A Media Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Credible Threat

So I was wondering what I could rant about for my next blog entry when I was subjected to numerous viewings of the latest Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailers. This actually sparked two subjects in my mind, but since I was recently thinking about what makes a good villain, I realized I forgot (or need to expound on) one criterion – credible threat.

Actually, this criterion is broader than just the superhero genre. If the obstacle or antagonist standing between the protagonist and his/her goals is not credible, then the drama falls flat. I say “obstacle” because in some stories is no antagonist or the nature of the antagonist isn’t as clear as a villain as such but the principle still applies. A couple of those examples:

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A Media Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Good at Being Bad

There have been a lot of complaints about the MCU‘s lack of really interesting villains. The only one with any real depth is Loki, and that’s because Loki has had the most exposure. Due to the blockbuster convention, nearly all other villains have been summarily terminated. That’s a pity too because with comic book adaptations especially, villains should be allowed to return. There are exceptions, of course, in which the story requires the villain to be terminated (Jessica Jones is one). So, then, what makes for a compelling villain?

First, it is important to remember that a villain and antagonist are not necessarily the same, just as a hero and protagonist are not the same (at least not to me). In most comic book stories that is the case. To me, though, the difference between a protagonist and hero (and antagonist and villain) is that the stakes are between good and evil. Broadly taken, I suppose, that could apply in say, a mystery novel in which the detective is the hero and the murderer is the villain. But in general that is not how I’m using the terms.

I’ve written before on how badly written villains will sink comic book movie adaptations like the Titanic hitting an iceberg. I’ve also written about how a “cartoon villain” isn’t necessarily a badly written villain. So, then, what does make for a good villain?

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A TV Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Cartoon Villains

So once again I find myself thinking about villains and villainy, and this is where my fevered hamster brain has led me.  Enjoy!

Continue reading A TV Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Cartoon Villains

A Comic Book Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Enough is Never Enough

“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?

A Comic Book Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: The Dating Game

So you’ve chosen a career in villainy.  Are you at the top yet?  Maybe, maybe not, but if not soon you will be.  And then what?  Or, if you are the Big Bad, now what?  It turns out that your dark, dark heart is just a wee bit lonely.  Who knew?  So, what are your options?  Well, be careful.  After all, love is a battlefield and love can break your heart.  But when love calls, even a villain will occasionally answer.

1) Dating Lois Lane – By which I mean dating a non-villain.  This has two different scenarios.
a) She Doesn’t Know – The love of your life has no idea about your criminal enterprises.  Sure, she knows you are wealthy/quirky/genius/keep odd hours, but she has no idea why.  This does present some difficulties.  Obviously without her knowing about your criminal empire, she can’t share in the joys and miseries of running said empire, although she, like everyone else, will benefit when you take over the world.  Still, until that day comes, she is blissfully ignorant of your true intentions.  But if you’re comfortable with hiding a part of yourself, then kudos to you.  However, the odds you can hide this secret forever are pretty slim.  Secrets, especially ones like this, tend to get out.  And love don’t come easy, after all.
b) She Knows – The love of your life does in fact know about your criminal enterprises.  Whether she found out or you told her, there are two likely scenarios.

I) Tears and Recriminations – well, it turns out Tess Trueheart is totally not cool with you being a villain.  Maybe that love potion #9 you gave her worse off.  She’s angry and betrayed because you give love a bad name.  The best case is the Tess decides to just forget she ever knew you and your love gone bad.  But she might try to reform you.  This, of course, won’t work because you’re a villain.  This puts her back at forgetting you, or, worst case, trying to turn you in.  Uh-oh.  How you deal with a potential threat to your criminal empire is up to you, but there are really no good options at this point.  You may just have to “take care of” her.  Hey, sometimes love kills.

II) Much Rejoicing – well, it turns out Bess Blackheart is totally cool with you being a villain.  Maybe she’s upset you didn’t tell her in the first place (if you didn’t), but yeah, it turns out her sense of morality is as broken as yours.  Maybe she’s damaged by love.  Maybe she’s just crazy in love.  As long as she doesn’t get any ideas about being a better Big Bad then you, or breaks up with you and tries to get revenge, well, then, here’s to your everlasting love.

2) Dating Harley Quinn – By which I mean dating a villain who works for you (you’re the manager).  This seems like a good idea.  You already know your potential sweetie has no good intentions.  She knows about your organization and some of the ins and outs.  Surely she’ll understand all that you go through.  Well, maybe.  This has all the pitfalls of an office romance, plus a few more, depending on how devoted/psychotic and crazy in love your Girl Friday is.  As an evil overlord, you do have some leeway in how you manage your minions, but there’s probably going to be some clear favoritism that may not sit well with the rest of your workers.  But maybe you can get past that.
But what if it just doesn’t work out?  What if your love is on the rocks?
In high concept rom-coms or dark thrillers, the spurned woman could try to get revenge.  Love bites, love stinks, and love hurts, and sometimes in more ways than one.  If this happens to you, well, she already knows your organization and lairs so hiding will be hard.  She could try to turn you over to the heroes.  On the less extreme end of revenge, perhaps your Dragon won’t try to kill you but may try to find another job which would be a great boon to your villainous enemies.  Obviously you could fire her or turn her over to the heroes (although it’s almost a near certainty she will betray you to them if you do that).  What you really need to consider is whether a relationship outweighs the possibility of losing a good henchperson.  After all, good help is hard to find.  Maybe it’s just easier in this case to say goodbye to love.

3) Dating the Baroness – By which I mean dating a villain who works for your organization and with you, but not for you (you are on equal footing).  This has a lot of the same problems as dating an underling, but in this case, if you break up, you can’t fire your ex.  Depending on how mad she is, and how clever, you might be one who ends up getting fired.  In fact, if she’s really clever, you may be lucky if you only end up fired (love never dies, but right now the same can’t be said of you). This relationship is probably going to be more dangerous, but hey, if that’s what you really want, go for it.  Love is indeed a many-splendored thing.

4) Dating Catwoman – I actually don’t mean this trope whereby a hero dates a villain.  I mean dating another villain outside your own evil organization.  This bypasses the complications of office romances, so to speak.  This is also probably still pretty dangerous.  After all, if Catwoman was an easy villain to win over, she’d already be working for you, or you would have already “taken care of” her.  But you just can’t help yourself.  It was love at first sight.  Maybe.  Even if you are dangerously in love, she’s not in as good a position to get bloody vengeance on you as someone who actually works for you or with you.  Sure, she could try to turn you into the heroes, but you could also try to turn her in without compromising your human resources.  All in all, this is a better option than dating someone you work with.

5) Dating Spider-man – This is actually a variant of the “dating Catwoman” trope.  In this case, I refer to dating a hero whose secret identity you do not know, nor does he know yours.  Black Cat did this for a bit in Spider-man before they eventually broke up and he got married and then it got erased and yes I am *still* bitter about that.  So anyway, you’re dating a hero.  If this is not the most dangerous game, it’s probably the second-most dangerous game.  You can’t hurry love, of course, and it’s encouraging to find out the hero has a someone flexible view of morality, especially if it turs out you can’t help falling in love.  How can this end?  Will love tear you apart?

a) You’ve said too much – If the hero finds out too much about your misdeeds, his morality may be stronger than his emotions and he’ll have to break up with you.  Or worse, he’ll have to try to turn you in.  At this point, he knows some of your secrets and thus is a much greater threat to you than before.  Now we ain’t talkin’ about love; we’re talking about surviving as a villain.  Hopefully you’re all out of love so you can “take care” of business.

b) He’s said too much – Now you know much more about the hero than you did before.  It would be so very easy to dispose of him and allow you to make greater progress with your plans.  Such an opportunity doesn’t come along every day, and may never come along again.  What’s a gal to do?  You’ll just have to “take care of” him, chalk him up as a casuality of love, and hope for better love next time.

c) You see the light – Of course you don’t believe love conquers all, but what if it does?  The power of love is a curious thing.  Love changes, and love has been good to you.  What if you fall so hard for the hero you decide to reform?  Will you do anything for love?

d) He sees the darkness – So it turns out there is a dark side to love, and he’s realized if he wants to be with you he must give up all that he is and was.  He’s not your enemy anymore, but your devoted Dragon.  Is this true?  Do you believe in love and that he will do anything because of love?  That’s not so bad, although there are potential problems.  Now your relationship falls back to “Dating Harley Quinn” and he’s a prisoner of your love.

6) Dating Batman – another variant of “dating Catwoman.”  This time you’re accidentally in love with a hero who knows your secret identity (if you have one) and you know his.  This is likely to be more difficult than the other relationships because it’s quite possible you developed feelings for him, and you him, before you knew each other’s secrets.  Love is a hurtin’ thing, after all.  Love may even be a losing game in this case.  This is a variant of the outcomes of “dating Lois Lane,” except the stakes are much higher.  A civilian can only cause you so much harm if a relationship goes bad.  But a hero that knows your secret identity could cause even more harm.  Love is pain.  Of course, you know his secrets, but there’s no way to know if that’s sufficient blackmail to prevent him from turning you in to the authorities.  While this is a dangerous, thrilling relationship, this is probably the top one to avoid (along with “dating Spider-man”).  There are few potential positive outcomes and a whole lot of negative ones, as detailed above.  In the end, love is lost and you may be too.

7) Dating your Creation – by which I mean building an android or creating a synthoid or otherwise trying to design your perfect mate.  Don’t do this.  This is all too likely to end up the same way as creating a superweapon with additional emotional entanglements.  Love is strange, true, but love lies too.  Frankly, this can only end in tears.

So what’s a villain to do?  You want somebody to love; you need somebody to love.  You’re waiting to be love struck.  But there are so many ways the love game turns into a bad romance.  Do you just say bye-bye love?  No.  You’re going to have to face it, you’re addicted to love.  Should you just stick with a one-night love affair?  Just be patient.  After all, you can wait for your evil plans to come to fruition so you can rule the world.  As they say, love will find a way, and love will get you.

A Comic Book Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Lairs

In villainy, as in real estate and life, the secret to success is location, location, location (or at least one secret to success).  So, Big Bad, where do you set up shop and scheme your dastardly schemes and execute your plans?  The choice of lair, besides logistics and practicality, also reflects your flavor of villainy.  Is your lair obvious and ornately decorated so as to tell the superheroes you believe you are untouchable?  Is your lair hidden to yourself and only a few of your trusted lieutenants because you prefer a shroud of mystery (and lower insurance premiums)?  Or perhaps you have more than one lair because you wish to confuse the superheroes and find it practical to always have a back-up lair.  Any lair has advantages, disadvantages, and customization options.  Why customization options?  Because if you’re the Big Bad, you want your lair to say, “Today this is mine.  Tomorrow the world will be mine.”

1) The Corporate Headquarters:
a) Advantages – If you are a corporate Big Bad, a corporate style headquarters has a lot of advantages.  You are close to your place of business, both legitimate and illegitimate.  You have all the modern comforts and technology of a modern city.  You can choose to have a penthouse style apartment at your headquarters or you can find one a quick private helicopter jaunt away from your headquarters.  Anything you want to steal can probably be found within the city limits.  You’re also close to as many scummy lawyers, marketers, and recruit-able low-lifes and higher level minions as you could possibly want.
b) Disadvantages – High insurance premiums and overhead.  Cities seem to have a rather high concentration of superheroes as well.  Also, the police, district attorneys, and superheroes know where to find you and even if they can’t prove your culpability, they may get all huffy and charge into your office and vow vengeance or justice or something.  On the other hand, you can get them thrown out by security, which is always humiliating.  Still, if a big fight goes down in your corporate headquarters, you’re going to have all sorts of headaches and costs in trying to repair it.  You simply can’t have this kind of lair be your secret headquarters if that’s what you’re going for.
c) Customization Options – If you get to build the building, you have as many customization options as the building codes and engineering requirements allow.  However, when you get down to it, you’re still just going to have another shiny skyscraper in the middle of downtown.  It can be impressive and unique, but probably not in a way the superheroes will appreciate unless they happen to be uber-wealthy corporate moguls themselves.  And if you don’t get to build the building, then your customization options are limited to interior decorating, and those options are limited to what is appropriate in a corporate environment.  If that’s the case, well, at least you can put your name on everything.

2) The Remote Fortress:
a) Advantages – Whether you’re in the jungle, the desert, one of the Poles, or somewhere else, your fortress is remote.  That means you’re probably outside of any police jurisdiction to begin with and it’s hard for the superheroes to find, and if they do, they have a lot of territory to cover which should give you plenty of warning to set traps and plan for their arrival.  The ominous atmosphere of such a place can demoralize the superheroes (it helps if you have a weather machine to cause lightning to strike your lair precisely as the superheroes spot it for the first time).  Your remote fortress is also, well, fortified, which makes it hard for the superheroes to bust in.  The strength of your defenses also buys you time to escape, if it comes to that, and any good remote fortress has plenty of hidden escape routes.  This is probably the best kind of lair to be your secret headquarters, if that’s what you want.
b) Disadvantages – It’s remote.  The comforts of modern life such as electricity and running water may be difficult to come by.  You’ll probably have to invest in your own power generation and water and wastewater treatment systems.  Being in the utility business, no matter how necessary, is neither enjoyable nor intimidating.  Such limitations may make high-energy scientific experiments all but impossible.  You may also have to ship food and other supplies and any ill-gotten gains in from quite a distance away.  Also, the only difference between a hidden escape route and an accessible back door is who’s in the passage and which direction they’re going.
c) Customization Options – Building from the ground up gives you the most options, and there are a lot.  Do you want a Medieval style castle?  Do you want a South American pyramid?  Do you want a science-fiction style structure that looks paradoxically futuristic and ancient?  Do you want a ton of ornate decorations that make it obvious to even the most oblivious superhero that this is yours?  Even if you don’t get to build from the ground up, you still can decide if you’re going to cover it with gargoyles or cobra heads or whatever really speaks to you.  Pretty much no matter what kind of customization you go with, the remote fortress is going to be intimidating.

3) The Private Island Resort:
a) Advantages – Ultimate comfort.  You live and work in a tropical paradise.  It’s stressful being a Big Bad, and having a place of relaxation can help you keep your blood pressure down.  You’ve also got modern technological comforts.  And depending on the corruptibility of the government whom you’re leasing/bought the island from, you probably don’t have to worry about any law enforcement messing up your good time.  In fact, a truly corrupt government would also make it difficult for any superheroes to come find you.  This may serve as a secret headquarters as well, depending on how remote and/or secure your private island resort is.
b) Disadvantages – You may still have to be in the utility business depending on how remote the island is.  And a government that can be bought by you can be bought again by the superheroes if necessary.  Also, you may be more susceptible to natural disasters, which can be an expensive proposition.  And how embarrassing would it be if the superheroes had to come save you because of a hurricane bearing right down on your island?  Also, if you want a secret headquarters, this may not be remote enough, especially if you like your modern comforts.
c) Customization Options – You have as many options as Las Vegas as themed resorts.  Do you want a take on Atlantis?  Or perhaps Monte Carlo?  Are you going to have a casino with slot machines with your symbol or even your face?  Do you have a volcano on your island and can you work that into your theme?  The one drawback is that no matter what you go with, except possibly the volcano option, a private island resort is probably not going to be very intimidating.

4) The Laboratory:
a) Advantages – Any headquarters that is primarily a laboratory is likely to be near a city due to the various utility requirements, which means close proximity to modern comforts.  It also means close proximity to other scientific research labs that have items you wish to steal.  The laboratory will have a ready supply of experimental weapons to use anytime the superheroes come calling.  Defenses will, of course, be state-of-the-art.  The laboratory will also have a steady supply of escape methods such as advanced vehicles, teleporters, or portals to other dimensions.
b) Disadvantages – The high electricity demand makes the laboratory a bit conspicuous, even in a populated city.  While experiments drive the development of new weapons, experiments also can and probably will go wrong.  Such accidents could be as minor as blowing a breaker or as major as blowing up the entire facility.  Also, while you will have many weapons and escape routes at your disposal, not all of them may work exactly as planned, or a loss of power may render them useless.  And of course a careless superhero could damage the high-energy physics experiment and potentially rip a hole in the space-time continuum, and that will definitely put many aspects of your operation in jeopardy (including you).
c) Customization Options – Options here are quite limited.  The laboratory has certain practical functions that can’t really be customized.  A clean room is a clean room.  A particle accelerator is a particle accelerator.  You may have to settle for putting your name and or symbol everywhere, or focus on having customizable uniforms of some sort.

5) The Run-down Whatever:
a) Advantages – The run-down whatever (warehouse, ice cream shop, theater, etc.), is located in the middle of a bad part of a city.  Cops don’t like this area and generally avoid it.  Those that are there can be fairly easily dispatched if necessary because hey, this is the bad part of town.  You’re fairly anonymous here; perhaps this is your secret headquarters.  You’ve got all your modern conveniences and lots of low-lifes to recruit.  You’re close enough to things you want to steal, and the overhead is not nearly as expensive as other real estate in the city.  And if part of it gets wrecked in a superhero fight, it’s fairly cheap to fix up.
d) Disadvantages – Something that is run-down probably needs repairs.  That’s not to say those repairs are outside your budget, but you really don’t want the power to go out right when the security cameras have alerted you to the superhero’s presence.  Also, a run-down building may not be suitable for high-energy experiments.  A proper defense grid may be difficult to install due to the structural limitations.  You may have a hard time recruiting higher level minions to your cause if their first impression of your organization is your run-down whatever.
c) Customization Options – Practically none.  If the building isn’t outright abandoned then it is at least a fixer-upper.  There are some possibilities to customize the outside, but you probably want the outside to look as inconspicuous as possible.  Interior decorating is probably limited by practical considerations.  For example, a warehouse with high ceilings and lots of empty space is probably not going to be very cozy.  An abandoned factory may be littered with a lot of inoperable heavy machinery you can’t move out and just takes up space.  Your best bet is to find a run-down whatever that already matches your signature style, although this can have disadvantage of narrowing down the places the superheroes will look to find you.

6) The Orbital HQ:
a) Advantages – Orbital weaponry!  Unparalleled surveillance!  Everything must by definition be state-of-the-art or this wouldn’t even exist.  You are outside of all governmental jurisdiction and could definitely serve as a secret headquarters.  Or you could proclaim your evil for all the world to fear due the aforementioned orbital weaponry.
b) Disadvantages – Control of your evil organization is by definition remote unless you don’t spend time on your orbital HQ.  As long as the communication systems are good to go, so are you.  But there are a lot of routes the superheroes can use to sabotage your operations.  Once they find you or bring a fight to you, your escape options are limited.  While one would hope the superheroes wouldn’t destroy an orbital HQ due to the potential death toll both on the station and on the planet below, well, some superheroes aren’t that careful.  That’s a lot of risk.  Also, orbital HQs are the most expensive option available.  Any damage to the lair will not be easy, quick, or cheap to repair, if it’s even possible to repair the damage.
c) Customization Options – This, like the laboratory, is limited by structural constraints.  There must be life-support equipment and something to generate gravity and a way to recycle water and air and supply food and so on.  All of these things will take up a certain amount of space.  You may get some artistic license, but when all that separates you from the cold vacuum of space is thin metal and someone else’s engineering calculations, functionality really should be your top priority.  Anyway, you can always use a giant laser to carve your name on the moon or something.

As the Big Bad, you must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and of course keep your budget in mind.  Not only do you have to maintain your lair, you have to make sure it’s adequately staffed.  Staff that maintain an orbital HQ are probably much more expensive than those to maintain a run-down whatever.  But as you are the Big Bad, you are certain to make the right decision.

A Comic Book Entry – Thoughts on Villainy: Minion Management

It is indeed hard to be the Big Bad.  It’s hard to get to the top, and being at the top is no picnic (especially since there were probably other avenues to infamy and fortune).  And of course, good help is really hard to find.  But once you’ve got good help, it’s important to manage those minions.  Honestly, a lot of comic book villains (especially in comic book movies) are very poor at managing basic human resources.

I’ve already covered recruiting issues and creating superweapons, so I’ll talk mostly about the normal minions.  Now, a lot of the rules of evil human resources depends on having a clear hierarchy of authority.

Evil Human Resources Rule #1 – Have a Clearly Defined Organizational Structure
If a Big Bad does not establish this hierarchy, dispensing disciplinary action would be uneven at best and arbitrary at worst.  This is not to say Big Bads don’t have the right to be arbitrary, but any organization runs better if the minions understand their roles and the expectations of those roles.

Part and parcel of that rule is the next one:
Evil Human Resources Rule #2 – Match the Minion to the Task
The success of any mission depends on having the right people for the job.  If Low-life Johnson is a stereotypical thug, sending him on the mission to steal the delicate and sensitive scientific equipment might result in him callously breaking the stuff.  Likewise, timid Mad Scientist McGee might not be the best person to helm the getaway car for an armed robbery.  This rule applies for the lowest level minions, as in the above examples, but also for higher level minions.  Professor Psychopath should probably be in charge of scientific experiments and Cruelty Spike-Armor in charge of the extortion racket.

Evil Human Resources Rule #3 – Do not Comment Crimes off the Clock
When one hires minions for an evil organization, obviously one of the desired qualities is a certain level of immorality.  Minions can have a strong sense of right and wrong as long as they consciously choose wrong, or minions can just have a rather fluid or mercenary sense of morality.  While this is a necessity, it also brings along with it a host of potential problems.  The minion that can commit crimes on the clock may not have many qualms about committing crimes off the clock.
The reason why you do not want this is very simple: you do not want any evidence that connects you to your criminal organization (i.e., plausible deniability).  Now, perhaps your minions already have criminal records.  That wouldn’t be too surprising, really.  But those crimes are in the past and not related to your organization anyway.  But if that minion is brought up on charges, even those not related to your organization, that’s a potential link to you that an eager young assistant District Attorney out to prove herself or the jaded cop just trying to make it to retirement might see.  You don’t want that.  Minions that commit crimes off the clock regardless of whether they engage in tax fraud or high-level felonies become liabilities, especially those with criminal backgrounds.  Minions that commit crimes off the clock should be subject to disciplinary action if they aren’t caught by the police.

Evil Human Resoures Rule #4 – Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
But aren’t minions in police custody liabilities?  Yes, I did just say that.  So shouldn’t the Big Bad make every effort to keep them out of jail?  Well, that greatly depends on several factors.  A minion in police custody is indeed a liability, but how you as the Big Bad deal with that incorporates many factors.  The first question to be asked is – where in your hierarchy does this minion fall?

3a) Low-level minions – these are recent recruits or those who show no capability for advancement.  You probably use them for cannon fodder or evil experiments anyway.  They are basic thugs and while you do send them in to steal advanced scientific equipment or military technology, they don’t know how this fits into your grand scheme (heck, they’re probably so ignorant they don’t even know what they stole besides, “big shiny valuable thing”).  They simply aren’t important enough or trusted enough or smart enough to know anything about your grand schemes.  In that case, if Low-Life Johnson mugs someone off the clock, let him go to jail.  If Low-Life Johnson is stupid enough to get caught carrying out one of your crimes, let him go jail.  What’s he going to really tell the police?  Surely there are already rumors of you running your criminal organization anyway.  While you may be paranoid Low-life will be taken seriously, take a deep breath and realize to the cops and detectives, he’s probably only repeating those unsubstantiated rumors in order to take the heat off of him.

– Do not, under any circumstances, bail this low-life out, even if he was committing a crime for you.  When Low-Life Johnson is represented by Scummy Harvard-Lawyer III, whom he cannot possibly began to afford, that would make even the most oblivious, stereotypical, doughnut-eating beat cop think, “Hey, that’s suspicious.”  Because it is.  That makes the cops follow Low-life Johnson more closely, or worse, gets him tagged with a superhero stalker who’s convinced Low-life Johnson will lead the superhero right to you.  And let’s be honest, Low-life Johnson might just be that stupid.  So let him go to jail.  He knows nothing to incriminate you, so don’t incriminate yourself by attempting to help this idiot.  You can always find more low-level minions.

– Do not, under any circumstances, increase the severity of the crime.  By that I mean that if you think you really need to protect Low-Life Johnson from going to jail to protect yourself, don’t give the cops any more reason to be suspicious.  In this example, Low-life Johnson mugged someone.  Don’t send in assassins to kill the victim with the assumption if the victim is dead, Low-life gets off.  You’ve now increased the severity of a simple mugging to murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  While this may get Low-life off because there’s no witness, this only implicates Low-life in a more significant crime.  Now he’s definitely going to be followed closely by the police or superheroes.  Also, don’t kill Low-Life Johnson either.  Again, while dead he certainly can’t incriminate you, but the circumstances of his death will cause cops and superheroes to look more closely at his past and recent activities and that may eventually lead them to you.

3b) Higher-level Minions – Here’s a bit of a conundrum.  Higher-level minions are the ones who direct the raids on S.T.A.R. Labs or Roxxon to steal the equipment.  They are probably smart enough to guess what you might want a particle accelerator for.  They’ve been with the organization long enough to have been party to many crimes and may even be able to implicate you.  Worse, they may be weak enough that a suitably tough cop or superhero could get them to crack under pressure and agree to turn state’s evidence on you.  At this point, it may be appropriate to send in Scummy Harvard-Lawyer III to bail the Dragon out.  If the Dragon is high-level enough, the cops and superheroes are already suspicious.  Utilizing your resources to keep the Dragon out of jail may be the smartest thing to do at this point, although depending on why she was caught (crime off the clock or incompetence), she may be subject to further disciplinary action.  Then again, her weakness may mean it’s time for her to be “taken care of” in which case an assassination may be appropriate.  Is it suspicious?  Hell yes.  Does it further incriminate you?  Possibly, but as the Big Bad you must perform the cost-benefit analysis on whether it’s worth it to keep the Dragon around.  Good help really is hard to find, after all.

Evil Human Resources Rule #5 – Disciplinary Action is Applied Equally
Having a clearly explained hierarchy and set of expectations is only ones step for smooth minion management.  Disciplinary action is vital but must be applied as described in the manual.  For example, if Lt. Cruelty Spike-Armor deals with all failures with extremely painful deaths, while Lt. Dominatrix Minion follows the manual, this is going to create some friction within the organization.  No minions will want to work for Cruelty Spike-Armor because they don’t want to be killed.  This makes Cruelty Spike-Armor a less effective lieutenant, which also weakens the effectiveness of your organization.  Even as the Big Bad, it is not recommended you apply disciplinary action in an arbitrary fashion.  If Cruelty Spike-Armor kills seventeen low-level minions because one guy spilled coffee, and you let that go, but Dominatrix Minion kills a low-level minion for botching an easy job so badly a superhero ended up involved and you rant and rave and dock her pay for daring to deal out death without your permission, you can bet Dominatrix Minion is going to end up a much less trustworthy lieutenant.  Again, this weakens your organization.

Evil Human Resources Rule #6 – Have Clearly Defined Rewards, Bonuses, and Benefits
Obviously you don’t want to pay out too much money, but it’s probably a good idea to reward a job well done with more than, “You get to keep your life.”  You are the Big Bad, true, but ruling by fear is really exhausting.  Ruling with efficiency is probably going to keep you and your organization on top for longer.  I’m also not saying that killing minions for no good reason is something to avoid.  You’re the Big Bad after all, and a hazard/perk that comes with working for an evil organization is killing lower-level minions.  But still, it is to the benefit of the smooth operation of an organization that every member understands how likely their demise may be as well as the potential of upward mobility.  Thus, a low-level minion may work hard to advance to avoid being killed.  A high-level minion may do good work so they get a bonus.  Such a bonus could be money, or a vacation, or an allowance to kill two extra minions the next fiscal year with no penalty.  Letting your high-level minions go on vacation not only gives them a much needed break, but it also gives you a chance to see how vital they truly are to your organization.  Does everything run smoothly without them?  If yes, is that because they made sure of that, or is it because they don’t really contribute?  Also remember that anyone who works just for money can always be bought off by someone with more money.  You need to provide those less-quantative benefits such as healthcare, bonuses, and so on, in order to keep talent within your organization.  Is it expensive?  Yes.  But is it worth it?  Well, as the Big Bad, that is always for you to decide, but such a cost-benefit analysis is worth considering.

Remember, the point of effective management is to further your criminal goals.  Anything that weakens the organization is not going to further your criminal goals.  And while yes, human resources is boring bureaucracy, it is still important, just like having a stable of scummy lawyers.  Well-defined human resources policies also allow you a toolbox to use to evaluate the worth of your minions.  It’s not easy being the Big Bad, and really you should do everything to make sure you stay on top, and your organization stays on top.