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Take 10: Master Manipulators

The Secret Cabal names Marvel's vilest behind the scenes movers and shakers

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Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas. Hard to believe though it may be, not every villain in the Marvel Universe thrives on physically locking horns with the powerful heroes who stand between them and their malicious goals. For every Rhino or Absorbing Man who enjoys a good scrap with the Thors and Iron Men of the world, there exists quite a few baddies who prefer to take a behind the scenes role, pulling the strings and manuevering pawns into achieving their ends. That's not to say these master manipulators can't get physical when need be, they'd just rather leave that stuff to the hired help. This week, the Secret Cabal names the 10 individuals they believe to be Marvel's premiere evil masterminds. Also, in an unprecented move, two Cabal members could not sway the rest of the group that either of their picks deserved to be the sole holder of the tenth spot, so we gave them each a chance to plead their case—you vote who deserves it more in the comments section, via Twitter and in the poll here in the article! For each character, you get a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!
 

10a. DOCTOR DOOM First Appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR v1 #3 (1962) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "The leader of Latveria deserves to be on this list for many reasons. Doom may bow to no one, but he has an entire country that bows to him and is willing to die for him, as was shown when Reed Richards tried to take over and replace him. Doom is used to manipulating others to do his bidding while he carries out his own nefarious plans, including turning the Beyonder's own plans on him when he took advantage of the fight set up by the being from beyond to sneak in and steal the power of a god himself!" – RunawayJ Spotlight Comic: FANTASTIC FOUR #258—A day in the life of Doctor Doom!

10b. M.O.D.O.K. First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #93 (1967) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "M.O.D.O.K.'s a manipulator, plain and simple. Yes, he rocks ya with those fancy brain powers and freely dishes death upon the morons beneath him, but four out of five times, he's going to have someone else do it for him. If he's not throwing A.I.M. agents and scientists at a problem, he's hoodwinking some moronic super-villains to fight his fights and bring the spoils back to ol' M.O.D.O.K. Listen to the giant head. Love the giant head." – Secret Cabal Agent_M Spotlight Comic: SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP: M.O.D.O.K.'S 11 #1—M.O.D.O.K. gathers a team for an ambitious heist!

9. THE PUPPET MASTER First Appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR v1 #8 (1962) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "Well it's kinda all there in the name, isn't it? Indeed, Phillip Masters' whole schtick is that he uses others as—wait for it—puppets, but as if that weren't creepy enough, the Puppet Master has plenty other eerie eccentricities going for him. For one, he's just a weird looking guy, what with the gleaming bald head, marionette doll eyes and grotesque little smile. There's also his slavish devotion to his stepdaughter, Alicia, whose father, his former best friend, he killed—kinda accidentally, but still—and whose mom he didn't hesitate to marry despite what I just outlined. And then his plans are generally just cringe-inducing, from creating a whole town of automated puppets so he could live at peace with Alicia and the FF, to enslaving female heroes like Ms. Marvel and auctioning them off to greasy criminals. Ick." – Secret Cabal member Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #8—The Puppet Master divides the Fantastic Four in his first appearance!

8. THE SHADOW KING First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #117 (1979) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "Charles Xavier is the unquestioned patriarch of the vast X-Men 'family,' and arguably moreso than even Magneto, the Shadow King is his opposite number. Shadow King is Xavier's nightmare of losing control and abusing his vast telepathic abilities for selfish and evil pursuits. This villain shows us how awful and terrifying telepathy can truly be through the hideous glee he takes in perverting the minds of others, using even our beloved heroes as his thoughtless cannon fodder. The Shadow King's penchant for casting the dark over even the brightest parts of the Marvel Universe make him a different kind of villain." – Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #117—Professor X's first encounter with the Shadow King!

7. APOCALYPSE First Appearance: X-FACTOR v1 #5 (1986) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "Ol' Hotlypse—that's what we call him in my office—lives by the Darwinian mantra of survival of the fittest. To that end, 'Pocy—another pet name we have for him—has been pitting folks against one another for thousands of years. And when the dust clears, who'll be around to reign supreme? Apocalypse. He's also got a tendency to twist our favorite X-Men, from Angel to Wolverine to Gambit, into pawns who serve his own twisted ends. Dirty pool, old man." – Agent_M Spotlight Comic: X-MEN v2 #183—Apocalypse culls his latest Horsemen from within the X-Men!

6. MISTER SINISTER First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #213 (1987) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "Around the era Mr. Sinister was introduced, more and more villains in comics—and in the X-Men Universe in particular—were beginning to fit the mold of guys who stayed out of the fray and relied on elaborate planning rather than their fists. That Sinister has endured over two decades even following multiples 'deaths' when many other bad guys from that era quickly faded speaks to his strengths as a character. For one thing, he has a frightening amount of power and has demonstrated so on more than one occasion, but still shys away from battle, instead giving an ominous grin and allowing his foes to think they have the upper hand—he's creepy. For another, he has the Mutant Massacre on his resume." – Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #239—Sinister schemes to ignite an Inferno!

5. THE KINGPIN First Appearance: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN v1 #50 (1967) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "Building a criminal empire takes backbone and the willingness to mix it up with the riff raff, but it also means knowing when to sit back and let your enforcers—or Enforcers—sweat the small stuff. Wilson Fisk has always been a self-made man, but he also enjoys the finer things in life, and that includes hiring the best assassins in the world, like Bullseye and Elektra, to ensure he need not lift a finger until absolutely necessary. More than once he has pulled Daredevil's life apart while never leaving his penthouse, and recently did the same to Spider-Man despite being jailed at the time." – Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB #4—A hired gun learns the perils of working for the Kingpin!

4. LOKI First Appearance: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #85 (1962) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "No list of evil geniuses would be complete without Loki, the Trickster God. Every step he takes, every move he makes, he's working an angle to dupe one of his fellow gods or mortal enemies. Sure, he's usually unsuccessful and it mostly tends to revolve around his brother Thor, but Loki's been twisting the minds and hearts of others for years. Heck, he even helped instigate Ragnarok, killing the Asgardians—for a time at least. That's a win." – Agent_M Spotlight Comic: THOR #359—Loki bends his brother, Thor, to his will!

3. THE RED SKULL First Appearance: CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #7 (1941) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "Why does he make the list? Pretty simple: he killed Captain America. Or, more to the point of this particular list, he patiently schemed and utilized a long-term plan that involved the manipulation of both allies and enemies to achieve his ends. While the Red Skull came close to snuffing out Steve Rogers in the past using more direct methods, he took a long look at his many defeats and intelligently adapted his mode of operation into one where folks like Crossbones, Sin, Dr. Faustus and even Cap's lover, Sharon Rogers, aimed, pulled the trigger and fired while he sat in the shadows celebrating. The Red Skull embodies the epitomy of a successful mastermind." – Annihilator882 Spotlight Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA (2004) #26—With his archenemy dead, the Red Skull takes control!

2. THE SKRULLS First Appearance: FANTASTIC FOUR v1 #2 (1962) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "A race of shape shifters, the Skrulls found that humanity will turn on itself with just a few well-placed impostors, destroying trust and fracturing a world, readying it for conquest. They may have lost their own homeworld, but their machinations enabled them to come so close to conquering Earth. Spurred on by their belief that Earth was theirs as preordained by their god, they were able to get heroes, villains, and citizens alike to do the most damage possible to themselves before they even fired the first shot." – RunawayJ Spotlight Comic: SECRET INVASION #1—The Skrulls' ultimate scheme to conquer Earth begins in earnest!

1. NORMAN OSBORN First Appearance: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN v1 #14 (1964) Learn More About Himhere Why He Makes the List: "This man is the ultimate manipulator, mastermind, evil genius—whatever you want to call him. Thanks to his machinations, we all now call him our leader. When Norman Osborn got the kill shot on the Skrull Queen, ending the Skrull Invasion on national TV for all to see, he quickly used that to his advantage. He used the most powerful tool in the world today to gain control over everything: the media. By utilizing newspapers and television, Norman has the Marvel Universe believing that he is the best thing to come along in years. He also found a way to bring together the greatest criminal minds and has manipulated these experts by playing them at their own game in creating the Cabal and holds the world in his Dark Reign. The sayings are true: They lost. He won. All hail Norman!" – RunawayJ Spotlight Comic: MARVEL KNIGHTS SPIDER-MAN #12—After forcing Spider-Man to battle through an army of lackeys, Norman Osborn finally steps up to the plate against the Webslinger! Check out the official Marvel Shop for your favorite Marvel Heroes! Download episodes of "X-Men: Evolution" now on iTunes!

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