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Cybervillain is a character aesthetic that started in the late '90s, and rose to prominence throughout the '00s. The aesthetic has to do with shared traits amongst villains in cartoons that have a cybernetic or science fiction motif in the story. These villains typically are armored, employ technologically advanced weapons, and have aspirations to create/maintain an empire and/or commit some form of genocide.

Etymology[]

The name "Cybervillain" originates from how most villains of this type were based on cybernetic technology (ex. Megabyte from ReBoot, Swayzak from Toonami).

History[]

Elements of cybervillain were deviated from Jonny Quest, toy cartoons of the '80s and '90s, and Japanese anime/tokusatsu. Some other factors were '50s B-movies, like the Flash Gordon serials, and the '90s "X-TREME" movement. Fantastic Four nemesis Doctor Doom in particular was a precursor to the aesthetic, as he had a lack of mouth, glowing red eyes, and was the ruler of Latveria.

In the late '70s, Star Wars introduced Darth Vader, an armoured villain and the ruler of an evil empire. The movie's popularity caused Vader's motif to be copied in various media, including the Pac-Man cartoon with Mezmaron. Some other early examples would be Dr Claw from Inspector Gadget, as even if he wasn’t shown on-screen, his mannerisms shot him right into this territory, and Megatron from The Transformers.

ReBoot in 1994 debuted villains Megabyte and Hexadecimal, who were one of the first modern villains of this aesthetic. In 1996, Superman: The Animated Series introduced a new take on longtime DC villain Brainiac, presenting him as an evil Kryptonian AI destroying planets for their knowledge. His Raygun Gothic design combined with this goal made him another fledgling example; and albeit not sci-fi in nature, one-time villain Karkull was, too.

Although they were live action, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin in the mid-late '90s had some traits that would later show up in Cybervillain culture, especially the latter with Mr. Freeze.

In 1998, Gex: Enter the Gecko was released for the PlayStation, containing Rez, a cybernetic entity with a deep voice and an angular design. Although not as notable as other examples, he could very well count as an early example of this aesthetic; however, while most villains of this type had vented mouths, he had sharp teeth instead.

In 1999, Toy Story 2 was released, featuring Emperor Zurg, a villain from the in-universe Buzz Lightyear series. He practically defined the cybervillain aesthetic, with his sharp, angular edges, his deep voice, his vented mouth, and his thin waist. Zurg later appeared in the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command TV cartoon the following year, with another notable example, NOS-4-A2.

In 2001, Samurai Jack premiered on Cartoon Network, introducing Aku, a villain with an angular design and a thin waist. Following Samurai Jack, many villains of other shows started copying this aesthetic, even CGI cartoons, as Swayzak from Toonami's Trapped in Hyperspace event proved. Swayzak was meant to be a homage to Megabyte, but his appearance and personality was closer to that of Zurg, even pulling off the same motions Zurg does in the video game scene from Toy Story 2 when he first appears. Online, he had a strange quirk none of the previous examples had: a New Zealander accent.

Danny Phantom and The Fairly OddParents introduced a switch-up to the design: Vlad Plasmius and Dark Laser were designed with a more traditional curved chest design, as opposed to the previous villains' straight line chests. This was the same with Loki from Cartoon Network's The Life and Times of Juniper Lee.

In 2010, DreamWorks Animation released Megamind, which was the last major production to contain the cybervillain aesthetic. Like Megabyte, Zurg, and Swayzak, Megamind was a CGI example.

Cybervillain has showed up again very rarely throughout the early to mid-2010s, mostly in Disney cartoons like Motorcity and Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja. By the late '10s, cybervillain was really only used as a parody in lowbrow kids media, including Betrayus from Pac-Man and The Ghostly Adventures. More recent cybervillain examples from shows that usually don't have the aesthetic are Lord Hater and Lord Dominator from Wander Over Yonder, as well as Hoodoo Guru from SpongeBob SquarePants (especially his disguised form).

Lightyear in 2022 revamped Zurg for a new generation, possibly hinting at a resurgence of the aesthetic.

Media[]

Shows[]

  • ReBoot (1994-2001)
  • Gargoyles (1994-1997)
  • Transformers: Beast Wars (1996-1999)
  • Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)
  • Dexter's Laboratory (1996-2003)
  • The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996-1997)
  • Toonami (1997-2008)
  • Spawn: The Animated Series (1997-1999)
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)
  • Batman Beyond (1999-2001)
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000-2001)
  • Static Shock (2000-2004)
  • The Fairly OddParents (2001-2017)
  • Invader ZIM (2001-2006)
  • Justice League (2001-2003)
  • Samurai Jack (2001-2017)
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot (2002-2006)
  • LarryBoy: The Cartoon Adventures (2002-2003)
  • Cyberchase (2002-present)
  • Butt-Ugly Martians (2002-2003)
  • Ozzy and Drix (2002-2004)
  • Kim Possible (2002-2007)
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
  • Codename: Kids Next Door (2002-2008)
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (2003-2008)
  • Evil Con Carne (2003)
  • Teen Titans (2003-2006)
  • Duck Dodgers (2003-2005)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003-2007)
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series (2003-2006)
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003-2005)
  • Megas XLR (2004-2005)
  • Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006)
  • Danny Phantom (2004-2007)
  • The Batman (2004-2008)
  • American Dragon: Jake Long (2005-2007)
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee (2005-2007)
  • Ben 10 (2005-2008)
  • Loonatics Unleashed (2006-2007)
  • Legion of Super Heroes (2006-2008)
  • Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (2008)
  • Batman: The Brave & The Bold (2008-2011)
  • Sym-Bionic Titan (2010-2011)
  • Motorcity (2012-2013)
  • Tron: Uprising (2012-2013)
  • Primal (2019-present)

Movies[]

  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Scooby-Doo and The Cyber Chase (2001)
  • Lilo & Stitch (2002)
  • Megamind (2010)
  • Lightyear (2022)

Video games[]

  • Vectorman series
  • Gex series
  • Bionicle series
  • Ratchet and Clank series
  • Spawn: The Eternal (1997)
  • Toonami: Trapped in Hyperspace (2002)
  • Destroy All Humans! (2005)
  • Nicktoons Nitro (2009)

Characters[]

The Early Years (1980s/early 1990s and prior)[]

  • Ming the Merciless (Flash Gordon)
  • Marvin the Martian (Looney Tunes)
  • Sinestro (Green Lantern)
  • Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four)
  • Tansit (Space Ghost and Dino Boy)
  • Metallus (Space Ghost and Dino Boy)
  • Black Manta (Aquaman)
  • Darth Vader (Star Wars)
  • Commander Zella[1] (Space Fury)
  • Uglor (Space Stars)
  • Sark (Tron)
  • Mezmaron (Pac-Man)
  • Skeletor (He-Man franchise)
  • Hordak (She-Ra franchise)
  • Megatron (Transformers franchise)
  • Starscream (Transformers franchise)
  • Soundwave (Transformers franchise)
  • Shockwave (Transformers franchise)
  • Dr Claw (Inspector Gadget)
  • Umbra (Mighty Orbots)
  • Cy-Kill (Challenge of the GoBots)
  • Unicron (Transformers franchise)
  • Doctor Scarab (Bionic Six)
  • Lord Dregg (TMNT)
  • Darkstorm (Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light)
  • Dr Killemoff (Toxic Crusaders)
  • Megahert (Computer Warriors)
  • Malebolgia (Spawn franchise)
  • Omega Virus (The Omega Virus)
  • Dr Robotnik (Sonic SatAM)

The Structuring Era (Mid-1990s)[]

  • Parallax (Green Lantern)
  • Moltar (Space Ghost Coast to Coast)
  • Megabyte (ReBoot)
  • Hexadecimal (ReBoot)
  • Lord Zedd (Power Rangers)
  • Rez (Gex franchise)
  • Lord Dragaunus (The Mighty Ducks)
  • Metallo (Superman: The Animated Series)
  • Brainiac (Superman: The Animated Series)
  • Master Computer (Dexter's Laboratory)
  • Ackor[2] (Sam Digital in the 21st Century)
  • OvertKill (Spawn: The Animated Series)
  • Karkull (Superman: The Animated Series)

The Peak Point (Late 1990s-Late 2000s)[]

  • Zeebub (Ride the Comix)
  • Martian Leader (Oh Yeah! Cartoons)
  • Emperor Zurg (Toy Story franchise)
  • Mojo Jojo (The Powerpuff Girls)
  • HIM (The Powerpuff Girls)
  • Sinestro (Superman: The Animated Series)
  • Robot Devil (Futurama)
  • N Tropy (Crash Bandicoot franchise)
  • Spooky Jar (Sabrina: The Animated Series)
  • NOS-4-A2 (Buzz Lightyear of Star Command)
  • Warp Darkmatter (Buzz Lightyear of Star Command)
  • Zim (Invader ZIM)
  • Tak (Invader ZIM)
  • Aku (Samurai Jack)
  • Phantom Virus (Scooby-Doo and The Cyber Chase)
  • The Alchemist (LarryBoy: The Cartoon Adventures)
  • Hacker (Cyberchase)
  • Emperor Bog (Butt-Ugly Martians)
  • Captain Gantu (Lilo & Stitch)
  • Shego (Kim Possible)
  • Swayzak (Toonami)
  • Father (Codename: Kids Next Door)
  • Nergal (The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy)
  • Vexus (My Life as a Teenage Robot)
  • Commander Smytus (My Life as a Teenage Robot)
  • Garbageman (TMNT 2003)
  • Queen Tyr'anhee (Duck Dodgers)
  • Centurion Robots (Duck Dodgers)
  • Shredder (TMNT 2003)
  • General Grevious (Star Wars: Clone Wars)
  • Dark Laser (The Fairly OddParents)
  • Metal Overlord (Sonic Heroes)
  • Vlad Plasmius (Danny Phantom)
  • Ares (Justice League Unlimited)
  • Dr Nefarious (Ratchet and Clank)
  • Loki (The Life and Times of Juniper Lee)
  • Vilgax (Ben 10)
  • Dr. Animo (Ben 10)
  • Orthopox (Destroy All Humans!)
  • The Supervisor of Mars (Robots of Mars)
  • Optimatus (Loonatics Unleashed)
  • Venjix (Power Rangers RPM)
  • GLaDOS (Portal)
  • Master Lox (U.B. Funkeys)
  • Mawgu (Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island)
  • Dark Vegan (Johnny Test)
  • Globulous Maximus (Nicktoons: Globs of Doom)
  • Lord Nitro (Nicktoons Nitro)

The Dark Era/Resurgence (2010s/2020s)[]

  • Megamind (Megamind)
  • Wheatley (Portal 2)
  • Cyborg Dan (Motorcity)
  • Betrayus (Pac-Man and The Ghostly Adventures)
  • Lord Hater (Wander Over Yonder)
  • Lord Dominator (Wander Over Yonder)
  • Nominatus (Sonic Boom)
  • Junko (Touhou Project)
  • Mint the Merciless (Reese's Cupfusion)
  • Evox (Power Rangers Beast Morphers)
  • Hoodoo Guru (SpongeBob SquarePants)

In other media[]

The cybervillain aesthetic could also be found in theme parks. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at Walt Disney World was the first appearance of Zurg, the ride debuting a year before Toy Story 2. He even had a voice calling back to Dr Claw, done by his original character designer, Ken Mitchroney. A year later, Doctor Doom's Fearfall opened with Universal's Islands of Adventure, containing a very cybervillain take on Doctor Doom, voiced by Floridian comedian Freddy Stebbins. Robots of Mars, a simulator ride at Geauga Lake and Six Flags Over Texas, contained the Supervisor of Mars, who looked similar to Swayzak in design, and had a motif like Unicron. A later theme park example was Reese's Cupfusion at Hersheypark, made during the Dark Era, as it had Mint the Merciless, a lowbrow parody of earlier characters such as Ming the Merciless.

Lego's Bionicle and Hero Factory lines also contained some very cybervillain characters.

The board game The Omega Virus, released by Milton-Bradley in late 1992, contained a very early example of cybervillain with its computer virus antagonist that had glowing red eyes, a vented mouth, and a love of taunting the Battlesat-1 computer.

Music[]

Artists[]

  • Underworld
  • Voltaire
  • Moloko
  • Ken Ishii
  • Swayzak
  • The Crystal Method

OSTs[]

  • Sonic CD USA OST
  • Rez OST
  • Crash Bandicoot: Warped OST
  • Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex OST
  • Crash Nitro Kart OST
  • Ratchet and Clank OST
  • Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue OST
  • Gex: Enter the Gecko OST
  • The track "Angel's Legend" from the Touhou Reiiden ~ Highly Responsive to Prayers soundtrack sounds very Y2K and cybervillain-like for a track being made in FM Synthesis.

Gallery[]

References[]

  1. Unofficial name, only stated as "Alien Commander"
  2. Unofficial name, only stated as "Virus"
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