Who is the most outmatched "super"villain?
November 30, 2005 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Who are the most outmatched "super"villains?

Outside of random gangsters and the odd fruit pie stealing wizard, which comic book bad guys simply didn't stand a chance against the hero? Which ones were just out of their league and why?

This question came up in a bull session fueled by assorted comics and a keg of IPA. It, and the resulting hangover, have haunted me since.
posted by robocop is bleeding to Society & Culture (68 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've always had a problem with Lex Luthor. I mean, seriously, he's up against Superman. Fucking Superman.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 5:15 AM on November 30, 2005

posted by God at 5:29 AM on November 30, 2005

i never understood what the joker had going for him. did he have any super powers at all?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:41 AM on November 30, 2005

i never understood what the joker had going for him. did he have any super powers at all?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:41 AM PST on November 30 [!]

No, but neither did Batman.
posted by luftmensch at 5:43 AM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's difficult to say, as supervillains (especially these days) are regularly re-imagined to emphasize a point of their personality or powers to make them more "hardcore". For example, the Riddler and Dr. Light were fairly lame supervillains and easily defeated by anyone in the DC universe, but in recent storylines writers have made 'em a helluva lot more competent than they ever were before.

Are you looking at regular supervillains or any ol' villain? Because comics are chock-full of humorous one-shots dedicated to some Joe Schmoe from Planet Zo who goes crazy or something, tries to bring down a major superhero, and is summarily defeated.
posted by schroedinger at 5:43 AM on November 30, 2005

oh, yeah, i suppose that's true!
posted by andrew cooke at 5:47 AM on November 30, 2005

I think most Spiderman one-shots from the 70s feature a villain Spidey should be outsourcing to the local police. Rocket Racer, The Prowler, The Kangaroo, etc. It's a near endless supply of guys who should have stayed the extra 3 weeks at whatever votech they quit.
posted by yerfatma at 5:54 AM on November 30, 2005

The Joker had fiendish cunning, psychotic determination and a hideous violent streak. The Riddler had a bowler hat, that walking stick thing, and... um... spandex.

As for Lex Luthor, he had the money to buy anything in the world, even if those things didn't belong in this world.
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:56 AM on November 30, 2005

Lex Luthor is a super-genius. Superman may be nigh-all-powerful, but he's not super-smart.
posted by schroedinger at 6:02 AM on November 30, 2005

(there was a MeFi post a little while ago giving brief on the lamest super-villains and their costumes. I can't find the thread, but it included people like THE CLOCK KING)
posted by NinjaPirate at 6:08 AM on November 30, 2005

i never understood what the joker had going for him. did he have any super powers at all?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:41 AM PST on November 30 [!]

unpredictability and willingness to escalate, mostly.

Other suggestions: Paste Pot Pete/The Trapster (he sucks with either name)
The Wizard, who pretty much exists so that he can make failed attempts to supplant the FF.
The Toad
Actually, a lot of Fantastic Four/Spider-Man villains are sort of silly and unthreatening, but that's probably just a by-product of when and how they were created (I mean, is anyone really afraid of Hydro-Man?).
posted by COBRA! at 6:11 AM on November 30, 2005

Maybe not the worst, but The Sandman from Spider-Man has gotta be sad that he was defeated by a vacuum cleaner...
posted by dagnyscott at 6:12 AM on November 30, 2005

Acutally, Superman is super smart. Super Intellect.
posted by srburns at 6:16 AM on November 30, 2005

Several super-villains start out lame and unimpressive, only to get a serious makeover years later.

Mysterio is a great example. He was known as the Spidey villain that always wore a fishbowl on his head and stood in a swirling cloud of gas. He'd do an illusion or two, then get his magical ass kicked.

Then a couple of years ago, Kevin Smith used Mysterio as the Big Bad Guy during his run on the Marvel Knights version of Daredevil. Here we had this former laughing stock of a villain, coming within spitting distance of destroying Matt Murdock through the systematic murder and ruin of his closest friends and loved ones.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:21 AM on November 30, 2005

srburns, you're talking Pre-Crisis powers. In current continuity he's considerably less crazy-powered than he used to me.
posted by schroedinger at 6:22 AM on November 30, 2005

Er, used to be.
posted by schroedinger at 6:22 AM on November 30, 2005

I've always had a soft spot for The Owl, whose superpower is... well, looking a bit like an owl.

Also from Marvel is the wonderfully rubbish Mandrill, who looks like a baboon and can control women with his mutant pheromones. Thankyou for giving me a legitimate reason to Google 'marvel pheromone baboon', by the way.

On preview: COBRA!, Paste Pot Pete's a genius suggestion - I'd completely forgotten about that guy. And Superman's super-intellect was pre-Crisis, so it probably doesn't count anymore. And yeah, the Joker's lack of superpowers is one of my favourite things about him - he's one of the most threatening, feared villains in the DCU despite a lack of powers, because the guy's so damn vicious, unpredictable and clever. He's the anti-Batman, and nobody else seems to really know how to deal with him.
posted by terpsichoria at 6:24 AM on November 30, 2005

you could also add just about all of the villians from "The Tick" (link goes to a list of The Big Blue one's villans). I mean, come on...he had a chair for a head.
posted by ShawnString at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2005

I'm sorry, but it begins and ends with Stilt-Man. I can't find proof right now, but I swear there was an issue of Daredevil where DD defeated him by ricocheting his baton off the stilts a few times, until hundreds of rats emerged FROM THE STILTS and attacked Stilt-Man. What the rats were doing in there, I cannot recall.
posted by emptybowl at 6:30 AM on November 30, 2005

My only contribution to the drunken discussion was Black Manta, whose powers consisted of having a top-heavy costume and a submarine, who would have been seriously outmatched, even by Aquaman, because of the whole "i need air to breathe yet I'm fighting a water-dweller who can command the oceans" thing.

One sage had a good point that all villains are only a threat for 80% of any given story, afterwhich they are always outmatched by the hero's new tech/plans/found devotion to humanity/willpower/etc. This works, I think, for one-on-one fights, but I'm not so sure how well it works for teamups.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:37 AM on November 30, 2005

Stilt-Man's a good one! There was the other time when Daredevil defeated him by pushing him over--though that was Turk in the Stilt-Man costume.
posted by schroedinger at 6:46 AM on November 30, 2005

The Mirror Master, from The Flash? Mind you, I always thought The Flash was never any Green Lantern, if you know what I mean.
posted by planetthoughtful at 7:08 AM on November 30, 2005

It's brains vs brawn. Brains will often beat brawn. Unfortunately there are too many "supervillans" with neither. And a radoiactive monkey doesn't beat anything.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:09 AM on November 30, 2005

Planetthoughtful, are you kidding? The Mirror Master is one of the deadliest assassins in the DC universe! OK, he's no Shiva, but seriously, that guy is crazy. In Animal Man, he defeated another assassin by using the reflection in the guy's eyes to trap him in his mirror dimension, or whatever you call it.
posted by schroedinger at 7:17 AM on November 30, 2005

The recent Villains United miniseries from DC had some great (er, not-so-great?) villans featured. For my money, the Flash had the absolute worst nemeses (yeah, I had to look that one up, too). The Top - he spins like a top. Captain Cold - he's pretty much like like Mr. Freeze, but in a parka and without an interesting back story. Captain goddamn Boomerang!!!

On the marvel side, I think Spiderman had some real stinkers. The Tarantula (he had knives. IN HIS BOOTS!) and the Vulture (sure, he could fly - but he was like 80 years old!) come to mind.

My favorite villians of all time would have to be Monsieur Mallah (because a french-speaking ape with a beret and machine gun is AWESOME), Gorilla Grodd (also a gorilla, but a GENIUS gorilla), and Solomon Grundy (dude, he's GRUNDY). Also on the Marvel side, Sandman and the Rhino, because they're dumb.
posted by sluggo at 7:48 AM on November 30, 2005

The whole of the Cobra organisation were always portrayed as being woefully inferior to the good guys (GI Joe, or the Action Force, depending on which side of the Atlantic you're from)... Cobra Commander was such a whining pansy that I think that even Shipwreck's *parrot* could have kicked his backside!
posted by Chunder at 7:55 AM on November 30, 2005

I'm going to disagree on The Kangaroo. OK, he was originally a bit shit (Special powers: Borderline retarded. Australian.) but didn't he get some bio-mechanical enhancements later on? So much so that he could knock Spiderman the fuck out? Spiderman! Yeah.

I'm going now.
posted by blag at 7:57 AM on November 30, 2005

Captain goddamn Boomerang!!!

Which brings us to another motherlode: Iron Man villains (different Boomerang, I know) around the time Tony Stark was a functioning alcoholic. Here, the sum was always less than the parts. If you're an unemployable shithead in a universe where any number of companies (Roxon, Hammer, et al) are willing to hire shitheads, teaming up with the other unemployable shitheads will not help.

It's no fucking wonder Tony Stark drank. Imagine being that busy (Stark Enterprises, take-over attempts, Avengers Mansion updates, programming, playing Iron Man, keeping all your model dates from finding out about one another, writing that column for The Robb Report) and you have to take time out to deal with halfwits in suits with less collective power than an AMC Gremlin who feel you are their arch-nemesis.
posted by yerfatma at 8:05 AM on November 30, 2005

*Identity Crisis Spolier* But Captain Boomerang killed Robin's dad!
posted by drezdn at 8:07 AM on November 30, 2005

Oooh - also submitted for your disapproval:

The fearsomely foul Fiddler, who could only be stopped by EARPLUGS! Also, his car looked like a violin.

The ferociously awful Funky Flashman, who was basically a bitter parody of Stan "the man" Lee created by Jack Kirby after he switched to Marvel. He... well, he acted like Stan Lee, pretty much.

The truly, terrifyingly terrible Turner D. Century, who has... a moustache... and a flying bicycle... and an umbrella.

The completely crappy Crazy Quilt, who had a color helmet. It could temporarily dazzle the eyes of any foes - especially if they were sensitive to... BRIGHT COLORS!

The freakishly forgettable Fasaud, who... let me get this straight - apparently, this shiek stabbed a TV camera, which turned him into a living TV image. An EVIL living TV image.

The kompletely kruddy Killer Moth, who was a rich guy who hated Batsman.
posted by sluggo at 8:23 AM on November 30, 2005

Iron Man villains (different Boomerang, I know) around the time Tony Stark was a functioning alcoholic.

In the writers' defense, the villains had to be weak. Can you imagine what it must be like to be hung over inside Iron Man's armor? Hot, heavy and there's no way that puke is getting through that little slit mouth.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:24 AM on November 30, 2005

Action Comics #306 suggests that Superman can perform feats of lovemaking of which an ordinary man would be quite incapable: forced into the position of having to kiss Lois Lane beneath the mistletoe at a Daily Planet Christmas party in 1963, Clark Kent mischievously decides to shock the daylights out of Lois by giving her a super-kiss, in the manner of Superman, instead of the mild-mannered kiss she would be likely to expect from Clark Kent. Indeed, when Kent finally releases Lois from his embrace after giving her a super-soulful kiss, Lois is glassy-eyed and on the verge of swooning.

posted by delmoi at 8:25 AM on November 30, 2005

The kompletely kruddy Killer Moth, who was a rich guy who hated Batsman.

A cricket-playing superhero?
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:26 AM on November 30, 2005

Sorry true believer - please insert a comma after the "s" to properly maintain my awe-inspiring Stan Lee style. Excelsior!!!

Also - superman soul kiss? Super-Sick and Supremely Sloppy, says I! Strewth!
posted by sluggo at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2005

Hot, heavy and there's no way that puke is getting through that little slit mouth.

The only person who tosses off inventions faster than Tony Stark is Forge. Between Stark and Forge (either of whom would be welcome at IBM, patent-wise), I'm guessing one of them solved that problem long ago. Think of a million dollar version of the batting helmet and beer dispenser with blood thinner involved.
posted by yerfatma at 8:44 AM on November 30, 2005

Two-face has to be the worst villain. I mean, he has horrible acne and he flips a coin. Wow, I'm just quaking in my boots.

Wait, didn't Captain Marvel (DC) have an evil worm for a villain?

Ah, google to the rescue. It turns out the the worm is none other than Mr. Mind. He had extraordinary mental powers and put together the first ever supervillain team. Huh, come to think of it that's pretty damn good just about anybody, but it's freaking awesome for a worm.
posted by oddman at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2005

Not only that, Mr. Mind evetnually got a show trial and was given the chair. Take that, worm!
posted by COBRA! at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2005

via oddman's link: Mr. Banjo, criminal and leaker of secrets via music from his banjo
posted by NinjaPirate at 9:01 AM on November 30, 2005

This one was deliberately done for comedy, but I'll always remember the time Spider-Man did battle with the Walrus. He was a fat guy in a walrus suit, and his super-powers were that, in his own words, he possessed the "proportional strength and agility of a walrus!" Spidey couldn't breathe from laughing.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:01 AM on November 30, 2005

always thought that Bob Burden most completely sent up the idea of lame supervillains with the "Vile Brotherhood" in whichever issue of Flaming Carrot had the Mystery Men fight the clones of Hitler's feet. The Melon Master, Baron Rumpus, Aunt Clau (an old woman with one big lobster-claw hand) -- possibly the most satisfying villainic identities ever created.
posted by BT at 9:20 AM on November 30, 2005

the Vulture (sure, he could fly - but he was like 80 years old!)

God yes! And that creepy green turtleneck-y thing... aww. He reminds me of the creepy old guy from Family Guy who's always hitting on Chris.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:22 AM on November 30, 2005

From the Ma-Po volume of the Marvel Encyclopedia, 1989—

Mongoose, who is quick, fights Thor, who is a fucking God.

Of Nightshift, The Digger carries a shovel and has no powers. Ticktock can percieve events 60 seconds into the future.

From the Se-Ty volume of the Marvel Encyclopedia, 1989 edition—

Sisters of Sin (Captain America) included Slash (earlier Sister Pain) and Raunch (earlier Sister Pleasure). Slash's power was long arms with fake-looking fingernails that she used to gouge, and a loose-fitting parka. Raunch's power was a leather thong and "artificially enhanced seductiveness."

Slug (Captain America) was a drug kingpin with a corpulent appearence whose "special powers" come from a tricked-out wheelchair that he was put into after his yacht sunk due to a grease fire.

Tarantula II (Spiderman) has olympic-level leaping, and POISONED bootknives.

Of Technet (Excalibur), China Doll can shrink people along with her. Joyboy, a grotesque infant-looking alien, can use his psychic powers to make people's dreams come true, albeit perversly (making Shadowcat solid, but immensly fat).

Tombstone is tall and albino.

Trickshot is like Hawkeye only dumber and stockier.

That's my brief list of nominees...
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 AM on November 30, 2005

Well, the nefariousness of a given villain has to be weighed against the gallantry of the hero. Why doesn't Spidey simply kill Doc Ock? (An issue which came up in the amusing Invincible/Spiderman crossover recently.) Superman has certainly had chances to destroy Luthor, but hasn't. Why?

Because it's not in their nature. It's what separates the good guys from the bad guys. Hence, a villain with limited powers is able to go up against a far superior hero.

That's what I like to think anyway.

Moving on: What's the faster means of propulsion - warp or hyperdrive?
posted by aladfar at 9:27 AM on November 30, 2005

I always got a kick out of Spidey's foe Hammerhead. The villain with . . . a plate in his skull!

"Spider-sense . . . tingling! Could a gangland cripple be nearby?"
posted by Skot at 9:37 AM on November 30, 2005

Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt was extremely outmatched by Dr. Manhattan. The part of Watchmen where Dr. Manhattan reassembles himself and says, "This world's smartest man means no more to me than does its smartest termite" is one of my favorite scenes in comics.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2005

Though not a villain, Batman is no real match for Superman.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:40 AM on November 30, 2005

Bartoc Zee Leaper, Esq.
posted by yerfatma at 9:43 AM on November 30, 2005

No discussion of this subject would be complete without the Brunching Shuttlecocks' ratings of Batman villains, Marvel villains, and more Marvel villains.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:43 AM on November 30, 2005

Actually, Bats kicked Superman's ass in The Dark Knight Returns.

"I want you to remember, Clark... in all the years to come... in your most private moments... I want you to remember my hand at your throat... I want you to remember the one man who beat you..."

He then keeled over from a faked heart attack, but one more punch would have it for Supes.
posted by Scoo at 10:45 AM on November 30, 2005

Ok I know they weren't villians but let's remember Warmth, who could raise his body temp 30 degrees and Flicker, who could time travel but only a few seconds forward or back.

and I swear there was a guy who could teleport but whenever he arrive he was covered in slugs...
posted by Cosine at 10:58 AM on November 30, 2005

no, it was leeches!
posted by Cosine at 11:00 AM on November 30, 2005

Tombstone is tall and albino.

Hey, I have an ex with those same superpowers! I wonder who he's gone up against...
posted by dagnyscott at 11:21 AM on November 30, 2005

Batman is no real match for Superman.

What? Why you gotta be ignorant your whole life?
posted by schroedinger at 11:33 AM on November 30, 2005

Though not a villain, Batman is no real match for Superman.

Oh snap no you jus dint. Out! OUT!
posted by Hildago at 11:45 AM on November 30, 2005

Though he barely qualifies as a comic book hero, He-man had some pathetic enemies. Among them, the worst loser was Stinkor, who didn't do anything except stink and had to wear a gas mask to stand his own smell.
posted by springload at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2005

The only reason Batman would ever "kick Superman's ass" is because Superman let him. He's Superman, an alien with powers far beyond human understanding. You know, flying into space and juggling planets as if they were kittens in a Steve Martin movie, hearing a butterfly fart in China, watching you digest your lunch through your clothes, and all that jazz. He fires freakin' laser beams from his eyeballs, for pete's sake. All he would have to do to beat Batman is travel through time and eat Bruce Wayne's parents. Superman could crush him into a tiny, Batman-scented diamond if he were suitably motivated. The only reason he doesn't is because he's a hell of a nice guy.

Bruce Wayne is just a guy with a deep wallet and bad case of obsessive/compulsive disorder.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:21 PM on November 30, 2005

As Scoo said, Batman kicks Superman's arse, but only after the sun is obscured by dust thrown up by a nuclear warhead (depriving Superman of his source of power), whilst Batman has an exoskeleton suit, a tank-like Batmobile, AND Kryptonite.
posted by Orange Goblin at 12:27 PM on November 30, 2005

I vote for Handy. First, he's a sock puppet. He has no superpowers whatsoever, and moreover, not functional body parts.

Criminal genius? Yes, but only arguably.
posted by ewkpates at 12:33 PM on November 30, 2005

And Oliver Queen shooting Kryptonite arrows with one arm!. Sheesh...
posted by Chuckles at 2:28 PM on November 30, 2005

I always ruin this type of discussion by getting postmodern, but since MegoSteve brought it up...

The power of a villian is as much about perception as actual 'tons lifted in bench press' type impressive stats. I mean come on, Kraven the Hunter, what a weeny! But, combine him with an LSD trip and the superior talent of DeMatteis, Zeck and McLeod and you have the greatest Spiderman story ever told.
posted by Chuckles at 2:34 PM on November 30, 2005

Batman is no real match for Superman.

Batman could kick Supermans ass while even taking a dump...
posted by Dreamghost at 3:05 PM on November 30, 2005

Ten-Eyed Man! Saw through his fingertips - wicked cool. Was effectively blind whenever he made a fist - very not cool. Also, made wanking awkward.
posted by blag at 3:20 PM on November 30, 2005

Since when can Superman travel through time? Post-Crisis Superman in DC continuity, not Christopher Reeve (as if making the planet rotate the other way would turn back time). Superman may have raw power, but Batman is a crazy-excellent strategist. He has back-up plans coming out of his ass. Tactical kryptonite weapons! I mean, there was the whole storyline where Batman had to leave the JLA because Ra's al Ghul implemented his contingency plans for taking out all the members of the JLA, and the villain very nearly won.

Batman and Superman have had discussions where both of them pretty much acknowledge that Batman is ready to take out the Big Blue at a moment's notice if it looks like Clark is going nuts. Laserbeams mean nothing. I mean, you ever see Darkseid take out Batman with his Omega beams? It's not the power, it's the intelligence and the strategy.

I am such a dork.
posted by schroedinger at 4:16 PM on November 30, 2005

C'mon folks, this is simple: Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Heck, you could take 'em out with with baseballs.
posted by Opposite George at 10:12 PM on November 30, 2005

Not to name drop, but I actually know Batman a little (our moms were roommates). I mean, we're not best friends or anything, but I know him okay. Anyway, I sent him a link to this thread, especially pointing out MegoSteve's comment. ("Though not a villain, Batman is no real match for Superman.")

He didn't take it very well:

To: Ian A.T.
From: Batman
Subj: Re: AskMe thread

What, is MegoSteve DENSE? Is he RETARDED or something? Who the hell does he think I am? I'm the goddamn Batman.

PS: Alfred needs your new address for our Christmas card list. Thanks!
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:02 PM on December 1, 2005

Whoa. Ian.. I just realized from your e-mail.. that Batman.. is really Bruce Wayne!
posted by Hildago at 6:54 PM on December 1, 2005

Oh shit.

I am so dead.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:49 PM on December 1, 2005

(Best. AskMeFi. Ever.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:26 AM on December 2, 2005

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