Writing question: What makes a good villian?
There’s no general rule for this, it depends heavily on the story.  Like “Generic evil space-guy with a bunch of generic evil minions who wants to blow up good guy planet for reasons that are a little vague” is generally not considered a good villain.
But if you’re making a weird-ass space movie starring a raccoon and a tree, then you’ve got a lot of weird shit the audience has to learn. You want to keep the rest of the movie simple so the audience isn’t overwhelmed and can focus on the raccoon with a machine gun, because that’s the big hook of the movie anyway. Ronan was generic, bland, forgettable, and correct. Giving him a complex backstory or interesting characterization just makes the story more complex without really adding to it, because it’s the story of some weirdoes having fun space adventures. The Marvel Cinematic Universe generally has flat and forgettable villains, with the exceptions of Loki and Winter Soldier (And those two are in movies where the relationship between the hero and the villain was important to the hero, which isn’t the case normally). This is not because Marvel can’t make more interesting villains, it’s because they don’t want to. That’s not the kind of movies they make. You don’t see Ant-Man for Yellowjacket, and Marvel doesn’t pretend you do.

Also being Generic Bad Guy lets him be a straight man to the comedy of the heroes.

There are other stories where generic Flash Gordon style villains can be successful. Sometimes, all you need to turn a generic overlord guy into a cultural icon is a cool outfit and some asthma.

In the original Star Wars, Darth Vader was just Some Dude. He acted kind of like an old-timey pulp supervillain, but he’s not actually important in the grand scheme of things. Obi-wan gives us some backstory about how Vader was a former apprentice who killed Luke’s dad, but that doesn’t actually get mentioned again (the original Star Wars is great for using throwaway details like that to make the world seem big an epic. Unfortunately, Star Wars has become smaller with every movie, but that’s a different essay) In the original movie, I mean. Obviously it does in the sequels, but the sequels were made after Vader was a hit villain, so I’m pretending they don’t exist.

Even though that means ignoring one of the best fight scenes in all of genre movies, but that’s also a different essay.

Anyway, original Star Wars. Vader gets a cool entrance, makes some obvious deductions about escape pods, and Saturday Morning Cartoon speeches that “There’ll be no one to stop us, this time!” (Which implies that someone stopped them at some point in the past, a cool fill-in-the-blank detail that’ll presumably be filled in for us with the Rouge One movie because Hollywood hates imagination).

Later, after his troops let Luke escape, we see Vader in a meeting with some officer dudes. One of them insults Vader to his face, so Vader reveals his incredible ability to choke people with his mind from slightly further away than he could do with his arm, which is actually a pretty lame power. He can’t even choke the dude from across the room, he literally walks closer to get in range. Yes, Empire let him do this from across the galaxy, but we’re pretending the sequels don’t exist. He doesn’t even get to kill his minion like a real supervillain, because the actual bad guy of the movie makes him stop.

If you asked 100 people who the bad guy of the original Star Wars was, 90% was say Darth Vader and 9% would know it was the old guy but not remember his nameIf he had cool armor, it’d be different.

But here’s the thing. Vader’s an advanced mook. He fails repeatedly in the movie, dialouge implies he fails a lot even before this movie (“No one will stop us this time!”). His backstory is generic “Evil Student turned on master” that’s been done a million times, and the only powers he actually displays in the movie are completely lame. His most impressive bad-guy feat is being able to kill a super-old dude, and only after the old guy literally lets him kill him.  But he looks awesome. And “choking with your mind” is a cool power conceptually. And he’s voiced by James Earl Jones. So he’s a cultural icon. Even if all the writing was the same, if he looked like this

it wouldn’t have worked. But he looked cool instead, and the movie was awesome, so there you go.

And Vader wouldn’t be the last Star Wars villain to get popular solely based on looking cool.


Of course, most good villains aren’t Vader. So here’s something you might be able to actually use:


One thing I’ve found while writing is that people react more to kicking a puppy than blowing up Puppyulon IV. Or Alderaan, for that matter. If a reader can’t identify with villainy, it feels less “real”, and thus they don’t hate the character for it. A lot of cartoons are great examples of this.

Lapis Lazuli stole the fucking ocean, and tries to kill Steven and everyone he loved, breaking his dad’s leg in the process. Fans had forgiven her by the end of the episode.

Peridot tried to smash Steven with giant robot hands and worked for a program that was intending to blow up the earth. No biggie.

Jasper headbutted Steven and is generally kind of a jerk. This is unforgivable.

You can even see this dynamic in Legend of the Hare. Peggy murders an old man and a little girl in her first appearance, no one really cares. People actually ended up liking Peggy, because her villainy otherwise was kind of funny. Riley had sex with Jill and then fired her. Readers had a much stronger reaction to this. It’s because no one really knows someone who burns sentient rabbits to death, but everyone knows a Riley.

♫No one make girls think of a bad ex like Gaston!♪

But again, all this depends on the story you’re writing. If the basis of your comic is the heroes cracking jokes and having relationships, you don’t actually need or even necessarily want a memorable villain. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies don’t, and they’re popular and acclaimed. If your villain is an important character, treat them like any other character. If you can’t make an interesting character, you’ve got bigger problems than the villain. If they’re not, maybe “good villains” are a little over-rated.