Hate your job? How to become a real-life (and successful) supervillain

Updated August 10, 2017

So you've decided to take the plunge and enter a life of supervillainy. Whether you're a would-be world dominator, a mad scientist or simply a raging engine of destruction, there are a few basic principles you'll have to master in order to become really good at your trade. You'll also need to pick up a few pieces of kit before starting out.

Ignore the advice

If you've spent any time on the internet, you'll have heard a lot of advice for would-be supervillains. Some of it is good, but a lot of it is nonsense. Having sound plans, knowing all your henchmen by name and just shooting good guys instead of putting them in deathtraps are all good ideas, but by the time you've implemented them you're just an ordinary crime boss or dictator, not a supervillain. It's style that makes you super. A bunch of soldiers with guns might be more effective than an atomic killbot, but it has no flair.

Stay in school

If you're going to take over the world, you need an education. From Doctor Doom to Doctor No, a well-educated villain has style and impact. No one's going to be frightened of regular old Mister Doom.

Choose a name carefully

Obviously, getting your doctorate is best if you have a name that either sounds menacing -- like Terror, Doom or Death -- or describes your powers, like Alchemy, Phosphorus or Psycho. If you happen to have a single menacing-sounding name -- like Annihilus or Doomsday -- you're probably better off going the powerhouse route. If you need to make up a name for yourself, try to pick something catchy and memorable. Angle Man might have had great superpowers, but his name was Angle Man and that made him a loser regardless.

Build your brand

Being a good supervillain is all about brand identity. For instance, consider the Fantastic Four's enemy Annihilus. As comics writer Dave Campbell has pointed out, this inhabitant of the Negative Zone reinforces the brand image created by his monstrous, frightening appearance by annihilating things and raving like a maniac. When you're developing your evil schemes, ask yourself how they line up with the nefarious brand you're trying to establish. Design a logo and display it prominently, like Taskmaster is doing here.

There's no kill like overkill

You might think that enough force to achieve your goals is all the force you need. Maybe your weather control device will be enough to hold Metro City to ransom, or your pet octopus will strangle anyone who messes with you. But you'd be wrong. In a world of escalating supervillainy, you're only as good as your latest caper. Imagine what a chump you're going to feel with your stupid octopus when you find out that the Marvel Comics version of Dracula has a cannon on the moon to shoot vampires at the Earth.

Hire tiered minions

A legion of faceless mooks is a requirement for any good world-conqueror, but it's not enough. You'll need a second tier of henchmen (and henchwomen) if you really want to establish yourself in the villainy game. Each of them needs a distinctive uniform, one special ability and a personality that can be summed up in a few words, such as "sultry double agent" or "bloodthirsty assassin."

Make it personal

In any other job, it's a good idea to grow a thick skin and learn not to take things personally. In villainy, quite the opposite applies. There's no drama or tension in saying "well, you win some, you lose some" when the good guys haul you off to jail or blow up your planet-busting doomsday weapon. Instead, gnash your teeth, bellow "CURSE YOU!" and swear revenge. You'll find a whole range of new revenge-motivated schemes makes itself known.

Go big when you go home

Real-life crime bosses or terrorist leaders hole up in suburban mansions or fortified compounds. Neither of these are acceptable for a supervillain. You'll need a castle at the bare minimum, or another old standby like a volcano base. If you want to get really creative, however, how about trying an orbiting satellite, nuclear submarine or even your own pocket alternate dimension?

Consider the villain team-up

If one evil mastermind is good, surely seven is better! Villain team-ups are a staple of plans for world domination; famously, teams like the Legion of Doom united great villains like Lex Luthor and The Joker. After all, nothing could work better than a group of devious, treacherous, self-obsessed megalomaniacs trying to cooperate, right?

Never leave a corpse

As everyone knows, a supervillain isn't dead until the hero sees the corpse. To take full advantage of this, design your lair accordingly. Reactors that blow up at the drop of a hat, waterfalls into fast-moving rivers and getaway planes that crash at the slightest provocation are all ways to end your career in a fireball or splash, ensuring that you'll soon return. Alternatively, consider investing in robot duplicates, easily-manipulated twins or versions of yourself from a parallel universe.

Related: Art imitating life: Films based on real-life crimes

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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.