In comic books and novels and movies, supervillains are the guys who have Grand Schemes for taking over the world. They use Doomsday devices, they make their headquarters on zeppelins or in underground lairs, and they wear outlandish costumes. Think about Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four, for example; he’s an evil genius, and he wanders around in that outlandish green cape and iron mask. And what’s with the Green Goblin, anyway?
Of all the comic book supervillains I can think of off the top of my head (which isn’t all that many, since I’m not a big comic book reader), I think Lex Luthor is probably the closest to how a real life supervillain might operate. Sure he’s into the Grand Schemes and he has access to high powered super evil mad gadgets and space travel, but he’s also happy working behind the scenes in high politics or in corporate boardrooms. He’s evil and manipulative and can work with tyrants in third world nations just as easily as he can work with super powered demigods from beyond the galaxy.
But are there really people like Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom in the world? I decided to do a little research project and find out. I went to Wikipedia and to the Interpol "most wanted" pages, and discovered there aren’t all that many of them out there. There are plenty of evil people in the world, but not many who have been able to bring ruin to whole nations, who have access to lots of money, and who are just plain diabolical. I originally wanted to make this a Top Ten list, but I had trouble finding ten. Then it was going to be a Top Five, and even that was tough. Finally, I settled for list of just three, and I welcome any suggestions either of my regular readers might have for more Real Life supervillains.
Anyway, so here’s my list. These are real life supervillains. They don’t wear capes or masks, and they don’t have secret bases on the moon. However, it can be easily argued that any of these men are just about as evil as Doctor Doom or Lex Luthor. Sit take, take a breath, and prepare yourself for the top three real supervillains of our age. For this list, I decided to include those guys who are still alive, though they may either be still at large or in custody somewhere. (I’m also trying to avoid controversy by refraining from including political reasons for including anyone on my list. I decided to limit myself to their capability for destruction and the breadth of their schemes.)
1. Charles G. Taylor. Although Taylor was freely elected president of Liberia in 1997 by a landslide vote of nearly 75%, it’s generally agreed that most of the people who voted for him did so out of fear that he would resume the costly and disastrous civil war that he had instigated in 1991. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed during the conflict, and millions were left homeless. Without a doubt, Taylor was responsible for some of the deadliest and most horrific conflicts on the African continent in the late 20th century.
Current Whereabouts: Currently in detention at the International Criminal Court, facing trial from Sierra Leone’s Special Court.
2. Osama bin Laden. Once a favored son of the wealthy bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia, now the reputed head of a global terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Western civilization. It could, technically, be argued that Al Qaeda is not all that organized, but it is indisputable that bin Laden is responsible for founding the organization, funding its major operations from his own personal fortune, and orchestrating many of its most destructive attacks. Once a major financial and strategic supporter of the Mujahadeen — the guerrilla force that opposed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s — bin Laden definitely went on to bigger and more ambitious schemes later on.
Current Whereabouts: Unknown, but reputed to be in hiding in Pakistan.
And, finally, my nomination for the supervillain most truly like Lex Luthor:
3. Viktor Bout. Also known as the "merchant of death", this Russian arms merchant is responsible for illegal weapons to nefarious groups throughout the world, including as many different sides of the various conflicts in Africa as possible. The child armies of Sierra Leone, various death squads in South America, and even Al Qaeda have reportedly benefited from Bout’s dealings. Through the purchase or outright theft of hundreds of weapons left behind in the various Soviet states after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the use of fake companies which he can bring into existence and disband when necessary to avoid any legal prosecution, Bout has armed more illegal groups than any other arms merchant. The Nicholas Cage film of 2005 Lord of War was reportedly based on Viktor Bout. It’s kind of scary to think that he’s just a little bit older than me.
Current Whereabouts: Technically unknown, but has a home in South Africa and another in Russia.