Corporations are a part of daily life, and thus they regularly appear in comic books and films. Often their right in the foreground: When Joe Casey wrote “Wildcats 3.0,” Spartan took control of the HALO Corporation and used its business and financial prowess almost like a superpower in a way that was truly unique.
Sometimes people running corporations are villains, but often the corporation itself is the villain — faceless and monolithic, and often downright evil. While the definition of evil may vary, some would argue that the goal of some real-life corporations is simply a concentrated effort to use legal loopholes to maximize shareholder value, and other times going so far as to break the law. And in comic books and pop culture, that frequently plays out to dramatic effect.
Even if you didn’t celebrate Black Friday, hopefully you’re doing so today during Small Business Saturday, and supporting your local comic and book stores — and are thankful the entries on this list of the most prominent evil corporations in comics and pop culture are fictional.
Omni Consumer Products (OCP)
One of the reasons 1987’s “Robocop” made such an impact was how it treated the corporation that backed the Detroit police department. OCP was evil and vicious and yet also seemed like a parody of itself. This description could sum up so many companies and how they try to present themselves to the world even while their actions fly in the face of the image they project. The movie was absurd and intentionally over the top, but today seems, well, realistic.
The more “Resident Evil” games and stories are told, the more vicious the Umbrella Corporation has become. On the surface they appear to produce cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Of course, they’re also busy with viral warfare, genetic engineering and generally being disinterested in the dangers of a zombie outbreak.
The nature of the company has changed over the years depending on which Lex Luthor at which period we’re discussing, but Luthor has always been a businessman and scientist, using whatever resources he had to his advantage. Unlike other companies on this list, Luthor is often credited with doing some good — but usually only motivated by his own interests.
Norman Osborn is one of the great villains in comicdom, and he and his company have long been causing trouble for Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel Universe. Whether developing weapons for his own use, building and supplying other supervillains or just creating chaos, Oscorp is incredibly successful if rarely benevolent.
In the world of Marvel 2099, North America is a police state controlled by a handful of mega-corporations including, most prominently, Alchemax. The fact that Alchemax was started by Norman Osborn himself back in the contemporary Marvel timeline just makes them even more evil.
Justin Hammer was one of the highlights of “Iron Man 2,” mostly due to Sam Rockwell’s entertaining performance, but Hammer has been a thorn in the side of Iron Man and Tony Stark for many years — though the truth is that Hammer and the company often tend to be more bumbling than ruthless the way that Norman Osborn and others have been.
G.I. Joe antagonist Destro was an arms dealer who had a long family history selling weapons to both sides in a conflict. Though the exact nature of Destro and his company have changed a little across various incarnations, the ruthless heart has remained the same — though Destro believes himself to be a very honorable man.
The Weyland-Yutani Corporation
In the “Alien” franchise, the cutthroat Weyland-Yutani Corporation has no regard for the lives of its employees — or anyone else — in their efforts to make a profit. Their continued belief that they can control the aliens, though, does raise the question of how a corporation constantly making poor decisions has managed to be so successful for so many years.
Formerly known as the terrorist group S.I.L.E.N.T., among their many divisions are H.A.T.E., the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort and its super-powered team of operatives, Nextwave. It’s hard to think of another corporation quite so evil — even if they unintentionally ended up assembling the superhero team that destroyed them and foiled their plans.
Of course there’s a whole class of other companies that aren’t evil per se, but end up doing evil things. Cyberdyne Systems built Skynet, though clearly their intent was not to wipe out humanity, just to create a better A.I. Tyrell Corporations created Replicants in “Blade Runner,” and while morally complicated, describing them as evil seems to go a little far.
By a different standard, Ebenezer Scrooge ran a pretty stingy business and kept his employees freezing and underpaid — causing health problems for them and their families. Though unlike a lot of companies, even Scrooge gave his employees the holidays off!
Looking to celebrate Small Business Saturday? Find your local comic book retailer via FindAComicShop.com!
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