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The Appeal of Introducing Villains in TV Shows (Netflix / TV)

The success of superhero TV shows and the success of bringing villains from the comics onto the screen every week (or on Netflix every season). AOS (Agents of Shield), Agent Carter, Flash, Supergirl, Gotham, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Arrow, etc. These TV shows all have something in common and that’s appeal to the viewers that still like watching TV shows weekly and keeping on the edge of their seat until the next week comes.

Aside from these shows being popular on the screen and keeping the suspense coming, what does the effect of bring in villains from the comics appeal to the show? I know they are supposed to be there, yes; but, does it appeal to bring in one every season like Daredevil? Or bring them in all at once, like Flash? Which appeal works best, introducing them one at a time or introducing multiple at one time. With Netflix, you have Jessica Jones and Daredevil who have introduced one each season so far. But, TV shows like Supergirl and Flash are already having a crossover and Arrow has had one as well.

There are multiple topics to speak upon on this one, but there’s also the difference between Netflix and TV show on TV. There’s the fact that Netflix puts them all on the table in one night / day, is there enough leeway to have more than on villain based on that? Flash and Supergirl, even Arrow have the ability to introduce one every episode BECAUSE they come on weekly. What is the difference in doing that? Gotham has introduced the origin of the majority of the DC characters from Gotham in one season. Every show has a different way of doing it and why are they all so successful? Not only really copies the other, even on different publications like Marvel and DC.

  • I think this also speaks to our interest in the villain. We aren't satisfied with an all evil, kill-everybody-they-see type bad guy anymore. We are just as fixated on sexy conflicted heroes as we are on sexy conflicted villains. Good topic – DClarke 1 year ago
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  • An excellent topic! One might also consider how the plot arcs of these shows proceed. Does a series that contains a sustained plot arc across the entire season benefit from introducing a single villain vs. introducing multiple villains from the start? If a series is more episodic in nature, do they necessarily lean to one side or the other? If the series is going to be taking place in one of the "expanded universes" that have become so popular, how does that affect the introductions of villains? – SMurphyEGB 1 year ago
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Sympathy for the Villain?

We all know that there cannot be a hero without having a villain but does this mean that we have to hate the villain? Sure there are those people/creatures that are truly monstrous and who want to destroy the world or inflict pain and terror but what about more innocuous villains? villains who just happen to share a different moral code than the hero? or rivals that engage in the same behaviour as the hero but happen to be on opposite sides (Gangs of New York, The Godfather). It is Manichean to see the villain as evil but are they totally unredeemable?

  • Wouldn't that make them anti-heroes? Villains are defined as villains when there is no good in them, or when they were once good but there is no redeeming factor for them. To which the other term that should be brought up is antagonist. Who is an opponent for the protagonist, but is not really evil, and is often mistaken for a villain despite the morality differences between antagonist and pure villain. – Ryan Walsh 2 years ago
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  • A good example of a villain versus an antagonist is in "Les Miserables" with Thenardier and Javert. Thenardier does evil for his own gain while Javert believes he is doing good while he is the antagonist to Jean Valjean. In the end Thenardier doesn't change while Javert realises the harm he has caused and *spoiler* commits suicide. – smartstooge 2 years ago
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  • I think I agree with Ryan Walsh. You seem to be conflating the anti-hero and the villain. Perhaps it would be more productive to study the rise of the sympathetic villain in Pixar. – InAugust 2 years ago
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  • Another good example of two differing viewpoint of antagonist and protagonist are Marvel Comics' Magneto and Professor X. They both want mutants to be treated better, but because of Magneto's past as a Jewish boy during WWII, he believes that the humans will never see the collective "other" as their equal - at the very least, not through talk. Magneto believes he is doing the right thing by mutant-kind, but so does Prof X, who wants nothing more than for humans and mutants to get along. Another example is Regina from Once Upon A Time, who is a sympathetic villain and could be seen as the protagonist of her own story. – VelvetRose 2 years ago
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