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Back You are here: Home Reports from Real Life Oh, The Things We've Seen! Reviews The Greatest Comic Book Villain
Tuesday, 10 September 2013 03:13

The Greatest Comic Book Villain Featured

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Another toughie I initially thought would be a breeze — till I rifled through the rusted-up coin-lockers I call my brain and disentangled a whole wad of deserving types.

Red Skull by Jack KirbyObvious Marvel Comics ones? Two that jumped straight off the page, and then out at me in olive-green ‘60s jumpsuits, bearing messed up faces and diabolical guns designed by Jack Kirby: the Red Skull (Captain America’s arch-nemesis) and Doctor Doom (same gig with the Fantastic Four). 
While most people assume they’re the same vintage, the Red Skull’s been in print 20 years longer — and has plotted diabolical schemes since 1941, when Marvel was still called Timely and Kirby with then-partner Joe Simon and writer/editor France Herron created the fiend. 66 years later, in 2007, Marvel had the Skull orchestrate the assassination of Captain America as the aftermath of the Civil War saga.
Several people have over these ensuing years passed themselves off as the Red Skull, including George Maxon, Johann Schmidt, and Albert Malik, even Johann’s daughter Sinthea Schmidt.
Meanwhile, Victor von Doom’s been terribly hard at it in his post-modern medieval armour since 1962, whipping up funky gadgets in a ceaseless effort to do away with his scientific competitor Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four — yet the man always fails at the last moment. Much as I love his early escapades in the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, let’s ship his presence here back to Latveria.
Over at DC, the logical options for mantle of be-all do-badder would be Superman’s opposite number Lex Luthor or Batman rival the Joker. The latter (created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson) stands out far more, particularly the way in which he was perceived in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986). The Joker also has an extra year on the Red Skull, having been created in 1940 — but I can’t shake memories of Cesar Romero’s incarnation in ‘60s TV series Batman, which I actually adored in primary school.
Other possibilities?
Early Magneto, with his spiffy scarlet-coloured Corinthian helmet, up against the fledgling X-Men. Baron Zemo, the Nazi that ‘killed’ Captain America’s teenage sidekick Bucky Barnes and put Cap into suspended animation for two decades. Judge Death in 2000 AD. The eyepatch wearing La Reine Noire — the Black Queen — in Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella. The Green Goblin family franchise in Spider-Man. The putrid-smelling, god-awful revenge-driven child rapist and serial killer That Yellow Bastard from Sin City (Frank Miller, 1996).
Or we could go extraterrestrial and en masse: The parasitic, insectoid race the Brood and/or the shape shifting Dire Wraith horde that tormented several titles (and my subconscious) at Marvel in the 1980s.
I even thought of nominating Bullseye. Bullseye Frank Miller-Klaus Janson Daredevil 181
Though created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita, Sr in 1976, he’s deserving for one double-issue of Daredevil alone: #181 (April 1982), conjured up by Frank Miller (yes, him again) — with inking and colours by Klaus Janson — in which the arch-fiend/assassin Bullseye narrates said yarn, tops off our hero’s girlfriend, gives new meaning to calling cards, and we return full-circle to find out where Bullseye’s actually narrating from. Hardboiled, ground-breaking stuff that set the world up for Miller’s Batman, 300 and Sin City.
Even so? Not the greatest villain.
So far as I’m concerned, this honour ended up falling (after much head-scratching) on a little-known character in a relatively famous Japanese manga comic book: Gunnm, a.k.a. Battle Angel Alita.
When her dismembered but still-functioning body is discovered in a junkyard, Yukito Kishiro’s character Gally (renamed ‘Alita’ in the English translation) has no memory of who or what she is. But the first volume, 244 pages translated into English, reversed to suit Western standards, and put out by Viz in 1995 — well, that volume covers not just Alita’s journey toward self-discovery and new body parts, but also the nature of humanity and the squalid effects of violence in a dystopic community gone mad.
Standing out here — or at least squirreling through the sewers of the place — is Makaku, a demonic little critter with a tendency to slobber a lot while in the process of taking over bodies that belong to other cyborgs. This is further fueled by his consumption of human brains to satisfy an endorphin addiction. Makaku is one exceptionally unlikeable terror, repulsive and reprehensible as much as he is destructive and homicidal, and he makes serious waves for our newly reassembled heroine.
That is, until the finale of Volume 1, when the tragic truth of Makaku’s origins are leaked and the real pathos settles in to roost.
Won’t tell you any more. Don’t want to ruin the story.

Action sequence Makaku vs Alita Yukito Kishiro

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Last modified on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 03:18
Andrez Bergen

Andrez Bergen is an expat Australian writer, journalist and DJ who's been entrenched in Tokyo for the past 12 years. He published the noir/sci-fi novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (2011), slipstream tome One Hundred Years of Vicissitude in 2012, and now Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? through Perfect Edge Books - a novel that combines classic comic books, noir, pulp, fantasy and sci-fi.

Bergen has published short stories through Crime Factory, Snubnose Press, Shotgun Honey and Another Sky Press and worked on adapting the scripts for feature films by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Kazuchika Kise and Naoyoshi Shiotani.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/andrezbergenauthor
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