When you would awake from nightmares as a child, screaming into the darkness, the first thing your mother did to reassure you was tell you that there was no such thing as monsters. All the over the top, ridiculous evil beings weren't real, she'd say; the Boogeyman, Darth Vader and Dr. Doom are just stories, she'd say; reality isn't nearly that scary, she'd say. Man, what a lying bitch.
#5. The Hanford Wasps
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State was started as part of the Manhattan Project--a program dedicated to weaponizing atomic power. And Hanford was the most dangerous part of that project; Hanford was where they made their fuel. The site produced pretty much all the weapons grade plutonium for the U.S.; from the very first successful nuclear explosion, all the way to the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. But this isn't about the horrible atrocities they did on purpose; this is about the terrifying implications of the stuff they didn't do. For example: They didn't clean up very well.
When mud dauber wasps moved into the long abandoned site back in 2003, they began to build their nests out of the still-contaminated mud and, rather than dying off like good little attack insects, they survived... irradiated.
Like this, but probably firing nuclear blasts.
There's not much in the natural world worse than wasps. It's pretty much just spiders and cancer below wasps on the scale of Asshole Life Forms... and we made them fucking atomic! Radioactive wasps are officially the scariest thing in nature. I'm not even sure how you top that theoretically. Laser snakes? Cancer-spiders?
Luckily for humanity, the cleanup crew had to deduce all of this from the empty nests. They found no wasps, they reassured the press...
...because they've all moved on.
Not died off, not self destructed, not swallowed by the righteous fist of a merciful God, they just... left. They abandoned their radioactive birthing grounds, deserted their nuclear hives and now there are nuclear wasps roaming the world, presumably robbing banks while screaming honey-based puns at Captain America.
Famous Villain Equivalent:
The Swarm is a Marvel villain comprised entirely of irradiated sentient bees, which is so close to reality that it's almost prophetic. And sure, by comic book standards the "bee guy" is a walking punchline, but that's only because you have Iron Man there with his wide-angle Repulsor Beams mocking him through the medium of energy blasts. In the real world, the best quip you're likely to come up with is a can of Raid and suicide pills.
#4. Teenage Mutant Vampire Drama Queens
There is a real disease, birth defect or possibly gypsy curse out there right now that affects real people, and causes them to cry real blood. For real. That is a real thing. If it sounds familiar, it's because crying blood is an attribute of vampirism in most stories, as best recently evidenced by True Blood (a show which I feel confident in telling you, after watching every single episode, is a series entirely about Rogue's tits). Nobody can really explain why several of these people--all teenagers so far--suddenly started cropping up and spontaneously weeping blood, but leading experts theorize that Jesus got hammered and thought it might be funny to stigmatize the tear ducts of teenagers: Biology's Drama Queen.
Famous Villain Equivalent:
What, you thought I was going with Dracula? No. Le Chiffre is the perfect supervillain for this comparison. Think about it: The first time you saw Le Chiffre weep blood, you thought he was the best Bond villain ever. Then, a couple of hours later, you realize he didn't actually do a goddamn thing but take up space, cry and talk about himself. Sound familiar?
#3. Seattle's Robin Hood
Colton Harris-Moore is the kind of person you find it difficult to believe exists: He's a legendary folk bandit archetype - part Robin Hood, part Tom Sawyer and part John Dillinger. He's a criminal that hasn't just charmed the hearts of swooning young girls but--considering the random accidental escapes, fateful strokes of luck and quite frankly idiotic stunts that miraculously work out just fine in the end--has apparently gotten the universe itself wet.
He lives entirely in the forests outside Seattle like a feral child. He's thought to be responsible for several dozen burglaries. He's stolen cars, speedboats and even several planes which he taught himself to fly by playing video games. And that is balls right there; figuring you can fly a plane because you've played Crimson Skies for an afternoon. He actually got in an aircraft and took it up into the sky because he'd played a game about it before. To put that into perspective, that's like starting a war because you beat the first level of Halo.
Welp, that should do it. I'm ready to fight Russia.
It gets even crazier: He uses stolen thermal vision goggles to hunt at night, and he mostly just steals things he can use like blankets, food and medical supplies. He once made-off by driving a car into a gas storage tank and using the explosion as a distraction to escape, another time by crash-landing a plane into a forest clearing and another time by slipping through the dragnet of largest manhunt in a decade. The FBI and police coordinated their efforts and cordoned off an entire island just to catch him. The result? Two policemen say they "think they saw him once" but that he "disappeared right in front of their eyes."
Basically, he's a feral hillbilly criminal Batman.
Famous Villain Equivalent:
There's no such thing as an actual hill-folk Batman... yet (I'm available for talks, DC). The closest equivalent to Colton is Marvel's Hawkeye. Most people remember him as an Avenger, but Hawkeye started out a villain. Not a very good one, mind you, as is plainly evidenced by the above panel. The worst thing he did was tie up people's butlers and then shoot them free, which is like the eighth least practical way to untie a knot, way behind "using fingers" and "cutting with a knife," but just slightly ahead of "prayer" and "seduction."
Hawkeye, like Colton, seems drastically outmatched. They both have to rely on their resourcefulness and extraordinary luck to get them out of life or death situations they are not remotely qualified for: Colton flies planes on the basis that he is good at video games; Hawkeye fights guys that eat suns on the basis that he owns a bow and arrow.
#2. The Radioactive Professor
Thomas Leopold is an English college professor for a university in Harrow, Middlesex. He recently contracted a thyroid condition, and underwent experimental radiation therapy for it. The risky treatment had a terrifying side-effect: It made him so radioactive that he would pose a significant danger to others, inadvertently passing the radiation on through his urine, saliva, sweat and other bodily fluids. Ordinarily that just kind of sucks: You can't go to the gym, kiss your girlfriend or piss on a hooker, but it's not exactly a villainous qualification. It's not like he's coming for your children or anything.
Except for one thing: Thomas Leopold was also a convicted pedophile.
Pictured: The Nuclear Child Molester's trusty steed, the Veloci-pedo!
That's right: There was actually a radioactive pedophile professor roaming the Earth at one point in history. That's right again: Roaming the Earth. He escaped, you see. He was being escorted to jail on a ferry to Ireland, when he mysteriously slipped away from his captors and disappeared. In response to this, a judge issued an arrest warrant at which point he actually had to say these words in all seriousness: "Warn the officers that when he is arrested, he might be radioactive."
That's a decree by a real court official: Beware the radioactive pedophile. That doesn't sound just sound unbelievable, the words themselves seem to defy understanding. It sounds less like a warning and more like a polite case of Tourette's.
Famous Villain Equivalent:
There's all sorts of radioactive-powered supervillains in pop culture, but there are very few child molesters. However, there is one perfect analogue for Professor Nuclear Pedophilia: Captain Sunshine, from the Venture Brothers. He's technically a hero in that universe but, well, it's always the ones you don't expect, isn't it?
Twenty-one years ago, David Blancarte was in a terrible motorcycle accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. For more than two decades he lived with his handicap to the best of his ability. Then one day he was bitten by a spider, and now he can walk again. It was a Brown Recluse that got him, and he went to the hospital to treat the bite. The nurse noticed spasms in his leg--a leg that should not move--and eight months of therapy later he was walking again, completely healed.
And I am just so, so pissed off that that works: As a child I spent hours microwaving spiders--despite a crippling fear of both radiation and arachnids--and then trying to get them to bite me. At best I'd get a spider bite that smelled like burnt Hot Pockets; at worst I'd get a Hot Pocket that tasted like burnt spiders.
Famous Villain Equivalent:
Blancarte is a very real example of miracles and magic still being present in an otherwise mundane world. He is a hope and inspiration for handicapped people across the globe. Whereas the obvious real world equivalent, Spider-Man, is a serial domestic abuser.
What? You didn't see Spider-Man 3, when he slapped Mary Jane and danced a celebratory disco number? OK, then what about this:
"--but I also totally killed my bitch ex-girlfriend! WHO'S IMPOTENT NOW, GWEN?!"
Jesus! He beats women so much I half-suspect it's a conveniently overlooked side-effect of his super-powers. I'm tempted to put forth the somewhat controversial theory that miraculous spider bites are the primary cause for domestic violence, but then there's guys like David Blancarte who - what? Oh, he was arrested in March? ... For domestic violence?
Shit! I've got a microwave to stop! If the next time you see me, I'm an unstoppable girl-face-punching machine the likes of which this world hasn't seen since Nicolas Cage then please remember and mourn the man I was, but stop the monster I've become!
You can pre-order Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead on Amazon, or find him on Twitter, Facebook and his own site, I Fight Robots but you probably shouldn't get too close, he's just absolutely covered in burning spiders right now.