Thursday, October 30, 2003


First, I have to apologize for taking so long to update this column. I have a good excuse, though. I’ve been plotting my rise to power as an evil overlord. Turns out it’s more complicated than I thought. You really need to put a lot of thought into something like that. Enough of you (it turns out I have three loyal readers) have berated me for not updating this page that I have temporarily abandoned my quest for world domination in order to concentrate on the column once again. I decided, however, that I couldn’t just let all this research go to waste. I may as well put it to use and share some of my conclusions with you. I’m not going to do any of the footwork for you, of course, but I can give you some tips to help you get past those early hurdles that slowed me down.

We’ll start with some of the big ones. What kind of villain do you want to be? Do you favor the “Silent but deadly” approach of your more nefarious villains or “The Bigger the Better” philosophy popular with the brute crowd? Subtly terrifying or terrifyingly massive? Think carefully, your answer here will set the tone for the rest of your villainy. Once you get that out of the way you can concentrate on the details.

Like your name. That’s an important detail. “But I already have a name!” you say. To which I respond, “Yes, but does it command the attention you want as a potential Evil Overlord?” Probably not. Take my name for instance: Robert Smith. Not really suitable for inspiring fear or obedience. Unless I was going for Terrifyingly Normal (which I haven’t ruled out, by the way), in which case it would be quite effective. As it turns out MOST parents are not usually inclined to give their child an evil sounding name. Of course there are exceptions; Richard Simmons managed to become terrifying without any adjustments to his name, but very few of us are as talented as he is.

So there’s a good chance you’ll have to change your name. Vin Diesel got it right. So did Dr. Evil. Neither name is very subtle, but they work. Vanilla Ice did not get it right (who’s afraid of vanilla anything?) but then again it’s not much worse than Robert van Winkle so at least it wasn’t a step backwards for him. Some successful names include Mugatu, Sauron, and the entire Darth line (Maul, Sidious, and Vader – although if “sidious” held the same relationship to “insidious” that “capable” holds to “incapable” then it would be a much less successful name).

Another way to enhance your name is to add a title. Ivan the Terrible is a perfect example. Ivan, by itself, is not a very interesting name. Facing Ivan is not a frightening prospect but if someone tells you you’re on your way to see Ivan the Terrible, well that’s a little more intimidating. Likewise, Vlad is the foreign exchange student next door. Vlad the Impaler, however, is a guy you’d rather not have living anywhere nearby. Dr., Baron, and Count are also titles that can add to the strength of a name. Even a simple Mr. or Mrs. can be frightening if used well (Miss Havisham is a good example of this). Try experimenting with a few variations of your own.

I’m afraid that’s about all I have time for now. I hope you found this useful. Perhaps in a future column I will be able to discuss lair design, subordinate selection, and the importance of an appropriate color scheme.