Look, we're not so far gone that we can't tell the difference between comics and reality. Fiction demands a certain suspension of disbelief, because real-life bad guys understand that dry, drawn-out political subterfuge is much cheaper and more effective than a clone army.
Then, occasionally, some crackpot leaps straight off the pages into our world. These are men with brazen, insane and often ridiculous plans for world domination that grant him comic book supervillain status. Like ...
First of all, look at him:
Out of frame, he's cradling a white Persian cat.
You could fill a whole article about real-life supervillains from Nazi Germany, but if we're to pick just one to fill our Nazi quota for this article, we're taking Otto Skorzeny, and not just because he looks like every single Bond villain who ever existed. Skorzeny was an "Obersturmbannfuhrer," which is German-speak for "chief ass-kicker of the Nazi SS." He specialized in warfare tactics that even the Nazis considered "unconventional." We're talking paramilitary training, misinformation, deception and other sinister shit designed to kill an enemy from the inside like a Nazi-voting Alien.
Picture this guy goose-stepping out to "Horst Wessel Lied."
Skorzeny led the commando operation that rescued Benito Mussolini from capture, headed a plot to assassinate FDR, Churchill and Stalin at the Tehran Conference and was a key player in a commando operation that operated behind Allied lines a full year after Germany's surrender, code-named Werwolf.
But Skorzeny's career as a lone-gun supervillain didn't begin until after the war. After Skorzeny escaped from his military tribunal, he went into hiding in Spain, where he spearheaded the ODESSA Network, which was for all intents and purposes a slightly less overt version of Bond's SPECTRE organization, and not just because long acronyms sound evil. ODESSA's ultimate goal was world domination, which it hoped to achieve by first rescuing and recruiting all the ex-Nazis in hiding around the world, then creating a kind of decentralized "Fourth Reich" made up of international "Nazi colonies." Any plans for moon lasers or weather machines were, at this point, only theoretical.
And their space station was pretty much just a storage shed.
Skorzeny didn't even stop there. In the 1970s, when the rival world conqueror, the Soviet Union, was at the height of its power, Skorzeny made a grand return to supervillainy that DC comics would have envied. He formed the Paladin Group, which described itself as "an international directorship of strategic assault personnel [that would] straddle the watershed between paramilitary operations carried out by troops in uniforms and the political warfare which is conducted by civilian agents." In short, the real life Cobra Command.
Above: civilian agents.
So did Skorzeny die in a nuclear power plant meltdown, or in a fistfight with Bruce Willis in an out-of-control helicopter? Nope, it was plain old cancer. Considering that his life so closely paralleled the plots of our favorite action movies, we feel kind of ripped off.
You know him as the fascist leader of Italy and Hitler's BFF in World War II. But why is he on this list instead of, say, Hitler? Let's put it this way -- here is Mussolini's lair:
His evil lair. Seriously. That is not Photoshop.
He was also known as "Il Duce," which roughly translates into "The Leader," or simply "The Head." Seriously, this guy's mutant power was having a huge freaking head.
And what a head it was.
So while Hitler was really just a lucky douchebag with little-man syndrome, Mussolini was more or less a real-life Lex Luthor. We mean that in the sense that, just like Luthor, he was a fragile Everyman with a huge head who kept scheming against a near-invincible enemy and got his ass handed to him every time. And of course had that mega-sweet-looking lair.
Mussolini's straight-from-a-comic-book plan was to rebuild the Roman Empire with himself as Caesar, but while Hitler was brazen enough to march into Poland, Mussolini started off more conservatively, by "conquering" Ethiopia, which in terms of military badassery is about one step above conquering Antarctica. After this initial esteem-building victory, Mussolini went on to lose virtually every single war he started, despite employing people around the clock to find places to stick his enormous head.
Which they did.
Mussolini's prescription to these fatal setbacks was always more propaganda, which by the end was so pathetic that it was said his speeches "actually caused demoralization and division among the Italians listening." As an ally, he ended up being an even worse sidekick for Hitler than Bebop and Rocksteady ever were for Shredder, and to this day, he's frequently accused of costing Germany the war just by existing. In the end, he was captured and killed by the Communists, leaving the business of war to men who less resembled cartoon characters.
The second cousin (once removed) of Spanish conquerer Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizarro always lived in the shadow of his famed relative. After Cortes conquered the mighty Aztec Empire, Pizarro went in search of something else to murder and pillage, just so he could say he did it too. Luckily, there was another empire just down the road that was conveniently unconquered. Pizarro was kind of like the Darth Maul to Cortes' Vader -- not as well-known, but his lightsaber had two blades.
He traded in the bitchin' head tats for a beard.
By the time the Spanish conquest of the Incan empire was complete, he was now not only a self-made governor, but was known throughout the continent as Pizarro the Cruel, Pizarro the Torturer, Pizarro the Despised, Pizarro the Unholy and, somewhat less creatively, Pizarro the White Person.
Also, Pizarro the Fabulous!
But Pizarro's quest for glory came second to his real passion -- the cities of the Inca were paved with gold. So Pizarro's approach to thwarting the Inca wasn't so much a straightforward military victory as it was a campy, Dr. Evil-style extortion racket.
After a friendly meeting with the Incan emperor, Atahualpa, went sour, Pizarro did the rational thing and kidnapped the emperor for ransom. The price he demanded? "A room full of gold." Seriously. While inflation rates have since changed, it's about as close as anyone has ever come to holding an entire country hostage for "one hundred billion dollars."
Because Atahualpa wasn't as attached to his gold as he was to his life, he not only supplied the ransom but included a smaller room filled "twice over" with silver, just as a bonus. It's probably safe to assume that Pizarro hadn't counted on it being this easy, because he just went ahead and killed Atahualpa anyway, by strangling him in public.
Illustrated here. Probably.
Oh, and as if to rub it into every single one of you from beyond the grave, Pizarro remains to this day one of the most successful self-made men in history. Living in a room full of gold tends to earn one a reputation.
And, occasionally, nephews.