I have officially reached the age where I am going bald. My hair was already thin to begins with, and for the last few years it’s been thinning in the front even further. Currently, I don’t look bald, but my hair doesn’t fall the way it used it. It used to fall in great, alluring locks, covering my eyes with the appeal of a magazine model. These days, it kind of wisps down over my eyes, which can be alluring, but only from certain angles. The fact remains that I am losing my hair.
When I go to get haircuts, I instruct my barbers and stylists not to conceal my receding hairline. Even though I have the usual concerns of aging and vanity, I am determined to go bald gracefully. I will not grow comb-overs. I will not grown my hair long in the back. I will not shave my head, claiming it to be fashion rather than balding. I will not wear hats, knit caps, or any other sort of lying headwear. I will let my hair fall out, and I will embrace it. To cope with my flagging vanity, I will simply whine about it the whole time it’s happening.
But I should also be sure to keep an eye on my moral compass. If popular culture had taught me anything, it’s that losing your hair can drive you into a pit of immorality and crime. Superheros, you may notice, usually have full heads of hair. They are young men in their prime, possessed of excellent physiques, and frozen in a perpetual youth. Peter Parker, to cite an example, became Spider-Man when he was 15 years old. That was in 1963. Do the math. That means he was born in 1947 or 1948. That means Peter Park is, in 2012, going to turn 64. He’s nearly my dad’s age, and older than my mom. Look at him in the pages of a comic, though, and he’s still a vibrant, vital, hard-working young man, perhaps about 29 years old. Spider-Man will always be 29.
His enemies, however, are typically older fellows with shabby physiques and, to the point, bald heads. It’s amazing how a lack of hair can easily equate evil in the world. One can think of a few bald heroes (Jean-Luc Picard comes to mind), but the amount of bald villains are myriad.
In memoriam of the hair I’ve lost, and as a way of analyzing the way baldness can drain you of all righteousness and nobility, I have compiled a list of ten bald villains, culled from my cluttered pop culture imagination. If you are bald, this may serve as an interesting moral essay. If you have a full head of hair, stroke it lovingly, and smile smugly to yourself. If you’re a female… YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND!
from “Batman” (1966-1968)
The character of Egghead (as played by Vincent Price) was invented for use in the awesome 1960s “Batman” TV show. He sometimes tooled around with a female sidekick named Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, played by Anne Baxter from “All About Eve.” He wore a bright yellow suit, sported a large bald head, and would throw egg-shaped weapons. I recall that his tear-gas eggs were laid by onion-fed chickens. In a colorful and weird-ass universe, Egghead was probably the strangest villain Batman fought. His dialogue was peppered with stupid egg puns, and Egghead would say the word “egg-zactly” just as often as Catwoman would say “purr-fect.”
Since comic book writers are suckers for canon (the recent decade-long tradition of reboots and the like notwithstanding), Egghead eventually leaked into the comics as well starting in 1992. The new Egghead, included in a single Arkham Asylum-based story, was less egg-centric and conformed to the usual Batman villain pattern of being a normal guy who was driven mad by a life of big-city frustration.
As much as I like the noir-ish 1989 version of Batman, and the angsty 2005 version of Batman, I have an equal affection for the goofy-ass 1960s version of Batman. He lived in a universe where he could be crushed by nine-foot-wide pennies, could be filmed kissing a goat, and would ride missiles into giant jack-in-the-boxes. And he could go up against bald weirdos like Egghead. When “The Dark Knight Rises” comes out later this year, I am going to imagine that the Bane character is actually secretly Egghead.
from “No Holds Barred” (1989)
Yes, I was once into professional wrestling. I was into the medium long before they “darkened” the matches, and made them rough and gritty and serious. I was involved in an era where wrestlers like The Honky-Tonk Man could exist, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts was considered one of the coolest things ever. And, of course, we all loved Hulk Hogan, kind of the face of the WWF, and the wresting firmament hero.
No, I’m not going to make a joke about Hulk’s own receding hairline, which he clearly had, even back in the 1980s. No, I’m just going to bring up “No holds Barred,” the first feature film to showcase Mr. Hogan in a leading role. I saw this film opening weekend in the theaters, and giggled through the bulk of the film. Even at the time, I thought it was way too serious, and the drama was clunky. The underdog-rises story and the mob dealings seemed out of place in a wrestling movie. In an odd way, weird-ass fantasy films like “Suburban Commando” played more directly into the Hulk Hogan myth.
In “No Holds Barred,” Hogan, playing a character named Rip, found himself pitted against an evil wrestler named Zeus, played by Tommy “Tiny” Lister. Zeus, with his large shiny bald head (with the letter “Z” carefully shaved onto the side of his scalp) seemed nearly sueprnatural in how tough and evil he was. He could barely speak, and was more interested in doing harm to his opponants than he was in wrestling. It’s bad enough that he was an evil bald man, but get this: In his introductory scene, Zeus, after knocking out his opponent, leans down and forcibly yanks two gigantic fistfulls of hair out of the prone wrestler’s head. Zeus hates hair. He wants everyone to be bald. Talk about evil bald men.
8) Lord Voldemort
from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005) and others
Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) may be slipping in under a technicality. All of the men on this list are ordinary human beings who (presumably) went bald under their own powers. Voldemort may only be bald because, at least as far as I could tell, he was part snake. Voldemort has no nose, milk-white skin, and a smooth, smooth bald head that seems to give him away in dark spaces.
Was he bald before he became part snake, or did the snake-ening make his hair fall out? It’s never explained in the films. Maybe they have a scene of his hair falling out in the books. He doesn’t seem to have eyebrows either. It’s never addressed, but I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t have any armpit or pubic hair. Maybe he’s just a newt-slick monster.
I like to think, though, that Voldemort started losing his hair as a student as Hogwarts, and slowly went bald has he became more and more evil. By the time he killed Harry Potter’s parents, he was totally bald (or maybe he just had a ring of hair around the back of his head), and was never going to have his youthful coif ever again. In the movies, it’s never really explained why Voldemort was evil (he was just sort of a bad egg who hated his school). Maybe watching his hair fall out was the crux of his moral flip.
7) The Strangers
from “Dark City” (1998)
Something is grievously wrong with the world. Every night at midnight, all the people fall asleep at once. While they sleep, a mysterious group of pale-faced evil-looking weirdos in long coats infiltrate the city and inject their brains with a mysterious drug. They replace all their belongings, and, in extreme cases, use their psychic powers to rearrange the buildings around them. Then, a few hours later, everyone wakes up again, unfazed by the changes, often with a new identity.
Alex Proyas’ “Dark City” is a wonderfully weird, dark, striking and thoughtful science fiction film. It dealt with alien control of humans’ reality an entire year before “The Matrix” came along to shake up the sci-fi community. I love it, right up to the “Drangonball”-like ending, where the hero and the villain are floating through the air shooting mind bullets at one another.
The bad guys, by the way, are ALL BALD. There is an entire race of alien-possessed humans controlling the city, and they’re all equally bald. It’s explained later that they are kind of weird translucent parasites that only live inside human skulls, which is why they look so pale, but why are they bald too? What is it about having an alien parasite in your brain that makes you lose your hair? Is it anxiety, or do they need to shave your head to put the alien parasite in? I think the film is prejudiced against bald people. They think that if you have psychic powers and are taken over by a soulless alien being, then you’d just naturally lose your hair. Boo, I say.
6) Dr. Wily
from “Mega Man” (1987)
Dr. Wily was the villain from about 12 “Mega Man” games. His M.O. Was always the same: He would construct eight evil robots, each with a special theme weapon, and a name to match that weapon. Grenade Man, Bright Man, Bubble Man, etc. As Mega Man defeated each robot master, he would absorb their theme weapon. Mega Man would then infiltrate the towering fortress that Dr. Wily had built, and fight his way to the top. Dr. Wily would always be waiting at the top in a gigantic death tank of some sort, always, always shaped like a human skull. Even Dr. Wily’s entire castle would be shaped like a human skull.
What does Dr. Wily intent to accomplish with his often-failing plan? Some sort of world domination, I suppose. Maybe he just wants to destroy the little blue robot that is always breaking his stuff. He’s going to keep making evil robots until he makes one that can’t be broken. Drill Man couldn’t do it. Ring Man couldn’t do in. Nor could that one robot who looked like a baseball. I think Dr. Wily needs to re-think he plans.
Dr. Wily has a good-natured counterpart in the form of Dr. Light, who built Mega Man. Dr. Light, you may notice, had a full head of hair. He may be gray and breaded, but he has all his hair. Dr. Wily, by glaringly obvious contrast, is suffering from male pattern-baldness. I’m willing to bet that if he hadn’t lost his hair, Dr. Wily would have remained good friends with Dr. Light. More than that, though, maybe the video game designers who conceived of Dr. Wily needed a good evil look, and made him bald. I assume it was a default. Bald = evil. That simple.
5) The Vulture
from “The Amazing Spider-Man” (1963)
He showed up in the second issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man” and has been cropping up in Spider-Man comics ever since. He was once an electrical engineer named Adrian Toomes with high aspirations and no hair. When he was double-crossed by a professional colleague, he put on a special flight suit (which also gave him super strength) and turned to crime. He named himself The Vulture.
Spider-Man villains suck, don’t they? Are there any good ones? Y’know, that actually seem menacing? A bald electrical engineer in a vulture suit? That’s kind of dumb. The only cool Spider-Man villain is probably The Lizard, who was kind of a wolf-man type character that actually looked like a monster. Maybe Kraven the hunter, who liked to hunt people for sport. But no one seems to be actually scary. Electro has a goofy outfit. Dr. Octopus has a goofy name and a weird power. Mysterio looks kinda neat, but uses movie special effects to fight Spider-Man. I guess in-keeping with the animal nature of Spider-Man’s powers, the bulk of his nemeses were also animal-themed. Hence The Vulture.
A Vulture? An old bald man in a vulture suit? Maybe kinda scary in a way, but now the comic book creators are just being mean. They’re using a bald head as a direct symbol of evil. If the vulture got a nice toupee, the outfit wouldn’t look as scary, and he would give up on crime and maybe turned to justice.
4) Charles Montgomery Burns
from “The Simpsons” (1989 – present)
Oh yes. Bald men aren’t merely evil super-criminals, thugs, or villains. They’re also wicked, wealthy über-capitalists who step on workers every day as a matter of course. They are so rich, they don’t understand the way the other 99% lives. They sit in their ivory towers, look down on us everyday, hardworking schmoes, cackling wickedly to themselves, lighting illegal cigars with their illegally obtained $1000 bills. Sometimes they’re fat, but not always. They will, however, always be brightly bald.
In popular culture, the exemplar of evil rich bald guys has to be Mr. Burns, the morally empty owner of the Springfield nuclear power plant on “The Simpsons.” He openly embraces a sometime-dangerous form of energy, treats his workers like filthy cattle, embezzled money, bribes his way out of problems, and belongs to every elite ultra-rich cabal of secret villains that the town knows. He doesn’t seem capable of regular human compassion, and is so old that he possesses a streak of dangerous senility.
In an early episode of the show, Homer Simpson discovers that he can re-grow his hair using a recent miracle chemical. His new head of hair grants him promotions and popularity. Mr. Burns sucks up to him, and makes him a Junior Executive. Homer, however, runs out of his miracle chemical the night before a big presentation, and is practically laughed off stage. Mr. Burns, in an uncharacteristic bout of sympathy, lets him keep his job, as he too “once knew the sting of male patterned baldness.” The show openly admits that much of Mr. Burns evil and dissatisfaction comes from his premature balding. Evil bald men. Evil.
3) Ming the Merciless
from “Flash Gordon” (1934)
He rules the planet Mongo, and travels from planet to planet playfully destroying life for mere pleasure. He takes concubines at his will, kills underlings on a whim, and robs every last dollar from his subjects. He spends his money on new methods of torture, pleasure-giving machines for himself, and a infinite supply of opulent gowns and outfits. He is only happy when someone else is screaming in pain. Ming the Merciless is probably one of the most evil characters in comics history, and serves as one of the archetypal villains for all that came after him. And, of course, he has no hair.
Now, true, Ming is a space alien, and could, technically, come from a species that never has hair. Maybe he’s the same species as Lt. Ilia from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” Which is Deltan, by the way. You may now officially mock the Trekkie.
But Ming is probably just another bitter bald man who turned to evil thanks to his vanity. Of all the comic villains in the world, I feel Ming is the only one who would try the following plan that I’ve always kinda wanted to see: Ming would invent a space ray of some kind that would leave its recipients unharmed apart from their full heads of hair. It would, without irradiating them or anything, make all their hair fall out. He would then sit back in evil glee and watch society crumble and mutate as the men all rushed to find wigs, and started wars over their vanity. Yes I am bald, he would think, And soon the whole universe will be.
2) Ernst Stavro Blofeld
from “You Only Live Twice” (1967) and others.
I am currently working my way through every James Bond film (which you can read about on CraveOnline). I had previously only seen the more recent ones (and “Goldfinger”), and revisiting some of the films from the 1960s offer an interesting look at a villain I had always heard about, but had never actually seen on the big screen. Ernst Blofeld. Blofeld was the #1 leader behind an evil cabal of super-terrorists known as SPECTRE, which was devoted, as its name indicated, to Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. I guess I could see, in a comic book sort of way, how such an organization could come to exist. Perhaps there were numerous dissatisfied billionaires in the world who decided to pool their resources and take down civilization. And they need a leader, right?
For the first two films, we do not see Blofeld’s face. We only see his sporty silver nehru jacket, and his startled Persian cat. When we finally do see Blofeld, in “You Only Live Twice,” he is played by Donald Pleasance, has a great ugly scar on his face, and is, naturally, bald as a plucked chicken. I think we all kind of expected Blofeld to be bald. No one though of him as having a nice, tall blonde hairdo, did they? Perhaps we’re all prejudiced against the bald. In the following film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Blofeld would be played by Telly Savalas, who was well known for his baldness. In “Diamonds are Forever,” Blofeld would turn into Charles Grey, and would actually have hair. Too late. The damage is done. We know he’s wearing a wig now.
Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” is clearly just a direct lift-off of Blofeld, right down to the Persian cat, scar, and silver jacket. And, of course, the round, bald head. There it is. Like an Easter Island Head. Standing, shining in the center of a techno lab. That bald head is the center of trillions of dollars of grief and terrorism. It is responsible for thousands of deaths.
from “Action Comics” (1940)
Probably the most famous supervillain in all of comic book history, Lex Luthor is, as I feel odd explaining, the arch-nemesis of Superman. Superman, you see, has natural talents and superpowers granted him by mere species of super-powered space alien. Lex Luthor, a rich tycoon, is a resentful empiricist, who has put all his faith into technology and personal pride. When he sees a naturally powerful God-like being among us, he sees not a hero or someone to be looked up to, but a deity to be defeated. A God to overcome. Lex Luthor then calmly pools his resources, uses his intellect, and builds super machines to either kill, imprison, or merely interrupt the everyday life of Superman.
The name “superman” invokes Nietzsche’s idea of the übermensch; that is: a man who has become naturally superior to those around him not boy dominating them, but by fully realizing his own will to power. Luthor, in keeping with Nietzsche’s philosophy, is one of the herd who resents his superior. Only Superman holds a kind of religious ideal to justice and gentleness and being a good person (contrary to his abilities), and Luthor is the one trying to realize his intellectual triumph. Interesting philosophical interplay there.
Luthor makes the #1 spot because he is essentially all the previous entries rolled into one. He has the need to dominate like Ming. The evil mad scientist urge like Dr. Wily. The terrorist leanings of Blofeld. The aloof wealth of Mr. Burns. Lex Luthor is the world’s best villain.
And, yes, the man is totally bald. Totally.
Witney Seibold is going bald. He will not become evil. He promises. He writes about movies a lot, and his work can be found on his ‘blog Three Cheers for Darkened Years! He also contributes to CraveOnline as co-host of The B-Movies Podcast, the professor behind the Free Film School, and the patient critic behind The Series Project. He has never looked into hair re-growth formulas.