Forum > Webcomic & Art discussion > The importance of evil villains
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7th Feb 2020, 12:39 PM #21
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Pure evil villains whose personality is defined by "I WANNA BE STRONG AND RULE THE WORLD!" are just really boring


Yea...but what about Ozai, Freiza, Skelletor, just so many villains who have personality and are beloved but their only motivation really is just getting strong and ruling the world?

You can still do that well.
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7th Feb 2020, 12:53 PM #22
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That's why I said "whose personality is defined by 'I WANNA BE STRONG AND RULE THE WORLD!,'" not their motivations. The villains you mentioned are good because of their high charisma, which makes their personality charming.
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9th Feb 2020, 2:04 AM #23
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While moral ambiguity can make for some VERY interesting stories, I do love me a good old big bad nasty. :D
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9th Feb 2020, 2:13 AM #24
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To clarify, I do still believe backstory is important which is why it is important to show the dangers of constant entitlement and giving someone anything they want. Sometimes, evil is not a path, but groomed into a person through constantly making the person think they should unconditionally be king and loved even when they act out of line.
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9th Feb 2020, 2:47 AM #25
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Can you give examples of stories, fables or villains that meet your criteria for this?
9th Feb 2020, 3:05 AM #26
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Arthas from World of Warcraft. He started off as an extremely noble person, but it all got to his head and he turned to the dark side. His soul was not strong enough to resist the evil that made him into the Lich King. Even after being brought up so well, he went bad. And not all because of magic. Something in him was spoiled to begin with. Maybe a lack of humility or always being in a constant state of praise.
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10th Feb 2020, 3:09 PM #27
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I usually avoid debating about cans of worms, but I've read enough off-putting cliches (mainly in comic books) to be able to provide my two cents.

first off, depending on your story's genre, tone, target audience, style, degree of realism, etc. truly vile villains may or may not be necessary. I think we're all aware of that big scale that goes from "misguided, but harmless" to "pure evil" with many intermediate shades.


with that out of the way, I'd say issues arise when you redeem characters left and right. it's tempting, but doing it too often, and to people who don't deserve it, cheapens it and sends mixed messages. paint a fundamentaly evil character/concept in a positive light, and you run the risk of denaturing them, undermining their effectiveness, and alienating your audience (assuming they aren't edgelords). sometimes you just have to admit that someone is beyond hope.


if you want a truly evil antagonist, own up to it. if you don't want to write about them anymore, kill them off. but please don't regurgitate that "troubled childhood" cliche that should only work with less evil villains.

I find it insulting when writers do that with a complete psycho like, say, the Joker or Carnage. it implies that 1) any abuse victim can become a monster at the drop of a hat and 2) a troubled backstory automatically excuses the villain's actions, and they can get off the hook without real consequences and come back for the next crossover like nothing happened.

if you do that, you're crossing the line from compassion to "blind acceptance is kool". liking vile villains as fun-to-watch characters is fine, but don't romanticize them. don't repeat the mistakes of too many franchises. at least, that's what I try to avoid doing.


people like to mock the simplicity and "cheesiness" of Golden and Silver Age stories, but at least writers weren't so in love with Moral Ambiguityโ„ข and mixed messages back then.
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10th Feb 2020, 3:19 PM #28
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Matt Comics:I usually avoid debating about cans of worms, but I've read enough off-putting cliches (mainly in comic books) to be able to provide my two cents.

first off, depending on your story's genre, tone, target audience, style, degree of realism, etc. truly vile villains may or may not be necessary. I think we're all aware of that big scale that goes from "misguided, but harmless" to "pure evil" with many intermediate shades.


with that out of the way, I'd say issues arise when you redeem characters left and right. it's tempting, but doing it too often, and to people who don't deserve it, cheapens it and sends mixed messages. paint a fundamentaly evil character/concept in a positive light, and you run the risk of denaturing them, undermining their effectiveness, and alienating your audience (assuming they aren't edgelords). sometimes you just have to admit that someone is beyond hope.


if you want a truly evil antagonist, own up to it. if you don't want to write about them anymore, kill them off. but please don't regurgitate that "troubled childhood" cliche that should only work with less evil villains.

I find it insulting when writers do that with a complete psycho like, say, the Joker or Carnage. it implies that 1) any abuse victim can become a monster at the drop of a hat and 2) a troubled backstory automatically excuses the villain's actions, and they can get off the hook without real consequences.

if you do that, you're crossing the line from compassion to "blind acceptance is kool". liking vile villains as fun-to-watch characters is fine, but don't romanticize them. don't repeat the mistakes of too many franchises. at least, that's what I try to avoid doing.


people like to mock the simplicity and "cheesiness" of Golden and Silver Age stories, but at least writers weren't in love with Moral Ambiguityโ„ข and mixed messages back then.


I'm not going to lie. I hate it when villains are abuse victims and we're supposed to sympathise with them. I'm sorry, but that makes me sympathise even LESS with them because while I admit trauma can do a number on you, it doesn't justify becoming a horrible person. I don't agree with moral ambiguity. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it.

When I was growing up, I was most likely the only girl who did NOT have crushes on bad guys just because they were cute. I was like "these people are abusive to their girlfriends and kill people. How can you be so attracted to them?!" but then again, I was also a misfit as a teenager. With that said, I find romanticising evil borderline dangerous because in real life, bad boys and bad men lead to pain and regret. These are the type of guys who make you see men in a bad light, the type of guys who get you pregnant and run, the type of guys who won't let you talk to even one friend while they snog twenty girls on the side, the type of guys who encourage you to lie to your parents, and the type of guys who will hit and/or yell at you and convince you that it is love. Evil and bad are not hot or romantic, and I wish books would show abuse for what it is.

EDIT: For the record, it's the same thing with romanticising evil women. Trust me. You don't want an evil person as your significant other.
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10th Feb 2020, 4:02 PM #29
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What you said is very well put, you do not want to romanticize with someone evil or just downright bad. It usually doesn't end well with the person and you will only end up abused or dead once things go too far. As far as pure evil, as said before you have ppl like the lich king, dio, and overhaul off mha. Ppl that are pure evil with no sympathizing and are only driven by their own ambitions.
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10th Feb 2020, 4:15 PM #30
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That is what I am saying. Over ambition and entitlement are keys towards a very dark path.
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10th Feb 2020, 5:04 PM #31
and who could forget dear ratboy
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So are you still asking about if pure straight down the line evil villains are useful in story telling or like is this just a platform to discuss morals now

I think villains who are simply evil are very useful in telling storyโ€™s to a young demographic, for more advanced and adult audiences, someone with no or very little motivation is just... Iโ€™m finding it difficult to think how that could be a very engaging story. I think it could be fun in a comedy sense as well but thatโ€™s not the kind of villain I think you are talking about here, I believe you are talking about real bad boy donโ€™t tell your mama types
So yeah, I think they can be useful but that use is limited
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10th Feb 2020, 5:13 PM #32
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I guess I am talking about both. People go bad for all kinds of reasons, but it all goes back to morals from what I see. It is a complex thing and while I do believe in evil villains, they are not all the victims of suffering. The worst villains are the ones who never knew suffering and only know comfort.
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10th Feb 2020, 5:20 PM #33
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So I think everyone's circling around the best answer.

Well-written characters are not intrinsically "good" or "evil". They want something - a thing, a person, status - that puts them in conflict with other characters. It is only when their ends are not justified by their means that we label them as evil.

Many villains want power and wealth. That's a very human desire - doesn't everyone want that, to some amount? It's what they do in pursuit of it that makes us classify them as evil. Consider: a character who, lusting for power, raises an army and tries to conquer the world is clearly evil, yet a character who, lusting for power, runs for political office on a popular platform and succeeds by keeping promises to his electorate and improving their lives, would clearly be a hero. Maybe an antihero at worst, but they could easily be a no-qualifiers-needed hero.

Many heroes desire peace. Yet we would not call them heroes if they tried to achieve it through "bad" means - indiscriminate murder of any potential enemies, large-scale mind control, or even just going home and giving up (after all, it's not a war if you just let the other side win). So it clearly cannot be just the goals that make a character good or evil - it is also how they go about them.

It is also worth pointing out that good and evil are graded on a curve. Nobody has qualms with John Wick murdering a bajillion faceless minions in his quest for revenge, because the bad guys are trying to do the same with worse motivation. But on an absolute scale, he'd be worse than a lot of villains in other stories. So it's all relative within a story - this is what we mean by a story's tone and mood.

IMO, rationalizations of why a character wants something bad and is willing to do evil to obtain it, are a sign of bad writing. It means your villain's motivation isn't natural - it's something you feel you have to explain, justify. A good villain has a motive that is inherently understandable - you don't have to personally want what they want, but they should want something that you're familiar with other humans wanting. A history of abuse might explain why they want revenge against this specific person, but "revenge" is a very natural motive - you're not explaining their motivation, just filling in backstory. It's when you try to spin "they had a shitty past therefore they want to destroy the entire world" that things fall apart - you clearly worked backwards from "I want a villain who's really villainous; destroying the world is really evil; now I need to rationalize a character wanting to do that". And nothing can really rationalize that - it's just not something humans want to do. They might be willing to ruin the world on their way towards getting something else (as a glance at the headlines will show you), but "destroy the world" is not an end-point want for anyone. And no one is evil for the sake of being evil.

This even applies to "light, childish" stories. Maleficent wants to kill Princess Aurora because she was insulted before the world. The Wicked Witch wants revenge on Dorothy for killing her sister. Characters in simple stories can simply want bad things, if they make sense. You don't even really have to explain it - actions alone can do that, if the motivation is natural enough. Everyone was fine with Darth Vader being evil with no explicit explanation because, duh, empires are good for the people at the top of them, of course he's going to fight to keep his spot at the top. Two sequels added to the complexity and three prequels explained the backstory ad nauseam, but nobody watched A New Hope at release and thought "man, I just don't understand why Vader is doing any of these things".

That, I think, is the nature of conflict in stories. Characters having contradictory or exclusive goals, and pursuing them puts them in opposition. That's all it really boils down to.
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10th Feb 2020, 5:43 PM #34
persevered past being called "boulderousness"
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MK_Wizard:When I say evil villains, I mean villains who really are just bad people who make no effort to even try to be good, they don't appreciate the people who work with them, they care for no one but themselves and have evil qualities like sadism, greed and such.


I don't see how this trope is dying off or antiquated. I see it constantly in anime, games, movies, etc. It all depends on the conflict your villain creates and how they take advantage of it. Joker, Frieza, Majora, Yoshikage Kira, etc all stick out as memorable villains with no sympathetic qualities because of how they fuck over the protagonist and are the story. They control the story so well to where they never leave your mind throughout the whole narrative.

Bear in mind that this is a trope as old as time itself, so it's easy for an evil villain to fall under "Evil dude the protagonist occasionally encounters" and that's it. The most they'll affect is the total body count of your world and sit on a chair all story, and yawn.

Merged Doublepost:

Tl;dr

Making an evil villain does not give the author an excuse to get lazy with his story.
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10th Feb 2020, 6:03 PM #35
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MK_Wizard:I'm not going to lie. I hate it when villains are abuse victims and we're supposed to sympathise with them. I'm sorry, but that makes me sympathise even LESS with them because while I admit trauma can do a number on you, it doesn't justify becoming a horrible person. I don't agree with moral ambiguity. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it.

When I was growing up, I was most likely the only girl who did NOT have crushes on bad guys just because they were cute. I was like "these people are abusive to their girlfriends and kill people. How can you be so attracted to them?!" but then again, I was also a misfit as a teenager. With that said, I find romanticising evil borderline dangerous because in real life, bad boys and bad men lead to pain and regret. These are the type of guys who make you see men in a bad light, the type of guys who get you pregnant and run, the type of guys who won't let you talk to even one friend while they snog twenty girls on the side, the type of guys who encourage you to lie to your parents, and the type of guys who will hit and/or yell at you and convince you that it is love. Evil and bad are not hot or romantic, and I wish books would show abuse for what it is.

EDIT: For the record, it's the same thing with romanticising evil women. Trust me. You don't want an evil person as your significant other.





Man MK I didn't think we could get more insensitive or out of touch but here we are.

I'll skip right over the "I'm not like other girls" aboutisms because I'm tired and it's not worth addressing.


You know who really hates being abuse victims? *abuse victims* How dare they have complex emotional or physical residual effects that expand beyond "just having a number done on them". How dare the resolution take more than a single page to solve. How dare they possibly be more complex than "oh man pure evil." How dare complex villains inspire empathy, because that's too hard and challenges the black and white that you so desire rhe world to be in.

MK how dare you.
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10th Feb 2020, 6:21 PM #36
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I hope we can avoid making this personal and rather focus on villain archetypes and examples from fiction.

https://screencraft.org/2015/08/26/15-types-of-villains-screenwriters-need-to-know/
Interestingly, mankind was the villain in Bambi.
10th Feb 2020, 6:44 PM #37
persevered past being called "boulderousness"
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Mankind as the villain is always an interesting concept. It's how Lord of the Rings got away with Sauron being a generic villain, because he wasn't the only villain. The Ring that Frodo's trying to destroy is able to corrupt people, even Frodo himself, and it makes for compelling drama when every friend you encounter can turn on you the next second.
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10th Feb 2020, 6:44 PM #38
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Y'know, MK, admitting that you'll sympathize with someone LESS because they were abused is... not a very good look. I know you're referring to fictional characters, but it's still concerning.

But in response to your initial post, I agree with most folks here in that it really depends on the story you're trying to tell. There's a place for Pure Evil villains, and there's a place for Complex Ambiguous villains.

I feel like the points you're making are based on your own morals, and while that's alright for whatever stories YOU'RE trying to tell, I don't think it's fair to use your own morals to decide how other storytellers write their own villains.
10th Feb 2020, 6:45 PM #39
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I am really trying to be sensitive here. And I think I am. How many abusive parents or abusive spouses were abused themselves? It doesn't make them being bad ok. Yes, it explains the trauma and behaviour, but it doesn't justify it. We've all suffered in life.

Plus, I am not playing the "I wasn't like other girls" card. I have no doubt that this site, plenty of us were misfits growing up for different reasons. I am not looking for pity either. I'm just telling it like it is that being attracted to dangerous people is a dangerous road.

I also didn't make anything personal beyond just giving an opinion. You don't have to agree with it, but don't tell me I'm being insensitive to abuse victims. Of course I feel for them! I just don't believe in giving free passes or using it to get out of jail free. If you hurt another person, you should atone for it. It's not your victim's fault that (for example) that you dad beat you or was an alcoholic. I can only image the trauma, but we learn to cope with trauma. We don't medicate it by becoming antagonistic towards others. If I am insensitive for believe people should own up their wrongs equally regardless of past experiences, then I won't apologise for that because I don't believe I am wrong. You do the crime. You do the time.

Maybe saying I sympathise less was a strong phrase, but I have seen it even in real life in cases where criminals got off scott free by playing the "I was a victim of abuse or something" card. And I HATE that because they went on to continue terrorising others.

EDIT: I also am not saying it's black and white! I never did. Don't put words into my mouth. I just said that in a situation where a person is clearly bad and sadistic, they should be held accountable regardless of bad past experiences. They are causing bad present experiences.
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10th Feb 2020, 6:55 PM #40
and who could forget dear ratboy
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Please stay on topic with the question you originally put forward and make a new thread to push morals, thanks
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