Heroes and villains: two sides of the same coin. Although, one side of that coin is clearly much more important: without villains there could be no heroes, but without heroes, villains would still exist. Look at any battle between good and evil; it’s always the bad guy leading the show. The villain chooses who, what, and when to attack or steal something and the hero just reacts and tries to counter. This chase continues on until one side is ultimately victorious. This isn’t just in comics either. It happens in film, television, books, games, and even wrestling. The bad guys are always the star in these situations. They are the ones dictating where the story goes next, not the hero. That’s why a great villain is important to have, and when it comes to creating an awesome rouge gallery for heroes to fight, DC Comics is definitely one of the best. That brings me to a new book by Daniel Wallace: DC Comics: Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History.
Even if you don’t read a word of this book, it’s still worth checking out all of the great art. The book is full of the iconic comic covers villains have graced, along with a ton of awesome pictures featuring these characters. The pictures range from the villains’ origins to their current incarnations. Seeing how drastically most of these characters have changed is extremely interesting and is such a great addition—proves my point: comics look so much better nowadays. Also, being able to see how lighthearted most comics were before compared to how serious they all are now is great. Although, admittedly there are some comics now that would benefit from taking themselves less serious, but that’s an argument for another time.
Since I spend most of my time explaining comic origins and story lines to people, the idea of books like Super Villains is much appreciated. Unfortunately, this book suffers from the same problem as others like it: there’s just not enough information about each character. Now I understand you can’t cover every story or appearance of any one villain, but I found myself wondering why so many key moments for these characters were left out and less important moments were included.
There are more DC villains than I can count who are omitted from this book. Sure every bank robber or murderer doesn’t need a page, but I would say Hugo Strange, Amanda Waller, and Paralax all definitely deserve a spot.
Focus is something this book is really lacking. I can see the ambition here, and it’s admirable. From what I can tell Wallace wanted to include each villain’s history. Not just from the comics, but also from film, television, and games. While the book covers the characters’ notable appearances, you don’t actually get as much info about that character. Instead of talking about every person who has played the Joker, I wish the book focused more on the incredibly messed up things the Joker has done (e.g. how he “created” Oracle). It also would’ve helped if the book focused on either Pre-New 52 or Post-New 52. Instead, we get a mix of both origins for these characters. With the way it’s written, the book reads a lot like a Wiki article and less like the encyclopedia that I was expecting. Considering the lack of focus, the weird mix just makes it even harder to really find out much about these characters beyond (BEYOND!) a few basic points.
Overall the book is interesting, and while it won’t serve much use to somebody attempting to learn the history of these characters or to someone who already knows the history, it is a great coffee table book. This book has awesome artwork both fans and people who have never read a comic in their lives can flip through and admire, while they wait for you to finish making the chimichangas.