This was a tricksy one. What makes the best villains? If it were simply the ones I hated most, the ones who made me want to jump right into the book and—Jurisfiction be damned!—assassinate them for the sake of the heroes I loved, my answer would be easy enough. Fei Wang Reed from the manga Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle by CLAMP, or the initially innocuous-seeming yet completely sadistic villainess from Coleen Doran’s graphic novel space opera, A Distant Soil. But that’s not quite it. The best villain should not just be someone you hate, but someone who contributes something to the atmosphere (the romance, perhaps?) of the story. Someone who can’t be replaced by just any other antagonist or evil-doer. Someone whose very character is integral to the Story.
So, who else could I choose but Captain James Hook?
He’s got all the makings of the classic villain. He’s the hero’s arch-nemesis, with a crazy phobia, and an obsession for revenge. He’s certainly got style: he could be a pirate fashion plate straight out of a Howard Pyle illustration. He has an infamous history as Blackbeard’s bosun and is rumored to be the only man who ever struck fear into the heart of Long John Silver. Despite being rightfully terrifying to the denizens of Neverland, he also stands, painfully, by his notions of “good form.”
Hook is an indispensable part of the romance and adventure of Peter Pan. He’s the childhood villain we all dreamed of daring, and without him, English children’s literature would be a poorer place.
Honorable Mention: Baron Harkonnen
from Frank Herbert’s Dune
Because I apparently have an inability to pick just one candidate for any of these questions, I can’t let this one go by without mentioning a runner-up choice. I’d actually forgotten all about the Baron till about half an our before writing this, but when I remembered him, I thought “Of course! How could I forget?”
The Baron’s size is certainly his most memorable characteristic. In the words of my father, “The Baron is just the best bad guy! I mean, he’s so corpulent he has to have little hover pods to carry all his fat rolls around.” He’s not the most originally dastardly villain, but he’s as effective as the best at espionage, torture, and assassination. Politically crafty, he aims at maneuvering himself into sole control of the planet Arrakis (also called Dune), a position which would give him complete monopoly of the melange spice market, and thus, control reaching across the universe. Harkonnen is truly a force to be reckoned with, and his presence overshadows the fate of Dune.