(Click here if you missed Part 1)
Back when I was dreaming of being in a ballet company, I never longed to be the princess. I wanted to be Giselle’s Myrtha: undead, cold, and reserved. I wondered what the real story was behind Sleeping Beauty’s evil Carabosse. I would pay to see a Cinderella ballet featuring no Cinderella and more of the step-mother. For once, I’d like to see a battle between Swan Lake’s Odette and Odile. Now, I’ve realized how much the villainess identity shaped my ballet fandoms among other fandoms.
If you need a refresher of the television villainesses I’m featuring, here is the list:
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Azula
Beast Wars: Blackarachnia
Kim Possible: Shego
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, specifically seasons 1-2 and 6: Rita and Astromema
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon and Queen Chrysalis
Mystic Knights of Tir na Nog: Queen Maeve
Once Upon a Time: Queen Regina
Storm Hawks: Master Cyclonis
Young Hercules: Discord
Disclaimer: All quotes paired with images are of my own imagination and do not appear in any show.
On with the post! Here are many more reasons to appreciate the villainess.
Let me start by saying I don’t know which of Queen Regina’s outfits to die for first. I’m not even sure where to begin, so I won’t. Costumer Eduardo Castro, I must hug you.
I will, though, go on a little about her hair. This changes from outfit to outfit, ranging from a controlled bob as the mayor in her cursed little town to a flowing ponytail covered in lace, a bird’s nest worthy up-do that’s as wild as her plans, and a partial up-do (featured above) that made my jaw drop when I first saw it. (I don’t care if they’re hair extensions. They’re made of win.) The villainess always has epic hair no matter the outfit. Pair it with make-up that has everyone posting tutorials, and you have yourself one beloved evil-doer.
Speaking of make-up, Cyclonis’ thick eyeliner is what got me to watch Storm Hawks. I saw an image of her in a fan-made avatar and had to find out who this character was. There’s more to her appearance, though. She wears a cloak with a hood that moves. It disassembles in small strips down her back. Whenever she’s feeling emo, the strips rise and curl to create a shroud around her head. In the shroud, she’s especially vicious.
Demona encouraged me to watch Gargoyles in a somewhat less shallow way (but I do love me some eyeliner). Her wild, red mane encouraged my interest in red hair.
As a gargoyle, Demona’s appearance is interesting in general; she’s a freaking gargoyle! Best of all, the talons of her wings clasp in front of her to make it appear as though she’s wearing a cape. This is just one more reason why I want wings. Sure, I never cared for the loin cloths she wore (surely they had better fashion in the dark ages) and her feet always freaked me out (cartoon claws are awkward), but after all these years I’ve never seen another female gargoyle on television—ever—or one who looked so punk.
I’m not sure what inspired Mystique to look the ways she does. Perhaps she’s a distant relative of Demona. (That would explain Nightcrawler.) Her red hair and blue skin are more intense in color, and her outfit covers at least 20% more skin. I’m not sure what those skulls on her belt are for, but at least she’s actually wearing clothes unlike the movie Mystique. Her cartoon self has a more noticeable presence onscreen than her film self.
As I wrote in my post on Young Hercules, I’ve always adored Discord’s look. With her dark hair, gothic make-up, and slinky costume, she’s also one of the darkest-looking villains of the 90s that I’ve encountered. She appears to be more fierce when handling weapons.
Nightmare Moon is also ready for battle. She dons a helmet and breastplate bearing the same moon from her cutie mark. I’m not sure why this is, but Nightmare Moon appears to be all black while her true identity, Luna, is indigo. Perhaps being a magical dictator changes your appearance. In both identities, Luna’s hair is animated, ever-flowing, and adorned with nighttime stars.
Perhaps being a dictator also requires leather; Regina often wears it, as does Astronema 2.0. Although Astronema’s armored jumpsuit is something for space-age vixens to pine for, I’ve always adored her most for her hair. She’s famous for having almost as many hair colors as Mollie Sugden. I recall at least five of these colors off the top of my head. With every little alteration in costume and make-up, Astronema’s hair color changes drastically.
All her styles can be viewed at this wikia website.
Maeve’s dress got me started on costume designing, a brief but pleasing hobby. While the below drawing isn’t the best piece of artwork in my small collection, it gives you a basic idea of her design. I’m unable to get a good picture of her dress due to notoriously poor lighting and video quality. Imagine purple velvet, leather, and flowing sleeves. It’s not a McCall’s costume; it’s fictional Celtic! The diamond in the center is a leather corset bearing the symbol of her kingdom, Temra
And finally, the latest villainess to come to my attention: Chrysalis, queen of the changelings. She may be just cartoon pony-thing, but what gave me a few chills upon first seeing her were the holes in her body. That’s right, I said holes. In her body. They’re also in her hair, horn, and insect wings. Along with her fangs, she’s not something one would expect from a children’s show about colorful ponies.
Maeve and Regina share similar styles in the architecture of their castles. Both feature sharp spires and rest on hilltops. Inside, Gothic decor and lack of lighting seem to be themes. They’re not completely the same, though; one is made of stone and the other is made of CGI (LOL).
In one episode, Regina makes a semi-functional playground that looks a little too familiar.
As heir to the throne, Azula’s true fortress is a kingdom of islands that make a shape similar to a fighting dragon. (The world, however, is her playground.) The palace is in Fire Nation Capital and, yes, is filled with fire. Fire serves as an energy source, defense source, and a source for burning people you don’t like. Rows of bazillion-story stone columns everywhere are surprisingly not as intimidating as the flames that surround the throne.
Cyclonis hails from a terra named Cyclonia, the city she’s named after. If you’re known to rule something so desolate, I think you’d better be named after your home. Residents get around by flying on gliders and such, while Cyclonis herself only leaves on the most important business.
It appears the villainess likes pointy decor. Is there a name for that style? Also, why the lack of furniture, ladies?
Soldiers are different from henchmen, who I’ll talk about later. The soldiers are either looked down on or forgotten altogether. Most are better left forgotten as they get more things wrong than right. Alas, being the TV show extras that they are, they’re useful for mistakenly letting the hero into the castle or giving the villainess a false sense of security.
Regina’s soldiers give her a false sense of security at times, but they look good while doing it. They wear chain mail, armor, and their helmets are adorned with raven-black feathers. Their armor actually works, people know their worth, and they take the queen where she needs to go.
Maeve’s soldiers make the most hilarious sounds when they go into battle. They almost sound cheerful with their “Ooh, arrrgh, yeaaah!” If you watch the show, you know. The soldiers of their opposing kingdom are just as bad, so I can’t completely pin this on Maeve’s training tactics. I can, however, blame her for the be-horned helmets that match her scepter.
Even more hilarious are Rita’s Putties. They constantly speak in an alien tongue-lolling, they have almost no idea how to fight, they retreat before the battle is even over, yet these are a threat? I shouldn’t even mention them, but they sure do make great Halloween costumes. They’re also fun to mock. (I was going to post a sample video, but I can’t. It’s all too horribly funny.) Astronema somewhat makes up for this with her Quantrons: droid-looking, masked creatures who speak like echoing, underwater robots. They retreat just as easily, though.
Cyclonis’ soldiers certainly fit the stereotype of mistake-prone weenies. When they won’t do, she pulls out the big guns: Nightcrawlers. These are masked and armored nocturnal beings who may or may not be human. What I love most about them are their voices. I haven’t found a video that demonstrates this, but the lead in Rammstein in the below video is close enough. Imagine whispering in that voice of doom, and you have a Nightcrawler.
The Fire Nation Army wins! They’re the most feared of henchmen by far for their bending-happy fire manipulation. They steer the iron ships that transport the nation to each colony for pillaging and tyranny. The arrival of Firebenders at any location is greatly feared for their numbers and ruthless commanders.
Chrysalis uses her strength in numbers to break through a barrier surrounding the castle. When the battle is in full swing, the minions make good use of their powers to create doppelgängers of the heroes. Like their queen, they have holes in their bodies and fly with insect wings. Watch them bear their little fangs below. Aren’t they cute?
Those closest to the villainess provide comic relief and attempt to complete the dirty tasks their mistress can’t be bothered to do herself. They barely get any credit, but they’re so devoted to their work they don’t care.
While I admit the shows Power Rangers and Mystic Knights are incredibly lame at times (okay, all the time), and while part of this is caused by how the henchmen are written, Goldar and Torc have special places in my heart. Their gruff voices, rugged appearances, and hard armor don’t hide the fact that they may have a soft spot or two, and their loyalty to their queens is adorable. Sure, they’re prone to betrayal, but who could say no to that ape face?
Cyclonis’ right hand man, the Dark Ace, is certainly popular in fanfiction for his involvement with Cyclonis and the hero, but when the mood strikes me I prefer the other, less present henchmen for comic relief. Snipe is your typical strong man; every villainess needs a strong man who’s a little stupid. Ravess proves that violins are evil as she plays one during every battle; I don’t really understand this, but it makes me laugh every time. The lizard-like Repton (voice provided by Scott McNeil) lets me reminisce the voice of my darling Dinobot from Beast Wars.
Mystique, Shego, Blackarachnia, and Discord may themselves be henchwomen to the main villain, but they know how to go solo when they need to. In some cases, they’re the only person keeping the villain afloat. How many times has Drakken shouted “Shego!” when he’s gotten stuck? She owns him whenever she wants to.
My absolute favorite henchman of all the shows listed here would have to be Ecliptor. Outlined by some retro, geometric grid, his costume is the least complicated of all the henchmen in Power Rangers history yet he’s probably the most complex. A soft-spoken man-thing, this renowned warrior is troubled only by his devotion to Astronema and the occasional lover’s quarrel with another villain. He makes me want to use math so I can calculate the area of those pecks. The blocky costume of this character doesn’t permit much flexibility except in the waist, which makes for an interesting walk.
Of course, we can’t forget Regina’s men. There’s the infamous Huntsman who releases Snow White, one of the hottest men to grace the screen, and Sidney, the man who names her the fairest in the land. Sidney also works as a genie and a corrupted journalist who can’t seem to keep away from his queen. One twist on this fairy tale includes Regina’s father, whose devotion and sacrifice gives Regina the means to carry out her most wicked plans.
Azula’s henchwomen, however, may not be so soft. Mai is a master at knife throwing and a dark soul. Ty Lee, a trained acrobat, executes flawless attacks without batting an eye. Although they follow Azula for some time, they have lives and wills of their own and aren’t afraid to tell her this.
I prefer Mai, but Ty Lee gets mad props for her chi blocking, which disables a person’s body.
Her powers and abilities
Which brings me to Azula herself. She’s the best trained Firebender in the world (someone who can manipulate the element of fire) and one of the only people who can bend lightning. She’s also noted for her blue fire as opposed to the standard yellow-orange. The reason for this color could be because of her intense training or her repressed rage. When fighting, she uses both of these to excess. As the super powers of Avatar: The Last Airbender is built on martial arts, it takes a lifetime of intense training to reach her expertise.
(This video contains awesome spoilers!)
Shego is also a fighter, though her powers are limited to strength and green energy when she’s not helped by Drakken.
Besides whatever power Astronema keeps in her pointy scepter and wrist band, she can pack a punch. Observe this fight scene with, er, herself. (Spanish sub unintentional.)
Demona’s most notable powers are strength and sorcery. Being made of stone, she’s capable of handling a lot of weight. This comes in handy when she has to prove to puny humans her animal appearance carries some bite. When all else fails, there’s an incantation.
Now, let Cadance tell you about Queen Chrysalis at the moment Chrysalis is exposed as an impostor.
Regina is definitely shown to have great power. In just the first two episodes we learn she can levitate objects, become invisible, teleport, and cast spells, but she’s most famous for creating scrumptious poison apples. As her show is only one season long at the moment, we have yet to see the extent of her abilities. I wonder what her limit is.
Below, Regina and Maleficient battle like bitches. Notice the dragon around the orb on Maleficient’s staff. Previous post, anyone?
Who doesn’t want to have it all? Although super powers, lightning fortresses, and wind-swept hair are fun to watch, the villainess teaches us that power isn’t everything.
She’s a tortured soul
After years of servitude to humans, Demona has had enough. While rejecting her role as a protector, she disowns her mate and her clan. A confused gargoyle once asks her, “Is that all there is for us? Mere survival?” Demona replies, “Isn’t that enough?” She can look forward to many awkward conversations with her former friends.
Azula’s quest for power alienates her from her own family except for her father, who encourages her brutality for the sake of world domination. Her social problems and paranoia end up ruining her life.
Regina can’t keep a man. That’s part of her tragedy, but it also proves that one doesn’t need a man to thrive. It does, however, make one hell of an excuse to be wicked. I almost can’t count the all times she’s lost someone she loved—all of these people happen to be men. In some cases, it may be better to have not loved at all. While an entire kingdom seeks her destruction, Regina tries to stay in control while holding on to a shred of happiness.
Below is a compilation of how Regina became evil. It’s only a taste of season 1.
I hope the end of her story involves true love’s kiss and a lifetime of therapy.
Spoiler alert! Astronema is the sister of the Red Ranger. This much drama hasn’t been in Power Rangers since the creation of the Green Ranger! (And now, I pause a moment to recognize how much of a dork that exclamation makes me. *inhale, exhale*) As a child, Astronema was kidnapped by an evil lord and brainwashed into villainy. When she’s found by her brother, goodness eventually returns to her. Eventually.
Her fear factor
Some of us love to hate the villainess for their entertainment value. Others hate to love her because her doomed fate is usually written from the beginning; in fiction, evil tends not to win. So much emotional investment rides on the ending of a character’s story. Regina’s troubles tap our own because her life may be closer to ours than any television villainess I’ve described here; for a time, she lives in a quiet American town within our own world in the year of the show’s air date.
In all of the shows I’ve talked about here, Once Upon A Time is certainly the most realistic for one simple fact: the villains legitimately kill people.
This show’s fear factor is also much more realistic because of its modern-day setting. As it’s primarily made for adults, unlike most of the other villain-rific shows I watch, a more complex script and adult themes add to the terror behind Regina’s plans. Through the pull between a modern setting and a fantasy one and as two drastically different kingdoms are featured, Once Upon A Time shows that the fictional world, no matter where it takes place, is so much more interesting when a vicious woman puts her mark on everything.
There you have it. Twelve reasons to love the villainess: her social awkwardness, her voice, her gadgets and scepter, the way she moves, her perseverance, her appearance, her fortress, her soldiers, her henchmen, her powers, her tortured soul, and her fear factor.
If this post has led you to crave some more examples from these characters, do watch the shows I listed and form your own opinions. (Shameless pimp time: the most well-made ones are Avatar: The Last Airbender and Once Upon A Time. Power Rangers and Mystic Knights are, shall we say, acquired tastes.)
Check out the Villain Wikia for more villains.
I also recommend a book of short stories called Villains Victorious, published by DAW.
A lot of worthy women have been left out simply because I haven’t seen their shows yet. Who have I missed? Who are your favorites? Show me who they are and tell me why they’re epic.
“Ah! After ten thousand years I’m free. It’s time to conquer Earth!” –Rita Repulsa
While Rita from “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” isn’t one of my absolute favorites (sorry, girl, but Zedd’s way cooler) I recognize her gumption and desire. Clearly, she wants to take over the earth despite her mass delusions about the success of her world domination tactics. While both villains and villainesses in fantasy-based shows tend to follow the same plot formula in every episode of every series (the good guys are inherently good and the bad guys want to thwart the good guys and achieve world domination/avoid jail/make their daddy proud/reclaim something/feel good about themselves), the villainess holds a special place in my heart, especially in television.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these shows or characters (but I do own your mom and she likes it).
I’m focusing this post specifically on television villainesses because they’re usually what encourage me to begin watching a series. Once I’ve gotten into a series and begun liking the other characters, the villainess still retains that je ne sais quois. They’re dramatic, they clearly don’t need a prince, and they have better fashion sense than any protagonist (aside from Rarity and Katara, of course). Clearly, they’re something to aspire to. In a modern sense, they’re board room bitches with buried hearts of gold. In a fantasy sense, they are the kingdom, the bedtime fear of children, the antagonist of all things goody-two-shoe, and the most tragic of stories because, for them, good does not prevail.
These are the villainesses I admire in alphabetical order by show. Each name is linked to a fan wikia profile.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Azula
Beast Wars: Blackarachnia
Kim Possible: Shego
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, specifically seasons 1-2 and 6: Rita and Astromema
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Princess Luna/Nightmare Moon and Queen Chrysalis
Mystic Knights of Tir na Nog: Queen Maeve
Once Upon a Time: Queen Regina
Storm Hawks: Master Cyclonis
Young Hercules: Discord
Honorable mentions go to Pixie from Monster Rancher and Jara from Big Bad Beetleborgs, whose television shows were much too lame to discuss. XD
Honorable mentions also go to Harley Quinn and Pamela Isley from Batman, who are in a league of their own. Hats off to them.
I prefer villainesses to protagonists and male antagonists, and here’s why.
She’s socially awkward
Despite all the reasons a villainess is awesome, as outlined in the examples to come, it appears my favorites don’t have many friends. Even when faking goodness to lull the good guys into a false sense of security, she can’t completely keep herself together.
Cyclonis fails at making friends when she uses such an excuse to recruit one of her enemies, Piper, to the dark side. When her plan fails, this causes awkwardness between the two in future meetings. They would get along quite well because of their common interests. Alas, Cyclonis is a bit too anti-social for that to work out.
During the a Halloween episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Princess Luna crashes the party to spend some quality time with her subjects. As is custom, ghost stories had been circulating that Luna’s former, evil identity, Nightmare Moon, annually chooses this night to haunt the earth. Pony Twilight Sparkle, who personally knows Luna, seeks to solve the problem—with hilarious results.
Azula doesn’t suffer quite as much, socially, for her ferocity, but it’s obvious she’ll never be able to fit in with her peers. Observe these four scenes from an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Blackarachnia’s aversion to choosing sides is her own doing, but I understand this because leaders Megatron and Optimus Prime are both jerks to her. Why pick a side if you won’t be happy with what you choose? This causes the transformers of either side to distrust her all the time. She ends up making frenemies with almost everyone.
As someone who’s socially awkward, I take solace in knowing some powerful women (who aren’t actually real, but let’s not get into technicalities) fail with people as much as I do.
I have never met anyone who could do a Rita voice, and it just goes to show how voice actress Barbara Goodson goes beyond the call of duty for this character. It goes beyond raspiness because practically every word is shouted. Between the actress and the voice actress, the poor lip syncing almost overshadows all of the overacting in Power Rangers, but she is one of the villains that shaped my childhood and possibly the first television villainess I ever encountered.
Perhaps I inherited chronic headaches from her.
Blackarachnia and Cyclonis are my favorite voices ever. Aside from being performed by the wonderful Lenore Zann, Cyclonis sounds as if she’s doing everything to compress her sinister tendencies. How can a teenager be so bad? Blackarachnia’s voice puts me at ease whenever she’s in spider form. I’m grossed out by big spiders, but I’m a fan of interesting voice actors. If I didn’t know how young her actress, Venus Terzo, was, I would have thought Blackarachnia was voiced by and old smoker.
In this clip, Blackarachnia and Tarantulas witness the show’s entrance of Inferno. Silly, stupid Inferno. (No laughing at the animation, please. It was the 90s.)
Besides the raspy qualities I clearly enjoy, Luna and Shego also have voices to aspire to. Luna made royalty hilarious as she shouted, “This is the traditional Canterlot voice.” She would make a great announcer; she has the projection and the ability to get people to listen to her. Her evil, alternate ego, Nightmare Moon, has an even better Canterlot voice. Below is a multi-language sample of Nightmare Moon. In any language, her voice is splendidly evil.
Shego is different. She shines in her sarcastic dialog with her partner, Drakken. Nicole Sullivan is the perfect person to perform these lines. Shego is interesting even when not in battle. In fact, she’s funny!
Below, a Shego compilation.
It seems that villainesses tend to have lower voices than protagonists. As an alto, I approve.
Her gadgets and her scepter
While my childhood peers were probably doodling dainty wands and fairy wings, I was designing scepters of styles ranging from high fantasy to cyberpunk. A villainess must have her scepter, but she must also have other powerful gadgets.
Cyclonis has both! As a master of crystals, her world’s source of magical components, she’s the best learned keeper of her large collection. Her staff can hold any crystal to wield in combat or to use as a torture device.
In the below video, Cyclonis meets her rivals for the first time. You see the claw-like appendages around the crystals of her staff? They open and close like awesomepie. ^_^
My most favorite gadget is her storm engine. This uses powerful crystals to create catastrophic events. When I first started watching this show, my apartment had no appropriate furniture and I had to use a rickety shelf for a desk. Inspired by her fingers pressing levers at the machine as she stood before the console, I typed standing up with my laptop on the top shelf. Making the best of the awful situation felt very diabolical. Thank you, Cyclonis!
Maeve’s goat head with a crystal imbedded in the top has been the butt of many jokes with my friends, but looks are deceiving. This scepter is the source of most of her power and she uses it at liberty.
Compared to Rita’s, Astonema’s scepter looks cheap. While Astronema’s is nice and pointy and can shoot blasts of energy, Rita’s wand can hurtle through space and fertilize the monster she sent to Earth. She also has a telescope that can spy on every person in the world.
Who wouldn’t want to carry an all-powerful and fashionable staff?
The way she moves
Everything a villain does is calculated, but the villainess takes special care with the way she moves. Sometimes this is an effect of her heavy or stiff outfit, but whether she wears heels and a period dress or flexible spandex, her movements are carefully authoritative.
Mystique is a special case. She can shape-shift into any person, male or female, the resemblance so identical to the original model that she’s able to lead people into believing she is someone else. She’s comfortable her her own skin, as well as everyone else’s.
Actress Meighan Desmond seems to be flauntfully pleased (flauntfully is too a word; it’s my post here) as the bringer of confusion and chaos. She is, after all, the goddess of discord. It’s in her character’s nature!
Online sources say the actress who plays Astronema, Melody Perkins, is a ballet dancer and model, so it’s no wonder the physical portrayal of her character is so unique. As the show’s acting standard calls for exaggeration, she caters to that—but with style.
The below video also shows her many hair styles, which I will touch on in the next post, Part 2. (Too bad Astronema was around before good reception.)
Azula’s training in martial arts can be credited for her physical appeal. As the most well-trained Firebender in the world, her greatest strength in her small frame is her deftness.
The Youtube user disabled embedding, but it’s totally worth a look for the awesome fight sequence. Azula fights the Avatar.
Blackarachnia is something else. When you get past the quality of the computer animation, which was pretty good for its time, it’s plain to see she knows how to use her femininity to manipulate others. Being the only female character for almost the entire series gives her a definite edge.
In many children’s shows, at the end of a big battle, the villainess will appear surrounded by the approaching heroes. The heroes stop just feet from her to listen. She touts a few lines, then disappears in a puff of smoke, a zap of energy, or is carried away by her transportation. She’ll be back another day to defeat them once and for all!
Discord, being a goddess, takes each defeat in stride. Being immortal, she has all the time in the world. Besides, when the going gets tough for her, she decides not to bother with these pesky mortals; Olympus awaits.
Shego admits defeat more quickly than other villainesses I’ve seen. (She’s definitely Drakken’s better half.) As a warrior, she knows her weaknesses. She may just be along for the ride in this villain gig, but she knows when to preserve her energy for another battle.
Is defeat a sign of weakness? Not if you’re a villainess. She will prevail. She WILL prevail! She may lose every battle, but the war will go on and on and on. In the slight chance she does win a battle, it will happen because of the show writers’ interest in her. This is prime material for her backstory to be told (more on the backstory in Part 2). It also gives us a chance to see her in a good mood. A really good mood. But, evil laughter aside, the villainess usually remains calm in the face of happiness unless she’s putting on a show during a battle.
Azula is an exception; she doesn’t know how to give up with grace, and (Spoiler alert!) that drove her to insanity, which brought about her demise. This series is worth a watch not just for Azula; all of the other characters rock in their own ways. Azula’s ignorance of their goodness hurts her from the beginning of the series until—well, perhaps you should see for yourself.
Stay in school, kids.
I hope the same doesn’t happen to Regina, who always finds a way to come out on top. Even after a loved one has perished, life must go on if not just for the sake of winning or trying to find a new love. When Once Upon A Time reaches its end, which will hopefully be many years from now, I wish she can have a happy ending because of this perseverance. Yes, she’s evil, but it always feels good to see a villainess learn the error of her ways and become good. (Unless she becomes the Pink Ranger like Astronema did. Actually, that would be hilarious. OUAT Halloween episode, anyone?) Besides, Regina wasn’t always evil.
Below, Regina confronts Snow White about Snow’s betrayal in the origin of their conflict. (If I may quote Stephen Colbert and his grabby hands: “Emmy, please!”)
Because Regina from Once Upon A Time is currently my most favorite from all the shows listed here, my next post will feature Queen Regina in all examples I have yet to touch on. The best is yet to come.
I’m off to gather more evidence of awesomeness. Maybe I’ll conquer the world between now and then. Till next time, lovelies!
I would like to take a post to recognize the costumes, makeup, props and sets of a show called “Young Hercules.” This aired on Fox Kids in 1998-1999, and it wasn’t until I got to revisit it very recently that I realized how much the show shaped my imagination. Jane Holland, wherever you are, stand up and give a bow. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone, costume wise. Props, sets, and makeup are something else. Credits aren’t consistent everywhere I’ve looked. See the list of the crew on IMDB here.
Click all images on this post to enlarge.
This show featured exaggerated fighting, special effects, minor slapstick acting and hit-or-miss scripts, and I love it all the more for this. The fight scenes were thoughtfully choreographed, whooshing sound effects for simple movements were almost precursors to the show “Scrubs,” and all creative aspects were inspired. The costumes generally piggy-backed on the current fashions of exposed midriff, late 90’s hairstyles and silver accessories, as well as past fashions of “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” Nevertheless, I see a bit of a fashion subculture in these shows and it’s only after looking back that I recognize the origins of my own sense of style not only in clothing but in my own imagination.
I’m can’t remember if I first discovered Greek Mythology or Ryan Gosling. One created interest in the other, and as an impressionable eleven-year-old who loved costumes, this show was eye-candy. This detail, I’m sorry to say, isn’t well captured on screencaps I’ve taken, but I will try to explain with picspam and minor fawning. It should also be noted that I’m not a costumer or fashion consultant, so I’m not well versed in how to describe all that I see. Let the pictures speak for themselves. Some of my observations will overlap with the other shows featuring these characters, and some of these costumes only appear in “Young Hercules.”
My inner fangirl is embarrassed that I admit I haven’t yet seen Xena or Hercules: tLJ, but that will certainly change after this experience with Young Hercules. (I’m also going to stop typing title quotations for the benefit of my eyes; it’s a blog, so I’m less formal.)
Lilith wasn’t my favorite female character to say the least, yet I copied her outfit for a Mary Sue that was thankfully never used in a Young Hercules fanfic. My character was used in other projects, but her outfit stayed behind. I could never have passed it off as original, and I’m glad to refer to it and its original creation today. Besides, my Mary Sue has become a different person through the years. Also, I never wrote that fanfic. The concept is still in my mind, and while I spent the past few years wondering how the heck I came up with it, I now see, after re-watching the show, how my mind could come to that plot device. In Young Hercules, lots of minor female characters showed interest in the story’s hero. Why would my Mary Sue be any different? (To answer future questions: no, you may not hear what my story was about.)
I would love it if Jane Holland and her prop partners made a steampunk movie. Their handiwork with leather and metal could make some astounding pieces. Some interesting objects were made for Hephaestus, god of the forge, and his enemy, a cyclops with a handmade blowtorch. Or rather, the characters made some interesting things. I’d also like to think Hephaestus made his own clothes given their craftsmanship.
My favorite props were a centaur medallion given to Hercules by the centaur Cheiron, and the head of a staff carried by the only character who actually died in any episode. (Eurydice, her friend, and Jason’s father don’t count) This staff’s head was made to look like a gold fish with emeralds for eyes. I never got a good look of it in the one episode that featured its owner. It was one of the most elaborate pieces of the show, but sadly of no real use. Marco, we miss you but you were only created so you could add some reality to a monster’s danger.
Accessory wise, the elaborate rings the character Ares wore were probably out of my radar back then, but they didn’t go unnoticed this time. I would very much like to meet the person who made them. Iolaus also wore some interesting jewelry including bands and a thick, silver ring in his cartilage (more on Iolaus later). And for some reason, Strife wore a large, dangling, spider earring in one ear. Because of this show, I grew fond of large, silver and pewter rings and earrings which I still own even though they were always too large for me. I had no idea how to shop for fit in middle school, but I won’t even begin to consider getting rid of them because they still very much represent my tastes.
For an epic reveal, click to enlarge while listening to “Rose of Pain” by X-Japan.
Speaking of Ares, can we please remember that he wore an Elvis Presley knock-off and sang in a mortal talent show? The music for the show was excellent until this episode. I don’t know what happened to let this episode enter the world, but Kevin Smith’s facial expressions and subtle gyrations made up for it by making me laugh away the confusion until I was beyond tears. This guy was an excellent performer in any situation. And, at the very least, the costume was magnificent.
Actual lyrics: “Here, kitty, kitty. Come on, let’s play.”
Variations of Ares’ usual costume can be found online as he, like Discord and Strife, was a recurring character from Xena and Hercules:tLJ. This was information I didn’t know until recently when I was researching the actors of Young Hercules. I much prefer Ares’ look in Young Hercules. With longer hair, he looked more epic. (You know, about as much as the god of war can get.) I also prefer Discord’s maroon dress in this show as opposed to the other productions, but only because that’s what I’m used to. In several episodes, she wore a strappy, lace dress almost exact to what she wears in Hercules:tLJ and Xena. This dress, actually, might be the dress from the other shows minus an additional panel over the sternum and bust, which was likely added as per request of the children’s Fox network. My research shows me Strife’s costume tended to be the same: an all black, trenchcoat-thick suit decorated with safety pins. The design has become an icon to his character.
I’ve noticed that vests and tops were shown special attention. The biggest example of this is Apollo (Scott Michaelson), whose vest might actually have been brighter than his sunny pants. (See left.) A lot of thought was also put into the three best friends and heroes, Hercules, Iolaus, and Jason. While Hercules’ costume was fairly plain (minus the costumer’s obsession with large belts), Iolaus and Jason showed drastic differences due to their character histories. While his pants were a bit less plain than Hercules’, Iolaus’ vest was made to look like a hodge-podge of patches. It’s been hinted many times that Iolaus comes from a poor and/or troubled background. Jason, on the other hand, showed his royalty with a well-crafted, studded masterpiece.
Among the three friends, I preferred Iolaus’ out of all the pants. This is still true today even though my own characters’ fashions were inspired by the black leather featured on this show. You can’t go wrong with brown or burgundy leather.
Two surprises were the costumes of Skourous, the father of Iolaus, and Stregna, Nemesis’ nemesis (haa!). Skourous, a dignified warrior, was impeccably dressed in a be-studded top and contrasting scarf. Two accenting buttons appeared to be flowers, and would have looked out of place were it not for the dressy scarf. Stregna followed the same harsh, leather-like fashions of goddesses, but while the front of her top was plain, the back surprised me. Running vertically were corset-like laces on a leather-looking top—a standard in this production.
Hephaestus’ sense of fashion was no surprise, though I wonder what types of metal the embellishments on his vest and shirt are made of. His pants, not shown, was a cotton or cotton-poly blend featuring lizards. I’m not sure what he has to do with lizards, but it fits his surfer dreadlocks. Holland must have wanted to keep his appearance unique to the other gods because, historically, he is a bit of an outcast. He’s commonly thought to be crippled or lame, but for some reason it appears they softened the meaning of the word and made him dim-witted, or “So totally lame, dude.” Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I always found him to be a lovable character.
Young Hercules didn’t feature all leather and metal, though. The costumers experimented with fur, silks, and velvet. Although these particular costumes tended to be less decorated, they were no less important. Hercules’ mother Alcmene, played by Sharon Tyrell, typically wore a fairly plain peach gown. In one of the last episodes of the season, she surprised me with a less homely look. (See right.) Did I mention fringe was given to the more feminine women of the show?
When Prince Jason became the acting regent for his kingdom, his outfit changed from the hard, leather vest to a softer, sleek, satiny ensemble. While his character became more dignified for this regal role, the chiseled arms and face of Chris Conrad softened very little underneath the costume.
The coats for Zeus an the random mafia members were impressive. That’s right, I said “mafia.” I wasn’t aware Italian Americans existed in ancient Greece, but maybe they were actually from Sicily. But whatever; their coats rocked with their turned up collars and embroidered edges.
Zeus in general was a surprise after an entire season of being absent. Whether the show had intended to be renewed or not, it was a good finish to the season as well as the series. Before his appearance, I’d pictured Zeus in a toga (and who wouldn’t?) but the ensemble that was chosen was pleasing to the eyes and no less godly. Zeus’ coat was incredibly embroidered, and I wish I could have taken a better picture of the designs.
Feathers were won by two characters: Nemesis and the Golden Hind. On Nemesis, they were confined to her breastplate but made her costume that much more unique. From the bow and arrow to her accessories, her outfit branched out from the show’s norm. The feathers put to mind the costume of a ballet swan. Despite her hairstyle, I loved everything about her. Back in 6th grade, I would have been jealous of her because she looked surprisingly close to my Mary Sue. However, this episode was far enough into the season that I was relieved my character came first.
The Golden Hind’s feathers were probably supposed to look like tufts of fur. They look like feathers to me. The actress wore these on a slightly transparent shirt under a gold bikini top. I’m pleased to see the bikini top didn’t look cheap at all. The craftsmanship put into it was incredibly deliberate, and that’s why I love this show (among other reasons listed everywhere). Nothing looked cheap. Even if a character only showed up in one episode, like Nemesis, Holland put a lot of thought into the appearance of the role.
And now a word about the makeup. This appreciation mainly came from the episodes with Bacchus, played by Kevin Smith in this series, and Eurydice, played by Morgan Reese Fairhead. Even when calm, the makeup for Bacchus showed severe anger lines. As the character changed emotions, though, this face wasn’t stagnant. The rubber mask was flexible enough to move as Mr. Smith’s own skin moved, giving any alternate expression a more calculating and dynamic visage. Watching this character, I felt drawn to the subtleties of the face. The muscles underneath the black leather inspired yet another character of mine, who will also remain nameless.
In one episode, Eurydice was talked into marrying Bacchus to save her friends. When Eurydice entered the room (cave) for the wedding, I gasped. With a combination of the hair, makeup, lighting, and fog effect, I thought for a second that I was watching a runway show. (See right.) Although I didn’t particularly care for her house coat costume as a whole, the straw-like, straight hair accent of the upper body was admittedly pretty awesome and fashion-forward.
I have always loved makeup like Discord’s. For years, I’ve been trying to achieve her smoky eye. It’s probably time I used better shadow. The makeup artist, Michael Krehl, turned a sweet young woman into a cruel vixen. This harsh but put-together look introduced me to gothic fashion.
Both Meighan Desmond and Joel Tobeck are so pasty without character makeup, it’s difficult to tell how much foundation they wore for their roles. Strife wins the award for the palest god to ever exist. It’s safe to say he at least wore a thin layer of eyeliner or mascara as his eyes were very pretty. They’re pretty in general, but they always stood out more when he played this character. Strife might have been my gateway fandom into guys who wear eye makeup.
Kudos to everyone who worked on the set. Although all the buildings looked like they were made of styrofoam and certain models fell apart just as easily, I have to hand it to the interior design. Kora’s restaurant genuinely looked like a cool place to hang out. I got a sense of the hugeness of the academy as all the scenes didn’t just take place within one or two rooms (five or six, to be exact). Items as small as lighting fixtures didn’t go unnoticed.
So there you have it. 34 images and the plots of some episodes later, I hope you can see why I kept watching this show and began to love it, too. When first watching Young Hercules back in the day, I was entertained by Strife, Discord, Iolaus, inspired by Bacchus and Lilith, and absolutely batty over Ryan Gosling. This second time, I was inspired by Strife and Discord, and batty over Dean O’Gorman and Kevin Smith. Ryan Gosling was and is still adorable.
This show only lasted one season despite its apparent popularity. This isn’t unexpected; nothing lasted on Fox Kids except for Power Rangers. Unfortunately, only a CD of the show’s music is currently available (unless Hulu feels like being nice for a month or so). Any DVD entitled “Young Hercules” is the film starring Ian Bohen that started the TV series—unless there’s a dubbed German version out there that I’m not aware of.
Jane Holland worked on other leather-rific shows such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Legend of the Seeker, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. I’ll soon be delving into Hercules:tLJ and Xena. Legend of the Seeker is one of my favorite fantasy television shows.
You can see more images and learn more about the show at the following links:
The Wikipedia page
The Young Hercules Wikia
The Xena and Hercules Wikia
An old website with interviews
Mikes Images, where I got some screencaps
The YH page of SciFi On TV
All images belong to MCA Television, Renaissance Pictures, and everyone else involved with the production. Image sources include Hulu screencaps and all the sites listed above.