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Thematic Rogues Gallery

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"So of course Aquaman's worst enemy is a guy with underwater powers, because if Aquaman's worst enemy had, say, highway overpass powers it wouldn't be much of a show. 'Doctor Turnpike has snarled traffic again? What am I supposed to do, tell a couple giant squid to crawl to Ohio and stop him? Call me if there's a tidal wave or something. I'm good with tidal waves. Did you know that the Japanese call them 'tsunami'?'
Lore Sjoberg, The Book of Ratings

It's our hero, the Egregious Trope-Man! With his amazing trope-related powers, he always saves the day!

But oh no! Here comes the Legion of Evil: Dr von Trope, The Dog Kicker, The Chessmaster, Superdick, Mr. Macekre (and his Brotherhood of Bowdlerization), and Sir Jerkass! Together they'll bring about The End of the World as We Know It...

Wait, you mean all his villains have trope-related powers? What's up with that!? Where are all the bank robbers, mutants, time travelers and magical alien robot monkeys?

Yes, it seems that for the vast majority of heroes, many if not all of their opponents will share the same powers, backgrounds, and personalities as our heroes. Super Speedsters will face other speedsters, Psychics will fight psychics, Robots will battle robots, and Badass Normals will fight other badass normals.

Deeper than that, villains will often have similar motivations and personalities to the hero as well. A light-hearted, jokey hero will get lots of equally light-hearted villains to exchange insults with, while a dark, angsty hero will get a Rogues Gallery of emo villains to have dark, nihilistic discussions with mid-battle. A hero with an animal theme will end up being constantly annoyed by animal-themed villains, while an Elemental hero will always find bad guys with comparable elemental themes.

Even when characters are known to live in a shared continuity such as the The DCU or Marvel Universe, villain types will rarely leak from one comic to another - Spider-Man'' rarely finds himself up against the Powered Armor villains Iron Man faces on a daily basis. Of course, a shared continuity makes this much easier to justify, too. Spider-Man isn't going against the powered armor villains because Iron Man has it handled, that's why.

There are a number of reasons for this trope:

  • If someone wants to read about giant robots or motorbike-riding badasses, that's probably the kind of thing that interests them, so more of the same is always welcome.
  • It might be easier to work with Willing Suspension of Disbelief if the character doesn't have a hundred different sub-genres wedging in their own mythology. This is based on what Blake Snyder would call "the rule of Double Mumbo Jumbo," meaning that an audience will accept only one type of magic in a movie. For example, you can't have aliens and vampires in the same movie.
  • It's difficult to write plausible stories for a character with more gimmicky powers. A Flying Brick is effective against a range of adversaries, while if your only power is psychically controlling cupcakes, you'll more likely than not find yourself facing a range of fearsome baking-related foes.
  • If your hero is not all that powerful, putting them up against a galaxy-eating Eldritch Abomination is going to end in tears - "Galactus would kill Captain America." Mismatches like that are just asking for trouble.note 
    • The reverse is also true as powerful heroes fighting guys below their weight class does not play well into drama: Superman versus purse snatchers is sort of humiliating for everyone involved.
      • The Rogues' Gallery Transplant frequently ties into this trope as a result. Sometimes, when a villain is created for a particular hero's Rogues Gallery, it eventually becomes clear that he's better suited for another hero.
  • It helps link, compare and contrast the hero and the villains he faces if their powers or backgrounds are similar.

In story, this can be justified in a number of ways:

  • There is only one basic type of enemy around, or only one type of superpowers exists in this universe (though subtypes are possible). This only holds for a stand-alone series - crossovers with other comics make this justification untenable.
    • Devilman fought demons, simply because Demons were the only real threat.
  • The Hero's job is to fight that type of enemy. Other enemies fall under other jurisdictions.
    • The BRPD from Hellboy fights supernatural threats, because that is the BRPD's purpose.
  • The Hero may be obligated to fight one type of enemy for some reason.
    • Danny Phantom only fights ghosts, because it was partially his fault that ghosts were released in the first place.
  • The Hero's power only works on a certain type of foe, or he works within a particular space or domain where he would naturally confront similarly powered individuals.
    • Aquaman lives underwater, his powers are attuned to be most effective underwater and the ocean is the domain of the planet he is responsible for protecting. Many threats to the world's oceans come from the ocean, and are therefore also beings whose abilities are attuned to be most effective underwater. And both he and them are already there in the ocean, so they will naturally be the first to confront each other.
  • The Hero's powers attracts like-minded villains.
    • Iron Man's Powered Armor appeals to the engineer in Powered Armor-wearing villains; the Hulk's strength from radiation appeals to villains who want to use radiation to power themselves and their henchmen; the animal totem of Spider-Man calls forth the likes of genetic engineers that will themselves attempt other animals in themselves or in their allies, exceptions such as Sandman, Electro or Hydroman are not far fetched as much as an element replaces an animal and becomes the focus of the wild side in them; Batman's insanity appeals to the insane and his gimmicks to those prone to them.

The effects of this trope are generally more pronounced in adaptations, which usually only have time to showcase one or two villains. Hence, rather than get bogged down with dozens of different origin stories for all the different types of villain, the gallery will be streamlined and backstories tweaked so that less explanation is required to get the story going.

This trope often overlaps with Plot Tailored to the Party, when a disproportionate number of villains appear who to have powers similar to those of a minor or useless hero in a Heroes Unlimited setting show up, just to give the hero something to do.

Of course, pitting heroes against villains that generally outpower them can be a good way of spicing up an ongoing series. Moments of Awesome result when this is handled well, and the hero comes up with a creative way to beat the bad guy.

In some series, particularly Long-Runners that have been developed over many years or even decades, some members of the Rogues Gallery may not fit the theme. Batman, for instance, has gathered a respectable number of enemies who have actual super-powers, although the overall theme of his Rogues Gallery is that of the crazy Badass Normal whose crimes are based around some sort of specific theme.

Finally, depending on the hero, his or her Rogues Gallery may have multiple themes. Not all of Spider-Man's enemies fit the Animal Motifs theme, but the ones that don't tend to be the results of science gone bad. Indeed, some spider-villains (Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, the Scorpion) fit both themes. This is pretty much destined to happen in well established and long running series, so most superhero comics fit this.

Naturally, contrast Outside-Context Problem when there's one villain who doesn't fit into the theme.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Just about every villain in Pokťmon: The Series is either a Pokemon trainer of some kind or a Pokemon of some kind. Or both, in the case of Mewtwo.
  • This is very prevalent in Super Robot Genre shows. Usually, Humongous Mecha are used to fight equally giant Robeasts:
    • The Mazinger franchise:
      • Mazinger Z fought Dr. Hell's Mechanical Beasts.
      • Great Mazinger fought Mykene's Warrior Beasts. The Mykene army also was split in seven thematically-organized divisions: the armies of Superhumans, Evil Ghosts, Mammalian, Avian, Aquatic, Insect and Reptilian Battle Beasts.
      • UFO Robo Grendizer was an alien-created Humongous Mecha fought robots created by an alien civilization.
    • Getter Robo fought cybernetic dinosaurs, robotic demons, insect-like alien races or any other Eldritch Abomination foolish enough to attack Earth.
    • Kotetsu Jeeg fought the Haniwa Phantom Gods, ancient statues reanimated and transformed into spectre-like giant monsters through sorcery.
    • Raideen fought robotic demons.
    • The Robot Romance Trilogy:
      • Combattler V fought Campbellians Slave Beasts and Magma Monsters.
      • Voltes V fought Beast Fighters, fighting robots that mimicked Earth animals.
      • Daimos fought Battle Robots and Mecha Warriors.
    • Zambot3 was another "alien robot fighting other alien robots" situation. In this instance, its enemies were the Mecha Bursts.
    • Daitarn3 waged war against the Mega Borgs.
  • Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Five-Man Band fought the armies and animal-shaped giant mechas from Galactor.
  • Saints in Saint Seiya only seem to fight similarly armoured enemies, with similar Cosmo based powers. Justified in early arcs since their enemies were Saints from the Sanctuary, just like our heroes. Later on, not so much.
  • Naturally, just about every recurring villain in Yu-Gi-Oh! is an evil gamer of some sort. Even before the Duel Monsters card game took over the show, most of the villains who weren't random thugs tried to challenge Yugi to a game, often with the intent of dethroning him as the King of Games.
  • The heroes of Cyborg 009 often found themselves up against evil cyborgs created by the same evil organization that created them. The titular character in particular tends to fight foes with the same acceleration power as him, because they're the only ones who can really give him a good fight.
  • In Chrono Crusade, most of what Chrono and Rosette fight are demons, with the occasional supernatural beast. However, like the Hellboy example in the description, the religious order they work for only focuses on destroying those types of creatures.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, every villain from Part 3 onward is a Stand user. Which is a bit jarring, since the previous 2 arcs mainly involved fighting vampires, with an assortment of other foes such as cyborg Nazis. Also, Part 3 specifically had Stand users themed around horror movie monsters.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the protagonist starts by learning martial arts to fight only regular bullies, progresses through fighting teenage delinquents who are martial arts users, and eventually ends up fighting martial artists who are actively opposing Martial Pacifism. We don't actually see him fighting ordinary delinquents (except a little in the earlier period).
  • In Fairy Tail, nearly every major antagonist is a powerful wizard or magical monster. The only exceptions were a pair of martial artist brothers who spent a lifetime training to counter wizards and got curbstomped by Natsu anyway, and the Arc Villain King Faust, who was an ordinary person piloting a magical Humongous Mecha. Some of the main Fairy Tail characters also fight different types of enemies. Natsu either fights the Arc Villain — since he is a.) The Hero and b.) his Super Mode is usually the only thing powerful enough to beat the Arc Villain — or other Dragon Slayers. Erza more often than not fights other weapon users. Lucy usually has to fight other wizards who use Summon Magic or some oddball power. Gray's foes often have more variety, but a good number of them are also ice wizards.
  • In Naruto, Word of God has it that each of the main villains were designed to be a foil to some aspect of the heroes' personal philosophies or ethics. The Land of Waves arc set this up well, with Zabuza articulating and representing pretty much all of the villainous themes that all subsequent major villains symbolised in one way or another- the series is loaded with this trope. Some of these "bad guy" themes are:
    • Contempt of Bonds: While Naruto is a poster boy for The Power of Friendship, nearly all of the villains in the series are Missing-Nin- ninja who have defected from their village, for whatever reason but in most cases after committing some serious crime. Sasuke left the Leaf because he felt that his bonds were holding him back from his potential; Akatsuki symbolise the cutting of their bonds to their village by scratching the symbol on their headbands; in ROOT as well as the old "Bloody Mist" nin are required to kill their classmates in fights to the death so that bonds and emotions don't get in the way of completing their mission; the Mangekou Sharingan usually requires murder of friends and family members to be attained. Several villains try, and sometimes succeed, to kill their old mentors or parental figures as well, as well as their old friends.
    • Transcending Humanity: As Zabuza articulated, ninjas are human, even if they try not to be. Most of the bad guys take this and run with it, doing all sorts of horrible things to themselves to become something other than human- Orochimaru, Sasori, Kabuto, Kakuzu and Danzou all use all sorts of body modification jutsu on themselves (several heroes and hero-clans do this too, but the bad guy versions are usually a lot more radical and inhuman, sometimes intentionally). Others are more psychological- this was Itachi's original justification for massacring his clan (to "test my capacity"), while Nagato thinks he has evolved to become a god, something Madara and Orochimaru aim for more literally.
    • Peace: Naruto and other good guys want to make the world more peaceful. Likewise, Pain and Itachi are both Well Intentioned Extremists using more radical measures to attain or maintain the peace; Orochimaru, meanwhile, believes War Is Glorious which was one of his justifications for attacking the Leaf Village- he had grown tired of the peace, and wanted to start a war. Danzou is somewhere in the middle, basically believing ninja should frequently engage in battle, brutality and political backstabbing so that they can be tough enough enforce the peace for their respective villages.
    • Human Weapons: The tension between the idea that ninja are both living weapons to be used as tools, and human beings with feelings and dreams. Haku to Zabuza and both to Gatou; the Sound ninja (esp. Kimmimaro) to Orochimaru; ROOT to Danzou; Akatsuki and Sasuke to Madara; Team Hawk to Sasuke. Pain both tries to avert this trope (thinking his fellow Akatsuki should work together and respect each other) and takes it to an extreme (using dead ninja as extensions of his own body and mind). The jutsu Edo Tensei (where dead ninja are resurrected as zombie pawns) and Sasori's human puppets both invoke this theme literally.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: As a Bakumatsu-era swordsman, Kenshin Himura tends to fight other swordsmen. Many of these adversaries tend to be focused on some psychological aspect of that era that they just can't let go of (for example, Jin-E couldn't forsake his bloodthirsty tendencies despite the Meiji era being one of nominal peace, Aoshi was obsessed with having never gotten to prove the Oniwabanshu's combat strength, and the majority of the Six Comrades wanted revenge for having suffered various personal losses by Kenshin's hand during that period) or hate the current government for its disguised corruption and/or perceived Badass Decay and want to take it down (Shishio and the anime's version of Raijuta, for instance).
  • All Dragon Ball main villains after and including King Piccolo up to Omega Shenron from GT were sadistic Arrogant Kung Fu Guys equipped with supernatural kung fu, including the standard Flying Brick Ki Manipulation power set (the only exceptions are the Androids, and they were really never the big bad of their arc, and had energy attacks that were functionally the same as Ki), whose main motivations were to prove their superior power and rub in that fact to weaker beings. They all also tended to be Blood Knights of the opinion that Hard Work Hardly Works, to contrast them with Goku. Although to be fair, the villains were all very creative and different from the last
  • One Piece: While they tangle with the Marines a fair amount, the Strawhats still primarily fight other pirates who are competing in the Grand Line. On a broader level, this connects to the theme of Dreams in the series; many of Luffy's fellow pirates are aiming for the treasure One Piece as well but for often for vastly different reasons: Power, Respect, Influence in contrast to Luffy's love of freedom on the ocean.
    • Most of the main antagonists also tend to be people who abuse their subordinates, use them as pawns, or hold some sort of twisted/false relationship with them; a contrast to Luffy's emphasis within the story as a friendly captain and honest leader figure. Some main antagonist examples are Caesar, Spandam, Linlin, Hody, Kuro, Krieg, Morgan, and Enel.
  • In EDENS ZERO, one of the overlying themes is that Androids Are People, Too, so a sizeable chunk of its villains are either robot-hating humans who believe every last one is Just a Machine, or human-hating robots (and some humans) who are out to Kill All Humans. The series also sees a sharp increase in evil Ether Gear users once the Badass Normals, Cyborgs and Humongous Mecha pilots start to lag behind the heroes, who also use Ether Gear. Also, nearly every significant villain and some of their subordinates are abhorrent Hate Sinks who maim and kill others around them on a regular basis, or have a history of doing so, to highlight both the universe's cruelty and the heroes's uncommon camaraderie.

    Comic Books 
  • The X-Men mostly fight other mutants and anti-mutant terror cells. The most frequent non-mutant adversaries they face are aliens such as the Brood, the Shi'ar, and/or enemies thereof, and Mojo and Spiral, as well as the occasional magical enemy like Belasco. On several occasions, they've also been pitted against contract killer Arcade. X-Men is a prime example of villains being Retooled to fit the pattern too: Juggernaut (who originally got his powers from a gemstone possessed by a deity) became a mutant in the movie, while alien Spiral became a mutant in the Ultimate Marvel continuities.
  • While Iron Man's archnemesis is the magical/alien powered psychic Mandarin, most of the rest of his Rogues Gallery consists of people like Iron Monger, the Crimson Dynamo (and there have been fourteen Crimson Dynamos), Dreadknight, Controller, Titanium Man etc, all of whom wear Powered Armor.
    • It should be noted that the Mandarin isn't so much magic-powered as it's alien tech that just looks like it's magic-powered.
    • Another underlying theme is how Iron Man's enemies are related to capitalism in some way. The Mandarin was created when Mao Zedong was at the height of his power in Red China and has since gone on to become a reactionary feudalist who wants to turn back the economic and social clock to the days of Imperial China. The Titanium Man, the Unicorn and the Crimson Dynamo represented Soviet Russia at a time when the Cold War was at its height. The American villains also apply; the original Blizzard was a dishonest employee fired by Tony Stark for stealing from the company, the original Firebrand was an anarchist who wanted to destroy big business, and guys like Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer were Corrupt Corporate Executives who utilized underhanded and illegal means to get a competitive edge on Stark, who, while amoral and hedonistic before the near-death experience that made him a superhero, was never as cut-throat as either of them. Obadiah Stane's son, Ezekial, is an anarchocapitalist libertarian.
  • There's nary a Ghost Rider villain who isn't a demon or demonically powered. And if they aren't either of those, they have a wicked sick awesome vehicle. This and the above occasionally overlap. The few who don't fit either category are artifacts from his days as a more normal superhero, where none of his villains would've looked out of place fighting Captain America or the Fantastic Four. Granted, guys like the Water Wizard and the Orb weren't exactly the greatest threats the world has ever seen... Archangels have also been added to his rogues gallery.
  • Virtually everyone Static fought got their powers from the same chemical accident Static himself did.
  • Aquaman's entire Rogues Gallery has almost no non-ocean related villains. Admittedly, there was a lot of variety among them otherwise, and once he moved to Sub Diego, there was a lot of more usual crime to foil (like robbery and such). Marvel's Sub-Mariner has the same thing going on, even though he can also fly. It's when people mess with that formula that things get weird.
  • Martian Manhunter's enemies either have Shapeshifting or psychic abilities to match him, are martian themselves or have something to do with fire.
  • Lampshaded and justified during J. Michael Straczynski's run on The Amazing Spider-Man. A character named Ezekiel talks about this phenomenon for the X-Men, Captain America, and Thor, as well as Peter's own tendency to fight animal-themed villains - such as Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, and the Rhino. And the Scorpion, and the Jackal, and the Black Fox, and the Black Cat, and the Grizzly, and the Gibbon, and the Kangaroo, and the Walrus, and the White Rabbit, and...
    • The main theme of Spidey's gallery, however, is Power and Responsibility. Like Spidey, many of his enemies got their powers by chance, either being offered it by somebody out of nowhere (Rhino, Scorpion, Eddie Brock) or like Peter as the result of a Freak Lab Accident (Ock, Osborn, Sandman, Curt Connors). In both cases they chose to use their powers irresponsibly, and unlike Spider-Man they were always either looking for it or at least given the choice not to attain it or reject it, rather than having it totally thrust on them as Peter did (Ock, Osborn and Connors all had accidents, but there were also always messing with science and power they should not have been, or at least should have been more careful with- thus, they pursued power irresponsibly).
    • Later Ezekiel used it again as an argument for totemic theory of Spidey's origin - the fact that Peter was fighting more magic-themed villains (Morlun, Shatarra, Shade) lately was supposed to be a proof that his powers come from Spider-God Anansi. Subverted when it was revealed that most of those guys were supposed to be Ezekiel's enemies and Peter was fighting his battles.
      • Most of Spider-Man's enemies either had Animal Motifs and/or were the results of science gone bad. More generally than that, several villains who became Rogues Gallery Transplants when it became clear they were outmatched by their original adversaries (Boomerang vs. the Hulk, anyone?) mean that almost all of Spidey's rogues (with the exceptions of Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin) are street-level villains.
      • When you think about the potential some of these street-level villains' powers and skills have they become much more than street-level. Sometimes it's even blatantly clear how strong they can be. The fact that most of the these guys are still stuck fighting Spider-Man, and haven't moved on to bigger levels of villainy than doing things like robbing banks, can be explained by a lack of ambition, as well as by the fact that Spider-Man wouldn't be a match for such seemingly unbeatable villains on his own.
    • It's also worth noting that Spider-Man's main villain, the Green Goblin, has inspired a legacy of his own and a couple Jack the Ripoffs. Then you have Venom, who keeps spawning, so that Peter's rogue gallery can basically be summed up as about 50% animal, a bunch of Puppeteer Parasite aliens, assorted goblins and a few, like Electro and Sandman, who are just kind of "other."
  • Most of Batman's Rogues Gallery are out and out lunatics without any real superpowers. Some have argued that this is an indicator of Batman's own obsessive nature - he too is almost mad, in his own way. In addition, since Bats himself is just a man Crime Fighting With Cash, making his villains equally normal keeps things balanced - Batman would be screwed if someone like Mxyzptlk decided to make the short journey from Metropolis to Gotham.
    • Ironically, Batman did have his own interdimensional imp villain, Bat-Mite. In fact, Aquaman had one as well, Qwisp. Neither appeared in continuity in decades - until Qwisp popped up as a villain in Grant Morrison's run on JLA in the 90s. Morrison was also the one to bring back Bat-Mite. It's debatable in that Bat-Mite wasn't as malicious as Mister Mxyzptlk was to Superman, and he leaves on his own accord if he really angers Batman. Also, Bat-Mite admires Batman, unlike Mxyzptlk. The New Adventures of Batman had his heart in the right place, if his actions did more unintended harm.
    • There's also a theory that Batman's Rogues each exemplify a single aspect of his personality, but taken to extremes: Two-Face the Batman/Bruce Wayne duality, The Joker his mental instability, The Scarecrow his use of fear as a weapon against criminals, and so on.
    • And this isn't counting the list of Bat Rogues who are essentially "Batman, except at this causal fork in his life, Bruce went one way, and this guy went the other". To illustrate. Oswald Cobblepot is also the orphan of rich parents, except Bruce's parents loved him and wanted him to not value material possessions. Tommy Eliot is in the same boat as The Penguin, except that Hush actually killed his parents to get to their inheritance faster, and then trained himself into a Jack of All Trades of Batman-like proportions for... some reason. Roman Sionis's parents were good friends of the Waynes, only they put on a show of being charitable philanthropists while being greedy dicks in private, the duality leading to Sionis's obsession with masks. Also, Jason Todd is an official Batman-trained caped crusader... who kills (as a way to stop the revolving door policy of Arkham), etc.
    • One could also potentially argue that there is a much more secondary, but still fairly common theme among many of Batman's foes. Specifically, they seem to fit classic horror tropes such as Monster Clown (The Joker), monster (Clayface and Killer Croc), mad doctor (Hugo Strange, Professor Pyg), zombies (Solomon Grundy), bats (Batman himself and Man-Bat), and less obvious ones like killer plants (Poison Ivy), living dolls (Scarface) and living scarecrows (Scarecrow).
    • Batman Beyond villains move away from being themed around general street-level insanity to more Spider-Man-like power levels and science. Some of them are still pretty damn crazy but less psychologically riveting and more well...sciency. Stories featuring Mad Stan, Spellbinder, Blight and an older Bane and Mr. Freeze explore some very plausible futuristic concepts and with the series being set in a future Gotham it's possible the creators were aiming for this overall theme.
  • Doctor Strange had a lot of mystic opponents. This seems to be because it was stated MANY times that he has no greater strength or agility than any other man. Oddly enough, in his early adventures, he let his fists do the talking about as often as he whipped up a spell to take care of things. Justified when he was the Sorcerer Supreme and it was his job to protect the mundane world from supernatural threats.
  • Wonder Woman's best villains are definitely female, possibly because she's the one major heroine who writers felt comfortable pitting against non Femme Fatale villainesses. Her only major villain who isn't female or a misogynist is Ares, the God of War and ancient enemy of the Amazons and Themyscira. They also tend to be mythological and/or magical in nature, like Wonder Woman herself. As of The New 52, she's been rubbing elbows with the gods. Her first major enemy is Hera, then Hades, then Apollo and Artemis. She's currently being set up to go head to head with another of Zeus' many many MANY children, specifically his firstborn son.
    • Another common theme most of her enemies have in common is tied in with deceit — either they some form of trickery, magical illusions, mind control, or are just skilled manipulators to achieve their goals. This starkly contrast against Wonder Woman's belief in honesty, plus that fact she's sometimes referred to as, "The Spirit of Truth".
  • Most Incredible Hulk villains are big and very strong - heck, many of them are even green. Those who aren't, like Leader and M.O.D.O.K., tend to be exact opposites: small, weak but very intelligent, with lots of high-tech to help them. But still often green. And then, that whole strong and green thing is because several have a similar origin. In The Incredible Hulk (2008), Leader and the Abomination actually got their powers from the Hulk, and Doc Samson likely would have too.
  • Captain America is mostly known for fighting symbols of some un-American concept - many of them represent fascism or Nazism (Captain America has met the clone of Hitler several times, not to mention his personal nemesis the Red Skull), some represent communism, and other, less obvious political positions represented by his villains include One World Order (Flag-Smasher), censorship (The Watchdogs, Moral Guardians gone vigilante), blind patriotism to corrupt government (many, many "evil" Captain Americas), vigilantism (the Scourge of the Underworld), technocracy (Advanced Idea Mechanics), unrestrained capitalism (Roxxon Corporation), and corrupt labor unions (Serpent Society), though the writers are usually careful to note that these are extreme versions of their viewpoints, and that they aren't commenting on the philosophies themselves. On the other hand, he's messed with many non-political villains, including the Animus, Solarr, the Serpent Society, the Porcupine, and even other heroes' enemies, including the Scorpion, Mister Hyde, and Marvel's version of the Scarecrow. In that vein, he also tends to fight a lot of Nebulous Evil Organizations. He's clobbered whole rooms full of Mooks from A.I.M., HYDRA, U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., and more.
  • When Carol Danvers isnít fighting off threats of alien races like the Kree, Skrulls or Brood, she tends to fight self-made women and/or geneticists like Grace Valentine, Moonstone, Dr Minerva, Dr Eve and Toxic Doxie.
  • Averted by The Flash, who has only a few speedster villains. In fact, the only speedster a given Flash is likely to face is their personal Evil Counterpart. His rogues gallery is otherwise populated by a very eclectic group, with few villains having much in common with one another. Ironically, the Flash rogues are a rather tightly knit group in spite of this.
    • Indeed, Captain Boomerang was a Flash villain, but his son Captain Boomerang Jr. is not — and the son is the speedster.
    • Practically the only way that they could be considered themed is in a purely symbolic way, of a man of science defeating the old superstitious ways of thinking. Ex. Captain Cold (Water), Heatwave (Fire), Gorilla Grodd (animals), Abra Kadabra (Magic), Trickster & Pied Piper (Folklore) etc.
    • Given that virtually all the main Rogues use technological gimmicks (even Abra Kadabra), it may be more of a case of science vs. science. This has become less significant in recent comics, but in the Silver Age, each of the Rogues represented a scientific concept (heat, reflections, elements) so that Barry Allen used his superior understanding of the science involved to defeat them. Flash Fact!
    • The Flash villain theme is derived from their middle-American roots. "Central City" is an expy for St. Louis and the American midwest, which when The Flash first came out in 1959 was the center of American self-image and culture - the "American Dream". The vast majority of Flash villains are self-made men, who achieved their abilities. As such they represent the Dark Side of the American Dream, those who achieve for their own selfish ends. Gorilla Grodd is both a renegade from his own culture and a violation of "natural law" (talking gorilla). As such he represents the dangers of the Radical Outsider (foreigners, Communists, subversive thinking, etc).
    • Isn't another recurring theme of the Rogues their collective suffering from Cut Lex Luthor a Check Syndrome, where so many of them have developed fantastic scientific achievements and use them to commit petty local robberies?
  • Averted by Firestorm. While his Arch-Enemy Killer Frost represents the thematic conflict between fire and ice, he also has villains as diverse as self-cloning Multiplex, the mind-controlling Mindboggler, the werewolf-like Hyena, the rope assassin Slipknot, and the sand-manipulating Sand Demon.
    • Firestorm tends to have villains with other elemental powers like Killer Frost, Brimstone, Sand Demon, Goldenrod, Naiad, and Stratos. Characters whose powers are nuclear power formed like Pozhar or Tokamak. Ones with personal grudges against the Firestorm hosts like Plastique, the 2000 Committee, or Cliff Carmichael, the new Thinker. Or a combination of all three, like Typhoon. While Firestorm is a fusion of two people, his foil, Multiplex, is a fission of one. Magic powered beings like Black Bison and the Hyena are the outliers.
  • Averted by Thor, oddly enough. While Goldilocks did fight divine villains from Asgard (most notably his evil half-brother Loki and the seductive Amora, also called The Enchantress), Thor also quickly gained a rogues gallery of recurring mortal villains that could just as easily have been enemies of Spider-Man or the Hulk, including the Wrecker, the Absorbing Man, the Grey Gargoyle, Mister Hyde, and the Cobra. Many of these guys would also become Rogues Gallery Transplants when they branched out and started tangling with other mortal heroes.
    • Not always averted. In additions to a few evil Norse gods, he also frequently fights mythological creatures such as giants, trolls and dark elves. Recurring foes include Ulik (troll), Malekith and Kurse (dark elves), The Executioner (half-giant) and Surtur (fire giant).
  • Fantastic Four villains tend to be of the "Evil Genius bent on world conquest" mold, (like Doctor Doom, the Mad Thinker, the Wizard, Diablo, Maximus the Mad, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, even Mole Man...) or alien would-be Galactic Conquerors (like Blastaar and son, Annihilus...)
  • Superman's enemies don't have an immediately obvious unifying theme, but a closer glance shows that the underlying connection between this collection of mad scientists, alien invaders, cyborgs, robots, and ray-gun wielding gangsters is one of pulp science-fiction. There's not a single Superman rogue who wouldn't be out of place in a thirties pulp novel, or a 1950s B-movie, which given Superman's status as a popularizer of many sci-fi tropes, makes perfect sense.
  • Most of Supergirl's enemies are female and sci-fi related. Lesla-Lar and Blackstarr are mad scientists, Superwoman, Reign and the Worldkillers are genetically-engineered super soldiers, Kraken is an alien armed with weather-controlling gear, Reactron is a soldier clad in powered armor... plus several of her Rogues (Lesla-Lar, Black Flame, Shyla Kor-Onn, Lar-On...) are also Kryptonian.
  • Green Lantern has a lot of enemies who can—like him—create weapons and monsters out of thin air: Tattooed Man, Star Sapphire, Evil Star, Effigy, etc. The granddaddy is of course Sinestro, a former Green Lantern with a yellow power ring. Played even straighter with the introduction of entire Corps to oppose the GL Corps who use power rings of different colors, such as red, orange, and black. Sinestro even starts his own Yellow Corps as well. Also inverted by giving Green Lantern some new allies who also use power rings of different colors, such as blue and indigo.
  • Most of Spawn's enemies are demons, angels or people from his past life.
  • The Black Panther regularly tangles with villains who are tailored to fight an African king, ranging from political rivals who seek to usurp his throne (Man-Ape and Erik Killmonger), apartheid-supporting white supremacists (the Supermacists), and outsiders who seek to loot the country's wealth for themselves (Arch-Enemy Klaw). More recently, he (or rather his sister, who's taken up the mantle due to him literally being at death's door) took on Morlun, an enemy of Spider-Man who feeds on animal totems, including that of the Panther. This is in addition to his frequent tussles with fellow African heads of state like Moses Magnum, Dr. Crocodile, and Afrikaa.
  • The Doom Patrol specialize in weird cases and opponents. For just a few examples: the sentient transgender street, a Cloudcuckoolander Dadaist turned Corrupt Corporate Executive, a woman made of porcelain nanomachines, a sentient and infectious face-and-mind-eating black hole, and Ambush Bug.
  • Daredevil fights a lot of mob-employed costumed killers, or martial artists with a supernatural bent. These two themes frequently cross-over (e.g. Elektra and Lady Bullseye and both agents of the Hand- a mystical ninja cult- as well as professional assassins; The Kingpin took control of the Hand). More generally, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Darkhawk, Moon Knight, Luke Cage and Iron Fist's rogues all tend to be either street-level villains, or more powerful crime lords and mercenaries.
  • Many of Starman's enemies were carnies like the Ragdoll, Bliss and his mook Crusher.
  • Sleepwalker's enemies are either street-level villains (the Chain Gang, 8-Ball, Spectra, the Bookworm, Lullaby, Mr. FX, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, etc.) or demonic entities (Cobweb, Psyko, Mr. Jyn, Eddie Cicala).
  • Swamp Thing routinely encounters plant-based enemies. Sometimes this was handled well. The elemental Wood-Rue, for example, was an old DC loser who was revived as a hideous and terrifying foe. Sometimes it went not-so-good, such as when Swamp Thing fought vegetable aliens flying vegetable space ships with vegetable weapons. Yeah.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles usually fight villains of the mutant and ninja varieties (the latter primarily being members of the Foot Clan). They also fight a lot of superscience themed villains and villainous creations, such as Baxter Stockman and his robotic Mousers.
  • According to Scott McCloud each member of Zot!'s rogues gallery represents a different, harmful vision of the future, with their threat levels directly corresponding to how likely he considered that future to be. Though McCloud admits he screwed up on the last part with the Blot, a fairly minor villain who represented a corporate-run future.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) took the "nature vs mechanics" theme of the first Sonic game and extended it, giving a few villains other than Robotnik and Eggman who used technology to reach their goals; Snively, ADAM, Iron Dominion (and Iron Queen), and The Dark (Egg) Legion. Many of these started by serving Robotnik/Eggman or are serving him now. They also use a number of magical villains; Ixis Nagus, Enerjak, Mammoth Mogul, Iron Queen (again), Geoffery St. John, and Dr. Finitivus.
  • The Runaways' initial enemies were their own parents, collectively known as the Pride. Afterwards, they often fought against people who were somehow connected to the Pride, either former allies or old enemies.
  • The Metal Men mostly fight robots. Usually they're robot aliens or monsters and the question of who built them is never addressed. Discussed in Metal Men #20, when the Metal Men read their fan mail and find that readers are pretty tired of robot monsters and want them to go up against something else.
  • Kismet: Man of Fate: As a member of the European Resistance in World War II, Kismet usually fought Those Wacky Nazis.
  • Pat Patriot: America's Joan of Arc: Pat usually fought Nazi fifth columnists out to sabotage the American war effort.
  • K-Bar Kate usually fought corrupt ranchers out to squeeze in on her father's territory.
  • Typhon fought many insane underwater rulers in his submarine adventures.
  • Super-American fought military commanders out to invade the United States, as befits his codename.
  • Most of Vampirella's villains tend to be supernatural ranging from other evil vampires (like Dracula), demonic entities (Mad God Chaos and the Red Queen), evil cultists (the Black Pope), twisted undead (Von Kreist) and other monsters. In fact, she was born and trained by her mother Lilith specifically to hunt down monsters that tormented mankind in order to atone for creating them in the first place.
  • Shazam!: Traditionally the Marvel Family's antagonists are pretty diverse, but over time DC has been trying to emphasize the series' magical elements to help differentiate them from Superman. As a result, the New 52 changed Sivana, formerly a Mad Scientist, into a wizard and has Mr. Mind come from a Magical Land instead of another planet.

    Films — Animation 
  • The How to Train Your Dragon franchise's most dangerous enemies are those who wish to disrupt the unity between the people of Berk and their dragons.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played pretty straight in the first 2 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then vampires were almost completely phased out in favor of other types of demons and sinister humans. Though the overall magic/monster theme still prevailed.
  • In The Weird Al Show, all of Fatman's villains are either food based or have an evil plan that's food based.
  • Superdude from All That has a tendency to fight dairy-based villains, such as Milkman, Cow Boy, Butter Boy... This is unfortunate for him, since he is lactose intolerant. Maybe these are the only villains left to fight him because they would be the only ones he couldn't just use his superman-esque powers to defeat in a matter of seconds.
  • Almost every Super Sentai series has this by design. The magically-empowered Magiranger only fought mystical creatures, the police-themed Dekaranger fought criminals, the Hurricaneger fought space matter what the power set, expect the villains to match accordingly. The few aversions include:
  • The Kamen Rider series tends to have this more often than not. In a general sense almost all Riders and villains have some degree of Animal Motifs. In a more specific sense magic Riders tend to fight magical enemies and technological Riders tend to fight biological anomalies. Justified in that the Riders themselves are usually Phlebotinum Rebels, using the villains own power against them.
  • The recurring villains of Doctor Who in contrast to the Doctor, an eternal champion of peace and co-operation, mostly tend to be armies (the Daleks, the Cyberman, the Sontarans, the Silurians, the Ice Warriors) or megalomaniacal geniuses (the Master, Davros) who are bent on waging war in one way or another. The revival has also seen a few new types of enemies. Enemies who are in some way un-knowable or beyond comprehension, and enemies who are more automated systems that can't be reasoned with and are merely doing their jobs.
  • The X-Files antagonists were usually classified into two groups. Aliens closely knit with shady government cabinets or freaks of the week that weren't necessarily alien but connected with the alien/government myth arcs sometimes.
  • The Ultramen's Rogues Gallery can be summed up in a single phrase: "giant monsters and evil aliens". The kaiju, much like Godzilla above, vary between mutants, ancient terrors, extraterrestrials, supernatural beings, and the just plain inexplicable. The aliens are often capable of changing size to match those of the Ultras or controlling a giant monster. Every now and then, there are exceptions to the rule, but every Ultraman villain is interested in destroying what the Ultramen have sworn to protect — Earth and the human race.
  • There's a clear split between the kinds of villains each show in the Arrowverse has to deal with: Arrow has criminal conspiracies, The Flash (2014) tackles all sorts of "weird science" concepts like superhumans and alternate dimensions, Legends of Tomorrow has time-travelers going against other time-travelers, and Supergirl (2015) fights aliens. Lampshaded during the "Invasion!" crossover, where aliens arrive in the Flash's city and he recruits Supergirl's help specifically because this is her wheelhouse.
    • They do this even earlier to justify a crossover when Vandal Savage first appears, the Flash citing the scenario as feeling 'like Magic' and recognizing it is more Green Arrow's forte thanks to recent developments in their season four.
  • The titular protagonist of Dexter faces a Big Bad each season who is a darker reflection of himself in some way.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mutants & Masterminds does this with most of its sample rogues galleries. The Centurion, for example, fight enemies with names like August Roman and Nero. The best example, however, might be their Batman Captain Ersatz, The Raven, who (odd exceptions like Dr. Sin and Luna Moth aside) fights villains named for Edgar Allan Poe stories or characters: Lenore, The Conqueror Worm, The House of Usher, The Red Death, etc.

    Video Games 
  • Since Metal Gear is a military-themed series, one could reasonably expect every game to pit the protagonist against an army (and not, for instance, on any other sort of black ops mission). But beyond that, every game features an oddly-themed Super Soldier Quirky Miniboss Squad with an assortment of unique fighting styles. Except for the B&B Unit in MGS4, who were all sexy women in robotic battle suits named after a combination of the names MGS1 and MGS3 villains.
  • Be it the Robot Masters of the original Mega Man series, the advanced anthropomorphic Mavericks of Mega Man X or the ancient ruin guardian mechs of Mega Man Legends, bosses in this series are robots, sentient, piloted or otherwise. For Mega Man Battle Network it's changed to other Net Navigators. For Mega Man Star Force, it's alien Energy Beings.
    • For Star Force, the baddies from each game have a secondary theme. The EM beings from the first are based on constellations, baddies of the second game are inspired by cryptids, and the ones from the third are patterned after a deck of cards (both the minor bosses and the Big Bad's inner circle).
  • Crash Bandicoot fights animal mutants similar to himself and mad scientists; the only exceptions to this seem to be Uka Uka, Papu Papu and alien racer Nitros Oxide.
  • Resident Evil games are centered around various types of zombies and the corporations that created them.
  • The villains of Freedom Force are, like the heroes, riffs on the motifs of the Golden and Silver Ages of Comics. Though enemy to enemy, there's no theme to them as they're all exactly the sort of foe the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man would have fought in their early days. In the sequel they travel back to fight Nazis, and the new supervillains represent Nazism/superscience, Italy and Japan. Oh, and a supernatural Communist foe to contrast the clean cut technology fuelled Freedom Force in the present day.
  • In Azure Striker Gunvolt, all of the bosses Gunvolt fights are Adepts like him. Except for Copen, who's a Badass Normal.
  • Kirby, a denizen of Dream Land, will almost always face off against nightmarish Big Bads, who love teleporting around (inspired by Nightmare from Kirby's Adventure) and often turn into gigantic eyeball abominations (inspired by Dark Matter/Zero from the Kirby's Dream Land games). Examples include Dark Mind, Drawcia, Dark Nebula, Magolor, Star Dream, Void Termina and so on. In fact, those guys may even share certain moves, despite having no apparent connection to each other and being featured in separate, standalone entries. A common trend in modern Kirby games is for them to have secret "Soul" forms that can be fought as Superbosses as well.
  • In Ring Fit Adventure, the various minions of Dragaux are based on sports and exercise equipment, including helmets, yoga mats, and dumbbells.

  • Appropriately enough for a comic about a heroic Mad Scientist, most of the antagonists in Girl Genius are either evil Mad Scientists or the minions and/or creations thereof. Because in the Girl Genius world, those are the only villains out there - until The Other returns. Oh wait, she's a Mad Scientist too.

     Western Animation  
  • Spoofed in The Fairly OddParents! in-show comic book "The Crimson Chin", where each of the villains is themed around a different body part and metal. The Copper Cranium, the Bronze Kneecap, the Iron Lung...
  • Captain Planet villains are all polluters, poachers and other haters of ecology (appropriately-called "eco-villains"). More specifically, the recurring villains each represent a particular type of eco-crime: Hoggish Greedly is a pig-like Fat Bastard who symbolizes overuse and exploitation of natural resources; Dr. Blight is an evil scientist who stands for unethical experimentation and advancing dangerous technologies in the name of science; Looten Plunder is a Corrupt Corporate Executive whose evil acts always focus on unchecked capitalism and exploitation of the world for profit; and so on. The show occasionally went Darker and Edgier with enemies like Zarm, a former Spirit of the Earth who quit the job to conquer other worlds. Villains like Zarm were largely representations of the powers of hatred, which was considered just as dangerous and corrupting as things like toxic waste and air pollution.
  • Steven Universe: Most of the enemies that the Crystal Gems face are Gem-related themselves, whether it be corrupted Gems, Gem monsters, or Homeworld Gems.
  • Averted in Transformers: Animated, at least at first. The showrunners wanted to present the Decepticons as major threats, so the Autobots faced off against human villains.
  • Parodied in Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Super Hero". Master Shake explains how The Drizzle fights crime by controlling the rain:
    "Yeah, see, then they gotta pick another day... to do the crime, and... he'd rain it out again! So... haha... he's a step ahead!"
  • Generally averted in Teen Titans (2003), considering the sheer range of bizarre villains it featured. Even the general theme of quirky harmless villains didn't really hold up—there was very little amusing about Slade, Trigon, or the Brotherhood of Evil, for example. That said, enemies that would face a single Titan primarily were often tailored to them—Robin often faced evil or amoral martial artists (Slade, Red X, Katarou), Starfire aliens (Blackfire, the Gordanians, the Chrysalis eater), and Raven supernatural beings or events (Malchior, Trigon, and her own repressed demon nature), for example. Just to round out the list: Beast Boy faces empowered teen archetypes (The geeky Control Freak, the wannabe Adonis, or the rebel Punk Rocket) and Cyborg deals with tech villains (Atlas, Fixit, Gizmo and Brother Blood, who turned himself into one by copying Cyborg's own tech.)
  • Most of Ben 10's major enemies are aliens or alien-related in some way, partially because the fact he wears the most powerful weapon in the Universe stuck on his wrist makes him a primary target for all the psychos from outer space who would like to get their hand on it. Notably, this isn't a hard-and-fast rule— his Rogues Gallery does also include other types of villains, such as Dr Animo (an Evilutionary Biologist of human origin), Hex and Charmcasters (two dark mages), and an Eldritch Abomination. Technically however, said dark mages are more his cousin Gwen's enemies than his, so you could argue Ben fight mostly aliens and scifi-themed villains, while Gwen faces mostly magic-related ones.
  • In Generator Rex, not only are Rex's powers most effective against EVOs, but he also works for Providence, an organization dedicated to fighting and studying them. As a result, with a couple of exceptions almost all of his villains are EVOs or EVO-related.
  • Largely averted on Gargoyles—due to its Genre-Busting mix of sci-fi and fantasy elements, their enemies can consist of everything from Corrupt Corporate Executives (Xanatos), The Fair Folk (many during the World Tour arc), an animal-themed team of Cyborgs and a mutant (the Pack), wizards (the Archmage), Shakespearean characters (Macbeth and some of the aforementioned Fair Folk) and a cyborg zombie gargoyle possessed by three different gargoyle ghosts (Coldstone). It's worth noting that their Big Bad, Demona, is another gargoyle, albeit one with various magical enhancements.
  • SWAT Kats villains were all magical, terrorist, mutant or robotic anthropomorphic cats.
  • Danny Phantom is set in a world where ghosts seem to be the only supernatural beings, though "ghosts" in this context can mean a wide variety of things (genies, evil plant monsters, etc.) Danny also occasionally fights some ghost hunters who are after him (Valerie, the Guys in White, his own parents), as well as Big Bad Vlad Masters, another half-ghost. His only human rogue who isn't a ghost hunter is Freakshow, who uses objects with ghostly powers.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law:
    • Played for laughs in the episode "Return of Birdgirl", where the Justices League (a composite parody of the Justice League of America and the U.S. Supreme Court) was constantly being interrupted by emergency messages asking for help with threats outside of their jurisdiction. A rampaging giant ape? You get hung up on (and Not-Scalia calls you a moron). If "someone has made an appeal to the Doctrine of Precedent in fav — Ahh! Giant Ape!", though, they're on their way!
    • In general, the series revolves around cases that use alternate interpretations of old Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters to parody social issues and current events when the series ran. For instance, "Return of Birdgirl" had Harvey arguing same-sex marriage before the Justices League on behalf of Doctor Quest and Race Bannon, who previously fought over custody of Jonny and Hadji in the pilot.
  • The Smurfs: all their recurring villains are witches and warlocks; Gargamel, Hogatha, Balthazar and Chlorhydris, and all have animals as accomplices.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: In an interesting take on this trope, the enemies that the titular duo face are the latter's genetic "cousins" who initially use their powers for evil before being influenced by the duo.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: The titular hero mainly faces either magical creatures that wish to causes chaos in either the magical and/or human world.
  • The Legend of Korra: Each Big Bad Korra faces are adversaries attempting to make the world a better place, thinking they can do it better than the Avatar. Most tellingly, all of them have a valid point in their goals but go overboard in trying to implement it.