Feb 02 2012
1. If a competent villain must make one of the huge villain mistakes on the Evil Overlord List, the villain should have a good reason to do so. Here are some examples:
- For example, it’s generally a mistake to try capturing a hero rather than just killing him (because the hero will always escape). However, if the villain needs a human shield right now, an intelligent villain might plausibly decide that leaving the hero alive for now is his best plan.
- It’s generally a bad idea to have vents that are big enough for a man to crawl through, because someone like Batman will exploit them. In The Taxman Must Die, one very intelligent villain knows that large vents are dangerous, but builds a holding cell with large vents to pump in enough cold air to suppress a hero vulnerable to cold.
- Building a walkway above a vat of highly dangerous chemicals can lead to all sorts of accidents. In TTMD, one villain does, but just so that he can kill off an unruly employee with an “accident” if he has to. In contrast, it’d just be idiotic if the villain built the walkway for no reason and got himself pushed into the vat.
2. If the villain does make a mistake, hopefully the hero forced him into a difficult decision. For example, if the hero has stolen and hidden some critical piece of equipment, it’d make sense if a villain really wanted to take him alive rather than kill him on sight. In that case, killing the hero would cost the villain something (he’d have to find the equipment himself rather than just torture the information out of the hero).
3. If the supervillain’s signature flaw(s) causes the villain to make a mistake, hopefully the hero exploited the flaw. For example, if an incredibly proud villain captures the hero’s superweapon or power-suit, it wouldn’t be very satisfying if he relaxed his guard on his own just because he thought he had won. One example that would be more interesting is if the heroes planted misinformation that made the villain think that the fighting was all but over. (E.g. if the Justice League’s headquarters has been bugged, maybe the Justice League members could hold a fake meeting where they break up the group because supposedly it’s too dangerous to keep fighting. A proud supervillain may think the real fighting is all but over and get caught off-guard when the heroes actually attack). I would generally recommend giving your heroes as large of a role as possible in the downfall of the villains.
4. A brilliant villain might make a “mistake” that is actually a trap. For example, you know those scenes where the heroes successfully guess the villain’s password and steal all of the incriminating evidence? A brilliant villain might set up his computer so that it pretends to log in successfully after a certain number of incorrect passwords, but only gives the heroes access to reams of incorrect information. This incorrect information might frame other important characters, which could cause the heroes to do something that angers characters that wouldn’t otherwise have been a problem. (For example, instead of giving the heroes any sort of valuable information in Watchmen, maybe Ozymandias’ computer could have given false information implicating President Nixon and/or the Soviets in Ozymandias’ scheme? It would have distracted the heroes from what was actually going on and might have drawn them into conflict with a powerful third party). Another cool, intelligent thing a villain can do with passwords is have his computer immediately notify security if it registers an incorrect log-in attempt. (Depending on the situation, it might make sense to immediately attack the intruders, but if the intruders are police officers, then it might be better to feed them misleading information than try to kill them).
Are there any particularly clever subversions you’ve used in your superhero stories? Please let me know in the comments below.