Some thoughts on supervillains

Let’s say Blofeld, specifically the Blofeld from You Only Live Twice.

Blofeld needs money.  He’s going to build a rocket with a warhead on it and hold the world hostage.

That’s his plan.

How do you carry out this plan?  Well a warhead is an expensive item.  Even if you steal one it’s going to run you a pretty penny. 

Then there’s the rocket.  Even if you’re a genius and you know how to build a rocket yourself there’s still the staff you’ll need for labor.  Rockets can’t just be slapped together, they have to work.  Rockets are expensive now, they were even more expensive back then.  And the labor has to be skilled labor.  The parts all have to be made to precise specifications.  It’s complicated.  And all these people, your rocket designers and technicians and so forth all have to be paid.  Why do they have to be paid?  Because they’re not idiots or drug addicts, they’re skilled professionals who would otherwise be in demand elsewhere in the world.  You have to pay them what they’re worth.  They won’t build a rocket for you at gunpoint.

Once you’ve got your rocket, where do you launch it?  It has to be a secret location.  It has to be a secret location because what you’re doing is highly illegal.  Where can you hide it?  Blofeld came to the decision: A Dormant Volcano.  He hollowed out a volcano (I’d like to have seen the bill for that engineering project) and installed his Rocket Launching stuff inside, then built a fake roof on top of his Rocket Launch Pad, making it look like the Dormant Volcano has a lake in the middle of it.

Okay.  So.  He has the expense of the designing and building the Rocket, designing and building the Warhead (or stealing it), hollowing out the Dormant Volcano, and designing and building the Launchpad inside the Dormant Volcano (which is, of course, in an extremely remote location, so you also have the expense of shuttling workers back and forth from the Dormant Volcano construction site and their homes in the towns surrounding the jungle).

Now then.  How do you keep your Secret Launchpad safe while you plan a good date to hold the world hostage?  Well, you hire a Private Army, that’s what you do.  Mercenaries, I’m guessing.

Where will they all be housed?  Now you have to build dormatories inside your Dormant Volcano.  What will they eat?  Where willthey sleep?  Where will they go to the bathroom?  What will they wear?  Who will design and create their uniforms?  Is there a cafeteria?  Is there a Blofeld Company Store?  (I know, there was a Simpsons episode that asked a lot of these same questions.)  How do you keep your workers and mercenaries entertained during the long months of construction and preparation?  Do you hire local talent for entertainment?  Rent movies?  Now you have to build an auditorium to entertain them in.

That all sounds like a lot, but Blofeld isn’t actually done yet.  No, his Dormant Volcano is so large, he has to build a MONORAIL inside it.  Because God Forbid he would have to step out of his office and make the trek from there to the launchpad on foot.  No, he needs a Monorail.  Could have just as easily laid some blacktop and bought an electric golf cart, but no, he needs a Monorail.  Okay, so now you’ve got to design and build a Monorail inside your Dormant Volcano with the fake lake roof and the Launch Pad inside with the Rocket and the Warhead inside, and a Private Army to watch it all so that some English guy in a tuxedo doesn’t show up and ruin everything.

My question is: wouldn’t Blofeld have been better off if he had just hung onto his money and invested it wisely?  It seems to me that once you make a decision to hire a Private Army, you end up having to take the world hostage not from a power-mad vision, but from necessity.  Because a Private Army is too fucking expensive.  All the expenses add up, and before you know it, you have to take the world hostage, just to meet your payroll.

I think if Blofeld were half as brilliant as his publicity claims, he would never had hired a Private Army to begin with and thus would never have to be in the position of needing to hold the world hostage.

This is one of the things I like about The Monarch and the other villains of The Venture Bros.  They have no particular interest in World Conquest, they just want to harass scientists.  I love the way they discuss it as a love affair or even a job, “Yeah, I’m arching Dr. Venture these days, but I’m looking for something else.”  This is the world they live in, they don’t have the vision (or fiscal irresponsibility) to want to take over the world.
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19 Responses to “Some thoughts on supervillains”
  1. eronanke says:

    And NO comment on Asian Sean Connery?!
    If we analyse bad guys in movies, the movies cease to be about the hero. If we make the struggles and the hardship of the villains *real*, they end up being much more interesting than the good guys.

    And, besides, I know what it’s like to spiral into debt. I feel sympathy for Blofeld. (He’s the one with the cat, right?)

    • Todd says:

      And NO comment on Asian Sean Connery?!

      I actually haven’t seen You Only Live Twice in a number of years. Does he turn Asian in that one?

      Blofeld is the one with the cat, although for some reason I keep remembering it as a rabbit, since that’s what Monty Python gave him in their “Lemming of the BDA” sketch.

      • craigjclark says:

        “I’m glad you could all come to my little party, and Flopsy’s glad, too. Aren’t you, Flopsy? Aren’t you Flopsy?


        “There. Now poor Flopsy’s dead and never called me Mother.”

      • popebuck1 says:

        Yep, he’s masquerading as a Japanese man for the middle third of the movie. I haven’t seen it in years either, but I seem to recall the effect is, shall we say, less than convincing.

      • eronanke says:

        Oh, dear lord, the costume is the best part! Plus he gets married! And his girlfriend gets poisoned! And he learns the ways of Japan!
        It’s all so great. It’s clear why in the comics, Wolverine does it every 3 years or so.

  2. pjamesharvey says:

    It’s not about the money. The money is only there to propagate the nefarious schemes that get the real results: notoriety, power, and fear. Sure, the initial money can be invested wisely and a great empire built, satirically shown in Austin Powers 2 when Dr. Evil’s organisation buys Starbucks, but that type of personality isn’t in it for the money.

    The money is a means to an end. By spending lots of it you can create that end, but you’ll need more money to keep it going. You may be able to talk to the president, get recognised on the street, and live in the lap of luxury with lots of money and good investments, but people won’t fear you because of this. Just being in their presence, I wouldn’t fear Bill Gates, but Saddam Hussein would have had me trembling.

    I think that’s what supervillians really want. They want power over anyone and everyone, including their allies, because of the fear their notoriety has gained them.

    Sure, you’re probably joking, but I’ve scribbled this anyway.

  3. craigjclark says:

    Definitive proof that the James Bond series should not be classified as action-adventure, but rather takes place purely in the world of fantasy (and science fiction for things like Moonraker).

  4. Anonymous says:

    You’re assuming Blofeld didn’t pick it up on the cheap. Maybe he inherited a volcano here, employed some really cheap mercs there….. and before you know it, you’re holding the world hostage!
    (Or, he could have investors)

  5. toliverchap says:

    Yeah the Venture writers get that cool Ying and Yang thing between villians and super scientists … it’s pretty deep. Hopefully though we might see greater exploration into the inevitably convoluted and political quagmire of bureaucracy in the second season if they get more into the workings of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. There like most bureaucracy is probably where you will find your fiscal irresponsibility and the payrolled Strangers (agents of the Guild).

  6. black13 says:

    This is something that has always amused me about Bond villains (and assorted other supervillains as well, but Bond villains in particular). They spend so much money on just preparing for their mad schemes, why don’t they just take the money the preparations cost (just as you described), and retire comfortably.

    • Anonymous says:

      See, that’s why Dr. Doom uses robots. Robots are cheap labor. And if there’s a revolt, you can always send someone like Luke Cage after them. (Don’t believe me? Check out the Essentials volume!)

      • Todd says:

        Well, that also speaks to the brilliance of Marvel superheroes in general. The Fantastic Four were always in financial trouble, had real-estate hassles, had deadlines to meet. Stan Lee always seemed to have his tongue firmly in his cheek when imagining his superheroes, was way ahead of the curve in that regard.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Where Blofeld Got The Money in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

    The Chinese government. The plot was about them funding/equipping Blofeld to hijack US/USSR space capsules in order to provoke a war between the two superpowers du jour, thus leaving China in possession of the ball when the radioactive dust settled. Blofeld was just the beard, the plausible deniability on the part of the Chinese.

    The threaten-the-world-with-a-warhead story is THUNDERBALL when Blofeld (at great expense) bribes a NATO official into helping S.P.E.C.T.R.E. hijack a bomber with two nuclear warheads onboard.

    I am such a nerd…

    • Todd says:

      Re: Where Blofeld Got The Money in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

      Oh. Well that makes total sense. Forget I said anything, Blofeld is a genius!