Is there a holiday or event coming up soon for you? Actually, even if it’s not soon, maybe you’re the sort of person who likes to think ahead anyway. That kind of conscientiousness is riveting! Perhaps you’re thinking toward a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, or really any kind of party. Need to find presents to give to your father, brother, sister, friend, or anyone special in your life?
There are plenty of gift ideas out there for you, depending on the occasion. For many events, one can’t go wrong with a set of customized cigars from Custom Tobacco. This is a unique site that allows customers to personalize every aspect of their own cigars, letting one control the size, blend, wrapper, and a myriad of other traits. This one-of-a-kind website appeals to cigar aficionados and newcomers alike. Giving a box of custom cigars as a thoughtful gift can add a cool, classic touch to any event.
Another option, if the recipient is a big fan of stories, is to give a book or a DVD for movie. Anything that will provide them with a whole imaginary world. Fiction fans have a lot to love about terrific tales, from the plot to the setting to the characters. One aspect of stories that tends to really spark the imagination and linger in memories is the villains.
Having a compelling hero is important, of course, but oftentimes the antagonists need to be even more interesting. After all, villains usually are the ones who drive the main plot. It’s not easy to have a hero act at all without a foe to go up against. Typically it has to be the villain who makes the first move. Many plots consist of the villains acting and then the heroes reacting. The villain starts the conflict and then the hero has to swoop in to clean it up.
Villains generally have more variation in their personalities, too. Heroes are always bound to the laws of morality, no matter what story they’re in. On the other hand, villains are free to twist common morals in whatever shape or form they like. Meeting an uncaring person like that would be horrible in real life, of course. But in fiction they are truly fascinating to watch.
There are so many different ways to play a villain. Sometimes they’re complete monsters who absorb huge amounts of hatred from the audience. Other times, they’re portrayed in a sympathetic manner, and given understandable motivations for their wrongdoing. Some of them go down in flames, but others eventually find a winding path to the good side and manage to redeem themselves. Usually it is agreed-upon that an effective villain needs to have an intriguing motivation for their actions, plus they need to feel like a real threat to the heroes (unless they’re in a comedy series, but that’s another story). But what makes a good villain often comes down to a matter of personal taste. Honestly, that is one of the greatest things about stories – since everyone can have an opinion, discussions never have to end. People can talk about what they love forever.
Take a look at a few examples of compelling villains from across a handful of franchises.
NOTE: this article will contain full-on spoilers for Harry Potter, Pokémon Sun and Moon, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (games 2, 6, and especially 3), and the Summoner book trilogy by Taran Matharu.
When prompted to think of a big supervillain, a lot of people’s minds will jump to Lord Voldemort. Being the ultimate enemy in an extremely well-known and popular series as Harry Potter, Voldemort gets tons of comparisons to other villains from a multitude of franchises. It is in much the same way as the Harry Potter books as a whole get compared to virtually every other fantasy series out there. Even people who know little of the novels will probably have heard the distinctive, recognizable name of Voldemort. His long career of evil has generated impressive fame for himself.
One of Voldemort’s most notable traits is his inability to love. The Dark Lord may surround himself with a cult of Death Eaters, but he holds no warmth for any of them. During one scene, he even murders a few who were unlucky enough to be standing nearby when he flew into a fit of rage. His followers may applaud him for his charisma, but the cold reality is that he cares nothing for them, except as pawns in a long game where he intends to come out alone as the supreme king.
This lack of love makes Voldemort stand in direct contrast to Harry, who is themed around love. Harry holds strong bonds with his friends, his life was saved by the love of his mother Lily Potter, and so forth. In general, the power of love is an overall theme of the books. It makes sense to have a main antagonist who presents total opposition to the story’s ultimate message.
Fiction is full of heartless villains, though, so what else stands out about Voldemort? Probably, one thing is the fact that the books explore his backstory so extensively. For much of the series, he shows himself to be a void of pure evil. His heart lacks human warmth. And yet, he is also peculiarly humanized. Readers, alongside Harry, get to see Voldemort as a child named Tom. He is seen as a boy in an orphanage, a teenager at school, and a young adult working his first jobs.
While Tom Riddle was never truly normal – even as a child, he exuded some eerie vibes – he was not always the dictator known as Lord Voldemort, either. Seeing him in his younger and more vulnerable years gives a sense of how far he’s truly fallen. There exists an aura of tragedy around him, since it feels like he (and his numerous victims) could have been saved, if only some loved ones had reached out to him earlier.
On the other hand, there are some people out there who really don’t benefit from being near their family members. Such is the burden of anyone close to Lusamine, the grand antagonist from the video games Pokémon Sun and Moon.
The influence of family is a major theme explored in those games. The silent protagonist has a warm relationship with their mother. Hau maintains a competitive, yet still caring and respectful, bond with his grandfather Hala. Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, the villains of the story demonstrate what happens to people when family influence goes wrong. The father of Team Skull’s Guzma is one example. Aether President Lusamine is another.
Lillie and Gladion suffered from being Lusamine’s children. Both of them mention that their mother controlled every aspect of their childhoods. She dictated how they acted and what clothes they could wear. Within the main story of Sun and Moon, the player watches Lusamine torture Lillie’s Pokémon almost to death, disown her own son and daughter in favor of her beloved Ultra Beasts, and rip open wormholes in the sky above Alola without caring if the Beasts wreak havoc on the region. And that’s not even close to everything she does.
It is the way that she abuses her children, especially, that cements her as a vile villain, guaranteed to be remembered and loathed by the Pokémon fanbase for years to come. With her despicable behavior, she distorts the warmth of a mother. She takes the meaning of family and twists it into something unholy. Parents are supposed to care for their children, so when audiences see an antagonist acting against that instinct, the resulting fear runs deep.
Another quality that really adds to Lusamine’s creepiness factor: her beauty. This is actually something that applies to female villains in general, and makes them often stand out in comparison to their male counterparts. A lady’s cute or pretty appearance contrasts sharply with an ugly personality. To see a lovely face like Lusamine’s suddenly twisted by a killer evil smile – the interplay of beauty and horror creates a bone-chilling effect.
For many female villains, their beauty also acts as a tool to aid in their deceit. Unlike male evildoers, malicious women rarely rely on brute strength, instead frequently employing tactics such as trickery and manipulation.
On the subject of notorious female villains who fit that bill, another contender for the hall of fame comes from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations. The lovely young Dahlia Hawthorne comes with an angelic smile and delicate features. And she is a villain so reviled that the fans of this video game/visual novel series regularly refer to her as Devil Woman.
Being able to arouse such animosity in people is no small feat. It’s even more impressive given that the Ace Attorney universe has no shortage of cruel criminals, including Dahlia’s own mother. So what makes Miss Hawthorne so infamous? Probably, one part of it is that she holds the record for the highest kill count of any murderer in the series. (At least until a certain crazed monarch comes along in the sixth game, if one chooses to count the many unnamed executions that happened under her rule.) But it’s more than just numbers with Dahlia. It’s the way she killed. The nature of the crimes.
As noted before, Dahlia’s favorite strategy to get what she wanted was to use her beauty to charm and deceive those around her. For many people, that tactic likely feels more unsettling than just straight-up harassing others. People desperately want to be in control of their own minds. They have a horror of the idea that their thoughts can be twisted by outsiders. The way that Dahlia manipulated one of her victims into willingly taking his own life – so much about that crime feels even worse than if she had simply choked him with her own hands.
In addition, being close to Dahlia does not exempt anyone. If anything, it makes them a bigger target. Dahlia’s list of victims and desired victims included her stepsister, her cousins, and more than one boyfriend. She did not draw the line at loved ones. Similarly to Lusamine (as well as quite a few other villains in the Ace Attorney series who could provide more examples), she messed with people’s heads by targeting the companions that one is supposed to love. Dahlia Hawthorne was full of such venom and selfishness that even death itself could not stop her. She went so far as to rise from the dead in order to claim her revenge. Not many other villains can match that level of determination.
Watching the way that a writer handles the progression of villainy can be fascinating. In particular, it is interesting to ponder: at what point does it become clear that an enemy has crossed the moral line? Fiction is populated by legions of villains, so what can a story do to make an antagonist especially jaw-dropping? What kind of crimes can a writer invent to ensure that the villain inspires the reader’s hatred?
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu provides a good example of a moment in which the foe crosses that line. Early on in the novel, Khan the albino orc finally makes his first in-person appearance before Fletcher. At that point, our hero is trapped and out of energy, which makes his situation seem hopeless. And yet, the reader knows that Fletcher’s journey can’t possibly be over yet, because the book still has about two hundred pages left.
It’s enough to make one wonder if the reputedly brutal orc will actually show mercy, to explain how in the world Fletcher will escape this predicament . . . And then Khan reveals that he is the one responsible for torturing Fletcher’s mother in the past and causing her to lose her sanity. That is the point where the reader knows, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Khan is a mortal enemy.
That pivotal moment when an irredeemable villain shows off the true depth of their villainy . . . in a way, there is a sort of weird and sickening pleasure from watching that kind of scene. At least then it’s clear where your enemies stand. So, when your next event arrives and you’re giving gifts of balloons or cake or custom cigars or a good book to your friends, take a moment to appreciate it if you’ve never seen an evil mastermind in real life.