Let’s get real here: Being a superhero sucks.

You get the crap kicked out of you on a regular basis. The police chase you and accuse you of being a criminal. The media writes negative stories about you and calls you a public menace. You can’t hold down a job or maintain a stable love life, because you’re always ducking out of work or dates at a moment’s notice to save the world. You can’t charge anyone for your efforts, because heroes are supposed to be selfless (and therefore dirt poor). There’s no union, so there’s no health insurance either (just think of the cost of the orthodontics to repair all those broken teeth). It’s a miserable, thankless life full of dedication, honor, and sacrifice. Yuck.

It’s much better to be a supervillain. Think of the perks! Vast amounts of wealth and power. Cool weaponry. The ability to murder people who cut you off in traffic without feeling bad about it. Yes, supervillainy is where it’s at. But how to become a supervillain? That’s the tough part.

Thankfully, the ever-expanding library of Marvel movies, including this week’s Ant-Man, which features the dastardly deeds of Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), provides an increasingly detailed blueprint for how an ordinary misanthrope can attain mega-evil status. If you put all the Marvel movies side-by-side, you’ll see there’s really just a few things that all these baddies share; follow in their footsteps, and you’re good to go — or bad to go in this case. So, in five steps, here’s how to become a full-fledged comic-book supervillain:

Step #1: Grow up in close proximity to a future superhero.

Loki Avengers 2 cameo

Most Marvel villains aren’t random strangers who wander into a hero’s life at an inopportune moment; typically, they have an intricate backstory with the protagonist, one that involves years of friendship and camaraderie that slowly curdles into frustration over having to live in the shadow of said protagonist. This makes sense; have you ever been friends with someone who’s really, really nice? Like someone who tips waiters extremely well, and writes thank-you notes for every gift they receive, and lets pregnant women take their seat on the subway? It makes you feel like garbage, right? The only rational response in the face of that sort of obnoxious do-goodery is to try to take over the entire world.

EXAMPLES: Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the Thor movies; Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) in Ant-Man.

Step #2: Become the head of a multinational conglomerate.

Justin Hammer

Okay, so maybe this should be a later step (preceded by stuff like “Work really hard, go to an Ivy League university, and get an MBA” or “Start in the mailroom, apply yourself, and climb the ladder”), but there’s no faster shortcut to Marvel supervillainy (and no faster shortcut for Marvel filmmakers to tell their audience that a dude is straight-up despicable) than becoming the CEO of a giant corporation. Forget that Marvel is a gigantic media company that is itself owned by an even more gigantic media company; in Marvel movies, big business is the root of all evil. It’s essentially an inverted riff on Spider-Man’s “with great power must come great responsibility”; unscrupulous businessmen are a perfect figure of irresponsible authority. All they care about is money! (Apropos of absolutely nothing, this Ant-Man figure is almost as cool as this Ant-Man figure, which is almost as cool as this Ant-Man figure.)

EXAMPLES: Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) in Iron Man 2; Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) in The Wolverine; Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) in Ant-Man.

Step #3: Invent Something That Could Change the Entire World, Then Just Use It to Punch People.

Jeff Bridges Iron Man

Okay, so you’ve spent a lifetime seething with jealousy, and now you’ve got your own capitalistic death machine. What’s next? That’s easy; just create a new technology that could revolutionize life on Earth as we know it — and then hoard it for yourself as a way to beat up your former best friend. You’re allowed to flirt with selling out to the highest bidder (it’s a nice way to show your complete lack of ethics) but ultimately you need to use that gadget you’ve made in as uncreative and destructive a way as possible. Like Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe) and his super-soldier tech in Spider-Man, which he uses to pester Peter Parker, or Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who covets Tony Stark’s repulser blasters, steals and weaponizes them, and then just punches Iron Man around Southern California. Think really big! And then immediately think super-small.

EXAMPLES: Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in Iron Man 3; Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage) in X-Men: Days of Future Past; Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) in Ant-Man.

Step #4: Act like a really nice guy your whole life, then turn insane at a moment’s notice.

Julian McMahon Doctor Doom

This is really important. Ordinary bad guys are bad all the time (think Donald Trump). True supervillains always look like cool dudes until the precise moment when they suddenly pull an emotional 180 and turn into a raging dickhole. Typically, this two-faced behavior gets attributed to a blast of cosmic rays, or a cloud of toxic gas, or gamma radiation bomb. But we know the real root cause: Exposure to poorly-written screenplays.

EXAMPLES: Harry Osborne (James Franco) in the first Spider-Man trilogy; Doctor Doom (Julian McMahon) in Fantastic Four; Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) in Ant-Man.

Step #5: If all else fails, become an all-powerful alien/god/demon


If this all sounds like too much effort, there is one other path to ultimate iniquity. If a Marvel villain isn’t a former bestie turned avaricious executive, he’s almost definitely some variation of an immortal deity or devil or E.T. Some of these creepazoids come from beyond the stars (like the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) and some have vaguely religious overtones (like Mephisto from Ghost Rider). But the specifics are totally irrelevant. All that matters is that you’re hugely powerful, you have strange-colored skin or weird hair, and you never ever smile. You’re not happy, dammit; you’re a supervillain! Oh and don’t worry about coming up with any motivation for destroying the entire universe. You just do it because evil.

EXAMPLES: Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) from Thor: The Dark World; Ronan (Lee Pace) from Guardians of the Galaxy; Thanos (Josh Brolin) in every Marvel movie ever.

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