The Field Guide to Super Villains
The Field Guide to Super Villains attempts to categorize and illustrate the most common and recognizable villain archetypes in comics. It does not try to be exhaustive, nor is it authoritative. You may see villains listed here that you feel belong to a different archetype. That’s probably because all the best villains have more than one archetype, and may have drifted from one to another over their long career. Additional archetypes, usually identified with heroes but equally applicable to villains, are discussed at the end of this list.
Examples: Arcade, Bullseye, Deadshot, Deathstroke
An Assassin is a villain who specializes in killing, usually (but not always) for money. Sometimes he is hired by the Crime Boss. The Assassin usually has no powers of his own, other than a supernatural accuracy with deadly weapons. He may be able to turn anything into a weapon, even the most innocuous item (like a lemon seed or playing card). He prefers, however, either the latest in firearms or deadly martial arts weaponry, in order to maximize his own lethality.
An Assassin is, at his best, a professional who doesn’t take chances or play games with his victims. Unfortunately, because it is rare for a hero to actually be killed by an Assassin, the Assassin usually fails in his mission. Important civilians and other bystanders, however, have much to fear from the Assassin. There's also the 'remote assassin' archetype, which is partly grown from the widespread presence of computers and wireless communications. The Remote Assassin kills his targets from far away. He may hack computer networks and trap you in an elevator, or he may deploy an army of killer toys or bomb-laden radio-control planes to end your life. For the Remote Assassin, killing is a distant clinical art, almost a game. The Remote Assassin is usually a sub-par physical specimen, and is related to the Twisted Genius. The hacker version of the Remote Assassin plays upon man's reliance on technology and fears of powerlessness in the face of unknown, technologically savvy individuals. The Remote Assassin kills with the touch of a button. Extreme versions of the Remote Assassin may kill via virtual reality games, murderous theme parks, and similar situations where they turn the world or environment against the heroes, and are closely tied to Theme Villains.
Examples: Doctor Doom, Dormammu, Kang, Lex Luthor, Mongul
The conqueror wants to rule, traditionally the world, but sometimes only the city while some Conquerors set their eyes on the entire cosmos or the space-time continuum.
There are two types of Conqueror: the Enlightened Tyrant and the Warlord. The Enlightened Tyrant thinks he would do a better job than all those messy governments would, and by some measure he might even be right. The ET may very well be able to end poverty, disease, and war, but at the cost of free will and legal justice. He resembles the Supremacist, but not all Conquerors demand the execution of their enemies as the Supremacist does. Indeed, some Conquerors proudly allow their enemies and rivals to live, confident that the poor fools can do no harm and are still better off under the Conqueror’s enlightened tyranny.
The Enlightened Tyrant thinks he has all the answers, and sometimes faces heroes with the daunting possibility that perhaps they are wrong after all, and the Enlightened Tyrant is actually a good thing. This occasionally causes super-teams to break ranks as they choose sides with or against the plans of the Enlightened Tyrant. This is further complicated if the Enlightened Tyrant is a Fallen Hero also.
The Warlord is a low-brow tyrant who simply wants to conquer. He has none of the moral ambiguity of the Enlightened Tyrant and no hero would seriously consider joining his cause. He may have a love of battle for its own sake, and could be a former Gladiator.
Conquerors often find power through scientific means, which shows their mastery of nature and mental prowess.
If the Conqueror wears a swastika, he’s actually a Nazi. If he’s ethnic, he may be a Foreigner out to conquer America.
Examples: Galactus, Immortus, Grandmaster
The Cosmic Menace lives in deep space and seldom visits the Earth. He may be one of a small number of galactic powers who secretly keep the universe running. Heroes become involved with him when they accidentally upset the cosmic applecart, or when the Cosmic Menace’s daily routine threatens the tiny and inconsequential life forms of Earth. Most Cosmic Menaces are “beyond good and evil,” but if the Cosmic Menace is intentionally hostile, it does as it pleases with the confidence that puny humans are unable to interfere.
Examples: Kingpin, Crimson Cowl, Count Nefaria
The Crime Boss sits at the head of an organized crime network, traditionally occupied with such things as kidnapping, theft, extortion, the drug trade, and of course murder for hire (accomplished through the use of the Assassin). The Boss has little or no superhuman powers of his own and is usually opposed by a Dark Avenger or other modestly-powerful vigilante. In addition to an army of Faceless Mobster Minions, he may have Servitors with special talents or even the occasional Monstrosity, usually a grotesque freak of nature who carries out the Boss’s will. The Crime Boss used to be a Mafia man, but in recent decades has become affiliated with foreign crime syndicates like the Yakuza, Russian Mob, or Chinese Triads.
Examples: Kobra, Brother Blood, the Triune Understanding, Ra's Al Ghul
Cult Leaders rely on belief. Often they are Tempters or (more rarely) Dominators. Some may literally rely on their followers for superhuman power (the more followers the Cult Leader has, the more potent his superhuman powers become). Cult Leaders may be gods or have some connection to divinity in their past (making them related to the Mythic Hero and Avatar archetypes).
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Cult Leader, however, is the cult’s willingness to die for the cause or at the merest suggestion of their leader. This often becomes a problem for the heroes. While a Mastermind will send his minions to attack a super-team, the Minions are generally paid and their morale may sometimes be in question when facing superheroes. Masterminds generally exist for that "KILL THEM!" scene wherein a horde of minions attack the heroes. Cult Leaders, however, can operate differently.
The Cult Leader can prevent heroes from acting by placing misguided followers in their way -- followers willing to detonate bombs, make surprise attacks with hidden pistols, or carry secretly implanted viral or chemical weapons into a crowd. Since cultists are ‘misguided’, killing them is usually not an option for heroes.
A Cult may appear as an innocuous entity, all the while acting as a front for criminal or otherwise unsavory activities. Loved ones can be drawn into what appears to be a philanthropic group, while heroes who know the truth in their heroic identities find themselves unable to warn their girlfriend/aunt/brother without giving away their secret life. Cults can be blatantly religious (Brother Blood), appear to be a self-help/self-empowerment group (Triune Understanding), or be age old conspiracies (Kobra). In the case of the “self empowerment group”, it is often the case that people join innocently, but fall victim to some form of mind control or brainwashing when their potential use as a lever against the heroes is discovered; this can sometimes lead to the creation of a temporary or permanent Girlfriend Gone Bad.
Examples: Venom, Abomination, General Zod
The Dark Mirror is the evil opposite of a particular hero, and that hero is the Mirror’s archenemy. His powers may be virtually identical to hero, or be a twisted inversion.
The Dark Mirror usually had a connection to the hero before powers were gained; he may have been a relative (father or brother), coworker, or lab assistant.
The Dark Mirror often serves the purpose of showing that “Powers Don't Make The Man". The contrast between the actions of the hero and his Dark Mirror show the innate heroic nature of the true superhero.
Examples: Mephisto, Neron, Goblin Queen
The Devil is a villain who is specifically linked to Hell or an infernal lookalike. Because the Devil lives in Hell, it is hard for heroes to attack him, and he usually has a legion of Faceless Demon Minions who obey his commands. He wields impressive magical power (like the Magician), and may be so powerful that the heroes can only hope to defeat his minions while tricking the Devil himself into departing (like the Force of Nature). Sometimes the Devil is a Tempter, or he may pursue “evil for evil’s sake.” Unlike most heroes, the Devil is usually incapable of redemption and is incapable of doing good (like the Nazi).
Examples: Controller, Maxwell Lord, Mister Mind, Purple Man, Starro
The Dominator makes you do something you don’t want to do. Often this is accomplished through the use of psychic powers, but the Dominator may use good old fashioned blackmail or hostages in order to persuade the hero to play along. The Dominator has charisma, but it’s dusty for lack of use. His other physical abilities are far inferior to the heroes; if the hero can break free of the Dominator’s control, he may require nothing more than a size 9 shoe to eliminate the Dominator himself.
Dominators come in two flavors - Insidious and Blatant. The Insidious Dominator controls his victims in such a way that the control cannot be noted. This type of Dominator is good for use in plotlines involving intrigue, mystery, betrayals, and secret plots. By taking control of the right people, the Insidious Dominator can cause havoc that cannot quickly or easily be traced back to themselves. Take over the police chief, and have superheroes declared a public menace. Take over the President, and have the U.S. Army hunt down your nemesis. The Insidious Dominator works particularly well with long-term, subtle plans. The Insidious Dominator can have powers that let them control people, but can just as easily use blackmail or similar ploys.
The Blatant Dominator takes control of his victims in a way that cannot be mistaken as anything other than mental domination. This may be Red Glowing Eyes, turning victims into shadowy or negative-image versions of themselves, or slapping a big one-eyed purple starfish over their faces. The Blatant Dominator hopes to gain control of key superhumans too powerful to be stopped, and use these superbeings as living weapons with which to carry out its plans. Blatant Dominators may use tactics similar to a Cult Leader, and place dominated innocents in harms way as a way to stonewall or distract heroes. Blatant Dominators usually don't use blackmail, though occasionally a superhero's vulnerable girlfriend will find themselves mind-controlled so that the Dominator can then force the normally impregnable superhero to do the Dominator's bidding.
Examples: Mystique, Clayface, Chameleon
The doppleganger is a villain who can change his shape or appearance, so that he could be anyone. The Doppleganger impersonates a succession of different people as required for his mission, and may even impersonate the hero, framing him for misdeeds or otherwise trying to “steal his life.” If a Doppleganger keeps one identity for a very long time, in order to eventually betray the heroes, he may actually be a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.
Examples: the Crime Syndicate, Dark Beast
The Dark Mirror may seem a lot like a particular hero, but the Evil Twin is the hero, probably from another dimension or another timeline. Long ago, when the Evil Twin was confronted with a moral choice that could have turned him into a hero, he chose evil instead. This failing has snowballed, so that the Evil Twin now represents everything the hero could have been, had he chosen to follow a path of darkness rather than light.
Examples: Hydra, AIM, COBRA
The Faceless Minions are fanatically loyal servants of a Mastermind, Conqueror, or other powerful villain. They come in infinite varieties, such as the Faceless Demon Minion, the Faceless Nazi Minion, and the Faceless Robot Minion. They usually wear uniforms that conceal their features, making it harder to know exactly how many of them there are or even if they are truly human. Faceless Minions by themselves seldom pose much of a threat to the hero; they are armed with guns and other basic military gear. But sometimes a Mastermind will equip his Minions with a new doomsday device or a weapon specially tailored to defeat the hero. They often take a poisonous or otherwise dangerous creature as their totem symbol, especially if it is some kind of snake. (No comic book universe is complete without its Faceless Snake Minions.)
The Thug is related to the Faceless Minion and usually serves a Crime Boss. He differs in that he actually has a tiny bit more personality than the Faceless Minion (after all, he has a face) and is usually armed with less high-tech gear. The Thug also appears in smaller numbers than the Faceless Minion, since Thugs are opposed by single vigilantes while the Faceless Minions attack entire teams of superhumans.
Examples: Maestro, Monarch, Parallax
The Fallen Hero has become a villain through moral failing or weakness, or by making a single fateful decision that had tragic ramifications. While a Power Corrupted can sometimes return to a heroic path, the Fallen Hero is usually doomed to remain a villain. At best, he can return to a heroic way of life, but he will no longer be trusted by other heroes.
Force of Nature
Examples: Juggernaut, Nightmare, Magneto
While related to the heroic Master of the Elements, the Force of Nature is a villain who is so powerful he cannot be fought directly. Instead, the heroes must struggle to control the after-effects of the villain’s passage and, in order to defeat him, somehow outwit him or use the rules of his own powers against him. The Force of Nature is the evil version of the heroic Embodiment.
Examples: Yellow Claw, Mandarin, Ras al’Ghul
The Foreigner is most notable for the fact that he is from a non-Western country. He may be yellow-skinned, brown, or black, but whatever his skin color he represents a non-American view of the world and he may seek to impose his own culture on others. Alternately, he considers himself to be a defender of his culture against American imperialism. The foreigner is often secretive and mysterious, possessed of ancient fighting techniques or occult powers unknown to Western science. When he comes to America, he often appeals to members of his ethnic group who already live in the US, possibly recruiting them as allies (or alienating them and turning them into allies of the hero). To defeat the Foreigner, the hero must leave the safety of his home and venture into a distant land; there, he will be surrounded by strangers and bereft of his usual weapons. The Foreigner is the evil version of the Minority Hero archetype.
Girlfriend Gone Bad
Examples: Star Sapphire, Madame Masque, Malice, Magenta
It is rough to be a Significant Other in comics; you are inevitably obligated to turn evil, either secretly plotting against your partner or else donning an actual costume and using sudden superpowers to make his life miserable. Sometimes the Girlfriend Gone Bad is operating out of a perverted sense of good, such as when she thinks that if she can scare her man into retirement, the two of them can live happily ever after. Other Girlfriends are trying to stand up to their boyfriend in an effort to be taken seriously. Usually the relationship ends when the Girlfriend’s villainous activities are revealed, but in a very few cases the two can patch up their differences or blame the Girlfriend’s recent activities on a Dominator or Tempter.
The male version of this archetype, the Boyfriend Gone Bad, is rarer only because female superheroes in general are rare.
The Girlfriend Gone Bad can be the victim of brainwashing, a bad childhood, psychological problems, or demonic possession, just to name a few. Some villains, to just flaunt their power over a hero, will turn a loved one into a Girlfriend Gone Bad so that the hero may die at the hand of their beloved. Ah, the twisted irony of the truly evil! This usually backfires.
Related Archetype: Power Corrupted, Fallen Hero
Examples: Battle-Beast, Kraven, Lady Shiva
The Gladiator is out to test himself against superheroes (and the occasional supervillain). He may see fighting as a contest, as a method of self-improvement, or as the only occupation worth pursuing. This may be a “Most Dangerous Game” sort of character.
If the hero can prove his worth to the Gladiator, the Gladiator may end up allying with him, at least temporarily. The Gladiator is often a master of martial arts or a weapon master. He may pursue an Assassin’s life to pay the bills, but his heart isn’t in it.
Heir to Lovecraft
Examples: Rasputin, Modred the Mystic, Johnny Sorrow
The Heir to Lovecraft serves things with tentacles that dwell beyond space and time (or are buried deep underground, or at the bottom of the sea). His masters are incarnations of madness, beings inconceivable by the human mind and outside of mortal understanding. These beings may wish to destroy all life, may be by their nature anathemic to life, or may wish nothing at all and not even notice they have followers. Though possibly the Heir's masters are shades of alien light, unhearable sounds, beings that exist in sixteen dimensions, or sentient concepts, they usually tend to manifest as tentacular horrors, insectile horrors, or fish-like horrors, or some combination of the above. Some Heirs to Lovecraft are not totally human themselves. Often primordial races still exist in the Earth's hidden corners and worship these ancient beings, and are the main means for a would-be heir to educate himself about these strange cosmic deities.
Related Archetypes: Servitor (they are in many ways Servitors themselves, in addition to employing them), Cult Leader
Hero In Disguise
Examples: Shroud, Triathlon
Some villains aren’t really villains at all, but rather heroes who are acting like or appear to be villains. The hero may change his identity in order to pass as a “new villain on the scene”, or he may keep his heroic identity and claim that he has “gone bad”, staging a crime to prove his change of heart. (This usually works for at least a short time.) Heroes who have been forced to perform crimes due to the actions of a Dominator are also manifestations of the Hero in Disguise, as are Heroes who are somehow suspected of being villains based on their origin or associates.
Examples: Mr. Myxzptlyk, Impossible Man, the Beyonder
The Imp is a fantastically powerful little kid who uses his powers for his own amusement. There is nothing the Imp cannot do (making him something of a Cosmic Menace), and this usually means he is very bored. The hero is chosen to amuse the Imp, usually by surviving whatever crazy game the Imp has invented this month. The Imp does not intend to cause harm, but the lives and concerns of ordinary people are not something he understands or cares about, so the hero is kept busy performing damage control until the Imp can be tricked into departing. Sometimes, however, the Imp gets mean and chooses to hurt people.
Kid Playing With Fire
Examples: Virtually every antagonist from the first two seasons of Smallville
The Kid is young, usually a teenager, and has discovered an amazing new power which he has not yet come to control. It may be the result of recent mutation, or perhaps he has found a mysterious weapon that he does not understand. Regardless, he believes he can control these new powers, and uses them for his own benefit – often for kicks, to gain respect at school, or to get revenge on bullies that have pushed him around. Unfortunately, the Kid Playing With Fire inevitably gets burned when the powers go out of control and hurt someone, possibly the person closest to him. Then the hero must either take or talk the Kid down. The Kid is distinguished from the Power Corrupted because he has no history of heroic deeds before his fall from grace.
The Kid has a short lifespan in comics. He usually either dies, loses his powers, or becomes a Young Hero. If he continues to struggle with his powers after becoming a hero, he might become a Power Corrupted.
Examples: Baron von Strucker, Viper, Baron Zemo
The Mastermind is served by a legion of Faceless Minions and a few Servitors or Monstrosities. He is not personally powerful enough to be a Conqueror, but he aspires higher than the Crime Boss. Some Masterminds adopt a religious motif and become cult leaders. Usually the Mastermind has only minor powers of his own, supplemented by weapons, gadgets, vehicles, and above all an expansive headquarters.
Examples: Modok, the Awesome Android
The Monstrosity is an artificial creature usually created by Twisted Genius or some tragic accident. It can have almost any sort of power, but it is always hideous to behold. It may be insane, an automaton without self-will, or an inhuman savage dedicated to violence and bloodshed. Ordinary people can also be turned into Monstrosities by science or accident.
Though often an outright monster, the Monstrosity may also be a misunderstood creature - perhaps a being that has never been shown love, or acts a monster because it is all it has ever known. Such Monstrosities can become heroes given a nudge in the right direction, and will often feel indebted to the hero who saw potential in them. Just as easily, though, a Monstrosity can flirt with turning good, only to revert to its more savage nature when the going gets tough.
Examples: Red Skull, Fear Monger, Ultra-Humanite, Captain Nazi, Dyna-Man
The 20th century’s chosen incarnation of evil, Nazis are distinguished by three things. First, they are endless. Second, they are instantly recognizable. Finally, there is no moral ambiguity in fighting or killing them. These facts account for their popularity.
The Nazi is probably also a Supremacist and, if he can arrange it, is served by Faceless Nazi Minions. Sometimes the Nazi conceals his true calling under another guise, a fascism which is not as easily recognizable. This can make the Nazi a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.
In the 1960s and ‘70s the Nazi was replaced by the Communist. Now the Communist is seldom seem, except in the form of the Old Guard – a Communist who clings to his ideals even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Old Guard can sometimes earn some tragic sympathy from readers, unlike the Nazi, who is irredeemable.
Examples: Metallo, Prometheus, Nemesis Kid, Goldface
The Nemesis is created to be the enemy of a specific hero. He does not have the hero’s own powers (that is the Dark Mirror) but instead has powers which play on the hero’s weakness. He is often created by or serves Crime Bosses, Masterminds, Conquerors or Ultimate Villains.
Examples: Thanos, Chthon, Doomsday
The nihilist wants to destroy the world, the universe, or everything. Nihilists who exist only to destroy a particular hero may actually be a Nemesis. The Heir to Lovecraft serves ancient gods who are probably, in themselves, Nihilists. Because a Nihilist sometimes has vast reach, he may also be a Cosmic Menace.
Examples: The Hulk, Radioactive Man, Godzilla
The Nuclear Nightmare is an incarnation of modern fears concerning atomic energy. He is the evil version of the Master of the Atom. The Nuclear Nightmare is traditionally impossible to control, possessed of great power, and terrifying in appearance.
Examples: Dark Phoenix, Scarlet Witch, Obsidian
Sometimes a hero’s powers grow too great, and she falls from the path of good to become a powerful force for evil. The Power Corrupted escapes some of the responsibility for her actions; it’s not entirely her fault that she has turned to evil. The source of her power is often to blame. No one could have withstood this level of temptation forever, and it is often a miracle that the hero stayed heroic for as long as she did. The Power Corrupted may also be turned evil by the action of a Dominator or Mastermind.
Examples: The Joker, Murmur
The psychopath is distinguished from other villains by his insanity. This is sometimes a serial killer mentality, but it may be some other sort of serious derangement.
Some Psychopaths are crazy in a way that is harmless; they appear in lighthearted stories and are more silly than dangerous. These are the Lunatic villains, a sort of cross between the Psychopath and the Comic Relief archetype.
Examples: Silver Surfer, Executioner, Desaad
The Servitor is devoted to another, much more powerful, villain. His powers are either a pale reflection of the master, or are highly specialized in one field that the master does not pursue. If the Servitor kills for money, he is probably an Assassin. If the Servitor has no intelligence and exists mostly to beat people up, he might be a Monstrosity.
Examples: Dracula, Werewolf by Night
The evil version of the Occult Hero, the Supernatural Horror is a vampire, werewolf, zombie, or other “classic” monster. He may seek to spread his own kind (making him a Supremacist) or he may have made a deal with a Devil. (If the Supernatural Horror is a demon, he may even be a Devil himself.) If he can work magic in addition to his supernatural powers, he is a Warlock, and if he serves an insane deity he may be an Heir to Lovecraft.
Examples: Brainiac, Gorilla Grodd, Magneto, Ultron
The Supremacist believes in a particular cause that is superior to all others. This may be a political philosophy (usually fascism or communism) or a racist agenda. In this last case, he believes that his particular form of life – be it animals, robots, mutants, or something else – is innately superior to mankind. Therefore, man should be exterminated to make room for the Supremacist and his chosen people. The Supremacist is remarkable in that he functions very much like a terrorist, he has a “Righteous Cause” he will not debate, and he cannot generally be reasoned with. He may not be happy with having to kill a lot of beings, but he’ll kill them.
The Supremacist usually has overtones of the Nazi. If he can afford them, he is probably served by Faceless Minions, but some Supremacists prefer to work in the shadows in order to escape the attention of authority while others lead such a small, select group of Servitors that not enough Minions can be found.
Examples: Enchantress, Poison Ivy, White Queen
The classic “Femme Fatale,” the Temptress is a villain who achieves her goals by seducing others. Traditionally, the Temptress wants someone dead and she wants a heroic man to do the deed for her. She is distinguished from the Dominator by an emphasis on sexual desire and by the fact that while the Dominator is willing to force his desire on others, the Temptress “makes you want it.” Sometimes the Temptress is actually a Tempter, and male, and in this guise makes offers of power which the hero tries to refuse.
Example: Mirror Master, Toyman, Green Goblin
The Theme Villain performs crimes and uses weapons based around a particular theme or conceit, like “birds” “books” or “the circus.” Usually he has few or no powers himself, but he may be equipped with fantastic weapons or devices that make him a match for his archenemy.
Example: Catwoman, Shadowthief, Carmen Santiago, Fantomex
The Thief is here to steal. He may battle heroes, but this is incidental to his objective, which is relieving the wealthy of their loot. The Thief may only steal a particular kind of thing (in which case he may be a Theme Villain) or may work for a Crime Boss. If captured by a hero, the Thief can sometimes persuade the hero to release him.
Examples: Maximus, Arnim Zola, Mr. Freeze
This villain is bent on proving his mental superiority and the validity of his theories. They probably called him mad back at the Academy. He is not a criminal out of love of crime or money, though he often feels forced to steal in order to either fund his research or continue his experiments. The Twisted Genius is related to the heroic Gadget Guy, and he can sometimes be found in the service of a Mastermind or Conqueror who can supply the Genius with the materials he requires.
Examples: Darkseid, Loki, Despero
The Ultimate Villain can only be defeated by the combined action of the world’s mightiest heroes. In fact, he may be the reason the super-team got together in the first place, and his existence validates the team’s existence.
The Ultimate Villain has power on a tremendous scale, but it is his ambition and independent thought that distinguishes him from the Villain With All Your Powers. He may be a Mastermind, Conqueror, or Cosmic Menace. He may be the Nemesis or Dark Mirror of one of the heroes on the team he battles.
Villain With All Your Powers
Examples: Mimic, Amazo, Super-Skrull, Super-Adaptoid, Rogue, Taskmaster
The VWAYP is created by a Twisted Genius or discovered by a Mastermind in order to oppose a particular team of heroes. To accomplish this task, the VWAYP is equipped with all their powers, with the ability to mimic or (even worse) steal those powers. Although extraordinarily dangerous, the VWAYP is usually a Servitor who prefers to leave the master plans to others. This makes him slightly less dangerous in the long term, though he can still kick the heroes around the block in the short term.
Examples: Felix Faust, Mordru, Baron Mordo, Kulan Gath
The Warlock is the villain equivalent of the Magician archetype, and is notable for his great power. Sometimes it seems the Warlock can do almost anything, and is limited only by his own imagination or by the need to recite magic words. He may be equipped with artifacts of mystic might which complement his powers and allow him to bring magic back into the world, send the heroes to another dimension, or transform part of the city into a magical paradise. If the Warlock serves enormous squid floating in the depth of space, he is probably an Heir of Lovecraft. He may also have Faceless Minions, serve the Devil, or have Monstrosities to do his dirty work for him.
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Examples: Terra, Tao, the Thunderbolts, Mekanique
This villain looks like a hero until she blows her cover. The Wolf may be revealed to the reader, but not to other heroes (Thunderbolts) or may be kept secret from hero and reader alike until a key moment (Terra). Sometimes a hero is suspected of being a Wolf but is not (Triathlon), making him a Hero in Disguise. The Wolf is usually serving a Mastermind and she may have second thoughts about betraying her new friends on the hero team.
Even More Archetypes ...
If you have the Field Guide to Super Heroes, most of the archetypes listed in that book have a villainous version. We haven’t gone over them all again here, because that would be really boring for you. However, we have included a line or two about each of the heroic archetypes, where we thought it necessary. The villain version of a heroic archetype usually has the same sort of powers, origin, and plotlines that the hero has, though with variations that explain the villain’s life of crime. Villain versions of heroic archetypes are often seen in comics as the Dark Mirror or Evil Twin villain, both of which are discussed in detail in the Field Guide to Super Villains.
Alien Hero: Usually a Conqueror, Cosmic Menace, or Faceless Minion. The Alien Villain is really just an extraterrestrial version of the Foreigner.
Android: Often found as a Servitor.
Animal Hero: Depending on his powers, the Animal Villain could be an Assassin or a Faceless Animal Minion who has been promoted. But because of the occasional tragic lab accident, he might be a Twisted Genius or Monstrosity.
Armored Wonder: Often a Mastermind, Twisted Genius or Conqueror.
Astronaut: Pretty rare as a villain; most Astronaut Heroes encounter Foreigner Alien Villains who want to conquer the Earth. However, Astronaut Villains who return to Earth are probably Twisted Geniuses.
Avatar: A villain who thinks he is a god of the underworld may be a Devil. He may also be an Ultimate Villain.
Comic Relief: The Imp is a Comic Relief villain (as is the Lunatic, a variation of the Psychopath). Sometimes an Evil Twin who isn’t really evil – just really silly – can be Comic Relief. Some villains start off quite serious but, as time passes, come to be seen as useless and weak. They either stay Comic Relief or get reinvented in a more dangerous mode.
Creepy Hero: The Creepy Villain is probably a Psychopath.
Dark Avenger: There is an evil version of this archetype: the Vigilante. It’s identical to the Dark Avenger in every way except degree. A villainous Dark Avenger may become a Psychopath.
Descendant: Villains have children too. Daughters of villains are especially likely to become Temptresses or Girlfriends Gone Bad. Sons of villains take up their father’s mantle.
Divine Hero: A Divine Villain is probably a Devil or possibly a Fallen Angel Hero.
Embodiment: The Force of Nature is the villain version of the Embodiment, but he is also closely related to the Ultimate Villain or Cosmic Menace.
Femme Feline: Often a Thief or Temptress, the Femme Feline is already a little bit villain.
Feral Hero: A Feral Hero who gives in to the animal side may become a Power Corrupted or Monstrosity.
Focused Hero: Plenty of villains have only one superpower going for them, and not much else. So this archetype is, if anything, more common among villains than heroes.
Gadget Guy: The Twisted Genius is pretty close to a villainous Gadget Guy, though if the Gadget Guy only wants to steal, kills for pay, or has lofty goals then he is a Thief, Assassin or Mastermind, respectively.
Handicapped Hero: The Handicapped Villain usually blames a hero, or society at large, for his handicap and seeks to overcome it through his Twisted Genius. If he takes out his frustration on a particular hero, he may be a Nemesis or Dark Mirror.
Jungle Hero: The Jungle Villain is a Foreigner, a savage who brings his occult traditions to the West. He may be a Gladiator, seeking to test his strength against white heroes.
Magician: The evil versions of the Magician are the Warlock and the Heir to Lovecraft, which are explored in more detail elsewhere.
Man of Tomorrow: An evil Man of Tomorrow a) comes from a dystopian future that he seeks to create; b) was defeated in the future and has returned to the past to destroy his enemies before they have grown powerful; or c) is a hyper-evolved “future man” who represents the threat of genetic manipulation gone wrong. This probably makes him a Supremacist.
Master of the Atom: The villain version of this archetype is the Nuclear Nightmare.
Master of the Elements: This archetype is just as common among villains as it is among heroes. A very powerful Master of the Elements can become a Force of Nature.
Master of the Martial Arts: There are plenty of villain martial artists, most of whom see themselves as Gladiators, Dark Mirrors, or (if they wield a technique which the hero cannot stop) a Nemesis. The Crime Boss, Mastermind, or Foreigner may be served by Faceless Martial Arts Minions.
Minority Heroes: Villains are often minorities, but they do not profess to represent their minority in the way that the Minority Hero does. Instead, an ethnic villain becomes a Foreigner, described elsewhere.
Monstrous Hero: The villain version of the Monstrous Hero is the Monstrosity.
Mythic Hero: Villains may be mythical creatures or beings, or choose to model themselves on such things. If they closely resemble mythic creatures, they may be Monstrosities.
Occult Hero: Before there were vampire and werewolf heroes, there were vampire and werewolf villains, discussed here in the Supernatural Horror archetype.
Psychic Hero: A Psychic Villain has much the same powers as his heroic rival, but because he is no longer bound by moral codes he can use his powers of mind control to become a Dominator or Temptress.
Sidekick: Villains don’t usually have sidekicks, but they do have Servitors and Faceless Minions.
Spin-Off Heroine: Yes, even villains have Spin-Off female versions, usually in the form of daughters, wives, or sisters. If the Spin-Off is a villain version of a male hero, the villain is a Dark Mirror.
Super-Patriot: If the Patriot still loves America, but has twisted that love into a perversion of American values, the villain is probably a Dark Mirror of the Super-Patriot or a Fallen Hero. If, however, the Super-Patriot reveres another country, he’s a Foreigner.
Super Weapon: Villainous Super Weapons are quite common; this is a particularly good way to grant instant powers to someone while also ensuring the powers are equally easy to take away. That means the Super Weapon may be a Kid Playing With Fire or a Girlfriend Gone Bad.
Ultimate Hero: The Ultimate Villain is discussed in detail elsewhere.
Undersea Hero: There’s no reason a villain can’t adopt the ocean as his playground, especially since there are so few heroes there. Many Undersea Villains are Supremacists or Conquerors, surrounded by Faceless Atlantean Minions, Servitors, and undersea Monstrosities.
Woman Warrior: A villain version of the Woman Warrior is probably a Gladiator who happens to be female, and wants to prove herself against men.
Weapon Master: The Assassin is particularly likely to be a villainous Weapon Master.
Young Hero: If a villain is young, he is probably either a Kid Playing With Fire, a Descendant, or else so dangerous that if he grows up he will become a Conqueror or Cosmic Menace. The Young Villain poses particular moral challenges for heroes, because no one likes to beat up on a kid, especially if there is any hope for redemption.