Noble Villains: Ranking the Top 5

There’s Honor Among Thieves and Noble Villains

Shocker:T’aint nothin’ personal, hoss. Simple truth is, if a man’s a man, he honors his responsibilities, and you’re one of mine.

The Spectacular spider-Man “Market Forces” (Season 1, Episode 4

Villains are bad people. They delight in torture, murder, rape, and other pain-inducing crimes. Minor crooks might rob victims, but are all villains evil? Perhaps there is a better sort of criminal, one who is a bad guy, but not a Bad Guy.

Noble villains blur the line between good and evil. They can be murderers and thieves, but follow a code. Perhaps they will never hurt innocent bystanders or always honor their word. Heeding moral standards makes heroes less likely to focus on capturing them, perhaps even teaming up against mutual threats. So who are the top 5 noble villains? Let’s find out.

#5 Noble Villain: Etrigan

[Etrigan mocks and beats an undead Nazi]
“Now, my haughty Aryan friend
Let me consider your offer again
The Kings of Hate, you say that’s you?
And I’ve a chance to be one too?
Let me try to set you straight
On just what is and isn’t hate.”

The Demon #48 (1994)

Demons generally don’t have those standards. It’s hard to maintain any when you literally live in Hell. But as long as this one is held in check by his host, heroes can trust this noble villain.

Etrigan is a demon who was summoned as a last resort to save Camelot from Morgan le Fay. He slaughtered her army, but the kingdom fell and Morgan escaped. Merlin used his magic to merge Etrigan with a knight named Sir Jason so they could hunt the traitorous witch.

Etrigan loves tempting people into indiscriminate massacres. Sir Jason keeps Etrigan contained unless a foe is too powerful for him to defeat. Etrigan is reluctantly willing to work with heroes and often fights worse monsters than himself. 

If you want more tales of glory, check out our Etrigan backstory. Perhaps you simply lack the time? We’ve a shorter version done in rhyme.

#4 Ra’s al Ghul

Ra’s al Ghul: “Even before the Phoenix debacle, I had come to realize that Arkady was too unbalanced and cruel to wisely rule my empire.”
Batman: “But you couldn’t forget about him.”
Ra’s al Ghul: “What father can ever forget his son? Come now, Detective, I’ve still a few good years left. We will cross swords another day. But for now, let me take my boy home.”

Batman: the Animated Series “Showdown” (Season 2, Episode 13)

Older villains lean into the idea of honor among thieves. They’ve lived long enough to learn that cooperation is the most efficient way to achieve their goals. This noble villain learned that lesson a very long time ago.

Ra’s al Ghul was a doctor living in 15th century Africa. He discovered the Lazarus Pits, several pools of mystic water that can heal any wound or resurrect the dead. He was betrayed by his homeland’s prince and led a band of marauders to seek revenge. Ra’s reformed the killers into the ninja-esque League of Assassins, which he ruled in secret.

The Lazarus Pits kept Ra’s al Ghul young for centuries, but eventually lost potency. He has chosen Batman as his successor and seeks to twist Bruce to his way of thinking. Ra’s supports his daughter’s pursuit of the Dark Knight and personally trained her son, Damian Wayne.

The oldest noble villain on our list has a long story. Our backstory has the details.

#3 Noble Villain: Magneto

Apocalypse: “Traitors! You dare turn on your master?!”
Magneto: I call NO ONE master! Especially not one who would destroy the innocent along with the guilty!

X-Men: the Animated Series “Beyond Good and Evil” (Season 4, Episode 21)

Noble Villains are two halves of the same coin. They can massacre cities without hesitation or risk their life to save a child. This one keeps his allies guessing.

Max Eisenhardt is a Holocaust survivor with magnetic superpowers. He feared a war between mutants and humans was inevitable and tried to conquer the world to prevent it. Magneto formed the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and battled the X-Men, who believe that humans and mutants can coexist. 

Magneto’s campaign ended when he nearly killed fellow Jewish mutant Shadowcat. He reformed and joined the X-Men to protect mutants. Magneto often returns to the conqueror mindset after seeing too many atrocities before reforming once again. Even as a villain, he will immediately form truces with the X-Men against larger threats. 

I’m not ferrokinetic, but I’m sure we can attract you to our Magneto Backstory.

#2 Noble Villain: Captain Cold

Captain Cold: “You know we don’t have a lot of rules here, but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. [Punches Mirror Master] No drugs. You’re a good Rogue, McCullouh, better than Scudder ever was, but I need you sharp, understand? So say it.”
Mirror Master:Cold…
Captain Cold:Say. It.
Mirror Master:No… drugs.”

Flash #213 (1987)

Being a noble villain is hard work. You’re always torn between being trusted and being feared. Successfully walking that path is impressive. Convincing half the villains in your city to follow suit is flat out cool.

Captain Cold was a crook who designed a cold gun to exploit one of Flash’s weaknesses. He ultimately was sent to jail without killing Flash. While there, he reached out to other inmates and formed The Rogues. 

Captain Cold laid down rules to keep the gang running efficiently. The Rogues stick to bank robberies, don’t use drugs, and avoid killing so they don’t have pissed off heroes after them. The code is so effective that Kid Flash views The Rogues as his friends, rival coworkers at worst.

If you’re gonna run with The Rogues, you should know more about their boss. Chill out with our Captain Cold Backstory

#1 “Gentleman” John Marcone

Marcone:One day, probably soon, you’ll get yourself killed thanks to that irrational set of compulsions you call a conscience. I needn’t lift a finger. Giving you information seems an excellent way to accelerate that process. It will also tax the resources of my enemies. And… I believe I have no objection to contributing against any organization that would victimize children so.


Marvel and DC don’t have a monopoly on noble villains. You can find them in books, movies, games, anywhere really. So let’s take a day-trip to Chicago and check in with one of the greats.

John Marcone is the leader of Chicago’s criminal underworld. He discovered that magic exists and adapted his gang to harness it. Marcone is pragmatic and charming, able to keep up with Odin and the fairy queen Mab. The police support him because he runs a tight ship while fending off other gangs and mystic critters.

Marcone saw a young girl nearly die because of a botched assassination attempt targeting him. The incident caused Marcone to refocus his empire on minimizing civilian suffering. He became very protective of children, killing anyone who hurt a kid. Marcone has also aided occult detective Harry Dresden several times, despite Dresden being his archnemesis. 

Marcone doesn’t need magic because he’s Batman as a crime lord. He has a small army of gangsters with military training and a Valkyrie for a secretary. Marcone is skilled with knives, guns, and can think circles around magical threats. He’s sniped werewolves, fought hosts of fallen angels, and led assaults on Lovecraftian monstrosities called Outsiders.

If you plan on visiting Chicago, it’s best to be in Gentleman John Marcone’s good graces. His backstory is right… uh… did I leave it in the other room? Wait, crap, we don’t have one!

Um… hey folks! Which villain do you think is the most noble? Is there one we missed? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of Fox

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