Superhero comics are modern day mythology that show readers the seemingly never-ending battle between the forces of light and dark. Over the course of history, the world has been given such classic superheroes as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men. But, it is often said that every great superhero needs an even greater villain to go up against, because if every hero was able to dispose of the antagonist with ease, would readers keep coming back month after month? Thus, readers quickly met iconic villains like Lex Luthor, The Joker, Green Goblin and Magneto. Most of the iconic supervillains with true longevity in comics were created long ago and they have been reinterpreted countless times over the years to keep up with changing trends. However, that is not to say that comic book creators stopped creating new villains after the ’70s. Far from it. There have been countless new creations introduced in more modern times, but not as many have stood the test of time.
The ’80s gave us Venom, Apocalype and Deathstroke, while the ’90s birthed Bane, Doomsday and Harley Quinn, all of whom became important additions to their universes. But there are innumerable others that fell by the wayside. This article will look at villains created between 2000 and 2009, an era in which both DC and Marvel tried hard to add more names to their villainous pantheon. There was storytelling craft and promotional heft put behind these creations, but have they truly made the impact their creators would have desired? We’d argue, through various factors, that they haven’t. This is 20 villains from the 2000s who were supposed to be big, but failed.
To be fair to Hush, who was introduced in Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s blockbuster 12-issue run on Batman in 2003, he is one of the few modern antagonists that has made any sort of true impact on the DCU. However, considering his debut came in one of the most buzzed about storylines of modern times, one could perhaps have expected the character to have become a top-tier villain and that has never really been the case.
A good comparison would be Bane, who was created to huge fanfare in the early ’90s and did become an A-list adversary for the Bat. Hush has stayed resolutely second tier, with only writer Paul Dini making good use of him in his Detective Comics and Streets Of Gotham runs.
X-Men: Deadly Genesis was a 2006 miniseries by Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine, which introduced the world to the third Summers brother: Vulcan. Unlike Cyclops and Havok, Vulcan was firmly positioned as a villain, albeit one that felt betrayed by Professor Xavier.
He had a legitimate reason for his beef: he was the lone survivor of a secret team, sent to Krakoa to rescue the original X-Men, who were all downed and then forgotten about. He was subsequently used in epic cosmic storylines X-Men: Kingbreaker and War Of Kings in 2009, but his fate was left unknown at the end of that story after he was caught in an explosion that tore a hole in the fabric of space and time. He hasn’t been seen since.
18. GREY GOBLIN
The history of Gabriel and Sarah Stacy, the twin children fathered by Norman Osborn with Gwen Stacy, is a sordid one. Writer J. Michael Straczynski created the characters as part of his ‘Sins Past’ story in 2004 in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, and fans reacted vehemently.
The idea that Spidey’s greatest villain had sullied Gwen Stacy in such a meaningful way before ending her was too much for fans, and even when Gabriel emulated his father and became the Grey Goblin it was no use. The damage was done. Stracynski himself wanted to retcon the twins out of existence in the 2007 ‘One More Day’ story, but Marvel editors prevented it. Gabriel appeared once more in a 2010 miniseries, but hasn’t been seen since.
In 2004, Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon stepped into the Marvel Universe alongside artist John Cassaday (Planetary) with their excellent Astonishing X-Men series. They introduced a brand new villain in the first issue — Ord, an alien from the planet Breakworld who was sent to Earth to stop a mutant from one day destroying his homeworld (an event predicted using their advanced technology).
He resurrected Colossus and teamed with human scientist Dr Kavita Rao. Their mission? To avert the destruction of Breakworld by experimenting on Colossus’ body in the hopes of deriving a mutant cure. Ord was a very interesting character but he passed away in #23 of Whedon’s run, and hasn’t been brought back to life by any subsequent writers. Shame.
A criminal who targets non-powered superheroes, Onomatopoeia was introduced in the Green Arrow storyline ‘The Sounds Of Violence’ in 2002. He was created by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester, and was an immediate hit with readers and critics. A character perfectly suited for the comic book medium, he didn’t speak except to imitate the sounds around him.
So, for example, if he fired a gun, he said ‘BLAM!’ out loud. The character later appeared in two Batman miniseries’: Cacophony and The Widening Gyre, both of which were also written by Smith, but it’s hard not to feel like his full potential as a top notch villain has yet to be fulfilled. Surely another writer/artist team has a great Onomatopeia story in them?
15. SAMMY SILKE
Mobster Samuel ‘Sammy’ Silke was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev and debuted in the pages of Daredevil #26 in 2001, the first issue of their legendary run on the title. In the opening scene of ‘Underboss’, Silke lead a coup with several of Wilson Fisk’s trusted men, and they viciously attacked the Kingpin and left him for his demise.
Following this Julius Caesar-esque uprising, Silke teamed with Wilson’s estranged son Richard in an attempt to unite the New York underworld under their leadership. Naturally, they bit off more than they could chew, and both wound up gone, with Fisk personally crushing Silke with his bare hands. Silke’s character served his narrative purpose, but we certainly saw potential for him as a recurring villain.
14. DOCTOR HURT
Grant Morrison introduced a pantheon of new characters to the mythos during his epic seven-year run on several Bat-titles between 2006 and 2013, but our favourite was definitely Doctor Hurt. He debuted in Batman #673 in June 2008 and was revealed to be the leader of The Black Glove, a mysterious organization that had been plaguing the Dark Knight.
He was a fiendishly brilliant psychiatrist and his true nature was kept mysterious. Morrison hinted he might have been the Devil himself, Bruce Wayne’s evil twin, an instrument of Darkseid or even Bruce’s father Thomas Wayne. Hurt was used again in the ‘Nightwing Must Die!’ story after the DC Rebirth relaunch, but we’d love to have seen him in a more high profile battle with Batman.
13. THE NEO
May 2000’s X-Men #100 saw the debut of The Neo, an ancient race of superhumans who appeared to be a much more powerful sub-species of mutants. They referred to mutants as ‘spikes’, indicating that their powers were nary a blip on their measurement scale.
Created by legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont and artist Leinil Francis Yu, various groups of Neo appeared here and there throughout the 2000s, before the entire species was made extinct in the blink of an eye by the Evolutionaries in 2011’s X-Men: Giant Size #1. It’s obvious that the Neo were intended to be a major force in X-comics, as their debut was in an important anniversary issue, but they just never caught on with fans.
In 2004, DC tried to replicate the success of 2003’s ‘Hush’ by putting Jim Lee on another blockbuster 12-issue run. This time it was Superman, the writer was Brian Azzarello and the story was ‘For Tomorrow’. It was a fairly sombre affair, with Superman dealing with the guilt of failing to stop an event dubbed ‘The Vanishing’, in which a million people (including Lois Lane) disappeared off the face of the Earth.
Equus, a cybernetically enhanced creature with razor-sharp claws, appeared in the third issue and failed to make much of an impact on fans. He has only appeared three times since the story ended, and hasn’t shown up in the DCU since 2008. Surely a villain designed by Jim Lee was projected for bigger things?
Writer (and former Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment) Geoff Johns completely redefined The Flash for the modern era with his amazing five-year run on the title from 2000 to 2005. He added a lot to the Flash universe, including Iron Heights Penitentiary, a maximum security prison which housed the rogues.
In the 2001 one-shot special The Flash: Iron Heights, Johns introduced a new villain: Murmur, an insane criminal with a penchant for incriminating himself by blurting out his crimes. Murmur then cut out his own tongue and sewed his lips shut in an effort to stop himself from confessing! Murmur has appeared in small roles a few times since Johns’ run, but should definitely be a more well-known villain in the DCU.
2001’s Green Lantern #132 gave us the birth of a new villain set to menace Lantern Kyle Rayner: Nero, a mentally disturbed man given a Yellow Power Ring (similar to the one wielded by Sinestro) by the Qwardians. Nero was created by Judd Winick and Darryl Banks and he was intentionally chosen due to his similarities to Kyle.
Both men were artists, which meant they had sufficient imagination to use a Power Ring, but Nero’s art, drawn during his time in an asylum, was violent. Nero was clearly intended to be a major villain, but whenever DC decided to bring back Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, his appearances became fewer and farther between. He was last seen during the events of Blackest Night in 2009.
The Punisher isn’t like other comic book vigilantes such as Batman or Daredevil. They have a moral code that prevents them from mortally wounding criminals, whereas Frank Castle’s entire raison d’etre is bringing justice to evildoers. Therefore, he doesn’t have much of a rogues gallery to speak of, with Jigsaw being his only true recurring threat.
We’d argue that the character with the most potential for longevity was Barracuda, an ex-military assassin and gangster who was supposed to pass away at the end of his first storyarc during Garth Ennis’ seminal Punisher MAX run. Thankfully, the editor suggested Ennis keep him around, and he listened. Barracuda then appeared in his own miniseries and one further Punisher arc… before Frank blew his head off. Oh Garth!
8. GREAT WHITE SHARK
In 2003, Dan Slott and Ryan Sook collaborated on a well-received miniseries entitled Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. It followed Warren White, a ruthless investor who tried to avoid jailtime for embezzlement by pleading insanity, but wound up being thrown in the titular asylum.
His nickname in the financial world was ‘Great White Shark’ and over the course of the story we see how his struggle to survive in Arkham leads to him losing his nose and lips to frostbite while stuck in Mr Freeze’s cell. He then embraces his old nickname as his new criminal identity. His appearances since have positioned him as a crime boss in Gotham, but he has yet to have another spotlight tale that lives up to his excellent origin story.
Created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr in 2004 during their run on Wolverine, Tomi Shishido, aka Gorgon, immediately appealed to fans with his unique look and compelling backstory. A member of both The Hand and Hydra, Gorgon also at one point lead the mutant cult, Dawn Of The White Light.
Born with almost superhuman intelligence, he created a mathematical formula at age 13 that proved the existence of One-Above-All and then manifested the mutant ability to turn people to stone by looking at them. Gorgon has since mostly been a cog in larger stories, such as when he posed as Wolverine in the Dark Avengers, but he really should have gone on to become a headline character with more mainstream recognizability.
6. QUEEN OF FABLES
Queen Of Fables first appeared in JLA #47 in 2000. She was created by Gail Simone, Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch and is the living embodiment of evil in all folklore. Originally a sorceress from another dimension, she was exiled to Earth where she reigned until Snow White defied her and she was trapped in the Book of Fables.
All her evil acts were turned into fiction, until she was unwittingly released from her prison generations later. She fought the Justice League and Wonder Woman on separate occasions and also pursued Superman (who she felt was her ‘Prince Charming’). A super fun character, it’s a shame she hasn’t appeared since 2008. It’s not hard to see how she could be moulded into an A-list adversary.
5. PRINCE NUADA AND NUALA
Hellboy II: The Golden Army was released in 2008 to superb reviews, but its reputation was somewhat diminished by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s reported dissatisfaction with director/screenwriter Guillermo Del Toro steering the movie away from the gothic tone of the comics and into a fantasy atmosphere.
Prince Nuada, the humanity-hating Elvish royalty and his more benevolent sister Princess Nuala were definitely interesting characters created for the movie though. We would have loved to see the spin-off Silverlance: From The Files Of The B.P.R.D. which Universal developed around 2010, as it would have expanded their story a lot more. Sadly, however, that project was canned and they’ve never been incorporated into the comics.
4. LIONEL LUTHOR
Lex Luthor’s father has rarely had a presence in comics history. Originally he was named Jules and disowned his criminal son, and in 2004’s Superman: Birthright he perished in a fire accidentally caused by Lex. It wasn’t until 2010 that he was reimagined as Lionel Luthor, in reference to the character John Glover played for eight years on TV’s Smallville, and even still the comic book Lionel was very different.
This makes no sense considering Lionel was one of the best characters on the show, with Glover perfectly playing a cold, scheming businessman who fostered a strained relationship with a son the audience knew was heading down a dark path. Lionel should have been brought into comic book continuity and could have been a very big deal.
3. ALDRICH KILLIAN
‘Extremis’, the acclaimed 2005 Iron Man storyarc, introduced Dr Aldrich Killian. He was a scientist who created the titular Techno-Organic virus which completely rewrites the human body’s genetic code, creating super soldiers. He sold a sample to terrorists, before ending himself when he couldn’t live with the guilt.
It’s obvious writer Warren Ellis never intended Killian to be a major villain, which made it odd when Marvel cast Guy Pearce to play him in Iron Man 3. Again, he was the creator of Extremis but this time he was revealed to be the mastermind behind the identity of The Mandarin as well. Oh, and he could breathe fire — it was weird. All this made it two opportunities to make Killian a big character, and two failures!
2. NYSSA RAATKO
Nyssa Raatko, Ra’s al Ghul’s secret love child and half-sister of Talia, was created by Greg Rucka and Klaus Janson and starred in their excellent 2003/04 miniseries Batman: Death And The Maidens. She and her family had been imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II, where she was rendered infertile by the camp doctor’s brutal experiments.
Ra’s refused to help her as his cause was aided by the evil attacking the world, and so he left her to pass away. Nyssa, who also used Lazarus Pits to extend her life, then launched a revenge mission on Ra’s in the modern day. A brilliant character with the potential to be as integral to the DCU as Ra’s and Talia, she has instead been allowed to fade into obscurity.
1. WHISPER A’DAIRE
Nyssa wasn’t Greg Rucka’s only contribution to the world of Batman during his excellent early 2000s run. He also created Whisper A’Daire, a shapeshifter whose DNA was spliced with a King Cobra, and her bodyguard Kyle Abbot, an ageless werewolf. They were operatives for Ra’s Al Ghul’s League Of Assassins, and they menaced Gotham City in the excellent ‘Evolution’ storyline from Detective Comics in 2000.
They appeared again during the year long series 52 in 2006, which was co-written by Rucka, but have not appeared since. All in all, it’s decidedly odd that they have not been featured again, considering Ra’s and his League routinely show up in Bat-universe comics. They could’ve been key players in the DCU with the right care and attention.
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