By Teague Bohlen
It’s the clich? motivation for any bad guy: ruling the world. They’re always trying to do it, and the good guys are always rising up and fighting them–you know, for the whole truth and justice bit. But should they?
Some villains are just crazy, of course, and part of their goal is some sort of cruel dystopia. (Darkseid, I’m looking at you, sir.) That’s not what we’re talking about here. But even the best leaders in world history have often been more than a bit self-aggrandizing, and some of the bad guys have run fairly good civilizations. (Granted, this is a little like saying Nixon was a great president because he was good at Chinese foreign relations…but stick with me.)
So who are the villains who could lead not just a nation, but quite possibly a world–or more? Here are six candidates–and for your safety, there will be no debates, because hoo-boy, would that be asking for trouble.
7) Kang the Conqueror
Kang is a confusing sort of guy–he’s had so many identities that I wouldn’t be surprised if he sometimes got mixed up on who he was that day, what with all the time travel and the future technology and the dimension ruling and the hurting and the shoving. But there’s a basis of decency to Kang–not the honor level of a Dr. Doom, mind you, but a core of something worthwhile there, as his actions as Iron Lad (again, a time-travel thing where he joined the Young Avengers as a teen–seriously, don’t think about this, because your head will hurt) prove. The trick to accepting Kang as world leader is lucking out and getting the benevolent Kang–which is, to be fair, a serious sticking point.
6) Vandal Savage
Another time-based guy, Savage doesn’t jump around in time so much as he does simply survive it. As an immortal, he’s got one of the major elements we all want in a leader: experience. You want to talk about on-the-job training? This guy already has it. He’s actually been in charge of vast civilizations before (at least according to his records). He was Alexander the Great, which is pretty cool (though he was also Genghis Khan and Vlad the Impaler, which is a good sight less cool). And really, Savage has one of those names that makes him tough to elect, but if Barack Obama can make it this far with Hussein as his middle name, surely we can look past “Vandal Savage.” Now, the utter disregard for human life that Savage likes to indulge in now and then, up to and including drinking the blood of his enemies? Yeah, that’s probably a deal-killer right there. Tough to try to talk that away in the Spin Room.
5) Black Adam
Rounding out the first three (and indubitably most risky) potential leaders on this list is Teth-Adam, who admittedly started his career by abusing his Shazam-powers and becoming an Egyptian tyrant-king. Okay, granted; Nile water under the bridge. But Adam grew into his role as sometime hero over the years, going so far as to join the Justice Society of America for a time, and serving honorably, if a bit tersely. And yes, he eventually snapped and became a super-villain again, battling heroes and generally causing havoc, but that was only after his wife and child were murdered, which is going to mess with anyone’s head. The point is that again, Adam shows tendencies towards heroic purpose; there’s a core of honor to him that can’t be denied, despite his mighty temper (not unlike many we call hero–hello, Hercules!). Maybe Black Adam is the DC equivalent of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree–all he needs is a little love.
4) Lex Luthor
Luthor actually has a fairly good argument against Superman–that his example squanders the best of human potential, by holding them to a higher standard than the one to which we were all naturally born. Early in his career, he was little more than an evil scientist with some vague plans for world domination–the villain equivalent of a dog chasing a truck: neither would know what to do with it if they caught it. But through the years, Lex has become smarter, stronger, and more influential. He’s an international mover and shaker, there can be no doubt. Lex Luthor is, to put it simply, a right powerful bastard–and to paraphrase Tina Fey, bastards get shit done. Lex’s downfall is that he doesn’t live up to his ideals–in the end, he’s not heretofore been about the betterment of humanity, but about the betterment of Lex Luthor. There’s no doubt that Lex could be a great world leader–the question is would he choose to be? If not for the way he handled his failed presidency, Lex might rightfully land higher on this list.
Erik Lensherr doesn’t want to rule the world so much as to control his part of it; but still, his basic humanity may save him from being the mutant despot that so many people fear he would be. Had Magneto the power to back up his dictates (and suppress his tendencies toward genetic bigotry), he could turn out to be an admirable leader for humanity and the “next stage of evolution” as well. His tenure as leader of the X-Men is proof enough of this; he was a genuinely good father figure of sorts, and a surprisingly good stand-in for Charles Xavier–something I’m sure they both chuckle about while playing plastic chess in that suspended glass room in which Magnus often abides. Magneto would have issues, for sure, but he’s got the experience, the vast powers to back up any threat, and most important, the temperament needed to lead when duty calls.
2) The Brain
Let’s get the main issue right out into the open: okay, so he’s a mouse. But don’t let your rodentia prejudices get in the way here; the Brain might be continually trying to take over the world, but he’s doing it for all the right reasons. “We’re on our way,” he says, “to fame, fortune, and a world that’s a better place for all.” And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for his assistant Pinky. Are you pondering what I’m pondering? Yes, but this list is far too short to enumerate all of the ways a Brain-led world would be a mousy paradise.
1) Dr. Doom
Okay, so Reed Richards would be supremely pissed off. But except for that one main fatal flaw–hatred for Richards!–Doom has actually proven himself to be a pretty honorable and capable leader. Respected, revered, and loved, even, by his subjects. The reason for this is borne out in the “Emperor Doom” storyline from the Avengers series back in the 80s: Doom actually brings about peace and prosperity. Granted, he does this through mind control, but the fact remains that he does it. Combine that lesson with the fact that he runs Latveria with a firm grip, but generally cares about his subjects…maybe there’s something that the guy can offer. Furthermore, the dude is funny. When Kitty Pryde asks him, “Science, magic, politics…is there anything you can’t do?” Doom replies: “Knit. I find it repetitive.” Okay, how can you not love a guy like that? Admit it–Doom has potential. And really, who wouldn’t want a “Vote Doom!” bumper sticker?