Monday, February 11, 2008

Villains on parade

2000 AD has a long history of producing villains of high quality. Villains whose evil sears them in the mind of readers for a long time to come. Perhaps the greatest of these, certainly my favourite, is Torquemada. You know, the mad dictator of Termite (future Earth), who vows to kill all aliens, runs the thought police, and generally likes any excuse to torture someone. The one who used to win all those Eagle awards back in the mid 1980s. I was most amused to rediscover that his first appearance in 'Comic Rock' was somewhat tame...

Good old Mills. Anyway, I'm sure I'll find more on Torquemada as my journey through my randomly assorted boxes of back progs continues. For now, let's spend some time with some other classic villain tropes.

First up, the weird-looking ugly villain. A face goes a long way, I find, and Artie Gruber has one of the best - helped of course by Dave Gibbons's mighty pencils.
He's definitely an example of a villain I like way disproportionately to how often he's appeared in the comic, and more so to the stories involving him. He's a pure revenge machine with a nasty hiss and a fear of fire. But I tell you, a good face goes a long way. (of course, Torquemada was to acquire himself a hell of a face by the end of Nemesis book 1)

Revenge, as every knows, is a dish best served cold. Artie was far too hot, and pales in the evil stakes besides Max Bubba. He's also got a face, but for all that it's memorable, it's rather confusing. He's a mutant, sure, but is it just that he's got several extra layers of skin or something? Anyway, here he is being angry, in a sotck Carlos Ezquerra 'my villain is angry!' pose.

That's right, fists up, mouth open, outrage dripping from the panel. Bubba took his time getting revenge on Alpha and Wulf. Of course, he was beaten at his own game by supposed 'hero' Alpha at the end of Rage, which saw revenge served at ludicrously low degrees of Kelvin.

The late 80s and 90s saw a new kind of villain, most artfully created by John Smith - the louche, smoking, probably gay, off-handed torturer. So generic that he even turns up as a mere side character here:
Just look at that panel. A lot of credit goes to regular Smith collaborator Paul Marshall, who conveys everything you need to know about the character in one deceptively simple image. Hell, you don;t even need the speech bubble to know that the man hates foreigners and probably has a small child tucked away in his hotel bedroom. See also: Cinnabar, Firekind, Leatherjack, various Tyranny Rex outings - and of course, anti-hero Devlin Waugh (who's different only because he's muscly and doesn't quite like torture as much). And, y'know, if it works, why not keep doing it?

2000 AD can go straight to mysterious and creepy if it wants to - even Judge Death started out that way, despite the comedy detour he took for many years (which in all honesty I enjoyed quite a bit). Here's a lesser known villain spooking out Judge Hershey via the medium of mirrors.
The Harlequin is another villain I like with no good reason. He's weird-looking and sort of nasty but not nasty. The real problem is that the story he was in didn't make a whole lot of sense - something about children being kidnapped not because he's evil, but because he was rescuing them from an evil place. Very clever I'm sure, but a bit unsatisfying.

And then of course there's the bumbling idiot villain. A villain we know all too well from the world's greatest writing partnership, Wagner & Grant...


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