You can't teach an old dog new tricks, unless those dogs are Lockjaw or Cosmo the Space Dog. Similarly, you can't teach every old villain new tricks or have them keep up with the times. The ravages of time are said to come for us all, but in a universe where the weird and wonderful abounds, supervillains are able to fight against aging. Not all villains have the resources to stay ahead of father time, but those who do adapt and compensate accordingly. In some cases, the very nature of their powers dictate that they just keep getting better and better. For others, sheer tenacity keeps them ticking, powered by a particularly deep grudge or showcasing their brilliance through constantly reinventing themselves.
Not everyone can stay afloat in the Marvel Universe, though. We are given lots of glimpses into alternate futures where villains are usurped, retired or made obsolete. Even in the main 616 universe, villains struggle with simply not being able to keep up any more. Perhaps a particular bad guy didn't do well in their prime, so they don't have the success, resources or connections to stay in the game. There have even been times where younger, better copycats have destroyed their older counterparts, taking their place because they lacked the fortitude to fend off challengers in their old age. CBR will take you on a journey through time, let's see which villains keep up and who falls by the wayside...
20 GOT BETTER: KING THANOS
In one alternate future, Thanos finally triumphs against Earth's heroes. Normally a thorn in his side, dispatching them proved to be the catalyst for his greatest conquest. We are given King Thanos, living at the edge of the universe, bored, with the Hulk as his personal guard dog..
Why is he bored? He is bored because he has defeated nearly every opponent the galaxy has to offer. Those who still remain are either so far beneath him or the effort in defeating them would be pointless. Only the Silver Surfer still stands against King Thanos, and he also falls in the end.
19 GOT WEAKER: LOKI
Loki is an odd one, he's been old, young, male, female and even Sorcerer Supreme. However, Loki appears to be at his most foolish when he progresses into the latter stages of his ever-repeating life cycle. Younger Lokis enjoy successful stints among the Young Avengers or become the most powerful Sorcerer alive, some even get on with Thor.
Older incarnations of the God of Mischief often fall short. One example is Loki's contribution to the Siege event. While trying to manipulate Norman Osborn, he accidentally sets in motion events that end with The Void destroying Asgard. Then, when trying to assist the Avengers in stopping The Void, his Norn magic fails him and his life is taken.
18 GOT BETTER: BULLSEYE
Bullseye has always been a threat since he began his deadly career. He's been making Daredevil's life hell and he's even annoyed the Punisher on occasion. His scary accuracy and the adamantium-laced bones go a long way to solidifying his intimidating presence.
In Old Man Hawkeye, Bullseye is even better and works as a sheriff in a lawless land ruled by the Red Skull. He's older, yes, but he's upgraded his body to compensate. Capable of hunting someone down as tirelessly as ever, he's even more ruthless than usual, if you can imagine that! He's even defeated the Winter Soldier on his quest to hunt down Clint Barton.
17 GOT WEAKER: GALACTUS
There was a time when even mentioning Galactus would make people tremble. The Devourer of Worlds would be heralded by one of his cosmic servants, foretelling of a planet's consumption. Now, when someone is coming to eat your planet, you should definitely be scared of them.
However, it's not Galactus' entire purpose to consume worlds. In The Ultimates, the team finds a way to accelerate Galactus' age, propelling him to his final form. This form is a giver of life, a being that creates worlds rather than destroys them. Galactus stops being an engine of destruction and his threat is all but removed.
16 GOT BETTER: VULTURE
It's hard to dance around the fact that Vulture is an old man in a bird suit. In his simplest terms, that's what he is and on paper, and that's not very formidable. However, when you consider it's a suit that allows him to fly and affords him the agility to keep up with Spider-Man, he starts to look a little more intimidating.
Though Vulture is an older guy, he's always improving his suit and coming back. The type of tenacity it takes to keep bouncing back at his age is outstanding. Not knowing the meaning of the word "retirement," Vulture is likely to keep pestering the skies of New York further into his twilight years.
15 GOT WEAKER: WINTER SOLDIER
Bucky's been through a lot, he's almost perished, been brainwashed to become a hired gun, turned on by his friends while investigating Fury's plot in Original Sin, he's not the most fortunate guy. It has been an uphill battle for the former sidekick, trying to prove himself an ally to all those who do good.
However, in one possible future shown in Old Man Hawkeye, time has not been kind to Bucky. He was captured when Red Skull took America and indoctrinated with tech. As his body aged, he had more of himself replaced with robotics, until he was able to be fully controlled by Skull's agents.
14 GOT BETTER: DR. OCTOPUS
Otto is a brilliant man and his plans and schemes only get better with time. As his body withered away his plots escalated. He held the Earth hostage using satellites to trap it in what was essentially a giant microwave and he also stole Peter Parker's body in his final triumphant gambit.
Since then, Parker reasserted himself and forced Otto from his body. Otto survived, jumping to a clone body of Peter. Now he operates as the Superior Octopus, with multiple clone bodies, should something happen to his initial body. Not only has he gotten better with age, but he's also circumvented it entirely.
13 GOT WEAKER: SABRETOOTH
Victor Creed is one of the most dangerous villains the X-Men have ever tangled with. His remorseless and deadly methodologies made him a merciless foe. His inability to leave Wolverine alone is an issue too, seeking to end his rival whenever he gets the chance. For the X-Men of the present day, the threat of Sabretooth lurks ominously.
In the future, however, Sabretooth isn't as competent as he once was. Within the pages of Weapon X, Old Man Logan revealed to present-day Victor that he had defeated him in the future. According to Logan, the reason he was able to finally stop Sabretooth was because he'd become fully feral. Without the brain to match his brawn, he fell to Wolverine.
12 GOT BETTER: APOCALYPSE
Apocalypse is the poster boy for how things can get better as time progresses. Being an agent of the Celestials, borrowing their tech to ensure evolution progress as they see fit, survival of the fittest is Apocalypse's mantra. If you don't prove your worth to the ancient mutant, he will let you perish or crush you himself.
Given that Apocalypse was one of the first mutants ever, and has been around for eons, he knows a thing or two about aging. He's lived through countless wars, he's even butted heads with Dracula. He expects those around him to adhere to his standards of evolution.
11 GOT WEAKER: NICK FURY
Nick Fury wasn't always a villain, but his secrets caught up with him. Operating in secret for years, lying to those closest to him and even operating behind S.H.I.E.L.D's back, the veteran had a lot to answer for. The formula he was using to keep himself young was running dry and he needed a replacement.
Instead of coming clean and simply asking someone to take up his mantle as the hidden protector of Earth, he concocted a complex and twist-filled plan to select his replacement. Managing to annoy everyone involved and sever all his links to the heroes, it was Bucky who figured it all out and took his place.
10 GOT BETTER: MAESTRO
One aspect of Hulk's dynamic is that he's not in full control of his faculties when enraged. There have been times where he retains his smarts but it is never usually permanent. This is an entirely different story with the Maestro. Able to leverage both his genius intellect and his immense strength, this Banner is scary to behold.
A ruler of his own world, Maestro keeps a firm grip on all who he reigns over. Far too smart to be stopped, when his brain won't cut it, his fists will. A master tactician also, Maestro once brought an entire army of Hulks to a conflict on Battleworld during Secret Wars.
9 GOT WEAKER: SONGBIRD
Melissa Gold began her career as a villain, though she would reform under the Thunderbolts. In one alternate future depicted in Avengers Forever, she is a fully-fledged Avenger. The Thunderbolt, and part-time S.H.I.E.L.D. agent uses her sonic powers to project solid energy constructs.
In Old Man Hawkeye, Melissa becomes a villain once more. She is part of the Thunderbolts team that betrays the Avengers. Several of them perish in the conflict against the Thunderbolts, prompting the vengeance of Hawkeye. When he tracks her down, she is a lot older and has taken a vow of silence. Songbird is racked with guilt, a shadow of her former self, and is defeated by Bullseye.
8 GOT BETTER: MOLLY HAYES
Molly is one of the Runaways, who fled their parents' custody upon finding out that they were all villains. So, it's a little odd that Molly would end up being a villain herself. Despite taking a firm stand against villainy in her youth, she would have a change in alignment.
During Battle of the Atom, Molly is part of the future's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This older Molly appears to be in full control of her powers, no longer fatigued to the point of slumber after using her immense strength. She manages to go toe-to-toe with Colossus convincingly, providing the muscle for the Brotherhood.
7 GOT WEAKER: NUKE
Nuke is an unfortunate tale. Clearly, a product of the time he was created in, this iteration of the Weapon X program was an attempt to recreate Captain America. Nuke took part in Vietnam and other smaller conflicts for the US government before his mind began to deteriorate. Partly cybernetic, when Nuke is destroyed he is capable of returning.
However, it appears that with each return he becomes increasingly unstable. To top all that, the government have created new versions of Nuke, powered by the same pills and far more expendable. Due to the utility the new Nukes provide, Simpson has become obsolete. History waits for no man.
6 GOT BETTER: MAGNETO
Magneto is an older gentleman, he's survived World War Two and lived to see many more wars. His own mistreatment imbued him with a hatred for humanity and a need to preserve his fellow mutants. With every passing year, Magneto has become even more formidable and shown the ability to adapt.
He has filled many roles, adversary, teacher, father figure and even leads the X-Men on occasion. His ability to remain relevant and threatening despite his advancing age is no small feat. Magneto is a name that still makes the world's governments nervous. Even for a brief period where his powers were diminished, he remained feared and even defeated the Red Skull.
5 GOT WEAKER: MOONSTONE
Moonstone fell a long way from her once prestigious place among Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers. She once usurped Ms. Marvel, taking the mantle and operating as a hero under false pretenses. However, when Norman was stopped, her fun was over and she ran off, eventually rejoining the Thunderbolts sometime later.
In one possible future, she assists the Thunderbolts in betraying Earth's heroes. When Hawkeyes Clint and Kate hunt her down, she has aged considerably. On top of aging at an accelerated rate, her moonstone's energies are breaking her body down. By targeting her stone, embedded in her chest, the bow users are able to easily overload her powers.
4 GOT BETTER: ULTRON
Ultron is the wayward creation of resident Avenger, Hank Pym. Originally meant to be a positive creation, Ultron soon proved to be the stuff of nightmares. A remorseless, unfeeling robot intent on destruction, Ultron is near unstoppable. As time goes on, Ultron finds more and more ways to improve itself.
Much like any being, Ultron learns with age, learning how to store himself in data systems and enhance his abilities. One frightening instance was when he took control of the bio-organic Phalanx, using them to corrupt beings and even entire worlds. Most recently, Ultron used his understanding of biomechanics to fuse himself with his creator, Hank Pym.
3 GOT WEAKER: ATLAS
Atlas was once a teammate of Hawkeye when both of the heroes worked with each other on the Thunderbolts. So, naturally, Clint believed he could trust the big guy. Clint proved to be a little too trusting in his assumptions, however, as Atlas betrayed him along with his fellow Thunderbolts.
Cutting a deal with Baron Zemo, and the Red Skull by association, the anti-heroes turned on Hawkeye and the Avengers. In Old Man Hawkeye, Clint tracked Atlas, finding him working in a circus. A sad end for the former Goliath, Atlas fell to Clint's bow in the very tent he performed under.
2 GOT BETTER: NIMROD
Nimrods are iterations of the scary Sentinels that have plagued mutantkind since their inception. Designed to hunt mutants, every version of the Sentinels has been more devastating than the last. The most advanced of all being the Nimrod sentinels of the future.
One Nimrod is bad enough, but during the events of X-Men: Second Coming, the X-Men were confronted by an army of them. Coming through from a portal into the future, these Sentinels showed that the mutant-hunting robots will only get better with age. A scary message for the marginalized mutants, Cable gave his life to seal the portal they poured forth from.
1 GOT WEAKER: BEETLE
Another villains depicted as a sad shadow of their former self in the pages of Old Man Hawkeye, Beetle is one of the Thunderbolts Hawkeye is seeking to eliminate. On his quest for vengeance, Clint tracks down Beetle, looking for information on where to find Songbird.
Beetle shows a lot of remorse for his betrayal, understanding what is about to happen to him. Clint demands he put on the Beetle suit and fight him one last time. Though struggling to fit into the suit, being out of shape and far from his best years, Beetle mournfully agrees. He loses his life in the conflict that follows.