Wars are fought and won, not just on a physical level, but on a mental one, as well. Sure, brute strength makes a big difference on the battlefield, especially in comics, but at the end of the day, there are quite a few occasions where brains trumps brawn. Hence, a major part of one’s strategy has to be the mental aspect of the fight. These mind games, whether they’re from heroes or villains, can be eloquently and perfectly orchestrated by leaders, politicians or in some cases, vile dictators, to get what they want.
While some individuals assemble armies, others keep it simpler and roll solo. But when all is said and done, whether you’re leading a movement or going it alone, when you wield this power, chances are you’ll do great (and possibly, terrible) things! The thing is, we can’t fault these individuals for playing to their strengths because you need to use the tools that you have at your disposal. Some readers look at these forked tongues and call them deceivers, while others deem them saviors. We at CBR simply call them cunning linguists and as such, we decided to traverse Marvel and DC Comics to look at 15 of the most sinister smooth talkers out there.
15. GLORIOUS GODFREY
Glorious Godfrey is one of DC Comics’ New Gods who loves spreading media propaganda on Earth in order to influence people to turn against the superhero movement. This is all part of the plan to mentally unsettle the planet so that Darkseid and his Parademon armies from Apokolips can successfully invade and have Earth submit to their rule.
We got our fill of these antics from Godfrey on shows like Justice League Unlimited, Smallville and Young Justice, and fans are curious to see if he will be included or hinted at in the DCEU’s Justice League movie. He loves spewing his rhetoric on television and radio and his loud, persuasive voice is what makes people paranoid and cynical. Oddly enough, Godfrey’s tongue has never been revealed as something Darkseid augmented. It’s simply his natural talent, which doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
14. THE PURPLE MAN
Zebediah Killgrave is one of the most depraved individuals over at Marvel Comics. He became the Purple Man following a chemical spill that literally turned him purple, but which also gave him the abilities to make people bend to his will. How does he achieve this? Well, his body produces chemical pheromones which allow him to control others’ actions, once he is physically present.
Scary, right? Well, it gets creepier. In the books, he’s known for running into conflict with Luke Cage, but his maniacal actions are most often related to Jessica Jones. In the Jessica Jones Netflix series, the sadist, simply referred to as Killgrave, used his words to own and objectify Jessica, not just mentally but physically as well. He controlled and tortured her, along with her loved ones. However, his most heinous acts came when he coerced her into acts against her will.
13. EMMA FROST
Emma Frost usually uses her telepathic powers to get what she wants. Just ask Jean Grey. One of Emma’s most notorious acts as an X-Man was to indulge in a psychic affair with her husband, Cyclops, right behind Jean’s back. However, she’s pretty good with her tongue too. Marvel readers would later find out about Emma’s flings with Namor and Tony Stark, and in these exchanges she was often seen as the instigator.
While these guys are known for running their game, Emma ended up luring them in just as much with her seductive and flirtatious ways. This is how Emma, formerly known as the Hellfire Club’s White Queen, gets men to do what she wants. She tells them what they want to hear, uses her sexuality and then achieves her objectives, which often involve self-preservation, with a dash of pleasure mixed in.
12. OBI WAN KENOBI
The older Obi Wan Kenobi first showed us the Jedi mind-trick when Star Wars debuted on-screen in 1977, as he helped Luke Skywalker and his trusty droids avoid inquisitive Stormtroopers. We also got a glimpse of it in the recent Star Wars books written by Jason Aaron from Marvel Comics, to remind us that in his younger days, he employed similar tactics to that of his fallen mentor Qui-Gon Jinn.
Usually, Obi Wan is a slick and smooth talker but when his normal words failed, he used this short burst of mind-control so that he would be much more convincing. This helped him avoid several conflicts where he didn’t want to unleash his lightsaber in a fight. How does it work? Well, Obi Wan channels the Force to persuade his enemies to do whatever his words imply, and it remains one of the Jedi’s most subtle and deceptive tools to date.
11. HUGO STRANGE
Hugo Strange is highly intelligent and once used his brainpower to figure out Batman’s identity in the comics. As for his persuasive words, they are due to his training in the field of psychology. He has studied people all his life and he knows how to break a person’s mind down. With this intuition, he knows precisely what key words to target in order to trigger you to do what he says.
It’s all part of his constant experimenting on minds where he gets to know someone so intimately that he can pretty much brainwash them with just a few syllables. Fans have also seen this in action on the animated front as well, but now they can feast their eyes on his conniving ways on Fox’s Gotham, where he’s portrayed by B.D. Wong.
10. EBONY MAW
Ebony Maw is a deceitful member of Thanos’ Black Order. He debuted in Marvel’s Infinity event and his genius-level intellect is what allows him to specialize in persuasion. In the books, he has been described as having a “black tongue that spreads mischief and evil wherever he goes,” which we witnessed when he entranced Doctor Strange to release the evil entity known as Shuma Gorath.
We also saw how powerful his conniving ways were when he manipulated Thanos’ son, Thane, against his father, and also, against his former teammate Corvus Glaive, who held Maw hostage as part of a coup against the Mad Titan. As vile as he may be, fans can’t wait to see him in cinemas when Avengers: Infinity War hits, with Tom Vaughan-Lawlor recently cast as the character.
Starfox (aka Eros of Titan) is the brother of Thanos and is probably the most perverted Avenger ever, just by existing. He uses his psychic abilities to play on the emotions of people, inciting pleasure and euphoria within them. She-Hulk actually wondered if he used these powers to unethically manipulate her during their fling. What made it all the more messed up was that she was actually defending him in court from a married woman who accused him of rape.
Starfox loves women and they love him, but you always have to wonder whether they’re going to bed with him of their own volition. We recently saw him in the Thanos series from Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato sweet-talking and running this same game, using his powers to help Thane put his father away.
8. SILVER FOX
In Marvel Comics, Silver Fox was a former lover of Wolverine, planted to lull him into a life of happiness. Her powers were that she aged slowly and healed quickly, but in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Kayla was retconned as someone whose words held the power of persuasion. While it seemed Hugh Jackman’s Logan fell in love with her, it was actually her tactile trickery (her powers worked through touch) at work.
It turns out this was all a ruse set up by Stryker and his Weapon X team, but after things backfired and went haywire with Sabretooth in the mix, Kayla tried to make amends and help Wolverine. He lost his memory of her as she died at the hands of Stryker, but her last act was to tell Stryker to “walk until his feet bled.” So he did as we saw in the movie’s after-credits.
Doug Ramsey aka Cypher, is a digital cunning linguist. He started out being able to decipher alien or human languages that were considered complex but after being resurrected in the Necrosha event by Selene using the modified techno-organic virus, he could now read and speak all languages. This allows him control over machines and electronic devices as he is fluent in everything, including binary code.
This means he is a walking, talking hacker in the truest sense of the word. Fans are currently hoping that he appears in an X-Factor movie or maybe in the New Mutants franchise, as he has had experience with both teams in the books. His abilities make him an underrated asset who can use these persuasive powers to stop armies, shut down machinery and end wars.
Fans of X-Factor (a detective agency spearheaded by mutants) will know the wily Siryn as Theresa Cassidy. She is Banshee’s daughter and the spurned lover of the investigative agency’s leader Jaime Maddox, aka Multiple Man. While she packs her father’s powerful sonic screams, Siryn can manipulate her own voice to be soothing, exerting strong influence and allowing her to become very persuasive to other beings, just like the mythical sirens that lured sailors out to the waters to die in stories of old.
In the comics, folks could enter a hypnotic state and even fall in love with Siryn, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. She could then use this to get them to carry out her wishes or fill her in with valuable information. She once used this power on Spider-Man to get him to divulge what happened with the Decimation event when Scarlet Witch de-powered mutants worldwide.
Mesmero was an abused boy who developed powers of hypnosis by stare and also, via words. He would end up following Magneto and even started up a Brotherhood of Mutants himself. He was brought in to the Weapon X program later on to curry the favor of the public in order for it to continue its experimentation. Mesmero also had a strong rivalry with Beast and tampered with Polaris’ mind in his early days.
He turned out this way due to his abusive father, who would go on to allegedly kill himself. There were hints, however, that Mesmero was responsible for coaxing him into running away from home and committing the act. His case is a prime example of how someone being exploited goes bad but with the things he has done, it’s inexcusable and indefensible.
Zatanna is one of the most powerful sorceresses in the DC universe. Following in the footsteps of her dad, she casts spells by speaking verbal commands backwards. Couple this with her illusions and you can bet your bottom dollar that she can charm your pants off and get you to do whatever she wants. As one of DC’s most powerful sorcerers, Zatanna can bend the universe around you with just her voice, alone.
Zatanna has plied her silver-tongued trade not just in comics, but throughout multiple other media outlets, shows such as Smallville and Young Justice. Hopefully, we’ll get to see her soon on the big screen in the DCEU, where her way with words would go a long way in shaping the universe into something truly mesmerizing.
3. MAX LORD
Max Lord uses mental manipulation to get heroes and villains to do exactly what he wants, but there’s also a strong degree of persuasion in his words. His slithery ways have caused the most damage after he hijacked Batman’s Brother Eye system, and then controlled Superman into fighting the rest of the Justice League. Things got so bad that the only way to stop Lord — who ended up killing the Blue Beetle, Ted Kord — was for Wonder Woman to snap his neck for the whole world to see.
He came back to life, however, during the events of Brightest Day, and more recently pitted the Justice League against the Suicide Squad, using sneaky speeches and words (with a little mental push, of course) to obtain the power of Eclipso. Lord also rounded up his own Suicide Squad, which may even offer the DCEU a potential plot for a Suicide Squad sequel, should they be equally as bold as Max.
2. DOCTOR FAUSTUS
Doctor Faustus has been quite the thorn in the side of Marvel’s biggest heroes, particularly Captain America. He can modulate his voice in a highly persuasive manner, and thanks to an illustrious doctorate in psychiatry, he can brainwash people and place them as sleeper agents. He did this with Cap’s lover, Sharon Carter, and triggered her to kill the American icon at the end of the Civil War comic event.
He continued his wretched ways more recently in Secret Empire as he cast his voice over S.H.I.E.L.D’s helicarriers and took down most of their agents, allowing the undercover HYDRA agents to gain control. This was a subtle, yet crippling move that left Carter, Maria Hill and Carol Danvers’ space unit in a state of disarray. Sticks and stones do break bones, but Faustus’ words topple empires.
Aquaman was the butt of comic jokes in the past, but when Geoff Johns brought him back in the New 52, he was revamped as an ass-kicker. When it comes to battling monsters in the depths or Darkseid’s Parademons from the sky, he uses his powers of persuasion on marine life to rise and fight for justice… unless you count the Blackest Night event, when he used his gifts in a more nefarious way, controlling undead sea life to kill.
His powers have made him a key player in the Injustice universe, and also, a major component in the Justice League film. We can’t wait to see how James Wan adapts these powers for the Aquaman movie as well, because we’re certain Arthur Curry (played by Jason Momoa) will be calling forth some ancient monsters and angry sharks from the ocean to destroy those who threaten Atlantis!
Let us know in the comments if we left out any notable cunning linguists or who you would like to see included!
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