I Control My Minions Through...
has their own personal style, their own spin on how to get, maintain, and lead supporters, and villains are no exception. Here are the ways evil leaders like the Evil Overlord
, Big Bad
, or even a petty crime boss lead, control or coerce their Evil Minions
, henchmen, and The Dragon
to do their evil bidding
. In no alphabetical order, they are:
- Authority: The legitimate authority figure within an organization, such as an army, and his minions are under him on the organizational chart. The minions may or may not be aware of his true objectives, but follow him because it's their job to do so. The General Ripper, Hanging Judge, and leaders of The Remnant are examples of this. An Engineered Public Confession that proves he has betrayed the interest of the organization can bring him down, as can going through his superiors (if he has any), otherwise replacing him, or an Enemy Civil War with other branches of service.
- Popular Sovereignty: Rather than being a legitimate authority figure installed by external sources, the Big Bad is elected or selected from from those below to implement an agenda. These villains are both easier and harder to combat than their cousins; since they achieved their authority through consent they can be discredited if shown to be incompetent or a Straw Hypocrite. Unfortunately, these Big Bads rarely bring their organization down with them unless they were a special breed of Bad Ass or Magnificent Bastard. There are always a long line of wannabe evil presidents and pirate captains in the wings...
- Corruption: The Big Bad decides that rather than recruit from those interested, he'll instead make an applicant pool by means of The Dark Side, Being Tortured Makes You Evil, More Than Mind Control, or the dreaded chocolate chip cookies of doom! To undo this usually requires an "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight and a lesson about how Good Feels Good but those corrupted tend to be harder to break free (and for the villain to control) than Mind Control below.
- Fear: The bad guy controls their Mooks with good old Machiavellian Fear. Because Authority Equals Asskicking, he will use threats of violence on them and/or their loved ones. The mooks are in no way evil, just working under threat of violence. Heroes can break this form of control in different ways. One is to rescue the hostages, beat up the Big Bad (thus proving him to be weak and "harmless"), convincing the mooks of The Power of Friendship, or demonstrating that it is he who should be feared. If the odds turn against a particular villain, there's also the chance of the mooks getting their own back. Criminals and crime organizations tend to be fond of this one.
- Prejudice: Villains love controlling prejudiced minions, because nothing short-circuits a minion's critical thinking abilities like whipping up hatred and a desire to dominate an "other". If revealing the villain to be a secret target of the bigotry or a Straw Hypocrite is too distasteful for the hero, they need to hunker down for long campaign to eliminate or at least ameliorate the minions' prejudice.
- Fear of Losing Privileges: The villain ensures loyalty by stating that the heroes want to do things like free their slaves and reduce their political power — this generally only works if the evil minions are part of a noble class. Unless the heroes have more money than Mammon, they're not going to be able to provide compensation for their loss of status even if the outcome is fair. Conversely, select Elite Mooks can be convinced to turn against the Big Bad if doing so would (temporarily, hopefully) give them greater privileges.
- (Fanatical) Loyalty: Nothing beats blind loyalty in minions. The minions are loyal for one or more of the following reasons:
- Agenda: The villain has The Plan where Utopia Justifies the Means, and the mooks heartily agree in the guise of Well Intentioned Extremists or Black Shirts.
- Acceptance: The mooks are poor, ugly, diseased, mutants, or an entire caste/race/nation of people who are marginalized. The villain shows that Dark Is Not Evil by giving them a home, relief, and promises of justice and equality (which often overlaps with Agenda). He may or may not be lying because Equal-Opportunity Evil means more minions.
- Indoctrination: The mooks are trained from birth and taught to love, fear, and obey the villain. In all of these cases, the best way to undo support is to expose (or frame!) the bad guy as a Straw Hypocrite.
- Kindness: The villain has personally helped, rescued, or enfranchised the minion or one of their loved ones, who follows him out of gratitude. The villain may have done this altruistically as a Pet the Dog, in an attempt to get their loyalty, or it was completely unintended but they accept their fealty anyway.
- Revenge: If the good guys have hurt someone, offering them a chance for revenge works wonders. Even better, some Big Bads pin their crimes on the heroes and then get those hurt to sign up. Unfortunately, if they ever find out (say, from the heroes) that it was the Big Bad who was actually responsible for the loss that inspired them to seek revenge, they will turn on the Big Bad with a vengeance.
- Respect: The minions genuinely respect and admire the villain. This is usually because the villain is charismatic, an effective and reasonable leader, or they think he's a great guy. These minions are the least likely to betray the villain, but they may pull a Mook-Face Turn if something happens to destroy their respect for him.
- Blind Obedience: The minions genuinely believe their boss to be incapable of error, usually paired with an oath for Undying Loyalty to make questioning their authority the farthest thing from their mind. My Master, Right or Wrong sometimes crop up.
- Money: Money is a valid super power after all, and the bad guy hires Punch Clock Villains to do his evil bidding. Being motivated by filthy lucre (or having Signed Up for the Dental), the best way for heroes to cause a mass desertion is either to outbid the bad guy or bankrupt him. If the villain is rich enough, this can be the most effective kind of control.
- Love: The Big Bad is an emotional manipulator, The Vamp, or has More Than Mind Control / Love Is in the Air as a power. They can also love and inspire love in others. All his or her minions do evil out of love.
- Sexual Favors: A more direct but less effective form of the above. A common method for Femme Fatale characters, it generally only works on a few minions at a time, and rarely is the sole motivator.
- Mind Control / Remote Control: Loyalty is such a finicky thing. It takes ages to create, can be crumbled in seconds, and requires continuous upkeep. Some villains decide to take loyalty (and free will) out of the equation with mind control, and/or robotic minions. The downside is that they can be Turned Against Their Masters and/or shut down by pulling a plug.
- A Piece of the Action: Not only is the Big Bad powerful, he can empower his minions, either as officials in his new regime, or by giving the superhuman powers.
- Sadism: The bad guys follow the Big Bad because he gives them a way to indulge their vices, be it hurting people, fighting, killing, mad scientific experiments, or just plain being cruel to other people. They particularly love orders from the Big Bad that give them free rein to do whatever they want, usually to some chosen victim. It's unlikely that the hero can offer them more than the Big Bad, but if they can manipulate either side into Even Mooks Have Loved Ones or a Villainous Demotivator, betrayal will ensue.
- Birthright: The Big Bad has some sort of birthright (for example, he's some sort of feudal warlord) and the mooks are bound to him by a code of honor/duty. Usually The Caligula or God Save Us from the Queen!. Only outright assassination or a coup d'etat from a good sibling can stop them.
- Power: Asskicking Equals Authority or some other such variant; the Big Bad is followed because he is the strongest. Can be undone if The Hero defeats him or otherwise proves himself powerful enough in some other fashion. This works best when the Big Bad possesses godlike abilities.
- Incidental Importance: This tactic, favored by Emperor Scientists and Dark Messiahs especially, is to provide some sort of benefit to their minions that is unrelated to their ruling over them. The idea is that if this person is buttressing their economy or mass-curing plagues around the countryside, they'll be able to do so better (or alternatively, threaten not to so do) if they get authority alongside it. These villains need to be undercut by separating the benefit from the authority figure or just showing that there is Always Someone Better.
- Divine Right: The villain claims to be a god or has the blessing of a god to be The Leader. Alternatively, may be a Dark Messiah faking/actually possessing either divine or demonic backing. Doesn't matter if they are Good or Evil; they will sometimes be worshipped and followed purely because they are divine.
- Being the Lesser Evil: In a world with Black and Gray Morality, the Evil Overlord gets assistance from the population because they're fighting against Eldritch Abominations. What's a little slavery and torture compared to living in Mordor? If the heroes can't immediately provide a better alternative, i.e. they really do need the Less Evil Side's assistance, a Conspiracy Redemption may be in order.
- Point of No Return: This villain is supported by his minions for one reason; if the villain falls, they will be severely punished by a legitimate authority. If the minions didn't do anything to earn punishment an honest promise from the hero to spare them will get many of them to abandon their leader.
See also Stock Evil Overlord Tactics
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the Saint Seiya spin-off Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, you have almost all of the above represented in Hade's army. Notably, Garuda Aiacos lead his soldiers/sailors through fear of him, and routinely killed them over minor failures or to fuel his attacks. Hades himself uses Agenda to lead Kagaho Benu, and a combination of Agenda and Birthright for most of the other Spectres. The garden variety named Spectres after their conversion via Corruption, usually do it for Sadism. Charon is motivated by money, and is in fact Lawful Neutral enough to honor a deal with the Saints and ferrying them to the shore... despite having previously betrayed them by giving their payment for said crossing (Athena's hair) to Hades, allowing him to seal her powers.
- Bishop Mozgus from Berserk keeps a handful of deformed sick, and dying orphans, who he took in when no one else would and turned into his torturing, murdering inquisitorial hitmen, making them a combination of Acceptance, Kindness and Indoctrination.
- Griffith himself back in his Hawks days mainly worked through Respect, with Casca's recruitment being a case of Kindness and Guts' recruitment being a case of Power. Following his reincarnation as Griffith again in the mortal realm after becoming Femto, he gains a new set of demonic minions who follow him because he is the fifth member of the Godhand, making this a combination of Authority and Divine Right. Zodd becomes Griffith's personal Dragon after being defeated by him, making this another case of Power.
- Most of the bad guys of Fist of the North Star control their minions through Fear and Power, and not a little bit of Sadism to boot.
- Raoh commanded men whose true nature was that of "demons that eat people," meaning that he had to be a "demon that consumes demons" in order to suppress them. Because of being one of the two most powerful practitioners of Hokuto Shinken on the planet (the other being Kenshiro), he is able to keep his mooks in line well enough when he is at full strength. But unlike several of the other bad guys of the series, he does not give them free rein to indulge their worst sides upon the people under his rule, and after returning from his period of laying low after his first battle with Kenshiro and seeing the atrocities in which his men had been indulging in his absence, he punishes them in ruthless fashion.
- Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell controlled his lackeys through a mix of Acceptance, Loyalty, Mind Control and Sadism. All his Mooks were brainwashed cyborgs and his Robeasts were mindless monsters controlled through a remote control. Most of their Co-Dragons were loyal mostly because they were alive thanks to him... and because he punished disloyalty and failure harshly (he always avoided You Have Failed Me scenarios, though). Those who were not mind-controlled or afraid of his power and sadism, though, were prone to rebel and in the case of Gorgon, he responded to another authority.
- Great Mazinger: Great Emperor of Darkness was a God Emperor, so he used Authority, Fear, Loyalty, Power and Divine Right. His minions were loyal and respected his authority because he had protected the whole Mykene civilization when they were forced to hide underground, and because its power (in Shin Mazinger his real identity was Hades).
- UFO Robo Grendizer: King Vega used Authority (he was his planet's ruler), Loyalty (his minions were very loyal), Fear and Acceptance (he was a bastard, but he cared for his people. He started his conquering campaigns to find a new homeworld for them).
- The early One Piece villains, Alvida, Morgan, Buggy, Kuro and Don Krieg were all huge fans of Power and Fear (incidentally, this was a pet peeve for Luffy). Arlong, however, averted this completely: his crew are genuine True Companions. From there onwards the villains became more varied in their methods.
- Alvida and Buggy, the only recurring early villains, later switched to Love and Respect, respectively.
- Medusa of Soul Eater controls Eruka with Fear (via Explosive Leash), Crona through Fear and Indoctrination (what with being Crona's mother), the Mizune sisters through Revenge (they think the DWMA killed their oldest sister, which was actually Medusa), and Free through Kindness (for breaking him out of jail). Arachne controls all of hers through Blind Obedience and Love, except Mifune, to whom she has Incidental Importance (Arachephobia provides a means to protect Angela).
- Dio Brando of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure willing to use every trick in the book to recruit minions. Want money? Name your price. Want sex? Male or female, he's totally willing. In an emotionally vulnerable position and looking for guidance? Dio's happy to show the way. Still don't want to join? Well, we've got flesh buds for that.
- In Akame ga Kiru!, General Esdeath is the most feared woman in the Empire and noted as a brutal Sadist that does things like burying entire tribes alive. But then it turns out that her forces are so loyal to her because she is a Mother to her Men, always having her meals alongside the common troops and requesting that any reward she earns be shared among their families. She has high expectations for those serving her, but shows such genuine Kindness to them that almost all have Undying Loyalty to her as a result.
- DIE! DIE! DIE FOR DARKSEID! And the people of Apokolips obey, out of a combination of Fear, Sadism, Power, Divine Right, and Indoctrination.
- Emperor Golgoth from Empire controls his lieutenants by giving them a highly addictive Super Serum that only he knows how to synthesize.
- In Game Theory, Precia controls Fate through Love and Indoctrination and Nanoha through Agenda and Respect.
- As it's about The Illuminati, almost all of the above techniques are represented in Duumvirate to some extent. Although we never see excerpts, the title characters own a "big book of control techniques". Normals are controlled through Authority, Money, Fear, Indoctrination, Power, and Divine Right, unwitting normal power-holders are usually controlled through Corruption (of the political, not supernatural, variety) and presumably Money, and for servants, Mind Control implants are used instead of Fear and Power strategies, but instilling true Indoctrination/Kindness/Love-based loyalty is considered best. The Illuminati also have a tendency to use Power and Love on each other along with various flavors of deception. The Duumvirate themselves rule through Authority, Birthright, Power, and Agenda.
- In Harry Potter, Voldemort uses different motivations for different minions; Fear (Pettigrew), Agenda (the Malfoys, most Death Eaters), Sadism (Bellatrix, Fenrir, Dementors), Loyalty (Bellatrix again), Acceptance (Giants, Werewolves).
- The Dark One in The Wheel of Time uses a combination of these motivations on his followers; Agenda / Promises of power (universal), Fear (universal), Corruption (anyone who gets Turned), Revenge (Sammael, Demandred, Mesaana), Mind Control (Compulsion on various victims, Mind Traps), Sadism (Aginor, Semirhage), Indoctrination (Darkfriends). Ishamael/Moridin is probably the weirdest, as he is controlled through genuine Loyalty that is either because he believes himself to be an avatar of the Dark One (as Ba'alzamon) or because he genuinely wants the world to end so he can permanently die, and the Dark One is the only one who can give him that. Of course, as the last book points out, in most cases the Dark One has no real capacity to inspire true Loyalty (Ishamael, the insane nihilist, being a notable exception); people may serve the Dark One for any of the above reasons, but nobody really believes in the Shadow as a worthwhile cause or is willing to die for it.
- In A Memory of Light, we see that Demandred is the only Forsaken whose minions follow him because they genuinely respect him, rather than out of fear or a desire for power. The other Forsaken are honestly a bit disgusted at how Demandred "coddles" his troops, but it's pretty unquestionable he has the most loyal, best disciplined army on the Shadow's side by a mile.
- The Empire in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, having leaders who range up and down the villain scale, checks off all of the above with a flourish. Specific leaders include:
- Grand Admiral Thrawn, less evil than the others, used Money for mercenary types, Authority on some Imperials and the Noghri, Indoctrination on clones, Fear on the Noghri and sometimes his Imperials, Sadism (sort of) with C'baoth, and for the others... Respect. He knew that it's best to be feared and loved, and put a high value on people who were both loyal and competent.
Thrawn was respected and trusted. Thrawn used a small measure of fear, certainly: the Grand Admiral realized that fear of failure
was a powerful motivating force in a military the size of the Empire. But Thrawn's ability to invoke a sense of pride
in his troops was his most powerful asset. Palpatine inspired arrogance and callousness in his officers; Thrawn made his men proud to be Imperial soldiers. Thrawn's officers would have willingly died for the Grand Admiral.
- In The Stand Randall Flagg mostly rules his people through fear (it helps that he's an Eldritch Abomination in human form and that just looking at his face sends people into paroxysms of terror). Only Lloyd, Nadine, and the Trashcan Man seem to be genuinely devoted to him.
- Sauron primarily uses fear, with a dash of Mind Control (more than a dash in the case of the Ringwraiths), sadism (Orcs enjoy killing things, Sauron gives them lots of stuff to kill), and of course power (he's a demigod). Saruman controlled the Men under his command during the Battle of Helm's Deep through fear of his power, prejudice against the Rohirrim, and the Point of No Return. This last was what made Aragorn's sparing them after the battle so effective, since Saruman had instilled in them the belief that the Rohirrim would show them no mercy.
- In Malevil, Fulbert's Corrupt Church rules through selfishness and sadism. The Bigger Bad Vilmain rules his marauder army through fear.
- Dune universe:
- House Atreides uses respect, usually achieved through a mix of genuine kindness and deliberate propaganda (indoctrination) to earn the fanatical devotion of their underlings.
- House Harkonnen uses mostly fear for the populace and corruption for their minions (i.e. exploitation of their addictions).
- The Honoured Matres hold their minions in sexual thrall. Sex with an Honoured Matre is literally an addictive drug, and you will go anywhere and do anything to anyone to get more of it. Note that there only appear to be male minions, as would-be female minions all seem to become Honoured Matres themselves.
- The Boskonian Empire of the Lensman universe uses a combination of fear and greed. If you're not good enough to stop your minions from killing and supplanting you and taking all your stuff, too bad for you. Meanwhile, on Boskonian warships, the lash is used to keep men at their posts in combat (and when the good guys realise this, they start adapting their combat tactics to make use of it).
- Trapped on Draconica: Gothon uses Fear. He has a mysterious power that allows him to kill without touching, and fear of punishment for his inner circle. How he keeps Taurok under control; the general's daughter-in-law and granddaughter are marked for death unless he obeys the emperor.
- Animorphs: Visser Three uses fear, usually of death.
- In Final Fantasy X-2, it is revealed that LeBlanc keeps her minions with kindness, helping them when they were down-and-out. This only partly explains why they risk their lives in battle for her, of course. President Shinra of Final Fantasy VII rules through Money. After he's violently retired by Sephiroth, his son Rufus takes over, and a new rule of Fear begins. (He actually references this in his introductory speech!)
- Galcian from Skies of Arcadia uses his Authority as the Grand Admiral of the Valua Navy and switches to a mixture of Agenda, Power and Loyalty once he defects: Most of the navy sees him as a better alternative to the nation's incompetent royals. The main exceptions two of his fellow Admirals: He uses Kindness on his second-in-command, Ramirez by treating him as his adoptive son (seemingly genuine) and Love on Belleza (faked).
- A major theme in Def Jam Fight For New York is the contrast between Crow, who leads with Fear, and D-Mob, who leads with Respect.
- Ghetsis of Pokémon Black and White leads Team Plasma with variations on Loyalty - most of the grunts follow because of his Agenda, his son was Indoctrinated, and he apparently saved the Shadow Triad from something long ago, so they follow him because of Kindness. It's stated/suggested in Crystal that Pokemon take on the characteristics of their trainers, and will follow orders because they want to make that trainer happy, whether his/her intentions are good or bad.
- The eponymous Overlord is a complex case. On the one hand, Minions' service is ancient and traditional, making it a mix of Authority and Indoctrination. On the other, you personally save their hives from captivity, provide them with equipment and mounts, showing Kindness and earning their Respect. You allow (and command!) them to loot, pillage and slaughter, adding a decent chunk of Sadism. Last, but not the least, in a Crapsack World full of corrupted heroes and Fantastic Racism, the Overlord is definitely a Lesser Evil… of sorts.
- Kane of Command & Conquer (Magnificent Bastard that he is) uses pretty much all the forms of Loyalty to control the Brotherhood. Many of his followers have been cast out (Acceptance) by, or feel they have been ruined (Revenge) by, the GDI, though in most cases the Forgotten take to neither side of the fight. He has helped many in the yellow and red zones (Acceptance, Kindness), the Brotherhood loves propaganda and similar media tactics (Indoctrination) and finally he is a charismatic (Respect) leader... but the whole thing tends to collapse whenever he disappears.
- The Evil Genius rules primarily with Money and Fear, and one of the eventual Doomsday weapons makes them rule the world through Mind Control.
- Fawful in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story rules the kingdom by simply mind controlling everyone into obedience, then presumably somehow altering their appearance to match his. In contrast, Bowser himself controls his army by simple Loyalty, and his troops actually want to work for him.
- The Administrator from Team Fortress 2 starts out using Money, but felt she had to step it up to Revenge or Fear: Inciting conflict amongst former friends could only distract the RED and BLU Teams from thinking about who was calling the shots for so long. Luckily for Helen, in this universe, Even Evil Has Loved Ones, and The Administrator's threats to the people and things most precious to the Teams are enough to let them know what's in store if they ever make a move against her. And then Saxton Hale through Money and Sadism: After the Gravel Wars end, his promise of a steady paycheck and a steady stream of carnage is what compels the mercenaries to stay.
- Father Comstock in BioShock Infinite controls the population of Columbia through... just about anything, really. Fanatical loyalty is a particular favorite of his. He uses Divine Right to launch into Agenda, Indoctrination, Blind Obedience, the works. This gives him Authority. His huge cult following allows him to use Fear and (back to indoctrination) cultivates prejudices against all races, including the Irish. And his plans for Columbia after his death? He spends years labelling his daughter, kept away from the outside world, the Lamb, a sort of angel. He even claims she was born in less than a week. That's Divine Right and Birthright, right there. He's got it all figured out.
- Ferretina of Girl Genius controlled the lapinemoths by offering them free insurance. And it worked.
- Jägermonstern vehemently insist that they serve Heterodynes "freely, out of luff" (at least for "fun vunz") and loyalty. Though between themselves mentioned "the ancient contract" as a clear allusion to this service. Either way, becoming near-immortal Super Soldiers was their choice, and Jägers take their obligations seriously.
- The Other uses Mind Control on her revenants.
- Klaus uses a mixed approach. The various noble houses mostly follow him because they're afraid (Fear) of what he could do (Power) if they ticked him off sufficiently, and because while most of them think they'd do a better job than he does, all but the most insane of them know what the other noble houses would do to them if they tried anything, because they'd do it to any of the others that tried it (Being the Lesser Evil). Most of his actual minions threw in with him because of Money, Power, or Loyalty (Klaus lets his Spark minions get away with quite a bit as long as they do it where he can keep an eye on them).
- Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series led mostly through the power of Money, though he did use Kindness to get Mercy to be his assistant and bodyguard. Of course, Lex being Lex, he left her to die one episode when Brainiac attacked.note She did not take it well.
- Princess Azula of Avatar: The Last Airbender has several
- She made a point that she uses fear to maintain loyalty in both her minions and her friends Mai and Ty Lee. This eventually leads to Mai abandoning her to protect Zuko out of love, and Ty Lee following suit to protect Mai. The realization that her friends didn't actually trust her and ultimately abandoned her is one of the factors that lead to her ultimate Villainous Breakdown.
- She's the daughter of the Fire Lord (and fighting his war with his armies), who in turn has an Utopia Justifies the Means philosophy he may or may not really believe himself, and the Fire Nation propaganda is indoctrinated into the citizens early on.
to her Elite Mooks
: If I sense any disloyalty, any hesitation, any weakness at all, I will snuff it out. Azula
to her mother: Trust is for fools. Fear is the only reliable way. Azula
to her friend: No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!
- In an episode of Sealab 2021 Sparks reveals his group of minions, and tries to recruit Marcos.
- Darkwing Duck: From the example of two FOWL eggmen in "Switching Faces", it seems FOWL itself leans on Sadism. Even its hippies are evil!
- Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective appears to use Fear (his response to minions who upset him is to feed them to his cat), Sadism (his minions are genuinely enthustiastic about the next evil caper), and Money on his henchmen while using Kindness on his cat.
- In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, a corrupt prince controls his army through mind control devices. When Ben shuts off the mind control, the soldiers all take a walk.
- Hurricanes Big Bad Stavros Garkos uses mostly Authority and Money.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, the Mad Hatter used mind control on his minions, which gave him an advantage over Batman, who wouldn't hit people who weren't willingly causing trouble. Once they were free, however, poor Mad Hatter.
- Kim Possible: Dr. Drakken once used the Mad Hatter's method on Shego, ending in the same predicament. Normally, she seems to stick with him out of Sadism (like getting to fight Kim), Money (in theory, at least), and a very small amount of Respect.
- Amon's control of the Equalists in The Legend of Korra is fundamentally from Prejudice and Agenda against benders. He also builds up quite a bit of loyalty to himself personally through Respect and his claim that his bending removal came from Divine Right, and as the Equalists become more popular he starts leaning for Popular Sovereignty.