I Control My Minions Through...

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    Every leader has their own personal style, their own spin on how to get, maintain, and lead supporters, and villains are no exception. Here are the ways evil leaders like the Evil Overlord, Big Bad, or even a petty crime boss lead, control or coerce their Evil Minions, Mooks, henchmen, and The Dragon to do their evil bidding. In no alphabetical order, they are:

    • Authority: The Big Bad is a legitimate authority figure within an organization, such as an army, and his minions are under him on the organizational chart. The minions may or may not be aware of his true objectives, but follow him because it's their job to do so. The General Ripper, Hanging Judge, and leaders of The Remnant are examples of this. An Engineered Public Confession that proves he has betrayed the interest of the organization can bring him down, as can going through his superiors (if he has any), otherwise replacing him, or an Enemy Civil War with other branches of service.
    • Corruption: The Big Bad decides that rather than recruit from those interested, he'll instead make an applicant pool by means of The Dark Side, Being Tortured Makes You Evil, More Than Mind Control, or the dreaded chocolate chip cookies of doom! To undo this usually requires an "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight, but those corrupted tend to be harder to break free (and for the villain to control) than Mind Control below.
    • Fear: The bad guy controls their Mooks with good old Machiavellian Fear. Because Authority Equals Asskicking, he will use threats of violence on them and/or their loved ones. So the mooks are in no way evil, just working under threat of violence. Heroes can break this form of control in different ways. One is to rescue the hostages, beat up the Big Bad (thus proving him to be weak and "harmless"), convincing the mooks of the Power of Friendship, or demonstrating that it is he who should be feared. If the odds turn against a particular villain, there's also the chance of the mooks getting their own back.
    • (Fanatical) Loyalty: Of course, nothing beats blind loyalty in minions. The minions are loyal for one or more of the following reasons:
      • Agenda: The villain has a plan where Utopia Justifies the Means, and the mooks heartily agree in the guise of Well Intentioned Extremists or Black Shirts.
      • Acceptance: The mooks are poor, ugly, diseased, mutants, or an entire caste/race/nation of people who are marginalized. The villain shows that Dark Is Not Evil by giving them a home, relief, and promises of justice and equality (which often overlaps with Agenda). Mind, he may just be lying because Equal Opportunity Evil means more minions.
      • Indoctrination: The mooks are trained from birth and taught to love, fear, and obey the villain. In all of these cases, the best way to undo support is to expose (or frame!) the bad guy as a Straw Hypocrite.
      • Kindness: The villain has personally helped, rescued, or enfranchised the minion or one of their loved ones, who follows him out of gratitude. The villain may have done this altruistically as a Pet the Dog, in an attempt to get their loyalty, or it was completely unintended (but they accept their fealty anyway).
      • Revenge: If the good guys have hurt someone, offering them a chance for revenge works wonders. Even better, some Big Bads pin their crimes on the heroes and then get those hurt to sign up.
      • Respect: The minions genuinely respect and admire the villain. Usually because the villain is charismatic, an effective leader, or they just think he's a great guy overall. These minions are the least likely to betray the villain, but they may pull a Mook Face Turn if something happens to destroy their respect for him.
    • Money: Money is a valid super power after all, and the bad guy hires Punch Clock Villains to do his evil bidding. Being motivated by filthy lucre (or having Signed Up for the Dental), the best way for heroes to cause a mass desertion is either to outbid the bad guy or bankrupt him.
    • Love: The Big Bad is an emotional manipulator, The Vamp, or has More Than Mind Control / Love Is in the Air as a power. Or they actually love and inspire love in others. All her minions do evil out of love.
    • Mind Control / Remote Control: Of course, loyalty is such a finicky thing. It takes ages to create, can be crumbled in seconds, and requires continuous upkeep. Some villains decide to take loyalty (and free will) out of the equation with mind control, and/or robotic minions. The downside is that they can be Turned Against Their Masters and/or shut down by pulling a plug.
    • Sadism: The bad guys follow the Big Bad because he gives them a way to indulge their vices, be it hurting people, fighting, killing, mad scientific experiments, or just plain being cruel to other people. They particularly love orders from the Big Bad that give them free rein to do whatever they want, usually to some chosen victim. It's unlikely that the hero can offer them more than the Big Bad, but if they can manipulate either side into Even Mooks Have Loved Ones or a Villainous Demotivator, betrayal will ensue.
    • Fear Of Losing Privileges: The villain ensures loyalty by stating that the heroes want to do things like free their slaves and reduce their political power—this generally only works if the evil minions are part of a noble class. Unless the heroes have more money than Mammon, they're not going to be able to provide compensation for their loss of status even if the outcome is fair. Of course, since they're motivated by prideful greed, select Elite Mooks can be convinced to turn against the Big Bad if doing so would (temporarily, hopefully) give them greater privileges.
    • Birthright: The Big Bad has some sort of birthright (for example, he's some sort of feudal warlord) and the mooks are bound to him by a code of honor/duty. Usually The Caligula or God Save Us From the Queen. Only outright assassination or a coup d'etat from a good sibling can stop them.
    • Power: Asskicking Equals Authority or some other such variant; the Big Bad is followed because he is the strongest. Can be undone if The Hero manages to defeat him or otherwise proves himself powerful enough in some other fashion, though obviously this only works if the Big Bad possesses godlike abilities.
    • Divine Right: Godhood, either fake or genuine, or a mixture when a false god has genuine supernatural power of a different kind. Alternatively, may be a Dark Messiah faking/actually possessing either divine or Satanic backing. Doesn't necessarily matter if they are Good or Evil; they will sometimes be worshipped and followed purely because they are divine.
    • Being The Lesser Evil: In a world with Black and Grey Morality, the Evil Overlord gets assistance from the population because they're fighting against Eldritch Abominations, genuine Complete Monsters, or worse. What's a little slavery and torture compared to complete non-existence? If the heroes can't immediately provide a better alternative, i.e. they really do need the Less Evil Side's assistance, a Conspiracy Redemption may be in order.

    See also Stock Evil Overlord Tactics.

    Examples of I Control My Minions Through... include:

    Anime and Manga

    • In the Manga (and once it catches up, probably the anime) of Saint Seiya the Lost Canvas, you have almost all of the above represented in Hade's army. Notably, Garuda Aiacos lead his soldiers/sailors through fear of him, and routinely killed them over minor failures or to fuel his attacks. Hades himself uses Agenda to lead Kagaho Benu, and a combination of Agenda and Birthright for most of the other Spectres. The garden variety named Spectres after their conversion via Corruption, usually do it for Sadism. Charon is motivated by money, and is in fact Lawful Neutral enough to honor a deal with the Saints and ferrying them to the shore... despite having previously betrayed them by giving their payment for said crossing (Athena's hair) to Hades, allowing him to seal her powers.
    • Bishop Mozgus from Berserk keeps a handful of deformed sick, and dying orphans, who he took in when no one else would and turned into his torturing, murdering inquisitorial hitmen, making them a combination of Acceptance, Kindness and Indoctrination.
      • Griffith himself back in his Hawks days mainly worked through Respect, with Casca's recruitment being a case of Kindness and Guts' recruitment being a case of Power. Following his reincarnation as Griffith again in the mortal realm after becoming Femto, he gains a new set of demonic minions who follow him because he is the fifth member of the Godhand, making this a combination of Authority and Divine Right. Zodd becomes Griffith's personal Dragon after being defeated by him, making this another case of Power.
    • Ciel in the Kuroshitsuji manga controls his non-demon servants through loyalty initially gained through acceptance and kindness. With time respect also develops and gets added to the mix.
      • Baron Kelvin in turn uses fear in the form of outright extortion.

    Comic Book

    • DIE! DIE! DIE FOR Darkseid! And the people of Apokolips obey, out of a combination of Fear, Sadism, Power, Divine Right, and Indoctrination.



    "What lies or threats led him to forsake his home? And would he not have rather stayed there?"

    • The Big Bad of Banlieue 13, Taha Ben Mahmud rules purely through money. His deep and far-reaching pockets manage to buy him a literal army of roid-fed gunmen complete with vehicles and a fully-functioning fortress. His being a Bad Boss is mostly being endured by his underlings due to the sheer amount of cash he doles out. Before the climax of the movie, The Government managed to drain all his overseas account. The minions promptly kill him after learning that.
    • And sometimes no one knows. In "A Boy And His Dog" Vic (the boy) and Blood (the dog) see the leader of a roving gang go nuts and stomp one of his own men to death. Through their telepathic link Vic asks why anyone would follow a lunatic like that. Blood (clearly the brains of the operation) answers "I don't know. Charisma?"


    • As it's about The Illuminati, almost all of the above techniques are represented in Duumvirate to some extent. Although we never see excerpts, the title characters own a "big book of control techniques". Normals are controlled through Authority, Money, Fear, Indoctrination, Power, and Divine Right, unwitting normal power-holders are usually controlled through Corruption (of the political, not supernatural, variety) and presumably Money, and for servants, Mind Control implants are used instead of Fear and Power strategies, but instilling true Indoctrination/Kindness/Love-based loyalty is considered best. The Illuminati also have a tendency to use Power and Love on each other along with various flavors of deception. The Duumvirate themselves rule through Authority, Birthright, Power, and Agenda.
    • In Harry Potter, Voldemort uses different motivations for different minions; Fear (Pettigrew), Agenda (the Malfoys, most Death Eaters), Sadism (Bellatrix, Fenrir, Dementors), Loyalty (Bellatrix again), Acceptance (Giants, Werewolves).
    • The Dark One in The Wheel of Time uses a combination of these motivations on his followers; Agenda / Promises of power (universal), Fear (universal), Corruption (known to happen, but no examples yet), Revenge (Sammael, Demandred, Mesaana), Mind Control (Compulsion on various victims, Mind Traps), Sadism (Aginor, Semirhage), Indoctrination (Darkfriends) and Love (Lanfear arguably).
    • The Empire in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, having leaders who range up and down the villain scale, checks off all of the above with a flourish. Specific leaders include:
      • Grand Admiral Thrawn, less evil than the others, used Money for mercenary types, Authority on some Imperials and the Noghri, Indoctrination on clones, Fear on the Noghri and sometimes his Imperials, Sadism (sort of) with C'baoth, and for the others... Respect. He knew that it's best to be feared and loved, and put a high value on people who were both loyal and competent.

    Thrawn was respected and trusted. Thrawn used a small measure of fear, certainly: the Grand Admiral realized that fear of failure was a powerful motivating force in a military the size of the Empire. But Thrawn's ability to invoke a sense of pride in his troops was his most powerful asset. Palpatine inspired arrogance and callousness in his officers; Thrawn made his men proud to be Imperial soldiers. Thrawn's officers would have willingly died for the Grand Admiral.

    • In The Stand Randall Flagg mostly rules his people through fear (it helps that he's an Eldritch Abomination in human form and that just looking at his face sends people into paroxysms of terror). Only Lloyd, Nadine, and the Trashcan Man seem to be genuinely devoted to him.
    • Sauron primarily uses fear, with a dash of Mind Control (more than a dash in the case of the Ringwraiths), sadism (Orcs enjoy killing things, Sauron gives them lots of stuff to kill), and of course power (he's a demigod).
    • In the French Sci Fi novel Malevil, Fulbert's Corrupt Church rules through selfishness and sadism. The Bigger Bad Vilmain rules his marauder army through fear.
    • The Honoured Matres of the Dune universe hold their minions in sexual thrall. Sex with an Honoured Matre is literally an addictive drug, and you will go anywhere and do anything to anyone to get more of it. Note that there only appear to be male minions, as would-be female minions all seem to become Honoured Matres themselves.
    • The Boskonian Empire of the Lensmen universe uses a combination of fear and greed. If you're not good enough to stop your minions from killing and supplanting you and taking all your stuff, too bad for you. Meanwhile, on Boskonian warships, the lash is used to keep men at their posts in combat (and when the good guys realise this, they start adapting their combat tactics to make use of it).

    Tabletop Games

    • Warhammer 40,000 Orkz follow da biggest an' da strongest, cuz orkz is made fer fightin' an winnin' (which is a sense of Power from their strength, Fear, because an Ork boss has to constantly prove his strength or be overthrown, and arguably Sadism, though it's pretty much a norm for the Orkz.)!

    "Enemies... We need enemies!"


    Video Games

    • In Final Fantasy X-2, it is revealed that LeBlanc keeps her minions with kindness, helping them when they were down-and-out. This only partly explains why they risk their lives in battle for her, of course.
    • Galcian from Skies of Arcadia uses his Authority as the Grand Admiral of the Valua Navy and switches to a mixture of Agenda, Power and Loyalty once he defects: Most of the navy sees him as a better alternative to the nation's incompetent royals. The main exceptions two of his fellow Admirals: He uses Kindness on his second-in-command, Ramirez by treating him as his adoptive son (seemingly genuine) and Love on Belleza (faked).
    • A major theme in Def Jam Fight For New York is the contrast between Crow, who leads with Fear, and D-Mob, who leads with Respect.
    • Ghetsis of Pokémon Black and White leads Team Plasma with variations on Loyalty - most of the grunts follow because of his Agenda, his son was Indoctrinated, and he apparently saved the Shadow Triad from something long ago, so they follow him because of Kindness.
      • It's stated/suggested in Crystal that Pokemon take on the characteristics of their trainers, and will follow orders because they want to make that trainer happy, whether his/her intentions are good or bad.
    • The eponymous Overlord is a complex case. On the one hand, Minions' service is ancient and traditional, making it a mix of Authority and Indoctrination. On the other, you personally save their hives from captivity, provide them with equipment and mounts, showing Kindness and earning their Respect. You allow (and command!) them to loot, pillage and slaughter, adding a decent chunk of Sadism. Last, but not the least, in a Crapsack World full of corrupted heroes and Fantastic Racism, the Overlord is definitely a Lesser Evil... of sorts.
    • Kane of Command & Conquer (Magnificent Bastard that he is) uses pretty much all the forms of Loyalty to control the Brotherhood. Many of his followers have been cast out (Acceptance) by, or feel they have been ruined (Revenge) by, the GDI, though in most cases the Forgotten take to neither side of the fight. He has helped many in the yellow and red zones (Acceptance, Kindness), the Brotherhood loves propaganda and similar media tactics (Indoctrination) and finally he is a charismatic (Respect) leader... but the whole thing tends to collapse whenever he disappears.
    • The Evil Genius rules primarily with Money and Fear, and one of the eventual Doomsday weapons makes them rule the world through Mind Control.
    • Fawful in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story rules the kingdom by simply mind controlling everyone into obedience, then presumably somehow altering their appearance to match his. In contrast though, Bowser himself controls his army by simple loyalty, his troops actually want to work for him.


    Western Animation

    • Lex Luthor in Superman the Animated Series led mostly through the power of Money, though he did use Kindness to get Mercy to be his assistant and bodyguard. Of course, Lex being Lex, he left her to die one episode when Brainiac attacked.[1] She did not take it well.
    • Azula of Avatar: The Last Airbender has made a point that she uses fear to maintain loyalty in both her minions and her friends Mai and Ty Lee. This eventually leads to Mai abandoning her to protect Zuko out of love, and Ty Lee following suit to protect Mai. The realization that her friends didn't actually trust her and ultimately abandoned her is one of the factors that lead to her ultimate Villainous Breakdown.
      • Actually, she's using more than one. She's the daughter of the Fire Lord (and fighting his war with his armies), who in turn has an Utopia Justifies the Means philosophy he may or may not really believe himself, and the Fire Nation propaganda is indoctrinated into the citizens early on. Mai is not really a sadist, but her reason for joining Azula was escaping the boredom which kinda counts too.

    Azula to her Elite Mooks: If I sense any disloyalty, any hesitation, any weakness at all, I will snuff it out.
    Azula to her mother: Trust is for fools. Fear is the only reliable way.
    Azula to her friend: No, you miscalculated! You should have feared me more!


    Azula: “It’s because they haven’t made up their minds. They’re waiting to see how this is going to end. I can see your whole history in your eyes. You were born with nothing. So you had to struggle, and connive, and claw your way to power. But true power, the divine right to rule, is something you’re born with. The fact is they don’t know which one of us is going to be sitting on that throne and which one is going to be bowing down. But I know and you know. (sits on the throne) Well?”

    • In an episode of Sealab 2021 Sparks reveals his group of minions, and tries to recruit Marcos.
    • Darkwing Duck: From the example of two FOWL eggmen in "Switching Faces", it seems FOWL itself leans on Sadism. Even its hippies are evil!
    • Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective appears to use Fear (his response to minions who upset him is to feed them to his cat), Sadism (his minions are genuinely enthusiastic about the next evil caper), and Money on his henchmen while using Kindness on his cat.
    • In Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, a corrupt prince controls his army through mind control devices. When Ben shuts off the mind control, the soldiers all take a walk.
    • Hurricanes Big Bad Stavros Garkos uses mostly Authority and Money.
    • In Batman the Animated Series, the Mad Hatter used mind control on his minions, which gave him an advantage over Batman, who wouldn't hit people who weren't willingly causing trouble. Once they were free, however, poor Mad Hatter.
    • Kim Possible: Dr. Drakken once used the Mad Hatter's method on Shego, ending in the same predicament.
    1. (Superman saves her, of course.)