Although that 1954 comic code which strictly forbid villains from achieving final victory in comics certainly didn’t help, the fact of the matter is that most supervillains deserve to lose. Oh sure, that’s due in part to the fact that they’d like to control or destroy all life as we know it most of the time, but mostly, they deserve to lose because their plans are typically little more than a rotating series of previously attempted failures. Is there just no creativity left among supervillain schemes?
Occasionally, however, a comic book big bad’s master plan can surprise you. Though it may sound like just another attempt at some needlessly elaborate strategy that will ultimately result in defeat, these plans managed to shock the world by somehow coming to fruition. They’re there to remind you that no matter how futile these plans may sound, you must still remain aware that, every now and then, they just might work.
Here are the 15 Comic Book Supervillain Plans That Actually Worked.
15. Arcade Organizes A Successful Battle Royal Murder Event
At the risk of offending Arcade and his…er…legions of fans, the guy has always been something of a running joke in the superhero community. Though his elaborate game-based traps are always amusing, they don’t exactly have the likes of the X-Men and Spider-Man quaking in their stylish boots. That all changed, though, when Arcade decided to build an elaborate Murderworld Arena designed to force several young heroes to hunt each other down.
Though this plot started out as just another crazy Arcade scheme, it actually ended up being quite successful. This incredibly elaborate Battle Royal-style set-up forced the heroes to duke it out against one another and, even though they were ultimately able to work together, at the end of the day, Arcade walked away without real punishment. Actually, he is able to upload the footage of the event to YouTube and causes several prominent experts to blame the actions of these young superheroes on their older counterparts whose actions directly influenced them to embrace this life. Not bad, Arcade. Not bad at all.
14. Doctor Octopus Assumes Control Of Spider-Man’s Body
Though he may sport one of the most ridiculous haircuts in the entirety of the Marvel Universe, Doctor Octopus has always been an incredibly powerful Spider-Man foe. He’s got that perfect combination of brains and fighting ability that you usually find in the most dangerous of villains. But despite how formidable he actually is, the good doctor is still subject to a Spider-Man beating at the end of the day just like every other one of the web-slinger’s enemies. In fact, the only way that Otto Octavius could conceivably come out on top is if he were to somehow assume the identity of Spider-Man.
So that’s exactly what he did. In Superior Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus managed to invade the mind of Peter Parker and engage in a battle that would determine who controls the body of Parker and Spider-Man. After Octopus makes Parker realize that he had failed in protecting certain innocent lives, Peter relents and allows Doctor Octopus to take over. From that moment on (in this universe, anyway) Octopus served as the new Spider-Man.
13. Lex Luthor Becomes President Of The United States
In a way, Lex Luthor’s ambition has always been his downfall. While it certainly doesn’t help that he regularly picks a fight with the most powerful entity that the world has ever known, most of the time, its Luthor’s hubris that is his undoing. Luthor would probably be able to score a victory every now and again if he were to just abandon his more ambitious endeavors and simply try to cause as much pain to Superman as possible, but instead, he has to go and do something ridiculous like try to run for president.
Except, that one actually worked. In the Lex 2000 comic run, Lex Luthor is able to win the votes of the American people through a technological progress platform and by building off the failures of previous administrations that allowed a number of superhero calamities to occur on their watch (he kind of has a point there). Though he is eventually pushed out of office, he’s still able to get what he wants out of the position, including the murder of Batman’s girlfriend just for the fun of it.
Honorable Mention: It doesn’t appear to be a diabolical plot, but Lex’s latest arc in Rebirth could also be considered a major victory for the character. His recent big screen outing in Batman v Superman? Not so much.
12. Mister Fear Ruins Daredevil’s Life And Turns Prison Into A Personal Heaven
Mister Fear may be a thinly veiled rip-off of Batman’s Scarecrow, but that doesn’t mean that the various incarnations of the character over the years haven’t been interesting in their own right. However, none of these Mister Fears have achieved as much as Larry Cranston. Cranston was a former classmate of Daredevil who decided to don the guise of Mister Fear when he found out that the previous one had died. Admittedly, his tenure got off to a rocky start after he almost killed himself by forgetting that he wasn’t wearing a rocket pack and falling from a great height, but Larry was ultimately the one to get the last laugh after he decided to attack Daredevil in a more subtle way.
By infecting Milla Donovan (Daredevil’s wife) with his potent fear toxin and driving her to insanity, Mister Fear had managed to ruin the only chance for a peaceful life Daredevil could hope for. Knowing that Daredevil would ultimately send him off to prison anyway, Mister Fear even made it a part of his plan to use his fear-based abilities to take control of Ryker’s Island and turn it into his own personal paradise.
11. The Anti-Monitor Destroys Most Of The DC Universes
A long, long time ago (actually, it was just the ‘80s) the DC Comics staff realized they had a bit of a problem on their hands. Having spent the last fifty years creating an elaborate multi-verse that allowed them to never really worry about the concept of continuity, they realized that they had a real mess on their hands. The numerous realities they’d created were so convoluted that even hardcore DC fans could no longer keep up with the various universe storylines going on at once. It was time to clean up. It was time to bring in the Anti-Monitor.
Though there have been a number of all-consuming galactic threats over the years that have promised to destroy existence as we know it, the Anti-Monitor is special in the sense that he was actually able to destroy about 99% of the known DC universes and a few notable characters (namely Barry Allen’s Flash) to boot. Considering that most comic villains struggle with successfully robbing a convenience store, the idea that a foe of any strength could actually accomplish so much chaos in such short order was a shocking concept that comic fans at the time couldn’t wrap their head around.
10. Black Mask Becomes The Undisputed Crime Lord of Gotham
Batman may be pretty great at the whole fighting crime thing, but that still hasn’t kept Gotham from occasionally spiraling out of control over the years. Knowing this, Batman has actually developed a number of contingency plans designed to help save Gotham, should things ever reach a breaking point. His ultimate plan for such a situation actually involved uniting the entirety of Gotham’s crime syndicate under a single crime boss named Matches Malone. What nobody knew is that Matches Malone was really just an alias for Batman.
That secrecy would turn out to be a big mistake. See, after Stephanie Brown lost her role as Robin, she decided to enact Batman’s final plan under the belief that Matches Malone was a separate person. When Malone failed to show up at the crime summit she assembled, those in attendance became so furious that they took it upon themselves to turn the city into a war zone. In the midst of this, Black Mask is able to assume control of the ultimate crime lord position Batman intended for himself. Not only would he hold this position for the remainder of his life, but he even managed to rub a little salt in Batman’s wounds by murdering Stephanie Brown.
9. Norman Osborn Uses Public Fear To Form The Ultimate Supervillain Group
Ah, Secret Invasion. This brilliant little piece of Marvel storytelling saw the Skrull Empire infiltrate the Marvel Universe and replace some of its most infamous heroes with Skrull imposters. Chaos ensued once this plan was revealed as suddenly every superhero became suspicious of every other superhero. Anybody could be a Skrull agent, and nobody was sure just how they were expected to fight a war against an enemy that they couldn’t even identify. Into this madness comes Norman Osborn. Recognizing that every crisis has the potential to be exploited for personal gain, Osborn takes stock of what’s left of the world following the conclusion of the Skrull invasion and concocts an unlikely, but brilliant, plan.
After the President of the United States decides to disband S.H.I.E.L.D following the severe infiltration of their ranks that occurred during the invasion, Osborn steps in and uses his considerable resources to position himself as head of a group known as H.A.M.M.E.R that the government intends to replace S.H.I.E.L.D with. Not only is this group little more than a tool Osborn uses to help acquire Stark Industries and their technology, but he even uses it as a disguise for a new supervillain group known as the Dark Avengers.
8. Thanos Puts The Universe In The Palm Of His Gloved Hand
Comic writers discovered early on that the best way to build up a villain as a serious threat without actually having them win in the end was to make sure that they fall just shy of completing an elaborate plan that would surely lead to the destruction of everything that we know and love. While certainly not a technique exclusive to the world of comic books, this “almost got ‘em” method of villainy has long served as the most surefire way to keep a supervillain credible in defeat.
In The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos gave us a glimpse of what may happen if that last minute reprieve from total annihilation wasn’t granted. By completing the formation of the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos was able to assume total control of every single element of power within the universe. In a bid to impress the love of his life (which was, ironically, Death itself) Thanos decided to wipe out a huge chunk of all living beings in the multiverse. Thanos would go on to, essentially, assume control over all known creations before his daughter betrayed him and undid his evil works. His journey serves as an important reminder of why superheroes typically come out on top, and it’s one we’ll be seeing on the big screen in the very near future.
7. Doomsday Simply Beats Superman To Death
A big reason why Lex Luthor is considered to be Superman’s greatest villain is because he’s the one villain that’s always had an appreciation for the futility of trying to best Superman in a physical encounter. Though he certainly grew to personally despise Superman, Luthor also sees him as a mere cog in the machine; an element that must be accounted for when devising an elaborate plan. This is in contrast to a fair number of Superman foes that actually try to defeat Superman head on and usually wind up as the recipient of the world’s strongest punch for their efforts.
This is why Doomsday completely shocked fans when he managed to simply beat Superman to death in 1992’s The Death of Superman. Oh sure, the title gave this ending away and the whole thing was something of a cheap ploy designed to move some comics, but the image of watching Superman receive the kind of beating that only he was ever theoretically capable of dishing out was burned into the minds of many young readers. Here was the one villain who said he was going to simply beat Superman at his own game and actually did so.
6. The Green Goblin Actually Pulls Off The Old “Got Your Girlfriend” Trick
It’s difficult to not let out a sigh of disappointment every time you see a villain steal the hero’s girlfriend in some complicated effort to lure them into a trap. “Oh villain,” you say with no attempt to hide your disappointment. “Surely you can’t believe that this is going to work? Haven’t you see the million other times that this has gone horribly wrong?” However, for as many times as we watch the girl and the hero walk off into the sunset happily ever after, there are always those exceptions to this rule that remind us that the worst can happen.
The biggest among them is certainly the case of the Green Goblin and Gwen Stacy. Unlike countless other supervillains that threatened to end the life of a hero’s true love and were duped at the last second, Norman Osborn simply through Stacy off a bridge and watched as Spider-Man was unable to save her. Actually, if you believe the original writer’s interpretation, it was Spider-Man’s attempt to save her from the sudden fall that led to her death. You’re a mean one, Mr. Goblin, but we respect your ambition.
5. Ozymandius Outlines His Entire Plan And Accomplishes It Anyway
Alan Moore’s Watchmen is, in many ways, an attack on the comic book industry and the clichés that fueled it throughout the golden and silver age. It shattered our expectations of what comic storytelling is all about by examining the flawed mentality of superheroes and their often futile attempts at making the world a better place. It’s why it was so surprising to see our heroes ultimately end up in a face-to-face confrontation with the bad guy in his mega fortress, where the villain proceeded to outline his entire plan to unleash a hostile alien species upon New York.
Except, this time, our villain (even though that definition is, admittedly, a bit simple for Ozymandias) was smart enough to complete his plan before outlining it to the only group that could possibly stop him. Moore showed us all what would happen if your typical supervillain plot were to be carried out by an individual with a measure of reasonable common sense, and the results were horrifying enough to make us glad that most villains are nice enough to offer ample time and information concerning their final schemes.
4. Bane Defeats Batman By…Making Him Fight Bad Guys?
Numerous discussions have taken place in years past regarding whether or not Batman is technically a superhero. The basic argument against it is that he is, fundamentally, a human, and therefore cannot be classified as “super” in the superhuman sense. The argument against that is that Batman is not really like a normal human being. His strength, speed, intelligence and fighting skills are all world-class, well above normal human levels. Most importantly, Batman has an inhuman level of resolve that grants him an almost superhuman level of invincibility. That is his real superpower.
Although, it must be said that Bane did temporarily disprove that argument in the Knightfall storyline. Though the most infamous moment of this story is when Bane breaks Batman’s back over his knee, the real victory here was Bane’s decision to unleash a wave of villains upon Gotham all at once and simply destroy Batman’s will to fight. The idea of a superhero becoming fatigued by fighting crime may sound slightly ridiculous on paper, but Bane was able to exploit Batman’s humanity in order to expose the weaknesses that come with it.
3. Sinestro Achieves His Ultimate Victory In Defeat
If you’re a superhero, you have to be perfect. You aren’t afforded the opportunity to fail even once, because failing even once typically leads to a catastrophic loss from which there is no recovery. It’s why it must be so frustrating to be a supervillain. No matter how great of a plan you have or how powerful you may be, ultimately you know that you are going to end up going against an equally powerful force that simply knows they cannot lose.
So why not factor losing into your plan? A bizarre as the concept sounds, that’s pretty much what happened in the Sinestro Corps War storyline, when Sinestro decided to build an army and take on pretty much every Green Lantern ever known. If that sounds like a suicide mission…well, it kind of was. See, right before Sinestro is killed at the end of the war, he reveals that his strategy was never to achieve total victory (though he probably wouldn’t have minded if that happened) but rather to prove that the Green Lantern Corps would use lethal force if they had to. By pulling a Kevin Spacey in Seven, Sinestro was able to claim a rare psychological victory.
2. A Bad Joke Leads To The Joker’s Greatest Accomplishment
The Joker is one of the most surprisingly successful supervillains in history. He’s not only managed to kill hundreds of people (including a few that were very close to Batman), but he’s also pulled off some of the most elaborate and ambitious schemes known to the comic book world. He’s widely considered to be the greatest comic book villain ever created, and a big part of the reason why is because he’s so unusually successful in succeeding where other villains so regularly fail. Still, for as successful as the Joker is, his most ambitious goal of proving that he is not so different from Batman (or indeed, humanity at large) remains unfulfilled.
Except for one brief moment, that is. At the end of The Killing Joke, The Joker has once again failed to prove that any man is one awful day away from becoming exactly what he turned into. Only this time, his plan doesn’t end with him lying unconscious at the feet of an exhausted Batman. This time, he and his rival are able to share a moment of reflection regarding the unending nature of their conflict. In this moment, The Joker tells Batman a, rather awful, joke. Despite this, the two are able to laugh about their sudden realization that they are, in fact, not so different after all.
Be sure to reserve a ticket to see this tale come to life on the big screen in a one-day-only animated event on July 25th!
1. By Naming A Child, Doctor Doom Defeats His Greatest Enemy
Though there’s something to be said about the satisfaction of a quick and simple victory, there’s an even greater pleasure to be found in the long con. These elaborate scenarios can take an extraordinarily long time to complete, but are specifically designed to be worth the effort. In many ways, Dr. Doom has been playing the long con with the Fantastic Four his entire life. Oh sure, he would occasionally go for a more traditional simple victory, but Victor von Doom has always been more interested in achieving something far greater than a moment of fleeting success.
He would get it, too, in what must be the most surprising villainous victory in comic history. While Mister Fantastic was away saving the world from an impending crisis, Sue Storm was dealing with a bit of an issue of her own in the form of a childbirth complicated by the presence of cosmic rays. Recognizing that Sue and the baby may die during the birth, the Human Torch calls upon Dr. Doom to work his magic and successfully deliver the baby. After doing so, the baddie informs Reed Richards that he will get to name their child as the price for his efforts. Upon naming her Valeria, Doom reminds Richards that his child will forever serve as a reminder of the time that Richards failed to save his own family and needed his greatest enemy to do it for him.
What’s your favorite big bad plot from the comic books that actually worked? Let us know in the comments.