Comic Clichés, Part IV: Villains and Sidekicks

When a hero is captured or knocked unconscious, no villain will try to remove his/her mask.

Corollary #1: If an underling tries to remove it, he will be disciplined by the main villain, who insists on saving that honor for himself “when the time is right.”

Corollary #2: Whenever a hero is knocked unconscious, no one will simply say, “Hey, we have guns. Let’s shoot him.”

Corollary #3: In any instance when a villain does decide to just shoot a captured superhero, the superhero will play on the villain’s ego, convincing the villain that such an “uninspired” form of execution is clearly beneath him/her. The villain will agree and start devising the ultimate death trap, during which the hero will escape.

In any fight involving a duo or group of heroes and a larger number of villains, the villains will always attack the heroes one at a time, thus allowing the heroes to make witty banter in between punches.

Super-villains who wear glasses are all extremely myopic, and are immediately rendered helpless once the hero removes or smashes them.

Villains whose true identities are hidden from the reader to prolong the suspense will always be revealed as someone the hero already knows in his civilian life.

No villain, once the hero is at his/her mercy, can resist a monologue detailing his/her: (i) account of the traumatic childhood that drove him/her to crime, (ii) delight in devising such a cunning trap, or (iii) secret plans to rule the world, once the hero — who is the only obstacle in the villain’s path — is out of the way.

Villains who plot to rule the world never reveal their plans regarding what they’ll actually do once they accomplish that goal.

Revenge notwithstanding, no attempt will be made to explain why, if a villain gets his/her butt kicked multiple times by the same superhero, he/she doesn’t get the hint and move to a town with a much lower superhero-to-supervillain ratio.

Super-villains — even the psychotic ones with a history of killing their underlings whenever the mood strikes them — never have problems recruiting new henchmen when they’re needed.

A villain’s modus operandi is sacrosanct. No villain will ever try to mimic another villain’s M.O. to throw the hero and police off their trail.

Names as destiny: Super-villains have a greater-than-average chance of being born with names that will provide a clue about their future super-villain powers or obsessions (Victor Fries, Thomas O. Morrow, William A. Zard, etc.)

Each villain must have a sufficiently different M.O. to allow the hero to announce within five seconds of arriving on the scene, “Why, this caper could only be the work of the Riddler/Joker/Lex Luthor/etc.”

Despite the number of intelligent evil masterminds out there, no one — EVER — reasons out the possible identity of a hero by deducing (i) the hero has a strong motive for attacking criminals (like, say, the violent death of a loved one); (ii) the hero must have a lot of money to pay for his weaponry; and (iii) the hero is close to a sidekick whose hair color, facial features, and generally everything about him except his freakin’ eyes is there for the whole world to see.

Villains who use bombs will always set them to detonate in no less than one hour’s time, giving the hero ample time to defuse it.

Corollary #1: Bombs always have big timer displays that count down the seconds until detonation.

Corollary #2: The hero will always manage to snip the right wire or throw the bomb into the upper atmosphere at the last possible second.

Corollary #3: Evil geniuses who kill, kidnap and commit other heinous acts are always thoughtful enough to include a visible LED display of how much time remains before the bomb detonates, giving the hero an accurate count of exactly how much time remains.

All supervillains, no matter how many times they have been defeated by costumed crimefighters, remain confident of victory each time they face a hero for another battle. Because they know that this time — THIS TIME — their plan cannot possibly fail!

All characters with “Baron,” “Lord” or other aristocratic titles in their names are automatically evil.

In any case when a villain takes on a team of heroes and goes lightly on the least powerful member because it’s “not worth the effort it would take to defeat” said member, it will be that same hero who will find a way to defeat the villain.

Villains always adopt a nom de guerre that instantly identifies their particular gimmick, obsession, or choice of weaponry. For instance, it’s a pretty fair bet that someone named “Captain Cold” has some form of ice-based powers.

All villains know how to make an entrance and prefer to lurk in the shadows until presented with a suitably dramatic moment to announce themselves.

No villain can resist baiting the hero with a little dime store psychology about they are both two sides of the same coin, how differently things could have been if they had met under different circumstances, etc.

Teenaged sidekicks who go out at night with their crimefighting partners never have problems explaining why they (i) fall asleep in class (ii) never seem to have time for parties or hanging out with friends or (iii) have boomerangs, grappling ropes, knockout gas capsules and assorted weapons under their bed or in their closet.

Teenaged sidekicks in the Internet Age are computer geniuses, able to hack into the Pentagon or anywhere else with ease.

No explanation as to how any 14-year-old can train themselves to physical perfection AND become an experienced computer hacker AND live a normal, secret-identity life without raising suspicions is ever given.

Sidekicks who elect to patrol the night in short-sleeved shirts or shorts will never show the ill effects of frostbite, hypothermia, or other exposure-related ailments.

Any commentary about the motives of a dark-clad hero using a brightly attired teenager as a partner when confronting gun-wielding criminals at night will never be entertained.

Butlers, chauffeurs, and other people employed by super-heroes always come equipped with talents that come in handy for the hardworking hero: medic, mechanic, helicopter pilot, etc.

Sidekicks who disobey direct orders from their mentors not to interfere in a case will be immediately forgiven when the villain is caught, because it will always be the sidekick’s timely intervention that saves the day.

Female heroes may not have male sidekicks. All other gender combinations are permissible.

Villains’ sidekicks are almost always completely useless if not actual liabilities.

All sidekicks, in their secret identity, have at least one friend who will get involved in some nefarious activity by hanging out with the “wrong crowd,” an act that will require the hero’s intervention.


2 responses to “Comic Clichés, Part IV: Villains and Sidekicks

  1. Ok your one line ‘Female heroes may not have male sidekicks. All other gender combinations are permissible’; doesn’t make much sense it’s like you’re saying “The girl and can not be the leader and in charge of the boy’, have you seen or heard of the characters ‘Kim Possible’ and ‘Ron Stoppable’? : /

    • Hi Sara,
      Thanks for reading my post! And yes, I agree it doesn’t make sense to put restrictions on who can be the hero and who can be the sidekick. What I wanted to do with these lists of clichés was to point out the sillier “rules” that superhero comics tended to operate by in the old days, and still do to some degree. So when I said “female heroes may not have male sidekicks,” I was talking in the voice of an old-school comic editor telling the rest of how comics “should” look. PS Kim Possible is one of my faves and I can’t wait until my two-year-old daughter is ready for her. She’s working her way through The Powerpuff Girls as we speak. You should hear the way she sings the theme song. 🙂

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