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DC And Marvel Should Embrace Compelling Villains Over Antiheroes
DC And Marvel Should Embrace Compelling Villains Over Antiheroes,Many of the most popular antiheroes in comics started out as villains, and while the switch can be fun, compelling enemies are even better.

DC And Marvel Should Embrace Compelling Villains Over Antiheroes

Marvel and DC Comics have a rich variety of heroes, villains, and everything in between. While there is no shortage of great and compelling heroes, the same cannot be said of villains in modern comics. Even some of the greatest villains in fiction have had stories that shied away from their evil.

Antiheroes have been a key part of comics for decades, and the darker spin on a traditional hero continues to be popular with fans. Characters from Harley Quinn and Deathstroke to Deadpool and The Punisher show that bringing some grit and moral ambiguity to a character can be great. However, quite often these fun antiheroes come at the expense of good supervillains. A great many of the best antiheroes began as outright supervillains. While some, like Deadpool, became far more interesting as antiheroes, a good villain best serves comics by remaining the bad guy.


Good Comic Book Villains Have More Potential Than Antiheroes

The switch from villain to antihero is nothing new when it comes to comics. Ever since Deadpool and Punisher's breakout success as antiheroes overshadowed their earlier appearances, it has been a growing trend. Quite often, the genuinely evil villains will be done-in-one enemies while the long-term villains don't get that same treatment. It's difficult to take a villain seriously when, in the next story, they could just as easily be working as an upbeat partner to the hero. A good example of a title that cast a villain as a protagonist without making them into heroes was Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan's Bane: Conquest. Here, Bane furthered his career as a master criminal and, though he teamed up with Batman, this was clearly shown as pragmatism.

Many fans and writers alike fall into the same trap when it comes to writing villains: complexity. Many believe that writing a complex villain should naturally push them into a more grey morality where they could even act as heroes. The temptation has been so strong that even when Doctor Doom got his own 2019 miniseries (Christopher Cantwell and Salvador Larroca), he was written far more like an egotistical hero mirroring Tony Stark than a complex villain. Keeping a villain evil leaves the door open for better stories that contrast them against the hero, building them up to matter even more. Villains like Doom have always been most compelling as intelligent threats who counter their enemies in a bid to take over the world, rather than being warped heroes.

Comic Book Villains Have Their Own Appeal

Fans love threatening villains because they often represent different and unique threats. In the case of Batman's rogues' gallery, each villain represents a unique challenge, from the conflicted Two-Face to the chaotic Joker or the strategist in Bane. Likewise, Spider-Man's villains each bring their own strengths and threats. However, the superhero is the main attraction in their own comics, meaning they need villains every bit as compelling as them to tell a good story. It should be noted that the use of one-off villains can be great, not just for giving fans something fresh but also leaves the door open for those villains to return. This was the case with characters like Doomsday, originally created for a single event who returned due to bringing something new to Superman: unreasoning, chaotic evil.

That said, the stories of heroes are made great by their rich villains, some of whom are as popular as the heroes. Even when the best villains are given their own books, like Sinestro or Deathstroke, they're often written as antiheroes. However, the appeal of a villain-driven story is the lack of restraint that's applied to heroes. A great example can be seen in Deadshot who, as leader of the Suicide Squad, is rarely cast in a villainous light anymore – despite being one of Batman's deadliest foes.

The Importance Of Long-Term Villains

Antiheroes have made for some excellent stories in comics, and plenty have been far more successful as protagonists. However, the list of antiheroes who began as a villain grows every year, with even the likes of Black Manta, Black Adam, Magneto, and Venom among them. Many of these changes have been entirely unnecessary as a villain doesn't need to abandon evil just to be complex. Plenty of villains have had brief alliances with the heroes without compromising their core characters, such as Joker, Lex Luthor, and Doctor Doom.

When a great villain does a face turn, something is lost from the hero's story, sometimes even an arch-nemesis. Great villains give heroes an equal number on the opposite team. Villains like Bane, Doctor Doom, Black Adam, Green Goblin, and Bullseye were created to be even matches for their heroes, which they achieved to great effect. As their number lessens so do the challenges a hero can face making both weaker overall. There must always be a place for iconic villains with a history behind them.