I’ve got a beef with you, but it’s not what you might expect. It’s not your evil plan, nor your sinister henchmen, nor is it your inability to get over a grudge. Sure, I hate that you guys always seem to choose the types of disasters that is going to make me severely late to work, but at least when you blow up my office building I get a three day weekend.
Here’s the problem with villains: you all die by the same thing. Stupidity.
Stop getting “outsmarted.” I put “outsmarted” in quotations because that’s the term most often used to describe your demise. But let me be clear: you aren’t being outsmarted, there is no wit or comprehensive understanding of some obscure law of physics that the superhero knows about that leads to your defeat. Almost every time you guys die, it’s because you made a suit capable of destroying entire cities and completing a year’s worth of taxes in under 5 minutes, and forgot to remove the giant SELF DESTRUCT button on the back of it.
I want you to rethink the word “outsmart.” Outsmart is a great way of describing the insults Mark Twain was frequent to throw at hunchbacked mouth breathers or Winston Churchill’s biting comebacks. They required wit, mastery of language, knowledge and understanding of whoever is on the receiving end. Punching you in the crotch because you forgot your jockstrap before you went skipping off to destroy the world isn’t the hero outsmarting you; it’s an oversight. It’s the equivalent of being a billionaire, buying a house and all of the expensive cars and forgetting to turn the oven off so your entire fortune burns to the ground. It’s not SEAR’s fault for destroying your house, their oven didn’t have it out for your house, you are stupid and forgot to turn it off.
Cover all of your bases. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a villain make the same mistakes.
“I’m unstoppable!” You villains might shout, “except for this giant light emitting from my forehead, if you so much as breath on that I’ll explode into a million pieces.”
Villains out there are making mistakes every day. I know a lot of you are really trying, honestly doing your best, so I think a couple of pointers might help you get the edge you need. If you find yourself being foiled by the same leotard wearing douchebag, check to see if maybe you’re making one of these ten mistakes.
- Don’t outsource your henchmen
I’m all for having a diversified workforce. Believe me when I say that having a unique array of employees is a great way to ensure that the needs of everyone are met and everyone is being treated fairly. But this is Villainy, not Walmart. Choose people that speak your language so you can order them around easier. Also: the trope of large Russian brute is overused, if there are more than three Russians standing near a black car in leather jackets and track suits, pretty much everyone is going to know they’re up to no good. Try using nice old ladies as henchmen, people will see elderly woman knitting on a park bench and think nothing of it. Then, when the president of Uzbekistan and his escort let their guard down, the old woman reveals that she’s been knitting an M4A1 assault rifle. They’ll never see it coming.
- Avoid capes
See: The Incredibles.
- Avoid large, exotic animals
They’re really cool, yeah. And, yeah, you have a lot of money, but there’s a reason in the 20,000 years of human civilization we’ve never domesticated bears or tigers. They’re pretty damn good at killing whatever’s near them. And get this: you’re the one that’s near them. Sure, you’ll keep them in a cage, but someone is going to let them out at some critical moment and you’re going to die. Horribly. You don’t ever look down the barrel of a gun, even if you know for sure it’s not loaded, because that’s stupid. The same logic applies here. Stop being stupid.
- Long monologues where you list your weaknesses and plans for killing the hero and city and ruining Christmas
Many a good villain has been foiled by this exact mistake. I can’t begin to count the amount of times a villain has detailed their plan in its entirety moments before the hero escapes and systematically destroys the villain’s bullet-pointed and detailed plan. If you’re going to be a badguy and want the world to know what you’re plan is, just take the OJ Simpson route and publish a book. You could call it something like, If I Blew up Manhattan, or Someone Poisoned the Water Hole and This is How I Would Have Done it or I Told You Superman Was a Tool.
They’re filled with flammable gasoline. They’re easy targets. There’s no escape if you’ve been hit. Jetpacks are cooler.
- Slow moving death machines
Lasers are great. So are buzz saws, blades and even poison. No one is upset at your creativity, it’s just maybe don’t give them so much time. A police officer wouldn’t run someone down and say, “Now, hold on here for a second, I’m going to go back to my car and grab my hand cuffs, you don’t go anywhere, OK?” If you are going to kill them slowly, make sure you watch them die, check the pulse, give them their last rites, cremate their corpse, bury them six feet underground then put a Mall Megaplex over the grave just to make sure they don’t come back. Measure twice, cut once.
- Take everything
I mean everything. When you capture that hero, get them stark naked; they could be hiding a series of devices for their escape in their clothes. This might be unnerving, especially for the older or more deformed heroes, but no one ever said Villainy was going to be easy. Then preform a CAT scan on that righteous, mommy loving goody two-shoes, because the body has its own pockets. The last thing you want is to turn your back and have the hero pull out a bazooka they’ve been storing in a body cavity and blow everything up.
- Hire a building planner
A building planner will help you avoid various flaws in your evil fortress. He or she will address all of the human sized air ducts you have in your base. They’ll give you a router, hire a tech specialist who is banned in 14 countries and purchase you the latest versions of Firewalls so you can’t easily be hacked. You can avoid issues of having only 4 digit door codes that guard the most dangerous weapon on the planet. They’ll help you avoid putting all of your explosive materials next to the sleeping quarters. They’d have a few things to say about an exhaust port on the side of your interplanetary space station the size of a moon capable of blowing planets up. They’d probably put a billion guns literally right on top of it. Or at least, I don’t know, put a closing blast shield over it that you can open and close in case of Rebel attack.
- Wear body armor
You’re a villain, you probably got beat up as a kid a lot, which means your body is weak and frail. You wouldn’t make a car out of papier-mâché and expect to be safe, the same logic applies here. Always wear armor. A baby can use a gun. Do you want to be the villain that was bested by a superbaby? No. No one does.
- Maintain your secret identity
You’re not Ironman. You don’t get to say, “Hey everyone, here I am, I’m going to blow you all up, oh and here’s where I live, you could trace my name back to various medical records and figure out what I’m allergic too. Also, I sleep around these times and please don’t come kill me.” There are 7 billion people on the planet, sure you plan to kill them all, but they’re not going to be happy about that. Anonymity will help you ensure you survive until the end. If you’re worried about glory, see Tip #4.
I can’t guarantee these tips will solve all of your problems as a villain, but they will at least weed out the vast majority of plans that foil a your plan for complete world domination. If you adhere to these ten tips, I can assure you that if you are defeated, it won’t be because of something stupid you did. It will be because a hero legitimately outsmarted you. That’s a plus, because that means you have found a worthy foe; a Batman for Joker; a Superman for Lex Luthor; a Jesus for Satan, a Long Distance Runner for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
And, really, that’s what every villain wants, right? Someone worthy to fight.