Simplified Monsters

Grocer Man

Well-Known Member
Aug 24, 2006
a house
This is a phenomenon in comics that been bothering me lately. Maybe you guys can provide some insight. I recall Overlord made a thread about something similar, but I think this is a different enough topic to not qualify.

Has anyone noticed that a lot of popular villains are being simplified into disgusting scumbags with their sympethetic qualities ignored or glossed over? Here's some examples:

Lex Luthor goes from prideful, but well-intentioned scientist who wants to kill Superman for humanity's own good, to a man who'd cure his sister's crippled legs, then immeadietly cripple her again out of spite for Superman.

Dr. Doom goes from an egomaniacal, but somewhat noble dictator to willing to kill children and make a deal with Satan, even though he has a serious grudge against Hell for taking his mother.

Magneto going from well-intentioned and fairly noble terrorist to mutant Hitler willing to put humans in concentration camps. (Yes, I know, Xorn. But that obviously wasn't the intention when the story was originally written.)

Joker going from flamboyant serial killer to Mr. Zsasz with a playing card fixation and a forked tounge.

It's easy to see why such monsterous villains exist. Stories need an antagonist, whether it's the world or a man. And if they wear a black hat, it's a lot easier for the viewer/reader to hate them.

But they're showing up all over comics these days. Maybe it's because so many comic writers are convinced their works have to be dark and edgy to be valid. But at the rate they're appearing, it's like they've become convinced that this is the only kind of villain that can work. And it's not just in original works, its seeping over into the mainstream comics and affecting characters that have long established histories. There's such thing as alternate interpretations, sure, but to me, it just comes off as lazy and poorly thought-out. Not that monsters can't be well written, (see Johan from Monster) but it just seems so gratuitous to me.

I know villains are typically foils to the hero, but surely there must be a better way to write them then just making them outright monsters.

Does this make any sense? Am I alone here?
The two of those that were done by Grant Morrison were actually explained in the stories. Magneto was on Kick and the Joker has multiple personalities.
The two of those that were done by Grant Morrison were actually explained in the stories. Magneto was on Kick and the Joker has multiple personalities.

I barely remember the first one, so I'll take your word for that.

I still really don't like Devil Joker. Joker's definitely a monster, but the thing to remember is that Joker is a monster with style and humor. While I respect Morrison for making a legitimate excuse, Devil Joker was only interesting for that all-prose issue and lost my interest by being a recurring villain.

And for the Dr. Doom example, Mark Waid stated that he was trying to challenge this perception of Doom. Which is fine, but it wasn't recieved well for the reasons I already said.
Actually, I went back and looked at New X-Men and Morrison's thoughts about it. Morrison explicitly said that Magneto was always a "mad old terrorist ****," the sympethic interpretations were the result of fans idealizing him and Ian Macellan. (I probably misspelled his name. Sorry Ian.) Even though Chris Claremont, the man who defined the X-Men for decades, made it explicitly clear that this was not the case. Even if Magneto had an excuse due to drug abuse (which was never picked up in favor of XORN), it's completely gratuitous and goes against his character.

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