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Arch-Enemy
aka: Arch Enemies

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Optimus Prime: After eons of conflict, I finally see the truth of your words, Megatron.
Megatron: And what might that be, Optimus?
Optimus Prime: This universe, no matter how vast, will never be big enough for you and I to coexist.
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An Arch-Enemy, archfoe, archnemesis, or simply nemesis is some character's designated and most important enemy.

The Arch-Enemy can be the Big Bad, The Dragon, The Rival, an Evil Counterpart, or even a Harmless Villain. The essential element is that, with them, It's Personal. Most typically, the Arch-Enemy is a foil of some sort. For example, the Arch-Enemy of the physically strong could be very smart. If there is a Greater-Scope Villain, his Arch-Enemy commonly is the Greater-Scope Paragon.

The Arch-Enemy will stand out from the Super Hero's Rogues Gallery — there will be one opponent where the relationship to the hero and the motivations for battling them are more potent. These feelings may be one-sided, felt more by the villain than the hero, or occasionally vice-versa.

A hero's Arch-Enemy is not necessarily the biggest threat to them. Lex Luthor is considered Superman's Arch-Enemy; Brainiac is smarter and Darkseid is vastly more powerful and dangerous, but for Lex — and, to a lesser extent, for Superman — it's personal between them.

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Sometimes, the hero could have made the same choices as the Arch-Enemy: the Arch-Enemy is showing us what he could have become, as in the case of Batman and the Joker.

A hero may possess more than one Arch-Enemy if more than one villain from his Rogues Gallery stand out, or if a former Arch-Enemy dies and new one comes in to the picture. As an example, consider Spider-Man: the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom have all established themselves as recurring and iconic foes of Spider-Man, each of whom has been considered the wallcrawler's Arch-Enemy at different points in time.

Lastly, remember that this generally refers to the enemy the hero considers to be his Arch-Enemy, and ideally, it should be personal on both sides (though there are plenty of good "But for Me, It Was Tuesday"-type Arch Foes out there). Especially in the case of a Rogues Gallery, the hero is usually considered an Arch-Enemy to all of his villains, but he doesn't treat all of them as such. Electro, Rhino, Scorpion, and others all consider Spider-Man their most hated foe, but compared to the Goblin, Venom, or Doc Ock, Spidey regards these guys more like superpowered nuisances. Also, remember that being the Big Bad does not automatically make a villain the hero's Arch-Enemy. For instance, it could be that the hero's enmity with The Dragon is far more personal than the one they have with their master; see It's Personal with the Dragon.

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Beware of letting an Arch-Enemy fall victim to Villain Decay.

See also Breakout Villain, for those instances when a run-of-the-mill villain ascends to Arch-Enemy status.

Not to be confused with various works known as Nemesis. Also not to be confused with the Swedish melodic death metal band. Technically, the word "nemesis" originally referred to an agent of divine justice or retribution for egotistical thinking; thus Batman could be described as Joker's nemesis, but not vice versa.

The Arch-Enemy is more prone to certain tropes than the common villain:


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Krishna Aur Kans: Krishna has King Kans, his Evil Uncle who imprisoned his parents, killed his older siblings as infants, and has been sending demons after him to prevent their Final Battle which will doom the latter.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Wolffy and Weslie are constantly fighting due to the former wanting to eat the latter and his friends.

    Comic Strips 
  • Flash Gordon has Ming the Merciless.
  • Mandrake the Magician has Cobra.
  • Dick Tracy had Flattop. Flattop was Killed Off for Real decades ago, but he was so popular that Legacy Characters kept popping up afterward.
  • Prince Valiant had Sligon, the tyrant who usurped his father's throne.
  • Buck Rogers had Killer Kane.
  • The old melodrama spoof Hairbreadth Harry had the title character fighting a Dastardly Whiplash named Rudolph Rassendale—although Rudy was the real star of the strip.
  • Annie Mae the sea anenome to Pig in Pearls Before Swine.
  • Charlie Brown and the Kite-Eating Tree.
  • ''Garfield has a weird example: Mondays. While usually shown to be just a worst day of the week for Garfield, they also had at least two different personifications, one looked like a bunch of generic monsters and one like Frankenstein's Monster. It's definitely mutual, as Mondays manage to have any kind of problem for Garfield, sometimes exceeding the limits of reality outright.
    • In his "Caped Avenger" persona he had proclaimed Odie as his archenemy, but considering that Odie is usually a frenemy and they does not necessarily share the mutual enmity, Mondays are a more real deal. Moreover, "Caped Avenger" later proclaimed Odie as his sidekick as well.

    Fanfiction 
  • Team LVDR:
    • Blaze, Zoe, and August are this to Lila. Their torture of her in the past, and Lila’s imprisonment of them has resulted in both groups having equal animosity towards one another.
    • Indus to Verde, Danielle, and Rosa. His murder of previous team leader, Lavender, cements him as this.
  • Transformers Meta
    • Hound and Barricade are this.
    • So are Jazz and Starscream, but that's more one-sided.
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni:
    • Jade feels that Tohru is hers, based on her jealousy that HE became Uncle's apprentice and not her.
    • Drago and Karasu have shades of this as well.
    • Right, one of Jade's Co-Dragons, becomes one to Viper.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
    • Dr. Brainstorm sees Calvin as his - not so much the other way around, though.
    • Also discussed in "Camping Trip Part 1":
      Calvin: Hobbes, we have lots of mortal enemies! If this club only had one mortal enemy, then where would we be? Where would Superman be if he only had one super villain trying to take over the world every other day? Where would Spider-Man be if there was only one weirdo out there who managed to find enough time in his day to moonlight as an evil lunatic? Where would Batman be if all he had to do is defeat one highly unrealistic villain in order to save... whatever it is he aims on saving? I mean, come on!
  • The Immortal Game has Sir Unimpressive and the Cadet. There's also an inverted case of Unknown Rival in play as well, as the Cadet states that they were fierce rivals even before the war, something Unimpressive was unaware of.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Shining Armor gains one in the form of General-Admiral Makarov (aka the Shadow of Chernobull), the Big Bad of his side story.
  • While Rose is certainly the main character of Eyes Without a Face, she finds herself embroiled in a personal war between Twilight Sparkle and the Pie sisters.
  • Equestrylvania gives us Aeon and the Chronomage.
    • By the end of the first book, this status is also bestowed upon Twilight Sparkle and Actrise.
  • Renamon Who gives us Valmont as one to Rika Nonaka.
  • In The Lion King Adventures, the evil wizard Hago serves as one to Simba.
  • In Boys und Sensha-do!, Shiho Nishizumi and the Sakai family despise each other due to ideological conflicts, including the Sakais trying to get more people, including boys, involved in sensha-do. The dislike the Sakais have for Shiho only intensifies after she disowns Miho, who is getting closer to Akio.
  • A large number of these can be found in Diaries of a Madman, but particularly mention has to go to the relationship between Discord and the protagonist, Nav.
  • Code Geass Megiddo has Lelouch and Suzaku. Suzaku still hates Lelouch for killing Euphemia and tarnishing her good name, but suppressed it for eight years after the Black Rebellion when Lelouch had his memories suppressed. Lelouch in turn resents Suzaku for betraying him and their friendship by giving him up to the Emperor, the father that abandoned him and Nunnally in a war zone, and suppressing pivotal memories to make him a loyal general for the empire, including making him believe Nunnally was killed alongside their mother. Needless to say, after Lelouch regains his memories, their next meeting has a gigantic blowout that devolves into a Duel to the Death.
    • Several characters commenting on the relationship acknowledge that regardless of their former friendship, Suzaku truly is Lelouch's greatest enemy, even more so than his father. In fact, the narrative and the wiki suggest that they were destined to be enemies. It's to the point that many believe that if Lelouch does care about Suzaku, he may have to kill him in order to save him from himself.
  • The Neomorphs series has a few examples:
  • A number of examples in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox.
    • Naruto and Gaara have this dynamic since they gave each other their respective scars—Gaara got his "love" kanji-mark when Naruto smashed his forehead against a drinking glass; and seconds later Naruto got his familiar whisker-marks when Gaara slashed him across the face with his fingernails. This happened during Naruto's attempt to stop Gaara's wide-scale murder plot against the government, which then led into the 365 days.
    • Rokusho Aoi is arguably Ino's arch-enemy, as she holds him in contempt for his bullying ways from when he was head of Konoha High School's Hall Monitors Guild, and he in turn hates her for openly opposing him. It comes to a head when Aoi breaks into Ino's house, knocks her parents unconscious, and then tries to rape her; fortunately, Sai puts him in his place.
    • In the fanfic's in-universe Shadow Fox comic, Ghost Wolf is this to the titular heroine, as he was involved in a drive-by shooting that led to the death of her younger brother, which in turn prompted her to become a masked vigilante.
  • Transformers Animated: Cybertronian Genesis has, of course, Optimus Prime and Megatron, who have developed their relationship into this following the events of the last season, mirroring the rest of the Transformers mythos. One of the main focal points of the narrative is their enmity, and how it forces Optimus to grow into the leader he's meant be, and how his constant defiance drives Megatron closer to the depths of insanity.
  • In New Tamaran, Scarecrow decides to become one for Raven.
  • A Shadow of the Titans plays this for laughs, as Jade declares Beast Boy her archenemy after he manages to hurt her with an onion; Beast Boy is thrilled at this, as he feels that having an archenemy makes him cooler.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, the Stardroids are this to Duo, who defeated them long ago.
  • Child of the Storm has Lucius Malfoy and Nick Fury, whose personal rivalry stretches back to the days of Voldemort's first reign when they were respectively the spymasters of the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix, and who utterly despise each other. Lucius personally murdered two of Fury's mentors and blasted out his eye, and Fury broke Lucius' wand, did something that left him with a permanent limp, burned his house down with him inside it, and, it is implied, did something else to Lucius, though it's never stated exactly what.
  • Banette and Mewtwo in Total Pokemon Island. Banette always messes with Mewtwo, and Mewtwo sabotages him in turn in challenges. This continues until World Tour, where Mewtwo rescues Banette from Giratina from the Distortion World. After that, they become friendly rivals.
  • Soul Chess has Aizen Sosuke and Lamperouge Lelouch, as explicitly stated by both the narrative and the characters themselves. Lelouch despised Aizen after the man engineered the deaths of his captain (who was like a mother to him), her successor/lover (who Lelouch was in love with) and the exile of several friends of his (Urahara, Yoruichi, Soifon, Tessai, and the Visored). Meanwhile, like in canon, Aizen sought a rival. Instead of Ichigo (who, while still of interest to Aizen because of his potential strength, was designated as the "back-up hero"), he chose Lelouch. While not as naturally talented in combat like Aizen and Ichigo, Lelouch's vast intellect rivaled if not surpassed that of both Aizen and Urahara Kisuke (both of whom Lelouch has defeated in chess several times). That being said, Aizen did not truly come to hate Lelouch until after the man had stopped his initial plan cold by Geassing him to commit suicide. Then, when he returned from hell to exact revenge only to be stopped again by his rival, Lelouch refuses to acknowledge him. This leaves Aizen enraged, and by the time the final arc rolls around it's fairly obvious Aizen's main priority (after attaining enough power to kill the Soul King) is to screw over Lelouch in any way he can. Rather fittingly, the final battle is a one-on-one Duel to the Death between them after Lelouch merges with the Hogyoku and is finally able to fight Aizen as an equal.
  • Forum of Thrones:
    • Maron Mullendore is this to many characters actually. Lucas considers him his arch-enemy, as do Leonard and Harpy. He himself considers neither a worthy arch-enemy, even if his opinion on Harpy changed after she came very close to killing him.
    • Rayden is this to Clayton. They have been partners before, working together, but ultimately getting into a fight, which ended with Clayton losing an eye and Rayden receiving a gruesome scar over his chest. When Rayden reappears, he quickly starts to antagonize Clayton, even mocking him over his missing eye.
    • In general, the Burned Man and Butterfly are arch-enemies and their fight is a constant source of conflict in Oldtown.
    • Historically, the Dornish are this to the Kingdom of the Stormlands. At the time of the story, they are still openly at war, although their battles are nothing more but small skirmishes in the Dornish Marches.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim keeps the canonical rivalry between Zim and Dib, though Tak's presence as a major character opposed to both makes it somewhat of a trifecta.
    • Viera becomes Gaz's arch enemy, as the two cannot stand each other.
    • That said, it could be argued that Gaz has another arch enemy in the form of Iggins, though he only shows up once.
    • Shortly after being introduced in Season 2, Nyx becomes this to Tenn. As the former is a Bomb Throwing Anarchist revolutionary and the latter is a Consummate Professional imperial loyalist, it's only natural.
  • In Total Drama fanfic series Monster Chronicles Cedric isn't particularly well liked by anyone in the cast, but there are two contestants he has a particularly bad relationship with:
    • Duncan has every reason to both fear and hate Cedric for nearly having killed him in juvie, but their relationship only got worse once Cedric got involved in the game. After Duncan recognizes him, Cedric proceeds to blackmail Duncan into keeping his involvement a secret, before terrorizing him and constantly humiliating for shits and giggles. When Duncan finally stands up to him and presses his Berserk Button, Cedric tries to kill Duncan again, only being stopped by Courtney and Gwen spotting him. Afterward, he brutalizes his ex-girlfriend Courtney and tries to kill his current one Gwen out of spite, before getting the latter eliminated. This all culminates in Duncan providing the final blow towards Cedric in New Orleans.
    • Cody is the only contestant that Cedric legitimately hates and considers more than a plaything, and the feeling is very mutual on Cody's part. Finding Cedric in his attic when he was twelve, Cody was tricked into letting Cedric possess him without knowing he was a demon. Upon learning that Cedric had been committing murder with his body, Cody turned against him and sealed him away in his mind by accident. Once Cedric awakened six years later, he was furious that Cody had interfered with his plans and responded by sealing Cody's soul into a potato battery before manipulating his friend Tyler to help him in his plans using Cody's appearance. However, Cody still managed to manipulate the events of the game against Cedric by leaving a hidden message for the other contestants which Duncan would later find and use to help Cody get his body back. This all culminates in the final challenge where Cody leads Cedric into a trap with the help of Tyler and Duncan which ends in Cedric's defeat.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Loved And Lost, Commander Hildread seems to regard Shining Armor as her nemesis. In her very first appearance, she makes her hatred of him crystal clear. Though sadistic anyway, she takes special pleasure from torturing and taunting the disgraced captain who expelled her from the Royal Guard because she believed too much in using extreme brutality in the name of security. She also confesses during the climax that she has always hated him and considered him too soft to be a competent captain of the Royal Guard. Though she feels uneasy about her master's decision to mass murder all the inhabitants of Ponyville, she refuses to admit being wrong when Shining Armor calls her out and tries to kill him.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Loki and Heimdall in Norse Mythology. Fittingly enough, they kill each other in Ragnarok. There's also Thor and Jormungandr who do the same.
  • Older Than Dirt Egyptian Mythology examples:
    • Re/Ra and Apophis/Apep.
    • Osiris and Set. Also Horus and Set.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Urza and Yawgmoth is the best known Arch Enemy pairing, although there are dozens of individual hatreds. They've even released a variant named Arch Enemy, although that's dedicated more to a dynamic of Big Bad vs. Enemy Mine.
  • While everyone in Warhammer 40,000 will gladly fight everyone else, there are some special rivalries and hatreds. The Imperium of Man is the staunchest enemies of the Forces of Chaos, the Eldar fought the Necrons once before and have taken it upon themselves to take them down now they have re-awoken, the Tau view the Tyranids as the single greatest threat to their survival (and they may not be far off from the truth), the Space Wolves and the Thousand Suns and the Ultramarines and the Word Bearers Space Marine chapters have intense rivalries stretching back millennia, the Chaos Gods Khorne and Slaanesh battle constantly to one-up each other, and the Orks are constantly this to everyone including themselves.
    • As an illustration of how deeply the Ultramarines vs Word Bearers hatred runs: in the Horus Heresy novels, it is revealed that the Ultramarines keep a precise count of time since the beginning of a battle - known as the Mark. The Mark of Calth, for the battle in which the Word Bearers first attacked the Ultramarines, will be left running until every Word Bearer is dead. Meaning that an Ultramarine can give you a precise count of how long it is they have wanted the Word Bearers to die, even ten thousand years after the original battle. Now that is enmity.
    • On a smaller, more individual basis, there's Commissar Yarrick and Warboss Mag Uruk Thraka; Thraka thinks Yarrick is the greatest enemy he has ever fought and takes great enjoyment out of battling him, and Yarrick thinks Thraka is a hideous abomination and has vowed to kill him personally. They're still fighting to the death.
    • The Eldar and Slaanesh have a very deep and personal enmity. The Eldar actually created Slaanesh through centuries of murderous hedonistic depravity. The birth of Slaanesh and its rampant slaughter of the Eldar pantheon is the entire reason the Eldar are a Dying Race. Slaanesh also claims any unprotected Eldar soul as its plaything after death. The various cultures of the remaining Eldar revolve entirely around finding ways to prevent She Who Thirsts from getting its disgusting appendages on their souls. The Eldar hate and fear Slaanesh more than anything else. Slaanesh for its part considers Eldar to be particularly amusing playthings.
    • Ahzek Ahriman seems to be becoming more and more of one to the Eldar Harlequins due to his obsession with the Black Library they guard. He's killed a lot of Eldar during his mad quest to unlock the Library's secrets.
    • The Emperor of Mankind to the Chaos Gods and vice versa. The Emperor tried to create a galaxy wide Flat-Earth Atheist empire for the sole purpose of killing the gods by depriving them of worship. While this probably wouldn't have worked since the Chaos Gods are sustained by emotion itself, the Chaos Gods still feared the Emperor of Mankind enough to directly interfere in the physical realm as opposed to acting indirectly through daemons and cultists just to throw a wrench in his plans. They notably haven't done anything like that again since the Emperor was placed on the Golden Throne. The Emperor was also the only being who actually hurt the Chaos Gods directly when he blasted their host Horus with psychic power.
    • The Iron Warriors utterly hate the Imperial Fists for sharing their specialty - siege warfare - but getting a lot more honour and praise for it. It began one-sided, with Perturabo nursing a grudge over Rogal Dorn offhandedly saying his Legion was better at it, but given the number of times the two have fought, it's become much less balanced now. The protagonist of the Iron Warriors novels, Honsou, has as his arch-enemy Uriel Ventris of the Ultramarines, because he's not motivated by the enmities of his Legion but by who's pissed him off specifically.
    • Generally, on the tabletop, enmity of this depth is handled with Hatred (Enemy Goes Here), which means that in the first round of any close combat, the hateful unit gets re-rolls to hit against their targets. Some rules, such as those in Traitor Legions, go beyond this into a sort of super-hatred that applies these re-rolls in all rounds of close combat: Word Bearers against Ultramarines, Iron Warriors against Imperial Fists, Thousand Sons against Space Wolves, and Black Legion, who aren't picky and get this against all Loyalist Space Marines. This would probably not have been necessary had the Veterans of the Long War upgrade, which is mandatory and generally free to all Legions using these rules, not given them ordinary Hatred of loyalist Marines already - gaining Hatred (Imperial Fists) isn't super-impressive when you already benefit from Hatred of the Imperial Fists, and also the Ultramarines, Salamanders, Black Templars, Grey Knights and basically everyone else into the bargain.
    • 8th edition has Chaos Marines losing Hatred specifically, but gaining a new rule called "Death to the False Emperor": whenever a Chaos Marine unit rolls a 6 to hit in melee against an Imperial unit, they immediately get another attack. Get enough Chaos melee troops into close proximity with an Imperial unit and watch the mayhem.
  • Eric and the Dread Gazebo.
  • Dungeons & Dragons fourth edition setting, the Nentir Vale, has a sourcebook detailing the realms of the gods, called The Plane Above. In it it mentions certain gods who have a special, personal hatred for one another, giving the examples as Bahamut vs Tiamat, Avandra vs Zehir, and Moradin vs Asmodeus. With the exception of Bahamut and Tiamat, these examples are kind of out of the blue. Other examples include Gruumsh vs Corellon (which is taken from their Forgotten Realms counterparts), as well as The Raven Queen and Orcus, though Orcus is generally traditionally seen as the arch enemy of Demogorgon.
    • Speaking of Dungeons & Dragons, Bane and Cyric. They hate each other worse than they hate any of the good gods.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, this seems to be the case between D.D. Warrior Lady and Warrior Dai Grepher. They are seen fighting on several Spell and Trap Cards in a feud that started when she was Warrior Lady of the Wasteland and continued when he became Dark Lucious. The first one was Simultaneous Loss, but there were several others.
  • As it is heavily influenced by comic books, Sentinels of the Multiverse uses Arch Enemies quite a bit. Every playable hero character has a Villain nemesis (though there are some cards in villain and environment decks that have nemesis icons). Damage one deals to their nemesis is increased by one. For some pairs, this is one sided, such as the Argent Adept, a support hero who has few attacking powers, and his nemesis Akash'Bhuta, who has several ways to deal damage though her Limbs.
    • The Villain Team-Up expansions take this a bit further. The five main villains of Vengeance and ten of Villains of the Multiverse have several targets in their decks that gain special effects that specifically weaken their nemesis if their nemesis is active. Calypso (a nemesis of Ra) reduces fire damage if Ra is active, which is the only damage type Ra deals. Hilariously, Fanatic's mini-nemesis in Vengeance, the Seer, can actually work in your favour because he prevents heroes from inflicting damage to themselves: while this is a problem for Fanatic (who has a number of "damage yourself for a benefit" effects and likes to put her HP at risk), it becomes hilarious if you have Sky-Scraper on the same team, because Sky-Scraper's Large form has an awful lot of effects that deal splash damage recklessly.
    • Usually, the nemesis icon comes from the hero: the various Baron Blades, for example, have Legacy's lantern symbol, while Deadline has the Naturalist's star iconography. The one exception is OblivAeon; as the Final Boss of the entire timeline, and a character who forced multiple villains to pull a Heel–Face Turn or at least an Enemy Mine with the heroes, his record-setting seven archnemesesnote  have his symbol on them, rather than the other way around.
    • Notably, nemesis icons provide their damage boost no matter what side the target is on. In the case of heroes who share a symbol (usually this will happen in cases like the OblivAeon ex-villain characters), this can be a detriment; for example, if Stuntman's mine goes off and hits other ex-villains it will deal bonus damage to all of them. Other times, such as if you have ways to get villain cards to hit each other, it's hilarious.
  • This is actually a game mechanic in Adventure. The "Nemesis" background allows the player to create an arch-foe for their hero, and the hero gets certain advantages when facing their hated enemy. How many ranks you take in the background determines the level of their enmity.
  • Antagonist, an available bad trait in Rocket Age can either give you a minor enemy or a full blown antagonist, depending on the level of the trait.


Alternative Title(s): Arch Nemesis, Arch Enemies, Arch Nemeses

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