The Good In Supervillains

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Hollywood’s superheroes get all the attention and headline big bucks movies. But Noah Goldstein thinks their nefarious supervillains have admirable qualities, too.

I am so happy to be living in a time where new superhero movies are coming out every year, and comic books are having a great resurgence. My boys and I get excited about the tales of heroes and villains battling it out, using their powers to right all wrongs, saving the world, time and again.

Recently , I noticed a common theme. The heroes are always putting out fires and reacting to villains’ schemes. It was the villains that were driving the narrative, not the heroes. I want my kids to be good people that contribute to society, but could it be that the dastardly delinquents actually have the qualities I am trying to impart on my kids?

Of course, I had to put the obvious moral and ethical failings of supervillains aside. They are evil, without a doubt. But supervillains having admirable qualities that I want my kids to emulate? I fear they do.

Comic book villains are focused and patient. They build, test and start over. Imagine the effort that must go into to their schemes. Breaking into a bank using mice? Genetically designing a herd of super-Orcs? These are no small feats. All the hero has to do is show up and save the day! But the villains- they are planners and innovators. They are passionate about what they do. They fail early and often. They test and rebuild constantly. You can’t say they aren't’ dedicated to their goal.


Supervillains overcome obstacles. The prototypical supervillain, at some point, takes what life has dealt them, and uses that to drive towards their successes, or attempted success, at least. Poor Oswald Cobblepot overcame a horrendous childhood, and Magneto persevered through concentration camps and Nazis. Starting from nothing to accomplish their goals? That is the American hero’s journey.

Do I want my kids to become supervillains? Not for a minute. I want them to grow into proud, honest, and loving men. But the next time we head to the theater to watch a costumed crusader save the world, we’ll have to have a talk about who is planning and prototyping, who is overcoming their faults, and who doesn’t give up.

And then we’ll watch the good guys and gals win.

With a Perspective, I’m Noah Goldstein.

Noah Goldstein is a sustainability consultant and lives with two future superheroes and his wife in Oakland.