The Generic Villain’s Guest Speaker (On Career Antagonists)

The Generic Villain’s presentation continues with a few whispered words to the “volunteer”, ending in a somewhat louder “Make it good enough, you can leave.” This time, it’s the volunteer’s turn to speak.

Your host says an amusing enough presentation will get me out of here. I think I’m supposed to talk about talking your way out of trouble, but I’ll do you one better—how to survive when the story’s on you.

First off, remember this important rule: Good is lazy. The Laws of Dramatics state that Good and Evil will be balanced, or close to balance. While this doesn’t help you much when dealing with one-shot heroes, career protagonists, or C-Ps—you know the type, those “Save the world every Saturday” sorts with the catchphrases and the distinctive uniforms—are very aware of this. Have you ever wondered why so many long-running superheroes have codes against killing? Let me give you a little hint: it’s not just their morals. It’s because if they get rid of one opponent, another’s going to take her place. So for them, the object of the game is to ensure that the enemy is one they can defeat easily, thematic enough to be identified by modus operandi and predicted from there, and—this is the most important—interesting enough to be worth fighting over and over.

So how do you do that? Do your homework. Nothing is more annoying than an enemy who doesn’t properly understand what she’s getting into. Heroes like having their egos stroked, as well, so a little “Is that—the Hero? How did you find me?” can go a long way. Knowing about them also gives you a chance to understand what they’re like.

Which gets us to point two.

Ensure a good rapport with them. This doesn’t just mean sexual tension. It’s nice, but not all C-Ps are male, not all female C-Ps are lesbians, and honestly, everyone does it. It just doesn’t stand out. Using the same schtick as another career antagonist, unless you’re explicitly cross-backstoried, is like showing up at a party wearing the same dress. Only more so, because if you’re duplicating someone else’s schtick, you’re seen as dramatically interchangeable. Redundant. Expendable. You don’t want that; it’s bad for your life expectancy.

So what are you going to do? Play to what they admire. If your protagonist has Things He Will Never Do, have a few as well, and have them smack of the same sort of nobility. Or at least, make it look like you do. If you’ve got a C-P fond of clever opponents who can always be counted on for witty repartee, get some wit. If they’re suckers for sob stories, play up your tragedy.

In one important regard, heroes are hypocrites; they expect the relationship that comes from this dance of plot and foil to be exclusive, even when they’ve got five other career antagonists waiting in the wings. But hey, why not give it to them? It creates the attachment I was telling you about earlier. If you’re fighting a group, being one’s special villain means you know exactly who you’ll be going toe to toe with, and that one will keep you around because you on the opposing line means his turn in the spotlight—and yes, I know the Law of Catfights says your hero will as likely as not be female, but the Law of Catfights is outdated. Choose someone who complements your power set, not your gender.

What this means is that when you fight, they’ll either subdue you or give you a good shot at running away. If captured, be harmless and entertaining—this makes you “safe”, and more interesting as a dark mirror—and they’ll probably reward you by being just a teeny bit careless in keeping you locked up. There’s always an escape.

One last tip. This sort of dynamic requires a low level of Dark and Gritty in your storylines. It’s the villains who control the Dark and Gritty Quotient, so keep that in mind. Deaths to a minimum, keep your escapades PG-rated unless the two of you are really close, and for the love of all that’s unholy don’t force them to violate their moral codes. And watch your back. Every so often a dynamic like this results in someone else killing as many C-As as he can to up the Dark and Gritty Quotient, so be careful.

Good enough? Good. See you all later!


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