We snagged J to ask about his top ten Favorite Villains & why he likes them so much.
Some people love scenery-chewing villains. I’m not so into that. I think some of the best villains out there are ones that their creators let breathe over time and grow to grab the reader or watcher’s sympathy. The best of the best are ones you may even identify with. TV and comic books have some of the best examples as the stories of these villains can fill just as many if not more pages and scenes than the heroes. Sometimes they can even become the heroes. Here are some of my favorite epic villains, with personalities and motivation that sometimes bring more energy and thought-provoking moments than their heroic foils.
Magneto, Marvel Comics – From villain to hero to villain to hero, Magneto’s shifts in allegiances and about-faces are more impressive than anything because they usually made sense for the character’s intricate belief system. One of the best anti-villains turned anti-heroes, he actually learns from his mistakes and matures through the many things he’s seen and done.
Crowley, Supernatural TV series – Mark Sheppard is a great actor and he imbues Crowley, the King of Hell, with enough sympathy and penache that I’ve found myself rooting for him to trick and manipulate the Winchester brothers more often than not. It’s helped that he has greater evils as foil characters, but Crowley is a villain through and through and an entertaining one at that.
Zabulon, Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko – Zabulon, the leader of the “evil” Day Watch, may be full of questionable schemes but he’s equally full of compelling ideas and justifications for his acts. His machinations over the Night Watch series in a tense cold war with the “good” Night Watch are both dastardly and understandable.
Boyd Crowder, Justified TV series – The hyper-articulate southern criminal who always aspires to be more has a lot in common with Stringer Bell, but he proves more adept at manipulation and betrayal than Stringer was. The number of times he’s had the last laugh against rivals with greater resources and much less restraint with a last minute, desperate gambit could fill an entire book on its own. Like other villains on this list, he’s had the advantage of there being Bigger Bads that make his deeds seem mild in comparison. That said, he’s proved an able photo-negative of the rulebreaking US Marshal Raylan Givens as both have racked up sizable body counts of increasingly nasty adversaries. With the final season of the show set to put them on a collision course, it will surely be a finale to remember.
Walternate, Fringe TV series – Fringe’s Walternate literally shows how little separates the hero from the villain. Walternate’s feud with Fringe’s Earth 1 and his attempts to erase it, all while yearning for the son stolen from him and the universe broken around him provoke all sorts of moral questions and tense storylines. Who would think one show could have two vastly different portrayals of a mad scientist by the same actor that both worked? Even when Walter and Walternate are reconciled eventually, John Noble’s brilliant alternate take on the character grabs your attention and never lets go.
Gus Fring, Breaking Bad TV series – Gus Fring, the fried chicken master and drug lord, couldn’t be more different than his former ally and later nemesis Walter White. Everywhere Gus is for stability, discipline, and contingencies, Walter is all arrogance, chaos, and impulsiveness. It’s easy to see how much of Breaking Bad may never have happened if Walt and Gus had worked out their differences, but Walt’s intransigence and repeated attempts to provoke Gus made that impossible. In many ways, Gus’ biggest scene was being less of a villain than Walt turned out to be. They were both master criminals hiding in plain sight until old feuds forced them into the open.
Islington, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – What’s a top ten list of villains without a mad angel that has a god complex? Of all those choices, I like Islington the most as he is by far the maddest of them all. Neil Gaiman’s colorful Neverwhere novel wouldn’t have been much but a trippy journey without the existential threat Islington raises.
Marlo Stansfield and Stringer Bell, The Wire TV series – These two drug dealers are truly opposite ends of the same character-development spectrum. Stringer wanted nothing more than to take his drug money and go legit, escaping the streets forever at all costs. He was willing to execute people and even betray his lifelong friend in the process. None of it was personal, it was just business. Marlo, on the other hand, wanted to run and own the streets at any cost and did so by filling them with blood and fear. It’s the greatest irony of The Wire that one ended up achieving the other’s greatest dream.
Cigarette Smoking Man, The X-Files TV series – From his single appearance in the first season of the X-files to the malevolent forces and conspiracies he came to represent, no TV villain in my mind could provoke as much rage and fascination in fans of a TV series as the Cigarette Smoking Man. Even if he was just an agent of something larger, he successfully embodied all the smug villainy of the conspiratorial forces he represented. CSM always lurked nearby, ready to crush the Truth with his bare hands if he had to.
~~About the Book~~
Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She's part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism—a job that understandably leaves her life in shambles and drives her to drink a little more than she should. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a troubled soul wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers. Waking up hungover at five–thirty in the morning with a zombie–infested apartment building in the heart of DC to deal with, she knows she's got the makings of the worst morning possible.
Her team is its own challenge. A battle–scarred Nigerian shaman, a bookish shapeshifter, an inept summoner, and a brilliant but cantankerous wizard round it all out. Her partner, an immortal and cursed Paladin, is the only person she knows more jaded than herself. Getting them all to work together is never easy, with Anna often caught in the cross fire.
Their target, Ethan Morgan, is one pissed off necromancer. His brother was KIA by his own government, the victim of an experimental magical weapon they decided to test on the battlefield. Now bent on revenge and sponsored by one of hell's most powerful demons, Ethan has a plan of his own to make us all pay. Anna and her team are fighting against the wake of destruction, but Ethan is always one step ahead. With the number of bodies he leaves and reanimates growing exponentially, Anna's wondering if they'll stop him before he engulfs everyone in an undead horde.
~~Meet the Author~~
Everyone needs a hobby. And, like most people, I hope one day that my hobby will liberate me from my mind–numbing day job. I chose writing. Not one of the easier ones. I chose it at the tender age of 14, churning out terrible science fiction novels that heaped on the cliches and barely hidden tropes of all space operas. Thankfully, those creations reside in the prison of an old Commodore 64 hard drive and several 3.5" disks (kids, ask your parents) in a landfill somewhere. And, let me be clear, the world is better for it.
Along the way, I kept writing. Through college. Through grad school. Through the beginning of my career, such as it is. I like to believe I picked up skills. I wanted to write novels that had things I wanted to see. Hand of Chaos, my debut novel, brings together elements of a spy thriller and a police procedural with dark and urban fantasy. I followed that with Scarred Earth, a serial alien invasion novel I'm releasing entirely through tumblr. I'm probably going about this all wrong, but I don't know any other way.
A $50 Amazon/B&N Giftcard or a Book Depository shopping spree of the same value. Open Internationally. Ends 9/15. Void where prohibited.