One of the joys of having a family is the chance to experience things you normally wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.  Case in point: ‘The Blacklist’, NBC’s weird procedural casting James Spader in a Hannibal Lecter-ish role as a criminal mastermind working with police to capture his former partners.  Though I didn’t care about it, my daughter’s obsession with seeing Blane’s evil bestie doing his best Professor Moriarty impression makes for interesting TV, and channels his prowess as 80s teen movies greatest slimeball into a modern context.  He’s no Anthony Hopkins, certainly, but he’s a better evil mastermind than the ‘Fantastic Four’ movie’s Victor Von Doom, falling somewhere between David Xanatos and Boris Badenov, which in turn begs a query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced “kee-an-tee”) rather enjoyed the wicked machinations of Doctor Gargunza, but was more frightened of Henry Bendix, asking: Who’s the most frightening criminal chess master in all of pop culture?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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11 Comments

  1. January 20, 2014 at 11:32 am — Reply

    I suppose my choice relies solely on perception. But I’m going to say Ozymandias is the greatest criminal mastermind. The way he orchestrated all of the events in The Watchmen, even going so far as to kill everyone associated with his plan, taking cues from the villains he faced in the past by not giving the other heroes any opportunity to stop him and his unwavering belief that what he was doing was right. That last bit may be the reason why perception is so important when defining him, but in my personal opinion that’s what makes him a perfect criminal mastermind, he doesn’t think he’s a criminal.

    • January 20, 2014 at 11:38 am — Reply

      Good choice. Another thing that makes him exception is that he actually succeeded.

  2. January 20, 2014 at 11:36 am — Reply

    Gotta go with Victor von Doom. Hes outsmarted godlike beings, planned world dominations, built super technology, mastered arcane arts and manages to run a whole country by himself at the same time. Talk about multitasking.

    • salla
      January 22, 2014 at 7:36 pm — Reply

      Yeah but he was defeated by a girl who talks to squirrels… more than once.

  3. Doctor Dinosaur
    January 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm — Reply

    Oh, there are so many good choices. Ra’s and Talia Al Ghul, Fu Manchu, Professor Moriarty, Tao, Luthor, Joker, The Master, Robur, Nemo, Darkseid, Dr. Hurt and some of the more memorable Bond villains.
    I suppose in the end the question posed was “Who’s the most frightening”, in which case I’d have to say Grant Morrison takes the proverbial cake with his “Otto Netz”. It’s not often a fictional character will have you question your own sanity/memory. Though I suppose I’d enjoy the character more if I actually watched “The Prisoner” TV show.

  4. mark
    January 20, 2014 at 2:33 pm — Reply

    I gave this some thought I love a good badguy but most of them are dead or failed – it’s a morality play they have to lose.
    so we need a bad guy who wins.
    So “Gabriel Shear” (John Travolta) in swordfish…fakes his and his partners own deaths and walks away with the cash

  5. January 20, 2014 at 2:44 pm — Reply

    Since others have mentioned my first choice of Prof. Moriarty, I’ll list one of my others, Agent Abrella of Dekaranger. Unlike most Super Sentai main villains, he wasn’t in charge of an organization, but instead operated more like a black market arms dealer. He manipulated events behind the scenes in such a devious way, getting paid for his goods and services while the customers went out and pretty much did what he wanted them to do. He even managed to successfully take control of Dekabase for a time in an attempt to lure the majority of the Special Police organization’s forces to Earth to be destroyed.

  6. Kirby
    January 20, 2014 at 5:38 pm — Reply

    David Xanatos, he has back up plans for his back up, back up, back ups. The man over two seasons you could not trust for a millisecond, and that’s just frightening.

  7. January 21, 2014 at 6:30 am — Reply

    Hard to beat Keyser Söze for inspiring fear whilst manipulating all around him. Another villain who wins, which seems a pretty valid criterion for a mastermind.

  8. January 22, 2014 at 11:30 am — Reply

    John Galt:
    In Atlas Shrugged, he manages to disappear completely from memory. Then he slowly convinces all of the most brilliant minds of the U.S. to go on strike and leave for a Utopia dedicated to self reliance and the ability to profit from one’s work. This is in direct contrast to the American collectivism going on at this time.
    His vision manages to grind the world to a halt by removing the producers from the world leaving mostly those dependent on government to survive.in a world run by ineffectual bureaucrats unable to create anything on their own.
    while Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom try to take over the world by force or evil mechanications, he manages to do what many others are unable to do and that is civilly disobey the government and bring it to a halt on a national level.
    Why is he a villain? Because in this story, the government in the midst of a crisis on fuel and resources decides that they need to control free will for the ruling powers to stay there rather than allow entrepreneurs to lead the way through the toil and sweat of their own hard work thereby resulting in a profit. In his world, people who started from nothing and made their way in the world are bad because they want to keep what they earned.

  9. Hannah Jones
    January 22, 2014 at 11:40 pm — Reply

    I’ve gotta say how much I love Jim Moriarty, Consulting Criminal, but he’s been mentioned many times already.
    The Joker, you can’t argue with a clown-themed psychopath.(also Kefka Palazzo)
    The Master because of the whole Toclafane thing.
    Dr. Yi Suchong for three little words, “Would You Kindly”

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t narrow it down to one.

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