Saturday, August 22, 2009

You Can't Beat a Good Villain!

by Anna Sugden

I know. No matter how fabulous the villain, the hero always wins ... and wins the girl too.

But, you've got to admit, there are some villains who stick in your mind long after the book or film are finished, and the hero and heroine are enjoying their 'happy ever after'.

So, today, I thought I'd give some memorable villains their due.

I'll be the first to admit - I love bad boys. I also love good boys with a bad streak. Black hats and rebels seem to call out to the inner punk in me. And, let's face it, there are some really sexy villains out there.

Let's start with Harry Potter villains - Luscious Lucius (as I call him, fondly) and even Draco, now that he's all grown up, are rather delicious. I know Alan Rickman isn't his sexy best in these films, but that voice is enough to make up for it. *sigh*.

As yummy as Kurt and Val are in Tombstone (two more bad/good boys), there is something about Johnny Ringo that makes him stand out too. Val Kilmer (in his early days) was always a villain to love - who can forget him as Ice Man in Top Gun?

As for sexy villains in books, you can't beat Sammy aka Satan in Terri Garey's fabulous Nicki Styx books. Check out You're the One that I Haunt (For the record, Sammy is MINE!!!)

Several authors have capitalised on this by making the villain in one book, the hero of another. (Naturally, my brain can't think of a single specific example - but, I'm sure you all can!)

Then, there are the creepy villains. The ones that give you nightmares. Their evil is palpable, both on the page and on-screen. Tess Gerritsen's The Surgeon and The Mephisto Club will give you sleepless nights. As will Lisa Gardner's The Killing Hour and Karen Rose's Die For Me. And let's not forget Mordecai Jones from Maggie Shayne's trilogy (Colder Than Ice, Darker Than Midnight, Thicker than Water).

But, the ones that really stick in my mind are the evil villains for whom you feel an unwilling sense of empathy. The most clever of these is Mariah Stewart's Sheldon Woods in Forgotten. Another outstanding empathetic villain is Curtis Channing in Mariah's Dead Wrong. As is Allison Brennan's Aaron Doherty, from Tempting Evil. *shiver*.

What about you? Who is your favourite villain? Which villains do you find sexy? Which villains have given you sleepless nights or nightmares? Which villains have you felt an unwilling sense of empathy for?

55 comments:

Lynz Pickles said...

Mine?

Lynz Pickles said...

Naturally, my brain can't think of a single specific example - but, I'm sure you all can!

The first author that pops into my head is Maya Rodale. The villain of The Heir and the Spare is the hero of The Rogue and the Rival. He's is really bad guy. Really. Until luuuurve heals him, he drinks, he gambles, and ruins four - that's right, I said four - girls.

Anna Campbell said...

Again, Lynz? You're showing off!

Anna, I loved your post! A great villain is a thing of beauty, isn't he? Or her, in fact!

Lynz Pickles said...

Mwahahahaha, yes, again, AC. What can I say? I'm pretty fond of the guy. Though I'm not letting him drive again.

Y'know, this post has perfect timing. Annette McCleave's Romancing the Blog post went up yesterday, and it was about villainesses. One of the comments really pinned down the secret to writing a great bad guy: For a villain to work, whether it be male or female, the character must believe himself or herself the hero or heroine of the story.

Anna Sugden said...

Congrats Lynz - people will be talking about you and a golden feather fetish!

Thanks for the tip about Maya Rodale. Her dastardly fellow sounds like a great villain.

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks, Anna! I must say, I did 'like' your evil uncle in Untouched. Bit of a meanie!

Anna Sugden said...

That's a great quote, Lynz. And on that I've tried to live up to when writing my villains.

Anna Sugden said...

uh that should read 'one' not on.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Lynz.

Hi Anna,
Allison Brennan always manages to scare me with her creepy villains. The Butcher from "The Hunt" comes to mind. Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is a great villain. I feel empathy towards Magneto from the X-Men comics because of his background as a Holocaust survivor. He wants to protect the mutant race by any means necessary.

Helen said...

Congrats Lynz as always have fun with him

Great post Anna and off hand I can't think of any velians turned hero at the moment either but I know I have read some.

I am not a big fan of the villian normally although I didn't like Snape at all in the beggining of the Harry Potter series but yes I grew to really like him toeards the end but Lucius and Draco I have never liked sorry.

I am a real hero girl here LOL

Have Fun
Helen

Lynz Pickles said...

You know what I really, really love? When a villain is the hero of a book. (Huh?) Some heroes are such horrible people at the beginning of their books that they're honestly villains. Sebastian from To Have and to Hold and Sebastian from Black Ice are examples - whoa they're both named Sebastian! Man, romance authors are gonna give Sebastians around the world a bad name at this rate. Anyway, I cannot say enough good things about THatH, and while I'm not a huge fan of BI, the hero's my favourite part of it. It's great when an author recycles and reforms a bad guy in another book, but somehow it's even more fun when it's all done in one book. Taming a Rake - the EXTREME version!

Anna said: Congrats Lynz - people will be talking about you and a golden feather fetish!

My golden feather fetish? Uh... I don't have one, not at all. Not at all! No, don't open that box, it's not full of golden feathers, I swear! And I haven't read the Rodale myself, but I've been told from a reliable source that the villain-hero's reformation is faaaaantastic and that the book's really enjoyable - not preachy even though the heroine's a nun, I believe. It's still in the TBR pile.

Anna Sugden said...

Oh yes, Jane. The Butcher was a scary villain. Allison does seem to write great villains.

Interesting about Magneto - I'm not up on the X-Men, but I can see just from what you said why he would be an empathetic villain.

Anna Sugden said...

LOL I don't like the characters, Helen - just the actors who play them *g*. Jason Isaacs gives Luscious Lucius such a deliciously cold air of evil. I find him more scary than Voldemort. And Tom Felton, in the latest film, has finally got that same edge to him.

Voldemort aka Ralph Fiennes is a kind of predictably evil villain in the film. I don't think the evil that you get in the books comes across as well.

Anna Sugden said...

Several of Anne Stuart's heroes in the Ice series have started off as villains, Lynz - well done for remembering that. In Blue Ice too, the hero is trying to kill the heroine! I think Anne Stuart does a wonderful job of justifying their point of view to make them heroic.

Equally, the villains she writes are well-motivated too.

Anna Sugden said...

Uh huh - well, whatever tickles your fancy, Lynz ;)

Lynz Pickles said...

Uh huh - well, whatever tickles your fancy, Lynz ;)

Hehehe, feathers and tickling. What a laughable combination!

I actually probably would have a hard time keeping myself away from a real golden feather because, come on, gold! Shiny and pretty! And probably valuable enough to keep me in books for a while if I sold it!

I think Anne Stuart does a wonderful job of justifying their point of view to make them heroic.


Well, I can't speak for anything other than Black Ice, but I know that the reason I liked Bastien so much was that he was aware of how horrific is own actions could be. One way to make me believe that a hero is... well, heroic... is for him to acknowledge the bad things that they've done/are doing. It's especially attractive in a character who walks the line between villain and hero in a big way, like Stuart heroes seem to. In real life I'd be so turned off by boys that bad, but in fiction they're incredibly sexy for it.

Janga said...

I confess that some of my favorite romances are those in which the hero is a villain redeemed from an earlier book, starting with Roland
Otton Mathieson in Patricia Veryan's Golden Chronicles who becomes the hero in The Dedicated Villain.

There must be something about Sebastians. I can think of two others:Judy Cuevas's Sebastien de Saint Vallier (Bliss/Dance) and Lisa Kleypas's Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent (It Happened One Autumn/Devil in Winter). There's also Loretta Chase's Ismael (The Lion's Daughter /Captives of the Night), Mary Jo Putney's Reginald Davenport (The Diabolical Baron/The Rake) and Carla Kelly's Benedict Nesbitt (Libby's London Merchant/One Good Turn). I'm sure I'm leaving out some favorites. :)

Lois said...

Easy, there is only one villain that comes to mind when this is asked. Darth. Vader. Yep, the big guy himself. Loved him since the beginning. Granted, wouldn't want to meet him, most particularly in a dark alley at night, but he's mighty cool. And he has the ability to be redeemed at the end of the day. Sure, he looses his coolness when that happens, but it makes the story and moral of it better. :)

And his outfit means you always look mighty cool, yet never have to worry about what you're going to wear tomorrow. Just polish. And you work a cape! :)

Lois

Deb Marlowe said...

Hey V. A!

I love a villain too! Jason Isaacs rocks as L. Malfoy! I also adore him as Captain Hook in the live action Peter Pan--the only time I've ever had any sympathy for the old boy.

Maybe Erik from True Blood could be considered a villain--but with this season's events I'm not sure. I do know I'm currently salivating over him, though! I haven't read the books yet, so I can only base my opinion on the series.

In books I love rogues/bad boys who turn out to be heroes in the end--like Liz Carlyle's Bentley. Sigh!

Donna MacMeans said...

Fun post Anna -

I think a lot of the fascination with villians is that they are so close to being a hero - if only their intentions were in the right place. But the power & charisma are still there. No wonder it's so tempting to venture over to the dark side.

Nancy said...

Lynz, congrats on taking home the rooster!

Anna, it's ironic that you posted this today. This is the anniversary (424, if my math is right) of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where one of literature's most creatively framed villains, Richard III, fell in battle. The Plantagenet dynasty ended with him, and the Tudor dynasty began that day.

The literary figure bears little resemblance to the man himself, who had a reputation for courage in battle, personal integrity, and just rule, but he has become the archetypal wicked uncle, thanks to Shakespeare, writing in the reign of the Bosworth victor's granddaughter, Elizabeth I. So I'd say Richard III is a famous villain who was actually a hero.

(http://www.r3.org/bosworth/index.html - the Richard III Society memorial page, for any other obsessive history geeks out there)

Lucius Malfoy, as embodied by yummy Jason Evers, is one of the best villains on screen.(Geeks may be interested to know Tom Felton, who plays Draco, will be at DragonCon.) Evers was also wonderful as the Banastre Tarleton-type character in The Patriot.

Darth Vader would be a villain who became a hero, returning to his roots at the end.

I know there must be others who would fit your examples. On a Saturday morning when I started the day with Richard III on the brain (for which Anna Campbell is not allowed to give me grief--Plantagenets, Fo!), I'm not switching gears fast. But I'm about to go do errands and so will ponder as I drive and see who I can come up with.

EilisFlynn said...

Without a great villain, how can we have a truly great hero? I don't have a favorite villain per se, because of course the villain has to fit the crime AND the hero. But I can think of stories that would have been less great if the author had decided that the villain was TOO villainous. (As long as he or she is a hero in his or her own mind, right?)

jo robertson said...

Great topic, Anna!

Congratulations on getting the rooster today, Lynz!

I do love a good villain, one who is multi-dimensional rather than flat, one you can almost sympathize with.

One of my favorite villains is in Lisa Kleypas' Wallflower series. Sebastian St. Vincent, who kidnaps the heroine in a previous book, becomes the hero in Devil in Winter.

Anna Sugden said...

Anne's Ice series is fabulous Lynz - I highly recommend it if you're into that kind of romantic action/suspense. I just read the final book a few weeks ago and loved it.

Especially loved Ice Storm where the hero is clearly a big villain. It was such a great read to see how she could possibly turn him into a hero - which I think she did masterfully.

Anna Sugden said...

Thank you, Janga! I'm so glad your brain is working today!

An excellent list. Interesting that they're all historicals - wonder if that tells us anything (other than that you love historical *g*).

Anna Sugden said...

Funnily enough, I thought of Darth Vader, Lois, because I love him as a villain. One of my all-time faves. [And you're right, he does redeem himself at the end (and loses some coolness at the same time!).] The combination of that get-up and the heavy breathing and voice is awesome. Dave Prowse is such a sweetie (the man in the costume) in real life.

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Deb! (waving!) I keep expecting to bump into you all the time, after DC! LOL

I haven't seen True Blood - one of the drawbacks about moving home is missing out on all these series! Don't get me started on missing out on The Closer!

One of the best rgues who was realy a good guy was Chancer (played by a young Clive Owen) in a UK TV series - loved it and him!

Anna Sugden said...

As always, Donna, you've nailed the reason why we love a great villain. And why we find ourselves empathising with some of the creepiest villains!

Anna Sugden said...

Nancy - I stand in awe, as always, of your boundless knowledge! How cool to have such a coincidence.

My knowledge of the Plantagenets is very poor - must read Simon Schama! - not one of the periods taught in primary school and I had to give up history far too early. But, it is acknowledged that history is written most often by the victor - and thus is just the teensiest bit biased.

There have been a whole load of programs recently about Henry VIII and about Darwin - the more I see, the more I realise how many different sides these two men had!

Anna Sugden said...

Another excellent point, Eilis.

I would add 'or heroine' to that, because in some of my favourite books, it is the intensity of the battle of the heroine with the villain that defines both characters so well.

Anna Sugden said...

I agree, Jo, the more multi-dimensional the villain, the better.

I do find the ones that you can empathise with, and who are truly evil, are the most intriguing. In Forgotten, by Mariah Stewart, the villain is horrible and chilling. Yet, by the end, yoy find yourself almost feeling sorry for him. It's a weird feeling! In fact, it was so weird, I said as much to my hubby because I couldn't believe how well Mariah had done it!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, VA, I love your English sense of understatement? Lord John in Untouched was only a BIT of a meanie? Eeeek!

Lynz, what an interesting comment about villains and heroes. I think you're 100% right. In fact, I thought a little further and I think that's true about secondary characters too if they're going to have any feeling of reality.

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Janga, Ismael is one of my all time favorite villains to heroes although he's showing distinct signs of being redeemed at the end of The Lion's Daughter and he's just gorgeous in Captives of the Night. Love that book!

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, I was thinking about you with the Bosworth anniversary. Actually the Richard character in the Shakespeare play is kinda sexy. He's so full of energy and smarts and he runs rings around everybody else - that's actually pretty heroic in a dark way, even though his purposes are so twisted.

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh Lynz, what are we going to do with you? You are the lady villain who keeps bird-napping the GR. Of course he is probably a more than willing victim!

What I love is a villain who is so damned smart and suave that he gets away with it over and over again. Lord Jarvis in C.S. Harris's Sebastian St. Cyr series IS a villain through and through, but he is so good at it they just can't catch him. He puts the IN in insidious.

Anna Sugden said...

LOL FoAnna - you can thank my lovely hubby for that - you know how understated he is!

Anna Sugden said...

Louisa - I agree with you.

One of the best villains I've seen on TV in a long time, was the recurring villain on Shark (with James Woods - awesome series - CBS should be ashamed to have cancelled it!)

He was called Wayne Callison and he was played by an actor called Billy Campbell. This villain was suave and charming. Yet, he turned out to be coldly evil. OMG the writing on the three 'Wayne's World' episodes is fantastic. Awe-inspiring. And, although Shark won, you knew Wayne would somehow be back.

Anna Sugden said...

Oops, hit send too quickly - what I mean to say was - and you looked forward to the episodes when he did appear.

Nancy said...

Jason Isaacs. Not Jason Evers. Ack! I make this mistake all the time. You'd think I'd learn the man's name.

People keep mentioning this Chancer series, so I'd really love to watch it, but I don't think it's available here. At least MI-5 is now on public TV on weekends.

Eilis, I agree about the hero's strength being measured by the villain's. It's the old Superman problem--how can he be heroic if he can take out the villain with one pinkie?

Nancy said...

Anna, thank you. I tend to read obsessively on anything that interests me, but I also majored in history, with one sequence of British, which helped.

Nancy said...

Anna C., I'm glad someone else thought of Bosworth Field today. :-)

I keep saying I'm going to rent the Ian McKellan Richard III, which is supposed to be wonderful (how could McKellan be anything else?). And I did go so far as to rent Al Pacino's Looking for Richard, about staging the play, but life intervened, and I had to return it unwatched. Someday . . .

Nancy said...

Deb, I've read the Sookie Stackhouse books. I think I'm maybe one behind being current. Erik switches back and forth. Sometimes he's a villain and sometimes he's heroic. He's a complex character, which is probably part of his charm.

Becke Davis said...

I was trying to remember a great villain I'd read recently, and I'm pretty sure it was the female antag of Eva Ibbotson's A Countess Below Stairs. The villain in Loretta Chase's Not Quite a Lady wasn't unredeemable, and what historical series did I read recently where the antag in one story became the hero in the next book? I'm think it was Maya Rodale's The Rogue and the Rival, and The Heir and the Spare.

I love Mariah Stewart's books -- her latest is in my TBR pile.

Anna Sugden said...

LOL Nancy - happens to me all the time. I only remembered his name because I saw him interviewed recently on the BBC.

Anna Sugden said...

Clearly Maya Rodale is worth reading, Becke!

I adore Mariah's books. I can't wait to start her Mercy Street series - I've been waiting for the latest, so I can read them in a row *g*.

Nancy said...

Anna wrote: I saw him interviewed recently on the BBC.

See, you get the BBC. You get to watch cool stuff like that. We get BBC World News on public television and retreads of mystery shows. That's about it.

Nancy said...

And Prime Minister's Question Time on C-Span, which was more interesting when Tony Blair sparred with that other guy, Ian Somebody?

Arch said...

I'm a lover of a good bad boy. I've came up with that title for a good guy, who does something bad.

Nancy said...

Hi, Arch--very clever!

MsHellion said...

Great pics of Lucious Lucius and his son, Draco. And I find Snape rather sexy--the exhibit in Chicago of Harry Potter items had Snape's clothes--I was this close to touching something Alan Rickman wore!

I rather like Jason Isaacs character in The Patriot. SEXY, SEXY villain. *LOL*

Kinley MacGregor's book Sword of Darkness has a hero who is very anti-heroic, naerly villain...and Morgan is very villainess...awful, but awesome.

Anna Sugden said...

I'm a sad person, Nancy because I used to miss a program called The Kumars at No. 42 - a hilarious interview program on the Beeb.

Yes, we get the Beeb and you get The Food Network - we should be able to do a deal, don't you think?!

Much as I didn't like him, Tony Blair was a gazillion times better than our current invisible man!

Anna Sugden said...

John Major and William Hague were always good for a rowdy PM's Question Time! The current Tory leader is pretty good too. (Not much competition.

Anna Sugden said...

Great title, Arch - it's like the title of my hockey book Bad Boy, Good Man.

Anna Sugden said...

Oooh Ms Hellion - how cool. The closest I've come is being at the studios where he's filmed or in theatres where he's performed (not when he was there *sigh*!)

Mari said...

My favorite villian usually involves Alan Rickman...