Thursday, February 14, 2013

Supervillain Don’ts #2: Complicated Death Gadgets

It’s time to get back to that complicated wheel of death, or any of the other ludicrously complicated mechanisms that supervillains repeatedly use in their attempts to slaughter heroes. Though their popularity has been on decline since the 70s and 80s, there are still plenty of our villainous brothers and sisters who still have visions of enormous swinging blades and times flamethrowers dancing through their heads.

I understand the appeal. Rube Goldberg machines that kill are both hilarious and are a great way to display how fiendishly clever you are. They’re a perfect place to use your ominous music soundtrack, and it gives a death scene a bit more flare than the traditional stabbing or shooting. If you’ve chosen to be a themed villain – The Evil Cheeseman, for example (though please, don’t take that as a suggestion) – you can construct a device that matches your theme.

There is, however, a fatal flaw in such devices – the more moving parts something has, the more ways it can disastrously break down.  It’s the same fatal flaw that comes with most of the basic technology in our lives, though there isn’t usually someone whose life depends on making sure your television doesn’t work (unless your family really hates your taste in TV shows).

The more complicated a method you use to kill the hero, the more opportunities they have to throw one last gasp of their powers (or, for that matter, a rock) in just the right place to bring the whole thing to a screeching halt. Or worse, send it crumbling into a big heap that will injure five or six minions in the process.

The hero will sadly, always know where these spots are – either they will be hiding an engineering degree/basic scientific genius you know nothing about, or they will be blessed with an incredibly annoying level of luck that will guide the rock right where it needs to go. Even if you shield the spot – hiding it behind thick metal shielding, for example – the hero will be able to reflect the rock in such a manner that feels as though the universe is conspiring against you.

Another advantage that complicated death devices give the hero is time. Spinning blades and flamethrowers are designed to strike fear into the hero’s heart long before something actually comes along to chop that heart in half – what’s the point of all the show, otherwise? But shows take time, which gives the hero a few precious seconds, minutes, or (in the most complicated devices) hours to come up with a plan to escape and stop your current wicked plot.

The simplest solution to all this is to simply shoot the hero in the head once you have him imprisoned (chest shots are also acceptable, though it will increase the chance of the hero miraculously surviving). If you need to show off your device of death, send the hero’s corpse through, then gather your minions together so you have an appreciative audience.

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