6 Underrated Supervillain Henchmen, In Need Of Respect
Every good story needs a good baddie. This week at Cracked, we're examining supervillains of all sorts and kinds and finding out what makes them tick.
The henchman is the unsung
hero villain in popular culture. They typically take the most beatings from the heroes, get chastised by their main character employers, and don't typically share in the spoils of victory on the rare occasion when the supervillain wins. Sometimes they occasionally graduate into main character status (shoutout to Harley Quinn!), but for the most part, they just wear the company logo as the regular working-class criminal or purveyor of evil. They get to win Best Supporting Actors of Villainy at most.
These middle-managers of malice aren't in the spotlight of the protagonist's main foe, but they aren't just nameless goons either. There are several quality big bads in movies, film, and TV, but don't lose sight of the quality cronies that hire ...
Bob The Goon
Speaking of nameless goons, a whole generation of children that didn't see 1989's Batman yet would flock to the toy section of department stores looking at Batman and Joker action figures then wondered what this guy's deal was:
Basic knife, basic gun, basic black, wearing a logo of his boss' face on his jacket, this guy looked like another nameless goon. But he wasn't just any goon. And he wasn't nameless. He was Bob. BOB THE GOON. He's The Joker's number one guy!
Fun-Fact: You can say this line to your dog and/or cat at any time.
Bob was groundbreaking in that he was an identifiable henchman in what story-wise is usually a fleet of uniformed background extras just around to get the Taft-Hartley beaten out of them by the hero. King Koopa didn't have Trent the Goomba. Darkseid couldn't have Chad the Parademon. Rita Repulsa never had Alan the Putty. But Joker? Joker had Bob the Goon.
Bob the Goon breaking henchman barriers by having a name and mildly distinguishable accessories over other Joker minions got him an action figure of his very own. He's also a top henchman in that he obeys his boss without question, all the way to the bitter end.
Behold the ultimate metaphor for capitalism.
If Lex Luthor is going to have a bodyguard, he's not going to suffer any fools or flaws. There is no greater way to display superior intellect than by hiring the best people to do your dirtiest work and fight competently on your behalf. As a storytelling method, it is effective as well. If the underling is this dangerous, imagine how much the main villain is holding back personally. This is why Mercy Graves is among the most criminally (heh) overlooked henchwomen in pop culture.
As soon as Lex smirks and says, "Mercy," you know you're going to see some guns blazing or a vicious martial arts display (while somehow not losing her hat.). She often plays the strong arm and strong mind to execute Luthor's plans, giving Lex plausible deniability and alibis since she can work in the shadows while he remains in the spotlight.
While there is no doubt about the power dynamic between the two (Mercy's chauffeur outfit gives that away), there is mutual respect between Luthor and Mercy that isn't typically seen between villain and minion. While there are tiffs between the two, Luthor doesn't talk down to Mercy and even lets her call him "Lex" while everyone else in his employ addresses him as "Mr. Luthor."
As the old saying goes: Behind every great man, there is a great woman with laser guns in her forearms.
Bebop And Rocksteady
These two bumbling affronts toward God are the prime idiot muscle of The Shredder and Krang on. While most henchmen are focused on finances or climbing the ladder of success, these two just seem to hench for the absolute love of the game. They just volunteered to become genetic freaks to become tougher and because it sounded like fun.
Most of the time, whenever there is a mutation in a story, the characters mourn the loss of their humanity, blame the hero for their freakishness, or hold a grudge against the world for not accepting them. Not Bebop and Rocksteady. They don't care about pathos. They just do their hench job for the Foot Clan (which, do we actually know if they get paid by The Shredder?) and just live life to the fullest. While they work hard at henching, they have the most fun doing it. Even when playing dress-up.
It's a good thing they got the tough hides of a rhino and a warthog because they get beat up. A lot. But in the end, from either positive mental attitudes or the ramifications of suffering multiple concussions, they don't seem to mind at all. Hell, they don't even have to be competent at their jobs.
The two are also the unconventional poster children of henchman workplace camaraderie. They are always a set. They're all about teamwork making Shredder's dream work. They love double-teaming against their opposition, encourage one another, and give each other high fives whenever they mildly succeed. They just love being Bebop and Rocksteady.
While there are more effective henchmen, no other hench genuinely just loves henching more than these guys. The only thing they love more than henching is possibly each other.
Anastasia Cisarovna is the H.B.I.C. (Head Baroness In Charge) of Cobra as an intelligence officer and lieutenant to Cobra Commander, along with being the trusted confidant and love interest of Destro. However, Baroness is more than the token woman of the evil villainous toy-based organization to fight against the token women of G.I. Joe (even though that was clearly her original role). She has a high intellect, dark hair, glasses, and is prone to cartoon hijinx like Velma from Scooby-Doo. She is also an aristocrat, ruthless, and is a combat expert, unlike Velma from Scooby-Doo.
While Baroness occasionally gets egg on her face, she mostly retains her dignity compared to her boss Cobra Commander. She and Destro often grow weary of ol' Double-C's appropriate for PG world domination plans but stick around since the money's good. I mean, what's the point of fighting for a snake-based globalized government if you're not going to get your fair cut in the end?
I can already hear "What about Starscream?" from all of those who went to TFcon, Botcon, Decepticon, all the cons revolving around robot toys, but there's a reason why Soundwave made the cut and Starscream did not. Was Starscream ever NOT trying to usurp Megatron? No, and Megatron knew that.
If Starscream was the traitorous right hand of Megatron, then Soundwave was the effective, sinister left claw. Soundwave's compliance toward Megatron and his actions for the Decepticon cause made him one of the most loyal non-idiot henchmen in the history of media. Then again, who knows what his true intentions are with a monotone, expressionless voice like his?
The only emotion he knows is "yelling" RAVAGE!
While being pretty much the only 100% loyal Decepticon in the history of the group, Soundwave also serves as Communications Officer and spymaster to Megatron on top of being a stoic sidekick. Not bad for a 1980s boombox.
Speaking of which, Soundwave is a henchman that has other henchmen within him! Soundwave's cassettes of Ravage, Laserbeak, Rumble, and others make him a Russian nesting doll of robotic goonery. He's an evil robot Pokémon trainer, but instead of releasing cute monsters trapped in balls, he releases malicious terrorists from outdated audio technology.
Gotta end this list with a real one. While obviously written as a parody and commentary on henching as a whole, Henchman 21 is the patron saint of all things minion. As the loyal lackey of The Monarch, Henchman 21 evolved into every single hench trope while also developing as a character in his own right.
At the very start of The Venture Bros., Henchman 21 was a slightly more worthless half of a duo with Henchman 24. After 24's death, he transformed himself into a less of a bumbly henchman like the weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? into a loyal, competent yet kickass Smithers from The Simpsons. He became a henching machine able to hold his own against bodyguard/O.S.I. agent/mass murderer Brock Samson.
Not only did 21 up his game, but he also advocated for himself and his henching coworkers.
Granted, while he tried to dabble as a hero and reluctantly tried to go the full-villain route, Gary Fischer knows what he is. He's not Dr. Frankenstein; he's a high-upside Igor. He's not Dracula; he's an over-achieving Renfield. He's not the pinnacle; he's the foundation. He is what his tattoo says he is:
Top Image: Toy Biz, Paramount Pictures.