Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Best Worst Villain, EVER. (Part Five: What's your plan, man?)

The final installment!

Part Five in my ongoing investigatory series in which I'm whittling down all the villains, ever, into just the one Best Worst Villain, EVER.
Part One: Naming The Villains.
Part Two: Let's Lose The Chicks.
Part Three: Go It Alone.
Part Four: Sure you're crazy, but just how crazy are you?

Everyone's got to have a goal. Maybe even more than one. And the higher the goal, the better, right? Reach for the stars, we're told, because even if you don't make it, you'll get farther than you would have otherwise. I'm pretty sure that's more or less how that inspirational poster, or t-shirt, or poster-featuring-a-guy-wearing-a-t-shirt, goes.

I've never actually liked that quote, myself. I've never gotten it, actually, and in my own mind, I rephrase the quote to be this:

Don't reach for the stars, because your arms are in no way long enough to actually reach the stars, and you'll look foolish standing there with your arms up over your head reaching into the sky with people asking you what it is you're doing. Instead, if you want to actually reach the stars, why not learn something about rocket science and help spearhead a project to send humankind into space, since that's more likely to work and will have tangible benefits for you and for humanity, whereas just standing there with your arms up over your head really doesn't do anything for anyone.

Equally inspirational, right? And helpful, which is important in the Motto Business. Too many Mottos don't have any real world value anymore. A stitch in time saves nine? Who stitches anymore? Nowadays, if clothes get a little ripped, people throw them out. Heck, most people throw them out if they think the clothes might rip someday.

Or what about this Japanese "Motto" I got from "Mottos From The Web:"

"Live as one already dead."

How is that supposed to work? What does that even mean? Live as one already dead? Does that mean I'm supposed to decay? Lie around all day? Crave brains? I'm mystified. And I shouldn't be, because I doubt one already dead would be mystified. Unless I was dead and someone told me that saying, which I think could even mystify the dead. That saying is what's wrong with Japan.

Well, that saying and vending machines that sell teenage girls' underwear.

An inspirational motto can help one have goals, and goals are important, because without goals, we're all just going through the motions of life while not heading anywhere. A goal keeps your life from being one big hamster wheel. Setting your sights on something, anything, gives you a reason to keep doing the things you're doing.

Take me, for example. I have all kinds of goals, some of which are long-term goals (e.g., 1. Get published & make enough money to move to Hawaii, 2. Invent an entirely new kind of doughnut) and some of which are short-term (Don't let my boss figure out that I'm blogging and listening to Dan Patrick online when he thinks that I'm writing a brief). I'm a very goal-oriented person, the kind of person who, now that he thought of it, really does want to invent a new kind of doughnut, the kind of person who isn't sure, exactly, how to go about that but who thinks it might be a pretty big deal if he were to achieve that goal.

The kind of person who, while typing that last paragraph, suddenly thought of Bear Claws, and then wondered if Bear Claws are the same as Apple Fritters, and who then suddenly wanted an apple fritter/Bear Claw very badly. A goal-oriented person who wants an apple fritter/Bear Claw very badly.

Villains, as a group, tend to also be goal-oriented people. That's one of the things that sets them apart from the rest of humanity, and from heroes. In fact, villains are among the most goal-oriented people, while heroes are among the least. If there were a spectrum, then, villains would be at the goal-oriented end of the spectrum, while heroes would be at the just-lazing-about end of the spectrum.

There should be a spectrum. I'll make it so:

Creating that picture made me think it's been a long time since I heard Heroes & Villains by The Beach Boys. So let's listen to that:

As shown on the Spectrum, heroes, as a whole, are not very motivated or goal-oriented people. What goals did you ever hear set by, say, Superman, or Spider-Man, or Timmy Smith?

You all remember Timmy Smith, right? He was the hero of the Redskins' 42-10 victory over the Broncos in the Super Bowl. So a great running back, maybe, but goal-oriented? Also probably maybe, in that running backs are trying to get across the goal line.

So Timmy Smith, alone among heroes, has a goal. But other heroes do not. They don't set out to do something, on their own. They react to other people doing things. Did you ever see Superman get up in the morning and say "Today I'm going to make the world a better place by slowing down the Earth's rotation a tiny bit so that the day is a bit longer and people can enjoy their lives a little more?" No, you didn't. Because he didn't do things like that. He just sat around in his Fortress of Solitude, being all Solitudey, until someone was in danger and he went and reacted.

Ordinary people, as shown on the Spectrum, are somewhat goal-oriented. We want to get a promotion, or get home from work on time, or make sure that we set our DVRs to tape Web Soup because we're not really sure when it's on, and in fact, we secretly suspect that Web Soup is making "new" shows by combining some clips from old shows with some new clips, so that each show kind of seems familiar, making us feel as though we're losing our minds, just a little, because we're never sure if we've seen this Web Soup before or not, so we just tape and watch them all. That's the kind of goals ordinary people set. Heroes, to the extent they have goals, have them when they're in their ordinary-person alter-ego. Spider-Man had no goals. Peter Parker did, though: he wanted to be a photographer and hook up with Mary Jane. Harry Potter, as a wizard, had no goals; he just tried to survive Voldemort's attacks. But Harry Potter, as a teenager had goals: He wanted to be good at Quidditch, and he wanted to hook up with Ginny Weasley.

I'm starting to see a trend there.

Villains, in contrast to ordinary folks and heroes, have goals-a-plenty. No good villain lacks for motivation and no good villain will ever be caught short-handed in the ambition department. Whether it be robbing that bank on the street corner or creating an army of praying mantises to help drive Starbucks off the face of the Earth or good, old-fashioned let's just take over this planet and all the others, villains know that it's easier to get out of bed in the morning when there's a purpose in your life.

And the greater the ambition, the greater the villain. Measuring the goals of the remaining villains on the list will help us eliminate a few more candidates and move further towards the goal of this series, towards choosing The Best Worst Villain, EVER.

Here's our remaining candidates for that title:

Solomon Grundy (New addition!)
Token Female: Reverse Wonder Woman.
The Lizard.
Marvin The Martian
Doctor Octopus
Lex Luthor
The Joker
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Ivan Drago (suggested by The Boy)
The Anti-Monitor
Gorilla Grodd.

The goals of that group vary from Gorilla Grodd's "Beat up Flash and Wonder Woman" all the way up to The Anti-Monitor's "Destroy the Multiverse."

The first obvious starting point is to get rid of those whose goals are too small, then. As commendable as it is to have a goal (you hear me, you layabout heroes? Get a goal! You've got super-powers, for God's sake. Why are you just sitting around waiting for someone to attack, instead of using your x-ray vision to diagnose people's diseases, having your power ring help people commute to work carbon-free, and otherwise improving the world?), as commendable as that is, having a goal that's small-potatoes gets you kicked out of the running for Best Worst Villain, EVER. And so we say goodbye to The Lizard, whose goal was to find a way to heal himself and/or to beat Spider-Man. We bid adieu to Doc Ock, too, as his goal was...

... what was Doctor Octopus' goal? Maybe he didn't have one. I think he got to be a villain when an accident grafted those arms on, and then he was just out to harass Spidey, for some reason. If he ever had a plan, then I don't know what it was. Whatever. He's out.

The Joker's gone, too. While he occasionally spouted off about anarchy in the last Batman movie, his obvious goal was to just create trouble. And, yeah, that's a goal, but it's not a very good goal. It's the same goal my 3-year-old Babies! have, really: Mess things up, yell a lot, don't let anyone sleep in on Saturdays. If The Joker had regularly taken his pants off when company was around, he'd have been my 3-year-olds.

And Mahmoud Ahmendijad's out for the exact same reason.

Ivan Drago (suggested by The Boy) had as his only goal beat Rocky. Not only is that a small-time dream, but any goal that makes me think of the hit 70s song Rocky by Austin Roberts is not a very good goal.

Grodd's out, too, but let's face it -- he was always going to be kicked out. As Darwin made very clear in his Origin of Species, "survival of the fittest" means that whenever humans and monkeys fight, monkeys lose. (The same is true, strangely, whenever platypusses fight with the Forgotten Gods Of the Maori: when that happens, monkeys lose.)

(Note: If there is not, in New Zealand lore, a legend in which the Platypus is created by the Maori Gods as an example of human perfection, only to then turn on them and try to take the Gods' place in the heavens, resulting in an epic battle, the end result of which is that Platypus loses and is transformed into the humorous creature we now know, if that legend doesn't already exist, then dibs.)

(Note, two: I'm not sure Platypusses live in New Zealand.)

(Note, three: I'm also not sure that "Platypusses" is the plural of "Platypus." Maybe it should be "Platypi?")

Solomon Grundy
is a harder case. He's my sentimental favorite in this journey; I really would like him to win even though I didn't remember he existed until midway through the series. But I'm not sure that "getting Jade To Love Him and occasionally being a hero" is a worthy-enough goal, and the fact is, he's made up of sewage, which would not be very pleasant to sit next to at the awards ceremony, so I'll kick him out.

Next goes Voldemort. His goal: Beat a kid. That's what it boils down to, doesn't it? He set out originally to conquer the wizard world, but then his whole quest devolved into Beating up a twelve-year-old boy who couldn't even do magic properly. (I never got that; if Harry Potter was such a powerful, magical person, why couldn't he cast spells even as good as Hermione, who was from a Muggle family?)

And, lastly, Lex Luthor is gone, because deep down inside, I think Lex's main goal, all along, was to get his hair back, which means that all of Lex Luthor's villainy, all his fights, all his genius and giant robots and death rays and jetpacks, all of it amounted to being embarrassed about baldness. Which, in turn, means that eventually, Lex Luthor will just come out and invent a Giant Robot Death Ray JetPack Combover. I can't risk having that as The Best Worst Villain, EVER.

No amount of cool costumes, sexy female
or laser-gun wristbands can rescue

That leaves us with the Destroyers, Villains with large goals:

Marvin The Martian
The Anti-Monitor

So let's get rid of the remainder. Galactus? He was a planet eater who had a surfer working for him as his "herald." As a planet eater, he didn't so much have a goal as he had an eating disorder.

Ozymandias should actually have been kicked out a little earlier, as he relied on others to do his work for him. (He tricked Dr. Manhattan, didn't he? I think he did. Plus, he had that stupid cat-thing. Out.)

The Anti-Monitor and Mangog deserve special mention. Each of them had a clearcut goal. In Mangog's case, it was draw the sword of Odin from its scabbard. Mangog, remember, was a monster created from the combined hatred of a billion billion people. That's a lot of people. To get an idea how many people that is, picture a person:

Got it!

Then multiply that person by a billion:

Um. Okay?

Then, multiply all those people by another billion:

I'm going to get that little backwards "E" symbol...

And the result is this:

That doesn't seem right.

No, wait, wait. The result is this:

Still seems a little wrong.

That's Mangog, and his goal, as the living embodiment of the hatred contained in a billion billion people, was to draw the sword of Odin from its scabbard -- which would have resulted in the end of the universe.

The whole universe.

All of it.

Even platypusses. Platypi. Whatever.

Do you see a problem with that goal? Because I sure do: what's going to happen to Mangog? Isn't he going to die, too? If the whole universe goes?

Of course he is. As noted philosopher Louis C.K. said, "Things that are not can't be, because then nothing wouldn't be. You can't have ... nothing isn't and everything is."

He really did say that, too:

So Mangog wants to destroy the universe with him in it. That's not the smartest goal in the world. Or any world. It's a terrible goal. That's the problem with The Anti-Monitor, too. He wanted to destroy the multiverse, erase it with his anti-matter waves -- but he lives in the multiverse.

Have these guys not thought this through? Obviously not. Thinking things through would have led to a goal along the lines of "I'm going to destroy almost all the multiverse, but leave the parts that I like, and have the citizens of those parts make me their supreme ruler lest I destroy them." Or a plan like "If I'm strong enough to beat up most of Asgard and the Norse Gods, even Balder, and get to the Odinsword, then I can just take over the universe and threaten to pull the Odinsword anytime someone gives me any backtalk."

Those are goals that are worthwhile: Ruling the entire universe, using just the power contained in your own body. Destroying the universe = not a good goal.

And so we come to the final Villain, the Villain that embodies all the criteria required of The Best Worst Villain, EVER. The Best Worst Villain, EVER, is:

Marvin The Martian. Marvin embodies all of the necessary criteria, in that:

1. He is not a woman.
2. He works alone.
3. He's crazy -- but so crazy that he's almost sane, and
4. His goal is a worthwhile one.

Marvin's goal is simple, but majestic: Destroy the Earth. And in its majesty, it is also villainously selfish: He wants to destroy Earth because it obstructs his view of Venus. In that simple, yet enormously tragic goal, Marvin embodies the Best of the Worst: he is willing to destroy an entire planet to improve the view from his Martian condo. His goals are set high, and yet, there is absolutely no redeeming quality to them. He doesn't want to rule the universe, for any reason. He doesn't think he'd be better at running things; at least with some would-be dictators you could say that, that they think things might be better if they were in charge.

He has no revenge motive. He's not trying to get back at anyone. That's something that, while we might disagree with it, we could at least understand it. Oh, yeah, he caused you to lose your hair, I get it. Or something. But Marvin's not out to get back at anyone.

He's not evil, either, not in the typical sense. Sure, yeah, destroying a whole world for selfish reasons is evil, if you want to get technical about it, but he's not, like, mean about it. It's just business, in a sense -- the business of improving his view.

Marvin's simple selfishness put him on a path to world destruction, a path he followed -- and follows still -- singlemindedly, and singlehandedly, a goal he pursues with the calm ruthlessness worthy of The Best Worst Villain, EVER.

Going to comment on this post? If you read it, I'd appreciate a comment. Click here for a longer explanation of why.


Anonymous said...

Marvin the Martian!

I agree. The perfect all time best worst Villian.


Briane P said...

You might be the first commenter to ever actually AGREE with me.

R Scott Steele said...

Marvin has my vote!

R Scott Steele said...

Marvin has my vote! Now who is the best worst hero that will have to keep him from destroying the Earth?