The mad scientist is one of popular culture’s most oft-used tropes. Chances are that at some point or another your personal favorite nerdy obsession — be it a comic book, TV show or book series — has relied on an evil inventor type to stir up tension and create drama. But which of these characters are the most memorable, the most evil and basically the overall best? That’s what we’re going to find out in Today’s Daily List.
Featuring everyone from a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania to a misunderstood genius whose desire to create an easier form of transportation resulted in him become a gnarly human/insect hybrid, here’s your rundown of the 15 greatest mad doctors that nerddom has to offer.
15) Dr. Felix Hoenikker
In Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s epic novel Cat’s Cradle, Dr. Felix Hoenikker is the physicist whose insatiable scientific curiosity led to the creation of ice-nine…and the destruction of mankind. Although not a mustache-twirling villain in the traditional sense, Hoenikker’s placing of his intellectual pursuits above plain old common sense spawned his invention — a crystalline form of water that solidifies any water in comes into contact with. Since people are largely made of water themselves, you can see how this could become a problem. Although he did not unleash the weaponized H20 upon humanity himself, his work with it indirectly resulted in the end of life as we know it. So it goes.
14) Dr. Fred Edison
Just because you are under the influence of an alien meteor doesn’t give you the right to abduct cheerleaders. This is a lesson that Fred Edison from Lucasfilm’s point-and-click classic Maniac Mansion never learned. On the plus side though, he did hang out with tentacles, which is very cool indeed. When the game became a TV show for The Family Channel back in 1990, Fred Edison (portrayed by Joe Flaherty) was portrayed as a more goofy than sinister scientist– even though he transformed his brother-in-law into a fly and accidentally placed his infant son into the body of a burly thirtysomething. Some families are more forgiving of quirks than others I suppose.
13) Dr. Doom
Though Dr. Arnim Zola gives him a run for his money, Doctor Doom is still the best mad scientist in the Marvel Universe. If the above video is any indication, the worst thing about Doom could very well be his long-windedness and lack of humility. It’s one thing to want to take over the Earth or kill Reed Richards, but to do so while patting yourself on the back? That’s just poor manners right there. Still not convinced of Doom’s awesomeness? Then check out this random comic panel that shows an ordinary day in Latvia:
I think that about says it all.
12) Dr. Frank-N-Furter (A Scientist)
Forget what Doctor Everett Scott (A Rival Scientist) has to say, Frankie here inspired countless viewers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to stop dreaming it and start doing it. Of course he was referring to constructing a himbo using Meatloaf’s brain and weird alien scientific methods, but his message is inspirational regardless. Frank-N-Furter’s true legacy is that here we are nearly 40 years later and his entrance in the film still leaves audiences shivering with antici….pation.
11) Doctor Ivo Robotnik/Doctor Eggman Doctor Ivo Robitnik, known as Doctor Eggman in Japan, has been making Sonic’s life miserable since the hedgehog’s self-titled debut back in 1991. There has been much speculation as to why the Doctor gives Sonic such a hard time over the years. The answer seems pretty apparent though. You’d be pissed off too if everybody was always comparing you to Bowser and those drunken Pac-Man ghosts. (My apologies if you now have “I Am the Walrus” lodged in your brain). 10) Seth Brundle
He sure tried his best, but Seth Brundle was unable to become the world’s first insect politician. David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly was a powerful mediation on, amongst other things, technology run amuck. Fueled by his desire to revolutionize the world through teleportation, scientist Seth Brundle (a never-better Jeff Goldblum) instead found himself being transformed into something he never could have predicted. His hopes to better mankind fell to the wayside faster than his appendages could hit the floor. Of all the entries on this list, he is the most tragic. Brundle was brilliant scientist driven insane and murderous by a Kafka-eqsue turn of events. Damn shame, that is.
9) Dr. Walter Bishop
Before you know it, we will see how Fringe wraps up. So while you are keep your fingers crossed that a magical piss cave doesn’t play into the finale’s events like in another J.J. Abrams-produced series, watch the video featured here that gives you an overview of the antics of the trans-dimensional troublemaker Dr. Walter Bishop. 8) Daniel Graystone
Poor Eric Stoltz. First he gets fired from Back to the Future then he lands the role as Cylon creator Daniel Greystone on the short-lived Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica. Even with his spotty sci-fi track record, this role is enough to earn him genre immortality. As an answer at nerdy Quizzo games if nothing else.
7) Doc Venture
Rusty Venture is such a self-centered jackass that he probably should have never had kids in the first place. Fortunately he did, as the bizarre family dynamic on display in each episode of The Venture Bros. makes for compelling viewing.Science is at the heart of the series, be it either the pursuit or bastardization of. The Doc’s greatest scientific achievement to date was the creation of Hank and Dean clones that could be brought to life in the event of the boys’ untimely deaths. Violating the laws of nature is just another day at the office inside the Venture compound.
6) Dr. Horrible Neil Patrick Harris infuses his performance as the would be tyrant Doctor Horrible with a likeability and world-weariness that is a direct contrast to the cocksure smarm of Nathan Fillion’s Captain Hammer.By the time he has finally become the supervillian he has dreamt about being, he has lost the only person he actually cared for. (Um, five-year-old spoiler alert). His Pyrrhic victory gives Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog much of his pathos. When we last glimpse the Doc, he is successful…and empty inside. Yet he carries on, because a man’s gotta do…
5) Professor Farnsworth
Good news, everyone! Kicking off the top five is Futurama‘s resident mad scientist Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth. Well-intentioned though he may be, the Professor has a tendency to put the Planet Express crew in harm’s way either by sending them on dangerous delivery missions or introducing them to his latest (usually lethal) inventions. So it’s not that he means to be a crazy old man, but he just is one because of his advanced age. Not to worry though, as his cheerful demeanor and general befuddlement make it easy to overlook the fact that he nearly gets everyone around him killed on a regular basis.
4) Dr. Mindbender
Somehow this file card overlooked the Doc’s time as a Village People groupie. Obvious jokes about his appearance aside, dude did make those B.A.T.s robot soldiers and figure out how to create Serpentor using the DNA of bastards throughout history. I’d like to see Duke try to be that badass.
3) Dr. Clayton Forrester
Some of you may be wondering why Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Dr. Clayton Forrester (portrayed by the incredibly named Trace Beaulieu) ranks so high here. To that I say have you seen Manos: The Hands of Fate? No one other than a pure sociopath would expose anyone to that.
2) The Doctor Granted, the Doctor doesn’t seem like an obvious choice to be included on a list of mad scientists due to his usually genial nature. It makes perfect sense once you think about it. (He is a scientist/explorer who can create anything from a sonic screwdriver to a robot dog). It’s the other side of his personality that is much more interesting though. The above clip from “The Family of Blood” illustrates perfectly what a vindictive and dangerous man the Doctor can be if you cross him. He’s not called “The Oncoming Storm” for nothing.
1) Henry Frankenstein
Along with Dracula, Frankenstein ushered in the Universal era of monster movies in 1931. To this day, when most people think of mad scientists, they think of Colin Clive screaming “It’s Alive.” What you see above is perhaps the most iconic moment in all of horror cinema. If I picked any other choice here I’d have to hand in my nerd card. The competition isn’t even close.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.