"Composition wise this cover is actually more interesting than the ones we're used to seeing. We actually have something that catches the readers attention, with the menacing villain holding the symbols of the heroes by knives."
Box art or advertisement that features the villain's head "watching" the hero.
This trope is related to Floating Head Syndrome
, though the latter is not typically viewed as fondly. For when a villain is overlooking a scene in-story,
see I Have the High Ground
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Anime and Manga
- Marvel Comics has been known to do this: for starters, the one-shot Daredevil villain The Surgeon General and Spider-Man villain Jackal.
- Batman did this twice in his early years. The first saw him looking down upon an evil vampire named "the Monk" as he dragged a damsel in distress away from the castle. The second time had him looking down in approval as his new sidekick, Robin, fought off some gangsters.
- Combined with Floating Head Syndrome in the artwork for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's early short story, "Reign of the Super-Man." (As a side note, the "Super-Man" here—a bald villain—inspired Superman foes the "Ultra-Humanite" and Lex Luthor.)
Films — Animated
Many posters and video boxes for Western animated films have these, especially if they are from The Nineties
. Sometimes, the villain looks like they are trying to grab the main characters or the MacGuffin
- Plenty of Disney movies, including Snow White, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin: The Return of Jafar.
- And since it was a clear case of Follow the Leader, the non-Disney effort The Swan Princess did this◊ with Rothbart.
- The video box art for FernGully. Hexxus is seen in the background trying to grab the main characters.
- The poster for All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 has Red attempting to grab Gabriel's Horn.
- The film posters for 1986's Transformers: The Movie had Unicron (both his planet form, and his robotic head) prominently in the background behind the main cast. Funnily enough, since Unicron is the size of a planet, for once this skewed perspective is actually proportionally correct.
- The box art for Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker has Joker's (green-tinted) head doing this.
- The film poster/VHS cover of Tom and Jerry: The Movie features Tom chasing Jerry (which only happens for a few minutes in-film) while the face of the villainous fat lady watches them with utter rage in cloud-form (much as the Beast did in the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast poster).
- A variation on the cover of Filmation's animated movie Happpily Ever After. Snow White and the Dwarfelles are front in center, with The Shadow Man glaring malevolently at them from behind a tree. This is a case of Covers Always Lie, as the character in question is actually Snow White's very-harmless, mute Stalker with a Crush (actually the prince under an enchantment), and the film's actual villain is nowhere to be seen on the cover.
- One of the posters for the Hanna-Barbera feature film Heidi's Song features two of them.
- The film poster/video/DVD cover of Hey Arnold!: The Movie
- Eris towers in the background of the Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas poster, looming over the heroes.
- My Little Pony Equestria Girls has Sunset Shimmer's eye appearing in the mirror above human versions of the main cast.
- On the cover of Dark Fury, Chillingsworth's head is watching over Riddick.
Films — Live-Action
- Many a Star Wars poster has Darth Vader doing this; in fact, the series may well have originated the trope.
- The Star Trek films:
- The poster to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country shows the very large, very angry eye of General Chang glaring down at the Enterprise-A from the background.
- The poster of Star Trek: Insurrection features the Enterprise-E flying towards the giant face of the movie's main villain (whose actually has a rather minor role in the film, considering how prominently he's shown on the poster).
- One poster◊ for the 2009 Star Trek film does this with Nero. Oddly, most of the posters and DVD covers for the 2009 film do this with Kirk; one could be forgiven for assuming that Christopher Pine plays the villain (although that film's Kirk is arguably an Anti-Hero).
- 28 Days Later has a poster with just the eyes of an Infected hanging in the sky over a silhouetted Jim.
- Fright Night uses a variation◊: villain as an evil cloud. The poster of the 2011 remake is a straight example, although Jerry does kinda merge into the whole sky around the lower side.
- This◊ movie poster for Inglourious Basterds.
- The original poster for Childs Play.
- The film adaptation of No Country for Old Men portrays Anton Chigurh this way. The effect is actually very creepy, especially since this is one story where, justice and logic be darned, The Bad Guy Wins.
- The 2002◊ adaption of The Time Machine.
- The poster for The Haunting of Molly Hartley does this with Joseph, who is revealed in the last ten minutes to be part of a Satanic cult.
- The poster for The Untouchables has a giant Al Capone in shades, smoking a cigar and smirking over the Untouchables.
- The Poster for the film Lion of the Desert, about the life of Libyan anti-colonial rebel Omar Mukhtar, depicts Benito Mussolini glowering over his troops and tanks as they clash with the rebels, with central villain General Rodolfo Graziani in the foreground.◊
- And also with the zombie nazis flick Horrors of War, which does this◊ with Adolf Hitler and his zombie hordes.
- The posters for Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later and Halloween: Resurrection do this with Michael Myers' Black Eyes of Evil looming over the frightened-looking protagonists.
- Some posters for Captain America: The First Avenger have Red Skull's eyes looming over Cap
- After the "I ♥ NY" -posters for Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan were taken down due to complaints from New York Tourism Committee, they were replaced with a poster of Jason looming over the city◊.
- Arachnophobia is a fairly subtle example. Take a good look at the moon on the poster/cover.
- On the posters of John Carpenter's Vampires, vampire lord Jan Valek is shown as a face in the clouds overlooking the heroes.
- In Heroes, the Season 1 graphic novel collection has 2 different front covers, both of which feature Sylar's head looming over the main cast of Heroes.
- On the cover for the Season 2 DVD, the main cast of Heroes stands in the foreground at Times Square while Sylar's head grins down at them from an overhead billboard.
- The Troll King is doing this on the DVD cover for The 10th Kingdom — which is a subversion, as he is neither the real BigBad of the miniseries nor even impinges very much on the plot, particularly since he only briefly menaces the heroes in Parts 1 and 2. (He's actually much more of The Rival for the Big Bad.) This might be a borderline case of Billing Displacement, since while Dianne Wiest is greatly respected and a well-known actress, Ed O'Neill is probably more popular. Or it could be a bit of canny advertising to misdirect the audience.
- Every Angel DVD case has Angelus looking over Angel's shoulder.
- An inversion: Upon opening it, the House: Season One box set features the main cast looking down at you in a circle with a surgical light over all of their heads, as if you were a patient.
- Downplayed in Street Fighter II - M. Bison's floating head is rather small and easy to overlook.
- The first Fire Emblem features the Big Bad watching Marth and his army. The 3rd game, a remake and direct sequel to the first, has the Big Bad in both forms. Fuuin no Tsurugi/Sword of Seals has both Zephiel and Idenn/Idoun's head in the background (although only Idenn/Idoun is really looking). Gaiden has... someone's head on its cover.
- The 3rd game's box art is pretty much reused for Shadow Dragon's. point of sale◊
- One of the unlockable backgrounds in Metal Slug Anthology has Morden looming over Marco, Tarma, Eri, and Fio.
- The cover of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney features both the Judge and Edgeworth as possible examples (even if Edgeworth stops being that much of a villain in case 3).
- The games themselves feature this with the artwork unlocked after beating each case. This can in fact spoil who the guilty party is for people who haven't played the games before.note
- A piece of promotional artwork for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations shows Godot in this role.
- The complete works rereleases for Mega Man 5 and Mega Man 6 feature this.
- Mega Man 9 does this on its "cover◊" (it's download-only), in order to emulate the cheesy box art the games had in the NES era.
- The European box art for Mega Man 1 as well.
- Also the European box art for Mega Man 3 does this.
- The box art◊ for Little Big Adventure 2 contains a cloud, shaped like Dark Monk looking menacingly over Twinsun.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2's Mega Drive version does this on the cover, with Robotnik slamming a "2" into the ground.
- SHODAN does this on the box for System Shock 2. Now, The Reveal is no longer surprising.
- Mass Effect 1 has Saren's eyes looming over Shepard.
- The box art for King's Quest III features the villain Mananan doing a crystal ball version of this.
- The box art for King's Quest VII 1.0 (for DOS 5/Windows 3.1) features Malicia looking down over a tornado sucking in Rosella and Valanice. Version 2.0 (for Windows 95) has different box art.
- Done on the cover of the Transformers Animated video game, with Megatron looking on from the background.
- Shining Force II.
- Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny arguably does this... the "arguably" coming from whether you see God of War's Kratos as an Anti-Hero or a Villain Protagonist.
- The box art for Sacrifice features Charnel ominously looking down on the Player Character, Eldred, holding a Manalith in his long clawlike fingers. Easily the evilest of the game's five gods, he's notably not the Big Bad of the game.
- Cackletta for Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, then the Shroobs in the sequel.
- A promotional poster for Super Mario Galaxy shows Mario and one of the Lumas flying through space while being watched by Bowser, Bowser Jr., as well as every single boss encountered in the game (specifically Dino Piranha (but not his fiery form), King Kaliente, Bugaboom, Megaleg, Kamella, Tarantox, Topmaniac, Major Burrows, Kingfin, Bouldergeist, and Baron Brr).
- This is also true with one promotional artwork for Super Mario Bros. 3.
- The boxart for the Overlord games often feature the Evil Overlord posing menacingly in the background while the Minions take the forefront.
- Some of the Kirby games have this, like Kirby's Epic Yarn.
- Specifically, Nightmare in Dreamland does this◊ with Meta Knight.
- Banjo-Kazooie's box art features Gruntilda overlooking Banjo and attempting to grab him.
- Wii version of A Boy and His Blob has the main villain boss watching.
- The covers for all of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series games show the main characters being watched by evil-looking Pokemon with glowing red eyes and are almost completely covered in shadow.
- Notably, the cover of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity has Hydreigon looming over the main characters. In a rather ingenious move by the creators, the significance of this ends up changing completely once you actually play the game and find out that he's not only the Big Good and one of major driving forces behind the plot, but also ends up becoming a part of the team. The fact that he's not portrayed in an overtly evil fashion like the Pokemon on the covers of the previous games (He just looks evil, but isn't acting evil) may have clued some players on it, though.
- The box art for Advance Wars 2 shows the Orange Star Commanders (main heroes) in the foreground, the Black Hole Commanders (bad guys) behind them looming over them, and a giant Big Bad behind and above them.
- The X-Men Legends games have Magneto and Apocalypse, respectively.
- While the original box art avoided this, Resident Evil Code Veronica X's box art features Wesker in the background.
- Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy's title screen has the Oracle overlooking the main cast.◊
- Professor Layton examples:
- The cover of the first Valkyria Chronicles has Selvaria Bles doing this.
- World Heroes 2◊ for the Famicom (not to be confused with the official game) has Mario overlooking the rest of the cast. (Apart from Mai Shiranui and Lawrence Blood, who aren't on the cover) Yes, apparently Mario's the Villain Protagonist in a game which has Bowser and M. Bison as playable characters.
- Speaking of Bison, he's posed like this on the Champion Edition arcade cabinet. This is an homage to General Washizaki from Riki Oh, one of Bison's main influences◊.
- One poster for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, also used for the cover in certain versions, has Ganondorf doing a variation on this, in that his back is turned toward the viewer but he is also looking over his shoulder.
- The Western box art for Metroid Zero Mission has a red, distinctive silhouette of Ridley overlooking Samus as she attacks his forces.
- A widely circulated fan poster of Red vs. Blue Season 3 features the head of Big Bad O'Malley doing some Evil Overlooking of the main cast. A similar fan poster of Season 4 featured the Alien in a similar position, although it was revealed rather early in the season that the Alien was actually not the new villain (it was still O'Malley).
- The third Penny Arcade book, The Warsun Prophecies, has Tycho's eyes looming over Gabe.
- The interior art for The Venture Bros. season two DVD features the Monarch looming over portraits of the main characters.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender : the poster for Season One depicts the Gaang down the front, with Zuko looming over them evilly. This is also shown prominently in one of the last episodes "The Ember Island Players", when the in-universe poster showing the Show Within a Show is pretty much exactly the same as the poster for Season one.
- Also the poster for Season 3, which has Ozai looming behind Aang in the Avatar State.
- The SDCC poster for The Legend of Korra featured Amon looming over Korra, Mako, and Bolin.
- The American cover of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron's DVD case features the Colonel's ethereal head looking over his shoulder at the heroes. Thing is, his expression and the semi-transparency makes him look downright benevolent...
- The cover of Operation Z.E.R.O features Grandfather looking down on the KND, who as the cover implies are standing between him and the world.