Bad to the Bone
They say you can judge a hero by the character of his adversaries. If that's the case, then any hero that has to face these villains will surely be like unto a thing of iron, forged in combat with the most brutal supervillains in existence. Just who are these guys? First off, we have Thanos, the Mad Titan, who once managed to wipe out half of the universe. Next, there's Bane, the villain who broke Batman's back. And finally, there's Mr. Mind, a worm with a real streak and a penchant for mind control. And just what makes these villains so brutal? Read on and find out...
He Who Loves Death
With a named derived from Thanatos, the Greek god of death, you should be able to tell just by Thanos' name that he means business. And if that wasn't a big enough clue, just take a gander at this guy's ugly mug: purple, with a Skrull-like chin not even a mother could love, and the imposing crown of an alien who knows he is meant to rule.
Thanos is the creation of writer and artist Jim Starlin, who drew inspiration from the Jack Kirby character Darkseid. Thanos was introduced to the world, and to the Avenger Iron Man in issue no. 55 (February, 1973) of ol' Shellhead's title. Originally, Thanos was a cosmic interloper, traveling the galaxy and causing mischief, because he was cast out of a family of titans by a mother who preferred the sweeter demeanor of Thanos' brother, Starfox.
While there have been plenty of comic book villains who have sought out power and domination in one form or another, what makes Thanos unique is his quest to impress the female embodiment of Death. The Mad Titan worships Death, wants to serve her, and in doing so has frequently sought out the destruction of all life in the universe. He came closest to his goal with the acquisition of the infinity gems, which, when brought together, form the Infinity Gauntlet, an artifact of unlimited power. The Infinity Gauntlet allowed Thanos to instantly wipe out half of the universe's living beings, something he thought of as a romantic gesture to Death, but which just ticked off Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers.
The Avengers have defeated Thanos in his evil plans many times in the comics, and they will likely repeat the feat on the silver screen when the Mad Titan arrives in a future Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
He Broke the Bat
Bane will forever be known as the villain who succeeded in breaking the Batman, even if only temporarily. But it was almost a foregone conclusion, even from childhood, that Bane would grow up to cause trouble of that sort. After all, he was raised in a prison in South America, frequently injected with the chemical Venom, and taught that Batman was the reason he was a captive from birth. Once he got out, the fix was in.
The beginning to Bane's story is his first appearance, the prestige format one-shot Batman: Vengeance of Bane (January 1993), where the young prisoner of Santa Prisca starts to mutate from the effects of repeated exposure to Venom. Bane also spent his time behind bars deducing the true identity of Batman, a feat that few of the Caped Crusader's villains have ever been able to do.
Once his body and mind had achieved a sort of peak brutality, Bane escaped Santa Prisca, fled to Gotham City, and led the inmates of Arkham Asylum in a breakout. With criminals and maniacs flooding the streets of Gotham, Batman worked to the absolute breaking point to stem the tide of evil in the city. But the ordeal left him physically and mentally exhausted, so that when Bane confronted the Dark Knight inside the Batcave, Batman was almost helpless, unable to stop Bane from taking him over his knee and breaking his back.
Although Batman was eventually able to recover, Bane will forever be remembered as one of the villains who came closest to stopping the Batman forever. He managed to earn the same distinction in the film The Dark Knight Rises.
He's a Worm...That Can Control Your Mind
Compared to the other villains in this article, Mr. Mind may not seem all that brutal, but this is one wicked worm you would do well not to underestimate. This tiny terror made his debut all the way back in March, 1943, in the pages of Captain Marvel Adventures issue no. 22. In the story that began in that issue and ran for almost two years, Captain Marvel was increasingly distracted by a strange voice in his head that was apparently organizing and directing the unholy actions of the Monster Society of Evil.
Eventually, the mastermind was revealed to be Mr. Mind, an outer space alien that came to Earth as a tiny green worm. Mr. Mind possessed a variety of nasty mutations that gave him the ability to speak (using a miniaturized radio) and the conscience of a Hitler-type megalomaniac. He was also able to spin nearly-indestructible silk at lightning-fast speed, communicate with others using only his mind (the name really fits), and, scariest of all, control the thoughts of others. Of course, this worm does not have everything going for him. Because of his myopia, for example, it is necessary that Mr. Mind wear prescription eyeglasses. Evil prescription eyeglasses, though.
You Hate to Love Them
But You Love to Hate Them
Although we only listed three of what we think are the most brutal supervillains to be found in comic books, there are plenty more where Thanos, Bane, and Mr. Mind came from, including villains like Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Lex Luthor. Everyone has their own opinion about who exactly the most brutal supervillains are, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. You might also want to check out this article on the 5 Worst Supervillains of All Time, especially if you are looking for some characters who are still evil, but far from brutal.