What Puts the “Super” in Supervillain? #SciFiSunday

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Tor.com deep dives into the definition of the oft employed term Supervillain.

What is it that makes a villain a supervillain? What quality is it that defines an antagonist as more than a threat, more than a foil? As something extraordinary?

The easy answer is that a supervillain is a villain with super powers, but that’s not a sufficient answer. If you name three supervillains off the top of your head, I guarantee you two of them have no powers at all. And there are many monstrous villains in fiction that have powers that still wouldn’t ever be considered a supervillain.

Similarly, we can say a supervillain must have specific accouterments—a costume, a nom de guerre, henchmen, a hideout—which is another way of saying that a supervillain must have a distinct, instantly recognizable aesthetic. They can have a costume, or a very specific fashion sense. Or their powers manifest in extremely specific ways. And, unlike superheroes, supervillains are often marked by some distinct physical characteristic: a scar, bald head, bleached skin, burned face, something that makes them stand out as immediately recognizable (um, no matter how poorly they’re drawn). And certainly that’s part of it, too.

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