A supervillain or supervillainess is a variant of the villain character type, commonly found in comic books, action movies and science fiction in various media.
They are sometimes used as foils to superheroes and other fictional heroes. Whereas superheroes often wield fantastic powers, the supervillain possesses commensurate powers and abilities so that he can present a daunting challenge to the hero. Even without actual mystical or superalian powers, the supervillain often possesses a genius intellect that allows him to draft complex schemes or create fantastic devices with considerable resources at his disposal to further his aims. Many supervillains share some typical characteristics of real world dictators, mobsters, and terrorists and often have aspirations of world domination or universal leadership.
Superheroes and supervillains often mirror each other in their powers, abilities, or origins. In some cases, the only difference between the two is that the hero uses his extraordinary powers to help others, while the villain uses his powers for selfish, destructive or ruthless purposes.
By most definitions, the first supervillain was John Devil, a proto-Fantômas, created by Paul Féval, père in his eponymous 1862 novel, or Féval's nearly-immortal, machiavellian Colonel Bozzo-Corona, leader of Les Habits Noirs introduced in 1863. Professor Moriarty, the archenemy of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes, was introduced in 1891. Dr. Fu Manchu, the antagonist of several popular novels of Sax Rohmer, is credited with popularizing many of the typical characteristics of the modern supervillain, including his sadistic personality, his desire for world domination, and his use of sinister lairs and themed crimes and henchmen. Rohmer's work had a strong influence on Ian Fleming, whose James Bond novels and their film adaptations further popularized the image of the supervillain in popular culture, like Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The first supervillain who wore a bizarre costume was the Lightning, from the 1938 film The Fighting Devil Dogs. The first supervillain to regularly battle a superhero was the Ultra-Humanite, who first appeared in Action Comics #13 (1939).
The Joker, the Green Goblin, Lex Luthor, Palpatine, Bane, Magneto, Auric Goldfinger and Doctor Doom are examples of well-known supervillains in popular culture and comic book history.
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