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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - concluding Thoughts

 So, my A to Z challenge is over for another year. Not many responses this year, but some new visitors to this blog, so welcome! I hope you will visit again before next year. I review books and films, mostly children’s and YA fiction, if that’s of interest to you.

I stuck to villains I’m familiar with, but it took a lot of looking up to refresh my memory, quite a few from a Villains wiki. It was very handy when I couldn’t think of a letter. There were plenty of X names, but none I knew, so I went back to extras.

Here is a link to the only time I didn’t have to cheat with X:

That was my 2021 theme, Greek Mythology, and the X involved Achilles’ immortal horses Xanthus and Balius. Click through and check it out.

Was the theme of Villains a good one? I enjoyed it, and I hope you did too.

See you for next year’s Challenge, and hopefully before. I’m reading some good stuff, which I will review.

Monday, April 29, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - Z Is For Zod, Zola and Zeus

Zeus. Public domain.

And now for my last villains post! First, General Zod, a villain from the DC film universe. I’ve only seen him in one film, Superman 2, though I believe he has a much longer background, and appeared in Smallville, a TV series about Clark Kent’s teenage years. I have only seen a few episodes of that show, so missed him there.

However, I prefer to stick to films, shows and books I’m familiar with, hope you don’t mind. Z is not an easy letter; there was one year in which I used it as Zzz, the sound of sleeping! 

So, General Zod turns up in Superman 2, along with his girlfriend Ursa and a henchman, Non. Actually, they appear briefly in the first Superman movie, with Christopher Reeve, in which they are sentenced, by Jor-El, Superman’s father, to life imprisonment in the Phantom Zone for their crimes. They vow vengeance. Of course they do! Villains do that. The Phantom Zone is a glassy thing that can be sent into space. Some years later, when Superman has sent a nuclear bomb out into space, it breaks open the Phantom Zone, allowing the super villains to escape. Somehow, of all the planets they might reach, Earth is it. 

Ironically, these are the only other Kryptonians to survive their planet’s destruction, and, once on Earth, they have the same powers as Superman, which certainly does make things hard on him!  

Deciding to conquer Earth, they combine forces with local villain Lex Luthor. When asked what he wants in return for his help, he remarks that he has always liked beach front property and asks for Australia! I saw this film with friends on the opening night here and we voted for Lex Luthor as Prime Minister to replace Malcolm Fraser…

In my favourite scene, the US President is forced to kneel to Zod. 

He groans, “Oh, God!”

“Zod,” corrects that villain.

Needless to say, Superman defeats them, using his quick wits, not merely his brawn.

Arnim Zola is a villain in the MCU, as well as comics, though I haven’t read those. To give you a blurb, with all the information, here is a link to his Wikipedia entry.

He appears in two Captain America films, The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier. He had worked with Red Skull and the evil organisation HYDRA during the war, and later placed his mind into a computer. 

He appears in a first season What If …? episode, “What if…Ultron Won?” Clint Barton, Hawkeye, and Natasha Romanoff, the last surviving Avengers, after Ultron has wiped out pretty much everyone, find him in his computer in Moscow, and make him help. As it happens, he can’t, for various reasons, leading to the final episode of Season 1. 

Finally, I’ll do a short entry on the Greek god Zeus. Okay, a god. The king of the gods, no less, and father to most of those on Olympus. But not a nice person.

Mostly, it’s rape, all those nymphs and mortal women he finds and rapes, some in the form of an animal or bird. The only woman he respected enough to appear to her as her husband was Alcmene, the mother of Heracles. 

Often, his wife Hera punishes his victims and he does nothing to help them.

And it’s not only women. He carries off Ganymede, a young Trojan prince, who becomes his cup bearer, but it’s not for his skill at handling a jug of wine that Zeus wants him. 

Zeus, upon hearing a prophecy that he will eventually be overthrown by a son  with his first wife, Metis, swallows his pregnant wife to make sure it doesn’t happen. (Her first baby is Athena, the son was supposed to be her second)

He also condemns Prometheus, who has stolen fire for humankind, to be chained forever on a mountaintop, having his liver torn out and eaten by an eagle daily. Because he is, after all, a god and an immortal, it grows back overnight so it can be eaten again.

Prometheus is eventually rescued by Heracles, the son of Zeus, but not before he has suffered a lot. 

No, definitely not a nice person, if not considered an outright villain.

And that’s it for 2024, except my thoughts on this year. Hope you have enjoyed it. 


Sunday, April 28, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - Y Is For Yellowjacket

 Another sort-of-cheat, but not really. “Yellowjacket” refers to inventor Hank Pym, the original Ant Man, who wears a yellow suit to shrink. Hank appears in three live action Marvel films, in which he definitely isn’t a villain, but also in an animated episode of Season 1 of What If…? It’s the third episode, titled What If…The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes? 

In this, Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, is planning to recruit superheroes for his Avengers Initiative, but … each and every one of them is murdered as he meets them. Tony Stark is killed by a syringe. Thor is shot and killed accidentally by Clint Barton, Hawkeye, who dies in custody. Hulk blows up. Natasha Romanoff is murdered when she figures it out.

So, who is behind all this? 

It’s a grieving father wanting revenge on SHIELD, especially Nick Fury. In this alternative universe, Hank Pym’s daughter Hope was a SHIELD agent on a mission overseas when she was killed, instead of falling for new Ant Man Scott Lang and joining him as the Wasp, formerly her mother’s role. Hank uses his Yellowjacket suit to shrink and carry out those murders of potential Avengers. 

Okay, we can understand why he is upset, but what did those heroes do to him? Or even to his daughter? 

Loki comes to Earth with an army, to avenge Thor, and defeats Hank. Fury rustles up a couple of recruits who haven’t been killed.

There is another Yellowjacket villain, Darren Cross, who had once worked for Hank Pym, but tried to sell the Pym Particle formula on the black market. He put on the Yellowjacket, but shrank down way too far and ended up in the “Quantum Realm”, with an oversized head, where he was working for real supervillain Kang the Conqueror(Ant Man And The Wasp: Quantumania). Everyone had thought he was dead. In the end, he is reconciled to Pym.

The Villains Wiki which I consulted for this also mentioned the Yondu Ravager clan, which pillaged around the galaxy and was commissioned to steal living planet Ego’s children, including Peter Quill, who eventually became leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yondu didn’t know, at the time, that Ego was killing off his children if they weren’t what he needed them to be.

I personally don’t think either Yondu or his followers were too villainous. Klutzy, maybe - in What If… T’Challa Became A Star Lord? they picked up the wrong kid, T’Challa, but brought him up anyway, as he was only too pleased to get out of his father’s kingdom and see the galaxy. They could have returned him. Yondu himself was okay with his adopted son becoming the Ravagers’ leader and changing their ways. The live action Yondu sacrifices himself for Peter. At the end of the third  film, alternative universe Gamora is a member of the group, her found family. So they can’t be that bad.

But worth considering. After all, they are crooks! 

Tomorrow the final post in this year’s A to Z. Hope you have been enjoying! 

Friday, April 26, 2024

A To Z 2024 - Villains! - X Is for eXtras

 In all the, the years I’ve been doing the A to Z Challenge, I’ve only had one occasion when I got a real X word - during my Greek Mythology posts. That’s because there are X words in Greek. The X post was about the immortal horses of Achilles, Xanthus and Balius. 

Every other year I’ve cheated with “Extras” which gave me the chance to slip in things I didn’t do last time, as there are only so many I can use in each post. This year will be the same.

So, just a few…

M is for Medraut and Minotaur

Medraut, or Mordred, is the incestuously born son of King Arthur. In Malory his mother is Arthur’s sister Morgause, the Queen of Orkney, wife of King Lot. His half brothers are Gawain, Gareth, Gaheris and Agravaine. Morgause sleeps with her brother, who doesn’t know they are related. Medraut ends up fighting his father and they kill each other in battle. He is responsible for wiping out the Round Table fellowship. 

He is in pretty much all of the Arthurian legends and retellings, because he has to be, but there are plenty of novels in which he is not really a villain, it just works out badly. For example,  Mary Stewart, author of the Merlin series, said that she had read an account which just said that Arthur and Medraut had died in a battle, not that they had been fighting on different sides. She would have liked to go with that but she had already established that they would be on opposite sides. But her Medraut was basically okay and tried unsuccessfully to prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled. For the most part, though, he is the baddie, as in the film Excalibur, in which the role was played by Robert Addie, who went on to play another villain, Guy of Gisburne, in Robin Of Sherwood. Before going off to fight his father, this Medraut kills his mother(played by a very young Helen Mirren). 

By the way, even Guy of Gisburne had a couple of novels in which he was the goodie and Robin Hood was the villain! 

The Minotaur is a creature from Greek mythology, son of Cretan Queen Pasiphae, who was also the mother of Ariadne who helped Theseus in the Labyrinth. King Minos had kept a white bull sent him by Poseidon for sacrifice, so by way of godly vengeance Pasiphae was made to lust after the bull. She had the craftsman Daedalus build her a cow she could hide in and… Anyway, the result was a bull-headed man, which Minos sent to live in the Labyrinth designed also by Daedalus, and fed with teenagers taken as tribute, until the hero Theseus killed it.

In Mary Renault’s The King Must Die, Minotaur was simply the title of the heir to the throne of  Crete, like the Prince of Wales, and his father was a Hittite bull dancer.  Theseus killed him anyway, while he was about to be crowned; he was the villain of that book. The Labyrinth was the name of the palace, not a place under it, so he didn’t have to hide there. 

C is for Carcer

Carcer is the villain of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel, The Night Watch. Usually the Discworld books are hilarious. This one is more serious than the others though it has some humour in it. 

Sam Vimes, hero of the City Watch novels in the Discworld series, time travels while chasing Carcer, who is a serial killer, who just kills for the pleasure of it. They both end up in their city, Ankh Morpork, thirty years before the time in which the series is set. Ankh Morpork was not at that time the likable place it became. The City Watch was not nice. There is corruption. There is killing. Carcer fits right in. Vimes, who remembers a mentor, a John Keel, who had arrived in the city to join the Watch, only he doesn’t, because the first thing Carcer does is murder him, so Vimes has to become John Keel and mentor his younger self. And deal with Carcer. And get involved with a rebellion… 

Fortunately he has the assistance of the History Monks, who specialise in time travel. But he has three days to do what needs to be done and get history back where it needs to be. 

Carcer gets his comeuppance. 

T is For Mr Teatime

Mr Teatime is another Discworld villain, in the novel Hogfather. The Hogfather is the Discworld  version of Santa Claus. Mr Teatime, a member of the Assassins Guild, is commissioned to kill him. His method involves ensuring he doesn’t exist, by removing belief in him. He is utterly insane and worries even the head of the Assassins Guild, Lord Downey. 

Fortunately for the future of the world, he is beaten by Susan Sto Helit, the granddaughter of Death, who in this world is a likeable skeleton, and taking over the Hogfather’s round, in a desperate attempt to keep belief going until Susan can fix it. 

Susan, a governess, fights the monsters under her charges’ beds with a poker. A poker that only kills monsters, so right through Death and into Teatime. 

See you on Monday for Y! 

Thursday, April 25, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - W Is For Wanda, Wicked Witch of the West And Lily Weatherwax

 W is for Wanda, Wicked Witch of the West and Lily Weatherwax. Enjoy! 

This post is about the MCU Wanda, not the comics Wanda, as I have not read the comics she is in.

Wanda Maximoff, the Red Witch, is a strange character to write as a villain. She has a sad background as she and her twin brother Pietro were left orphaned during a war in the Eastern European country of Sokovia. She starts by working for villain organisation Hydra and for the evil Ultron, created by genius Tony Stark to protect the Earth, but not working quite as he intended. 

However, for some time, she is with the Avengers, the good guys. She falls in love with Vision, a sentient android whose body was created by Ultron for itself, but who ended up with the mind of Jarvis, Tony’s AI. 

She loses him during the war against Thanos, who rips the Mind Stone out of his forehead, killing him. This is when she starts to become a villain. Wanting a normal life, she re-creates him and settles in a small town called Westview. The only problem is that she takes over the entire town with her magic, turning it into a sitcom haven. As a child, she and her late brother used to love the TV sitcoms their father brought home, set in the decades starting in the 1950s. So this is the life she chooses - and forces the townsfolk to live it with her. 

She has two children, getting pregnant and giving birth in a day. The children, Billy and Tommy, shoot up soon after. 

She is forced to give up her hold on the town, after her magic duel with witch Agatha Harkness. To let the town go, she has to farewell her husband and children. In the last scene of WandaVision, we see her studying an evil book called the Darkhold.

The next time we see her is in the second Dr Strange film, Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. Steven Strange goes to her for help, assuming she is still a good guy. But, obsessed with finding her children in another universe, she is after his companion, teenager America Chavez, who has the ability to travel between universes, to kill the girl and help herself to America’s powers. 

This is a Wanda who is more powerful than Dr Strange. She arrives at the sorcerers’ settlement of Kamar-Taj, where America Chavez is being protected, and kills many of them. Her plans involve finding her children, killing her alternative version and replacing her. Oh, dear…

Then she wipes out an entire group of powerful people, the Illuminati. 

When she finds an r alternative universe with her children in it, the boys are horrified at what she is doing and run for their real mother.

It eventually occurs to her, after she has spilled a lot of blood, that this isn’t going to work. She destroys the Darkhold and disappears under a lot of rubble. This being the MCU, it’s entirely possible that she is not dead. 

While we might sympathise with her reasons, she has murdered a lot of people in her obsession.

W is also for the Wicked Witch of the West, from The Wizard Of Oz. A truly nasty character in the novel and the 1939 film, though I haven’t seen the musical Wicked! which tells it from her viewpoint. 

There are four witches in Oz. The witches of the North and South are good. The witches of the East and West are evil. Dorothy’s house falls on the Witch of the East, who has not been popular with her Munchkin subjects, so they celebrate her death.

The Witch of the West has enslaved her subjects, the Winkies. She has her Flying Monkeys attack Dorothy and her companions and enslaves Dorothy. She wants Dorothy’s magic shoes(silver in the novel, ruby in the film), but can’t get them off her feet, so she has to steal them. Dorothy, furious, splashes her with a bucket of bath water and it turns out that water dissolves her, so that’s the end of her. Nobody mourns her. 

W is also for Lily Weatherwax, the villain of Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad. She is the sister of Granny(Esmerelda) Weatherwax, one of Terry Pratchett’s beloved three witches. Esmerelda hates her sister because, when Lily became bad, she had to be the good one. When Lily takes over the town of Genua(basically the Discworld New Orleans), after killing its ruler, she decides to make it a literal fairytale town. On their way to Genua, the witches encounter some fairytale characters she has been messing with. In Genua, you can be arrested for being a cobbler who doesn’t tell stories to children or an innkeeper who isn’t fat and red faced. 

Lily has turned a frog into a prince and is planning to marry him to the girl whose father she murdered to take the throne, who has been forced to take the role of Cinderella. So the witches’ mission is to make sure Cinderella doesn’t marry the Prince…

See you tomorrow for the letter X! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2024 - Villains! - V Is For Voldemort


Voldemort, known to his followers as the Dark Lord, is the main villain of the Harry Potter series. The people of the wizarding community call him “You know who”. In the last book, he has made sure to find anyone who uses his name.

We can think of him as the Hitler of the wizarding world. His followers are called Death Eaters, tattooed with the Dark Mark that will let them know when he wants them.

Voldemort was born Tom Riddle, a member of a family that is descended from Salazar Slytherin,  one of the founders of the wizarding school, Hogwarts, the one who believed those not born to pure Wizarding families shouldn’t be allowed to study magic, but they are poverty-stricken and when we see them in a flashback, they are basically the poor, unpleasant Ewells from To Kill A Mockingbird. Merope, Tom’s mother, falls in love with the local squire’s son and wins him using a love potion. When the effects run out, he leaves her to give birth and die in an orphanage, where Tom is brought up.

It would be easy to feel some sympathy for this orphan, due to his sad background, but when Professor Dumbledore comes to the orphanage to invite him to Hogwarts, he is uncomfortable to realise that this child has already done some very nasty things to his fellow orphans. Still, he accepts him for the school, though, as Voldemort says later, he never trusts him, unlike the other staff, who think Tom is lovely. They consider him a hardworking student who has made the best of his life. But Tom uses this to get the gentle Hagrid, then a third year student, accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets, where a basilisk lives. The problem for Hagrid is that he loves animals any animals, including even giant spiders. He has his wand taken and snapped, though he later gets a job as groundskeeper.

Tom leaves a diary with the voice of his sixteen year old self. Later, his Death Eater follower Lucius Malfoy, father of Harry’s enemy Draco Malfoy, slips it into the cauldron of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny, getting her nearly killed.

When Voldemort has unsuccessfully tried to kill Harry Potter as a baby, his spell rebounds on him, leaving him alive, but without a body. He is brought back properly in the fourth novel, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, when his minion Peter Pettigrew manages to get Harry within reach. 

Later, when the Death Eaters(read Nazis) have taken over the wizarding world, he makes sure Muggleborn, ie not pureblood wizards, are arrested and tried. 

Eventually he is killed in a final duel with Harry. There are some mixups over the Elder Wand, which is supposed to make its user invincible. He had killed double agent Severus Snape because he assumed Snape had been the “master of the wand.” He hadn’t. 

A couple of things: Voldemort had created “Horcruxes” to keep himself safe, killing people to insert a bit of his soul into different objects - a bit like Koschei the Undying(See my post about Koschei). 

He had tried unsuccessfully to get a job teaching Defence Against The Dark Arts at Hogwarts, so created a spell that ensured nobody else ever got the job for more than a year. An interesting explanation for why every novel had a different teacher of that subject! 

Also interestingly, the author seems to have at least a small amount of sympathy for him, describing him and Harry as the two orphans for whom Hogwarts was home. 

Tomorrow, W Is For Wanda Maximoff!