Building better villainy

Carolyn w mustache  This speech was originally given to the National Academy of Villains, the transcript first appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Villains, it is reprinted here with permission.

Doctor Ernst Vaal is the Chief Executive Officer of Mammon Funds Worldwide, an investment firm that has helped a number of villains reach their goals with venture capital.

Venture capital, even under the best circumstances, is an incredibly risky business but that risk is balanced by rewards. Investing in villainy has far greater risks, risk unmatched by any other kind of investment, but the rewards can be truly epic in proportion. Villainy needs capital to cover the funding of secret isles, doomsday devices and attracting the best personnel. By bringing together villainy and venture capital those truly monumental acts of evil are no longer the province of intergalactic beings, trust fund kids and third-world dictators. But the investor needs to minimize their risk, and villains must make themselves and their schemes appealing to investors. All too often the best and brightest stars are snuffed out by the tiny details of their schemes. How many times have we seen a vent that was just too big, an off switch that was too clearly labeled, or a conveniently acquired sense of fair-play bring down one of our associates? The next level of villainy requires attention to these details and the faults that underline them, and today I will propose just a few simple steps that any of us can take to gain the upper hand in the global struggle against good.

An investor’s first step should be a careful cost-benefit analysis. This is where you weigh the potential risks of an investment against the potential gains, if the plan comes out in favor of the gains then it’s something that might be worth doing, if it looks like it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth then you should head back to the drawing board. While you might think that stealing candy from a baby is a great way to kill time on a Sunday afternoon, it tends to generate a lot of ill-will and clearly marks you as a person of interest to any nearby heroes (as does a mustache). Often villainous plans bring about the risk of prosecution and open the investor up to civil liability, not to mention the loss of the whole investment when the hero throws the doomsday machine into the sun. The potential rewards of investing in villainy are access to top secret technologies, rare artifacts (the Louvre isn’t likely to sell the Mona Lisa any time soon), and virtually limitless wealth and power. The equation becomes even more appealing once the risks are minimized. Villains are chiefly responsible for minimizing the risk inherent in their schemes, and I propose a number of methods.

Motivation is often overlooked by villains and investors in their quests for power and wealth; many of us villains are simple caricatures acting upon the fever dreams of damaged minds (the city of Gotham in fact has an institution wholly devoted to this breed of villain, the Arkham Asylum). For investors and villains it’s important to understand the reasons behind their choices. Successful villainy requires emotional detachment, not from the men and women of the world, but from your own origins, backgrounds and motivations. The great Lex Luthor, the great genius villain of the previous generation held his vendetta against Superman so tightly that it would come to color his every scheme. By antagonizing the Man of Steel he put a sure end to his attempts to create ocean-front property in Nevada and an America in his own image. None of the advice that I will give today will matter if you’re still in this game because you got stood up for the prom, or some jerk kicked sand in your face when you were at the beach.

To minimize the risk size of your emotional blinders you should seek out a competent therapist to help you work out many of your issues.  While confiding in someone might seem like an Achilles Heel, the potential benefit far outweighs the harm it can do. There are some pitfalls to therapy because most therapists are required to inform the authorities if they believe that you are a danger to yourself or others, but(in the United States most therapists are required by law to contact the authorities if you’re seen as a danger to yourself or others), but if you can’t conceal your evil plans from your therapist then you might want to consider another line of work. The academy has an excellent listing of therapists throughout the world that are very discrete and have helped countless villains overcome childhood traumas and psychoses. Also, if you feel that your therapist might reveal painful childhood trauma to the heroes after you have hatched your scheme then you can just kill them, you are a villain after all. If the therapist proves to be an unacceptable risk it is possible to either imprison them or kill them, you are villains after all. Investors should also require some kind of psychological screening for any villain whose schemes they may want to invest in.

Your motivation is also a tool that can be used to overcome adversity and stay firm to the cause. It can also be used to serve as a yardstick for measuring potential actions, which leads me to my next point. To quote Kenny Rogers, “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.”Objectivity is also important because it helps to minimize losses when problems being to occur. Ideological motives and a personal vendetta against James Bond led to the downfall of the agent’s penultimate opponent, Colonel Moon, and his plan to restart the Korean War with a space-based laser. The appearance of an elite secret agent or super hero should not be a signal to a villain that everything is going all right, it should be a signal to escape and minimize any losses. As Kenny Rogers once said, “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.”

Villains should also be aware of the legal structures surrounding them, in most countries (both developed and developing) there are strong protections for the accused and people with obscene amounts of money. Victor Von Doom, enemy of the Fantastic Four, has leveraged the international legal system to great effect by using his position as leader of Latveria for diplomatic status in the United States (granting him a certain level of diplomatic immunity). Since heroes tend to be hard-scrabble newspaper reporters more often than they are billionaire playboys they can’t afford very good lawyers when they’re sued for slander or violating your civil rights – when they broke into your corporate headquarters, abducted you and left you trussed up in front of the local police station. Heroes are very often motivated by a sense of patriotism or justice but don’t have the sophisticated legal or police training that will help them to make an arrest or accusation of terrorism stick.

The law can also be helpful by allowing you to establish a limited-liability corporation, as an individual operating a city-destroying robot you’re liable for any damages that you might cause if you’re defeated. While you might be able to beat a criminal prosecution the rules of evidence for civil proceedings are a lot looser and bankruptcy can vanquish your plans for building an orbital laser platform just as easily as a team of plucky heroes armed only with their dreams and an obscene amount of high-explosives. Limited liability corporations also provide protection for your investors and make it easier for them to organize their investments for tax purposes.

 

 

A careful cost-benefit analysis can really help out any endeavor. This is where you weigh the potential risks of a plan against the gains, if the plan comes out in favor of the gains then it’s something that might be worth doing, if it looks like it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth then you should head back to the drawing board. While you might think that stealing candy from a baby is a great way to kill time on a Sunday afternoon, it tends to generate a lot of ill-will and clearly marks you as a person of interest to any nearby heroes (as does a mustache).

One cost that is often overlooked by villains. Villains often overlook their public image when they’re launching their schemes is the cost to public image. While this might not matter to you if you’re motivation is simply to sew chaos and disorder, if you simply want to obtain power and wealth, a positive public image can be a great boon to your plans (after all, no one really protested when Google bought YouTube but they would have if Microsoft had done it). Having a positive public image also makes it harder for heroes and do-gooders to go after you directly, if you donate a lot of your ill-gotten gains to enhancing inner city schools then the guy going after you clearly has it in for kids living in the inner city. Public relations can also be used against heroes, who often cause a lot of damage to local infrastructure in order to rid the world of your menacing presence. Thus, public relations are the first shield that your evil schemes for global domination will need in order to succeed. Having above-board practices can also create deniability for investors, if your company has a very positive public image that keeps its schemes in the background then it is more likely to attract investors (who never really want to have their assets seized because they were accomplices to a crime).

Conversely the media can be used to create ill-will toward do-gooders, there is already a lot of animosity toward super heroes in the law enforcement community because of their vigilante tendencies. The media also enjoys the scandal and attention that it can attract in denigrating heroes. If we look at the example of the relationship between The Daily Bugle and Spiderman it is clear that villains have a lot of hidden allies in the PR wars.

An investor is also going to look at the whole organization, not just its leadership. You should also make careful use of your resources and have an efficient overall organization. Efficiency helps to minimize costs and maximize profits, after all, why have sharks with “freakin’ laser beams” when regular sharks (or even a reliable pistol) will do just as well for disposing of interlopers.

 If you’re going to have a crack squad of commandoes, you might consider using them to nip any budding heroes before they can become a thorn in your side, rather than just sending in wave after wave of progressively stronger minions. Investors will also look at how you treat your employees and partners (since it will have a direct bearing on how you will treat them). It’s also important to listen to your advisors and trusted lieutenants, they got into those positions for a reason and if you discount their advice you might as well not have them on the payroll (incidentally, people also have higher morale when they think that their ideas have an impact on the company that they work for, this will make them less likely to defect to the heroes and more productive). Investors also like to have a degree of influence on plans and operations, good investors are very hands on about their projects and are very invested in ensuring a return off of their investment. If you have children, you should also use them to both secure your legacy and discourage any heroes from just coming in and beating you up at any moment. After all, if you’ve got your five-year-old nephew with you when the hero bursts in to confront you things aren’t very likely to get violent (what kind of role-model would the hero be if they beat up on some kid’s uncle right in front of him).

Villains should also be aware of the legal structures surrounding them, in most countries (both developed and developing) there are strong protections for the accused and people with obscene amounts of money. Since heroes tend to be hard-scrabble newspaper reporters more often than they are billionaire playboys they can’t afford very good lawyers when they’re sued for slander or violating your civil rights – when they broke into your corporate headquarters, abducted you and left you trussed up in front of the local police station. Heroes are very often motivated by a sense of patriotism or justice but don’t have the sophisticated legal or police training that will help them to make an arrest or accusation of terrorism stick.

The law can also be helpful by allowing you to establish a limited-liability corporation, as an individual operating a city-destroying robot you’re liable for any damages that you might cause if you’re defeated. While you might be able to beat a criminal prosecution the rules of evidence for civil proceedings are a lot looser and bankruptcy can vanquish your plans for building an orbital laser platform just as easily as a team of plucky heroes armed only with their dreams and an obscene amount of high-explosives.

Good investors are willing to wait for returns on their investment, they know that it can take years to shepherd a business or plan to success. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that most heroes lack any degree of subtlety because with super-strength comes the tendency to want to use that to the exclusion of all other things. By engaging in more subtle activities, like releasing very violent video games that predispose kids toward solving their problems with aggression, it’s much harder for the heroes to find you out and then confront you. It’s easier to attract investors because the risk is much lower and they’re already investing in such schemes to destroy the health and welfare of society – just look at tobacco and alcoholic beverage companies.

The face of Dr. Evil’s criminal empire (as well as its wallet) benefitted immensely from its corporate face, Virtucon. Spending the better part of 30 years raking in great profits and investing them further and it was only when Dr. Evil returned to enact his nefarious schemes that the British government felt the need to get involved. If you’re going to sit around twirling your mustache while you hold the world for ransom then you’re going to invoke a proportional response, and that’s generally not the world capitulating and giving in to your demands. What does a superhero do when his enemy’s evil plan is to get elected President of the United States in order to feed no-bid government contracts to his supporters and cronies?

The best weapon of a villain’s arsenal is free-market capitalism, not only because it allows for an unbridled expansion of greed and violence, but because it gives us excellent models to follow. Corporate and political villainy are the future of our profession and they are the death knell of our greatest enemy, the superhero. The potential gains of running a multibillion dollar corporation that ruins the world through cost-cutting measures, layoffs and shoddy products is far greater than anything that a government accountant or two-bit protester could do to you. While this might not be the sexiest form of villainy (it really exposes you to sexual harassment lawsuits from your comely assistants), what it lacks in panache it makes up for in punch.

Ultimately each villain needs to make up their mind about what they want to get from their career as an agent of evil, what their goals are and how they’d like to accomplish them. Truth be told, because of the danger posed by superheroes a lot of us would be better off using our genius to cure cancer and getting obscenely rich off of that. The mavericks and rogues that want to bring the world and the universe crashing down around them are not only a danger to themselves, they are a danger to the rest of villainy. Villainy has the chance to radically redistribute wealth and capital in new and innovative ways, it creates whole new markets and new ramifications for investment and capital and that’s what makes it an exciting place for investment.