As much as we all enjoy the heroic protagonists of comic book stories, there is no denying that without a good villain to face, the hero just doesn’t have that much to do.
It’s hard to get invested in a hero’s struggle when their opponent is lackluster, which is why people are always curious who the villain will be in an upcoming comic book movie. A memorable villain can definitely sell a movie, as evidenced by every Star Wars movie ever released.
That being said, writers can definitely become over-reliant on antagonists that are tried and true. Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman all have their classic rivals, but nobody wants to see the same nemeses showing up time after time. It’s nice when a writer is able to really show their talent by taking a minor villain and turning them into someone major to remember.
The same old faces need to be given a break after a while. Otherwise we wind up with another candidate for the 15 Most Overused Comic Book Villains.
Doomsday is really the kind of villain who works best as a one and done antagonist. The term “doomsday” means the day when everything ends. Therefore, it doesn’t really sound as intimidating if there have to be multiple times when the world is over, because it didn’t work the first time. Though, to be fair to Doomsday, at first he did live up to his name by legitimately killing the most powerful hero in the world. The only problem is he and Superman both came back afterward.
There was not exactly a ton of backstory to be mined from Doomsday to warrant bringing him back. He was just a tortured creature who became so fueled with anger that he went on to use his immense power to destroy worlds. The only thing that makes Doomsday unique is that he can back up his desire to destroy the planet. That’s a pretty slim basis for reviving him numerous times, not to mention introducing the Doomsday clones.
Sabretooth is just one of many villains who started out fine, but kind of got usurped in his role as time went by. Initially Sabretooth functioned as an antagonistic version of Wolverine, but as is prone to happening, eventually the protagonist got more than one evil version of himself. Just look at the recent movie Logan. Was there really anything that different about X-24 that Sabretooth doesn’t already bring to the table?
There’s no denying Sabretooth has a better antagonistic history with Wolverine than a lot of the other claw-wielding villains, but Sabretooth has simply lost what made him special. Now when he shows up, he just feels like a weaker version of rivals like Deadpool.
When it’s time for the DC universe to deal with a threat that goes beyond just endangering a city; a threat that could actually threaten the whole world, Darkseid is the villain that gets unleashed.
Come time for the Justice League movie, Darkseid will undoubtedly be the most devastating villain we have seen in any DC movie up to this point. Any threat that requires Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, among others, to work together has to be immense.
How powerful Darkseid is actually contributes to the feeling that he is overused, though. Like Doomsday, having someone this strong show up only to lose diminishes his credibility. And Darkseid has shown up quite a bit, making for a pretty bad win-loss record. Even Batman mortally injured him in Final Crisis.
12. RED SKULL
Most heroes do have an arch-nemesis, so it’s not like we’re surprised the Red Skull is a recurring villain for Captain America. The problem with this villain is he’s become so iconic as the primary antagonist of Steve Rogers that he pushes other viable opponents out of the way.
As far as other big names for Cap to fight there is Baron Zemo (who didn’t get to be very intimidating in the Civil War movie), and Bucky Barnes as the Winter Solider– though he’s really more of an anti-hero.
Obviously Captain America has other foes, but they get overshadowed so much. We understand HYDRA is Cap’s biggest threat, but it’s not like Red Skull is the only one who can lead the group. Building up a new antagonist can only benefit all the characters. It’ll give Steve someone different to take on every now and then, and it won’t become such a forgone conclusion when the Red Skull is once again revealed to be the one pulling the strings in whatever dilemma Steve is experiencing.
Magneto is another villain who is a great antagonist, but just gets relied on far too heavily. In the X-Men films in particular he has been there as an antagonist in almost every movie that wasn’t a Wolverine solo film. After a while it gets to the point where you have to wonder why Xavier even bothers trusting him anymore. The only time their alliance didn’t crumble was in Days of Future Past when they were holed up in the future overrun by the Sentinels.
It’s not like there are a lack of good X-Men villains, either. With so many mutants there have been lots of imposing characters to come along. In fact, we’ve even seen several of them in the films, like the Sentinels, Dark Phoenix, and Apocalypse. It’s just that they all wound up having to share the screen with Magneto. And Magneto even betrays his fellow villains, so at this point he really shouldn’t have anyone offering to let him tag along and steal the show.
Much like Darkseid, it’s exciting to see that Thanos will be making his grand cinematic debut soon. Thanos’ arrival has been such a slow burn that it looks like his time as a villain will be done properly and he will be depicted as a truly unstoppable villain. If it’s going to take the combined power of the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, and Black Panther to deal with Thanos, it sounds like the villain will be a pretty big deal for the MCU.
That being said, his presence in the comics has become diluted by overexposure. If we’re talking about a guy who can wipe out half the universe, having him lose numerous fights doesn’t make him look that smart. During his initial appearances, he really did feel like someone who might never be stopped.
In recent years? Even people like Squirrel Girl have beaten him, though this was retconned as being a clone who simply had Thanos’ powers. That’s still not a good look if your status has diminished to the point that a clone with all your abilities is losing to a solo hero, though. Villains like Thanos should be used very sparingly so their power really does feel like something incredible.
With a shapeshifter like Mystique it’s pretty easy to reveal her to be someone who has been deceiving the other characters. Her secretive nature has allowed her to be used for some interesting plots over the years, like the reveal of her being Nightcrawler’s mother. Her ability to adopt the appearance of whoever she wants has also made her a very convenient choice for a surprise villain. After a while, it does all become a bit predictable.
Even fans of just the X-Men movies have gotten to see how heavily Mystique is relied upon for a quick twist. At least with Magneto there is some justification for his heavy presence since he is one of the most powerful mutants around. But with Mystique only able to change her appearance, she feels like someone the writers have simply taken a liking to and will look for a way to get her into the movie regardless of whether she has much to do with the plot.
It’s not that we are not excited for Venom‘s solo film, since we’re definitely due for a good portrayal of the character in a movie. But Venom’s last appearance tells you a lot about how forced he can be sometimes. Sam Raimi was pressured to shoehorn Venom into Spider-Man 3 in the hopes that it would build hype for the movie. Instead, it just left a legacy of why it’s a bad idea to cram too many villains into one movie.
Even in the comics, Venom did kickstart there being way too many characters to wear the symbiote (with Wolverine being the newest member of that club). Black Suit Spider-Man already gave us a look at a darker version of the character, but then Venom gave us a permanent version of an evil Spider-Man. With the addition of Carnage, Venom’s children like Scream, plus the Anti-Venom costume, Venom’s legacy has become rather muddled.
Tom Hiddleston really must have impressed the right people with his portrayal of Loki in Thor, because he’s set to become the most prevalent villain in all of the MCU. He’s already reappeared in the Avengers, and Thor: Dark World. But he’s also confirmed to be in Thor: Ragnarok, and both parts of Avengers: Infinity War. Hiddleston is perfect for the role, and it’s admittedly nice to see a villain who doesn’t just disappear after one movie, but that is a lot of Loki.
It’s not like he wasn’t already a frequent villain in the comics, either. As the God of Mischief, Loki has shown up for everything from major attempts to destroy Thor, to simply playing little more than pranks to annoy people. Loki even once turned Deadpool into a knock off-version of Thor just to irk the real Thor.
6. DOCTOR DOOM
You know that one of the things that has to bug the writers of the MCU is that they don’t have the rights to the Fantastic Four. Not just because they can’t use those iconic heroes, since the MCU already has tons of cool heroes. but particularly because they can’t use Doctor Doom, who has become one of the biggest villains in all of Marvel comics. He might have started as just the main antagonist of the Fantastic Four, but he’s clashed with so many more heroes since then and become the kind of A-list villain the MCU would want.
Though perhaps that’s one reason for comic fans to be glad about the Marvel characters being divided in their movies. If you’re already tired of seeing Doom in the Fantastic Four movies, just imagine if he were getting used like Loki in the MCU. Doom has already been behind so many plots in the comics that fans have come to expect him to be the inevitable manipulator once everything starts turning to chaos.
5. LEX LUTHOR
Superheroes having a definitive antagonist can feel like a blessing and a curse at times. It’s great because the hero has someone who they clash with so well that it makes for iconic stories. But then it often has sour notes due to writers becoming over-reliant on that villain to tell a captivating story. There’s definitely such a thing as going to the well too many times, and Lex Luthor has reached that point long ago.
One of the reasons Lex Luthor joining the Justice League was so interesting was that it felt like the character was evolving, and that we had seen the last of his rivalry with Superman for a while. We know we’ll never permanently see an end to Lex using his intellect to obstruct Superman, but we would like a break from their feud long enough for some other villains to make a name for themselves against the Man of Steel.
Has there been any bigger on again off again relationship in comics? Teasing a possible romance is interesting, but not when it lasts for decades. It was initially intriguing that despite being a villain, Catwoman seemed like she might be converted to working with Batman. And then eventually it finally happened and they usually are quite happy together. But inevitably the reset button gets hit and we have to go back to the same romantic chase we’ve seen far too many times by now.
Catwoman is so low on the totem pole of Batman’s villains nowadays that it’s bizarre how she’s not just considered Bruce’s ally by default nowadays. We get it, Batman is a moody loner who doesn’t do well juggling his superhero persona and his personal life. But he can coexist with Alfred and Robin, so why not Catwoman. Having Selina repeatedly revert back to her villainous days just feels like going back to square one with her character development.
3. JASON TODD
Even though Jason Todd was killed off as Robin from a fan vote for A Death in the Family, there were still lots of fans who weren’t ready to see Todd go. So when Todd eventually appeared to come back in the Hush storyline, it was an intriguing twist. Then it turned out it was just Clayface disguised as Robin, and it seemed like Jason would be left to rest in peace. That is, until this scene was retconned to actually have Jason in the Hush storyline for part of the fight against Batman before Clayface showed up to replace him at the end.
That convoluted revival was a sign of things to come, because ever since then it seems like writers can’t agree what to with Todd. He’s betrayed Batman often enough that it’s not even a surprise when he’s revealed as the culprit anymore. This was especially apparent in the Arkham Knight game, where most players figured out right away that Todd was the new masked character. Perhaps it’s time for Todd to just let go of his grudge about being killed by the Joker and simply side with the heroes for good.
2. GREEN GOBLIN
Though we’re quite happy to hear Spider-Man: Homecoming is getting good reviews, when it was first announced it was hard not to immediately think “oh, no, not another Green Goblin storyline.” Thankfully the Green Goblin is not the primary antagonist of the movie. After the villain played at least a secondary role in all five of the previous Spider-Man movies, we’ve seen enough of the guy for a while.
It’s even worse in the comics because there are so many other Goblin villains who can make you feel like you’re just seeing more of the Green Goblin. If it’s not Norman Osborn, then it’s his son Harry. If not the Green Goblin then it’s the Hobgoblin. And we can’t forget the Demogoblin. Or how about Menace, aka the Gray Goblin?
There are just way too many Goblins flying around in the Spider-Man world, and we’re thankful to be getting a break from them for one movie. Though now that Disney owns Marvel studios maybe we can nix the Dalmatians and get that crossover everyone’s been waiting for, 101 Goblins.
1. THE JOKER
And lastly we have not just Batman’s most overused villain, but one of the most overexposed villains period. Yes, the Joker is a great antagonist and the best opponent Batman has. But the frequency with which he shows up can be pretty ridiculous. And with how often he has been imprisoned only to escape again, Gotham’s correctional system look like a pretty big joke.
The biggest issue with the Joker is that Batman has one of the best casts of villains for any hero. In The Long Halloween, even someone like the Calendar Man came off as a threat. But too often the Joker winds up stealing the thunder of other villains, like in the Arkham games where both Black Mask and the Scarecrow had their spotlight taken by the Joker.
The Joker is fun and iconic, but it’s gotten to the point where he thrives at the expense of other interesting villains.
Are there any other villains that you could just use a break from? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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