Everyone loves good comic villains, but they aren’t a ‘one size fits all’ kind of deal. There is such a huge spectrum of villainous types of characters that there’s a mad meanie for everyone’s taste, from a totally evil bad guy with no chance of redemption to an anti-hero doing a good deed for his own sake to the classic good-turned-bad guy. Characters you love to hate can make any drab story interesting with just a dash of something simple, like psychotic tendencies and murderous intent.
Personally, I think there’s a type that stands head and shoulders above the rest: darling devils. No villain is as dangerous as one who isn’t obviously bad; a villain who snakes his or her way past your defences to gain your trust, those with silk for words who relish in deceit and manipulation. They’re not just villains, they’re real pieces of work. They’re charming. They don’t really need ostentatious weapons or god-like super powers to defeat you, they do it by getting into your head and tricking you into thinking they’re not the enemy. They’re masters of misdirection.
Many villains across the comics and manga world fit the bill, but few instil fear as much as the terrifying Purple Man from the Marvel universe. Incredibly charismatic, but with a vile temper, the Purple Man (otherwise known as Killgrave) uses his natural charm to his advantage when utilising his mind control powers, making him a force to be reckoned with. He’s a character that ruins lives without a second thought by committing heinous acts against others and rips their bodily autonomy from them, most notably in the case of Jessica Jones (formerly the superhero, Jewel).
The Netflix-helmed Jessica Jones TV show brought the character of the Purple Man to life through the talents of David Tennant, and even though we see Killgrave commit the most repulsive acts throughout the series, it’s easy for the audience’s emotional range to bounce from pity to disgust and back again.
It takes a lot of charm to blind us against the actions of a monster but, occasionally, in the TV show at least, you may find yourself thinking that Killgrave can be rehabilitated after all. That is, of course, until his trickery is eventually revealed and you realise you’ve been hoodwinked again.
He’s not the only one who manages to worm themselves into characters’ lives through a combination of their powers and charm, as iconic villains such as the sultry Lust from the Full Metal Alchemist series also demonstrates her ability to seductively ensnare unsuspecting victims. Another such character is The Governor from The Walking Dead series, who is so drowned in his insecurities and his own hopelessness that he hardens his personality and becomes a truly psychopathic shell of his former self.
An exceptionally gifted liar, I imagine he would’ve made a very good politician in the pre-apocalyptic world. A talent like that certainly comes in handy when recruiting PTSD-ridden survivors of the zombie hordes to do your bidding. He may be a bad guy but he’s very very good at pretending he’s not.
Another charming villain adept at trickery, and one who I was genuinely surprised to find out had an evil agenda, is Aizen from Bleach. I was truly floored when Aizen’s plans and his mass hypnosis were revealed. I had been so fooled by his pleasant smile and genuine eyes that I ignored any clues littered throughout the many chapters of the Bleach series, and it goes to show that the characters certainly never had a chance.
Some characters who had been diehard Aizen loyalists, like his lieutenant Momo Hinamori, didn’t recover from his betrayal for a very long time, and arguably never did. A true sociopath, Aizen sees everyone as a pawn to use in order to get his way, and has no emotional attachment to anyone or anything other than his own agenda. Naturally, this makes him an exciting villain who is still a fan-favourite many years later.
One cannot speak about talented and charming manipulators without giving an honourable mention to the god of lies and mischief himself, Loki. Although Tom Hiddleston, who plays Thor’s sneaky brother in the Marvel movies, couldn’t pretend to be genuine to save himself (that smug smile gives his intentions away every time) the comic version of Loki is both charming and incredibly dangerous. Self-centered and arrogant, Loki’s actions all come back to what is best for himself and his own interests. Able to cast extensive illusions, Loki can alter what a person thinks is reality and change how he is portrayed, landing him firmly in the liars hall of fame.
Ultimately, a villain who lays his or her plans out bare and brazenly states their intentions is a whole lot less threatening than one that keeps you guessing behind a facade of innocence. And, in my opinion, they make the best villains.
What do you think? Who do you think are the most charming villains in the comics or manga world? Let us know in the comments!