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A Villain Named Khan

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The name is misspelled here, but fits nonetheless.

There's something about the name "Khan" that just sounds threatening and powerful to people in Western countries. So it follows that in works of fiction, if you want a really good evil name for your villain, and Kain is out of the question, "Khan" will do just fine. "Kahn" and other alternate spellings are also available.

The reasons for this may stem from historical European perceptions of Turko-Mongol cultures, for whom the word 'Khaan' (pronounced like 'haan' but with a harder, harsher 'h' sound) was the equivalent term for a king or lord. Genghis Khan is the one most folks have heard of, but other languages and cultures used "khan" as well. Thus, the name "Khan" for a villain in a work of fiction implies a powerful, dangerous ruler of a people or nation, and possibly one with a historical basis or a cultural heritage behind them. It may also just be for the Rule of Cool: "Khan" gives you Xtreme Kool Letterz, after all.

This doesn't of course apply to other parts of the world, such as nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India where the surname has a lot of positive and heroic connotations, with a number of famous kings, sportsmen, and movie-stars having this as their surname, and it being seen as a very noble, and bold name.

An example of Names to Run Away from Really Fast.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Iron Fist: Iron Fist (1975) had two; Master Khan, the first Big Bad of the run, and Chaka Khan ("Crime Lord of New York!" There's no relation between the two.
  • Justice League of America: Manga Khan is an intergalactic trader with a gaseous body who wears a metal suit to give him his form. The suit makes him immune to harm as well as granting him tremendous strength.
  • Ms. Marvel: Ms. Marvel (2014) has Kamala Khan thoroughly averts this of course, being that she's a superhero born to immigrants from Pakistan where there is no stigma attached to that name at all.
  • New Gods: Yuga Khan, the father of Darkseid and the only being in creation considered more evil than he is. However, he's only concerned with the Source itself rather than universal domination.
  • Planet of the Apes (2011): The villain of the last arc is a gorilla, who leads an army of apes and humans, called the Golden Khan.
  • Shakara: One of the alien emperors that Shakara has set his sights on is a violent Blood Knight named Warlord Skulka, Supreme Khan of the Xorn Empire.
  • X-Men: X-Treme X-Men had Khan, a tyrannical dictator of a vast extra-dimensional empire who once sought to take over Earth and add Storm to his Battle Harem, by force.

    Comic Strips 
  • First played straight, then averted in Funky Winkerbean. Funky's helicopter is shot down by the Taliban and he's taken prisoner by a group of Afghan bandits led by a man named Khan. He eventually escapes and is pursued by them. When he returns to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor to work on clearing minefields, Khan has started working for the same organization as a local guide, and saves Funky's life when he steps on a Bouncing Betty. He later moved to Westview and ran an Afghan deli called Citizen Khan's for a while.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Shere Khan in The Jungle Book (1967) is, if anything, more of a villain than he was in the book. He chooses to hunt humans for sport, rather than out of desperation because of a crippled leg.
  • Averted in Mulan with Khan, the Fa family's horse.
  • Tzekel-Kan in The Road to El Dorado is the main villain, though he's Native American, rather than Asian like most examples of the trope.
  • The Secret of Mulan: The leader of the invading army is named Mala Khan.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Jungle Book has the Big Bad Shere Khan the tiger, hunter of man and ruler of the jungle. The name literally means “Tiger King”.
  • Pseudo-example in A Song of Ice and Fire. The dothraki are based on many nomadic peoples, but the Mongol and Hun influences are particularly strong; so it is their leaders take the title "khal," and many other words in their language derived from the same.
  • Prehistoria subverts the convention in a naturalistic sense depending on which species is involved. To pretty much any other animal in the forest, Khan the Tarbosaurus is a terrifying apex predator to be avoided. To his children he’s a protective and doting father. To the Adasaurus protagonist, Ruby, he’s a Gentle Giant symbiotic partner.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe/Legends has both the Sith Lord Skere Kaan, and the Yuuzhan Vong commander Loiric Kaan.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 actually averts this with the White Scars chapter of Space Marines (Mongols IN SPACE! having traded their horses for huge weaponized motorbikes), who have always been loyal to the Imperium and use Khan as an indication of leadership (their Primarch was Jaghatai Khan, their rank for Chapter Master is Great Khan, etc.). To be fair Warhammer 40,000 is less "Good vs. Evil" and more "Bad vs. Worse" — then again, Jaghatai is far from the worst person on his own side.
  • Warhammer
    • Played straight: where the Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Mongols are the Always Chaotic Evil ogres and hobgoblins, with the hobgoblin's leaders known as Khans.
    • Also with the Kurgan, who are a much better-researched Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Mongols and Steppe Warrior cultures in general, and in the service of the Chaos Gods to boot.
    • A particularly old and repulsive Chaos champion was the Kurgan Maggotlord named Tamurkhan, who could possess the people who killed him and retain their abilities for a while until their bodies rotted away. He also gets away with a double for Names to Run Away from Really Fast since he derives from another great Central Asian warlord in addition to Genghis Khan, Timur, his spiritual successor who nearly reunified his empire.
  • One of the sample antagonists in Spirit of the Century is the evil conqueror Gorilla Khan, an uplifted gorilla— although his cape and helmet make him look more Roman than Mongol.
  • In BattleTech the leaders of the Clans are known as Khans, the second -in-command of a Clan is known as saKhan and the leader of all the Clans (when such a thing is necessary) is the ilKhan or "Khan of Khans".

  • Obscure collectible battle game Fistful of Aliens has Jangutz Khan, the "vicious and cruel" ultra-rare figure. While none of the characters in the line were truly "good," Jangutz was insane and powerful, and enslaved other races.

    Video Games 
  • In Mortal Kombat, "Kahnum" (note the spelling difference) is apparently the title of the Ruler of Outworld, and the current ruler upon being elected is given a new name that includes the word "Kahn." For much of the series the Big Bad is Shao Kahn The Konqueror, a violent, barbarian warlord. His successor in Mortal Kombat X is Kotal Kahn (formerly just called Ko'atal) and is actaully a subversion to this Trope. Despite the title and position as Emperor of a violent war-filled realm, Kotal is a Noble Demon who, at his worst, is just an Anti-Villain. Averted with Past!Kitana in Mortal Kombat 11, who killed Shao Kahn of the past after Kotal's Career-Ending Injury led him to pass the throne to her, technically making her 'Kitana Kahn', but a majority of the people don't refer to her as that. Mortal Kombat 1, being a reboot, plays with this based on the above: The ruler of Outworld is Sindel, but she's never referred as Sindel Kahn. Meanwhile, Shao Kahn is reinvented into General Shao, losing his Kahn title, but also undergoing a slight positive personality tweak as opposed to his purely brutal, violent attitude when he was Kahn.
  • Fallout has a recurring tribe of raiders known as the Khans. Their most recent incarnation, the Great Khans — led by Papa Khan — take particular inspiration from the aesthetics of Mongolian culture, and a possible ending for them in Fallout: New Vegas has them begin more directly emulating the Mongol Empire (for good and ill) thanks to a history book.
    • Three examples from that series exist. There was the original group of Vault-exiled raiders called the Khans, their successors - refounded after the first group's extinction - called the New Khans, and finally the Great Khans, which reformed from the scattered New Khans and took over a big piece of Nevada, before being whittled down to Red Rock Canyon. If the Courier convinces them to do so, the Great Khans will just leave Nevada to the NCR and go conquer Wyoming and with the help of the Followers of the Apocalypse create a mighty empire. Or you could convince them to join Caesar's Legion and have all of their tribe history to be stamped out and forced to become a gear in the Legion war machine.
  • In Crusader Kings the Altaic (steppe) cultures all use "khan" where Europeans use "king", so given the game's Video Game Cruelty Potential and realpolitik this is true more often than not. The games also feature event invasions by the Mongol hordes, up to and including Temujin, Genghis Khan, himself. (A Mongol Player Character can even declare themselves Genghis Khan in the second game.)
  • Khan is the villain's name in Broken Sword. He is a Professional Killer from Syria and member of an assassination cult called the Hashashin.
  • Magicka has an Orc warlord named Khan appearing along with a large invading army. While Khan may be a semi-appropriate name for a leader of nomadic invaders, the devs admitted that they just wanted an excuse to do a Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan-parody Skyward Scream.
  • Stellaris has a mid-game event in which one of the various Marauder factions suddenly unites under a Great Khan, a Visionary Villain who wants to build a united, enlightened galactic empire, and becomes an expansionist, conquering Horde. They’re tough to beat, but submitting to them isn’t so bad - satrapies have to pay a hefty tribute but are otherwise left to do as they please, and the Khan themself will die on their own eventually, which can lead to any number of outcomes depending on how large the Khanate became. It may revert to its old ways, it may become a stable power, or it may just collapse into two or more squabbling successor states.
  • Doom Eternal has the Khan Maykr, an angelic being who leads the Heaven-esque Urdak and serves as the game's central antagonist, due to working with Hell to unleash demons upon Earth for her own purposes.
  • Ghost of Tsushima: The leader of the Mongol army attacking Japan is Khotun Khan. In this case, it makes sense, considering he's a (fictional) grandson of good old Genghis Khan himself.
    • The Iki Island DLC also has a rare female example in the form of Ankhsar Khatun, the shaman leader of the Eagle Tribe that is attacking Iki. In this case, 'Khatun' was the female equivalent of the 'Khan' rank in the Mongol Empire, which makes her just as fearsome as Khotun Khan.


    Western Animation