If there was ever a character that deserved to be called "Magnificent", that character is the Magnificent Bastard. The Magnificent Bastard is what happens when you combine The Chessmaster, The Trickster, and the Manipulative Bastard: bold, charismatic, independent, audacious and genius. Capturing the audience with their charisma, incredible intellect, mastery of manipulation, and boldness of action, this character is a show-stealer, demanding your reverence at every turn. The term "Magnificent Bastard" was first used by General Patton in reference to Erwin Rommel in the film Patton, upon realizing that he was facing a man who literally wrote the book on deceptive warfare. It acquired its current meaning courtesy of Lionel Luthor of Smallville, who was given this nickname by the Television Without Pity boards.
So what makes a character a Magnificent Bastard? Let's break it down:
- They are brilliant and utterly devious. Call it genius, call it virtual omniscience, but they always seem to know what everyone else is planning at any given moment and makes them play right into their hands, and exactly how to arrange the game so they win even when they have been defeated.
- They are a smooth operator. They always have a backup strategy and never lose their cool. Even if on the remote chance something happens that wasn't in their plans, you'd never know it from his actions. Didn't See That Coming doesn't derail them; if their plans are foiled, they can always improvise.
- They have a goal, they're not going to stop until they've completed it, whatever it is. To that end they will do anything. They'll move heaven and hell. Despite their choice of tactics, they are rarely if ever pointlessly cruel, and those who are tend to be so creative in their cruelty that it practically becomes an art form.
- They are charismatic, often charming, their personality is like a physical force. People tend to like them, sometimes even when they know they aren't on their side, and even those who hate their guts have to admit respect. Even when at their darkest, they have traits which one can't help but admire.
- They are savvy. They do not fall for obvious traps, release the Sealed Evil in a Can or negotiate a Deal with the Devil before having devised The Plan to deal with it. Bringing them down is a long process of getting them cornered, although sometimes it is abrupt and played for shock value to show someone's awesomeness by comparison. Heaven help you if you do manage to trick them.
- They detest usurpers of their power. Intensely. Anyone under their charge who even thinks of toying with them, competing with them, or going behind their back will learn quickly that Failure Is the Only Option. As far as the Magnificent Bastard is concerned, they have a full-fledged patent, copyright and trademark on the word "evil", and they live for reminding their entire circle of minions and thugs who is in charge. Those who can't handle it might as well team up with the good guys, because they'll probably die at the Magnificent Bastard's hands anyway. If the Bastard is particularly good at what they do, the wannabe may find that their own plans have been incorporated into the Magnificent Bastard's own.
- They are Audacious beyond belief. Probably the biggest thing that sets the Magnificent Bastard apart from The Chessmaster or a Manipulative Bastard is their ability to set themselves goals that seem suicidally over-ambitious and succeed with style. If everything goes exactly to plan, they don't just succeed in this outlandish goal. They do so in a way that leaves their foes screaming the Magnificent Bastard's name at the sky.
- They are definitely not dirty cowards. If they have to fight, they can and they will.
While usually an antagonist, especially if they're the Big Bad, the Magnificent Bastard can be aligned on either side of a conflict. Hell, they're so amazing they tend to forgo the idea of good and evil altogether, instead following their own agenda, choosing to help whichever side will further their goals. However, it's true that their penchant for manipulation at the expense of others means it's common for them to be a Villain, Villain Protagonist, or at least an Anti-Hero. Either way, they're usually in charge of whatever organization they're involved with, or might as well be.
Aside from all the various aspects which come together to define the Magnificent Bastard, compare and contrast the Smug Snake, who fell short due to their own arrogance. When a villainous Magnificent Bastard become so over the top that they are no longer believable, then they become a Villain Sue (a regular Mary Sue for the heroic version). Also compare and contrast the Guile Hero, who uses cleverness, trickery and manipulation but is generally on the side of good and often lacks the flair and depth of-planning to elevate them to Magnificent Bastard status. Despite the term, they are not likely to be a Bastard Bastard, thanks to that person's inherent daddy issues, but there's nothing preventing them either.
Rarely a Complete Monster, because audiences are likely to find it harder to admire such a character, but some bastards are so magnificent that they can get around this. Being a Smug Snake is a common trait of bastards trying to be magnificent.
As Willing Suspension of Disbelief and popularity can vary from person to person in an audience, so will which characters qualify for the title or fall under some other trope such as those stated above. Check this page out if you want to Write a Magnificent Bastard of your own.
Now divided into:
- Comic Books
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Western Animation