The 8 Least-Threatening Comic Book Villains

The 8 Least-Threatening Comic Book Villains

Let' face it: all the really good ideas for comic book villains were taken by, oh, around 1942. The writers have just been scraping the sides of the jar since then.

As proof we offer these villains who, in real life, couldn't frighten a gazelle.

The Penguin From Batman

Threat Issues:
The Penguin is a pudgy man dressed in evening wear who likes birds and has the power to disguise weapons as umbrellas. Obviously, liking birds isn't frightening or even illegal, unless it involved liking birds in a carnal way, which he doesn't. That leaves us with umbrellas.

So, here's a typical Penguin encounter with basic sports-stadium security:

Security: Sir, can I ask you to step aside?

Penguin: (pretends not to notice)

Security: Sir. In the top hat and monocle.

Penguin: Oh, my, dear fellow, are you talking to me?

Security: Yes, sir. Can I take a look at your umbrella?

Penguin: Oh, this? Why, it's just an ordinary umbrella. A fellow can bring an umbrella with him on an outing, can't he?

Security: The sky is completely clear and it's 90 degrees, sir.

Penguin: Well, yes, I know, this is just an old man's foible, you see, and-

Security: Sir.

Penguin: Yes?

Security: Sir, you're clearly the Penguin, and I-

Penguin: (shocked) How did you know?

Security: ... you're clearly the Penguin, and I can't let you bring an umbrella in here.

Penguin: Son of a bitch.

How To Make Him More Threatening:
We're not going to go the easy route and just replace "penguin" with "velociraptor." No, we want to stick to the creator' original vision as closely as possible. So let' go with another flightless bird, the turkey. Turkeys have those dangerous talons and can continue living with their heads cut off.

Oh, hey, there you go. The Headless Turkey. Picture that, this man-sized thing, standing there pointing a gun at you, with a ragged hole where its head was. You don't even know what the thing wants because it can't talk. It just stands there gesturing with the gun, while little spurts of blood jet softly from its open neck. OK, that' terrifying. Let' move on.

The Riddler from Batman

Threat Issues:
The Riddler, like the average Batman villain, employs a gang and carries out crimes ranging from your ordinary bank robbery to rigging the city with bombs that explode according to some inexplicably convoluted theme. All he has going for him is the "riddling"-meaning that he seems to have some kind of psychological compulsion to leave behind clues at every crime that would get him caught, even if the cops turned the investigation over to a class of third-graders.

The only way he could be any more worthless as a crook would be if he teamed up with Billy from the Family Circus and they left a dotted line from the crime scene to their hideout.

How To Make Him More Threatening:
Well, the Riddler is a pretty established Batman villain, so it's too late to change his name. They could just take the other meaning of the word, though, and have him be renowned for riddling people with bullet holes. It's probably a tad more terrifying to expect someone to turn you into a human sieve than to expect someone to tell you they've taken the loot to a place that rhymes with "the bubandoned potomobile hactory."

The Ventriloquist and Scarface from Batman

Threat Issues:
Arnold Wesker is a ventriloquist with what the DSM-IV classifies as dissociative identity disorder (DID)-formerly called multiple personality disorder (MPD). It's not villainous so much as sad, really. The real tragedy is that this character helps perpetuate the stereotype that those with DID/MPD are vicious serial killers, when in actuality, very few of us actually succeed in our murders, due to poor teamwork between personalities.

Wesker is a mild-mannered fellow who speaks mainly through his puppet and alter ego, Scarface. This is the 1920s gangster kind of Scarface, who wields a "gatt" and talks about "icing" the "broad" or "dame." Back when he was first introduced (1988) this might have been considered scary and contemporary, but now seems dated.

Scarface is vulnerable to pretty much everything when he's not on Wesker's hand--fire, cars, small children--and has been destroyed by nearly every means possible in the Batman animated cartoons, including a ventilation fan and several trains.

In case you're noticing a trend here... yeah, five of the eight villains are from Batman. There are actually a few good reasons for that: First, if you step to Batman, he' going to fucking end you. None of this dropping Lex Luther off in prison so he can escape for the sequel bullshit. Batman needed more villains because he killed more of them.

Also, while he may be awesome, the Caped Crusader is sort of a downer. He barely talks, lives in a cave, and dresses in black. DC Comics has always relied on a steady stream of eccentric villains to provide a splash of color to Gotham. Before they ran out of ideas that splash of color came in the form of the Joker, and after they ran out it came in the form of a fucking hand-puppet.

How To Make Him More Threatening:
There's three problems that need to be addressed: Addressing the negative portrayal of DID/MPD; updating Scarface's personality to be more relevant and threatening; and Scarface's vulnerability as an inanimate object.

First of all, one of these Scarfaces would do admirably:

The only solution to the other two problems is to drop the ventriloquism part entirely, so that Wesker is actually holding a live human Tony Montana on his hand. Take an already-psychotic Al Pacino and ram a huge hand up his rectum ... there will be no survivors.

The Slug from Captain America

Threat Issues:
The Slug is a crime lord who is very, very fat. If you were waiting to find out what his power is, you can stop reading now, that's it. He can apparently kill people by suffocating them in the folds of his fat. But, you know what? You can drown someone in a bowl of water, too. Either way, it is pointlessly contrived and would require a lot of henchman power.

Helping to highlight his lack of scariness is his name. Above you can see a picture of The Slug and a pair of banana slugs. Which is scarier? Which one would someone have to pay you more money to touch? Assume The Slug is clothed for the purposes of this exercise.

Those banana slugs are maybe 4-inches long and already have a history of sending people scurrying to the corner in fear, whereas very fat people have a history of being pointed at and laughed at in sideshows. In a fairer pound-by-pound comparison, a giant banana slug of the same mass as The Slug-or a giant mass of writhing slugs the same volume as The Slug-would be exponentially more frightening than some guy who can't even reach his own neck, let alone yours.

How To Make Him More Threatening:
We've made it pretty clear that slugs themselves can be rather frightening with the right treatment. If The Slug had been bitten by a radioactive slug, had gotten into a teleporter mix up with a slug, or had been injected with some kind of supersoldier formula based on slug slime, he might have turned into some giant slug-like monstrosity with, say, poisonous slime or something.

Or, keep the same guy and just give him the ability to eat people.

Man-Bat from Batman

Threat Issues:
Man-Bat is actually another one of Batman's clumsy scientist friends who turned himself into some sort of giant were-bat in an experiment gone horribly wrong (Batman has a smaller stable of clumsy scientist friends than Spider-Man, but every hero needs to have a few on call.). That's a little terrifying. The problem is his name. How many people, not having read this, would know who or what Man-Bat was?

If you look at the pattern of Batman's own name, you might think Man-Bat is a bat who dresses up as a man in order to strike terror into the hearts of criminals.

Or to follow the Spider-Man pattern, he would be a bat who was bitten by a radioactive man, gaining that man's powers. Or like Superman, he could be a bat who exhibits characteristics that could be described as man-like. In any case, his name clearly denotes him to be a bat originally, and the only thing that scares people about bats is getting pooped on or getting diseases.

Also, Man-Bat just sounds stupid.

Ways To Make Him More Threatening:
Obviously he'd be a little scarier if he called himself The Winged Horror or the Nightshrieker or something like that. It could turn out he was a bat bitten by a radioactive man, and you could just show him in silhouette, issuing orders to his henchmen in chilling tones of cold steel. The spell might be broken a little once he flies out the window to go eat insects out of the air, but you don't have to show that very often.

The Prism from Marvel Comics

Threat Issues:
Prism is made of glass. This isn't compensated for by any other power because that is his power.

You got adamantium claws or super-strength? You might as well give up now, because this guy can split a beam of light into the colors of the rainbow. Sure, if you're Cyclops or something and your power is shooting laser beams, maybe this guy can fuck you over, but come on, he's vulnerable to punching. And falling. And bumping into things. And powerful sopranos.

Like many comic characters, Prism has multiple deaths on his record. One involved a losing battle with a wall and the other involved one of his many weaknesses, bullets.

One can only speculate as to the manner of his next death, but the smart money isn't on old age.

How to Make Him More Threatening:
There are many sturdier refractive materials such as Plexiglass or even diamonds. If they can't engineer some kind of scientific accident where he gets reinforced to become one of those, at the very least give him the ability to break off shards of himself and hurl them at people. Maybe nick an artery or something.

The Ten-Eyed Man from Batman

Threat Issues:
While blind in his two regular eyes, Philip Reardon, the Ten-Eyed Man, has eyes in the tips of all his fingers. Here' a tip, comic book writers: Not every tragic deformity is a superpower. Despite his disability, Philip is the kind of guy to make lemons from lemonade--not literally, because that would hurt like hell if you think about it--but figuratively, earnestly trying to parlay his physical defect into a career of supervillainy.

He has some very problematic weaknesses, such as being helpless when tricked into catching or touching something. A smart man in his position would train himself not to react when Batman blurts out, "Heads up!" or "Think quick!" and tosses something in his direction. But, this kind of subterfuge is beyond him.

The writers seem just as stumped as the next person when it comes to reasons why we should be afraid of him, and have unfortunately gone the lazy route of just having other characters hype up his threat. Look, Kyra Sedgwick's character in The Closer doesn't become charmingly quirky just because you have all the other characters say she is. And, Ten-Eyed Man is still not scary even if you have the prison guards lock his hands in a metal box for fear he will use his awesome seeing power to escape.

It's really mind-boggling how anyone could have expected this to be a real, serious supervillain. Everyone who's ever been in any kind of fight, or watched one, or heard of one, knows that you go for the eyes. The whole success of pepper spray is based on this idea. It's inexplicable how some writer's idea of a formidable villain was a guy with the most vulnerable parts of the body multiplied five times. Carry this to its logical conclusion, and you can expect to see Mr. Twenty Testicles in issues next month.

How To Make Him More Threatening:
Here's a list of things he could have on the ends of his fingers that would be more threatening than eyes: steel claws, laser guns, supermagnets, acid-spray nozzles, flame jets, soldering irons, grizzly bears, cigarettes, multicolored ribbons, Lee Press On Nails and Pez dispensers. Seriously, anything that isn't eyes would be an improvement.

The Chameleon from Spider-Man

Threat Issues:
The Chameleon's power is the ability to disguise himself as any person on earth-a power that could be quite impressive if coupled with a mind of average intelligence. Unfortunately as fate would have it, the Chameleon is apprently functionally retarded.

In his first appearance, he attempted to steal a two-part set of missile defense plans. He accomplishes this first part disguised as a scientist who's supposed to be working on the plans-so far, so good. He decides to steal the second set of plans, however, disguised as Spider-Man. That sounds logical until you realize that at that stage of the comics, the public thought Spider-Man was a menace to society (because the newspapers were smearing him, you see).

So the Chameleon, in order to commit a crime, disguised himself as a wanted criminal. Since he's done this with the intention of framing Spider-Man, he's also lured Spider-Man to the scene of the crime. So, he's basically arranged to have the police and an actual superhero on scene while he's committing this crime. Does he get away with it? What do you think?

The Chameleon also has the dubious distinction of having been defeated by both Mary Jane (with a baseball bat) and Peter Parker's elderly Aunt May.

On another side note, either that's a very slow-acting poison, or Aunt May has somehow been given fast-knitting superpowers. Not too farfetched, as Peter has actually given blood to her several times, and the characters have speculated about whether this would give her powers. Either way, someone is getting a really inappropriate baby blanket for Christmas.

How To Make Him More Threatening:
Well, we had some ideas, but honestly we just gave up after we heard about the following storyline. While it is abridged, this is, honest to God, an accurate, contextually correct summary of how the actual story went:

So, apparently it' too late for our advice, because they just had him come out of the closet and commit suicide on the same page.

That probably puts him beyond our help. Sorry we didn't get to you sooner, buddy.

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