Source: DC Comics
We're coming to the end of DC Comics' "Villains Month," where the bad guys took over every single comic released in September. 3D covers of everyone from Bizarro to Black Manta have been rocking the shelves of comic book stores to mark the first major crossover of the New 52, where the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 has defeated the Justice League and left the Earth at the mercy of evil geniuses and costumed maniacs.
But what makes a truly great villain? It's not the over the top theatrics, even if some of the best ones have them. Nor is it the terrible things they do, even though they're more prone to them than their heroic counterparts. What makes for a good villain is that they don't see themselves as a "villain," per se, and they don't just cackle about doing evil deeds. They believe their actions are justified and that, in their own twisted way, they're in the right. That's not to say they think what they're doing is MORALLY right or justified. They just don't see themselves in the same way that others do.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best villains that fit this criteria.Dr. Doom (Marvel Comics)
Source: Marvel Comics
Doom is obviously obsessed with Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four, but he's also a monarch in his home country. And like any despot, he thinks the decisions he makes are for the best of Latveria. He also thinks he's justified in seeking revenge on Reed Richards for ruining his face and his life. Some guys lawyer up; Doom armors up.Lex Luthor (DC Comics)
In his various incarnations he's been an evil scientist, a cruel billionaire, and both. But one of the common threads in recent times has been that he sees Superman as a threat to humanity. And if you think about it, who wouldn't? The guy can basically do anything and beat anyone. We're essentially at his mercy. Plus, he makes no secret of the fact that he's from another planet. Who among us would trust an alien with that kind of power?The Adversary ("Fables")
The primary villain in the "Fables" universe isn't revealed until well into the series. The revelation is something of a surprise, but it's also understandable given the history he has with another counterpart in the "Fables" universe.Ozymandias ("Watchmen")
Source: DC Comics
Like so many other villains on this list, Ozymandias just wants a better world. He's seen things deteriorate and believes, strongly, that the actions he's taking are for the better good. In a strange way he's right, and the real battle is a philosophical one: do the ends justify the means? At the conclusion of the story, even the heroes aren't so sure, and they're forced to make an unfortunate compromise.Galactus (Marvel Comics)
Galactus doesn't eat planets because he likes hearing a billion screams at once, he does it because he's hungry and must eat in order to survive. He's more like a force of nature than an evil being. Besides, who here hasn't been so hungry they could eat a planet teeming with life? Me, I have to have a late lunch today and I could go all-out Galactus.Magneto ("X-Men")
In a way, Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier are on the same side. They just go about it in different ways, and Magneto has a more cynical outlook on the long-term prospects of human-mutant relationship. And if you go on what we've seen throughout the X-Men's history, he has far more arguments for his viewpoint than Xavier does for the utopian ideal.The Governor ("Walking Dead")
Source: Image Comics
As seen in both comics and the television series, The Governor initially just wants what's best for his people. There's an argument to be made that what he does works, since he was able for quite some time to keep more people alive than pretty much anyone else we've met in Robert Kirkman's post-zombie world. So there is a method to the madness, and in a world where civilization has completely collapsed and society is in a shambles, who's to say he's a "bad" guy at the start of it?The Saint of Killers ( "Preacher")
The force of nature chasing Jessie Custer across the country is actually an instrument of God himself, bestowed with the ability to kill anything and anyone with his six-shooters.Amanda Waller (DC Comics)
Like Lex Luthor, Amanda Waller sees herself as someone protecting humanity from super-powered forces. When the world's most powerful beings form together and call themselves "The Justice League," appointing themselves as a global security force, it's a cause of concern for world governments. Especially when they build a satellite that hovers over the Earth. I mean, that's scary stuff, right?Deadshot (DC Comics)
Source: DC Comics
A depressed mercenary desperate to commit "suicide by cop" – accepting the most dangerous missions out there in the hopes that he'll fail. While his motives may seem strange and not everyone can identify with his self-destructive inclinations, it's at least an interesting motivation.Flash's Rogues (DC Comics)
Honor among thieves. That's basically the credo of Flash's gallery of villains, who unlike most other heroes' rogues don't just wait around to get knocked off one by one. They communicate, they're organized, and they look out for each other. Plus they have a code: no killing of "capes" or civilians, and so on.Bizarro (DC Comics)
Source: DC Comics
He is who he is. He can't help doing bad things, he just thinks they're good. Sure, the whole "opposite day" thing seems simple and goofy on the surface, but it creates an interesting moral dilemma: if Bizarro's only doing what he thinks is right in an upside down world, is he really "evil"?
The appeal of comics is the triumph of good over evil, but what keeps us intrigued is that grey area.
Check out our latest episode of All Access Weekly, where Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon ("The State," "Reno 911!", "Night at the Museum") drop by to chat about their latest foray against evil, "Hell Baby."