I’m attended a Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention and I attended a workshop on villains that set me on the journey to this post.
The panelists included F. Paul Wilson, Gregg Hurwitz, Jamie Freveletti, A. Scott Pearson, and James Rollins. When asked a question about villains, Rollins, the author of the bestselling Sigma Force series, said he liked the villains that touch readers. “If you can make the reader cry when you kill the villain, that’s powerful.”
That sent my brain down the path of villains who tug at the heartstrings more than they should. They don’t deserve to win, but seeing them lose isn’t as satisfying as you’d think it should be.
1. The Master from Doctor Who, as played by John Simm.
They’re the last two of their kind, locked in perpetual combat but neither truly wants the other dead. Even as he lays dying, the Tenth Doctor urges his foe to regenerate but the villain refuses.
Always my favorite comic villain, Magneto has a perfectly good reason to protect mutants, since he saw his original family destroyed in the Holocaust. Especially at the end of X-Men First Class, he seems more right than Xavier.
3. Frankenstein’s Monster
“We belong dead,” says the Monster to his created bride in Bride of Frankenstein.
He loathes his existence, his creator hates him and he has no place in the world. It’s no wonder he turns to villainy but it’s a tragedy in the truest since of the word that the world will never accept him.
4. Lucretia in Spartacus: Vengeance
She’s spent the last two seasons manipulating, murdering and forcing her pet gladiator to have sex with her. But she loves her husband and desperately wants a child. Given what she goes through in Vengeance, her final scene is both chilling and heartbreaking.
King Arthur’s bastard son never had a chance. In some tales, he’s a complete villain, but the legend works best when he’s a son in bad circumstances trying to do the right thing but never gets a chance because everyone hates his mother. No one wants to see him beat King Arthur. No one wants to see Arthur kill his son, either.
*Note: Yes, Darth Vader should be on this list. Except that his story in the prequels just doesn’t hit as hard emotionally as it should.
[This post originall ran in April, 2012]