Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Joys of Super-Villainy

Bully over at Comics Should Be Fun recently asked:

[What about the] lower level of science villain who's smart and savvy enough to create technology powerful enough to at least temporarily go up against Spider-Man or Superman or Batman or the Flash, but doesn't cash in on it: what's his story, I always wonder? Why has the megalomania gotten in the way of him seeing that he just developed a dandy radioactive-powered ice gun for which world conglomerates would pay millions to lease or buy the technology, and instead decide to use it to rob the Second National Bank of Keystone City?

Oh, innocent stuffed bull. So young.

Say you've been puttering around your garage and accidentally invented The Mighty Veeblefetzer, a device that allows you to transform, um, adult contemporary radio hits into deadly force blasts. A Phil Collins CD would be enough to shatter a mountainside, Kenny G albums could liquefy the flesh of an entire city from a distance of twelve kilometers, that kind of thing.

If you took your mind-blowing invention and went legitimate, a typical day might go like this:

Begin the day with a board meeting. Then enter a conference call with two subcontractors, a customer, and a government observer. Later spend six hours going through spreadsheets to calculate monthly EACs. Stay at the office late into the night to polish up a report that will hopefully keep the research funding flowing.

If you took your invention and went eeeevil, a typical day might go like this:

Begin the day by donning your Invincible Battle Armor. Take to a stage in front of millions of your brainwashed minions. Bellow to them that you will destroy the world should the fools in Washington not accede to your all-too-reasonable demands. Tell your minions of their need to sacrifice themselves for your glory. Then shake your fists above your head in triumph as you cry out "WHO WILL DIE FOR ME?" and celebrate as those hapless millions scream their desire to end their lives simply to please you. Feel the world tremble in fear beneath your feet.

Granted, the first instance would probably end with a viewing of "Law and Order" reruns and a nice conversation with the spouse back at home, and the second would probably end with a gaggle of super-beings caving in your skull or disintegrating you.

Until that moment, what a rush.

The key to villainy is that it's so much fun. Life without the occasional power-mad cackle or cry of "seize him!" is a life hardly worth living. Super-villaining is choosing to live in a universe ruled by a bipolar god: the lows are lower than you'd ever believe, and the highs are greater than a normal person could ever fantasize.

Imagine that your favorite sports team has won the World Series/Super Bowl/whatever, you've struck a massive gold vein in your backyard, the Sexiest Man or Woman Alive has shown up on your doorstep seeking your affections, and the news announced that your face will be added to Mount Rushmore in light of your total awesomeness.

Now imagine all of that happening at the exact same time.

The best parts of super-villainy are like that. But better.

The finest explanation of villainy comes from a true American pioneer in the field. Henry David Thoreau stalked the forests of New England in the mid-nineenth century, clad in a green mask and tights. He called himself "The Verdant Caesar" and used a primitive robot, a "steam-boiler man" of his own construction, to attempt a conquest of Concord, Massachusetts.

Though he failed due to the interference of an unnamed "Wonder Horse," Thoreau's account of his career inspired generations of super-villains. To quote from the original, unedited text of Walden:
I went to the woods because I wished to live villainously, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived.

Preach on, brother Harry. Preach on.

By the way, I'm starting up a super-secret world-conquering conspiracy. So far I've got a few telepathic gorillas, a ninja clan on retainer, a mid-sized flying saucer, some doohickey I bought on eBay called a "Magma Bomb," and a line on a fixer-upper Giant Nazi Robot. (I'm good with tools, so it should be operational by Christmas.) Those wishing to volunteer now as either elite guards or goon-class henchmen, please notify me in the comments section. We will conquer, they will bow at our feet, the world is ours, etc., etc.

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