Enter the Villains: What Makes a Great Villain?

Image Credit: Photo ITAR-TASS/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis
Image Credit: Photo ITAR-TASS/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

A great villain makes a hero great.

Darth Vader, Hanibal Lector, Lord Voldemort, The Joker. Villains we love to hate. They are so good, we remember their names. Importantly, they make the hero for without a great opponent, we’ll never know how good the protagonist is.

So I created two scary villains. One the mastermind, the other, the muscle. Morloch and Mallis. Both smart, cunning and supremely good at what they do.  And in Shadow of Eden the contest is between money, resources, training, better knowledge, superior planning and tactics and advanced technology against against an ordinary doctor and his hired, out-of-tune private investigator.  Are they up to the task?

Yet, our favorite are human. The joker has a backstory. So does Lord Voldemort. Darth Vader is Luke’s dad and end the end, turns on the Emperor. they have emotions, a past and forces out of their control often shaped them into their current manifestation. Then, we, as an audience, care more about the outcome as we get to know the villains better. They get frustrated, they screw up, they react to losses and we get sucked in. Cardboard, two dimensional villains are neither as interesting nor as fearful.

Great Villains set the action in motion. They create the problem, they set insurmountable odds, and they have every expectation of prevailing. Yet they don’t and we watch as the underdog, the thoroughly overmatched hero, through wits, tenacity, courage and perseverance stands up to the villains and ultimately prevail. And we cheer.


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