Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone's Scale of Evil Rank
16) Psychopaths committing multiple vicious acts, which may also include murder.
Why Despero has been selected for 5th Place:
- Despero and the Martian Manhunter are complementary opposites.
Even after the Manhunter was allowed to return home to Mars, he consistently chose to remain on his adoptive Earth, acting in its defense against his own people. While a wanted fugitive, Despero was always plotting his return to Kalanor, only venturing to Earth when attempting to destroy its hated Justice League. Both characters become leaders on their respective worlds whenever they’re actually present. Both character's peoples were made refugees by catastrophe on their planets. Neither character set foot on their home planets throughout the Bronze Age, nor did they have much to do with the planet Earth. Each instead took over new worlds which were never mentioned after the Bronze Age ended. Both attacked Leaguers in the ‘70s due to the manipulation of others, for less than clear reasons.Both got into fights with Supergirl while not in full command of their facilities during a publishing dry spell.
Both Despero and Martian Manhunter have taken on others' identities. The Alien Atlas has lived as John Jones, Marco Xavier and more, while temporarily assuming far too many other forms to list here. The despot has pretended to be Superman and Lex Luthor, plus his spirit once possessed J’Onn J’Onzz. Both characters underwent massive physical, mental and spiritually altering changes in the 1980s. Both were possessed by the minds of other characters for over a year in the 1990s while continuing to make monthly appearances. Both have complex relationships with Gypsy, and served with her on the Justice League Task Force. They remain telepathic, telekinetic, super-strong and nigh-invulnerable aliens with energy projecting vision powers and close ties to the Justice League who occasionally get into brawls with Superman.
- Despero and the Martian Manhunter have complementary publishing histories.
- Despero was the Justice League’s first humanoid extra-terrestrial foe.
- Martian Manhunter is the first Justice League member Despero usually targets.
In a story from 1980, Despero kidnapped Martian Manhunter and forced him to act against the Justice League. In 1986, Despero was reborn, and focused his wrath on League founders Batman and Martian Manhunter. In 1990, Despero was reborn again, and worked his way through retired Detroit Leaguers before reaching Martian Manhunter, his primary opponent. When Despero was exercised from his own body, he chose to possess J’Onn J’Onzz. After restoring the memories of the Secret Society of Super-villains, he set that team against the JLA, but saved Martian Manhunter for himself. Despero hates the Justice League, but Martian Manhunter foremost amongst them.
- Despero is among the very few villains to threaten Martian life.
- Despero is Martian Manhunter’s longest lasting rogue.
- Martian Manhunter is Despero’s longest lasting adversary.
Martian Manhunter fought Despero in his every ’60 & ‘80s appearance, and half of the ‘70s. They were constant foes or teammates throughout the ‘90s, and they’ve had regular encounters since. There is absolutely no other hero that can make a remotely similar assertion.
- Despero savors the Martian Manhunter.
- Despero thrives on fire, the Martian Manhunter’s weakness.
- Despite his victories in single combat, Despero still feels humiliated by the Martian Manhunter, who often sees to his incarceration.
- Both Martian Manhunter and Despero have surprising religious ties.
Meanwhile, J’onn J’onzz was devoted to science/deductive reason in his first few decades, until the fall of Mars caused him to question his lack of faith. Thirty-three years into his career, J'Onn became aware that amnesia and false memories had caused him to lapse in his devotional faith to H’ronmeer. This revelation led to J’Onzz taking on a new “Natural Martian” form, embracing his religious identity, and dismissing his old vulnerability to fire as purely psychosomatic.
- Both characters suffer unjust persecution.
J'onn J'onzz suffered through a kangaroo court that sentenced him to thirteen years of political exile, only to be transported to the United States during one of its many xenophobic frenzies. Most Martian Manhunter solo stories revolve around discrimination of minorities and fear of "the other," including the genocidal racial strife between the Pale/White and Green Martians. Even his fellow members of the Justice League have turned on the Manhunter from Mars at times.
Despero was born a mutant, feared and hated by all on his birth world of Kalanor. It has been hinted that this early prejudice shaped Despero into the sociopath he would become. When captured by his more humanoid enemy Jasonar, Despero's psychic third eye was surgically removed, a rather barbaric means of suppressing his powers. L-Ron also suffered prosecution for Despero's crimes while trapped in his body.
- Despero is the most popular Martian Manhunter adversary.
Darkseid may be better regarded, but no one asks where the Martian Manhunter is whenever the Lord of Apokolips appears. Despero routinely ranks on "top comic book villains" lists, and makes regular appearances across the DC Universe. With such high visibility, it only helps that Despero is closely associated with the Martian Manhunter. Fans of one character always clamor for a rematch with the other, so that each actively buoys the career of the other. In this sense, Despero's hatred is a virtue with regard to the maintenance of J'Onn J'Onzz in comics.
The Counter Argument:
- Despero is a Justice League/DC Universe villain.
- Despero wasn't created to fight Martian Manhunter, so he shouldn't outrank original villains.
- Since the Martian Manhunter can't really beat Despero on his own, the association only hurts the Alien Atlas.
- What's up with that stupid fin?
What Despero Represents:
Despero is simply the evil version of Martian Manhunter. The characters are vastly similar in origins, powers, associates and circumstances, but polar opposites in personality and motivation. Despero is also the embodiment of Martian Manhunter's weaknesses. Basically, J'Onn J'Onzz cannot defeat Despero without help, either literal aides or through a deus ex machina. However, having defeated Despero, Martian Manhunter can't bring himself to execute the fiend, so that the guilt of Despero's inevitable return and the horrors he visits are laid at J'Onzz's feet. Not only does this expose the limitations of the Martian Manhunter's many powers, but also the liability of J'Onzz's morality-- his unwillingness to compromise his principles for the greater good. Worse than J'Onzz's inflexibility is his unwillingness to take responsibility for Despero, as he routinely pawns the rogue off on whomever is convenient for imprisonment. Despero, by virtue of his continued existence, calls into question the very heroism of the Manhunter from Mars, deconstructing him to the core.
- Despero is to the Martian Manhunter as Sabretooth is to Wolverine
as the Kingpin is to Daredevil
as Yellow Claw is to Nick Fury
as Venom is to Spider-Man
as Dormammu is to Dr. Strange
as the Hulk is to the Thing
as Lady Shiva is to Black Canary
Who isn't ranked because of Despero:
- Doomsday: Always going to be a Superman villain, and he lacks that personal touch.
- Mongul: The Merciless Mongul was to Superman as Despero is to Manhunter, until they ruined him Post-Crisis. Today, he's more likely to fight the Green Lantern Corps, but without a Yellow Power Ring, he's now beneath the Alien Atlas.
- Asmodel: Two battles within a short span of time do not an archfiend make, but he did kill the Martian Manhunter once, so that's something.
- Brimstone: Owned Manhunter in Legends, but got owned during Underworld Unleashed.
- Cabal: Sure they gave J'Onn a hard time in one story, but at the end of the day, it's just a bunch of Jemm villains.
- Korge: Although he was a Mars II problem, it was a Justice League solution, with Martian Manhunter the errand boy calling them in.
- Rott: A Martian Manhunter problem, but a Bloodwynd solution. I feel dirty just typing that.
Despero is a well liked and regarded super-villain with a strong presence in the DC Universe. Although sometimes the butt of jokes because of his ever shifting and often unflattering appearances and dress, Despero perhaps falls a bit shy of the upper echelons, but never so low as to mute his fan base. Despero serves as an intimidating and intriguing foil for the Martian Manhunter, which leads to a mutually beneficial relationship. If only Despero had more impact on J'Onn J'Onzz's continuity, he could be a contender for the top spot.