META: Nemesis as opposite, nemesis as mirror

Andrew Perron pwerdna at
Fri Jul 26 19:45:52 PDT 2013

On Sat, 20 Jul 2013 23:46:18 +0000 (UTC), Tom Russell wrote:

>    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.

Ahhhhh, okay. I was just wondering about that.

>    Compare this to, say, the Circus of Crime. They're villains, yes, but
> they don't "belong" to any hero. Mention Doctor Octopus or even the Big
> Wheel and I'll say he's a Spider-Man villain, but if you say Circus of
> Crime, I don't pin them down in the same way. They're free agents as it
> were.

Of course, there's characters like Ultron, who was originally and is most
often an Avengers villain, but is pretty free-ranging in terms of who he'll

> Thor's villains, for example, really couldn't have been invented for any
> other hero. They're big and cosmic and meant to challenge someone big and
> cosmic.

Well, other than Mister Hyde.

>    But sometimes a nemesis goes further; sometimes, they're not only
> "defined" by their hero, but their whole gimmick or concept is defined in
> relation to the hero's gimmick or concept. A "nemesis as opposite" has a
> gimmick that is the opposite of the hero's gimmick, and a "nemesis as
> mirror" has the same gimmick/power-set, but is "evil".

Ah! I see. I thought we were talking personalitywise, but powerwise, makes

>    I haven't done an exhaustive survey, but it seems that the latter is
> far more common. Just a handful of examples:
> Spider-Man/Venom
> The Doctor/The Master
> Captain Marvel/Black Adam
> Green Lantern/Sinestro
> Flash/Professor Zoom
> Wolverine/Sabertooth
> Iron Man/A bunch of other dudes in tech armor
> The list goes on-and-on. Whereas "nemesis as opposite" is pretty slim pickings:
> Iron Man/The Mandarin (High tech versus high magic)
> Superman/Luthor (superpowers versus none)
> Flash/Turtle Man (speed versus slowness)

I can think of a few others:
Hulk/The Leader (super-strong vs. super-smart)
Captain Marvel/Dr. Sivana (similar to Superman/Luthor, but with
magic/science added)

> I'm sure there's some more I'm missing, but I'm drawing a blank. I think
> the reason why "he has all my powers, but is evil" is more prevalent isn't
> that it is necessarily more compelling (though Turtle Man is pretty
> ridiculous), but that it's hard to define the "opposite" of some gimmicks.
> Like, what is the opposite of "proportional strength and sense of a
> Spider?" Or "naked dude in space on a surfboard"?

I think "opposite-ness" requires thinking outside the box a bit more,
whereas "mirror" is a more reliable choice. Also, one could argue for the
mirror-ness of some of your opposites; on the one hand, Green Lantern and
Sinestro have the same powers, but classically, Sinestro's powers are GL's
Kryptonite. (A similar example is, of course, Superman and Metallo.) Or, on
RACC, let's look at Brightsword and Darkshield; thematically opposite, but
"supertech piece of melee equipment" is pretty similar. The line's hard to
draw sometimes,

Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, it's an interesting one to think about.

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