Villains are the best. I spend so much time thinking about them, writing them, wanting to be them, etc.
Recently, the Fantastic Four movie has tried to re-re-reintroduce one of my favorite villains, Dr. Doom. And screwed it up again, but that’s not important.
Writers and agents tend to agree that the important part of creating a good villain is thinking through the character and fleshing them out as their own character. If your antagonist just kills aimlessly, you might not have needed a villain. You might have just needed a disease.
Further, you can sympathize with the best villains. Or even root for them. Take Dr. Doom:
Plus, Mr. Fantastic is a tool.
I’d argue that his primary characteristic is his genius. Sure, he has that iconic armor. And in the comics he’s kind of a wizard. But when it comes down to it, he actually is pretty much smarter than everyone else.
He has his own country, Latveria. It’s a technological utopia, where the people are well provided for and generally happy. Sure, it’s run by a tyrant. But he’s really good at it.
In one comic, Doom claims to have used his science/magic to look into thousands of possible futures. In all of them, humanity has been destroyed – or just likely – has destroyed itself. Except the one future where he takes over the planet.
For another brilliant take on The Tyrant Who’s Always Right, read any of Terry Pratchet’s books that include the side character Lord Vetinari. Or the badguy from The Watchmen.
My other favorite villain is Mr. Freeze from batman. Specifically, I’m referring to the version in which his wife was killed/frozen. Now he steals diamonds necessary to forward his experiments to preserve her or bring her back to life. Yes, he steals and even kills in his burglaries, but to him, it’s all worth it to bring her back. Nothing is more important.
Unlike most doctors, he doesn’t correct you when you call him “Mr.”
In this version, he doesn’t kill for the fun of it. His motivations are clear. And in a way, you can root for him. Other villains to check out that have REASON: Magneto, the god-emperor of the Mistborn books.
This is why it’s so disappointing to see a villain whose soul characteristic is to be a dumbass or jerk. The villain who is simply there to be an obstacle for the hero.
So your villain doesn’t have to win. Just make me WISH they did.