Ah, henchmen. They truly make the (evil) world go round. If it weren’t for the nameless, faceless masses that followed villains around to do their bidding, most rogues would likely be overthrown in a hot minute. With the recent reveal of the Putty Patrollers design for the new “Power Rangers” film coming out, we at CBR began to think about some of our favorite henchmen squads.
Even though many of them are used as cannon fodder against heroes, members of these armies would still eschew their own unique identity and fight against insurmountable odds as part of an evil organization. That’s some pretty hardcore dedication there. So please, join us, as we recount some of the top henchmen armies that did their very best to spread the scourge of villainy on behalf of their gloriously evil leaders.
15. THE HAND
Why do evil ninja organizations make for the best henchmen armies? The Hand is one such group, originally assembled in the 16th century to empower the oppressed citizenry of rural south-central Japan, arming them first with martial arts training, and later with dark magic. Over the years, The Hand’s purpose twisted from defense to control. In the modern era, they have hatched numerous schemes involving everything from organized crime to summoning ancient beings, all in a bid to gain more power for their idol, known as The Beast. The ninja often use these The Beast’s dark powers to resurrect their dead warriors, making them unstoppable soldiers for their cause.
First appearing in Frank Miller’s “Daredevil” #174, The Hand has always posed a legitimate threat to the enemies they face. One such adversary is The Chaste, a band of warriors led by blind martial artist Stick. Another is Matt Murdock, whom most know as Daredevil. Regardless, the Hand poses a nigh insurmountable threat to anyone who opposes them. Their numbers are great, they are practiced in subterfuge and are not afraid to make sacrifices to further their reach of darkness. Even though they are largely defeated by Murdock time after time, the scale of threat they pose is no less intimidating.
Where would Rita be without her Putties? These dime-a-dozen clay soldiers were often thrown by the handful at the Power Rangers in attempts to deter or otherwise stop them from catching on to the sorceress’ evil plans. The Putties were far from useless, though, as they could take on disguises of regular humans for more nefarious plots. In one such case, they took on a glamour to appear as children in Halloween costumes to lure Tommy (the Green Ranger) away from the rest of the Rangers and ambush him.
The Putties did also boast a little bit of fighting prowess when they would brawl with the heroes. For all their haphazard punching and kicking, though, their arguably most practised ability was getting beaten by the Power Rangers. Still, the Putties were stalwart in their loyalty to Rita and their mission to destroy the teenagers with attitude. Even if their never-ending battle was a losing one, their memory lives on in garbled speech, broken clay pieces and a legacy that will continue in the upcoming live-action “Power Rangers” movie.
13. BLACK DRAGON SOCIETY
This fictional henchmen army is a pretty interesting one, as it’s actually based on a real-life organization of the same name. The original Black Dragon Society was a right-wing paramilitary organization in Japan during WWII, dabbling in espionage and heavy political influence during the conflict. The Society in the comics, however, spanned several different companies and committed a variety of villainous acts. Throughout their appearances in the DC Universe, they stole military weapons, took hostages, coordinated violent attacks and fought anyone who stood in their path to world domination.
Created in the comics by Gardner Fox and Jack Burnley, the Society was never short on foes. In its “Master Comics” debut back in 1941, the Society was fighting Minute-Man, while in “All-Star Comics” they went up against the Justice Battalion. Even if they’re not directly involved with any heroes, the Black Dragon Society has maintained a presence as an ever-looming evil organization in comics throughout the years. That kind of henchmen legacy is hard to come by, but these guys have managed to do it with suitably subtle aplomb.
12. THE PHALANX
This cybernetic hive-mind species was co-created by writer Scott Lobdell and artist Joe Madureira, and debuted in “Uncanny X-Men” #312. The Phalanx is largely an abomination of the Technarchy aliens, but still just as formidable. These guys come to “life” when the Technarcy virus tries to infect organic lifeforms; so, pretty much anything it comes across that’s alive. The virus takes over the host, converting it to the hive mind and thus the Phalanx grows into an unstoppable horde. Over multiple appearances, they have spread their scourge among numerous lifeforms, from Earth’s mutants to the entirety of the Shi’ar Empire.
While the Phalanx itself doesn’t serve a single consistent leader (apart from facilitators and “interfaces” like X-Men enemies Steven Lang and Cameron Hodge), the collective was more recently brought under the heel of the villainous Ultron for a time. Ultron influenced the hive mind to infect much of the Kree army in attempts to conquer its empire. Under the tyrannical robot’s orders, the Phalanx invaded much of the Kree’s territory, captured multiple heroes and enslaved many to its cause. Ultimately, the species were defeated during the “Annihilation: Conquest” event, but few henchmen armies can boast inter-galactic subjugation on their list of achievements.
Created by Jack Kirby in his legendary “New Gods” series for DC, the Parademons serve as shock troopers to the nefarious Darkseid, lord of the planet Apokolips. A good rule of thumb developed around the soldiers: if you saw a Boom Tube open up, expect a squad of these guys to come flying out shortly thereafter. Parademons are bred for aggression, often acting as an advance force for Darkseid’s numerous invasions. On top of having aerial mobility, these guys are usually toting some kind of firepower, be it advanced guns or fire breath (depending on the continuity). During invasions, the Parademons have come up against some of Earth’s finest including Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash, just to name a few.
These interdimensional henchmen are simply not to be messed with. They are as ruthless as their leader Darkseid (though a bit more mindless), and are more than willing to die at his command. They are known for swarming en masse and detonating themselves if it means inflicting even the slightest damage on a hero. Even though they were usually just fodder in advance of Darkseid’s arrival, they still managed to get things done through their signature shock and aggression, even if they are always ultimately defeated.
10. THE DEADITES
When evil itself needs an army of henchmen, what works better than a horde of deadites? In the realm of “Evil Dead,” deadites are generally people (sometimes plants or animals, too) that have been possessed by malevolent Kandarian demons, usually after death. They function as a sort of collective force at the behest of the Necronomicon: a really, really, really evil book. The deadites exhibit all sorts of abilities, from superhuman strength to physical mutation. Many of them are able to fight after losing limbs or being injured, with only severing the head or outright obliterating their bodies being the surefire way to kill them.
The deadites are terrifying in that they only serve evil. Their purpose in life is destroy all that is good and wholesome, and they do so by masquerading as regular people until the time is right. They are malice incarnate, often twisting the appearance and memories of the people they possess to further torture those around them. When they are unleashed by the Necronomicon (or some other demon baddie), they are a downright scary force with which to be reckoned.
When it comes to evil organizations full of henchmen, mission requirements tend to be “go big or go home.” Otherwise, why else would you need an army? This certainly was the case with the Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination, a.k.a. H.I.V.E. The group operates with the sole intention of exterminating superheroes; a lofty ambition, indeed. Created by greats Marv Wolfman and George Pérez for “New Teen Titans,” H.I.V.E. is an evil collective dabbling in science and sabotage, rather than just relying on outright assaults. Serving a number of masters and mistresses, H.I.V.E. members set their sights high and worked to eliminate Superman and the Teen Titans during their debut.
While the group has had its ups and downs, it has managed to make itself known to the DC hero community. They have largely managed, in newer iterations (under the name “Holistic Integration for Viral Equality”) to have a public face to mask its various nefarious goings-on behind the scenes, which makes the group even more dangerous. Throughout tumultuous leadership changes (namely, its leaders being killed every so often), the henchmen of H.I.V.E. have remained unwavering in their mission to erase heroes from the world.
Another group comprised of some of the best and brightest in henchmen, Advanced Idea Mechanics (or A.I.M. as it’s commonly known) was a large scientific branch of Hydra before breaking off to create its own sect. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and originally called “THEM,” A.I.M. can often be found researching new and terrifying technologies in secret for years before unleashing them on the unsuspecting world. All members of this scientific army of doom toil away at projects to please the group’s board of directors, and of course, its leader, the Scientist Supreme.
A.I.M. has managed to trouble the world with many dangerous creations, such as the reality-bending Cosmic Cube and the villainous M.O.D.O.K. The members of A.I.M. are frightful in their no-holds-barred drive for scientific discovery and profit. They have also proven formidable, despite their collective beekeeper look. The A.I.M. network is vast and their resources significant, allowing them to tap into some of the brightest minds in the world. Luckily, A.I.M. has recently been repurposed for more altruistic means by former New Mutant and current Avenger, Sunspot, who bought A.I.M. out in a corporate coup. The group was even more recently folded into the American military and rebranded “American Intelligence Mechanics.”
7. TEAM ROCKET
Yes, it may be easy to write this one off since everyone remembers Jesse, James and Meowth (that’s right!), but these guys were only the most recognizable faces of the organization because they pestered Ash and his friends every other day. Team Rocket itself was a large operation full of henchmen, all of whom were hell-bent on stealing prized pokémon and using them to one day take over the world. The criminal group had a number of different branches staffed with countless members working to achieve the ideals of their villainous leader, Giovanni.
When not participating in the outright thievery of a trainer’s pokémon, Team Rocket were known to conduct experiments on the creatures to make them stronger and resell them to the highest bidder. The henchmen that comprised Team Rocket were undoubtedly cruel and ruthless, even though Jesse and James were seen as hapless dimwits. Their fellow members, on the other hand, were much more devout in their mission to “extend our reach to the stars above.”
6. GALACTIC FRIEZA ARMY
More commonly known as the Frieza Force, the Galactic Frieza Army was a massive military organization that cut a swath of destruction across the galaxy and seized numerous planets along the way. The army itself was comprised of a healthy combination of fanatical followers, enslaved species and folks conscripted into the organization for fear of reprimand from Prince Frieza himself. Regardless of their motivations, every henchman in the organization threw him, her or itself into the numerous conflicts Frieza started in his family’s bid for universal domination.
The Army shined in its forceful recruitment processes, lavishing in strong troops from thousands of conquered races. All of its soldiers pillaged without remorse when an attack was launched on a given planet, and surrender was never an option in their playbook. Not only that, the force had multiple allies across the galaxy, including a recently-revealed connection to the Red Ribbon Army. Even though pretty much the entirety of the army was wiped out by Goku during the Namek conflict, many of its henchmen continued to fight on, even resurrecting their dead prince after a time. Now that’s loyalty!
When it comes to world domination, few can compete with the evil organization Hydra. Another Lee-Kirby creation, the group is shadowy, subversive and absolutely twisted in doing whatever it can to accomplish its ideal of a new world. Priding itself on rebuilding and enduring through defeat, Hydra has served a number of leaders throughout the years; most notably Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and of course, the Red Skull. The henchmen of Hydra cover a full spectrum of ne’er-do-wells, from foot soldiers to assassins, spies and scientists. They really are a holistic terror organization.
Perhaps the most imposing thing about the army is its sheer global reach. Throughout their numerous appearances, henchmen from the organization have infiltrated groups around the world, including its nemesis, S.H.I.E.L.D., the United Nations and more. This is doubly scary when considering that many Hydra agents hide their affiliation with the group well, with no one person being the “face” of the organization (except for Deadpool’s “friend,” Bob). Hydra remains one of the biggest evil armies in the 616 and beyond, positively brimming with henchmen willing to devote themselves to the cause and shout “Hail Hydra!” while they do it.
4. LEAGUE OF ASSASSINS
Whenever something incredibly secretive and shady is going down in the “Batman” universe, it’s usually because of the League of Assassins. Created as an adversarial force by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, the League is a group comprised of the most elite warriors, serving their leader Ra’s Al Ghul in his goals of eliminating whomever he felt posed a threat to the natural world. A quintessential henchmen army, members of the League are subjected to brutal training and even brainwashing in order to uphold the ideals of the Demon’s Head.
Unlike many others on this list, League members are hardly cannon fodder. Assassins are practiced in subterfuge as well as combat, being some of the most formidable fighters in the world. They have often come up against Batman himself and in many cases, given him a run for his money. League warriors are also willing to die for Ra’s al Ghul, having few qualms about executing (or being executed) to fulfill his will. While they might not be as embedded as Hydra, the League of Assassins remains a group with a grim reputation that often strikes fear into those that hear its name.
3. THE FOOT CLAN
As we’ve seen earlier, evil ninja henchmen armies seem to be one of the best ways to tackle a cadre of heroes. Conceived of by TMNT creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the Foot Clan is a group of ninjitsu warriors that serve out the villainous machinations of their leader, the Shredder. A direct dig at the aforementioned Hand organization (the Turtles were a parody-spinoff of Daredevil), the Foot actually gained some real street cred in its crusade against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Its members have actively participated in drug smuggling, high-stakes theft and even outright assassination in order to gain more power and influence for the group.
Many of the Foot Clan soldiers are no match for the mutated turtles in individual combat, but their numbers are certainly their biggest strength. Throughout their media appearances, recruitment into the organization appeared to be hardly limited and even allowed young teenagers to join in the fray. The ninjas often used this to overwhelm the turtles in skirmishes in the hopes of overpowering them. Regardless of their success (or indeed, lack thereof), the Foot clansmen are always remembered fondly as endearing (if hapless) ninjas (or robots, if you were only watching the cartoon) getting whooped up on by a mutated turtle spouting one-liners.
It’s hard to think about the G.I. Joes without sparing a thought or two about their arch nemesis Cobra. Created by Larry Hama and Archie Goodwin, Cobra is a fully-fledged army with ideals in direct contrast to that of the Joes. Answering to their leader Cobra Commander, members of this army would go up against their patriotic foes in a variety of ways. From regular infantry to the Crimson Guard, members of Cobra attacked from any angle they could to achieve Cobra Commander’s goals of wealth, power and the destruction of the Joes.
Throughout many of their iterations, Cobra operated mostly in secret. It gained a reputation as a shadowy organization, with many members hiding in plain sight. Many of the grunts were experienced fighters and saboteurs, unafraid of launching a full assault against the Joes if it meant a potential victory. Interestingly enough, Cobra isn’t as fanatical as other henchmen organizations on this list. Many of them would simply surrender to the Joes if they were outnumbered or defeated. Most Cobra members are more motivated by money and camaraderie at the end of the day than a hysterical need to please their commander.
As far as henchmen armies go, there are hardly many contenders that could boast the numbers and cultural cache that the Galactic Empire does with its Stormtroopers. Whether it be by land, sea or space, this army had all of its bases covered in its support of the Empire’s rise to power. The army’s combatants were different varieties of humanoid troops (originally starting out as clones) dedicated to mercilessly squashing Rebel forces at the behest of their leader, Emperor Palpatine, and his second in command, Lord Vader.
Even though they laughably couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn in their early appearances, they have since been revamped to appear even more cruel and brutal in more recent iterations (particularly in the comics). They are willing to brave the harshest of planets if it means implementing the Empire’s ideals and stopping the Rebel Army where they can. Their numbers appear infinite, given their clone origins, while their uniform appearance strips them of any cumbersome individuality. The Stormtroopers are an iconic and truly faceless enemy army that inspires fear from the moment they first set boots to the ground.
Which fictional faceless (if feckless) forces are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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