Party Talk: Bad Guys!


BigBad2Hey y’all, I have some exciting news…there’s a new book coming out soon, and you’re going to love it!  It’s called The Big Bad II, and it’ll be released February 24.  Edited by John Hartness and Emily Lavin Leverett, it’s chockful of great stories by some of the best in the business, and every single story is from the point-of-view of the villain.  As soon as we have a preorder link, I’ll share it here on MW for you!  In the meantime, I’ve invited the writers from The Big Bad II to come to Magical Words for a session of Party Talk.  Today’s question is:

Who’s the best bad guy you’ve ever read? What made that character so enthralling?

Gail Martin: It’s a tie for me between Voldemort from Harry Potter and Denethor from Lord of the Rings. I really loved the parallels between Tom Riddle and Harry, with choice being the deciding factor. Denethor was so believably bat-shit crazy and dysfunctional. The villain that I hated the most was Dolores Umbridge, because she reminds me so much of people I worked with (and for) back in my corporate days.

David B Coe: I think my favorite villain of all time is Brandin of Ygrath from Guy Gavriel Kay’s TIGANA. And the reason I found him so compelling was that he wasn’t evil, he wasn’t unrepentantly bad. He was ruthless, at times violent, but he was also tender, gentle, even kind. We see him mostly through the eyes of his lover, who originally came to Ygrath to kill him, but fell in love with him and so cannot fulfill her desire to avenge her homeland and her family. It’s heartrending and bittersweet and beautifully done, like so much of Kay’s work.

Misty Massey: One of my very favorite villains is also one that scared the living bedoodles out of me – Horrabin the Clown from Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates.  Horrabin runs a crew of beggars in Georgian London, but they’re not ordinary beggars.  He’s used unspeakable surgical techniques to make his beggars truly disabled in horrific ways, in order to make more profit, a skill he learned at the knee of his cruel father years before.  He’s terribly smart, and if life had taken him in a different direction, he might have been able to use his intellect for the greater good.  Inside, he is emotionally still the little boy abused by a powerful father, taking his pain out on all the people around him.  Instead of feeling pity for his situation, we (the readers) are terrified by him and the horrors he commits.  And, you know, HE’S A CLOWN.

Selah Janel: Hands down, Skinner Sweet in the American Vampire graphic novels. Not only is his story not an average vampire transformation, but he was fairly unlikable before becoming a vampire. As a vampire, he’s just not afraid to do anything. You see brief glimmers of empathy, like when he transforms wronged actress Pearl but then those moments quickly disappear. With Pearl, you hang onto that moment where he actually does some good right up until volume 5, when he suddenly destroys all of that, it’s incredible.  He plays whatever side he feels like playing, for however long it takes. Not only is he pretty vile, but he has a distinct sense of humor that just adds to how wrong his actions are. It’s really jarring, at times, to find yourself laughing when he’s doing some horrific things. Plus, three pages later you’ll stumble on something truly almost likable and attractive about him, then have that wrecked after another three pages. He’s definitely a villain’s villain. It’s fun to try to keep up with him, and half the time you just can’t believe what he’s actually daring to do.

Matthew Saunders: I love (to hate) the Man with the Thistledown Hair from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Suzanna Clarke. He’s completely amoral, and doesn’t care or even realize how he’s harming everyone else. He just sees everyone as there for his own amusement, but he’s also very attractive and charming.

Sarah Adams: Dolores Umbridge. Every one else is going to say Umbridge though, right? Okay then I pick Vorbis from Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. Making an inquisitor a bad guy isn’t exactly hard – they’ve got villain stamped on their forehead as a character type. What I appreciate about Vorbis though is his total self absorption. He literally meets his own god in the desert and doesn’t care, because for him the only god he’s ever really listened to is the sound of his own voice inside his head telling him he’s right. I’ve met people like that. That kind of impenetrability is hard to write well, and it’s maddening when you have to deal with them, terrifying when you’re in their power

Edmund Schubert: No question: R’as al Ghul from the Batman mythos (the comic book version, not the recent movie version). Yes, he’s taking things too far, but he’s trying to put things right in a world that’s so overpopulated and polluted that it can’t help but collapse on itself at some point. How can you not almost sort of admire that? Oh, and the fact that he can keep coming back from the dead and his daughter is a total babe doesn’t hurt either.  Of course, if I were R’as and Talia was my daughter, thinking that she was a babe would be pretty creepy. On the other hand, he is a bad guy…

Nicole Givens Kurtz: The best bad guy I have ever read is Roland Deschain of the The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Roland’s purpose is to set right his world by going to the tower and demanding it. However, his journey to the Dark Tower and his quest is fraught with challenges and death. His ka-tet (his version of a fellowship), suffer in ways that only King can produce. Roland will sacrifice everything for the tower and he does. It is Roland’s development as an anti-hero that is both enthralling and repulsive all wrapped together in a gripping story that expands through eight books, numerous comics, and Internet lore, to solidify in my heart as the best bad guy, ever.

Eden Royce: I love villains like Hannibal Lecter. They’re the ones that have class and elegance wrapped into everything they do, whether the action is evil or not. It may be strange, but it makes me think of my grandmother, a very together lady. She always said, “When you have to hurt somebody, no need to be nasty about it.”


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