The Lord of the Manor – “What shall we do with the scullery maid we found reading a book, Lord Dastardly?”
“Have her dismissed, force her parents off my land, and send her brothers and sisters to the local poor-house. That should stop her getting ideas above her station…”
You can’t beat the arrogance and sense of entitlement of the English Lord and Lady, unless…..
The mean King – Unless he is the king of course! The English normally supply most these bad guys as well, and you have plenty to choose between. From Edward 1st ‘Hammer of the Scots’, Richard III locking his nephews in the Tower (then murdering them), to Henry VIII and his severance package for estranged wives.
The decadent Emperor – Ancient Rome with all its wealth and power needs a good insane Emperor to keep things ticking along. Making a horse a senator (Caligula), killing his mother (Nero), or being deluded into thinking he was Hercules (Commodus), you have plenty to choose from, and that’s just Rome… Ancient China, The British Empire, all have their fair share.
The marauding barbarian – He can come in many forms, be it a golden haired warrior of the goths, a Vandal from the East, or a bearded Viking disgorging from his dragon boat. But whatever guise, he represents the pagan past and a return to the darkness from enlightenment. Uncaring of accumulated knowledge, or any form of learning, he will leave only a path of destruction wherever he treads.
The Nazi – Cold, calculating, and sinister, but above all else without pity or empathy. The SS uniform or Gestapo long coat will still send a shiver down the spine. Nightmares and tragic stories lie behind that cold implacable face of blonde hair and blue eyes. This is no pantomime bad guy, a real lesson from history lies here.
The spoiled brat – ‘Spoil the child, ruin the man’ the saying goes and when you add in absolute power and a coterie of yes men to a completely pampered upbringing you have a recipe for disaster. Their own perceived self-importance normally leads to overwhelming selfishness and childlike cruelty, and sympathy for their upbringing soon runs dry when you see what they are capable of.
The self-righteous – it’s always astonishing how much evil can be achieved in the name of good. Women burnt as witches, children beaten to remove their imagined ‘wickedness’, any number of heinous crimes justified in the name of their god or faith. The danger of the self-righteous is that everything they do is with a religious zeal, so don’t expect any half measures.
The Bond villain – Okay, a bit obvious this one, but how can you leave it off the list? A good Bond villain needs to be suitably eccentric, preferably with a distinguishing feature – be that a pet cat (Blofeld), or a physical impairment such as metal hands (Dr No).
The unseen menace – Difficult to pull this one off, but if done well is very effective. The Lord of the Rings’ Dark Lord is a great example – showing that a distant malevolence can be just as effective as anything more immediate. This is because the reader’s imagination, given the right prompting, can conjure up something just as terrible as anything the writer can describe.
The slave owner – anyone capable of buying and selling human beings as a commodity is liable to be capable of anything towards those same people. The de-humanising effect of slavery will mean that the slave-owner will think nothing of whatever cruel punishment is met out to their slaves as they toil in the hot sun, or are forced into other forms of back-breaking labour.