Just like every action needs a reaction, just like every will.i.am needs a Fergie, so too does every hero need a sweet group of villains to beat up on. But what we want to know is, what heroes have the best villains? In the many exciting worlds of comics (and the movies and cartoons that they sire), what characters can claim the most dastardly collection of do-badders around?
The Coolest: Though he's arguably the world's greatest superhero, the Last Son of Krypton doesn't have as much going for him in the bad guy department as he should. Obviously Lex Luthor makes for a pretty credible threat, but really it's the malevolent living computer Brainiac that takes the cake for most impressive Superman villain, especially given his updated origin that makes him responsible for the destruction of Superman's home planet of Krypton. That's one nasty reboot sequence.
Looks Lame, But is Actually Pretty Sweet: Mr. Mxyzptlk is a tiny floating imp from the fifth dimension who wears a tight orange jumpsuit and a silly hat… pretty lame, right? But his fifth-dimensional powers let him do pretty much whatever he wants to, like, say, turn Metropolis' skyline into JELL-O. (How deliciously dangerous!) Yes, he only uses his abilities for mischief, but what he considers mischief can be mortal terror to us. Also, in the cartoon he was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. That alone makes him solidly awesome.
Just Lame: Depending on the version of the character you're talking about, Toyman is either a pervy-looking old man who obsesses over kids or a doll designed by a pervy middle-aged man who obsesses over kids. His powers include… well, basically just playing with toys. Sometimes he makes toys that explode and stuff, but generally he's no more dangerous than your average creepy dude... trouble around schools, but no match for the Man of Steel.
The Coolest: Unlike most of the other guys on our list, the Flash doesn't really have any big-named villains to fight. He does, however, have the only crew of bad guys that just hangs out together. They call themselves "The Rogues" (cute, right?) and they even have a little clubhouse where they can go drink, gamble, and figure out ways to frustrate the Fastest Man Alive. Standing a little apart from the rest of that group is The Reverse Flash, also known as Professor Zoom, who uses his impressive speed powers to "make heroes better" by giving them impossible challenges to overcome. Most recently, that meant rewriting reality so most heroes as we know them were never created. He's a pretty twisted dude.
Looks Lame, But is Actually Pretty Sweet: When you hear that the Scottish villain Mirror Master literally has power over mirrors, you're probably not too impressed. But consider that that power extends to any reflective surface, and consider that he can actually use mirrors as doorways that take him anywhere in the world (or at least, anywhere that people can see themselves). He can also trap you in the space between mirrors, wherever that is. Ladies, beware putting on your makeup.
Just Lame: There's no contest: Flash has a villain called The Top, whose power is to spin around really fast. It was weak in Mega Man 3 and it's weak here. Sorry, The Top.
The Coolest: Spider-Man's got a cast of A-list villains to choose from, but if you consider what the villain means to his hero, Venom has got to take the top spot. Here's someone who shows Peter Parker his own dark reflection—what could a person with those impressive powers do if left unchecked by responsibility or ethics? Spider-Man 3 tackled this story pretty poorly, but there are tons of great comics out there that do it well.
Looks Lame, But is Actually Pretty Sweet: Mysterio is an ex-special effects artist/movie buff who walks around with a fishbowl on his head… not that scary. But in the hands of writer/director/actor Kevin Smith, Mysterio became a serious threat, putting all his trickery and expertise to bear constructing an elaborate scenario meant to destroy the superhero Daredevil from the inside out by making him doubt his very identity. That psychological twist makes Mysterio a force to be reckoned with, fishbowl or no.
Just Lame: Kraven the Hunter pursues Spider-Man because he's "the most dangerous game of all" or something. Really he's just a hunting nut who got bored shooting animals and decided to try superheroes instead. Sadly, no amount of hunting prowess can make up for his ridiculous unbuttoned leather vest/no shirt combo.
2. The X-Men
The Coolest: No contest: mutant freedom-fighter Magneto is not only the best villain in comics, but one of the best characters period. Given his awful past (as shown in both movies like X-Men First Class and comics like Magneto Testament), it's hard to criticize him too harshly. Really, it never seems like Magneto is wrong for doing what he does, even if his methods are especially harsh. That moral grey area he embodies makes him undeniably fascinating.
Looks Lame, But is Actually Pretty Sweet: Okay, so the Scarlet Witch may not seem instantly lame, although her monochrome costume and uncontrollable hair don't necessarily strike fear into the hearts of men. But to underestimate her would clearly be a mistake. Her powers are based in probability manipulation, which essentially means she can make the unthinkable happen with a snap of her fingers. A few years ago, that led to the complete destruction of the Avengers. Wanda Maximoff is not to be trifled with.
Just Lame: Toad's powers include agility, spitting acid and being ugly. This is roughly the same power set as Tonya Harding (younger readers, look her up!).
The Coolest: Batman beats up so many of the best villains around, and it's hard to not give this category to the Joker straightaway. But there's a real argument to be made that Two-Face is just as potent a bad guy as the Clown Prince of Crime. Given his background as a lawyer, the man who was Harvey Dent has a strong connection to Batman's pursuit of justice… it's just that he's twisted it into something as ugly as half his person. For an especially great representation of this idea, watch the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Trial."
Looks Lame, But is Actually Pretty Sweet: Mad Hatter may dress like an outcast from a really awful play, but his mind-control technology has given Batman a challenge more than a couple times. Besides that, the dude's problems with the ladies are totally relatable, you guys (though The MindHut does not recommend resorting to mind control to score a date… probably).
Just Lame: Calendar Man is a serial murderer who's been spotlighted in landmark graphic novels like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory; his deal is that he only kills on major holidays. He's perfectly apt at his craft, but dude, could you have picked a worse gimmick? Besides, everyone always knows when you're going to strike next. Maybe try something a little less conspicuous and you won't get caught by Batman all the time.
But of course, everyone knows that really Batman's lamest villain is having not-alive parents. Not cool, random killer. Not cool.
Who's your favorite and least favorite comic book villain?