“Enough is never enough” is actually from “Star Trek.” It’s number 97 of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. As I ponder (weak and weary) villainy, I think this is another fatal flaw, one which I overlooked in my initial musing. Supervillains just don’t know when to stop. Either greed or ego or maybe even crippling insecurity pushes them to never accept enough as actually enough.
1) Corporate supervillains – those who have the greatest superpower of all, and I don’t understand their motivations at all. What is it that drives these villains who already manage vast corporate empires, have amassed enough wealth to make Solomon blush, and wield enough political influence to have virtual puppets on any political forum they like, to risk all of that? For most people, they’re already living the dream. Sure, corporate villains don’t technically rule the world, but do they really need to? They get everything they want, after all. But no, there is some need for yet more power, or some misguided fear that must be allayed, that makes losing everything somehow seem worth it. Also, perhaps they really are so egotistical as to believe they couldn’t possibly fail.
I better understand why other types of villains might go too far, so the next part of this addresses specific villainous situations rather than villain types. I mean, if you’re called “Kang the Conqueror,” then your motivations are pretty clear.
2) Gloating – Okay, so you’ve got the hero at your mercy. Your plan has succeeded; well, almost. It’s just almost there and the hero can’t stop you; in fact, the hero will be dead in just a few short minutes. Unless, you know, you give the villain time to stop you. Gloating is either the ultimate act of ego or the ultimate act of self-sabotage. Why risk the success of your plan for a few minutes of ranting that will cease to matter when the hero is safely dead? This is your moment of triumph, but the hero can’t take it with him/her. If you’re just going to rant at a hero who in theory won’t remember your rant anyway, why not kill the hero first and then rant? Sure, it may look a little weird and macabre, but you’re a villain. That can only add to your reputation, not detract from it. Better to have a reputation for crazy than a reputation for losing. You do want to win, right?
3) Vengeance – If you’re whole motivation in being a villain is to get revenge on someone, then obviously this doesn’t count. However, if you’re a villain long enough, you’re going to make powerful enemies. Some defeats are going to hurt you a little more than others. But when you’ve essentially achieved victory, why screw it up for some petty vendetta (assuming, again, that wasn’t your goal in the first place)? The most recent example of this I read was the deeply flawed “Thor: God of Thunder #21.” The evil CEO of Roxxon has pretty much won; he’s humiliated Thor, crushed his spirit, and sicced him with a lawsuit. But that’s just not enough for him. Oh, no, on the last page he sends a troll hitman to kill Thor. Why? I get he’s ticked off at Thor; that’s why he set out to destroy Broxton in the first place. But he’s won. He even says that he’s won. Thor even says that he’s won. But that’s just not enough, so the evil CEO is going to screw up his victory because vengeance is more important than winning.
4) Greedy – You’re a successful supervillain with the world at your fingertips. In many ways, you’re in the same position as the corporate villain. You have all the money and power you could want. Why not just retire? Why set up yet another heist for money you don’t need or another scheme to bring you power you don’t need? Why run the risk that your luck will run out, or that the hero will have learned some way of defeating you? Is the thrill of victory really worth the potential loss? Do you really want to push the hero too far? What if you’ve overestimated your worthy nemesis and find out that the line you do not cross is now behind you? Clearly taking risks is part of what makes you a supervillain, but still, there is some wisdom in knowing when to stop.
Villainous victory is difficult to achieve, at least in the long run. There are always going to be more heroes. You’ve got a lot to manage just to stay in the game, not to mention how difficult it is to maintain that elusive work-life balance. You do take risks; you are greedy. You’re a villain and that’s to be expected. But the thrill of victory and the lack of understanding when to stop is going to one day cause your downfall. Perhaps good doesn’t triumph because it is stronger; perhaps good triumphs because evil just won’t let enjoy what it has. In short, if the world is not enough, then what is?