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DwayneA
04-09-2009, 05:41 AM
All heroes and protagonists have people who work against them, yet one always stands out among them. This is considered one who is a worthy foe for the hero. Such examples are:

Superman and Lex Luthor
Batman and the Joker
Harry Potter and Voldemort.

Yet it wouldn't work for Superman and the Joker, Batman and Lex Luthor. What I want to know is, why? Exactly what determines if a villain is a worthy foe for a hero? Why doesn't the same apply to others who oppose the hero? And how can I create such villains for my heroes?

Saskatoonistan
04-09-2009, 05:43 AM
Joker has taken numerous shots at Superman over the years. Foe is one thing... perhaps Arch Enemy would be more appropriate. What determines an arch enemy? The answers can be found in the movie Unbreakable.

Trust me.

shokadh
04-09-2009, 05:45 AM
Don't forget Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes :hat:

DeleyanLee
04-09-2009, 05:49 AM
Simplistically, when you talk about classic matches, it's because they (the hero/villain) are two sides of the same coin.

Batman is Justice/Order. Joker is Crime/Chaos.
Superman is "the Man of Steel." Lex is the "Smartest Man in the World."
Harry Potter is a child saved by his mother's love. Vordemort is the adult who doesn't know love.

My favorite: Holmes and Moriarty--Both geniuses in their own right, but one is bent on power and the other is bent on truth.

Two sides of the same coin.

If you want to create a classic pairing like this (and they are NOT necessary to a good story, mind you), then look at what coin they both share and make certain they're on the opposite sides of it. THEN you have to make the main story totally revolve around that coin.

Saskatoonistan
04-09-2009, 05:50 AM
I should add that an arch enemy is the opposite of everything the hero stands for to the point of obsession with the hero. The hero in turn is obsessed with the arch enemy. It's basically dysfunction on a meta-human scale.

Matera the Mad
04-09-2009, 05:53 AM
Quite often heroes and villains are brothers under the skin. The villain started out with the same potential as the hero, but was twisted toward evil.

shokadh
04-09-2009, 05:55 AM
Quite often heroes and villains are brothers under the skin. The villain started out with the same potential as the hero, but was twisted toward evil.

Hdakohs is my nemesis

Saskatoonistan
04-09-2009, 05:56 AM
Hdakohs is my nemesis

My cat Hercules is my nemesis. His friend Gary the cat is his minion.

The bastards.

Toothpaste
04-09-2009, 07:00 AM
In my books I like to create an arch villain that my main character could grow up to be if they made a few wrong choices. It's almost like they are facing off with their older selves. And I think this is pretty standard in the hero/arch nemesis setup. They see something in each other, a similarity. Sometimes there is even a begrudging respect of the other.

Nivarion
04-09-2009, 07:06 AM
I love the twins separated at birth one. Imagine a villain that is almost identical to you in every aspect but morals. Sometimes they share those too.

shokadh
04-09-2009, 07:11 AM
In my books I like to create an arch villain that my main character could grow up to be if they made a few wrong choices. It's almost like they are facing off with their older selves. And I think this is pretty standard in the hero/arch nemesis setup. They see something in each other, a similarity. Sometimes there is even a begrudging respect of the other.

Oh, this is an awesome idea. Thanks!

SPMiller
04-09-2009, 07:41 AM
Batman + Joker = Foe Yay (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FoeYay).

(As played up in The Dark Knight.)

Summary: there often seem to be hidden/suppressed sexual subtext between these sorts of characters.

Wiskel
04-09-2009, 03:20 PM
There's a concept called cognitive dissonance. Essentially it means that a person is very uncomfortable if they are faced with two confliciting beliefs. it's hardest to deal with when you're faced with something that goes against the things that are most important to you.

E.g. An honest person will hate being accused of lying. A reliable person will hate feeling they've let you down. Someone obsessed with their looks will hate it if you don't like their new haircut. It's weakest when you're faced with something you don't care about. An honest person may respect you for being honest when you tell them you hate their new haircut.

Most good villains represent the thing that the hero can't live with. they threaten the things that the hero holds most dear.

Superman / Lex isn't so much about strength vs brains as it is small town america against big business. Superman's upbringing was in a small community where people didn't have much, worked hard for what they had, and would share with each other in an instant. He grew up with a sense of community. Lex is big business. he has the ability and the money to help, but he won't. Worse, he'll grind a small community into the dust if there is something in it for him. Superman can't understand how someone can have so much and be so selfish. Lex is drawn to Superman by the fact that Lex wants power....and he sees in superman power he coverts but can't have. He loses sleep over the idea that no matter how much he has, Superman is more powerful.

The Lex / Superman dynamic was beautifully summed up in the tv show "the New Adventures of lois and Clark. Lex was explaining to people that he had the penthouse apartment in the tallest building so that everyone else had to look up to him. Superman takes that away in one line of dialogue by telling Lex that if he ever wants him he just has to look up. A truely great piece of writing.

Batman / joker is more primal. it's about order, or control might be a better word. Batman lost his parents in an alley to a random mugging. He's doing his best to force order on gotham. he wants every alley to be safe...by personally patrolling them if needs be. You get under batman's skin by making him feel out of control. You become his arch villain by killing one person in an alley, not by doing what Lex luthor does. The joker stretches this to another level. He's chaos personified. He'll crop up anywhere, do anything, kill anyone. One day he'll kill one person in an alley, the next he'll be trying to kill hundreds. He strips away the safety that batman wants to impose.

Batman / Riddler is just as interesting, but the riddler would consider batman to be his nemesis, even if it wasn't reciprocated. The Riddler is all about his intellect. He can't handle the idea that someone is smarter than him. Batman is a detective who can solve his riddles. He needs to prove he can outwit batman. In all honesty, Batman wouldn't even notice if the riddler took up white collar fraud. To outwit Batman, the riddler has to draw him in. Batman cares if you endager an innocent, so that's what the ridldler does...all to try to prove he's smarter.

In essence, your arch villain has to represent the one thing that your hero would lose sleep over. To make superman lose sleep you threaten his sense of community. to make Batman lose sleep you endanger an innocent. To make the Riddler (or Holmes or Moriarty) lose sleep you taunt them with the idea that someone else is smarter.

Craig

DwayneA
04-09-2009, 06:56 PM
that makes sense. Thanks for the insight!

josephwise
04-09-2009, 07:17 PM
I read an essay "proving" that Val Jean and Javert are the same person. I think you could do that with most great rivalries.

Phaeal
04-09-2009, 09:17 PM
There's also the great trope wherein the hero has created the villain in one way or another. In Burton's Batman, a criminal has created Batman by killing Bruce Wayne's parents. Batman returns the favor by causing that criminal's mutation into the Joker.

In Child and Preston's Pendergast series, Aloysius and Diogenes Pendergast are both extremely intelligent and promising children. But Aloysius causes Diogenes a terrible and enduring injury, which evidently turns Diogenes into a psychopathic monster. This is a variation on the good twin/evil twin trope, as well as an example of the hero-created villain. And both these tropes speak to the human duality issue: we are all both good and evil.

Another fascinating hero/villain relationship is in Spielberg's Schindler's List. He hints that Schindler and the Nazi commandant Amon Goeth are both driven by a hunger for power over human lives. Goeth asserts his power through killing Jewish prisoners; Schindler asserts his power through saving them. Later the Jews Schindler has saved make him a ring which reads "He who saves one life saves the world." Wow, talk about power.

unicornjam
04-09-2009, 09:31 PM
Quite often heroes and villains are brothers under the skin. The villain started out with the same potential as the hero, but was twisted toward evil.

Off-topic, but I just watched Capote and your line reminded me of what he said. "It's as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front."

Or something like that. I think what you said is an interesting way of thinking about hero/villain dynamics.

wordmonkey
04-09-2009, 10:45 PM
(...though if there really ARE spoilers in this, I'd be surprised!)

A nemesis should be more powerful than the hero.

At the very least equal to, but preferably able to defeat the hero with ease. Looking at a few of the examples list.

The Joker can and will destroy everything that Batman is and does, but Batman can only ever fight the Joker to a stand-off. One will kill, one won't.

Moriarty has Sherlock Holmes on the run. Holmes, the great detective is in hiding from Moriarty and actually flees the country.

Voldemort could have Harry Potter killed at almost any point but Harry can't/won't kill Voldemort.

It's in facing the opponent who is more powerful that the hero proves they are the hero.

And in most cases, it's in facing them self that the hero REALLY wins.

Batman is not a good example, because the whole serial aspect requires that things are never resolved. Sherlock Holmes stops running and realizes that his own sacrifice and unexpected behavior is the only way to thwart the one man who seems to be his intellectual superior. Harry Potter accepts that he must die - though in fairness he doesn't know that in allowing himself to be killed by Voldemort, the villain is killing the part of himself that has thus far made him immune to death.

But in the balancing, the hero is judged by the opposition s/he faces, either in the very task itself, or the opponents s/he faces.

DeleyanLee
04-09-2009, 10:52 PM
There's an old saying wordmonkey's post just brought to mind: A hero is only as great as the villain he defeats.

Putting your hero up against a bunch of dips who get distracted easily, who can't shoot straight, who can't figure out their way out of a room with one door and are out graced by the Keystone Cops really isn't that great a hero. (Don't laugh--I know someone who writes just these kinds of baddies and can't figure out why his stuff doesn't get a second look. And when I tell him this is part of the problem, he tells me--well, I won't go into what he tells me, but you know what I mean.

jy'lenn
04-15-2009, 02:26 AM
Your villian has to pose a threat that seems bigger and badder than your hero. (Ok, 'badder' isn't a correct word, but you get the point). Either it's because the villian is a mysterious foe that they can't find/pinpoint/whatever or because they're like the typical villian: smarter, more clever, etc.

I don't think there's an exact set of directions on creating such a villian, other than decide what your hero is like and do whatever it'll take to thwart the hero. Unless you're doing something like "Wonder Woman" or "Hogan's Hero's", then I have no suggestions, lol.