Four Letter Nerd

Philosophy in Comics: The Nihilist Villain.

I have always found myself rooting for the villain. I’m really not sure what that says about me as a person. I’m a college students and taking philosophy/ethics classes, and they pretty much tell me I shouldn’t root for the bad guy, but I really can’t help it. I’m at a stage in my life where I look at things from a Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) perspective. I see no point in college, I see no point in working 9-5 until you’re 60 and can retire. I see no point in military conflicts, and I see no point in political parties. I understand the need for police, prisons, law and order, but I see no point in limiting the rights of humans. In theory, I agree with Nietzsche, but in a world of super villains it can be a hell of a terrifying thought. I haven’t found a complete nihilist in comics, but I have a few characters who share some traits of a nihilist.


Lets take a look at one of the most famous chaotic villains, if you know anything about comic books, you know who this is going to be. The Joker. Lets look at how crazy he is, he once tried to copyright fish. You know, the kind that swim in the ocean, lakes or FISH tanks. He had his twisted smile put on these fish and then tried to copyright that. Or another time when he shoots Barbra Gordon in the spine, strips her naked, photographs it, and arguably rapes his helpless victim (now this isn’t shown or discussed, but it is VERY much implied). So when we look at the grand scheme of this brutal attack, Joker does this entirely to prove a point, and that point is that just one bad day can ruin anyone. And his target was to ruin Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. Joker ends up sending Gordon through some sick twisted carnival ride and shows him the images of his naked, beaten, and broken daughter. This is enough to send any man crazy. BUT Joker did not act on a Nihilist playing field, he had a reason and a point. He had something he wanted to prove, but he failed because Jim Gordon wasn’t ruined. (When people tell me Joker is their favorite villain, I just think of him as a rapist, and no rapist deserves any form of flattery. This theory on Joker being a rapist actually causes me to hate him.)

joker killing joke

Let us shy away from Batman because this can easily become a “Lets Look at the psychology/morals of Batman villains” and it seems we all know the majority of them already—one of my favorite villains is actually Sinestro. He’s an angry bitter man. He has gone through the ringer with the Green Lantern Corps, he left and started his own lanterns, the Sinestro Corps all because he is pissed that Hal is such a perfect pretty boy that can’t do wrong in they eyes of the Guardians. I can relate to Sinestro, but he doesn’t act on nihilism, he has a reason to be angry. He has a reason to hate Hal Jordan as well as all other Lanterns. Even when he goes of and starts his own Corps, it doesn’t end well for him and he just keeps becoming more and more angry. In Green Lantern N52, we get a little back-story on what causes Sinestro to become so bitter. Their start with a frustrated Sinestro due to the fact that the ring has chosen him, again, and it wants to redeem Sinestro. Later in the story Sinestro returns to his home world only to have it destroyed by an angry and “evil” Volthoom, the first Lantern. So all of Sinestro’s action in N52 can be brought back to significant reasons for his anger two main ones being, hate and frustration, so there is no way that Sinestro can fall into the Nihilist category.


Well, how about Edward Blake, also known as The Comedian. In Watchmen we are shown what a terrible person Blake is. The entire story practically is about him, he’s our main character and we are trying to figure out who killed him. I think Blake is our best-represented Nihilist in the comic book world. When he’s in Vietnam fighting with the American military, he knocks up a local woman and ends up shooting and killing her because she is pregnant with his child. He kills her practically because she wants him to stay in Vietnam and remember her country, her people and “Their” child. Comedian sees no point in this so after a little bit of a struggle and broken bottle to his face, he ends up shooting and killing her AND the unborn child. When other characters talk about Blake, they seem to become uncomfortable and some can’t even stand the thought of being around him. Hell, he’s another example of a rapist in the comic medium when he sexually assaults Sally Jupiter.


Edward Blake, Comedian, went to war for one reason. To kill. The United States army sponsored him in order to help bring the war to an end. He was on Military salary and his actions suffered no repercussions due to his military involvement. It’s never discussed that he was punished for the murder of a local woman and her unborn child, but knowing the character that Edward is, its not likely that he suffered any discipline. After all, in The Comedians eyes, the world is just a sadistic joke that only he understands. Even in the end when Eddie is murdered, he doesn’t really care. He’s not a nihilist, because he had purpose and he saw purpose, but he’s damn near close to one.


So, after a lot of consideration, I cannot think of an ultimate Nihilist Villain (or hero, depending how you view Comedian).  It’s a cool thought, but I think a nihilist villain would be way more terrifying then Joker. A nihilist would see no point in any morals or thoughts. He would act on nothing, and there would be no predictability. His crimes would be atrocious, and I think he would honestly be way to dark to handle. So after all is said and done, villains act n some sort of reasoning or morals. At least, that’s what we want to think…

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Bill Clark

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  • maybe even if life has no inherent meaning it is still bearable. the unbearable lightness of being can be overcome by a becoming. constant striving broken up by periods of rest and deep relaxation make for an interesting life. a man may take things normally as they come and never follow that boring thing called a schedule. this would be a great and refreshing thing unlike the mighty bloodless bland diet of books and office work that you find nowadays.

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