Powers. Brilliance. A team of devoted henchmen. Sure they are all part of what makes a good super villain but the one thing that catapults these anti-heroes into icon status is a memorable back-story.
It struck me the other day as I was watching a super-hero sequel. I hadn’t seen the first installment of this particular franchise and although the villain was pretty smart and had a dazzling array of evil gadgets, I just couldn’t connect with him on an emotional level. The movie felt half done. Just as we as the viewer need to develop an emotional bond with our heroes to understand why they fight injustice we just as equally need to understand the reasons their foes are out to wreak havoc and promote that same injustice. It is great to love our heroes but without the hatred for our villains we have a rather empty story. No drama and no attachment. We need to root for and against simultaneously to achieve an amazing story whether it involves characters in a book, movie or even a video game. The ultimate villain is feared, loathed and yet we somehow still have a small tinge of compassion for them.
We all possess two sides, good and evil. To be memorable any story has to appeal to both of those sides and pretend to not take sides. We on the other hand get to choose a side and root for our favorite character. Just give us enough back-story to know why we are rooting!
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