talk about how great of a whump Thanos is? I literally only know what ‘whump’ is from surfing this website and writing drabbles, but he’s equal parts ruthless/cruel, convicted and convinced he’s doing what’s right/has to be done, and he squashes those who oppose his will with glee. I was speechless the first time I watched infinity war, and although its all said and done if I had to pick a favorite whumper he has to be it.
So apologetic until he’s not. Willing to sacrifice the only thing he’s maybe loved for conquest, for the stones. Feeling he has the right to inflict this pain because he’s felt it, sacrificed for it.
So wrong he’s right.
i teared up when he murked Loki, from Thor being forced to watch to all the Asgard refugees littered around them (that and when peter fucking dusts away) i don’t think I could’ve made a better scene.
I was recently thinking about what exactly makes a villain sympathetic. I think it’s interesting to think about for two reasons: first, I’m currently planning an original book trilogy that has a sympathetic villain as a secondary antagonist, and I needed to think on it, since I’ve only ever written a sympathetic villain once and he was the main character of my story. Second, I see people assign the “outright evil” label wrongly to a villain, and it’s just gone too far for me. I’m going to show a contrast today between two iconic villains: Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars saga, and Shadow Weaver from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, to demonstrate that sympathetic vs. outright evil has more to do with someone than just their actions.
*NOTE: I had originally wanted to contrast Shadow Weaver and Horde Prime, since they’re from the same show. However, since we’ve only seen about 5 minutes of Prime onscreen, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate for the depth of the project. However, Palpatine is a very similar type of villain to Horde Prime, and I believe this post still works with him as a substitution.
Before we get into what does and does not make a villain sympathetic, we have to first define our terms, especially since they’re misused. A sympathetic villain is a villain that the average person can relate to. In spite of their evil actions, they’re a person who is not purely evil. Generally they have tragic backstories, although this isn’t the case for all sympathetic villains. An outright evil villain, on the other hand, is a villain that exists solely as a foil for the protagonists and sometimes for the sympathetic villain(s) as well. See: Palpatine, Ultron, and Horde Prime as examples.
What Does NOT Make a Villain Sympathetic
Thinking that what they’re doing is right. This is a staple of allvillains, not just sympathetic ones. No villain thinks that they’re wrong and doesn’t care. If they do, they’re basically a cartoon bad guy who has a loony villain laugh. Take Thanos from Infinity War, for example. The movie tries to paint him as sympathetic because “killing half the universe is the only way”, but just because he believes that doesn’t mean we can connect with him. Personal conviction only works as a motive for a sympathetic villain if the audience shares that conviction, and most of us are not genocidal maniacs (if you are, I will refer you to the Vine below).
Not destroying someone or something. This can mean a villain is sympathetic depending on what the reason is, but just that alone does not mean the audience can relate to them.
Take Thanos (again). The lack of moral evil he shows by sparing Gamora does not mean he loved her, especially given what he did to her later on. Love is a relatable motive to sparing someone’s life, but because Guardians of the Galaxy established later on that Thanos is an abusive parent, this does not mean he’s sympathetic.
Take Light Spinner and Micah, on the other hand. When she spared him, she had nothing to gain by killing him, and it was established within the bounds of a healthy relationship (if you don’t think she loved him, read this meta I wrote about it). The kind touch following her turning evil is the exception to the rule to let us know that in the midst of her evil, she still has good in her to spare Micah, someone she loved before, when killing him would have been the practical solution.
What DOES Make a Villain Sympathetic
What makes a villain sympathetic has very little to do with their actions. I’ve heard a lot of times that if the audience can’t forgive a villain, that makes them outright evil, but I disagree greatly with that notion. People vary on what they’re willing to forgive. Someone who’s been an abuse victim, for example, might have a harder time forgiving Shadow Weaver than someone who used to be an abuser but turned their life around later on. This doesn’t affect whether Shadow Weaver’s a sympathetic or outright evil villain; it’s just audience preference based on their differing circumstances.
I also don’t think that sympathetic villains have to be sorry for what they do. They can be redeemed and often are, but they aren’t always. (See: the Legends rendition of General Grievous from Star Wars, or Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles.) The point of a sympathetic villain is for the audience to relate, and the fact is that we sometimes aren’t sorry for the crap we pull either.
Villains being sympathetic or outright evil hinges on one thing, and one thing only: motive. In storytelling, motive is the reason behind why villains (or heroes, anti-heroes, etc.) do what they do. Sympathetic villains always have either a good or understandable motive behind what they do, and that’s what makes them sympathetic.
I often see people wrongly label Shadow Weaver from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power as purely evil simply because she’s done terrible things with little to no remorse. However, this has nothing to do with her motives. We see in the episode Light Spinner that Light Spinner did a dark spell because she wanted to save Etheria from the Horde. Whether or not the action was right, the motive was good. That’s one example, but there’s another after she becomes evil.
Shadow Weaver becomes an abusive mother following her turn, but it’s not “just for the sake of it”. Oftentimes people become abusers because of deep-seated insecurity or self-hatred that they project onto others, and she is no exception, as she tells Catra in the episode listed above. We also see that she is deathly insecure about her looks to the point where she won’t allow two young children to see what lies beneath her mask. This insecurity is also why she pursues power, as she believes that she’s nothing without it throughout the series.
Abusers often bully and mistreat others to feel good about themselves. While these actions are terrible and traumatizing, the reason Shadow Weaver does these actions is an understandable and human reason that we all struggle with from time to time. (You can read more about Shadow Weaver’s insecurity in this metaI wrote about it.) Whether or not she’s an abuser is ultimately irrelevant to the question of whether she’s sympathetic or not, and that’s a common mistake I see people make.
Contrast Palpatine, who actually does similar things to Shadow Weaver in the Star Wars saga. While she didn’t try to infiltrate a galactic government, both of them are shifty, manipulative, and on a quest for greater power for shady reasons. But what makes Shadow Weaver different from Palpatine? What separates them in the different classes of villains?
In the movies (which is all I’ll be using for this analysis since the Star Wars universe is really complicated), Palpatine doesn’t care about anything but power. We never see him display any sort of human motive for wanting it. He just wants it because he believes he’s entitled to it. He also never struggles with human emotional or psychological struggles and exists as a foil to Anakin, Luke, and now Rey in the upcoming film The Rise of Skywalker.
Both are after power and willing to do terrible things to get to it. However, Shadow Weaver does it because she’s deeply insecure and believes power - both magical power and holding power over others - is the only way she can feel good about herself. Palpatine, on the other hand, pursues power and abuses others simply because he’s Palpatine.
To be clear, not all people like or relate to sympathetic villains, especially abusive sympathetic villains. You don’t have to stan Shadow Weaver, especially if you were an abuse victim yourself. But I’ve been seeing people take this bias and use it to label her as a two-dimensional, outright evil villain. My point here is that by all storytelling accounts, she fits the label of a sympathetic villain, because she does carry struggles that the average person can relate to.
I hope this post was helpful to writers who are looking to write sympathetic villains. The trick is to give a good or understandable motive behind their actions. Beyond that, write away and show us what you have. :D
Obadiah Stane was dead. Dead as a doornail these past 7 years. That which you must understand.
Not that his partner, or former partner, it should be said, LokiLaufeyson minded. With his partner gone, he had all the shares and all the money to himself. The wind howled down the alleyway of the dirty London street, but Loki didn’t mind. He liked the cold. He was sharp as flint and constantly had his nose to the grindstone.
A gust of wind and snow followed Loki into his office and he slammed the door behind him. But the office offered no refuge from the cold outside. One could even say it was colder in than out.
“Good Morning, Mr Laufeyson.” His ever faithful clerk, Anthony Stark called out. “And Merry Christmas Eve!”
“Christmas? Bah. Humbug.” Loki replied, strutting to his desk and settling himself chair, beginning to go through the day’s business, but his silent contemplation did not last long before a tall, blonde strapping, gentleman came bursting through the door. Thor, Loki’s brother, had come to call.
“Brother! A Merry Christmas Eve!!” boomed his deep voice.
Loki rolled his eyes. “Hello to you too brother. To what do I owe the pleasure of you interrupting my business?”
“Why I’m here to spread the Christmas spirit of course!”
“What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” Loki spat.
“What reason have you to be bitter? You’re rich enough. Christmas is a wonderful time a year, of parties, drinks, merriment, and love. Though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I think christmas has done and will do me good.Therefore I say, god bless it!” Thor said, with a rousing stamp of his boot. Loki rolled his eyes.
WARNING: Endgame spoilers! Also some kissing and death.
Y/N: Your name
E/C: Eye color
H/L: Hair length
H/C: Hair color
F/N: Father’s name
"Alright. Bring it down low… Right on that line. That’s it… down…down…“ Rhodey got off the Benatar as it was landing. Clint called over to him, "Hey, can we hurry it up?”
"Guys, chop-chop. Come on. We’re on a clock,“ Y/N walked over to the pair, Nebula close behind. Clint watched as she fiddled with the ships’ controls, directing it to the next destination, "All that, is really helpful.”
Nebula looked up at him for a moment before turning back to what she was doing. Rhodey leaned over to Y/N and hugged her, “Take care, okay?”
Y/N smiled and hugged him back, “Yeah.”
"Take that stone and come back. No messing around.“
Clint looked at Rhodey, "Hey. You got this.”
"Yes sir,“ Rhodey gave Clint a slight smile. Y/N walked back to the ship with Clint, "See you back.”
"You guys watch each other’s six.“ Y/N and Clint look back and smile. Y/N gave a little wave as Clint replied, "Yeah.”
They walked back into the ship as the hatch closed. It took off and sped towards Vormir. Nebula watches the ship as it disappeared from the atmosphere, “The coordinates for Vormir are laid in. All they have to do is not fall out.”
Back in the Benatar, Y/N and Clint stared out of the front of the ship. It took a jump through space and sped up. Clint looked at Y/N, “We’re an awful long way from London.”
Y/N jumped and looked at him startled as she comprehended his words. Her eyes widened as she realized what he meant and she laughed.
Clint looked directly in her E/C eyes as she laughed. He studied the flecks of color in her pupils, her H/L H/C hair that shifted with each gasp for breath. He leaned in towards her as her laughter died out. Y/N smiled at him as he gently took hold of her hand and rubbed patterns along her palm with his thumb.
"Hey, what’s wrong Clint?“ He had stopped smiling. His gaze shifted from her eyes to her full, soft lips. His mouth opened slightly as his eyes fluttered back up to Y/N’s. He suddenly spun her around, pushing her against the wall. She gasped as his hand moved up her arm to her neck. He reached behind her head, pulling her closer to him by the back of her head.
"C-Clint, what are you doing?” He ignored her and slammed his lips against hers. Her eyes widened in surprise. Y/N had loved him for the longest time, and then the thing in London happened, but she wasn’t sure if he had truly loved her back. Until now.
Clint wasn’t too rough, but he wasn’t gentle about his intentions. When Y/N decline him access to her mouth, he pinched her butt, causing her to gasp. He took the opportunity to ravage her mouth.
She felt a wave of need fly across her body as he traveled from her mouth to her neck. He sucked and bit at the dip between her neck and collarbone before creating a trail of hickeys down her chest. Clint looked up at her as she moaned, “God I love you so much.”
Y/N was about to reply when she felt the ship lurch underneath her. Clint glanced towards the front window to see Vormir. They looked at each other as they stepped outside. Y/N internally groaned at what she could’ve just missed out on. Clint stared at the huge mountain in front of them, “Wow… Under different circumstances, this would be totally awesome.”
Y/N only sighed and began walking.
"I bet the raccoon didn’t have to climb a mountain,“ Y/N muttered as she slipped on yet another loose rock. Clint reached down and helped her up, "Technically, he’s not a raccoon, you know.”
"Whatever. He eats garbage,“ Y/N brushed herself off and kept walking. Clint chuckled and followed her. As they turned a corner, they heard a voice in front of them.
"Welcome.” Clint and Y/N whipped out their guns, aiming them at an approaching figure. “Y/N, daughter of F/N. Clint, son of Edith.”
"Who are you?“ Y/N watched as the figure stepped into view, revealing Red Skull.
"Consider me a guide. To you, and to all who seek the Soul Stone.”
"Oh good. You tell us where it is. Then we’ll be on our way.“
"If only it were that easy.” Y/N glanced at Clint as Red Skull led them to a cliff.
"What you seek lies in front of you… as does what you fear.“
"The stone is down there,” Y/N stared at the bottom of the cliff, examining the stone floor. It had a round, intricate pattern around the cliff. It also seemed to have darker spots nearer to the cliff.
"For one of you. For the other… In order to take the stone, you must lose that which you love. An everlasting exchange. A soul, for a soul.“
Y/N sat on a nearby log, analyzing what he had said. Clint studied Red Skull for a moment before looking back at her, "How’s it going? Jesus… Maybe he’s making this shit up.”
"No, I don’t think so.“
Clint chuckled humorlessly, "Why, ‘cause he lives here? ‘Cause he knows that we’re desperate?”
Y/N glared at him before sighing, "Thanos left here with the stone without his daughter. It’s not a coincidence.”
"Yeah,“ Clint muttered.
"Whatever it takes,” Y/N registered what had to be done. Clint watched the expression on her face and recognized what Red Skull had meant.
"Whatever it takes,“ Clint whispered as Y/N stood.
Y/N turned to face him, "If we don’t get that stone, billions of people stay dead.”
Clint smiled sadly, “Then I guess we both know who it’s gotta be.”
"I guess we do.“ Clint reached out for Y/N’s hand. She looked down at his outstretched hand and looked back up to see the hopeful look on his face. Y/N took his hand.
"I’m starting to think, we’ve been different people here, Y/N”
"For the last five years I’ve been trying to do one thing: Get to right here. That’s all it’s been about… Bringing everybody back.“
Clint laughed, "Oh, don’t you get all decent on me now.”
Y/N glanced at the cliff before glared at him, “What, you think I wanna do it? I’m trying to save your life, you idiot!”
"Yeah well, I don’t want you to, because I… I love you so much Y/N. I couldn’t bear to lose you. You know what I’ve done. You know what I’ve become.“
"I don’t judge people on their worst mistakes.”
"Maybe you should.“
"You didn’t. You even fell in love with me.”
"You’re a pain in my ass, you know that?“
Y/N laughed and leaned her forehead against his. He reached up and gripped her chin with one hand, brushing back a loose piece of hair with the other. He leaned in and kissed her. It wasn’t a rough or needy kiss. It was soft and gentle, unlike the situation.
She looked up at him confused as he gave her a gentle smile. It quickly morphed into a sad smile as he kicked the back of her knee, knocking her to the ground, “I love you.”
Y/N grabbed his arm and pulled him down beside her before swiftly getting to her feet, “I love you more.”
With that, she electrocuted him and began running toward the cliff. Clint struggled on the ground for a moment before leaping to his feet and shooting an explosive arrow next to her, knocking her down. She groaned and looked up at him and he threw his bow off to the side. He glanced at her as he sprinted to the side of the cliff, leaping off.
Y/N threw herself off after him, grabbing him and hooking him up to a grappling hook, shooting it into the side of the cliff. She grunted as the line snapped tight, swinging the pair into the stone wall. Y/N was shaken out of Clint’s arms when they collided. He quickly grabbed her arm with one hand.
He saw the line holding the pair up and looked back down at Y/N, “Damn you!”
Her eyes were wide as he attempted to reach her with his other hand. He was so close to grabbing her hand, but couldn’t stretch any farther. He groaned in pain and had to grab onto the rope to keep them both from falling.
Y/N felt her hand slipping. She glanced down at the stone floor. She could see from there that the darker spots were not just dark stone. They were pools of dried blood. She looked back up at Clint. Her voice shook slightly, “Let me go.”
His face was contorted with pain and despair as he groaned, “No. Please, no.”
Y/N’s face was filled with peace and love, “It’s okay.”
Clint’s eyes welled up with tears, “Please Y/N! I… love you.”
Y/N simply nodded before kicking off the wall, ripping her hand free from Clint’s grasp. His face filled with shock as she plummeted to the ground, “NO!”
He tried to pull himself free, but could only stare at her body as multiple emotions flickered across his face. Despair, regret, sorrow, heartache, hopelessness. Blood pooled around Y/N’s body as the sky began to create a funnel of light around the mountain.
The sky rippled and teleported Clint into a large pool of water. He felt something in his hand and uncurled his fingers to reveal a small, glowing orange stone. Tears dripped from his face as he hit the ground in anger. His Quantum Suit activated and he shrunk back into 2023.
"Did we get them all?“ Bruce asked as soon as Clint appeared.
Rhodey looked at him, "You telling me this’ll actually work?”
Bruce glanced around at the other Avengers before looking at Clint, “Clint… where’s Y/N?”
Please feel free to comment what you think, what I should do next, what I could do better, etc.
WARNING: Slight Thor x Reader, Violence, and Infinity War Spoilers
Blue-black clouds appeared in front of the Avengers as they watched in horror at the figure stepping through them. Y/N’s eyes widened as Bruce yelled towards Steve, warning him as the figure was revealed to be none other than Thanos himself. He lunged towards Thanos, but he used the Space Stone to half-bury the Hulkbuster in a nearby cliff.
Steve charged Thanos next but was sent flying before striking a single blow. The Black Panther and Falcon were both easily disarmed by Thanos. Y/N drew two daggers and leapt onto Thanos’ shoulders. She tried to stab his neck but he grabbed her arm and dragged her off his back. He threw her to the side and strode towards Wanda and Vision. Y/N watched helplessly as the rest of the Avengers were rendered useless against the power of the Stones.
Wanda saw this and started using her energy to destroy the Mind Stone. Thanos reached her just as the Stone explodes. Wanda glared tearfully at him before he reversed time, recreating Vision and the Stone. She stumbled back for a moment before screaming and lunging for Vision. Thanos merely swatted her away and lifted Vision by the throat.
He dug the Mind Stone out of Vision’s forehead and dropped the Stone into the gauntlet. Y/N screamed as an energy surge rippled throughout his torso, wreathing him with multicolor static, causing him to bellow in pain.
Thor was busy killing enemy soldiers when he heard Y/N’s scream. His eyes glowed electric blue as he fired a massive bolt of lightning at Thanos, digging him into the ground and pushing him backward. Thor raised Stormbreaker above his head and hurled it at Thanos. Thanos’ eyes widened as he tried to use the stones to stop it, but the axe slammed directly into his chest. Thor landed in front of Thanos and growled, “I told you. You’d die for that!”
He grabbed the back of Thanos’s head and forced Stormbreaker further into his chest. He glared angrily at Thanos as he cried out in pain, “You should have… You… You should have gone for the head!”
Thanos raised the gauntlet and snapped his fingers. Thor’s eyes widened as he realized what was happening, “No!”
Y/N watched in fear at the scene playing out in front of her. She gasped as Thanos snapped. The world seemed to turn completely white for a moment before fading back to reality. Y/N’s eyes flashed to the ruined gauntlet on Thanos’ hand. The metal had become distorted and scorched from the heat of the no-longer-glowing stones.
Thor was in shock as he also beheld the gauntlet. He whispered before exclaiming in anger, “What’d you do? WHAT’D YOU DO?!”
Thanos ignored Thor’s yelling and used the Space Stone to teleport away. Stormbreaker fell to the ground at Thor’s feet. Steve stumbled towards him, clearly in pain, “Where’d he go? Thor… where’d he go?”
Y/N grabbed her daggers off the ground and walked over to the pair. Bucky limped over and whispered Steve’s name before collapsing into ashes. Steve walked over in shock and gently touched the place he had just been standing in disbelief. Y/N looked around to see Wakandan soldiers and other Avengers disintegrating. She saw T'Challa try to help Okoye before crumbling; she saw Groot come apart in front of a heartbroken Rocket; she saw Wanda mourning Vision as she fell apart; she saw Falcon turn to ashes, hidden in the forest surrounding them.
Thor and Steve spun toward Y/N as she gasped. Her arms had begun to disintegrate. She looked up at the two soldiers tearfully as it spread up her arms, knives falling to the grassy forest floor. Thor ran towards her, clutching her as her feet disappeared. Steve was frozen in place as he watching his friend slowly die. Y/N sucked in a weak breath as she stared up at Thor, tears glistening in her E/C eyes.
"P-promise me,“ she began, struggling to form the words she wanted to say. Thor reached a hand behind her head, holding her up as her legs disintegrated.
"Anything you wish I will make happen, Y/N.”
"J-j-just don’t l-leave me. I d-don’t want to d-die alone.“
"Y/N everything is going to be okay. You aren’t dying! You’ll be fine and we’ll reverse Thanos’ actions!” As Thor spoke, they both knew that wasn’t the truth. A tear dripped down Y/N’s face as most of her torso disappeared.
Steve had now managed to pull himself together enough to come over to her. He put his hand on her shoulder before it too disappeared and whispered, “I’m sorry Y/N.”
She smiled weakly at him as the rest of her body crumbled into dust. Thor’s hands dropped as the weight of her head disappeared. Tears gathered at the corners of his eyes and he silently let them flow freely. Steve kneeled next to him as the rest of the surviving Avengers gathered around them, having just witnessed the deaths of their friends.
Thor picked up Y/N’s fallen daggers, sheathed them, and stood, glaring at the sky. He made himself a promise. No matter the cost, he was going to bring her, and the rest of the fallen Avengers, back.
No matter the cost.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please feel free to send me feedback/requests/constructive criticism/etc!
People really pitting Thanos against Darkseid and not realizing just how outmatched Thanos is.
“Thanos once bonded with the Heart of the Universe, giving him absolute Omnipotence!”
Aw, that’s cute. Darkseid’s immortality is so interwined with all of existence itself that the one time he canonically died it was considered SO impossible that it broke the meta-narrative nature of the DC comic logic and tore at the bounds between fiction and the actual, real world, as in US, THE READERS, and allowed the power of the imagination of all readers of fiction (NOT JUST DC COMIC FICTION, ALL OF FICTION) to pour into the DC Megaverse in the forms of vampiric, narrative devouring beings. As in, the personifications of all consumers of fiction, creators of fiction, day dreamers of fiction, fanfiction, fiction reviewers and studiers, basically everyone who participates in storytelling in any way, were only being held back by Darkseid’s very presence. When he died, the characters could FEEL THE READER TURNING THE PAGE. Of course, DC Comics and Grant Morrison doesn’t ACTUALLY have the power to affect fictional worlds outside of DC and maybe some Warner Bros properties here and there, but since no one’s really called their bluff it is still canon that Darkseid is SO unkillable that all of fiction would be in trouble if he died.
When Marvel breaks the fourth wall you get Deadpool making jokes and maybe killing the writers or something. When DC breaks the fourth wall you get existentialism and borderline lawsuit potential.
But please, tell me more about how Jim Starlin’s villain sue could totally defeat Darkseid with his infinity gauntlet, and his god heart, and his helicopter.
The book presents some interesting details about the cottage. It is 12.3 ft high, i,e. 3.75 meters. The total indoor area is 2028 sq ft or 196 sq meters. I would say it’s pretty small for the purple giant.
It’s made by mostly bamboos with wooden frames. And I don’t see a bed, so thanos sleeps on the floor confirmed? He really sticks to this austere life style. Maybe he’s bored with the life as a king, or maybe he’d never wanted to be a king.
And he is shirtless in the concept art while he waits for the avengers in his cottage. I feel so robbed. GIVE ME SHIRTLESS THANOS.
I was told today in the comics thanos used to have healing abilities - he healed one alien in the annihilation series. What if thanos had this ability in endgame? Maybe he would not be as weak and hurt in the first scene of the movie. He should not have been, I think.