|Withc burning, Switzerland, 1585|
Even if many seem to identify witches and persecution of witches with the Middle Ages, this is very much wrong: the phenomenon is a Modern one. Witches may have been persecuted in many societies and ages: a scapegoat for machista frustration, a lesson for other women to submit and obey to the Patriarchal law, but the worst period for this persecution was without doubt the Modern Age before finally secularism and science could defeat to a great extent the Christian obsession with everything irrational and absurd.
The witch, your local witch or council of witches are closest to the fantasy than to the real supervillain, yet they were persecuted for real. Many popular sayings emphasize this ambiguity of the reality of witches, for example in Galicia, where they are called meigas, its said that they do not exist but to be, they are.
The witch, per its supervillain idea, is, like the assassins or Fu Manchu, lover of hidden ways to kill or otherwise cause harm, being poison and hidden sorcery its main weapons. This kind of hidden violence creates a permanent state of paranoia among their possible victims that is ideal for the repressive role that every supervillain must perform: as anybody can be really the supervillain, anybody can be in fact accused of sorcery and punished accordingly, at the whim of the authorities. Also everybody can be their victim because the supervillains know little logic for who to harm (they are archetypally a bit or a lot mad), so everyone must ward against their threat and be ready to report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
The witches were in this sense ideal supervillains but science is merciless and killed them for good, something that not all the holy fire could ever do.
Whatever the case the real witches, which did exist at least in some places, were quite harmless at least for people and they tended to be priestess of hidden pagan cults, such as the Basque akelarreak which took place on Friday night and represented, it seems, the sexual renewal of life per the local mythology.
While we know today little about their reality, it is clear that they did exist in a very different way than depicted by the Christian propaganda: more as synchretic or even purely Pagan religious elements to be eradicated by the new religious fundamentalism.
Who was for some superhero was for others supervillain at times. That was the case of Fray Torquemada, hero for Catholics, villain for the rest.
In that period also the Native leaders were at time to become supervillains. The practice of human sacrifice by the Aztecs particularly and often false attributions of cannibalism to so many native peoples through the World, helped the goals of the invaders. That way Montezuma was a villain and Cortés, who had no mercy whatsoever, was to be a superhero. Even more questionable is the case of Pizarro, who had no word and got Atahualpa murdered even if he did fulfill his promise of gold. But these were to be the Spanish superheroes and even up to recently they featured in bank notes.
Similarly there is high moral questionableness for the Protestant heroes: Luther ordered the uprising peasants to be murdered like rabid dogs, Calvin had Servet executed on a theological disagreement, while Richard VIII is world-wide infamous for his executions of wives and advisors on any pretext.
The Early Modern Age is a time in which no clear supervillains other than witches seem possible to find: everyone else were just regular villains pretending to be heroes of sorts. However there is one exception: pirates!
Now pirates have been somewhat idealized by Hollywood but the real history of pirates with few if any exceptions is one of villains and the big names were indeed supervillains of their age. Names like Blackbeard, the Olonnais (left), etc. were truly feared and rarely admired back then.
When the English-protected pirate town of Port Royal, the wickedest town on Earth, was destroyed by a tsunami in the iconic year of 1666, it was an event welcomed through the world.
However pirates have something: they, like all robbers of some entity, rob the rich mostly... and who has not dreamed of robbing the rich? Robbing the poor is universally considered evil (except among the rich, for whom it is just normal) but robbing the rich has something heroic about it, even if its done by merciless means and with selfish goals.
For that reason pirates have overcome their supervillain role and have become postmodern anti-heroes, with moral ambiguities but not anymore flatly evil.
As far as I can tell one of the first modern fictional supervillains is Fu Manchu. He has almost everything to make an Osama Bin Laden, only lacking the beard and the fanaticism: he is exotic, he is absolutely evil (nothing can redeem him), he is a master criminal and he enjoys with others' suffering. Fu Manchu's aims, as those of most classical supervillains are materialist and at best sadistic.
Sadism, as opposed to the superheroes' moral repulsion for suffering is what really makes the supervillain: a genuine Holywoodian supervillain following the Fu Manchu model enjoys their enemies' (and random victims') suffering - so much that this lengthening of their agony is what typically brings the supervillain's demise in the end.
Goldfinger, Lex Luthor, the Joker...
Other famous supervillains come from the world of comics or the infinite movie series James Bond. They are all in the Fu Manchu model, though maybe with less emphasis in exotism (they are all whites and not just whites pretending to be Chinese as Fu Manchu actors).
But there is no supervillain like Hitler. Not even willingly they could have made such a perfect supervillain: with a ridiculous mustache and a silly penchant for all things military, lacking one testicle, possible son of a Jewish father yet ferociously antisemitic... but very specially with a truly megalomania like no other historical character we can recall.
Hitler wanted to conquer the World, or at least part of it. He wanted to vanquish not just barbaric races of color but whole white nations like Jews and Slavs (that makes him more evil for the Eurocentric eye).
He is to blame after all, quite justifiedly, for the last large war ever. But not just that: besides war victims, he had millions killed for no obvious reason at all, just his evil obsessions like racism and eugenics.
Worst: they were not killed in a barbaric rampage but meticulously, systematically, orderly in an industrial and civilized manner.
Definitively no fantasy could have come with such a perfected supervillain. It is doubtful (and I hope to be right in this) that any other supervillain ever reaches Hitler's perfection. At least not in the realm of real living people.
|Hitler and his sidekick Mussolini: most perfect supervillains ever|
If you have read Orwell's masterpiece 1984, you should be familiar with the figure of Goldstein. Goldstein, inspired on the use that Stalinist propaganda made of the image of Trotsky, was in the novel the rebel leader and hence traitor to be hated by all in the daily five minutes of hatred of hatemins.
He was supposedly in charge of a terrorist organization that would do anything, including murdering innocent children, in order to fight against the tyrannical system of Oceania (and its continental clones: Eurasia and Eastasia).
In the end the Resistance did not exist but was something run by the secret police of the Ministry of Love (= Police Ministry) in order to attract and trap dissidents. There was no Resistance but a pretense.
That's why Orwell's Goldstein is such a relevant supervillain because he is the archetype of supervillain that is not real but a media and secret services' creation. Just like Bin Laden.
Osama Bin Laden (or more properly maybe: Usama Bin Ladin, Arabic has only three vowels: /a/, /i/ and /u/, i.e. Usama son of the Latin or Ladin) is no doubt the latest supervillain ever. He could never reach the level of megalomaniac super-power of a Hitler but he was in many senses a more perfect supervillain for the purposes he was designed.
Unlike Hitler who was fighting for real, Osama was fighting for show. And this is ideal from the viewpoint of the superhero because he poses no true challenge: he is just a placeholder photo to blame for insider jobs like the 9-11 attacks or sectarian massacres in Iraq.
Bin Laden was put in charge of Al Qaeda by the USA and fundamentalist allies in order to defeat the Bolshevik government in Afghanistan, which promoted women rights, education, secularism and progress. He was known as the man of the CIA in that country and he probably never ever stopped working for Washington and Riyadh promoting reactionary ideologies in Afghanistan and everywhere with a Muslim presence.
Interestingly, unlike Goldstein, he has such a sectarian ideology that his organization has no risk whatsoever of becoming ever a major real threat, even if its creators lost control. At worse it could grow to encompass all the Sunni community, which is not more than 1/7 people on Earth, and not the wealthiest nor the most powerful ones either. Al Qaeda and in general Islamic Fundamentalism is a ghetto ideology that cannot ever pose any real threat because they will scare any possible ally, as happened with El Madhi in Sudan in the late 19th century.
However the promotion of Fundamentalism by the Washington-Riyadh-Tel Aviv axis, has not brought but political, ideological, intellectual and human misery to the parts of the World where Islam is somewhat important. This is probably one of the objectives of the fundamentalist groups fed by the Empire all around: to keep Muslims and other peoples in an artificial extension of the Middle Ages, where intolerance and patriarchy still dominate.
Now we must wonder if this reported execution of Osama Bin Laden is for real or not and what purpose it holds in the great imperial scheme... but we should not forget that he was put there by Washington first of all and that he has served his masters well, whatever is said to us officially.
But whatever he was in reality (a Gringo-Saudi spy), he was indeed one of the great supervillains of all times.