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Superhero Series: Creating Conflict with the Supervillain

Welcome to Part 3 of Theatrefolk’s Superhero Series! In our last posts we’ve created original superheroes and super sidekicks. Now it’s time to create some conflict and add a dash of mayhem with some supervillains! Villains commit horrible crimes, perform heinous acts, and push our heroes to the edge. But with no conflict, heroes are boring — that’s why villains are so important. They become a vital part of the superhero’s existence. They often become icons in their own right — nobody forgets incredible characters like The Joker, Darth Vader, Lex Luthor, and Catwoman. Villains are also lots of fun to play onstage — they usually get great catchphrases, cool costumes, and possess a wicked evil laugh.

With villains, there are two important points to remember:

1. Villains need a clear WHY. What is their driving force, their purpose, their raison d’être? What motivates them to commit horrible deeds? Is it revenge? Insanity? Jealousy? Money? Desire for power? Fear? Anger? Once you know what your villain’s driving force is, then you can figure out how far they’ll go to achieve their goals. The higher the stakes, the more intriguing and exciting the stories are. 
2. In the villain’s mind, they are the hero of the story. Villains are absolutely convinced of their purpose, and will go to any means necessary to get what they want — lying, cheating, stealing, causing destruction and even death — and they are right to do so. They may have their own rules, guidelines, or philosophies that guide their actions, but they are truly the heroes in their own minds. For example, in the movie Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos believes he will free the world from suffering due to overpopulation and lack of resources, by using the Infinity Gauntlet to snap his fingers and turn half the world’s population to dust. Yes, half the world’s population will be gone (randomly too — nobody knows who will be turned to dust) but the remaining survivors will have more than enough resources to prosper.

With that, start your supervillain lesson with a class brainstorm and discussion:

  • List as many villains from movies, tv, and books as you can think of.
  • What drives the villains to do what they do?
  • What personality traits do villains possess?
  • Are all villains truly bad? Do they have any good aspects? Could they show (or have they ever shown) redeeming qualities? Why or why not?
  • What makes villains such great characters? What makes them appealing?
  • If you were in a play, would you rather play a hero or a villain? Why?
  • What does the phrase, “In the villain’s mind, they are the hero of the story” mean? Describe it in your own words.

Have students use the Villain Character Profile Worksheet (found below) to create their own original supervillain. One of the challenges of creating a “bad” character is creating the character without judgement. You may not agree with their mission, but remember that in the villain’s mind, their purpose is right and just. Students must find a balance to make their villain character horrible and foul while also being fully thought-out and compelling.

Your students now have three original characters at their fingertips, and now it’s time to take them to the next level. Stay tuned for our next instalment of the Superhero Series: Bringing Your Super World Together. 

Click here for a free Supervillain Character Profile Worksheet and reflection.
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Superhero Series: Bringing Your Super World Together
Superhero Series: Bringing Your Super World Together

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