What makes a good story is not the protagonist. A good story consists of an interesting and original plot. A plot is driven by a conflict that can keep you on your toes. So a predictable antagonist-protagonist relationship will at the best leave you with a mediocre story. So it all dwindles down to the villain to carry the book. You could say the bad guy makes or breaks it.
When I think bad guy, I see smiles, not a menacing brute. I came across Shakespeare’s Iago in my reading recently and I’ve never appreciated evil like this before. A villain that simply beats up on the main character doesn’t allow for much personality or complexity. What sets Iago apart is his mastermind persona. The way he manipulates the other characters so smoothly without any suspicion gives me a whole new revelation on the term puppeteer.
This is what has made Satan such an iconic figure throughout history. It’s a shame really at what culture has made his appearance out to be. The hideous, horned demon with unsightly red skin, forked tongue, and hoofed feet, doesn’t do justice to who Lucifer, the angel of light, was. The Satan I picture does not cackle in a gruff, echoing voice. But rather he speaks softly, seductively, enticing his unsuspecting prey.
An antagonist using strength alone, relies on strength alone and can be overpowered. However, an antagonist that turns his foes against each other and manipulates them to do his bidding without them even realizing it can do so much more harm. For a more relatable example, look at Iron Man 3. The villain does his during work behind the scenes, setting up a pseudo-villain to take the glory (and heat) for everything. This throws even the ingenious Tony Stark off of the true trail and allows Aldrich Killian to do even more damage. Ironically outwitting is so much more powerful than overpowering.