Monday, June 30, 2014

Lairs: Placement and size

As anyone in real estate can tell you, only three things matter: location, location, location! When building a villainous lair, you need to be aware of the surrounding area and what it can do for you. You also need to make some early decisions about how big your lair will be. Resizing a lair is a difficult proposition.


The first thing your lair's terrain will do for you is provide concealment. Anyone looking at the thing from the outside should be unaware that a lair is hidden there. This is what makes underwater and underground lairs so popular, despite the engineering difficulties. That said, you can use partially collapsed caves, mine shafts, or similar terrain features if you don't want to go entirely underground or do a lot of digging.

Lairs are as individual as their owners so I can't give very specific advice. However, I'll tell you about the most interesting general tips I've found over the years.

  • Urban decay is a hard phenomenon to reverse. Once a building is abandoned, it often stays abandoned unless some large-scale redevelopment money is poured into the neighborhood. For this reason, abandoned buildings - most often large industrial structures, like power plants or factories - are popular for lairs on the cheap. Detroit is often the default destination for new villains who are working in Ontario because it's a mess, but every city has its share. You'll have to worry about adventurous photographers, because these sorts of buildings are a magnet for any yahoo with a camera who's already had his tetanus shot.
  • Subway tunnels in the largest cities have a similar abandonment problem, and they give you easy access to transportation into the bargain. You run the risk of snooping city employees here, though, so you'll have to arrange some kind of cave-in to block access.
  • With enough money, you can sometimes snap up an entire tenement building. The people selling such things don't usually investigate the buyer too closely, as long as the money is good. You will have some overhead keeping the city happy, since theoretically you are the owner of a residential building, and must pass inspections and other bullshit like that. Only do this if you are confident you can bribe your way out of inspections as a rule.
For villains with control over water, earth, metal, or similar useful elements - or just those who can move such things around with their other powers - a lair can be placed almost anywhere. If you are one of these people, consider yourself lucky. Even if your power isn't on that list of elements, you can be creative.

Take two villains, for example: Mountain Man and Tokyo Rose. Mountain Man lives in a wooden cabin, but his control of rock lets him move that cabin anywhere in the mountain range where he lives. Rose has plant control - she can infuse plants with Stage 2 superpowers, which includes mobility and non-metabolic growth - and she lives literally in a huge tree that she keeps growing underground. She sends tendrils up to break through the street or into buildings, and she literally steps out of a giant blooming flower. Stylish, that one.

Size and Layout

You should make a list of your typical activities. Planning capers will want its own area. Record storage, if you're into that sort of thing, needs its own area. You should budget at least 1500 to 2000 square feet for these things. Another 150 to 250 square feet will account for a kitchen and pantry, if you need to eat. The typical remodeling cost for a house assumes a 10x10 kitchen, and you want to include storage and a dining area as well. You'll want a place to sleep, so decide how big you'd like that to be - 200 square feet is more than adequate, but some villains prefer much more expansive sleeping quarters.

Plan for recreational use too! You'll often spend hours or days in your lair lying low, so you need something to entertain yourself. A gymnasium, library, or den - provided you don't get too attached to the contents - is perfectly appropriate.

Travel Time

You could theoretically build a lair on the Moon - Apollo did, after all - but that's not super helpful if you want a short commute to your crime scenes. For this reason, you should make sure that your lair is easy to get into and out of, and make sure you are close to the places you want to be. The longer you're moving from caper to lair, the more chances the cops have to pick up your trail. Conversely, a lair right underneath your major crime scenes will be discovered pretty fast as the cops search the area after you hit them.

Make sure your lair can't be found by a simple process of triangulation. What do I mean by that? Let's say you are too lazy to travel far - say, 10 miles at most - for all your capers. Pretty soon your crime spree looks like a big circle on the city map. The cops are going to rightly conclude that there's a moron villain somewhere at the center of that circle, and go looking for you.

Your lair will ideally be somewhere on the fringes of your activity area. Try to vary your travel time so that the lair isn't too far away (nobody wants to haul swag for three hours), but not necessarily within the borders of your preferred turf. Diligent villains keep a map showing past crimes using push-pins or permanent ink, and will look at it when planning their next caper.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lairs: an Introduction

Villains have three places they usually hang out - a civilian residence (one or more), a safe-house, and a lair. This week, we'll be talking all about the hows, whys, and wheres of lairs.

What is a lair?

A villain's lair, basically, is where they hang out and do villainous things. This is where you keep your money, your equipment, weapons, captives, and whatever. If the heroes come after you, this is where you want them to show up.

The reason to have a lair is that it gives you a solid psychological separation between a civilian cover identity and your villainous alter-ego. Even villains who don't maintain a full-time secret identity often need to pose as civvies - you can't go into McDonald's wearing spandex and a mask.

Stocking your lair

A lair should have, at minimum:
  • Two human-scale entrances, preferably well hidden.
  • One service entrance, for loading and unloading cargo.
  • Lighting, plus a stash of emergency lights (candles, flashlights, and so on).
  • A cache of weapons. This is mainly for you and henchmen or hirelings. I recommend a combination lock, rather than a padlock. Change combinations regularly and do not post them anywhere.
  • A change of costumes.
  • A generator and enough fuel to run for several days.
More serious lairs will include any or all of the following:
  • Cells enough to hold half a dozen mundanes for several days.
  • Enough food and water to sustain you, and any captives you might have taken.
  • Sleeping quarters, plus recreation and living facilities for any henchmen you have (pool tables, refrigerators, sodas, the works). You can typically find a good starter set at Staple's. IKEA also carries a nice selection of affordable kitchen, den, and bedroom furniture.
  • A self-destruct mechanism. Carry around a dead-man switch which will set this off.
Security Introduction

A good lair will be secure from casual, and hopefully determined, searches. Cameras are not a deterrent - they are there only to alert you that someone broke in. Lairs are not meant to withstand a determined assault. Instead, they are there to act as a choke point for any heroes or cops who break in. A good lair will keep the good guys busy while you make your escape.

I cannot stress enough how important small details are when planning a lair. Even a random squirrel getting into your site can cause havoc. Lost cats have been traced to underground villains' lairs. Animals are as much a risk as human intruders, so seal up your lair as efficiently as you are able.

For these reasons, underground lairs are often the most popular design, followed by underwater lairs.

I want to talk about the self-destruct for a second. "Mr. Big, why should my lair collapse as soon as I'm defeated? I worked so hard to build it!" Here's why.
  • It destroys evidence for you. No villain should need this explained to them. Did you have a better plan for erasing all the files you've been keeping on future bank robberies when the cops show up?
  • It slows down the good guys. Let them think you've got captives in the back (or really take some, it depends on how you roll). They'll focus on rescue, letting you get away.
  • If possible, it blocks off the good guys' own escape route. If these are mundane police, you can immobilize an entire raid if you're skillful about timing the explosion. This also ties up vital civic resources in a rescue effort, sowing further confusion (which is good for you).
  • If your lair has been found, it is now useless! Losing a good lair is like breaking up with a hot girlfriend (or boyfriend if that's your thing) - you regret the lost opportunities, but hey, it's healthier if you move on.
Upcoming notes

My next several posts will talk about some important parts of lair design and maintenance, including:
  • when to build solo vs. when to use contractors
  • lair security in detail
  • lair locations - terrain, concealment, and more
  • shared and team lairs
As usual, write in with any questions you have!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Q&A: My credentials

I've been saving this one for awhile. A few villains (who I've never heard of) wrote in with some variation of "Mr. Big, I've read about your goof-off exploits, but what are your serious credentials for villainy?"

I want to tell you the story about how I broke a fellow villain out of maximum security.

First, let's talk about my powers. I grow, but I also shrink. I can grow and shrink things I'm able to touch and surround in an electromagnetic field (the one my body emits when using my powers). The thing is, when grown, I can surround an awful lot of large stuff. Aside from that, when I grow or shrink, I have control over whether my inertial mass changes too, and by how much.

Second, let's talk about why free villains is good for America. The CIA has a secret prison up in Virginia, outside the D.C. beltway. They take a bunch of supers there, dope them to the gills with power-suppressant chemicals, and do experiments on them. I'm not going to talk too much more about that here, except to say it's bullshit to do what they did, even on captives or prisoners, and every human rights trial since Nuremberg has reaffirmed that. We're a better country than that, and their captives had to testify to what was really going on to get the program shut down. So we needed people broken out. I volunteered to help.

The break-in

The people with the inside knowledge gave me enough details to start from - the prison's location and a rough idea of countermeasures - and I did the rest. The site was off in the woods, half-buried, with only a few structures above ground. It was autumn, so I waited for an opportunity, then shrunk down to tiny size and drifted through one of the open windows on a leaf. At the size I was, I wouldn't set off the sensors - my body's cells were too small to register.

I hitched a ride on a guard's pant leg until I got to the cafeteria. I figured they had to feed their prisoners, right? I'd just follow some guard down there. No such luck. The food was for the prison staff. They kept the prisoners - all supers or other "high value targets" intravenously fed for the most part, with only occasional solid food to keep the muscles intact. This is the downside of being a super, kids - they don't always give you three meals in the can, because you don't always need them.

I realized I'd need some more preparation. So I used the next thing out of my bag of tricks. Those of you who have met me know that I'm heavily tattooed. I'm going to say today for those who don't know that most of that isn't ink. I'm wearing about a thousand individually shrunk objects on my body at all times, packed into suitcases or otherwise secured for small things. I skulked around the place for awhile, sneaking through gaps in the concrete, rat-holes, or access tubes. What was I doing? Planting time bombs - I came with boxes of the things. I set them all for a particular date and time. I figured if I could find my buddy within that time, great. If not, I'd use the bombs as a last-ditch distraction.

The discovery

I finally found my buddy, thanks to the prison's record system. Thank goodness it was all on paper. I guess they didn't trust hackers, or people making backups to report to the Congressional subcommittee, or something. Dead trees in cabinets, stored in the administrator's offices. The locks were mechanical too. I climbed inside those to set the tumblers, then resumed normal size for the first time in about three days.

The files contained a lot of interesting stuff, and we might talk about where some of those went in the future. I shrunk them away - this was it, I reasoned. My bombs were due to go off today. They'd know someone had hit them anyway, so why not get some evidence too?

The prison had an old pneumatic tube system for sending messages - the whole place looked like it had been built in the 50's - so I took that down as far as I could. After that it was a lot of skulking through corridors until I got to the vault. The ventilation system was well-filtered, but I was able to get through the screen - I can go pretty small. I kept enough mass to avoid being blown away by the air pump. That's how I got into my friend's cell.

He was in bad shape - strapped onto a table, wires and tubes and everything running through him. They were really treating him more like an experimental animal than a person, and that made me mad. The worst part was his healing factor - they would have to cut him open, over and over again, to keep inserting that shit. I was seeing red as I cut him loose.

The escape

It took him a few minutes to come around, which I didn't have. The alarm went off as soon as the camera inside the cell saw me, but I had counted on that. The door leading out had a block of explosive wired up to it. As the guards clustered in front of it, ready to storm in, I blew the charge. They had it coming.

My buddy was still groggy and his powers were jacked by the drugs still in his system. I unshrunk a few suitcases full of weapons - semi-automatic assault rifles, pistols, submachine guns, plenty of ammunition, and some tactical webbing. I helped him get kitted out, and he nodded in readiness. Together we headed into the corridor.

I had plenty more explosives for the doors between us and freedom. Behind us, a group of soldiers had set up a few M240s down the hall. I fetched out a few more toys and flung them into the hall - huge stone walls I'd shrunk down for this purpose. Let them chew through ten feet worth of rock. We kept moving.

We were a hundred feet away from my chosen exit point when the bombs all went off. The whole prison shook. I thought for a second I'd overdone it, and the place was going to come down around us, but they built it well.

We didn't encounter many problems after that - one of the bombs had gone off by the motor pool, and I heard the sound of the gasoline depot exploding. There's no way they could ignore that. The sprinkler system kicked in a few seconds later.

We had to shoot at a lot of the guards, but I don't think we killed any of them - we were mostly interested in covering our escape, not murder. I threw up another rock wall to block the door of the room I had chosen as our exit point, and started growing. My buddy ducked and covered as I smashed through the ceiling and up to the open air.

The prison was pretty far from the highway. To handle that, I'd stashed away several rockets - the little chemical deals you can buy in hobby stores, not anything military. I lit one aimed for where I thought the highway was, then grabbed my friend, and shrunk us both until we could grab hold of the side of the rocket. Then we took off. The nose cone detached and the parachute came out. Hell of a ride, but it worked.

We made it to the highway, but they had choppers. I unshrunk a sedan - with a full tank of gas, natch - and we got in and started driving. As far as I know, they never made us.

The aftermath

Most of what happened next never made the news. But I will say this: I went back to the prison a few years later. The place is totally deserted, with official seal tape over everything. Congress was not pleased with what they heard about.

Similar operations might be going on around the world. Similar prisons might still be open. Similar experiments might be happening to friends of mine. I took an oath then that I would not sit by if I heard about such things again, and by Odin, I haven't. Sure, I break the laws of the country. Sure, I'm a criminal. But I'm an American, and proud of it.

Villains victorious!

Q&A: Influences

Today we're taking a different sort of Question and Answer. I get a lot of comments and private messages that basically ask:

Mr. Big, what are your influences?

I like to think I've been around long enough to be the influencer, but here's a short list of some of the heroes, villains, and other people who made me who I am today:

  • The Marxman, you crazy Russian bastard. That head shot is what pushed me to Stage 4. Couldn't have made it without you, buddy! Good aim.
  • Tokyo Rose, you're beautiful. Nobody can stop the signal.
  • Mischa, you taught me a lot. Anyone can tell a bad lie. You always knew when to tell a good truth.
  • B.A.K., you were one of the best. No remorse, no regrets, just a terrifically motivated dude.
  • Illumina, for being the all-loving savior of humanity, and for believing that even a bad guy like me can be changed. Thanks for letting me prove you wrong and accepting it gracefully.
  • Professor Pulsar, for letting me know just how important science is to an aspiring villain. You'll be missed.
If you have a favorite hero, villain, or other important person, leave a shout-out in the comments.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Q&A: Henchmen

"Evil Employer in Edmonton" writes in:

When will I know I'm ready for henchmen? How do I hire them? What should I do to retain them?

Henchmen are only as loyal as their economic situations. This is the basic truth of hiring help as a villain, and it cuts both ways: people too poor to go anywhere else will be desperate and fickle, but they are unlikely to stab you in the back because they can't. Conversely, henchmen making $200 an hour (American) for fairly easy work will stay loyal through a lot of crap.

Here's some numbers for you. A soldier's pay is anywhere from $15K to $20K a year, but they get a shit ton of benefits - housing, education, and medical. A private military contractor can make $150K to $250K a year, depending on skills. If you can comfortably sustain that sort of cash flow, henchmen are for you.

There are three major venues for hiring henchmen:

Organized crime. Let's just be clear about what I mean here. You are not going to be poaching made men, no way, no how. You aren't approaching the Mob's soldiers with a better offer. No, you are going to the caporegime you work with to make an offer to the boss. If "the caporegime you work with" does not immediately conjure up a name from memory, you are not ready for this.

Cops, mercenaries and PMCs. You can advertise (discreetly!). Avoid "Soldier of Fortune" - it's for adventure story writers. Former members of the French Foreign Legion are a possibility (when in doubt, ask to see a French passport).

Street thugs. This is usually the bottom of the barrel, but if you're on the outs with the local Mob and can't crack the military or law enforcement nut, go here. Find a local gang, offer them money, and explain your program to them. They will be unreliable and territorial, but if you treat their boss as a peer, you can often pump up their ego long enough to get them along for a caper.

Retention is difficult. In general, you want to cultivate loyalty. Fear works best. Cash works reliably. I suggest you get a copy of Machiavelli's "The Prince" and read it carefully.

One trick I've found, especially for unreliable bangers, is to get them into some sort of dangerous situation mid-caper. Then, make sure you are the only one who can get them out. Do so in some flashy, spectacular fashion. You want to shock them into a feeling of admiration, obligation, or at least fear.

The most reliable henchmen will already have gone through some sort of military or law enforcement program, and will want cash. Pay these guys like clockwork. The more thoroughly you make use of them, the more of your secrets they will learn, and the more damage they can do. Never treat them as expendable.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Q&A: Retirement

"Tired in Tulsa" writes in with some related questions:

When should a supervillain retire?

You should retire at the same time as any other job: when it's not fun for you any more. We get into villainy because it's exciting, it's profitable, and it fills a need for us. We get out because it's not those things any more, plain and simple. You may not always recognize when you've reached that point. If you find yourself taking risky chances, or blowing off your usual precautions, consider those warning signs that villainy is wearing thin for you.

The more powerful a villain gets, the more they become alienated from humanity at large. This can be good or bad. It means not getting so fucking irritated with people, but it means you can't get as much joy from the awesome things people do any more. I can't stress enough how important it is to have something to hold onto. For a lot of us, it's villainy. But you must have something.

Other than that, there's no point past which you really must retire. You can never have enough stuff, as long as you're able to keep track of it all (or don't mind losing the rest).

What should I do to retire without getting caught by heroes, the cops, or whatever?

If you have a lot of stuff you want to hold onto, you'll need to exert some effort. Here's a few suggestions on how to proceed.
  • Move your stuff out of the country. Get as many material assets together as you can, and go settle in some lawless location for awhile. Establish yourself there for awhile. You'll want to slowly move these things through the local economy to launder them.
  • If you've maintained a secret identity, keep maintaining it. Your goal is to seemingly come into money (your illicit earnings). You'll need to find a suitable cover story, then get your assets from wherever you stashed them.
  • If you haven't maintained a civilian identity, things get trickier. Whatever identity you were born with has left a big person-shaped gap in the system. You can try to go back to that, but I don't advise it.
  • Think about whether you want to naturalize somewhere else, or try and regain U.S. citizenship. For the latter, you'll need a passport and plenty of supporting evidence.
To get a U.S. passport, you actually want to go to an embassy or consulate outside the United States. You'll need several documents proving your citizenship, and you can get a complete list from the US State Department's website. Prior to 2011, it was easiest to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). These days, it takes a lot more, but it's worth it. To do this, you'll need the help of the local consulate (corrupt officials will make this process infinitely easier).

A lot of American expats make good money selling their services as fake parents for this purpose, if you can't find an official who will play ball, and can't afford forged papers. This should be the means of last resort, but I felt compelled to mention it.

Frankly, I think the effort required to come back to America and live isn't worth it for a lot of people. For them, go retire in some sunny tax haven. Those guys just want to see money and have some confidence that you won't stir up trouble.

No matter what happens, you need to stop using your recognizable powers. You can masquerade as a Stage 2 - just being super isn't itself illegal - if something happens to you.

Can I retire from villainy to try being a hero?

Absolutely! Just remember that knowing how villains think, that having that level of sympathy with us, may compromise your ability to take action. I'm going to talk more about this in a series on villain morality, but instead of heroics, consider life as a rescue worker or something - a job that won't bring you into conflict with your former associates, and that could still be personally rewarding for an altruist.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Q&A: Sidekicks

"Claim Jumper" writes in to ask:

Should supervillains have sidekicks?

Yes and no. It depends on what you're doing, and what your motives are. All of these things revolve around an important truth of villainy: You are in this for you, other villains are in it for them. Villains can have friendships, working partnerships, and so forth, but at the end of the day we didn't get into this gig for altruism.

Sidekicks are traditionally a hero thing, because heroes and sidekicks have compatible goals. Your goal as a villain is not guaranteed to be compatible with your sidekick's, so it's more likely to end badly if you try to emulate what heroes do.

I'm retiring but I want to apprentice someone

This is more of a mentor-student relationship than a "super and sidekick". In that case, what's in it for you is the feeling of accomplishment in training someone new to do what you did. Your trainee gets to learn new things, do his own capers, and profit from your experience. Provided you both have compatible personalities, this will work out just fine.

I want someone whose powers or approaches complement my own

In this case, you should approach another villain with about the same level of experience as you. Such partnerships don't last long unless both sides feel that they are equal. Bruised ego, damaged pride, and hurt feelings will end unequal relationships.

If your powers are such that you really need a partner, and all you can find is a junior, make absolutely sure you have a clear plan in mind for when (not if) he decides to branch out on his own. I cannot stress enough that such relationships are almost never stable.

I have a relationship with someone (romantic or familial) but have superior powers or experience

You can pursue this if the relationship has already proven to be rock-solid, and you should not plan for a long career as a villain team until you get some experience. You should mutually agree to one or two capers to test the waters, and only then see whether it will it should continue. Some romantic pairings try to invoke Bonnie & Clyde as role models to emulate. I want to point out that those two took totally unnecessary risks and eventually got themselves killed, because people together will do crazy shit that neither one alone would have dared to do.

I want a Mini-Me or Kid Hostage

No. This never works out for long. If you can't show respect to the person you intend to take on as a partner, they will respond to it badly, and you will lose out on whatever opportunity you had in mind. If you need a short-term decoy or something, don't waste the time building a sidekick, training them, or any nonsense like that. Use a random civilian instead.


Let's talk about a few example villain pairings and how they work out.

Needle and Thread - hired assassins who work the Eastern Seaboard. This is a stable business partnership. The two supers use different code names when working solo, and they come together to fight tougher opponents. They are mutually respectful and have complementary powers; neither one is a "sidekick".

Tellurian and Geode - this is an example of a sidekick-style relationship that went wrong. Tellurian was robbing banks, and during one heist, he impressed a young super at the bank so much, the kid promptly chased after him! They tried teaming up for a bit, as both had earth powers, but Geode's inexperience hampered Tellurian so much that the guy finally left the kid on the scene for the cops to pick up. They reconciled a few years later, but they never teamed up again.

Mr. Big and Pyrepower - c'est moi! I've been helping Pyrepower out on and off for several years. She's a lot younger than me, and she runs with her own crew most of the time. I've been mentoring her (and that's all, you fanfiction weirdos) because I see a lot of potential. For my part, I've got enough material wealth to do what I want, so these days I mostly goof around. None of her capers are going to threaten what I want, and nothing I'm doing is going to get in her way, so it works out.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Laundering money for supervillains

Today we're going to talk about money laundering. This shouldn't normally be necessary if you followed my earlier advice - steal what you actually want, rather than the money you need to pay for it - but sometimes this simply isn't possible. For example, maybe people you like are in need of money, and you want to give it to them. Robin Hood and the Blues Brothers are great villainous role models for this scenario.

Before we talk about the how, let's talk about what it is, and why you care.

The basics

Money laundering is the exchange of "tainted" money for "clean" money, thus "laundering". Tainted can mean several things, from literal (the dye packs the bank put in the bag exploded, and now your Benjamins are bright purple) to figurative (the bank gave you bills with sequential serial numbers, and the cops are looking for anyone spending bills with numbers in that range). Sometimes, just the quantity is enough - if you steal $73,000 and then spend exactly that much somewhere, the cops will naturally twig to you. At no time is the actual printed currency you stole going to be the same actual printed currency you want to eventually spend.

Why do you want to launder money? If you buy something with cash that's traced back to your crime, the people you bought it from are going to be questioned, and they can probably tell the fuzz something useful - I mean, you didn't really stroll into the dealership wearing your costume and mask, did you? If you hand the money off to someone else, they become an accessory. If the recipient knows the money was stolen, they're committing an actual crime. In the United States, the threshold is five grand, and I don't know anyone who's stolen less than twice that. So you launder money to avoid legal scrutiny when it is spent.

Every technique for how to launder money involve dealing with people who already have as much money as you want to launder, and who are willing to dispose of your filthy lucre for you, so this is not a solo activity. The main question is how far you'll have to go, and how closely you'll have to interact with people.

No matter who you deal with, the general rule is: don't hand over money until you see money. If you have enough of a reputation that you know you won't get robbed, you don't need this guide. Until you get to that point, never hand over cash to someone who will come back "in a few hours" with your money.

Organized crime

There are actual criminal organizations who specialize in this sort of work, so you should always try to work with them. They'll usually take a percentage for their services, but a bank robbery takes maybe 10 hours to plan and execute, and can net 10 grand at minimum, so you're working for $1000 an hour and frankly you can afford their fee. If your villainous career doesn't put you in touch with at least a few such people, you're doing it wrong. That said, not all these guys play fair, and not all of them are competent. Sometimes you'll need to make other arrangements.

If a gangster hasn't approached you yet, be patient, and don't approach them. Crime rings without supers of their own will always make a move on you. You're the big prize, the unstoppable weapon that will let them take out their rivals, and they'll do everything they can to make you feel obligated. For purposes of laundering your ill-gotten gains, they'll frequently make offers like "services for services rendered". This basically means "we'll waive the percentage if you act as our muscle". Say no - unless you really want to work for the Mob or the Triads or whoever - and insist on a percentage. You can dick around on the exact rate if you want, but don't be an asshole. You've already told them no on their first and biggest ask, so throw them a bone on the consolation prize.

No serious outfit will ask for a flat fee, but some will ask for a minimum payment. If they ask for this a lot, it means you're not bringing enough money in to be worth their time. Either step up your game, engage them less frequently for their services, or move to someone smaller.


Yeah yeah, I'm sure a lot of you are saying "Mr. Big, you said organized crime already!" I suggest you watch "Casino" sometime - they aren't the same, and sometimes they're actively in competition. The casinos move about sixty billion dollars a year, just in America, with another forty billion in other types of gambling. The Italian Mob, by comparison, moves around a hundred to a hundred and fifty billion per year.

The basic idea is simple: go in, buy some chips, play, win, cash out, and leave. Because the house always wins, this strategy only works with supers whose powers let them cheat at the games. If that's not you, keep looking. Just be aware: from the moment you walk in the door until the moment you walk out, and at every time in between, someone's eyes will be on you.

Up to a point, the casino loves a winner - people who see one customer win have incentive to keep playing, since they could be next. You want to achieve a 1:1 parity of money spent to money earned overall, so that the casino doesn't throw you out. Yeah, they might not be able to seriously hurt you, but avoiding confrontation is important enough to you at this stage that you have to act mortal.

You could work with a friendly casino manager, arranging to win at the games, but this is basically the same as "organized crime" above, and follows the same sort of rules. Even if they aren't friendly, they might still play ball, because at the end of the day, what the casino wants is what you have: money. The hardest part of selling them on your scheme is the idea that you'll get most of it back.

International Markets

Many supers with movement powers can get around the border very easily. I don't know how many of you have actually tried, or thought about it, but there's absolutely no need for you to go through customs. Stick your cash in a duffel bag and fly to Mexico. If you can't get there and back in under a day, though, don't bother.

Speaking the local language is vital. Spanish is the obvious choice for much of Latin America and Mexico. There's a dozen different languages if you prefer working in Asia. English will get you by in Singapore and most of Russia, but the Russians will definitely stab you in the back if given half a chance, and you won't know it's coming unless you're fluent.

In America, the banks are pretty insular. In other parts of the world, the bank is actually who you want to deal with, because they're happy to get their hands on dollars that didn't go through the US's border scrutiny. Until 2012, HSBC was a good choice. These days, catch as catch can. Don't just pick a bank, walk in, and drop a stack of Benjamins, though. Here's a tip: parking lots. Cruise the parking lots where the bank officers leave their cars. You're looking for supercars, sports cars, stuff like that. If you only see a few, or none, move on. If everyone's driving something good, you've found an institution that will probably play ball.

Online Trading and Cryptocurrencies

A lot of people are telling me about non-standard schemes, like trading in-game time for MMORPGs, or new online currencies like Bitcoin. I haven't personally used these schemes, so hopefully someone else can write in with some specifics.

Here's what I do know: these online currencies are designed to be distributed, without a single central authority. They're apparently big with my Libertarian friends for ideological reasons. One friend of mine put it this way: "Bitcoin people are like the reverse of that Ben Franklin quote. They gave up security to purchase a little temporary liberty". Well, that's fair.

I've looked at the exchange rate on cryptocurrencies and I'm not very sanguine - as a commodity, they're incredibly volatile. This is okay if you just want to unload some stolen dollars fast and don't care that you get 100% of your money back, but it's hard to build a long-term budget around an unpredictable element. That said, as a technique for money laundering, the whole approach has some kickass benefits. Until it got shut down, the Silk Road - an online drug marketplace - was proving the benefits of mutually anonymous currency exchanges.

It'll sound paradoxical to a lot of villains reading this, but the strongest point about online markets and alternate currencies is their potential for legitimacy. You could go to the corner and buy crank with your stolen cash, sure, but what do you do then? The whole goal of money laundering is to emerge with legally unencumbered money, and anything that can legitimately be used to buy goods and services by the average citizen is a good path to that. For that reason, I'm looking forward to a broader legal acceptance of stuff like Bitcoin.


So that's it! I hope the advice is useful to someone.

As usual, I'm not giving out specific names and phone numbers, despite some of you lazy shits wanting to know things like "who's the hookup in west Chicago" or "how can I get a drug connection in Portland". I'm here to dispense my experience, not my Rolodex. A proactive, competent villain is a good villain. If you are not these things, villainy is not for you.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Beyond, Between, Before - alternative explanations for superpowers

Yeah, more boring education stuff, then back to the discussions on money laundering - I promise.

Today is Mr. Big's guide to how supers came to be. Some of these are my own thoughts. Others are pulled from wackos like Wavelength, or from actual reputable scientists.

By the way, if you read people online talking about the origin of powers, and they start talking about "the meta-gene", ignore those guys immediately because they're full of shit. The actual modification that makes people have powers lives in the mitochondria, and it's passed from mother to child as the zygote begins the process of mitosis. There's no gene for this. If it was that easy, we'd have some sort of weird super-power cyberpunk world where Monsanto was engineering supers or something.

Beyond - the alien theory

The basic idea here is that superpowers came from aliens. There's obviously a million variations to this, but that's it. There's life elsewhere in the universe, and some of it came here and plugged the super-mutation into our bodies.

It's hard to find biologists who will admit to being on board with this theory. Dr. Chastity Williams in the United States put it like this: "You can accept the extraterrestrial hypothesis, which has zero direct evidence but great predictive power. You can suggest an origin through evolution, which violates every piece of evidence we do have. Or you can win the Nobel."

A popular variation is that supers are actually aliens, and that their powers are normal for their alien species. This usually falls apart the first time a power jammer or jacker takes your powers away from you. Proponents of this theory sometimes dodge that problem by claiming there's only one alien species, and that obviously the power drainers are of that species as well. However, self-proclaimed "alien supers" are on record as saying they're from about two dozen distinct alien species, so somebody is wrong.

With that out of the way - there's some fairly credible theories on how and why this would work. It would also neatly explain a lot of myth and legend, or so the folklore folks hope, so you see a lot of support for aliens-did-supers in the soft sciences. The most reasonable theories usually claim that power potential was seeded thousands or millions of years ago, and for some reason only now is it activating in large numbers.

Between - the non-biological evolution theory

This one says that there is some mechanism out there which is also subject to evolution and mutation, that somehow intersected human bodies and now acts as a symbiote of sorts with us. If you hear people talking about "mitochondrial visitors from between the dimensional boundaries" or "aberrant quantum biology", this is the theory they are talking about.

The holy trinity of this quantum-supers theory are Norman Ryan, Barbara Fall, and Tom Richard. You can find any or all of these three writing for alt-science blogs. There's a healthy amount of actual physics mixed in with some frank speculation, but at least it's entertaining.

There's some crossover with the aliens theory in the form of the Alpha-Omega people, who claim that human supers inherited... something.... from "quantum visitors", and that they are observing our progress from a pocket dimension. In practice this may as well be aliens. I first heard about these guys while reading stuff on Wavelength, in a story where Lee Harvey Oswald use magnetic control powers to kill Kennedy with a magic bullet, because Kennedy was actually a super-powered shapeshifter. Seriously, I have no idea.

Before - alternative evolutions and ancient supers

This is the most boring of the lot, so unfortunately it's probably true. Here's my best understanding of this idea: once upon a time, multi-cellular organisms did bond with single-celled organisms. The single-celled creatures were things similar to bacteria. Multi-celled organisms lived thousands of times as long per organism as the single-celled ones, so the latter got the benefits of evolution and mutation much more. Complex life simply snapped up this advanced evolution and co-opted it.

The cranks who inhabit the fringe of this theory have an interesting answer for "where are they", meaning what happened to the progenitors of all these super-bacteria who let us bend physics and tank explosions with our faces. Basically, they could burrow into the earth, live in the mantle, or float into space. Because they individually could survive in environments where humans have never been able to explore, it's logical that nobody would have found them. Alright, so far so good.

So in this version, humans might have had super powers since they were definably human, or maybe longer. But because we hate and fear the "other", we'd usually kill or reject such people - or at least not breed with them - as they expressed their abilities. These days, yeah, we get what's going on. But in the Middle Ages, or the Stone Age, forget it.

Anyway! Sorry for all the boring crap. We'll be back tomorrow with something good.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Supervillains of Note: Singularity

I've talked about Singularity in the past. She retired, or disappeared, a few years ago. Still, her villainous career is long and notable.


This lady came from the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area, or at least that's where a lot of her activities were focused. She wasn't the first super to claim extraterrestrial heritage, but she was certainly the most convincing. A lot of this was due to her good looks (even for a typical super), her presence, and her charisma. But she made several claims that were backed up by astronomers, who verify she couldn't have possibly known about what she claimed. Why? Because the light from the stellar events she described couldn't have reached Earth by the time she mentioned them.


Singularity was active in the tri-state area from 1985 to 2005. She was a recurring foil for the American All-Stars. Before that, nobody's sure where she came from.

She herself told the following story: she was a farm girl in Iowa, when she was visited by extraterrestrials and taken up in their spaceship. They did certain experiments on her, told her she was "ready" and would be "the first of many", and released her. When she returned home, she claimed her powers were fully manifested.

At first she preached the aliens' message - that Earth was going to be invaded, that the good aliens who had kidnapped her were preparing the planet for the arrival of evil aliens from across the galaxy. She said we had to get ready. Wars had to end, capitalism had to be abolished, socialism had to become the new system of government or the good aliens would judge us unworthy. Obviously, nobody in America in the 80's was interested in hearing that, so she started getting more aggressive.


Singularity tried to round up sympathetic superhumans, but most of them were, frankly, nutters. To her credit, she was pretty good about weeding out the real freaks or the con-men. She would join multiple hero teams early on, trying to convince them of her message, but nobody took her really seriously. Super-biology had been understood for a decade, so claims of empowering aliens seemed unlikely.

She worked solo since then. Her powers made her a formidable brick with energy projection. She could use her energy defensively too, so she didn't really need support from anyone. At the end of her career, experts assessed her (from observation) as being Stage 5 or perhaps even Stage 6.


Singularity was a driven woman. She never got into villainy for selfish reasons, though she was very good at what she did. She could be bitter about people failing to accept her message, or maybe just frustrated at being called on her bullshit - it really depends on what you think the truth is.

The one thing she was absolutely known for was her charisma and presentation. She had the ability to command an audience, on par with world leaders. She must have studied somewhere, because her rhetorical skills were absolutely top-notch. I've read entire books dedicated to studying her speaking style. She could absolutely have been a world leader herself - between her style and her powers, she could have knocked over any small country of her choice and installed herself.

Over her villainous career, she made several announcements about stellar events - novae, newly discovered variable stars, that sort of thing. A few months later, astronomers would confirm them as light reached the earth. This seriously creeps a lot of people out. Singularity claimed that some of these were alien activities, and that they formed a pattern. Nobody ever noticed a larger pattern, and astronomers typically think she was just using some strange foreknowledge to support her story.


The Transhuman Capability Catalog assigns Singularity the classification of TCC F12 - control of the unified electromagnetic force. She could do amazing things with her powers, and a lot of people claimed that she was the living incarnation of some of Nikola Tesla's wilder theories about electricity. Director of Research Ben Ford at CERN claimed that electromagnetic physics advanced 5 years after scientists studied one of her crime scenes for 2 hours.


Well, obviously she's not around any more, so either she got killed off (and if so, that's scary - think about who could take out someone that powerful?), got tired of playing Princess Alien Invasion, or something. Some people think it was all just an act, and that she was trolling the world at large until she could retire.

She repeatedly tackled the American All-Stars, and there was never a clear motive for it. My personal reason, shared by a few veteran villains, is that she was playing on their no-kill policy to deliberately power herself up through trauma.

The scariest explanation is that she got powerful enough to tackle her evil alien invaders, and went off to fight them. Well in that case, did she succeed, or did she fail? Leave the lights on tonight, kids!

That's it for Supervillains of Note, at least for now! Please write in with any questions you'd like answered, and we'll be back on with our usual content in the coming days.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Supervillains of Note: Beast-Boss

Today's supervillain has one of the most interesting M.O.'s I have ever seen.


This guy has a small army of animals that do his bidding, and he can establish mental control over any animal he can reach. I don't mean like trained parrots and crap like that, I mean like bears the size of a car, or really deadly falcons dropping grenades, or cockroach spies. This dude is seriously scary, and he can screw you up from the next state over if you aren't careful.

Beast-Boss is best known for attacking zoos around the country, especially ones with rare animals. He breaks them out, takes them over, and uses them to do other crimes. It's like real-life Poke'mon, apparently - I think he wants one of everything. PETA seriously hates this guy.


Beast-Boss is a former military super, one of the many people who were investigated by the United State's Department of Intelligence under the Stargate Project. He was a patriotic boy from Alabama who signed up for the Army. When they did their standard blood screenings and saw he was Stage 2, they pushed him into the advanced program immediately.

Somewhere along the line, he decided he didn't like what they were doing, and he went out on his own. He got a bucket load of training before he and the Army parted ways, which makes him a difficult villain for anyone to deal with. You saw "Ocean's Eleven", right? Those guys used their paratrooper skills to do crimes. Beast-Boss is like that, and he's got his own army to boot.


Beast-Boss used to be a member of the Bad Ol' Boys, a villain team from the south. The acronym "BOB" is intentional, and yes, I checked, they think it's hilarious. They were big on anti-government tactics and never stole from poor people. Contrary to rumor, none of the Boys were particularly racist. They liked the idea of Southern chivalry.

Beast-Boss's job was running interference. He'd sabotage police vehicles, take down helicopters, cut power lines, and otherwise cause disruptions for anyone who might mess with a BOB operation. His pets could bring in spare weapons for the rest of the group or attack the cops. Police stopped using horses and bloodhounds when BOB was in town, because Beast-Boss could always get to them.


Beast-Boss is a good ol' boy in the best sense of the term. He's polite, well-mannered, and reasonably intelligent. He told me once that he'd rejected the name "Beastmaster" (based on the movie, natch) because he didn't want the implications of a Southern man with "master" in the name. I think "Boss" sounds more blue-collar anyway, which is about right.

The one thing you absolutely do not do is mess with any of the man's animals. He can feel their physical sensations as well as their pain, and if you hurt them, you hurt him. He genuinely cares about the animals he controls. He's pretty good about keeping them all fed and taken care of. He donates a portion of his income to animal rights groups - anonymously, so they can't return money they knew was donated by a villain.


Beast-Boss is classified in the Transhuman Capability Catalog as TCC S6/7, because of his control over his pets' nervous systems. He can "infect" animals with a system of control. Biologists dissected one of his dead animals once, and claimed that he was producing organic nano-machines which bonded with their brains. Creepy, if you asked me. I prefer not to think about it, especially if he's able to infect humans too. If he can, he'd be unstoppable.

Aside from control, he's able to empower some of his animals, basically turning them into Stage 2 supers themselves. They get stronger, faster, tougher, and bigger. You think I was joking about bears the size of cars? Forget it, that's real.


The biggest problem Beast-Boss has is his animals. Sure, they are tough even when not enhanced, but he feels what they do. Enough painful feedback has been known to incapacitate him. He also needs to be in touch range to take control of an animal, limiting his influence.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Supervillains of Note: Mountain Man

Today's "Supervillains of Note" takes us back to America, and someone who's provoked a lot of political discussion.

Mountain Man

Mountain Man is the alias of Jeremiah Hendricks, tax protester and all-around weirdo. He's Stage 4 and pretty tough. His power is control of rock. He lives in a cabin surrounded by rock on all sides, and he uses his stone control powers to move it to different places around the Appalachian Mountains. One day there'll be nothing, the next day, there's a big wooden cabin, dogs under the porch, the whole works.

Mountain Man doesn't believe the U.S. Government has the right to collect taxes, and by Odin, he means not to pay a dime. He's got a point in some respects - as a super, he has almost no need for the services government is supposed to provide for that money - but most villains I know acknowledge the 16th Amendment, we just don't give a shit. So there you are.

He's got a lot of other ideas about who really did 9/11, the JFK assassination, and so on. He endorses a lot of the weirder theories from groups like Wavelength, like the Killclone theory and ancient astronauts seeding super-powered potential in early humans. So far he doesn't have any proof of what he says. Many people listen to him because he's a super and they think that gives him some sort of inside information. For that matter, he could totally be right about half of what he says.

Mountain Man brews his own "super-moonshine", which will probably flat-out kill a regular human being and knocks a Stage 4 on his ass. I make my own mead at home, natch, so I appreciate a guy who takes the time to account for the super-metabolism.

Overall, a great guy to know about, because he's a departure from the "wreck-it-and-run" villain you might all think you have to be. He knows what he wants, he's not afraid to get it, and he thumbs his nose at the Man the whole way.


Hendricks got his powers when he was young. He was involved in an avalanche or cave-in while exploring the mountains at an early age (specifics differ, even when he tells the story). He walked out of the hills covered in rock, and didn't return to normal for two days. Since then he was on the receiving end, and later the giving, of a fair amount of bullying at school. His dad took him out and home-schooled him for the rest of his adolescence. His mother died early, from what I'm told. He has no living siblings.


Mountain Man is a solo villain. He drinks a lot, he hunts, he wanders the mountains, he entertains visitors. He's friendly if you're friendly, but mostly he just does his thing all day.

He is at the center of a few online communities. He posts regularly, reads fan mail, does all that stuff. He could probably start a cult if he wanted to, but mostly he prefers politics to religion. He gets a fair amount of attention on sites like Quatloos and Libertarian-leaning forums.


Did you see an old show called "Grizzly Adams"? He's a lot like that guy. He's got a big thick beard, a big smile, and he's just generally a big guy. He acts like the big guy - always friendly, unless you push him, and then he turns super-dangerous. He's semi-immortal and he knows it, so he's living life his way.


He can merge with solid stone to armor up, and he can move or throw or shape stone. His ability to move his cabin (or anything else) through mountains is pretty much the main reason the Feds haven't been able to shut him down. Obviously he's got the usual Stage 4 power platter.

The Transhuman Capability Catalog assigns him TCC E2 - control over elemental earth.


Mountain Man doesn't have too many problems that he isn't causing himself. His strident political views are probably the major reason the Feds want him. He does make a lot of good points about government taxation of supers, and a lot of villains are on board with his views. His outlandish ideas in other areas don't always endear him to people who might be allies, but that's life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Supervillains of Note: Faduma

Today's supervillain of note is Faduma, who operates out of Somalia.


First, let's just get this out of the way. Faduma is a super-vampire queen who's building an army to be leader of her country! How cool is that?

So before any of you noobs roll up on her and start with "I vant to suck your blood", she will cut you. Seriously, don't even say that shit. I will hear about it, and then I will leave town and disappear, because she will have heard that I wrote about her and send some scary scary people after my ass. If you ever, ever, ever meet this woman - and you won't, trust me, unless you're super-awesome - be respectful.


Faduma doesn't talk about her past, and neither do I. All anyone knows is the alias she uses now, which as far as I know is a reference to the story of Muhammad. Let's also be really clear. This Faduma does not claim in any way to be the historical Fatimah, it's more like a tribute. Any Muslim readers can write in to tell me more about this, I have no idea.

People in the know tell me she's either ethnic Somali or speaks Somali well enough to pass for one.


Faduma is basically a warlord in the southern part of Somalia. She has several kids, a husband, and several thousand very loyal followers. There's many more people in that part of the world who listen to her, and many who fear her, but basically she's like the governor of her own state and aiming to be president.


This is one driven lady. The credible stories about her tell us that she cuts herself and literally bleeds for her people, that she's personally fed thousands and cured many of their diseases. She takes prisoners when she needs them, and kills trespassers on her land the rest of the time. She's fair, but really strict.

Faduma is well known in political circles for her repeated calls for justice. She doesn't want international aid in Somalia - just the opposite. She wants groups like the UN to get out. She intends to take over the whole country and run it fairly. She promises the rule of law, but come on, she's a freaking super-powered vampire. You think anyone's going to run in the elections against her?


Faduma is classified in the Transhuman Capability Catalog as TCC Q11, a true vampire. She's not undead (as far as we know). She's not mutated into one of the Q11 variants, which means that she's unaffected by sunlight (aside from getting sleepy) or running water or other vampire weaknesses. Not a whole lot will hurt her.

The important things to know about vampires: they are photosynthetic during the day, like a plant, and hematophagic at night, which means they can subsist on blood. They still can eat and drink, but either sunlight or blood (depending on time) is a big part of their diet. The other thing about vampires is that they can create supers by blood transfusion, because their super-mutation is still contagious and can be passed on. Faduma has created dozens, or hundreds, or maybe even thousands of loyal vampire subjects, so getting to her would be a very difficult proposition.


Personal problems first. I am absolutely sure she's screwed up in a few different ways. I mean, she cuts herself about a thousand times a day.

That aside, she's on everyone's Most Wanted list in Somalia, because she's a competitor to the existing power blocs. She's an internationally wanted terrorist for attacking UN troops and the like. Plus, she's bought everything short of a nuke from the international arms market, and I wouldn't even put that past her. So she's got lots of enemies in high places.

I don't know what's scarier to think about: that people like the CIA or the Russians have just let her go about her business without trying to take her out, or the idea that they have tried and just couldn't do it. Either way, definitely a supervillain to be aware of!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Supervillains of Note: Saki

Welcome to a feature I call "Supervillains of Note". This will attempt to showcase villains I look up to, or at least that aspiring villains should be aware of. Over the years I've met a lot of amazing people in this field. I want to share some of their stories - without breaking any confidences, naturally.


Saki is a supervillain, ethnically Japanese. She shows up in America from time to time to annoy and harass law-and-order hero types.

Saki looks about 13. She dresses in what a Japanophile friend of mine describes as "Sweet Lolita fashion" (frilly pink dresses, bows, ruffles, parasols, the works). She speaks accented English and says "cutesy" things from time to time, but she has a temper.

Her signature power is the "megaton punch" - knocking heroes for dozens or hundreds of yards with a single blow. She acts like a walking, talking anime character, and she plays up her youth and girly appearance for all it's worth.

The thing is, Saki's an internationally wanted terrorist. She's been on the FBI's list since the 1970s, and while she can seem like a sweetheart, she's not the sugary confection she pretends to be.


I'm not telling you everything I know (or have heard) about Saki's past, but it's obvious that she advanced to Stage 4 at a very early age. She's young, like "little kid" young, and all of you should know just what kind of trauma it takes to advance to Stage 3, much less 4. I feel bad for her.

Back in the '70s, she was implicated in threats to America's nuclear arsenal. She was also tied to attacks on the country's money reserves, like Fort Knox. She hasn't done anything like that since the '80s.


Saki mostly works solo. She used to do team-ups in the past, back when she was wearing black tactical suits (how the hell did she get any in her size anyway?) These days she doesn't associate with other villains, except as a grandstanding outsider who will butt in on an ongoing super-battle or something.


Saki's cutesy, fluffy personality is a lot different from what she used to be like. If you read old FBI reports, you'd get the feeling that she was a stone cold killer back in the day. What she is now sort of feels fake, but it's hard to tell - mostly because her bouncing around and over-the-top temper tantrums and hugs and stuff would seem fake to anyone. Ultimately Saki is a mystery to anyone who doesn't fully know her yet. She definitely wants to play up the "kid villain" thing, though, so most in-the-know villains humor her in public. If you meet her, play along.

She hasn't killed anyone in the last 20 years, that anyone knows of. Prior to that, there were some M.P.s at Army bases and the like, but no civilians.


Saki is classified in the Transhuman Capability Catalog as TCC F5 - gravity control. Several heroes who've been punched out by her reported feeling suddenly heavier, or frozen and unable to move for a moment, so that she could wind up and hit them. Her parasol has blocked chunks of concrete, bullets, and cars, which is obviously not a normal thing. She might manipulate the Higgs field, which provides mass to objects, letting her control density and inertia.


That girl has got a screwed-up head, let me tell you. I think she's getting better, and I won't say why, but for a long time she had some serious anger issues in general and resentment issues in particular against America. I think she's working those out by bench-pressing American heroes. If you're nice to her, though, she's nice back. She can be awfully adorable when she tries.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Villain History: How we came to be

Aside from the skills I recommended every serious villain should have, I want to talk about the history every serious villain should know. For those of you who are just reading my guide to see how to make money fast, skip ahead, this won't interest you. Some free advice: when you get hauled off to prison because you didn't care about investing effort in excellence, you'll have plenty of time to educate yourself in the slam. For the rest of you, tally ho!

Mythological origins

Human history has stories about people with extraordinary powers. Saints, angels, demons, and monsters. Obviously there's a ton of interest in anthropology and archaeology and folklore, because contemporary super research could answer a lot of the questions posed by these accounts.

Siegel and Shuster wrote "The Reign of the Super-man" in 1933. Legend says that they based some of their stories on an actual guy they knew. This isn't the first confirmed superhuman, but is probably one of the most interesting, because their fictional creation was originally planned as a villain. Go us!

The "Super-man" that S&S wrote about was a guy who had powers given to him with a serum. Mythology is full of "deals with the devil" that require you to drink something, or wear something, to gain power. We know vampires are real - not necessarily the vampires of myth, but something like them. There have been Children of Lilith that strongly resemble mythical werewolves or other monsters, like Wolf 359, the Jersey Devil, and that guy in the Antarctic who calls himself "Frank".

Some researchers think that there's some sort of transition point, where the super-mutation went from something communicable to something inheritable. That's where we come in.


Most supers today gain their power in stages. The first that's on record is obviously Apollo. Everyone should know his story already, but here goes. He was a test pilot who survived the breakup of his plane in 1962. He was already one of the most physically and mentally fit guys in his unit, definitely astronaut material already, and then the crackup advances him at least to Stage 3. He got magnetism control powers and a package of secondary abilities out of the deal. In 1967, he goes to the moon without a spacesuit.

By 1970, the Wiezmann Institute in Israel has figured out the biological basis for superpowers. They have no idea how to replicate powers at all, but the signs are obvious. That's how we got terms like "Children of Eve", "Children of Lilith", and "Hashmal process", by the way.

More supers have been appearing. With nothing else to go by, many of them model their actions on the comic books that people were reading at the time. None of the "new" supers were too cautious about their identities - yet.


That changed in 1976 with United States vs. Friedel. This woman, an Eve, had eight children and sold them all. All those kids had potential for power, obviously. The FBI figured out that the people she sold them to were also kidnapping other such kids and taking them all out of the country. The whole scandal shocked the nation, and made people a lot more aware of the risks they were taking.

This meant that 1976 to 1996 was one of the worst times for villainy. Anyone who wasn't using their powers for society-approved purposes got branded as a baby-kidnapper or spy or terrorist or something. There was a big push to institute a draft of some kind. The Army ran a series of ads to recruit supers. That failed miserably, because of a simple truth: processing a kid into a soldier requires instilling discipline. The usual boot-camp regime - fear, stress, and so on - is a total loss when tried on supers. So the Army had something like a 50 to 1 ratio of dropouts to usable soldiers, and those kids who'd been put through the wringer went and worked off their accumulated resentment on the nearest city. Nobody was happy.

Oklahoma City

In 1996, the Oklahoma City bombing happened. A lot of civilian supers jumped in to try and help with the cleanup. Most of them were untrained, but even without that, the first responders did an amazing job of coordinating them.

The public loved these "heroes". And that led to the UNCLE SAM Act being passed, and signed by then President Clinton. This also led to the creation of the group ACTION. Though ACTION has been a real pain for villains, the shift of public perception was vital. Supers as a class weren't despicable and distrusted any more. We were legitimized.

Modern Influences

Since 2002, when the All-Stars broke up and the idea of an "official government super-team" fell by the wayside, villainy has experienced a renaissance. We took our cues from the original comic-books, because people have an instinctive sympathy for pageantry. We stole from professional wrestling and they stole shamelessly from us in return. We got a lot flashier and a lot less deadly, but a lot more effective at getting what we really wanted: money, fame, and freedom.

Modern villainy owes a lot to Lucha libre, or Mexican professional wrestling. More than a few masked rudos are actual supers, and Stage 2 wrestlers compete in their own brackets. This interest spills over into the States in places where Lucha is a thing, like southern California. Because of LA's Hispanic population, a lot of showy villains play Robin Hood in the hood. There's a lot of dollars on the table for anyone who can figure out how to legitimize these spectacles.

Finally, reality television shows - as surprising as it may sound - are contributing a lot to the culture of villainy. We tune in to see ordinary people do dumb, sneaky, or spiteful things. We celebrate vice through our feelings of moral superiority at the people on the tube. We judge, but we keep watching. A lot of villains have taken to pulling "nested capers" to take advantage of this trend. They'll go for their real objective, but they'll stage (and deliberately fail at) a larger one, in which the hero is easily able to thwart them. This makes for good television (everyone likes to see the hero win), and for good villainy (several media-savvy villains are polling extremely well, and some who got captured have been granted clemency on the basis of write-in campaigns from fans).

Supervillains of Note

I'll be starting a series of biographies on supervillains you should know about. As usual, file your questions in the comments section, and I'll answer them as soon as I can!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Villains have fathers too. We're taking a day off to celebrate.

Anyone coming to Mr. Big's house for the celebration: it starts at 3, BYOB. I have mead as usual but that's not for everyone.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rules for Villains: Power loss

Villains should always, always have a Plan B. And if possible, a Plan C, if their powers desert them.

Jamming and Jacking

Here's a scenario probably none of you are preparing for: you're doing a heist, you're about to get away, and suddenly.. the power leaves you. It feels like shock, the oxygen draining out of your tissues. Suddenly you can't run fast, or fly, or whatever you were planning to do. And none of your other powers work. And there's someone watching you, and smiling really scarily.

What has just happened to you is how about 10% of all villain captures a year take place. Power nullification, or "jamming", is a really obnoxious thing to have happen. But it can and does happen. How do you get out of it? Preferably by having escape routes that don't depend on your powers being active at the time. Oh sure, you can use them beforehand to arrange it, but a hidden getaway car can't be jammed.

How do you deal with it? It depends entirely on the abilities of the jammer. Sometimes you just need to get out of range. Other times your body's metabolism will get rid of it naturally, and you just need time.

The worst thing to deal with is the subset of jammers who acquire your power at the same time - called jackers. If you've been jacked, all you have is your natural healing factor to protect you. If you are lucky, you'll have more familiarity with your powers than the jacker. A few paranoid villains, or ones with a dedicated jacker hunting them, carry their own countermeasures around with them. I can't stress enough how unwise this is unless you actually think you'll need them - but if you do, it's the smart thing to do.

Remember how I said earlier that athletic skills like parkour and martial arts are important for any villain? This is one of the reasons.

Loss of Confidence

Powers come from your body and mind. Like anything else, from doing math to having sex, performance anxiety can rob you of your abilities temporarily. New villains who rush to do their first caper without practice and planning sometimes get so scared that they lose power. Well, at that point the cops just come in and bust them, obviously.

There's nothing to do about this but practice, train, and psych yourself up beforehand. Get in the spirit of being a villain, get that mindset firmly in place, then go do your caper. You'll feel incredible. Psychologists call this experience "flow".

If you lack this, there's probably not a lot you can do on the scene. Afterwards, of course, you should be incredibly motivated to get practice. But "afterwards" in this scenario is usually "in jail", so don't go in without feeling ready!

Mr. Big's words of wisdom: proper preparation prevents power problems.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Suggested villain skills

Here's a rundown of what I personally think every serious villain should go learn. Take some community college courses, read stuff online, do whatever it takes. MIT and other places of learning are putting some of their courses up for free, so you have nothing (like enrollment paperwork) identifying you. This is safer, but harder since you lose the benefits of having a teacher.

Acrobatics & Athletics. Get trained in all this stuff, whenever and however you can. You've got a lot of natural agility and potential, you just need experience in using it. Also covers skills like parkour, for those who don't have movement powers already. Being able to get around, and get into (or out of) hard to reach places is super helpful. Let's see the cops chase you when you can jump rooftops and they can't.

Economics. I don't mean macro-economics. Nobody's asking you to predict the next recession. I mean things like: how budgets work, how to plan your spending, but more importantly how money flows through the financial system. A lot of amazing capers have been pulled off because some villain noticed an obscure detail about how money moves.

Martial arts. Go join a dojo and work your way up the belts. You don't need the physical fitness (your body is super, duh), but knowing leverage, striking, and control will let you make use of your natural strength and agility in better ways. And if your powers are suppressed or drained or something, you'll have it to fall back on.

Law. Every villain should be passingly familiar with civics, due process, and other niceties of the legal system. Being on the wrong side of it makes it important that you know your options.

Police procedure. A related topic. Knowing how the cops work, the rules of evidence, chains of custody, and so on will be a big help. A skill you can't learn at school, but you'll need anyway, is the unofficial rules of the police in your chosen city. Find a more experienced local villain and ask respectfully, or go hang out with some gang members for a bit.

Psychology. Learning how people think lets you predict them, and prediction provides control.

Public speaking. We covered this earlier, but I mention it here again for completeness.

Science. Specifically, the sciences that cover your powers. I got into physics to understand electroweak forces and what I could do with them, and I discovered a few neat things I never knew I could do.

Don't whine at me in the comments with stuff like "Mr. Big, I became a villain to have fun! I don't want to go to school to do that!" My advice to those people is: cut the crap. Doing anything well requires some investment. Don't look at this advice as a burden. Look at it as an opportunity.

Besides, it's not anywhere as bad as you think. What, are you worried about repaying student loans? Get real. Is sitting in class not your idea of fun? I totally understand, but after class, all those schmucks are going back to the dorm to get drunk, or returning to their homes to watch "American Idol" and feel miserable, while you are heading to Vegas to carve your name in the side of the Luxor! You have a more exciting life than 99% of the people you will ever encounter!

Mr. Big's words of wisdom: education plus effort equals excellence.

Rules for Villains: Identity

Some people treat villainy as a full-time profession, others as a hobby. A few people dive off the deep end and go full villain, taking it on as their full time identity. That's fine, but here's a few things to remember. Some of them you really should know by now if you're in the game.

First, a word on super-biology. The super mutation is something you get if your mother had the potential for it. The father doesn't really enter into it as far as science can tell. But, if your mom had the potential, all of her kids will have power too. Let me tell you, this discovery really threw a monkey wrench into countries where giving birth to girls was frowned on - and it's probably going to topple a few regimes after a few generations of super-girls come into their powers. There's a ton of opportunity here for the right sort of person. But I digress.

Second, family is a weird thing. Parents are something more than human to their kids already, and siblings can fight for years, or feel responsible for each other, in weird ways that defy explanation. I'm no psychologist, I've just seen it happen too many times to think it's a coincidence.

Third, as you progress up in stages, your lifespan will get longer and longer. Conservatively, a Stage 2 super has an average life expectancy of about 150 years, and a Stage 3 has twice that, and so on up. I want that to sink in. You may be young now, but you'll stay young. If they're telling stories about you now, they'll be telling stories about you in decades and you probably won't have changed a bit.

What does all this have to do with identity? Simple. The lesson here is: if you have living relatives, protect yours. Don't use your real name. If your real name is really cool, sorry, but think of something new anyway. Wear a mask, or a full-concealment helmet or something.

Who remembers those headlines from the 80s? "Eastern European super-baby factories raided". That stuff. Let me tell you what happened there. I wasn't in on that deal, but I know people who know the real score. Some supers' mothers and sisters were being abducted from their very homes and taken to other countries, and forced to give birth repeatedly. The kids were going to be brainwashed into super-powered drones. That didn't happen, because people got wise and raided the whole operation.

Every villain reading this today should be grateful that happened, too. This stuff is pretty dark for everyone I know. Plus, if that had run its course, I don't think modern villainy could exist. We'd be facing some kind of crazy military crackdown on people with powers. But everybody reading this should also remember: it can still happen, maybe on a smaller scale, but it could happen and might still be happening. So even if you don't give a shit about your family personally (you heartless jerk!), you should care because it could still affect you.

Aside from that whole unhappy chapter of history, super-siblings may decide to come after you. They'll have some misguided ideas about "bringing you back" or "making you remember the good times" or whatever convinces them that you need "saving". Or they might decide to try following you into villainy. Sometimes this is cool - provided they aren't useless. Often it isn't, and you are stuck with someone who idolizes your style but gets in the way of you doing your thing. Nobody wants that.

And remember what I said about longevity? If you get stuck in one of these situations, it will probably be going on for a long time. And I mean a long time. Don't let it happen to you!

Mr. Big's words of wisdom: protect your identity, for the sake of your family or at least your own sanity.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Q&A: Communist Gorillas on the Moon edition

Today we're fielding an interesting question from "Manhattan Marauder".

What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen in your time as a supervillain?

I'm actually going to let my long-time collaborator Pyrepower handle this one. Take it away, hot stuff!


Hi folks, Pyrepower here. Thanks to everyone who has been reading Mr. Big and writing back with awesome stuff!

The weirdest thing I've ever seen has to be Communist gorillas on the Moon. No lie, I promise you it happened.

A bunch of us got together and decided we were going to raid Apollo's house. Seriously, grabbing something from the home of the world's first public super would make us forever. We had a force-field generator called Childe and a molecular manipulator called Levin, so we thought we could make the trip into space safely. We spent a week researching zero-gravity, taking practice flights to the upper atmosphere, that sort of thing. Then we headed up.

Everyone got really excited when we reached the Lagrange point. We were halfway there! Childe and Levin were holding up okay and the rest of us were ready to deal with Apollo if he was home. We planned the raid during one of his walkabouts, but just in case, you know?

We land right at the house. Everything seems okay. Obviously the dude has no security whatsoever, he lives on the Moon so who's going to break in, right? Childe holds a bubble over the entrance while we head inside. Apollo doesn't have much but a lot of it looks like generic antique junk, so we're not sure what to take. We want something only he would have, like an old flight jacket or something.

While we're in there, Hardcase spots something on the security monitors. Apollo isn't just walking around on the surface - he's fighting! So we fiddle with the computer running the cameras to get a better look.

There's an old bald man in some kind of plastic spacesuit, with a big bubble helmet instead of those close-fitting astronaut deals. And with him are these three huge guys - or well, not really guys, because they're wearing the same thing and that means we can their heads. We look closer and they're gorillas! I am not kidding. I don't just mean Children of Lilith ugly dudes, I mean actual gorillas. Back on Earth, we went to the zoo and saw some just to be sure. Nearby we can see what looks like a big metal block. Hardcase pans the camera over that way and we see it's really some kind of rocket. It's got a hammer and sickle on it. Levin says that means it's Soviet, which is like old Russian stuff.

We look back at the old guy and the gorillas. Sure enough, their suits have a hammer and sickle on them too. We watch for awhile, because this is the coolest thing any of us have ever seen, but also obviously the weirdest, and we notice something. The gorillas aren't just fighting like animals. They team up, they surround Apollo, they take on some kind of fighting stance like martial artists do in the movies. They're actually intelligent!

Apollo finally beats them, of course, because come on, he's frigging Apollo and has been fighting Russians since like 1962 or whatever. So we hurry up and get out. We've all totally forgotten about robbing this guy, because he's clearly too cool a dude to steal from, and besides, we got something better. We got a kickass story that nobody else knows about. We even took some pictures of the security setup, so we can prove we were there.

Anyway, that's it. Communist gorillas on the Moon. Seriously, absolutely the weirdest thing I've ever seen.


Thanks, Pyrepower. Mr. Big is back in the saddle, and when I heard that story originally, I thought it was unbelievable. Then I saw the evidence with my own eyes. I, Mr. Big, am standing behind the story that PP told here, let's make that official.

So hopefully that answers Manhattan Marauder's question. I want to add that I'm not personally surprised by intelligent gorillas - human beings aren't the only animals to have developed the super-mutation, and I'll share some other stories like that sometime if anyone wants to hear them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rules for Villains: Presentation and showmanship!

Villainy may seem easy to the new super. Go out, rob a few banks, go to Vegas and spend it all, rinse and repeat. You can do that, sure, but do it more than a few times in the same way and you'll go to jail. True villainy is a calling - you're a bandit, a stage magician, an entertainer, a celebrity, a cad, and more. America loves its rebels, and that's you. The best capers are ones that don't require you to interact with people, since every spectator is also an unknown variable, but sometimes you have to. And let's be honest, sometimes the attention is gratifying.

So today I want to talk about presentation and showmanship - how to make an entrance, how to make an exit, and what to do between the two. This has nothing to do with escape routes or the practical problems of villainy. Instead, this is all about style. Every villain has their own style. You'll develop yours as you go.

The essentials of stylish villainy are appeal to pathos and stress management. When you engage in an act of villainy, you're doing more than just profiting. Often, you need to secure cooperation from the people on the scene, and so you're also working to get bystanders to be sympathetic to your cause. You need to be the person in charge of the scene. You usually achieve that with fear, but you can't make people so afraid that they'll freeze up or try to resist you.

Pathos is appeal to the audience's emotions. You do this through several ways in rhetoric. Not all of them are valid for acts of villainy, so let's review the ones that are.

Humor. This is sometimes difficult for inexperienced villains to pull off, so my advice is: don't try unless you know you can do it. It's a fine line between making the crowd appreciate the humor (black or otherwise) of their situation and seeming like a clownish buffoon. An example of the former is the bank robber Tellurian. He had a knack for looking at someone and announcing what he thought they were thinking from their facial expression. He spun stories on the fly while draining the bank vault, and when questioned by police, more people remembered the stories than pertinent facts about the robbery. An example of the latter is Beaver Boy, a would-be jewel thief who burrows into stores. He's, frankly, ridiculous. Nobody takes him seriously, even though he has a legitimate power, because he tries to clown around and he sucks at it.

Visuals. Eye-catching effects are both a great distraction and a great attention-getter. Prefer your powers or control of the local environment over something gimmicky. Only go with the really corny stuff if it's big - quantity has a quality all its own.

Delivery. Patter is vital. Vocabulary is crucial. Seriously, defraud someone of a dictionary. Thieve a thesaurus. Check YouTube for videos of Singularity in action. She was amazing, simply unparalleled in her ability to monologue. Practice some speeches in front of a mirror if you have to. Join Toastmasters.

Surprise. You can build up a lot of social momentum by opening with a surprising move. You don't want explosions or anything immediately dangerous, just something that holds the attention. Peoples' attention flows like a river, and you want to bust the dam and get the current flowing.

Passion. You have to care about what you're doing, and it needs to show. If your heart isn't in it, people won't care. Before you can convince anyone else you're serious, you have to convince yourself.

Competition. For you to hold the attention of the crowd, you need to eliminate competing influences. The tall blade of grass gets cut, and you need to be ruthless in applying your lawnmower. If someone decides to make a stand against you, you need to restrain them in the fairest way possible. The idea of fairness is really critical here. Don't "make an example" of people. Just make it clear that anyone who gives you trouble will be dealt with, and deal with everyone the same way.

If you can master these elements, your audience will be receptive to your program, and may even appreciate the spectacle. Everybody likes to be part of something larger, and you're giving them the opportunity to do so.

Stress management is related to pathos in some ways, but it's different enough to warrant its own discussion. Basically, any overt act of villainy will cause stress in observers. Your job is to channel this stress into productive channels - things that help you.

Members of the crowd will respond in one or more of these ways:

Fight. The civilian will be argumentative, assertive, and possibly difficult to deal with. A skilled villain can sometimes get these people to direct their aggression against each other, or some other threat, rather than you. Like water, anger flows along the channels of least resistance. If you don't feel confident of your ability to manage such feelings, though, ignore these people unless they directly get in your way. If a hero is on the scene, they become his problem, not yours.

Flight. The civilian will try to get away from you. Good - unless your plan requires the cooperation of a crowd (and why would you make such a plan without guaranteeing the crowd's reactions?), this is perfectly fine. The civilian stays safe, you have one less variable to worry about, and you can go about your business.

Freeze. The civilian will freeze up - become unresponsive, stop moving, curl up into a ball, whatever. This is probably okay, but between this and flight you'd prefer flight. Point such people out to any heroes on the scene when you need a distraction.

Fawn. The civilian exhibits friendly behavior toward you. Their reaction to stress is to ingratiate themselves with you. This is what a lot of people think of when they hear "Stockholm Syndrome". This reaction is the most annoying of the four to deal with, and hopefully you won't have to.

Some studies say that males and females differ in their reactions - that males tend toward "fight or flight", while females tend toward "tend and befriend". My experience is that in a given crowd, the individual reactions are far more important than their genders. Mostly your goal is for nobody to move, for nobody to get hurt, and for nobody to get in your way.

Stress management, as a skill, involves doing the things that will provoke the most favorable reaction. Visualize stress flowing like water, with you directing the flow of it through your actions. Too little stress, and the crowd won't respect you - and then you'll waste time dealing with them. Too much stress, and peoples' panicky reactions dominate the scene, again forcing you to deal with it.

So in short: you want to open with a surprising entrance, take charge, raise or lower stress levels to keep the crowd pliable, and engender sympathy if or when you can. All in all, not an easy thing! But doing it is the hallmark of a true master villain.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Life at Stage 2

Earlier in the guide, I recommended that you be at least Stage 3 to embark on a life of villainy. Some people just can't wait, and many up-and-coming villains will be fighting Stage 2 heroes. So let's talk about life at Stage 2.

Everyone reading this guide should remember what it was like growing up. Broken bones would set themselves. You'd do better than your peers at school, in sports, and so on. You were better looking, faster, stronger, and generally more awesome. What I want to talk about is the people who don't make it to Stage 3. These are the kids who avoided getting into a life-threatening accident, the ones who didn't take a bullet or get in a car wreck or whatever.

The basics of Stage 2 heroism and villainy look pretty similar. You'll see some common points:
  • Body armor. Yes, you won't permanently show bruises or suffer from broken bones, but do you really want to be hurt to begin with? Of course not.
  • Exploitation of mundane advantage. Know all those brooding vigilantes of the night? They work at night because it's an advantage that serious powers can usually cover. They encourage a fearful reputation because it's an advantage. Vigilantes with guns are effective because guns are effective. A good Stage 2 super knows how to leverage the environment and his available resources.
  • Secret identity. Some Stage 3 and up supers don't bother, but a day job is still a necessity at Stage 2. They still have to eat, sleep somewhere, and so on. That means money, and that means a job. If they were lucky enough to inherit money, that money is still legal and aboveboard and leaves a trail.
Remember that Stage 2 makes for superior physical and mental traits. Stage 2 supers are typically successful in their chosen field - business, politics, or whatever. A lot of villains who are being harassed by a Stage 2 vigilante have gone after especially successful members of their community, with mixed results. On occasion, a villain has even kidnapped their nemesis and didn't even realize it.

Don't count on being able to identify your target through injury, either. A lot of villains have tried this. They'd break a specific bone or leave a scar or something. Two days later, the millionaire industrialist they suspected would appear at a charity ball, free of any such injury. Word to the wise: even at Stage 2, supers heal quickly.

Some villains say it's bad form to know a hero's secret identity. Others will firebomb their nemesis' home given half a chance. You have to figure out how you feel about this yourself, mostly because karma can come back and bite you hard if you cross this line. All I will say is: if you need a trump card, this isn't a bad one. Just don't play it until you're out of better options.

Tactics for fighting against a Stage 2 hero:
  • Wear him down. Sure, if he's armored, weaksauce attacks may not seem useful. You want quantity, not quality here. Eventually he'll get tired, or frustrated. Even if his body is capable of going on, his heart won't be in it.
  • Negate his advantages. Look for the things he leverages - darkness, fear, whatever - and commit crimes at times and places where those are not helpful to him.
  • Network. Most Stage 2 supers are similar, as mentioned. This means most villains who fight them will have a common collection of tactics for dealing with them. Talk to your fellow villains - if you can - and find out what specific advice they can give you.
  • Timing. With a secret identity, a Stage 2 hero won't be able to fight crime 24/7. Try to get a sense of his schedule, if he keeps one. Plot his appearances on a map of the city, do crimes in different parts of town, and look at his response times. Hopefully you'll be able to narrow down his location.
I've got my own specific advice for specific heroes I've fought, but I'm saving that for the premium guide. Sign up today to pre-order "Mr. Big's Playbook"! I'll have Paypal links up soon, promise.