Many things get better with age, like cheese or Paul Rudd. Do villains get better with age, though? It stands to reason that anyone starts to slow down due to age eventually. The villains of the Marvel Universe, however, are not often willing to go quietly into the night. Some inhabitants of the Marvel Universe who operate on the evil side of morality simply adapt to the challenges age brings. Others are not so fortunate. A villain may have powers that prolong their life, but time stops for no one, so do their actions reflect their prowess regardless?
With new superheroes popping up from time to time, villains need to stay relevant and they need to know how to endure. Additionally, new villains arise and the battle to stay competitive in the field of supervillainy is kind to no one, young or old. More resilient individuals learn from their mistakes and become even more of a threat as time goes on. However, there are those who are doomed to repeat their folly, fading into irrelevance or simply being put down permanently. Whether their resources run dry or they're an old dog incapable of learning new tricks, older villains need to go a little further to stay on top. We're going to look at how some villains got better with age and how others just got worn out.
20 BETTER: THANOS
Thanos has been imposing since birth, a rare condition among his people turning him into something unlike anything seen previously. The Mad Titan would not let it get him down though, gathering power and a bad reputation as he grew to adulthood. Thanos' ability to move with the times is well documented, hatching new and seemingly infinite schemes.
In the storyline "Thanos Wins" a future is shown where Thanos has become King Thanos, old and bearded. He's defeated just about everyone who has stood in his way, including some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Though his accolades have left him bored, there's no doubt maturity has only upped his game.
19 SOURED: GALACTUS
The coming of Galactus used to be something that was awe-inspiring and extremely frightening. Heralded by some of the most powerful beings in the cosmos, Galactus and his hunger are both legendary. Over time, however, the Devourer of Worlds has had much of his mystique taken from him.
Revealed to be part of the balance of the universe, the reasoning behind his planet consumption was good for his character development, but took a little off his shine. Additionally, when the Ultimates recently reversed his concept and made him a "bringer" of life rather than the inverse, his oppressive power was all but removed. He's since returned to his original devourer role, hopefully to teach the universe why he was once so feared.
18 BETTER: OTTO OCTAVIUS
Dr. Octopus has come a fair way since his bowl cut beginnings. Though he's always been formidable, time has only seen him become more and more of a threat. Even for a brief period in which he was dying, he managed to hold the entire earth hostage in "Ends of the Earth." To avoid his death, he stole Peter Parker's body -- now that's tenacity!
During his time as the Superior Spider-Man, he got a taste for what it was like to be at the peak of physical fitness and the advantages this brings. While he relied on his inventions in the past, he would eventually acquire a duplicate of Peter's body in its prime. With the combined physical peak and his inventive taste for villainy, he now looms as the Superior Octopus, more powerful than ever.
17 SOURED: THE JACKAL
The Jackal was the antagonist for one of the most famous events in Spider-Man's history: The Clone Saga. His contributions since then, however, have dimmed. His obsession with creating clones of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man seems to be what holds him back. He enjoyed a brief resurgence during Spider-Island, though it was later revealed he was playing second string to the Spider-Queen.
Most recently he was seemingly removed permanently by Ben Reilly in The Clone Conspiracy, apparently finishing his fall to the bottom rung of the ladder. As is the nature of comics, he'll likely return, although it may be too little too late. Dedicating most of his life to Peter Parker's DNA, he doesn't seem to have invested much time in himself.
16 BETTER: ULTRON
Ultron's very concept would allude to him getting better with age, as he is living technology. Technology usually evolves faster than anything else and when you're sentient tech, you can do it all yourself. It's a tough job trying to eradicate or assimilate organic life, so you've always got to be improving.
Ultron knows this all too well, making himself an unstoppable engine of destruction. When this wasn't enough, he added the techno-organic assimilation of the Phalanx to his arsenal. In more recent years he merged with his creator, Hank Pym. Now with the genius intellect of one of Earth's best scientists and his own cold, hard logic, Ultron is a bigger threat than he ever was.
15 SOURED: ANNIHILUS
Annihilus enjoyed a period where he was feared immensely by the entire Marvel Universe. Due to his fear of being eliminated by other life forms, he sought to remove every other living being using his Annihilation Wave. Devastating the Nova Corps and countless worlds, it cost the heroes of the cosmos a high price in lives to eventually stop the tyrant.
Though his species appears to return in larvae form when their life is ended, he has not done much since his return. He even built up his Annihilation Wave once more but it was easily swept aside by the Builders during the events of Infinity. Not nearly as much of a credible threat as he once was, has Annihilus lost his rhythm?
14 BETTER: VENOM
Venom's development over time has been very interesting. The symbiote has gotten better in a sense that it has gotten morally better rather than being a better villain. Thanks to its time attached to Flash Thompson, the hero seemingly taught the symbiote how to contribute positively to the universe. Though Eddie Brock isn't always villainous, it is doubtful the symbiote would have wanted to be a hero under his continued partnership.
In recent stories, the symbiote has expressed a desire to be a hero, working with Flash, Eddie and even Peter to stop Norman Osborn. The symbiote has even learned new tricks under Flash Thompson, using firearms and other equipment alongside its regular abilities.
13 SOURED: GRAVITON
Graviton's power, at times, has been shown to be incredible. He's gone toe to toe with some truly heavy hitters, including the Avengers' powerhouse, Hulk. With the ability to give the Hulk pause, you'd think he'd be a looming and regular threat in the same vein as the likes of Kang or Apocalypse.
This is not the case, unfortunately, as Graviton has never really gone above and beyond since his initial outings. He was most recently seen following the events of Avengers: Standoff, joining Baron Zemo. Zemo is a brilliant leader and tactician, but with Graviton's power, does he really need to be in the service of someone else? Graviton appears to be an unfortunate case of wasted potential.
12 BETTER: MAGNETO
One villain that time has definitely not slowed down is the mutant master of magnetism. Magneto has seemingly been old forever; when you think of him, you think of an elder statesman among the mutant race. His tenacity and ability to remain feared and respected is somewhat admirable. Moving between the roles of hero and villain so comfortably, he can move with the times like no other.
Even during the events following Avengers Vs. X-Men when his powers were reduced, he still managed to strike fear into his enemies. Adapting by using his temporarily limited powers to fire nails as projectiles, he became a hunter of war criminals. With his recent move back to leading the Brotherhood in X-Men Blue, Magneto's undoubtedly still got it.
11 SOURED: STILT-MAN
Stilt-Man is the product of a time where ludicrous villains were pretty common. In-universe, he's also somewhat of a joke. Though he briefly enjoyed time as a foil for Daredevil with a little more spotlight than others, his concept (and the execution of his concept) have never really helped him feel big time.
They say the only way is up, but that isn't the case for Stilt-Man. With his engineering acumen, he might be able to create something better or develop his current tech to give it something that would make people take him seriously. That wasn't the case and he would be permanently taken out by The Punisher.
10 BETTER: NORMAN OSBORN
The Green Goblin has been a mainstay for the Spider-Man rogues gallery for a long time now. Norman can attribute his longevity to his ability to fill multiple roles. He's been the Green Goblin, head of the Thunderbolts and the Iron Patriot. His most recent deadly incarnation being the Red Goblin, powered by the Carnage symbiote.
Osborn is almost obsessed with ruining Peter Parker's life and he's rather innovative with it. From claiming Gwen Stacey's life to assimilating his own grandson using the Carnage symbiote, Norman manages to escalate his evil with every passing year. Let's hope for Peter's sake he starts to slow down at some point.
9 SOURED: WHIRLWIND
In a similar vein to Stilt-Man, Whirlwind has rarely been taken seriously. Though he has been a nuisance to some bigger players in the heroic field such as Thor, he's never really had a big break. His costumes don't help and his traditional triangular helmet dates his aesthetic negatively.
Where some villains have posed such a large threat to leverage how silly they may look, Whirlwind is not one of these individuals. He could have enjoyed a brief renaissance alongside Ant-Man as a villain-turned hero. However, David Cannon decided to regress, running off from Scott Lang's team with some ill-gotten gains, seemingly retiring.
8 BETTER: BULLSEYE
Bullseye has always been formidable, ruthless and insatiably deadly. Delighting in violence and the honing of his craft, bolstered by his adamantium-plated bones, he's earned his reputation. As time goes on he appears to become more and more adaptable. In a number of possible future timelines he's depicted as more sadistic than ever.
Over the course of Old Man Hawkeye, we're presented with an aging Bullseye. Rather than hang up his boots and accept the rigors of age, Bullseye's replaced his faltering body parts with cybernetic implants, which open up new analytical abilities. He uses these abilities to defeat the likes of Kraven the Hunter's family and even Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier.
7 SOURED: DOCTOR MINDBUBBLE
One of the more flamboyant and out there villains, Doctor Mind Bubble is very much a product of the '60s. An offshoot of the Weapon X program dubbed Weapon Minus, his powers come from hallucinogenic substances. During the '60s government drug trials on personnel to study their effects were well documented, Horace took this a little further.
Horace used a rather impractical valve in his forehead and his altered formula to create bubbles that latch on to people, allowing him to either control or trap them using hallucinogenic visions. He was freed from years inside a classified vault by the Iron Nail to defeat Captain America. He was defeated by Rogers, who hit his valve with his shield, causing the villain to have the effects of his formula placed upon himself. Welcome to the present day, Horace!
6 BETTER: THE MAKER
Though he didn't start out as a villain, Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe has definitely become better for it. The idea that Richards' amazing intellect can and is being used for evil is worrying. He's hatched several amazing and terror-inspiring schemes already. Now that he's in the 616 universe permanently, he can really do some damage.
During Secret Wars he spearheaded the forces of the Ultimate Universe as they battled for their very existence in the last incursion. During the battle his creations laid waste to many heroes, most tragically including Rocket and Groot. Though seemingly defeated later on in the arc, he's returned since, becoming a foil for a reformed Dr. Doom.
5 SOURED: CUL BORSON
Cul Borson, also known as The Serpent, was once an incredible threat to Midgard. The brother of Odin and the God of Fear, he broke Captain America's shield and brought earth to its knees during Fear Itself. Thor had to give his life in battle in order to stop him, such was the magnitude of the threat.
Since his defeat, however, Cul's flame has dimmed. He repented for his attacks on Midgard and was granted a pardon by his brother, becoming Minister of Justice for Asgard. When the unstoppable Mangog attacked Asgard, he eventually fled to the safety of the Moon. Hardly the feared Seprent he once was, Cul doesn't appear to have the stomach for battle any longer.
4 BETTER: ELECTRO
Electro, while a recurring villain for Spidey, hasn't really enjoyed the right kind of spotlight, despite a few upgrades over the years. His Ultimate Universe counterpart even got gunned down by Aunt May. However, in recent years, after being used by Black Cat to free a large number of criminals from The Raft in a large electrical explosion, his stock has gone way up.
Finally utilizing his vast electrical powers to do some real deadly damage, Electro seems to have finally arrived. Not only Maxwell Dillon himself, but over time the Electro brand will see an upgrade. Electro of 2099 has proved to be a very real and relentless villain in the form of a vengeful android.
3 SOURED: ATLAS
While Atlas always skirts the line between hero and villain, age isn't kind to the large fellow. Part of the Thunderbolts team that betrays the Avengers prior to the events of Old Man Hawkeye, he isn't left with much to show for it. When Hawkeye finally tracks him down to enact his vengeance, we find a very different Atlas.
He appears to have all but given up, strangely accepting of the fate about to befall him. Thinking his helping in the defeat of Earth's heroes would yield positive, he's wound up working in a circus. While he can still use his size-altering powers, his years of not using them for battle show his rust. He was put down by Clint, a sad end for the former Thunderbolt.
2 BETTER: VULTURE
Much in the same way Magneto has usually been presented as an older man, Vulture has been old for a long time. It's quite inspiring that he hasn't let age slow him down at all. Though he often looks ludicrous, he's managed to remain a threat and a consistent member of the Sinister Six.
Over time, we've seen Adrian update his Vulture suit, opting for more machine-like upgrades. His resourcefulness and connections have allowed him to stay in the game during his twilight years. His experience has even afforded him subordinates at times, briefly heading up a gang of younger Vultures.
1 SOURED: TOAD
Toad is an odd case, as for a brief period he looked to be on the up and up. Though used as cannon fodder by Magneto and rarely respected, Toad really found himself while working at the X-Mansion. His capacity for compassion and his budding romance with Husk really turned him around for a time. Tragically, this would not last, his separation from Husk and his leaving the Mansion sent him into a spiral.
He became unhinged and captured a time-displaced Cyclops, attempting to sacrifice the young mutant. As time goes on, he seems to be slipping back into his minor role, rejoining Magneto's new Brotherhood. He has a flaming tongue now thanks to the Mothervine experiments, but this hasn't helped his progression.