I have two nominations, and while I am sure that everybody has a personal favorite, and thus will disagree in large part with my opinions, these are the two figures that I have encountered in works of fiction that have chilled me the most. In manner they are much alike; both are men of towering intellect and erudition, both are powerful in body in a manner that dwarfs those around them, in both stature and brute strength. They are simply more than their peers; their minds shine brighter, their physicality is more oppressive, in short, they are ubermensche, but ubermensche that have turned their talents toward darkness.
These men are Judge Holden from Cormac McCarthy’s inimitable meditation on violence and war, Blood Meridian, and Dr. Gull from Alan Moore’s fiendishly imagined retelling of the Jack the Ripper murders, From Hell.
The reason I am so awed and chilled by these two men is that they have all the tools necessary to effect the greatest good; education, culture, the ability to reason and comprehend all about them, physical dominance and a sense of purpose that brooks no denial. They are larger than life, and armed as they are with all the culture, knowledge and perspicaciousness that they possess, it is terrifying to think that they choose evil. When all is put on the balance, one likes to think that the inclination would be toward good; to find men that are greater in every way choose the road of darkness is terrifying.
For whom amongst us could outreason the Judge, or summon examples from history or the arts that would confound Dr. Gull? Whom could wrestle with them in either the intellectual or physical arena and not admit defeat? They confound us at every turn, and not only choose darkness, but glory in it, find in evil acts a higher motive, a truer path that electrifies them, beatifies them, leaving us looking up in confusion as they walk their higher road.
Ah, but I do love to imagine them meeting. They are contemporaries, I believe; 19th century figures, one roaming the American Southwest, the other in London, and so it is possible to imagine their paths crossing; what conversations might they have, how might they size each other up? How would like react to like, which would gain the upper hand, assert dominance?
So there you have it. All other villains pale before these two, becoming two dimensional caricatures when contrasted against the minds, willpower and strength of these villains non-paraleil. Judge Holden and Dr. Gull, the darkest figures to be found in English literature.
Et tu, Brute? Whom do you consider the worst of the worst, and why?