META: Nemesis as opposite, nemesis as mirror

EDMLite robrogers72 at
Sat Jul 20 17:42:53 PDT 2013

On Saturday, July 20, 2013 4:46:18 PM UTC-7, Tom Russell wrote:
> I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a good nemesis, and in particular about two concepts I'll call "nemesis as opposite" and "nemesis as mirror". And I thought it might be useful, if only to myself, to collect a few of those thoughts here to see if they inspire any discussion.

>    I should begin by noting that I'm using the word "nemesis" somewhat incorrectly but very specifically to refer to a villain that "belongs" to a hero, but not necessarily his or her "arch-nemesis". The Joker is Batman's nemesis, yes, but so is the Penguin, Two-Face, and even the Ventriloquist. They are "Batman Villains", his rogues gallery.

Someone else once pointed out that virtually every one
of Batman's villains represents an aspect of his character.
He's a wealthy outsider (the Penguin) and a detective
(Riddler) who uses fear as a weapon (the Scarecrow), etc.
The Joker is Batman's arch-nemesis because he represents the
greatest threat to Batman's ultimate goal.  The Penguin and
the Riddler might want to steal a few millions or settle a
few scores, but the Joker wants to completely destabilize
society -- while Batman desperately wants to turn Gotham
into a stable, functioning community.

I think most rogues' galleries work well when they have
three types of villains among their ranks:

1). The "Superman villain": A criminal mastermind who tends
to work behind the scenes.  Expect a global threat every
time they show up.  Think Lex Luthor, Ra's al Ghul, 
Doctor Doom, or Acton Lord.

2). The "Spider-Man villain": An ordinary schlub transformed
by their powers, usually out for cash or revenge.  Not
above getting into a physical scrap with the hero.  Includes
most of Spider-Man's and the Flash's rogues galleries, as well
as Clayface, the Abomination, the Wrecking Crew and 90
percent of Easily-Discovered Man's villains.

3). The "Batman villain:" A deadly psychopath.  As with the
"Superman villain," you probably don't want more than one of
these in your rogues' gallery.  For example, here's a portion
of the villains who regularly went up against the Flash:

Grodd: Superman villain

Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heatwave, the Trickster, 
Golden Glider, Dr. Alchemy, Weather Wizard: Spider-Man villains

Abra Kadabra, Reverse-Flash: Batman villains

I think a lot of really great villains are people placed
in situations similar to that of the hero who made
different choices.

Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus is an obvious one: they're
both transformed into freaks based on eight-legged creatures
by "science."  One is humbled by the experience and driven
to use his powers to help humanity; the other sees the
transformation as an opportunity to pursue his selfish goals.

Superman and Luthor might seem more a clash of opposites.
Yet in a sense, they're both exemplars: the strongest, fastest
person in the world versus the smartest.  Superman's achievements
inspire hope in humanity, while Luthor's, though equally as
impressive, inspire despair.  

It's easier to describe these things after the fact than
to plan them, however.  When I began writing Easily-Discovered
Man, I thought that My-Dall, Man of 1,000,000 Mood Swings would
ultimately become his arch-nemesis.  Yet for whatever reason,
the Waffle Queen turned out to be a more interesting character.
I suppose that happens to the pros, too -- I can't for the life of
me say why the Green Goblin should be any more compelling than
say, the Lizard, and yet the character of Norman Osborn makes
him so.  

--Rob Rogers
--Looking forward to seeing where this conversation
turns next

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