- Edwin: So Doctor Loeb, tell me a little bit about your business plan.
Dr. Loeb: World domination!!!
Edwin: That's really more of a goal than a plan.
Dr. Loeb: Domination!!! Domination!!! Domination!!!
Edwin: I'll just put down 'Mergers and Acquisitions'.
How to Succeed in Evil is a Podcast and a series of novels. Both incarnations are parodies of the superhero genre. In the story, supervillains are a dime a dozen and constantly rob banks, cause destruction, and all the other cliché things that villains do. Meanwhile, superheroes are anything but heroic; and frequently do much more harm in trying to subdue villains than good.
Enter Edwin Windsor, a man who becomes the first "Evil Efficiency Consultant", a freelance advisor for supervillains. While he does very well, he is constantly frustrated by his job because of the sheer idiocy of the villains he is forced to work with. Although he tends to provide villains with marvelous Evil Plans, their dim wits and large egos eventually cause Edwin's clients to mess everything up for themselves. Edwin still gets paid, so he tries not to think about it.
Eventually, Edwin cannot take the inefficient and wasteful nature of his clients and the world at large, and decides to finally cross the threshold into full supervillainy. As described by the author, Patrick E. Mclean, "Edwin quickly becomes something more than a villain and less than a hero. He takes out villains because they are 'incompetent and inefficient' and heroes because they are 'ineffectual and in the way.' He often does the right thing for the wrong reason. Which, as fans can tell you, is very entertaining."
How to Succeed in Evil alternates between lighthearted, funny stories and serious ones. It follows one main plot while also branching off into various prequel adventures. The updates are few and far between (almost a year has gone by since the last one because the author is currently working on the book), but every episode is available on the website and iTunes if you are up for a mini Archive Trawl.
This show provides examples of:
- And Then What?: This is how Edwin manages to make Dr. Loeb to realize why he really wants to build an orbital laser: to get back at his mom.
- The Atoner: Excelsior accidentally killed his parents when he ran into their truck while escaping imprisonment. Gus told him that he couldn't bring them back, but he could save others, so that's what he does.
- Badass Normal: Edwin and Gus fit. Superlative Man didn't have any powers, but it's anyone's guess whether he was badass or not.
- Badass Grandpa: Gus is very old, having fought in the Korean war, but he refuses to let anything stop himm, even impending cancer and his death from poison.
- "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: It's not extortion...
- Break Them by Talking: At the end of the series reboot when Edwin manages to get Excelsior to consent to being Buried Alive in concrete by appealing to his guilt and his desire to be a hero.
- The Brute: Barry's purpose is to break things because he's not qualified for anything else.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Topper, and Edwin to a lesser degree.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Applies to almost all of Edwin's clients; they make a lot of money if they weren't so focused on being evil.
- Depraved Dwarf: Topper, a man of short statue but grand appetites. He is heavily into bodybuilding and hedonism, eating an entire jar of whey protein and washing it down with a pony keg. He likes custom-built muscle cars, guns, and cheating at golf.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Played with for Excelsior. On one hand, he enjoys the adulation of the masses. On the other hand, he wishes people accepted him for who he is, not his powers.
- Dumb Muscle: Barry is really dumb, and has a lot of muscle.
- Evil vs. Evil: Edwin is evil but he's fighting evil-er people.
- Expy: usually with a deconstructive twist:
- Excelsior: Superman (powers, Midwestern origin) and Captain America (red, white and blue costume, patriotic symbol) without the ability to think independently. And, like Spider-man, his primary motivation is atoning for the death of his relatives, which he feels responsible for.
- Barry Banister: Bruce Banner without the genius.
- Fake Nationality: Invoked. "Dr Loeb" is from Mississippi and his Austrian accent is transparently fake.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Heroes aren't likable people, especially if you're asking the local police who have to clean up their messes.
- Hero Insurance: Villain insurance exists, but not hero insurance, which has been judged an "act of God".
- Hulk Speak: Barry, again.
- Insistent Terminology: Agnes being a proper English lady, she is quite insistent that she is not any sort of "executive assistant" - something she dismisses as barbarous jargon - she is a secretary and don't you forget it.
- Invisible to Normals: Averted. Not only do people notice the super people around them, the majority dislike them because of all the damage they cause.
- Lord Error-Prone: Every hero/villain in the story; a career with these guys is what drove Edwin over the edge to evil.
- Mad Scientist: Most of Edwin's clients. Special mention to Brainitar, who was driven mad by a phantom itch after he transplanted his brain into a robot body.
- Mob-Boss Suit Fitting: (the novel for sure, probably the podcast too) features, actually, many of these. Edwin Windsor's tailor is not just such a consummate discrete professional that a consulting supervillain can talk freely in front of him, he's actually one of his closest and most dependable cronies. Edwin's favored mode of re-centering himself and rebuilding his morale after any big setback is by having a new suit fitted.
- Morality Pet: Agnes and Topper are this to Edwin.
- My Greatest Failure: Edwin considers Brainitar this. Brainitar developed a revolutionary way to transplant his brain into a robotic body, but soon developed a phantom itch that drove him completely insane, torpedoing all of Edwin's plans to profit from the technology.
- The Napoleon: Topper is a dwarf, and has constantly struggled for respect despite his stature. As a result, he lives a larger-than-life lifestyle and keeps a chip on his shoulder twice the size that he is.
- Person of Mass Destruction
- Barry basically breaks anything that gets in his way, and seems essentially indestructible.
- Topper, while an unpowered dwarf, sometimes creates more devastation than the super-powered individuals. After all, he's rich, he's got a severe case of short-man's syndrome, and he's got a knack for getting everyone else on board with his insanity.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: It's hard to tell whether Excelsior has this naturally or it was brainwashed into him by Gus (The third book reveals that it's guilt from accidentally causing the death of his parents), but it plays a very important role throughout the book
- Reality Ensues: Played with. Excelsior, in his attempts to stop the crash of Flight 206, discovers to his horror that while he is a man of steel, neither the plane he is saving nor the people on it are. He ends up managing to save the Captain's arm.
- Secret Identity: Amazingman has one which is revealed pretty early.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Edwin 2.0 qualifies. Mr. McLean decided to re-write his main character by turning him into a Affably Evil, Lex Luthor-esque, Evil Brit complete with a suit that turns him invisible. Almost immediately afterward, Mr. McLean realized that his Reboot was a horrible idea and dedicated an entire episode to deconstructing him.
- Smoking Is Cool: Deconstructed with Gus, who is seen coughing during the first half-to-two-thirds of the story, and then he has a stroke, and it turns out he's had cancer since before the story started.
- Something Person: Names like 'Amazingman', 'Powerboy', and 'The Justinator'. Done on purpose.
- Stock Evil Overlord Tactics: Deconstructed; Edwin points out the flaws in these methods and suggests better uses of these resources.
- Superhero: Edwin toes the line between this and Supervillain, as noted in the description.
- Superheroes Wear Tights: though some of them really shouldn't and those who can pull it off annoy the sensible characters.
- Supervillain Lair: With a sign out front so the pizza man can find it.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Edwin's company and henchman are all very competent; he doesn't hire idiots. But the rest of the world on the other hand...
- There Was a Door:
- Excelsior was dissuaded from using the three story window while going in. Going out, on the other hand...
- Vapor Wear: Cindi with an I.
- Villain Protagonist: Edwin is The Protagonist and also a super villain.
- Visionary Villain: His clients averting this is why Edwin became a villain; if evil is to be done it should be done efficiently.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Edwin delivers a truly magnificent one of these to Powerboy.