The 10 most unlikely villains in books (... and a bonus egg)
Published on: 24 April 2019 Author: Barry Hutchison
Barry Hutchison - author of the brilliant and hilarious Living Ted books - knows a thing or two about unlikely villains, so we asked him to pick some of his favourites for us...
Illustration: Lee Cosgrove
Everyone loves a good villain. Whether it's Lord Voldemort zapping poor Harry Potter with his wand or Miss Trunchbull roaring at Matilda and the rest of the class, a memorable villain is almost as – and perhaps even more – important than the hero of a story.
Villains comes in all shapes and sizes, and have a variety of goals. Some want to rule the world. Others want to bring cities to their knees. One or two might just want to win a singing competition, and are prepared to cheat to ensure they take home the prize.
My own love of villains stemmed from when I first saw Star Wars on TV. Forget Han Solo and Luke Skywalker - I wanted to be Darth Vader, striding around dressed in black, Force-choking anyone who got on my nerves.
Of course, not all bad guys can be as impressive as the Vaders or Voldemorts of the world. Some of them, in fact, are positively ridiculous...
1. WOLVES (Assorted) – Various Fairy Tales
I'm not sure which of the fairy tale wolves is the most ludicrous – the one who dresses up as an old woman to try to fool Little Red Riding Hood, or the one who attempts to huff, puff, and blow down a house made of bricks in the tale of the Three Little Pigs.
From what I can gather, there was nothing to be gained by pretending to be Red Riding Hood's granny, and with the best will in the world it's going to take more than a few big breaths to knock down a detached stone building. Wolves, it seems, are not the smartest creatures on Earth.
2. The Triffids – The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
Illustration: Brian Cronin
Back in the 50s, the fear of nuclear war hung over the world, and a lot of fiction focused on the possibility of the US and Russia raining atomic bombs on each other and wiping out all life on Earth.
Not The Day of the Triffids, though. In this story, bombs weren't the problem. Instead, the villains were a species of weird Russian plants that could not only get up and walk around the place, but also... wait for it... liked nothing more than killing puny humans!
You'd think we could deal with evil plants without too much difficulty, but as everyone on Earth is blinded near the start of the book, the odds are not in mankind's favour.
Read this book and you'll never look at a salad the same way again.
3. Stilt-Man – Marvel Comics
The first of three comic book characters to make the list, Stilt-Man first appeared in a 1965 issue of Daredevil (issue 8, if you must know).
As his name suggest, Stilt-Man's gimmick is that he carries out his evil schemes while wearing stilts. Armoured metal stilts, granted, but stilts all the same. Funnily enough, he's never been one of the big hitter villains of the Marvel Universe, and I don't think he'll be troubling the Avengers anytime soon.
Interesting side-note: in 2010, Marvel introduced a female version of Stilt-Man who they named 'Lady Stilt-Man'. And not, say, Stilt-Woman, like you might expect.
4. The Shark – Jaws, by Peter Benchley
This might seem like an odd-choice, but bear with me. In the book Jaws (and the movie of the same name), a Great White Shark goes on a killing rampage, gobbling up swimmers left, right, and centre.
The book led to people becoming terrified of the creatures, and a sharp rise in shark deaths followed as hunters took to the waves to eradicate the dead-eyed monsters.
The only problem is, sharks aren't actually all that dangerous. Between 2003 and 2008, only four people died in shark attacks in the United States. Over that same period, one-hundred-and-eight people were killed by cows.
The anti-shark sentiment that followed the book's publication became so great, in fact, that its author Peter Benchley dedicated much of the rest of his life to shark conservation, and has gone on record to say he wished he hadn't written the book. So, next time you see a shark, be nice to it. Their bad reputation is undeserved.
(And, on a side note, I'd totally read a book about killer cows called Udders.)
5. Henry Tumour – Henry Tumour, Anthony McGowan
Illustration: Jerry Paris
Henry Tumour is a talking brain tumour who lives inside the head of a boy named Hector Brunty.
As if having a brain tumour wasn't punishment enough, Henry is determined to ruin Hector's life for him, which leads to all sorts of embarrassing – and often foul-mouthed – situations.
6. Paste Pot Pete – Marvel Comics
We're back to the world of Marvel Comics again, with someone who is unquestionably one of the worst villains of all time.
Paste Pot Pete first appeared in Strange Tales in the 1960s, and went on to battle the Fantastic Four. His entire gimmick was that he had some glue. That was it. He had glue.
Now, was it a strong glue? You bet. But it was still just glue. Considering that the Fantastic Four could turn their bodies to flame, become invisible, stretch, and even wrestle the Incredible Hulk to a standstill, some reasonably strong glue was never really going to get him anywhere, was it?
7. Wed Wabbit – Wed Wabbit, by Lissa Evans
Illustration: Sarah McIntyre
Just like the teddy bears in Revenge of the Living Ted, Wed Wabbit is a soft toy with dark ambitions.
Neglected by its owner, when Wed Wabbit finds itself in the fantasy world of Wimbley Land, it sets to work taking over, and eventually rules the poor Wimbley Woos who live there as a vicious dictator.
There are a few other even more amazing characters in the book, including Dr Carrot, an enormous plastic carrot on wheels.
8. Caddie – Raggy Maggie, by Barry Hutchison
Okay, I'm cheating a little bit here, and sneaking in another of my own villains from my Invisible Fiends series.
Caddie is the imaginary friend of a school bully, who comes to life one day along with her doll, Raggie Maggie. Although Caddie looks cute and harmless, she soon establishes herself as a dangerous enemy for Kyle, the book's hero.
Egged on by her doll, who whispers in her ear, Caddie sets up a game for Kyle – a game that could well cost him his life.
9. The Mouse – The Gruffalo's Child, by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
While the mouse is the hero of the first Gruffalo book, the sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, flips the first story on its head.
In this story, the 'Big Bad Mouse' is a terrifying creature of legend – the only thing in the whole forest that the Gruffalo is afraid of. Determined to find this terrible creature, the Gruffalo's child sets off into the woods, and encounters all manner of creatures before finally stumbling upon the mouse itself.
10. Clock King – DC Comics
A recurring villain of the superhero Green Arrow, Clock King has absolutely no special abilities of superpowers other than exceptionally good time-keeping.
I'm going to say that again. He can do nothing whatsoever except arrive at appointments on time.
He also wears a costume that has a clock for a face, so there's that, too.
SPECIAL BONUS VILLAIN: EGG FU – DC COMICS
He's just a massive egg. Just a massive, building-sized egg with a human face and a big moustache. I don't really know what else to say about him, to be honest.
So there you have it – proof that the evil teddy bears in Revenge of the Living Ted are not the most ridiculous villains out there. In fact, they're not even close.
Now, the villains in the third Living Ted book, on the other hand? That's another story...