The hub and I were at dinner the other night when I said, “Bald villains in pop fiction. Who were they and did they resent being cast as bald villains?”
He stopped chewing for a moment and said, “There’s Lex Luthor and Dr. Sivana, to start with. And Mr. Freeze.” The hub and I are old-time comic folk, so comics are what come to mind first most of the time. “Lex blamed Superman for his baldness [Yes, this is the original reason given. You can look it up]. Don’t remember if there was ever a reason why Dr. Sivana was evil.” This is why I married this guy. He doesn’t think conversations like this is odd.
Not only that, he’s thoughtful. The next day, I got email from him to explore the topic further, a link to a website on TV tropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BaldOfEvil), allowing me to pontificate on this ever-so-important question. Also, this topic seemed somehow appropriate for a post at Otherworld Diner. How do you describe a villain? Bald?
If I recall, “bald” meant something more than “lack of hair” at one point (“That’s a bald-faced lie!”), but it doesn’t anymore. Historical romance author Jacquie Rogers, for example, once based a villain on my husband, precisely because he has a full head of hair. Going for the other extreme, so to speak. (The villain also was tall, good-looking, and fully haired. How much more evil can you get?) But she was deliberately playing type. And confusing my poor husband, who, as you might have guessed, isn’t evil at all. (And is very handsome, but that’s another type altogether.)
And think of it. When you’re building a villain, what comes to mind? Glasses? (The evil myopic types!) Stubble? But that’s popular. I’m not a big fan of it, but it is a turn-on for a lot of others. Massive scarring? Not fair, because that isn’t a deliberate choice (and I seem to recall a Mary Balogh historical romance in which the hero is massively scarred but is a champion hero). A sneer?
Now that’s something. Sneering’s useful. For Introducing Sonika, my super-heroine romance (because I got bored with only super-heroes), Sonika’s nemeses – father and son – are champion sneerers (well, I guess the son got it from his father). Gentlemen Geoffrey is a genius and carries a deadly laser cane, has gray stringy hair, and sneers like nobody’s business. In retrospect, the stringy hair makes me wonder, because I never saw him as bald. I saw him as stringy-haired; but then, he’s spent years hiding out, presumed dead, inching his way out of a deep pit, so washing his hair was not at the top of his to-do list. Would he have been more evil if he’d been bald? His son, an idiot but an aspiring would-be villain, had a full head of hair. Would he be a more effective villain if he lost his hair? Maybe, like Lex Luthor, he would grow into an evil genius (full head of hair = friend of Superman, good; bald head = sworn enemy of Superman, bad). Maybe Sonika caused him to lose his hair. Hm. Must keep that in mind when I write the sequel.
Do bald villains resent being cast as bald villains? Or do they relish it? Dr. Sivana always seemed to relish it, but then, I think anyone would seem like a villain compared with Captain Marvel (now known, speaking of confusing, as “Shazam”), the goodiest good guy around with an alter ego of a 10-year-old boy, Billy Batson. With a full head of hair in both cases, but I think that goes without saying.
But of course, there’s that adage: Everyone is a hero in his own story. Lex Luthor is a hero in his own mind, although how blaming someone for turning him bald is a heroic act, I don’t know. During one of those interesting conversations on Facebook, I posed this question of bald villains vs. heroes, and Superman artist Jerry Ordway (yes, THE Jerry Ordway) commented that Superman without hair was Lex Luthor. So you’ve got to think about that.
Now here’s a thought: Are these bald villains so evil that they couldn’t be turned for the forces of good if they had some of the diner’s apple pie? Did they turn evil after losing their hair or having bad pie at the greasy spoon down the road?
But that’s another question for another blog post.
Next month, Bald Heroes: Would They Still Be Good If They Had Hair? I mean, inquiring minds want to know!