Friday, July 31, 2009

Anti-hero villains

I was just thinking about some of the early Marvel villains. I've always maintained that one of the reasons for Marvel's prominence is that they have better villains than the competition. Part of this is that many Marvel villains were more complex than elsewhere.

This started with FF #1 and the Mole Man. He wasn't just a megalomaniac who wanted to conquer the world. He was a ugly little guy with glasses who wanted to conquer the world because he was too short to get a date.

Magneto's motivations were pretty straightforward at first. He felt that mutants were superior to normal humans so they should be in charge. He was solo in his first appearance in X-Men #1 but he was back a few issues later with the "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants". This was a very strange brotherhood. They all hated each other and only stayed together because they feared Magneto. The brotherhood consisted of the Toad who was mainly there to flatter Magneto's ego. Mastermind was kind of creepy and obviously in it for the power. The unusual ones were the brother and sister - Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Magneto had rescued the Scarlet Witch from a mob earlier. They joined him out of gratitude and stayed out misplaced loyalty and fear.

The X-Men recognized this and tended to go easy on these two. Eventually Magneto was taken off-world by the Stranger and the Brotherhood broke up. Shortly afterward Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch joined the Avengers along with Hawkeye.

Hawkeye was another example. A circus performer, he decided to become a superhero using trick arrows. He quickly foiled a robbery but was soon with the stolen money and assumed to be the thief. Not long after that he met and became infatuated with a Russian agent - the Black Widow. She convinced him to attack Tony Stark's factory which brought him into conflict with Iron Man. Not long after that the Widow wanted to quit spying but her parents were threatened (the became a continuity problem later). She was given a costume and sent to re-enlist Hawkeye. She vanished after this appearance and Hawkeye joined the Avengers.

The Black Widow eventually resurfaced. She had defected and become a member of New York society. She made herself a new costume and tried it out on Spider-Man who was, as usual, wanted by the law himself. SShe eventually joined the Avengers herself.

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