultimate end of Tony Stark’s progression if he was left unchecked by other heroes around him such as Captain America. That’s why stories about the two are particularly appealing such as Doomquest. They are two sides of the same coin.

That actually can be said about a lot of the heavy hitters in the Marvel universe, that Dr. Doom is just them taken one step further. Dr. Strange for example, is just Dr. Doom if he let free his arrogance and truly saw himself above humanity. BTW, just for argument sake, Dr. Strange has done a lot more f*ked up things in the Marvel universe than Dr. Doom has ever done, including giving Doom the keys to the kingdom in the most recent Secret Wars event by Hickman. That one was on Strange, not Doom. Still again, those characters work so well together because Doom is basically an equal and colleague to Strange, such as in the magnificent “Triumph and Torment” story where they go to save Doom’s Mom from the clutches of Mephisto.

But no better example of this can be found of than with Doom’s ultimate frienemy, Reed Richards. As I’ve said before, Reed Richards is just one bad day away from becoming Doom, and it’s only through the love and constant support of his family in the Fantastic Four, that Reed never has that one bad day. They keep him grounded, focused, and most of all humble. That dichotomy between arrogance/humility found in Doom/Richards is really the main reason one is considered “evil” and the other “good”.

Richards does in fact rule the Marvel Universe, but he does so without anyone even knowing it, just solving the world’s problems one at a time with the support of everyone around him , whether it’s stopping Galactus or rebuilding the Multiverse. He then kisses his wife and kids, high fives a couple of his buddies, and goes back to his lab to work on the next problem. Doom on the other hand wants everyone to acknowledge he is their savoir, to worship and thank him as the greatest thing since sliced bread, and it’s through that constant need for validation and approval, that the most overconfident man in the world looks like the most needy and insecure. And it’s because Doom doesn’t have Reed’s family.

It’s like the Maslow hierarchy of needs, and because Reed has the constant love and support of his family and friends, he doesn’t need to look elsewhere for validation. He doesn’t need to world to bow down in abject respect. Doom however does. In the end, he just wants what Reed has, the admiration and respect of others for his achievements and the love and support to allow him to continue to do great things in future.

In fact, that’s why in Secret Wars by Hickman, the first thing he does after becoming God is to snatch Sue Richards and her kids away from Reed and make them his own. Why? Because he knows he can only accomplish great things with their support first. Of course the whole thing is based on a lie, so it crumbles like a house of cards once the real Reed Richards shows up, but that’s a story for another Blog.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of where I could go with explaining why Dr. Doom should be pretty much everyone’s favorite Marvel bad guy. The depth of this character is like a bottomless lake, and it’s a grave injustice that the mass audiences have been given such terrible, awful, horrible versions of this character on screen in the movies. More than the Fantastic Four, I just want the MCU guys to get Dr. Doom and make him the main bad guy of the universe only because if you think Thanos has gravitas, honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Oh…and Doom also was the one that knocked boots with Morgan Le Fay. Just in case you were wondering. He also banged my favorite Marvel chick, the Scarlet Witch, multiple times, so he’s got that going for him…

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