Villains have hearts, too!

I spent the weekend and a fair part of Monday lamenting over the ending of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, a mini-movie posted briefly on the internet about a sympathetic wanna-be villain (played, delightfully, by Neil Patrick Harris.) I now feel that my life is sadly lacking in sympathetic villains (in fiction at least, I don’t really need any villains, sympathetic, or otherwise in real life.) And i don’t mean Javert. I can’t tell you how many “sympathetic villain” booklists I consulted in the quest to satisfy my story needs that mentioned Les Miserables. And no, I’m not reading that again. I read the abridged version once and then the story was ruined for me forever through the overexposure having to translate a song in the musical from French to English for a junior high language project. Anyway, Javert doesn’t do it for me. I like my sympathetic villains a little more villainous.

Here are a few villainous villains and their villainy (or failure at villainy in some cases) for you to check out:

Soon I Will Be Invincible by August Grossman

Doctor Impossible – evil genius, diabolical scientist, wannabe world dominator – languishes in a federal detention facility. He’s lost his freedom, his girlfriend, and his hidden island fortress. Over the years he’s tried to take over the world in every way imaginable: doomsday devices of all varieties (nuclear, thermonuclear, nanotechnological) and mass mind-control. He’s traveled backward in time to change history, forward in time to escape it. He’s commanded robot armies, insect armies, and dinosaur armies. Fungus army. Army of fish. Of rodents. Alien invasions. All failures. But not this time. This time it’s going to be different.

Battlestar Galactica, the new series

Gone are the technobabble, disco-themed costumes and Egyptian helmets of the original series. The modern show introduces new elements to the Galactica story. The Cylons have developed human-form models that are indistinguishable from real humans. The Cylons have a monotheistic religion in contrast to the polytheistic religion of the human Colonies. The approach is serious and intense, with a focus on tough political, philosophical and religious issues set in a tale that manages to keep the focus on realistic and not always perfect characters. In the miniseries, the Cylons launch a massive attack against the humans and wipe out the Twelve Colonies, sending the 47,000 survivors on a desperate search for the fabled 13th colony–Earth.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil? Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

Smallville

This may be the story of Clark Kent growing up in a small town in Kansas, but it’s also the story of Lex Luthor and his journey from misunderstood 20 something to the infamous super villain we all know and love. This show has it’s flaws, but portraying a sympathetic villian-to-be is not one them.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeffry Lindsay

Dexter Morgan isn’t exactly the kind of man you’d bring home to Mom. Though he’s playful and has a wonderfully ironic sense of humor, Dexter’s one character flaw (his proclivity for murder) can be off-putting. But at heart Dexter is the perfect gentleman, supportive of his sister, Deb, a Miami cop, and interested only in doing away with people who really deserve his special visit. Dex is quite good-looking but totally indifferent to (and, frankly, a bit puzzled by) the attentions paid to him by women. Despite the fact that he can’t stand the sight of blood, he works as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department, a job that allows him to keep tabs on the latest crimes and keep an eye open for his next quarry.

Beauty by Robin McKinley

The original story of a villain turned hero, Beauty and the Beast, is wonderfully retold by Robin McKinley. Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage. When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Book four in Mercedes Lackey’s “Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms” series tackles the story behind the story of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. Aleksia, Queen of the Northern Lights, is mysterious, beautiful and widely known to have a heart of ice. No one would seek her wisdom except as a last resort. But when she’s falsely accused of unleashing evil on nearby villages, she realizes there’s an impostor out there far more heartless than she could ever be.

The Coldfire Trilogy: Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows by C.S. Friedman

The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life. This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity’s progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known.

Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

Read this novel, if you feel like the movie left you with absolutely no understanding of Anakin Skywalker’s motivations as he finally, and inevitably succumbed to the dark side. No matter how you look at it, Darth Vader is definitely one of the most memorable fictional villains of our time, and whether or not you love or hate the new trilogy, in the end, it’s all about Darth.

Somewhere, Dr. Horrible and Dr. Impossible and all sorts of other villains are out there, engaging in an epic battle to rule the world with their evil, sympathetic plans.  I just hope they all write the next chapter in their memoirs and post it to their blogs soon.

-Andrea

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