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Sliding Scale of Villain Threat

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An antagonist can be classed on three orthogonal parameters:

This is a method of quantifying the first one.

Superman is locked in a battle with Lex Luthor, who is threatening to melt the polar icecaps and flood the world. Meanwhile, in Gotham, the Joker is going to gas the city. Meanwhile again in space, the Green Lantern is getting ready to defend against the invading Sinestro Corps. All of these examples have villains that are exhibiting differing levels of threat.

You can class various villains on tiers of the type of threat they present to the world and the heroes. The Sorting Algorithm of Evil will usually ensure that the hero's successive opponents will each be higher on the scale than the last, but, due to the SAoE's caring about effectiveness as well as scope, not always. In general, the hero will also have the same potential for destruction as his villains, but usually is slightly below them, because underdogs are more relatable. Having a wild range of villains may help avoid causing a feeling that The World Is Always Doomed because Evil Only Has to Win Once. Having a hero with a Story-Breaker Power usually upsets this dynamic, or forces a jump in villain up the scale.

Most series that lean towards the realistic side of the scale do not venture beyond villains that are Planetary Threats, as villains that are Stellar Threats and above tends to put a lot of pressure on Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Shifting too far up the scale, especially over a short period of time, is an easy way to Jump the Shark.

When talking about some villains, this is very much related to how much they can abuse the Kardashev Scale for death and maiming. Contrast with Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness, when you're talking about the audience's reaction to a character rather than the threat they represent, and Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness when talking about how well they succeed. Villains who learn that they are rather low on the scale may aspire to climb higher. If a villain does keep climbing higher, they are a Snowballing Threat.

Local Area Threat

The villain poses significant harm to a small group of people or a localized area.


City Threat

Villain possesses capabilities to do significant damage to or destroy a city.


Regional Threat

  • Villain wields the capacity to be a significant threat to a part of a continent or landmass. This consists of two types:

Examples of State/province threats The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, some of 24's Big Bads (Stephen Saunders, Habib Marwan, Abu Fayed, Jonas Hodges), the Defias Brotherhood, Prometheus, The Evil Hybrids, Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the Earl of Lemongrab, The Slaughterhouse 9, Akihiko Kayaba and Nobuyuki Sugo, Kamal Khan and General Orlov, The High Table.

Examples of National threats

Continental Threat

Villain has the capabilities to destroy or take over an entire continent or even an entire landmass, with the ability to turn it into a Crapsack World.

Planetary Threat

Villain poses significant threat to the world at large, up to and including World Domination and/or Earth-Shattering Kaboom. In worst case scenario, is an Omnicidal Maniac. Usually via large army, colossal superpowers, or a Doomsday Device. Evil Overlord tends to describe them. A fictional Emperor is likely to be portrayed as a villain of at least this threat level. At this point, you should start checking out Apocalypse How.


Stellar Threat

Forces able to credibly threaten an entire solar system up to even an entire star cluster, but probably not able to dominate a galaxy. Galactic Conqueror starts here.


Galactic Threat

The Villain has the capability to destroy or control the best part of the galaxy. Galactic Conquerors are this threat level.


Universal Threat

Villain can conquer the universe, or even cause The End of the World as We Know It — all of creation blinked out or ground beneath an iron boot. Dimension Lords are this threat level.


Multiversal Threat

Just to one up those small-timers above, these guys won't stop at a single universe; they'll cross time and space to either take control over or just smash the entire Multiverse to pieces. See Multiversal Conqueror.


Omniversal Threat

Just to go even further than those small fries above, these villains will not stop at a single Multiverse, but they will cross all of reality to take over or simply destroy the totality of The 'Verse/Series Franchise (if said totality exists beyond a Multiverse), taking control over or obliterating all alternate dimensions, planes of existence, parallel universes, possible universes, timelines, alternate continuities, realities, and Multiverses within said totality. This is often enough to put a villain firmly into Complete Monster territory regardless of the work's heinous standard, assuming they have no other redeeming/mitigating factors.

See also Super Weight, which is more about measuring characters (including villains) in terms of raw power.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sorting Algorithm Of Villain Threat


Threat Levels

Technically there's also "wolf" level, but those are considered jokes compared to the others.

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