[SPOILER ALERT]: This post was inspired by The Dark Knight Rises and my absolute love of the Bat-verse. This means that revelations of the identity of a certain DKR character are essential to the point I am making. So, if you haven’t seen it yet I give you permission to stop reading and go see it. NOW! Secondly, if you are not able to drop everything and go to the theatre I would suggest not reading this post until you’ve had a chance to. Unless you don’t care. Put simply: Read at your own risk. Also, serious spoilers about Batman comics from the last few years are featured in this article.
Villains come in many shapes and sizes. There are the ones that are so awesome they kind of steal the protagonists show, like Darth Vader (quite possibly the bad guy of all bad guys). The ones that are disturbingly insane, but still awesome, like Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The ones that creep you out, like the Borg Queen. The ones you sympathize with. The ones that are adorable. The ones you would date if they weren’t evil (or fictional). The ones you know will convert to the side of good eventually. The smart ones. The sad ones. The tortured ones.
And there are the bad guys you love to hate with every fiber in your being. The ones that you despise, now matter how much it looks like they’ve turned a corner and finally separated themselves from their controlling, megalomaniac father. Because you know better. They just make it so easy to hate them. Sometimes, one even rises from among all the other bad guys and girls to become the character you loathe more than any other.
This may shock some people, but my least favorite villain of any story, ever is not from the Percy Jackson series. Nope. She’s from a world that I discovered a long, long time ago.
May I introduce Talia. Demonspawn of Ra’s al Ghul.
Time for a quick disclaimer: I am entirely opposed to hating actual people (it’s actually against my religion). However, if you’re a fictional person it makes you fair game (so are inanimate object).
Now, I’ll admit. This intense dislike may be heavily influenced by . If Talia is the character I loathe most, Selina is without doubt my favorite fictional character. Followed very, very, very closely by Bruce.
My excitement over Bruce, Selina and all things Batma- related can be traced to the three-inch Catwoman figurine I got from McDonald’s. At six, I thought she was the coolest character on the 90s animated series. Mostly, because I was going through a cat phase. I didn’t care that she was thief and constantly going up against the Batman, Batgirl and Robin. I think I wanted to be her. Because she had cats. And it only got worse when I started reading the most recent, pre-reboot version of DC comics where is more of an ally to Batman than a member of his Rogue’s Gallery. (My first foray into modern comics was started by the epic Hush storyline.)
Of course, that opinion is based on more than that. Like the fact that Talia is will stab you in the back, to your face if possible. And also, she is completely bonkers. At least, Ra’s wanted to save the world. His problem is that he thinks the only way to save the world is to rule. Still, there are limits to his crazy. Talia blows up her own son to make a point (No, seriously, read Batman & Son if you don’t believe me).
Naturally, both my least favorite character and my favorite character would be in the same movie. They kind of had to be.
Anyone who follows Batman would remember the amazing Heart of Hush arc (oh, how I love Hush for always brings Bruce and Selina closer). They may also have recognized that Bruce’s words to Selina are an echo of Superman’s iconic words to Lois, “I will love you. Always.” I think that one page had me in fits for a week. I may also have blown a blood vessel or two freaking the heck out (there was yelling and jumping and gibberish). The point is that you obviously can’t have the love of a Batman’s life in what is supposed to be the greatest Batman movie of all time without giving screen-time to her greatest competition (human competition anyways).
Selina and Talia are (unfortunately for me) tied to each other by the same man. And between the two, I was on a roller coaster during the entire movie.
As a chronic Batman fan, that movie met and exceeded my expectations. Even if my friend had to hit me for constantly whispering rude things when Talia was on-screen. With the exception of my very loud, “Don’t mess with the East End”, I was more vocal (though with less volume) about my feelings for Talia. She made me cringe, she made groan, she made me mutter “I hate her, I hate her” over and over. Even as the mild-mannered “Mirande Tate” I knew it was her. She’s under my skin in an uncomfortable way.
Just like Selina and Bruce are have gotten under my skin . And just like I want to write characters that are as compelling as Selina and Bruce, I hope that someday I can write character that my readers will loathe like I loathe Talia. It reminded me that you can’t just focus on the good guys. There’s gotta be something that makes you bad guy stick too. Maybe it’s the creepy craziness of Azula. Or the chilling cunning of a man like President Snow, who sends children and calls it keeping the peace.
Are they barely human like the Borg Queen? Or completely badass like Vader? Do they make you want to hide under a bed like Howard Epps? Do they make your heart bleed for them like Snape does?
My reaction to Talia in Dark Knight Rises makes me want to go back through my list of memorable bad guys and figure out what makes them stand out. Because I want my readers to hate my bad guys for more reasons than that I told them to.
What are some traits that you feel make villains memorable? What do you think is essential to a “good” bad guy? Are there any villains that you despise like I do Talia?