“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” - Tom Hiddleston
With the recent Nerd Knights event, I can’t help but think of my favorite villains. So I thought it was as good a time as ever to talk about how villains are sometimes better than we give them credit for.
We all know that every good hero story needs a villain to match the hero, but what I’m wanting to talk about is different. Specifically, villains who did good in their own story, and generally don’t get credit for it. What surprised me was exactly how common it was. Often the characters playing the role of the bad guy would be objectively good guys if history was looked at from a different angle. Here is a list of the few most outstanding examples I found.
“In order to ensure the security and continuing stability, The Republic will be reorganized into The First Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society.” - Emperor Palpatine
Despite The Emperor’s rise to power being rife with conspiracy and betrayal, The Empire managed to accomplish a lot more good than bad. The Empire resolved all ongoing wars that existed during its inception, ended a slave trade, enforced the law fairly, greatly advanced technology, stabilized economics, and deprivatized the military. The Empire was a legally established sovereign government, and only mobilized its military against targets associated with The Rebel Alliance. In the grand scheme of things, they seem almost utopian, and The Rebels appear as terrorist.
“The snow is beautiful don’t you think? Clean, uncompromising…” - Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze is an interesting character, fighting for something we all idealize, love. Victor Fries cryogenically froze his wife, Nora, in order to extend her life while she was suffering from a deadly illness. He then became Mr. Freeze, turning to crime in order to raise funds to cure his beloved. Mr. Freeze is willing to comply with legal authorities and surrender once his wife is cured. Sacrificing his own freedom, and morality in order to ensure she is safe is certainly noble. Makes you wonder why a certain multimillionaire who lives in the same City of Gotham hasn’t offered to donate to his cause in order to keep him off the path of criminality.
“If you know who I am, then you know what I am capable of… the actions I am willing to take to protect my people.” - Magneto
Magneto has a goal, to ensure non-mutant humanity cannot harm or discriminate against mutantkind. His story starts off as a vigilante Nazi-hunter, and grows into a icon of mutant strength. He certainly is not a saint, but rather often acts like an overprotective parent, ensuring mutants great and small have the opportunity to survive and thrive. His methods and ultimate goals are quite extreme, but the alternative is usually much worse. In most of the possible futures where Magneto is defeated, mutantkind is either extinct, or enslaved by humanity, in extreme cases, humankind has fallen to its own machinations.
“What I want is to leave the planet in better shape for the next generation. To make the world, and it’s children, safer.” - Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor is an iconic villain of the DC Universe. Most known for his obsession with defeating Superman, and being a cut throat businessman. Lex Luthor’s ideology of humanity isn’t quite as vicious. His main hatred of Superman stems from his belief that humanity is becoming dependant on Superman, and society will stop growing in strength as long as it depends on him as an icon of strength. Oddly enough, he doesn’t even specifically want to kill Superman. More often than not, he merely wants to break people's perception of Superman as the invincible savior of humanity. Alternative timelines show us just how true Lex Luthor’s fears can be, as in the timelines where Superman betrays humanity, Lex is often one of the very few humans who is prepared to face him. Oh, and he casually cured cancer.
From Fantastic Four, to Iron Man, Dr. Doom has been fighting his foes with a terrifying combination of magic and technology. With his unyielding arrogance, and obsession with power, it’s easy to see why he is usually given “The Villain” role. However, he is quite adamant that everything he does is for the greater good, and he has merit to his speech. He is a just and fair ruler of Latveria, where the citizens love him so much they have holidays in his name.. But don’t take their word for it there are other occasions where supernatural powers have vouched for the sincerity and credibility of Dr. Victor von Doom. Take for example Mjolnir, which can only be wielded by one of pure heart, which was wielded by Dr. Doom. Also, take The Panther God, a spirit which could foretell every possible future, and would strike down anyone who isn’t pure of heart. It faced an unarmed, and unclothed Dr. Doom, and judged not only him worthy of passing through, but also commented that of all the foreseeable futures, the ones where Dr. Doom prevailed was actually more beneficial to humanity and the world.
Who are your favorite villains who have acted heroically? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!