As we wrap up another banner year for the superhero genre in television, film, and comics, we reflect on the good and bad of 2018. It was good to be bad this year, with some of the most memorable villains making their mark across a multitude of media. Villains in comics range from the most one-dimensional pantomimes of evil to the most compellingly complex. The superhero genre has long touted the idea that one’s tragic backstory can either be the stuff that heroes are made from or supervillains spawned from. As the Joker so famously implied, everyone’s only one bad day away from becoming a lunatic.
Certainly, the baddest villains of 2018 did some despicable things on a graduating scale. In the MCU, Thanos wiped out half the universe’s population with a snap of his fingers and Killmonger tried to take out his own cousin and steal the Wakandan throne. On the small screen, television’s superhero renaissance has given us several exciting new villains, from Luke Cage’s Bushmaster to Kasius on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., whose ruthless pursuit of their aims leave a trail of chaos and homicide in their wake. In comics, KGBeast deals a blow to the Bat Family and Ocean Master gains some much-needed momentum before making his big debut in Aquaman. Whatever the manner of the villain's plan, from steadily driving a hero insane through a game of cat and mouse, to trying to blow up an entire city while facing down an entire team of superheroes, they made it a thrilling time for comic fans and sowed the seeds for some exciting conflicts in 2019.
Thanos has had a banner year, appearing as the Big-Bad in everything from Cosmic Ghost Rider to Avengers: Infinity War. From his first appearance being teased in Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos has loomed large in the Marvel Universe as a villain of both significant brute strength as well as vision.
He stole Infinity War right out from under its main cast of superheroes, as the movie was more a synopsis of the demons (both external and internal) he had faced in his effort to purge the galaxy (for its own good). And once in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, he crushed his enemies with a snap of his fingers.
Venom turned out to be a successful venture into the harrowing chronicles of the alien symbiote and his human host, Eddie Brock. Though it divided some Venom fans who wanted to see him as less of an anti-hero and more of a villain, it offered a good script, a charismatic lead, and some astounding visuals.
The Big-Bad presented didn’t get particularly vile until the last quarter of the movie, but when another alien symbiote took over Carlton Drake to become Riot, this darker version of Venom proved to be everything audiences could want in a supervillain.
To many, Black Panther was the breakout superhero movie of 2018. Boasting an all-star cast, stunning visuals, and exciting action sequences, it improved upon the formula of Marvel films before it and contributed to a richer and more diverse MCU.
Marvel films had suffered from a lack of memorable villains, but Erik Killmonger changed all that. A complex character, his motivations for taking the Wakandan throne and Black Panther mantle from his cousinT’Challa went far deeper than simple entitlement and hunger for power. Unfortunately, his pursuit of equal representation through violence proved too dangerous.
The release of Ant-Man and the Wasp introduced one of Marvel's most complex supervillains, Ghost, to the movie-going public. Originally a foil to Iron Man, Ghost has also battled Nick Fury, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, and Spider-Man. However, Ghost believed any organization, no matter how moral, was inherently corrupt, and thus took on supervillains as well.
World domination wasn’t in Ghost’s wheelhouse, but her hacking and programming skills augmented by a special suit allowed her to commit corporate espionage. Like Doctor Doom, Ghost was ruthless in her judgment of others based on her own moral code and punishment was swift for those who crossed it.
21 EVELYN DEAVOR
The Incredibles has emerged as one of the most popular superhero movies of the last twenty years. Its focus on a family of superheroes trying to exist in a society where superheroes are illegal is a struggle that the characters of Marvel and DC know too well, allowing for much well-received satire.
The much-anticipated sequel featured a supervillain slightly less over the top than the first; Evelyn Deavor. Incredibly intelligent, cool under pressure, and a tech genius, she gained the Incredibles’ trust and invented other supervillains for them to be distracted by until she made her big reveal.
20 DRYDEN VOS
Up until Solo: A Star Wars Story, the only crime lords Star Wars fans were familiar were slugs with gambling problems. But Dryden Vos was differen, as he was as well-dressed as Lando Calrissian and as calm under pressure as Darth Vader.
Dryden Vos didn’t hang out in a giant dustbin in the desert, but he schmoozed with arms dealers, statesmen, and the wealthy elite in a floating citadel. Everyone knew he was a criminal but no one could touch him, especially when he could cut anyone to ribbons if he engaged them in hand to hand combat.
19 OCEAN MASTER
It was a good year in comics for Aquaman's half-brother, Ocean Master. Not many people are familiar with Aquaman's rogues' gallery, but that will change as Aquaman arrives in theaters this holiday season. Ocean Master, perpetually jealous of his older brother’s superpowers and position as ruler of Atlantis, challenges him for the throne.
The film is purported to be a triumph for DC Studios, with Ocean Master proving to be as complex a villain as Marvel’s Thanos. He is more than just a supervillain, he’s an eco-warrior that is angry at humans for polluting his oceans.
In the most recent season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s one villain that is as creepy as he is dangerous; Kasius, the Kree would-be warlord that rules his processing facility turned Inhuman trading compound the Lighthouse with an iron fist. Considered a disappointment by his own aristocratic house, Kasius was banished to make his way elsewhere in the galaxy, eventually coming to rule over a future Earth.
Though he may not wield a giant hammer like Ronan the Accuser, he’s manipulative and willing to do whatever it takes to dominate and defeat his enemies
Appearing alongside a slew of Kree villains in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5, Graviton made his big debut. Glenn Talbot went into the particle infusion chamber and bonded his body with gravitonium and, though his intent was to protect his friends against the Marauders, it was at a cost. A formidable supervillain was born from one act of selflessness.
His former collusion with HYDRA made it difficult for any of the agents to trust him and when it was shown he’d survived the chamber, he’d become someone with the power to bend the Earth at will.
Running with the formula of its predecessor, Deadpool 2 promised to have even more foul language, obscene gestures, and explosive violence than the original Deadpool that became such a hit. It also introduced movie audiences to Cable, the supervillain/anti-hero whose indefatigable pursuit of Wade Wilson couldn’t even be stopped by time, space, or the X-Men.
Cable proved to be a worthy opponent to Deadpool, highly skilled in hand to hand combat, explosive devices, marksmanship, and one-liners growled through clenched teeth.
The much-awaited Daredevil Season 3 featured a villain that for fans of the blind vigilante’s comic needed no introduction; Bullseye. As popular and well known as Wilson Fisk, Bullseye is one of Daredevil’s main nemesis.
In a unique twist, Bullseye is first introduced as an FBI agent with amazing aim. He is soon found to be corrupt once he gets into Kingpin’s orbit, going through a slow and dramatic fall from grace. He isn’t a campy supervillain and has his own code of ethics as sharp as his right hook.
14 JOHN DEEGAN
The Arrowverse crossover event Elseworlds introduced a frightening new villain with an intriguing backstory. Green Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl were all drawn to Gotham over a three-night event story arc that pitted them against John Deegan, a doctor at Arkham Asylum more insane than the patients he treated.
Dr. Deegan, in supervillain form is known as Doctor Destiny, who has the power to rewrite reality and manipulate people’s dreams. It’s the first on-screen appearance for a villain who is known to comic fans as one of the Justice League’s most persistent foes.
One of two notable villains that appeared in Luke Cage Season 2, the Bushmaster was introduced as a charismatic community leader and culturally adept businessman named John McIver. Though he may appear a charming crime boss, he’s able to match Luke Cage for strength and agility and his intellect is even scarier.
He was so much of a threat that he can be attributed to single-handedly bringing Luke Cage and Iron Fist together as a crime-fighting team. Sadly Luke Cage was canceled before we could see more of Bushmaster’s master plan.
12 THE GRANDMASTER
One of the standout characters of Thor: Ragnorak was the Grand Master, who collected the Marvel Universe’s mightiest heroes and pitted them against each other in gladiatorial combat in the comics. He wasn’t as prominently featured a villain as Hela, but he made quite the impression with his effervescent ruthlessness.
In 2018, he was one of the main antagonists in Avengers: No Surrender in the comic world, where he engaged the Avengers in all manner of games and even went head to head against the dreaded Challenger who tried to usurp him.
Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe proved a welcome break in the action for fans of comics other than those produced by Marvel and DC. Released in a six episode arc for Comicbook.com, it chronicled MI-6 special agent Ninjak as he went toe to toe against his former allies, the superheroes of the Valiant Universe.
Turned into an enemy of his own agency by the ruthless assassin Roku, he fought to clear his name and stay alive. Roku turned out to be one of the most compelling villains of the small screen, as charismatic as she was deadly.
10 THE RED GOBLIN
2018 saw the surprising hybrid between Norman Osborn and Carnage become something comic fans never knew they wanted; The Red Goblin. The Amazing Spider-Man came to a close after a decade of dedicated print, its conclusion boasting a climactic fight between Peter Parker and a new twist on one of his oldest nemesis.
Though it was hidden deep within the Lock Box at the bottom of the Atlantic, Norman Osborn’s agents got a hold of the Carnage symbiote. Its dangerous will was coupled with Osborn’s own reckless intellect to reign absolute chaos.
Venom #1 proved to be one of the most successful titles of the Marvel Fresh Launch reboot. Each issue in 2018 revealed the new and exciting ways that the web-slinging villain had been reimagined, from his new backstory to the Lovecraftian ways he was drawn.
Though Venom exhibited shades of his Lethal Protector status in New York City, he showed signs of his true villainous form when dealing with Miles Morales. Venom is one of Marvel’s most popular characters thanks to stepping out of Spider-Man’s shadow and one of its most enduring supervillains.
8 ROGOL ZAAR
Fans of the Man of Steel are well acquainted with enemies like Lex Luthor and General Zod, so when it came time in 2018 to introduce the villain of Superman’s newest saga, they welcomed a threat that had never been encountered before.
Some manner of decaying alien with all of the superior strength and stamina of Superman, Zaar was a battle-hardened warrior that survived the blast that destroyed Krypton (and took responsible for its destruction). Completely unrecognizable, but with a deep-seeded hatred for Kryptonians, he made it his life’s mission to rid Earth of its most famous one.
Reeling from being abandoned at the altar by his wife to be, Catwoman, Batman was understandably despondent. Luckily he had Nightwing/Dick Grayson by his side to comfort him and keep him fighting crime. That was until KGBeast unceremoniously took his partner out.
The sniper attack that occurred during a routine meeting with Commissioner Gordon sent Batman into a tailspin. KGBeast, one of Batman's strongest foes, managed to cripple the Dark Knight with one carefully aimed shot.
6 THE ACOLYTE
There have been several iterations of the Teen Titans in recent years, most of them animated. Finally, a live action series has been produced, made as a web television series for DC's streaming digital service. The famous group of young superheroes Nightwing, Raven, Starfire, and Beastboy faced off against a slightly less well known enemy in The Acolyte.
Formerly only appearing in a Young Justice two-part, one-off comic, The Acolyte has risen to prominence now as a demonic villain not to be trifled with and more than a match for the group. He hasn't been formally introduced yet, but it's understood that he's behind a lot of what's taking place on the show.
5 HERR STARR
One of the most compelling villains to appear on-screen in recent history, Herr Starr is the leader of the super-secret organization The Grail and the main villain of Season 2 of Preacher.
Cold, methodical, and ruthlessly efficient, he rose through the ranks of The Grail quickly to become its defacto leader. Once he was made aware of the powers of Jesse Cutler, he pursued him with a calculated dogmatism that makes him the perfect blend of brain and brawn. Though he doesn’t often need to utilize the latter, he can be violent when he chooses.
The recent Infinity Wars #1 brought with it a flurry of surprising moments, including the identity of the much-teased Requiem. The Infinity Armor wearing warrior was none other than Gamora, ruthlessly seeking the Soul Stone where a part of her was still trapped.
In doing so, she turned on the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Even Star-Lord, her former partner, wasn’t safe from her fury. Thinking he could connect with the good that was still in her, he attempted a reconciliation, only to be taken out in front of her.
3 JEROME VALESKA
Gotham has had a lot of great villains over its four seasons. The series prides itself on showcasing all of the familiar baddies in Batman’s rogues' gallery, but giving them twists to distinguish them from how they’ve been depicted on screen before.
Jerome has been a main antagonist in the series since Season 2 and though he's not officially the Joker in that universe, he channels him quite well. Even though Jeremiah was the main villain in Season 4, he didn’t succeed in his goal of blowing up Gotham City, but Jerome did succeed in his goal of driving Jeremiah insane.
Season 8 of The Walking Dead saw the conclusion of the war between Rick Grimes and one of the best villains to come out of the series, Negan. Season 9, which concluded its first half in 2018 (and picks up again next year), introduced a new villain to take his place; Beta.
Second-in-command of The Whisperers, he is an inscrutable, brooding type, not as showy as the leader (Alpha), but his silent fury makes him one to watch out for after how he took out Jesus. Plus he wears the skin mask of a walker.
1 THE ANTI MONITOR
Whether DC has a multiverse of infinite universes or only 52, one thing remains consistent; The Monitor oversees all of creation. He is not an omnipresent being of inaction, but he has to protect the universes from his polar opposite doppelganger; the Anti-Monitor. Even the powerful Monitor has to call on some of Earth’s mightiest superheroes to help defeat him.
The Arrowverse crossover Elseworlds event had Supergirl, Green Arrow, and The Flash stand up against the Anti-Monitor. He has all the powers of the Monitor; immortality, access to the most advanced technology and he can make objects out of thin air.