"So of course Aquaman's worst enemy is a guy with underwater powers, because if Aquaman's worst enemy had, say, highway overpass powers it wouldn't be much of a show. 'Doctor Turnpike has snarled traffic again? What am I supposed to do, tell a couple giant squid to crawl to Ohio and stop him? Call me if there's a tidal wave or something. I'm good with tidal waves. Did you know that the Japanese call them 'tsunami'?
It's our hero, the Egregious Trope-Man! With his amazing trope-related powers
, he always saves the day!
But oh no! Here comes the Legion of Evil: Dr von Trope
, The Dog Kicker
, The Chessmaster
, Mr. Macekre
, and the Brotherhood of Bowdlerization
, Sir Jerkass
, and the villainous Mary Sue
! Together they'll bring about The End of the World as We Know It
Wait, you mean all
his villains have trope-related powers? What's up with that!? Where are all the bank robbers, mutants
, time travelers
and magical alien robot monkeys
Yes, it seems that for the vast majority of heroes, many if not all of their opponents will share the same powers, backgrounds and personalities as our heroes. Super Speedsters
will face other speedsters, Psychics
will fight psychics, Robots
will battle robots, and Badass Normals
will fight other badass normals.
Deeper than that, villains will often have similar motivations and personalities to the hero as well. A light-hearted, jokey hero will get lots of equally light-hearted villains to exchange insults with
, while a dark, angsty hero will get a Rogues Gallery
of emo villains to have dark, nihilistic discussions with mid-battle. A hero with an animal theme will end up being constantly annoyed by animal themed villains, while an Elemental
hero will always find bad-guys with comparable elemental themes
Even when characters are known
to live in a shared continuity such as the The DCU
or Marvel Universe
, villain types will rarely leak from one comic to another - Spider-Man
rarely finds himself up against the Powered Armor
villains Iron Man
faces on a daily basis. Of course, a shared continuity makes this much easier to justify, too. Spider-Man
isn't going against the powered armor villains because Iron Man
has it handled, that's why.
There are a number of reasons for this trope:
- If someone wants to read about giant robots or motorbike-riding badasses, that's probably the kind of thing that interests them, so more of the same is always welcome.
- It might be easier to work with Willing Suspension of Disbelief if the character doesn't have a hundred different sub-genres wedging in their own mythology. This is based on what Blake Snyder would call "the rule of Double Mumbo Jumbo," meaning that an audience will accept only one type of magic in a movie. For example, you can't have aliens and vampires in the same movie.
- It's difficult to write plausible stories for a character with more gimmicky powers. A Flying Brick is effective against a range of adversaries, while if your only power is psychically controlling cupcakes, you'll more likely than not find yourself facing a range of fearsome baking-related foes.
- If your hero is not all that powerful, putting them up against a galaxy-eating Eldritch Abomination is going to end in tears - "Galactus would kill Captain America." Mismatches like that are just asking for trouble.note
- The reverse is also true as powerful heroes fighting guys below their weight class does not play well into drama: Superman versus purse snatchers is sort of humiliating for everyone involved.
- The Rogues-Gallery Transplant frequently ties into this trope as a result. Sometimes, when a villain is created for a particular hero's Rogues Gallery, it eventually becomes clear that he's better suited for another hero.
In story, this can be justified
in a number of ways:
- There is only one basic type of enemy around, or only one type of superpowers exists in this universe (though subtypes are possible). This only holds for a stand-alone series - crossovers with other comics make this justification untenable.
- Devilman fought demons, simply because Demons were the only real threat.
- The Hero's job is to fight that type of enemy. Other enemies fall under other jurisdictions.
- The BRPD from Hellboy fights supernatural threats, because that is the BRPD's purpose.
- The Hero may be obligated to fight one type of enemy for some reason.
- Danny Phantom only fights ghosts, because it was partially his fault that ghosts were released in the first place.
- The Hero's power only works on a certain type of foe, or is somehow limited.
- Aquaman's powers are most effective underwater. Thus, his foes are aquatic.
- The Hero's powers attracts like-minded villians: Iron-man's Powered Armor appeals to the engineer in Power Armor-wearing villians; the Hulk's strength from radiation appeals to villians who want to use radiation to power themselves and their henchemen; the animal totem of Spiderman calls forth the likes of genetic engineers that will themselves attempt other animals in themselves or in their allies, exceptions such as Sandman, Electro or Hydroman are not far fetched as much as an element replaces an animal and becomes the focus of the wild side in them; Batman's insanity appeals to the insane and his gimmicks to those prone to them.
The effects of this trope are generally more pronounced in adaptations, which usually only have time to showcase one or two villains. Hence, rather than get bogged down with dozens of different origin stories for all the different types of villain, the gallery will be streamlined and backstories tweaked so that less explanation is required to get the story going.
This trope often overlaps with Plot Tailored to the Party
, when a disproportionate number of villains appear who to have powers similar to those of a minor or useless hero in a Heroes Unlimited
setting show up, just to give the hero something to do.
Of course, pitting heroes against villains that generally outpower them can be a good way of spicing up an ongoing series. Crowning Moments of Awesome
result when this is handled well, and the hero comes up with a creative way to beat the bad guy.
In some series, particularly Long Runners
that have been developed over many years or even decades, some members of the Rogues Gallery
may not fit the theme. Batman
, for instance, has gathered a respectable number of enemies who have actual super-powers, although the overall theme of his Rogues Gallery
is that of the crazy Badass Normal
whose crimes are based around some sort of specific theme.
Finally, depending on the hero, his or her Rogues Gallery
may have multiple
themes. Not all of Spider-Man
's enemies fit the Animal Motifs
theme, but the ones that don't tend to be the results of science gone bad. Indeed, some spider-villains (Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, the Scorpion) fit both
themes. This is pretty much destined to happen in well established and long running series, so most superhero comics fit this.
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Anime and Manga
- Just about every villain in Pokémon is either a Pokemon trainer of some kind or a Pokemon of some kind. Or both, in the case of Mewtwo.
- This is very prevalent in Super Robot shows. Usually, Humongous Mecha are used to fight equally giant Robeasts:
- The Mazinger franchise:
- Mazinger Z fought Dr. Hell's Mechanical Beasts.
- Great Mazinger fought Mykene's Warrior Beasts. The Mykene army also was split in seven thematically-organized divisions: the armies of Superhumans, Evil Ghosts, Mammalian, Avian, Aquatic, Insect and Reptilian Battle Beasts.
- UFO Robo Grendizer was an alien-created Humongous Mecha fought robots created by an alien civilization.
- Getter Robo fought cybernetic dinosaurs, robotic demons, insect-like alien races or any other Eldritch Abomination foolish enough to attack Earth.
- Kotetsu Jeeg fought the Haniwa Phantom Gods, ancient statues reanimated and transformed into spectre-like giant monsters through sorcery.
- Raideen fought robotic demons.
- The Robot Romance Trilogy:
- Combattler V fought Campbellians Slave Beasts and Magma Monsters.
- Voltes V fought Beast Fighters, fighting robots that mimicked Earth animals.
- Daimos fought Battle Robots and Mecha Warriors.
- Zambot3 was another "alien robot fighting other alien robots" situation. In this instance, its enemies were the Mecha Bursts.
- Daitarn3 waged war against the Mega Borgs.
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Five-Man Band fought the armies and animal-shaped giant mechas from Galactor.
- Saints in Saint Seiya only seem to fight similarly armoured enemies, with similar Cosmo based powers. Justified in early arcs since their enemies were Saints from the Sanctuary, just like our heroes. Later on, not so much.
- Naturally, just about every recurring villain in Yu-Gi-Oh! is an evil gamer of some sort. Even before the Duel Monsters card game took over the show, most of the villains who weren't random thugs tried to challenge Yugi to a game, often with the intent of dethroning him as the King of Games.
- The heroes of Cyborg 009 often found themselves up against evil cyborgs created by the same evil organization that created them. The titular character in particular tends to fight foes with the same acceleration power as him, because they're the only ones who can really give him a good fight.
- In Chrono Crusade, most of what Chrono and Rosette fight are demons, with the occasional supernatural beast. However, like the Hellboy example in the description, the religious order they work for only focuses on destroying those types of creatures.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, every villain from Part 3 onward is a Stand user. Which is a bit jarring, since the previous 2 arcs mainly involved fighting vampires, with an assortment of other foes such as cyborg Nazis.
- Also, Part 3 specifically had Stand users themed around horror movie monsters.
- In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the protagonist starts by learning martial arts to fight only regular bullies, progresses through fighting teenage delinquents who are martial arts users, and eventually ends up fighting martial artists who are actively opposing Martial Pacifism. We don't actually see him fighting ordinary delinquents (except a little in the earlier period).
- In Fairy Tail nearly every major antagonist is a powerful mage or magical monster. The only exceptions were a pair of martial artist brothers who spent a lifetime training to counter mages and got curbstomped by Natsu anyway, and the Big Bad King Faust of the Edolas arc who was an ordinary person piloting a magical Humongous Mecha. Some of the main Fairy Tail characters also fights different types of enemies. Natsu either fights the Big Bad — since he is a) The Hero and b) his Super Mode is usually the only thing powerful enough to beat the Big Bad — or other Dragon Slayers. Erza more often than not fights other weapon users. Lucy usually has to fight other mages who use Summon Magic; one of her more powerful enemies was a fellow Stellar Spirit Mage. Grey's foes have less in common: a water manipulator, a fellow ice maker, a guy who could make things soft, and (his most powerful foe to date) a guy with the power to slow down time in a localized area and summon magical motorcycles.
- The one time Natsu's main opponent wasn't the Big Bad or a Dragon Slayer was the Deliora arc. He fought against the Dragon with an Agenda who was actually much stronger than the Big Bad.
- In Naruto, Word of God has it that each of the main villains were designed to be a foil to some aspect of the heroes' personal philosophies or ethics. The Land of Waves arc set this up well, with Zabuza articulating and representing pretty much all of the villainous themes that all subsequent major villains symbolised in one way or another- the series is loaded with this trope. Some of these "bad guy" themes are:
- Contempt of Bonds: While Naruto is a poster boy for the Power of Friendship, nearly all of the villains in the series are Missing-Nin- ninja who have defected from their village, for whatever reason but in most cases after committing some serious crime. Sasuke left the Leaf because he felt that his bonds were holding him back from his potential; Akatsuki symbolise the cutting of their bonds to their village by scratching the symbol on their headbands; in ROOT as well as the old "Bloody Mist" nin are required to kill their classmates in fights to the death so that bonds and emotions don't get in the way of completing their mission; the Mangekou Sharingan usually requires murder of friends and family members to be attained. Several villains try, and sometimes succeed, to kill their old mentors or parental figures as well, as well as their old friends.
- Transcending Humanity: As Zabuza articulated, ninjas are human, even if they try not to be. Most of the bad guys take this and run with it, doing all sorts of horrible things to themselves to become something other than human- Orochimaru, Sasori, Kabuto, Kakuzu and Danzou all use all sorts of body modification jutsu on themselves (several heroes and hero-clans do this too, but the bad guy versions are usually a lot more radical and inhuman, sometimes intentionally). Others are more psychological- this was Itachi's original justification for massacring his clan (to "test my capacity"), while Nagato thinks he has evolved to become a god, something Madara and Orochimaru aim for more literally.
- Peace: Naruto and other good guys want to make the world more peaceful. Likewise, Pain and Itachi are both Well Intentioned Extremists using more radical measures to attain or maintain the peace; Orochimaru, meanwhile, believes War Is Glorious which was one of his justifications for attacking the Leaf Village- he had grown tired of the peace, and wanted to start a war. Danzou is somewhere in the middle, basically believing ninja should frequently engage in battle, brutality and political backstabbing so that they can be tough enough enforce the peace for their respective villages.
- Human Weapons: The tension between the idea that ninja are both living weapons to be used as tools, and human beings with feelings and dreams. Haku to Zabuza and both to Gatou; the Sound ninja (esp. Kimmimaro) to Orochimaru; ROOT to Danzou; Akatsuki and Sasuke to Madara; Team Hawk to Sasuke. Pain both tries to avert this trope (thinking his fellow Akatsuki should work together and respect each other) and takes it to an extreme (using dead ninja as extensions of his own body and mind). The jutsu Edo Tensei (where dead ninja are resurrected as zombie pawns) and Sasori's human puppets both invoke this theme literally.
- As a Bakumatsu-era swordsman, Kenshin Himura tends to fight other swordsmen.
- ALL Dragon Ball main villains after and including King Piccolo up to Omega Shenron from GT were Flying Bricks with the ability to control Ki (the only exceptions are the Androids, and they were really never the big bad of their arc, and had energy attacks that were functionally the same as Ki). Although to be fair, the villains were all very creative and different from the last
- One Piece: While they tangle with the Marines a fair amount, the Strawhats still primarily fight other pirates who are competing in the Grand Line.
- The X-Men mostly fight other mutants and anti-mutant terror cells. The most frequent non-mutant adversaries they face are aliens such as the Brood, the Shi'ar, and/or enemies thereof, and Mojo and Spiral, as well as the occasional magical enemy like Belasco. On several occasions, they've also been pitted against contract killer Arcade.
- X-Men is a prime example of villains being Retooled to fit the pattern too: Juggernaut (who originally got his powers from a gemstone possessed by a deity) became a mutant in The Movie, while alien Spiral became a mutant in the Ultimate Marvel continuities.
- While Iron Man's archnemesis is the magical/alien powered psychic Mandarin, most of the rest of his Rogues Gallery consists of people like Iron Monger, the Crimson Dynamo (and there have been fourteen Crimson Dynamos), Dreadknight, Controller, Titanium Man etc, all of whom wear Powered Armour.
- It should be noted that the Mandarin isn't so much magic-powered as it's alien tech that just looks like it's magic-powered.
- Another underlying theme is how Iron Man's enemies are related to capitalism in some way. The Mandarin was created when Mao Zedong was at the height of his power in Red China and has since gone on to become a reactionary feudalist who wants to turn back the economic and social clock to the days of Imperial China. The Titanium Man, the Unicorn and the Crimson Dynamo represented Soviet Russia at a time when the Cold War was at its height. The American villains also apply, too-the original Blizzard was a dishonest employee fired by Tony Stark for stealing from the company, the original Firebrand was an anarchist who wanted to destroy big business, and guys like Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer were Corrupt Corporate Executives who utilized underhanded and illegal means to get a competitive edge on Stark, who, while amoral and hedonistic before the near-death experience that made him a superhero, was never as cut-throat as either of them. Obadiah Stane's son, Ezekial, is an anarchocapitalist libertarian.
- There's nary a Ghost Rider villain who isn't a demon or demonically powered.
- And if they aren't either of those, they have a wicked sick awesome vehicle. This and the above occasionally overlap. The few who don't fit either category are artifacts from his days as a more normal superhero, where none of his villains would've looked out of place fighting Captain America or the Fantastic Four. Granted, guys like the Water Wizard and the Orb weren't exactly the greatest threats the world has ever seen...
- Archangels have also been added to his rogues gallery.
- Virtually everyone Static fought got their powers from the same chemical accident Static himself did.
- Aquaman's entire Rogues Gallery has almost no non-ocean related villains. Admittedly, there was a lot of variety among them otherwise, and once he moved to Sub Diego, there was a lot of more usual crime to foil (like robbery and such).
- Marvel's Sub-Mariner has the same thing going on, even though he can also fly. It's when people mess with that formula that things get weird.
- Lampshaded and justified during J. Michael Straczynski's run on The Amazing Spider-Man. A character named Ezekiel talks about this phenomenon for the X-Men, Captain America, and Thor, as well as Peter's own tendency to fight animal-themed villains - such as Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, and the Rhino. And the Scorpion, and the Jackal, and the Black Fox, and the Black Cat, and the Grizzly, and the Gibbon, and the Kangaroo, and the Walrus, and the White Rabbit, and...
- The main theme of Spidey's gallery, however, is Power and Responsiblity. Like Spidey, many of his enemies got their powers by chance, either being offered it by somebody out of nowhere (Rhino, Scorpion, Eddie Brock) or like Peter as the result of a science experiment Gone Horribly Wrong (Ock, Osborn, Sandman, Curt Connors). The both cases they chose to use their powers irresponsibly, and unlike Spider-Man they were always either looking for it or at least given the choice not to attain it or reject it, rather than having it totally thrust on them as Peter did (Ock, Osborn and Connors all had accidents, but there were also always messing with science and power they should not have been, or at least should have been more careful with- thus, they pursued power irresponsibly).
- Later Ezekiel used it again as an argument for totemic theory of Spidey's origin - the fact that Peter was fighting more magic-themed villains (Morlun, Shatarra, Shade) lately was supposed to be a proof that his powers come from Spider-God Anansi. Subverted when it was revealed that most of those guys were supposed to be Ezekiel's enemies and Peter was fighting his battles.
- Most of Spider-Man's enemies either had Animal Motifs and/or were the results of science gone bad. More generally than that, several villains who became Rogues Gallery Transplants when it became clear they were outmatched by their original adversaries (Boomerang vs. the Hulk, anyone?) mean that almost all of Spidey's rogues (with the exceptions of Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin) are street-level villains.
- When you think about the potential some of these street-level villains' powers and skills have they become much more than street-level. Sometimes it's even blatantly clear how strong they can be. The fact that most of the these guys are still stuck fighting Spider-Man, and haven't moved on to bigger levels of villainy than doing things like robbing banks, can be explained by a lack of ambition, as well as by the fact that Spider-Man wouldn't be a match for such seemingly unbeatable villains on his own.
- It's also worth noting that Spider-Man's main villain, the Green Goblin, has inspired a legacy of his own and a couple Jack The Ripoffs. Then you have Venom, who keeps spawning, so that Peter's rogue gallery can basically be summed up as about 50% animal, a bunch of Puppeteer Parasite aliens, assorted goblins and a few, like Electro and Sandman, who are just kind of "other."
- Most of Batman's Rogues Gallery are out and out lunatics without any real superpowers. Some have argued that this is an indicator of Batman's own obsessive nature - he too is almost mad, in his own way. In addition, since Bats himself is just a Rich Idiot with No Day Job, making his villains equally normal keeps things balanced - Batman would be screwed if someone like Mxyzptlk decided to make the short journey from Metropolis to Gotham.
- Ironically, Batman did have his own interdimensional imp villain, Bat-Mite. In fact, Aquaman had one as well, Qwisp. Neither appeared in continuity in decades - until Qwisp popped up as a villain in Grant Morrison's run on JLA in the 90s. Morrison was also the one to bring back Bat-Mite.
- It's debatable in that Bat-Mite wasn't as malicious as Mister Mxyzptlk was to Superman, and he leaves on his own accord if he really angers Batman. Also, Bat-Mite admires Batman, unlike Mxyzptlk. The New Adventures of Batman had his heart in the right place, if his actions did more unintended harm.
- There's also a theory that Batman's Rogues each exemplify a single aspect of his personality, but taken to extremes: Two-Face the Batman/Bruce Wayne duality, the Joker his mental instability, Scarecrow his use of fear as a weapon against criminals, and so on.
- And this isn't counting the list of Bat Rogues who are essentially "Batman, except at this causal fork in his life, Bruce went one way, and this guy went the other". To illustrate. Oswald Cobblepot is also the orphan of rich parents, except Bruce's parents loved him and wanted him to not value material possessions. Tommy Eliot is in the same boat as The Penguin, except that Hush actually killed his parents to get to their inheritance faster, and then trained himself into a Jack of All Trades of Batman-like proportions for... some reason. Roman Sionis's parents were good friends of the Waynes, only they put on a show of being charitable philanthropists while being greedy dicks in private, the duality leading to Sionis's obsession with masks. Also, Jason Todd is an official Batman-trained caped crusader... who kills (as a way to stop the revolving door policy of Arkham), etc.
- One could also potentially argue that there is a much more secondary, but still fairly common theme among many of Batman's foes. Specifically, they seem to fit classic horror tropes such as Monster Clown (The Joker), monster (Clayface and Killer Croc), mad doctor (Hugo Strange, Professor Pyg), zombies (Solomon Grundy), bats (Batman himself and Man-Bat), and less obvious ones like killer plants (Poison Ivy), living dolls (Scarface) and living scarecrows (Scarecrow).
- Batman Beyond villains move away from being themed around general street-level insanity to more Spider-Man-like power levels and science. Some of them are still pretty damn crazy but less psychologically riveting and more well...sciency. Stories featuring Mad Stan, Spellbinder, Blight and an older Bane and Mr. Freeze explore some very plausible futuristic concepts and with the series being set in a future Gotham it's possible the creators were aiming for this overall theme.
- Doctor Strange had a lot of mystic opponents. This seems to be because it was stated MANY times that he has no greater strength or agility than any other man. Oddly enough, in his early adventures, he let his fists do the talking about as often as he whipped up a spell to take care of things. Justified when he was the Sorcerer Supreme and it was his job to protect the mundane world from supernatural threats.
- Wonder Woman's best villains are definitely female, possibly because she's the one major heroine who writers felt comfortable pitting against non Femme Fatale villainesses. The only major Wonder Woman villain who isn't female or a misogynist is Ares, the God of War and ancient enemy of the Amazons and Themyscira.
- They also tend to be mythological and/or magical in nature, like Wonder Woman herself.
- As of The New 52, she's been rubbing elbows with the gods. Her first major enemy is Hera, then Hades, then Apollo and Artemis. She's currently being set up to go head to head with another of Zeus' many many MANY children, specifically his firstborn son.
- Most Incredible Hulk villains are big and very strong - heck, many of them are even green. Those who aren't, like Leader and MODOK, tend to be exact opposites: small, weak but very intelligent, with lots of high-tech to help them. But still often green.
- And then, that whole strong and green thing is because several have a similar origin. In the film The Incredible Hulk, Leader and the Abomination actually got their powers from the Hulk, and Doc Samson likely would have too.
- Captain America is mostly known for fighting symbols of some un-American concept - many of them represent fascism or Nazism (Captain America has met the clone of Hitler several times, not to mention his personal nemesis the Red Skull), some represent communism, and other, less obvious political positions represented by his villains include One World Order (Flag-Smasher), censorship (The Watchdogs, Moral Guardians gone vigilante), blind patriotism to corrupt government (many, many "evil" Captain Americas), vigilantism (the Scourge of the Underworld), technocracy (Advanced Idea Mechanics), unrestrained capitalism (Roxxon Corporation), and corrupt labor unions (Serpent Society), though the writers are usually careful to note that these are extreme versions of their viewpoints, and that they aren't commenting on the philosophies themselves. On the other hand, he's messed with many non-political villains, including the Animus, Solarr, the Serpent Society, the Porcupine, and even other heroes' enemies, including the Scorpion, Mister Hyde, and Marvel's version of the Scarecrow.
- In that vein, he also tends to fight a lot of Nebulous Evil Organizations. He's clobbered whole rooms full of Mooks from A.I.M., HYDRA, U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., and more.
- Averted by The Flash, who has only a few speedster villains. In fact, the only speedster a given Flash is likely to face is their personal Evil Counterpart. His rogues gallery is otherwise populated by a very eclectic group, with few villains having much in common with one another. Ironically, the Flash rogues are a rather tightly knit group in spite of this.
- Indeed, Captain Boomerang was a Flash villain, but his son Captain Boomerang Jr. is not — and the son is the speedster.
- Practically the only way that they could be considered themed is in a purely symbolic way, of a man of science defeating the old superstitious ways of thinking. Ex. Captain Cold (Water), Heatwave (Fire), Gorilla Grodd (animals), Abra Kadabra (Magic), Trickster & Pied Piper (Folklore) etc.
- Given that virtually all the main Rogues use technological gimmicks (even Abra Kadabra), it may be more of a case of science vs. science. This has become less significant in recent comics, but in the Silver Age, each of the Rogues represented a scientific concept (heat, reflections, elements) so that Barry Allen used his superior understanding of the science involved to defeat them. Flash Fact!
- The Flash villain theme is derived from their middle-American roots. "Central City" is an expy for St. Louis and the American midwest, which when The Flash first came out in 1959 was the center of American self-image and culture - the "American Dream". The vast majority of Flash villains are self-made men, who achieved their abilities. As such they represent the Dark Side of the American Dream, those who achieve for their own selfish ends. Gorilla Grodd is both a renegade from his own culture and a violation of "natural law" (talking gorilla). As such he represents the dangers of the Radical Outsider (foreigners, Communists, subversive thinking, etc). The Flash Villains' Theme is the Fabulous Fifties!
- Isn't another recurring theme of the Rogues their collective suffering from Cut Lex Luthor a Check Syndrome, where so many of them have developed fantastic scientific achievements and use them to commit petty local robberies?
- Averted by The Mighty Thor, oddly enough. While Goldilocks did fight divine villains from Asgard (most notably his evil half-brother Loki and the seductive Amora, also called the Enchantress), Thor also quickly gained a rogues gallery of recurring mortal villains that could just as easily have been enemies of Spider-Man or the Hulk, including the Wrecker, the Absorbing Man, the Grey Gargoyle, Mister Hyde, and the Cobra. Many of these guys would also become Rogues Gallery Transplants when they branched out and started tangling with other mortal heroes.
- Not always averted. In additions to a few evil Norse gods, he also frequently fights mythological creatures such as giants, trolls and dark elves. Recurring foes include Ulik (troll), Malekith and Kurse (dark elves), The Executioner (half-giant) and Surtur (fire giant)
- Fantastic Four villains tend to be of the "Evil Genius bent on world conquest" mold, (like Doctor Doom, the Mad Thinker, the Wizard, Diablo, Maximus the Mad, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, even Mole Man...) or alien would-be Galactic Conquerors (like Blastaar and son, Annihilus...)
- More recently averted with Superman. In the 60's and 70's, many of the criminals he fought were fellow Kryptonians, imprisoned in the Phantom Zone before Krypton exploded. While these characters are still around, they appear much less frequently nowadays. Instead, Superman usually battles other types of aliens with powers completely unlike his own, humans with powers that exploit his weaknesses, or badass normals who try to outsmart him.
- This is highlighted pretty much every time Superman's villains congregate these days; Riot, either Bloodsport, Mongul, Livewire, Silver Banshee, Radion, Neutron, the Flea Circus, Metallo, the Puzzler, the Master Jailer, the Prankster, the Parasite, Blackrock, the Kryptonite Man, Toyman, the Atomic Skull, Hellgrammite, Maxima, and Obsession, really don't have a prevailing theme behind them.
- However, in the 50s, most of Superman's villains were simply intelligent normal humans screwing around. The original Toyman, Prankster, and Puzzler, as well as Lex Luthor himself, formed the crux of his cadre of enemies at the time.
- When observed a little deeper most original Superman villains have the fact they're either products, victims or users of super science as their underlying gimmick. Superman fights magical threats sometimes but it's almost exclusively when he's in a crossover with a magic-based hero and a magic-based villain gets transplanted briefly into his world of super science. The sole exception to this seems to be Mister Mxyzptlk, who is originally a Superman villain but is a magic imp. And even he might not be an exception since it could be theorized that he and his race aren't magical but are an advanced alien race that border on being eldritch abominations who have reality-altering powers as a non-magical trait, much like the Q from Star Trek.
- Green Lantern has a lot of enemies who can—like him—create weapons and monsters out of thin air: Tattooed Man, Star Sapphire, Evil Star, Effigy, etc. The grandaddy is of course Sinestro, a former Green Lantern with a yellow power ring.
- Recently played even straighter with the introduction of entire Corps to oppose the GL Corps who use power rings of different colors, such as red, orange, and black. Sinestro, mentioned above, starts his own Yellow Corps as well. Also inverted by giving Green Lantern some new allies who also use power rings of different colors, such as blue and indigo.
- Most of Spawn's enemies are demons, angels or people from his past life.
- The Black Panther regularly tangles with villains who are tailored to fight an African king, ranging from political rivals who seek to usurp his throne (Man-Ape and Erik Killmonger), apartheid-supporting white supremacists (the Supermacists), and outsiders who seek to loot the country's wealth for themselves (Arch-Enemy Klaw). More recently, he (or rather his sister, who's taken up the mantle due to his literally being at death's door) took on Morlun, an enemy of Spider-Man who feeds on animal totems, including that of the Panther.
- This is in addition to his frequent tussles with fellow African heads of state like Moses Magnum, Dr. Crocodile, and Afrikaa.
- The Doom Patrol specialize in weird cases and opponents.
- Daredevil fights a lot of mob-employed costumed killers, or martial artists with a supernatural bent. These two themes frequently cross-over (eg. Elektra and Lady Bullseye and both agents of the Hand- a mystical ninja cult- as well as professional assassins; Kingpin recently took control of the Hand).
- More generally, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Darkhawk, Moon Knight, Luke Cage and Iron Fist's rogues all tend to be either street-level villains, or more powerful crime lords and mercenaries.
- Many of Jack Knight's enemies were carnies like the Ragdoll, Bliss and his mook Crusher.
- Sleepwalker's enemies are either street-level villains (the Chain Gang, 8-Ball, Spectra, the Bookworm, Lullaby, Mr. FX, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, etc.) or demonic entities (Cobweb, Psyko, Mr. Jyn, Eddie Cicala).
- Swamp Thing routinely encounters plant-based enemies. Sometimes this was handled well. The elemental Wood-Rue, for example, was an old DC loser who was revived as a hideous and terrifying foe. Sometimes it went not-so-good, such as when Swamp Thing fought vegetable aliens flying vegetable space ships with vegetable weapons. Yeah.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles usually fight villains of the mutant and ninja varieties (the latter primarily being members of the Foot Clan). They also fight a lot of Super Science themed villains and villainous creations, such as Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers.
- According to Scott McCloud each member of Zot's rogues gallery represents a different, harmful vision of the future, with their threat levels directly corresponding to how likely he considered that future to be. Though McCloud admits he screwed up on the last part with the Blot, a fairly minor villain who represented a corporate-run future.
- Archie's Sonic Comics took the "nature vs mechanics" theme of the first Sonic game and extended it, giving a few villains other than Robotnik and Eggman who used technology to reach their goals; Snively, ADAM, Iron Dominion (and Iron Queen), and The Dark (Egg) Legion. Many of these started by serving Robotnik/Eggman or are serving him now.
- They also use a number of Magical villains; Ixis Nagus, Enerjak, Mammoth Mogul, Iron Queen (again), Geoffery St. John, and Dr. Finitivus.
- The Runaways' initial enemies were their own parents, collectively known as the Pride. Afterwards, they often fought against people who were somehow connected to the Pride, either former allies or old enemies.
- The Metal Men mostly fight robots. Usually they're robot aliens or monsters and the question of who built them is never addressed. Discussed in Metal Men #20, when the Metal Men read their fan mail and find that readers are pretty tired of robot monsters and want them to go up against something else.
- Despite his rep as a poster-boy for anti-Communism (in the novels, true enough), James Bond most commonly fought corrupt capitalists (Goldfinger, Karl Stromberg, Hugo Drax, Max Zorin, Carver, Elektra King) or apolitical spies, ex-spies, traitors, criminals and terrorists (SPECTRE, Kananga / Mr Big, Francisco Scaramanga, Kristatos, Kamal Khan, Brad Whitaker, Franz Sanchez, Alec Trevelyan, Le Chiffre). The most common motives are profit, revenge or simply pure ego and megalomania, or some combination of the above. The Red Menace is present but it is usually in the background, either Red China quietly pulling the strings (Dr. No, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice) or the Soviet Union as incidental players, or even victims of the bad guys themselves. Rose Klebb, Orlov, Zorin and Koskov are all rogue Soviet or ex-Soviet agents, and a few henchmen work or used to work for the Reds, but Bond never fights the Russians or Chinese head-on and usually avoids them completely.
- The Pirates of the Caribbean series naturally enough deals with pirates like Barbossa and Blackbeard, corrupt colonial agencies like the East India Trading Company, and ocean-related myth and magic such as Davy Jones and his crew, the undead pirates of the Black Pearl, and sea monsters like the Kraken and Sirens.
- Godzilla mostly fights other Kaiju. This is justified by the setting (there aren't many other kinds of adversary around) and the fact that a giant monster ripping your city apart is probably the only reason you'd ever risk calling the big lizard. On a deeper level, said kaiju tend to be either aliens (King Ghidorah and his expies, Dhesighidorah and Kaiser Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla I, Gigan, SpaceGodzilla) whose origins contrast with Godzilla's role as a rather reluctant protector of earth, or fellow mutants (Anguirus, Rodan, Baragon, Ebirah, Biollante, Destoroyah, Titanosaurus, Megaguirus) who, like Godzilla, have become monsters through no fault of their own (some, like Hedorah and Orga are a fusion of both). It's worth noting that while several of the mutant kaiju have become Godzilla's allies, all of the aliens have remained evil to the end.
- Apparently indicated by the first two Iron Man films that Iron Man would have to deal with Corrupt Corporate Executives, and revealed to still be the case in Iron Man 3.
- Every villain in The Amazing Spider-Man franchise is created, intentionally or accidentally, at Oscorp.
Live Action TV
- Played pretty straight in the first 2 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then vampires were almost completely phased out in favor of other types of demons and sinister humans. Though the overall magic/monster theme still prevailed.
- In The Weird Al Show, all of Fatman's villains are either food based or have an evil plan that's food based.
- Superdude from All That has a tendency to fight dairy-based villains, such as Milkman, Cow Boy, Butter Boy... This is unfortunate for him, since he is lactose intolerant.
- Almost every Super Sentai series has this by design. The magically-empowered Magiranger only fought mystical creatures, the police-themed Dekaranger fought criminals, the Hurricaneger fought space ninjas...no matter what the power set, expect the villains to match accordingly. The few aversions include:
- The Kamen Rider series tends to have this more often than not. In a general sense almost all Riders and villains have some degree of Animal Motifs. In a more specific sense magic Riders tend to fight magical enemies and technological Riders tend to fight biological anomalies. Justified in that the Riders themselves are usually Phlebotinum Rebels, using the villains own power against them.
- The recurring villains of Doctor Who in contrast to the Doctor, an eternal champion of peace and co-operation, mostly tend to be armies (the Daleks, the Cyberman, the Sontarans, the Silurians, the Ice Warriors) or megalomaniacal geniuses (the Master, Davros) who are bent on waging war in one way or another.
- The revival has also seen a few new types of enemies. Enemies who are in some way un-knowable or beyond comprehension, and enemies who are more automated systems that can't be reasoned with and are merely doing their jobs.
- The X-Files antagonists were usually classified into two groups. Aliens closely knit with shady government cabinets or freaks of the week that weren't necessarily alien but connected with the alien/government myth arcs sometimes.
- Mutants & Masterminds does this with most of its sample rogues galleries. The Centurion, for example, fight enemies with names like August Roman and Nero. The best example, however, might be their Batman Captain Ersatz, The Raven, who (odd exceptions like Dr. Sin and Luna Moth aside) fights villains named for Edgar Allan Poe stories or characters: Lenore, The Conqueror Worm, The House of Usher, The Red Death, etc.
- Since Metal Gear is a military-themed series, one could reasonably expect every game to pit the protagonist against an army (and not, for instance, on any other sort of black ops mission). But beyond that, every game features an oddly-themed Super Soldier Quirky Miniboss Squad with an assortment of unique fighting styles.
- Except for the B&B Unit in MGS4, who were all sexy women in robotic battle suits named after MGS1 villains.
- Be it the Robot Masters of the original Mega Man series, the anthropomorphic cyborg Mavericks of Mega Man X or the ancient ruin guardian mechs of Mega Man Legends, bosses in this series are robots, sentient, piloted or otherwise.
- Crash Bandicoot fights animal mutants similar to himself and mad scientists, the only exception to this seem to be Uka Uka, Papu Papu and alien racer Nitros Oxide.
- Resident Evil games are centered around various types of zombies and the corporations that created them.
- Max Payne deals with all kinds of noir gangsters, corrupt cops, spies and even an Illuminati-like organization.
- The heroes of Freedom Force are, like the heroes, riffs on the motifs of the Golden and Silver Ages of Comics. Though enemy to enemy, there's no theme to them they're all exactly the sort of foe the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man would have fought in their early days.
- In the sequel they travel back to fight Nazis, and the new supervillains represent Nazism/superscience, Italy and Japan. Oh, and a supernatural Communist foe to contrast the clean cut technology fuelled Freedom Force in the present day.
- Spoofed in The Fairly OddParents in-show comic book "The Crimson Chin", where each of the villains is themed around a different body part and metal. The Copper Cranium, the Bronze Kneecap, the Iron Lung...
- CaptainPlanet villains are all polluters, poachers and other haters of ecology (appropriately-called "eco-villains").
- Averted in Transformers Animated, at least at first. The showrunners wanted to present the Decepticons as major threats, so the Autobots faced off against human villains.
- Parodied in Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Super Hero":
"Yeah, see, then they gotta pick another day... to do the crime, and... he'd rain it out again! So... haha... he's a step ahead!"
—Master Shake Explaining how The Drizzle fights crime by controlling the rain.
- Generally averted in the Teen Titans animated series, considering the sheer range of bizarre villains it featured. Even the general theme of quirky harmless villains didn't really hold up—there was very little amusing about Slade, Trigon, or the Brotherhood of Evil, for example.
- That said, enemies that would face a single Titan primarily were often tailored to them—Robin often faced evil or amoral martial artists (Slade, Red X, Katarou), Starfire aliens (Blackfire, the Gordanians, the Chrysalis eater), and Raven supernatural beings or events (Malchior, Trigon, and her own repressed demon nature), for example.
- Just to round out the list: Beast Boy faces empowered teen archetypes (The geeky Control Freak, the wannabe Adonis, or the rebel, Punk Rocket) and Cyborg deals with tech villains (Atlas, Fixit, Gizmo and Brother Blood, who turned himself into one by copying Cyborg's own tech.)
- Most of Ben 10's major enemies are aliens or alien-related in some way, though it's not a hard-and-fast rule—his Rogues Gallery also includes an Evilutionary Biologist and a couple of dark mages, for example.
- In Generator Rex, not only are Rex's powers most effective against EVOs, but he also works for Providence, an organization dedicated to fighting and studying them. As a result, with a couple of exceptions almost all of his villains are EV Os or EVO-related.
- Gargoyles has a gloriously ridiculous clash of modern tech-based villains and ones themed around Sword and Sorcery. Quite a few villains and temporary antagonists are other Gargoyles and clans too.
- SWAT Kats villains were all magical, terrorist, mutant or robotic anthropomorphic cats.
- Half-ghost Danny Phantom mostly fought other ghosts as well as the occasional ghost hunter.