Best of the Best: Superheroines

Superheroes aren’t just for nerdy comic fans any-more (and as a nerdy anime otaku myself, I use the term with nothing but affection). With dozens of Superhero films coming out this year, they’re more popular now than ever. In this list I’m going to look at the most badass, complex and interesting heroines I’ve come across in comics so far.
Continue reading Best of the Best: Superheroines

TOP 11 VILLAINS OF FANTASY

A good story needs to have a good conflict, and who usually drives that conflict? The villain of course! They’re the ones that threaten the world, kidnap the damsel and burn down your village, so the better the villain, the higher the stakes. In this list, I’m going to look at some of the best villains I’ve come across in the fantasy genre.

11) The Yeerks- Animorphs.

Yeerk
Before we were scared of aliens bursting through your chest, we feared mind control slugs crawling through your ear

The Yeerks are disgusting slugs that crawl through your ears and control your brain. They could be anyone around you, even your own family. That combination of body horror, paranoia, and terror of losing control of your mind and being controlled made them a far scarier villain than we were used to seeing in our books and kids’ shows

10) Angelus- Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Angelus.jpg
If only Lestat could break whatever curse was giving Louis a serious case of musty vampire. But then again, Angel needed a moment of true happiness to break his and we all know nothing wold make that man happy.

There was a lot that was …very unfortunate… about the ‘sex turns you evil’ storyline on Buffy.

But Angelus was still a brilliant villain. He lost the vampire brooding act that he stole from Louis and became everything a vampire should be. He was terrifying; he was truly cold, sadistic and played horrible mind games with everyone around him. Yet he was devastatingly charismatic, dangerous and sexy. His dangerously, charged antagonism of Buffy was compelling to watch and made him the memorable villain of the series.

9) Child Lilith- Supernatural

Child Lilith
…And yet still more child- friendly than Miley Sirus

Supernatural had a tonne of great villains.However, one of the best is child Alice. There’s something eerie about that childlike innocence being twisted into simple singleminded cruelty. Lilith is one of the most perfect examples of this. Just for kicks, she terrorises a family and forces them to play Stepford Happy Families while she kills them off one by one.

Honestly, what is it about little girls that makes them so damn terrifying?

 

8) Queen Jadis

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Forget Queen Lucy and Aravis, bad girls have all the fun in Narnia

Powerful, tyrannical and the terror of woodland animals and small children, Queen Jadis was the female character I most wanted to be in the book. While Lucy and the good girls were told that ‘wars are so ugly when women fight’ and never got to rule by themselves, Jadis got to be the sole regnant of Narnia, lived in a cool ice castle, and kicked ass in battle with no restraints. Plus, she killed feline Jesus. That’s one heck of a villainous achievement.

7) Dominga Salvador- Anita Blake

Dominga Salvador

Reading the (first ten)  Anita Blake books was an amazing experience. It was full of  larger than life characters, had lots of action and an engaging plot. One of the best aspects of the books were the villains, who were always tyranical, strong and absoltely memorable. I could have put any one of them on this list, but I chose Dominga because there’s something awesome about a well mannered older lady who inspires so much fear and terror.

6) Princess Azula- Avatar the Last Airbender

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“If I sense any loyalty, any hesitation, any weakness at all, I will snuff it out.”- Forget angst and endless monologues. Azula is one villain that doesn’t mess about

 Princess Azula was a brilliant character. She was cold, charismatic, manipulative and single minded in her goals. In the series she was so powerful she could hold her own against all of team Aang and Iroh and was so manipulative she could fool a living lie detector.

But she wasn’t just powerful, she was ruthless and a brilliant tactician, actually able to defeat the heroes and genre savvy enough to know she shouldn’t rely on having killed them unless she sees the bodies. She was so driven, so talented and such a good planner that there were many times that a part of you actually wanted to see her succeed in her goals.

5) Lucifer- Supernatural

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‘I will never lie to you, I will never trick you but you will say yes to me.’

Supernatural’s Satan is one of the best versions I’ve seen since the definitive fallen archangel of Paradise Lost. Cold, calm, and possessing a supreme arrogance dressed in the mask of sympathy, his confrontations with Sam were always chilling. . And, like Paradise Lost’s complex, failed rebel, he was tormented with his love of God and made some very good points.

4) Dolores Umbridge- Harry Potter

Dolores Umbridge
Clearly this is the office of the devil

I’ve already discussed how brilliant Dolores is on my Harry Potter Top 11. Voldemort was our impersonal big bad, but Dolores was our own deeply personal demon.

3) King Joffrey

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Jack Gleeson did a great job in giving Joffrey’s every smug mannerism the ability to inspire rage and contempt.

In the rich, complex world of Game Of Thrones and A Song Of Ice And Fire,  there are no true villains- except for this little shit (and the bastard of Bolton).   Every mannerism, every smug look makes you want smack him, and you just hate him more and more with every sadistic abuse of power. Unfortunately, the downfall of this little shit wasn’t the glorious display that Dolores’ was, but for making us hate him more than we ever thought we could hate a fictional character, King Joffrey well and truly earns this spot.

2) Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

 

Maleficent Cartoon

If there’s one thing that old school Disney did better than anyone else, it was creating compelling villains. They created so many brilliant antagonists, but the best has to be Maleficent. I mean even her name, Maleficent- a cross between malevolent and magnificent- sounds so beautifully devious. She’s incredibly powerful and (until the new movie anyway), is evil just because it’s so, so, so much fun.

1)Griffith- Berserk

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Devoid of all the typical anime tropes, Berserk  is a dark, complex high fantasy tragedy. It is a tragedy in the most Aristotelian manner possible, complete with the drama between friends and family, the characters whose fatal flaw causes their fall from grace and reversal of fortune. We have the ill- fated tragic characters; Guts, a brusque, straight forward soldier who for all his strength was helpless to do anything when it mattered most.

Casca, [SPOILER] the warrior maiden doomed to get her wish in the most twisted, nasty way possible.

Then we have Griffith. Griffith, like a lot of the best villains, is a perfect foil to Guts. Silver tongued, cunning and skilled, he oozes charisma and an almost otherworldly presence and you can see why people so readily follow him. However, his otherworldliness soon turns monstrous as the path of fate twists and turns and pushes the characters to perhaps the most gut wrenching and brutal climax I have ever seen.

The rawness and inevitability of Berserk’s tragedy, the complexity of Griffith and his genuine friendship with Guts make him my number one villain of the fantasy genre.

 

 

TOP 11 HARRY POTTER CHARACTERS

Every generation has a fantasy series that really resonates with them. In mum’s case, it was the Chronicles of Narnia. In my case, it’s Harry Potter, which genuinely made me feel nervous each year I got older because it meant that I would be even further behind when my Hogwarts letter finally came (I’m in my 20s and  it’s still coming damnit!)

Harry Potter may not be the best fantasy series ever written; His Dark Materials and the Discworld series have far superior world building. But still, It has a good sense of humour, a quirky imagination, a well-structured and gripping mystery and of course, a warm and likeable cast.

We all know Dumbledore’s awesome, Hermione’s genius is incredible and Snape (especially when played by Alan Rickman) is badass, tragic and looks cool in a cape. But they’re not the only great characters. In fact, it’s not just the leads, but the dozens of fun supporting characters that make Harry Potter what it is.

In this list, I’m going to leave out the leads (Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Hagrid and Snape) and look at my top 11 supporting characters.

11) Angelina Johnson

Angelina Johnson

Angelina Johnson may only be a back ground character, but her presence was a breathe of fresh air in this series. I’m not going to rant about the problems I have with the way women were written in this series, but I will say that until Luna came along and Ginny became a tough character, most of the female students were portrayed as silly, less able to keep their head in a tough situation and/ or over emotional.

Johnson however felt like a well needed exception. Sporty, fun, brave and a great Quidditch player, she was one of the ‘cool kids’ and put herself forward to be the Quidditch captain and a contender for the Tri Wizard tournament. She was bold and active, the kind of girl I wanted to imagine myself as being when I was reading the books.

10) Professor Lupin

professor lupin as werewolf

The calming element of James’ friendship circle and a man whose lessons were always brilliant, Remus Lupin is the teacher we all wish we had. Plus, even though his curse literally turns him into a savage, he’s kind, mild mannered and one of the least aggressive and domineering werewolves in fantasy fiction.

9) Horace Slughorn

Horace Slughorn

Horace Slughorn was a much needed addition to the world of Harry Potter. The concept of Slytherin was that it was meant to be the ‘ambition house’ (or the ‘pure blood’ house), but it never seemed to be the case; the majority of the house didn’t really show that much drive, and they  were so cartoonishly nasty that it seemed like the only requirement was being a massive dick.

Slughorn helped to fix some of that. He wasn’t evil and unpleasant, he was ambitious and affable. He also went to great lengths to escape Voldemort, showing that you can be ambitious and opportunistic without being genocidal, something that helped give the morality of the Harry Potter world a more adult and well rounded feel.

8) Dobby!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
I had a room-mate once who said I reminded her of Dobby; I’m still not  sure how to feel about that

What can I say? everything about Dobby was adorable. Starting out as an abused servant who made a mess of things even as he tried to help, we saw him escape his vicious owners and strike out for himself and become his own , um, elf. Weird, sweet, unrelentingly loyal and not afraid to live his life how he wants to, Dobby is a truly memorable character.

7) Mad- Eyed Moody

The man looks like he just rolled off the set of Fury Road. Badass to the bone
The man looks like he just rolled off the set of Fury Road. Badass to the bone

A tough- no nonsense veteran badass who doesn’t mince words and knows how to take command, Mad Eye Moody is truly one of the cooler characters in the Potterverse.

6) Arthur Weasley

Arthur Weasley was just such a likeable character. A down trodden dad and one of life’s underdogs, Arthur was also a very loving father. Unlike his wife, who felt more like a caricature of well meaning but over protective motherhood than a real woman, Arthur was a well-rounded guy; his obsession with the Muggle world was adorable, and in spite of his goofy nature he could be capable, thoughtful and switched on when the situation needed it.

D'aww, only Arthur could ask such a question
D’aww, only Arthur could ask such a question

5) Sirius Black

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Of course Sirius was going to be on here. As Harry’s godfather, he was another parental figure that Harry needed in his life. The injustice that he had to deal with made him sympathetic, and how bravely he bore those events for the sake of Harry was deeply moving.

He was also a fun trickster who was clearly flawed (as shown by his attitude to Kreacher and Snape), which only made him all the more real. Tragic and mischievous, Sirius was the first Harry Potter character to truly break our hearts.

4) Neville Longbottom

Puberty is a wonderful thing
Puberty is a wonderful thing

Increasing the prominence of Neville Longbottom was a smart move on Rowling’s part. While Harry Potter was clearly meant to be a relatable every man hero, after he suddenly became the chosen one, the youngest Quiddich player in over a century, the school hero, he could clearly no longer fulfil that role.

Neville Longbottom resonates more with the experience us geekier ones had in adolescence than Harry or Hermione; he was awkward, chubby, and inept at everything and felt like he was a disappointment to his parents. But he was never just a loser; right from the beginning he was chosen to be in Gryffindor, and always showed potential in small understated ways, whether through his prowess in Herbology or his willingness to stand up for what he thought was right.

In the final book, it was heartwarming to see how strong Neville becomes to the point where even Voldemort can’t help but acknowledge how impressive he is. Plus, Matthew Lewis taught us that there’s hope for the ugly duckling. What more can you want from a character?

3)Luna Lovegood

EVANNA LYNCH as Luna Lovegood in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy
Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood

Luna Lovegood is an 11th hour character whose charm needs no explanation. She was funny, weird, unique, and sweet and the advice she offered Harry in his darkest hour was one of the more touching scenes in the series. Luna is definitely my favorite female character in the series.

2) Dolores Umbridge

Clearly this is the office of the devil
Clearly this is the office of the devil

Dolores is such a great villain that even Stephen King, creator of a legion of monsters who have haunted the dreams of millions, had to acknowledge how brilliantly evil she is.

Voldemort was an impersonal big bad, but Dolores was our own personal Hitler. Petty, beaurocratic and manipulative, she was able to control every aspect of Harry’s life and make it hell. We’ve all had someone like that in our lives at one point, so add in an annoying personal tick (ahem) and we have a recipe for one of the foulest most horrifying monstrosities In the history of literature.

Her habits were so enraging, and her rule of Hogwarts was so tyrannical, that seeing her lose control in the most cathartic, glorious, epic way possible was one of the most emotionally satisfying moments I have ever experienced when reading. And because of that, Dolores Umbridge has to be one of JK Rowling’s most brilliant creations.

1) Fred and George

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These two stole the series for me. I read with bated breath and a massive grin on my face, waiting to see what creative trouble they would cause. They were the characters with the most charisma in the series and stole every scene they were in. To top it off, in The Order Of The Phoenix they orchestrated one of the best, most cathartic and anarchic exits I have ever come across in fiction. This is why Fred and George will remain my two of my favourite characters of the series.