There are a ton of great villains out there, but they were all created 20 years ago or earlier, for the most part. The most recent one I could remember that I would call a “great” villain is Venom, which first appeared in 1984. Batman’s Hush is a good villain, but I don’t consider the much-bandaged one to be a member of the pantheon, yet.
For the most part, when a new villain comes around most fans seem to respond by either yawning or spewing disdain. When the Spider-Man series “The Other” opened with villainous Tracer recently, I about quit the series over how dumb he was. Bad costume: check. Dumb powers: check. Lack of any backstory or buildup: check. Chances of disappearing within two years: Very, very good.
But beyond the lack of very many new cool villains, there just aren’t very many new villains at all. Beyond the two listed above (I’m not counting the Winter Soldier or Red Hood, who are old characters in new roles) I couldn’t come up with another new villain who held any kind of longevity. Granted, I didn’t read comics from 1999-2002, but I don’t get the sense that I missed much. Yeah, there are a few out there, but they’re clearly not very memorable.
Comic site IGN click currently is running a bracket-style tournament of the 64 greatest villains. Of those, only five made their first appearance within the past 20 years. That list includes Carnage, which is basically an extension of Venom’s character; Doomsday and Bane, who were essentially one-time villains that served the single purpose of putting Superman and Batman out of commission, respectively; and Saint of Killers and Violator, two villains from comic books that first came out in the 1990s.
Part of the problem is the unwillingness of fans to embrace new villains. We like our established bad guys, because they’re tied so closely to the heroes, and the knowledge we have of their characters makes for a richer reading experience. When a new bad guy is brought into the mix, it muddies the comfortable world our heroes live in.
Superman has Lex Luthor, Spider-Man has Venom, Captain America has Red Skull and Batman has most of the cool bad guys.
And maybe that relationship is the root of the problem. Which gets me thinking, where have all the new heroes gone?