Spikes of Villainy

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
That is one sharp outfit.

"Look at the spikes he's wearing! He's gotta be evil!"

An evil character, particularly his armor, will be covered in a mass of spikes, blades, horns, and spines that would make a porcupine jealous. Also, expect black or blood-red armor.

The idea is to make sure the audience knows that this person or group is dangerous. Others might think it just looks cool. Oddly enough, such spikes or blades are frequently purely ornamental: despite the fact that they're sharp enough to pierce flesh, it's pretty rare for Spikes Of Villainy to be actually used in combat. (An exception to the ornamental rule is if spikes are found on a video game enemy, in which case they stand a very good chance of foiling would-be Goomba Stompers.)

A subtrope of Dress-Coded for Your Convenience. May be complemented with Chained by Fashion, Fangs Are Evil, armor-mounted Femme Fatalons, or Ominous Opera Cape. Most likely used by a Tin Tyrant. Not to be confused with Spikes of Doom.

Samurai are exempt. Historically, they did wear headgear impressively decorated with horns, spikes, and rings; modern depictions of samurai tend to be both heroic and spikey.

Examples of Spikes of Villainy include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • The Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The weapons were conceived when someone wondered what it would be like to have cheese graters on their arms.
  • Doomsday from Superman.
    • Another someone who is fond of killing Superman: alien bounty hunter/mercenary Lobo. Mass murderer, miscreant, and dedicated wearer of leather and spikes. Quite appropriate for a space biker, too.
  • Rachel Summers of the X-Men wore a spiked red Spy Catsuit as the uniform of the mutant-hunting Hounds in her native Bad Future.
  • X-Men villain Stryfe wears a spiky armored costume. To get an idea just how invested Stryfe is in this trope, his spikes have spikes on them. His co-creator, Rob Liefeld, has never been one for considering costume practicality.
  • Wonder Woman villain Genocide has spikes all over, including a band of them where her eyes should be.
  • Darth Krayt in Star Wars: Legacy. Though in his case, it's not entirely voluntary.
  • Ghost Rider is often depicted with small spikes, as benefits an Anti-Hero biker. In contrast, his Evil Knockoff Vengeance has two-foot shoulder spikes and a spike mohawk growing out of his Flaming Skull. He's also been known to intentional impale victims on his shoulder spikes.
  • During Speedball's Dork Age as Penance, he wore a costume with spikes on the outside and the inside.
  • Inverted by Ant-Man opponent Porcupine. Despite wearing battlesuits covered in weaponized spines, his spines are invariably drawn as looking like shaggy hair. He also proved to be not that bad a guy, and eventually died during a team-up with Captain America.


  • Godzilla both uses and subverts this one: the man himself is fairly spiky, and ranges from Badass villain to Badass Anti-Hero to child-friendly Superhero. Anguiras, the spikiest monster of all, is almost always good and functions as Godzilla's Sidekick at times. Gigan, meanwhile, is always evil, has spikes for hands, a spike on his head, spikey wings, and a buzzsaw in his stomach. And Big Bad King Ghidorah is only slightly spiky.
  • Nero's ship in the Star Trek reboot. Ironically, the ship is a simple mining vessel in its original time period.
  • Transformers in the movie series seem to have a lot of spikes. Although both Autobots and Decepticons have them, Decepticons seem to have more (and Megatron is made up of precious little but spikes).
  • In The Lord of the Rings, after the Witch-King moved into the fortress of Minas Morgul, he evidently did some redecorating, 'cause the place looks like the Minas Tirith (good guys) fortress with—you guessed it—gigantic spikes bolted on. Of course, there's also Sauron himself, who is kitted out in armour that can only be described as spiketacular.
  • Pinhead in the Hellraiser series has a face full of spikes (well, nails).
  • Mohawk, the main gremlin in Gremlins 2. Guess what his mohawk is made of.
    • Amusingly, the main gremlin of the first movie was named Spike...but his mohawk was made of hair.
  • The Shredder in the live action TMNT films has spikes on his outfit, as well as on him, that spring up after being doused in chemicals. In a subversion, Tokka the mutant snapping turtle has spikes, but is less evil and more...dumb and gullible.
  • Most of the dragons in How to Train Your Dragon combine this with lots and lots of sharp, spiky teeth. In an interesting twist, the fastest, most maneuverable, and arguably the deadliest one (except the Green Death), Toothless the Night Fury, forgoes the spikes for a more streamlined look. Not surprisingly, he's the first sympathetic dragon that the viewers encounter. Subverted in that the rest of the dragons aren't actually evil at all.
  • Darth Maul has a number of small devilish horns growing from his head. The rest of his species does not look nearly as manacing without the Sith facial tattoos, but the horns complement it nicely.
  • Gilles de Rais actually uses his spiked armor as a weapon in The Messenger. May serve as either Foreshadowing or Genius Bonus, considering what Gilles became infamous for afterwards...
  • Megamind practically lives by this trope. Everything he owns is adorned with spikes - his outfits, his car, his robots, his weapons - even something as mundane as a pair of tongs he owned was adorned with spikes. None of them serve any purpose other than to make things look more "villian-y".


  • In Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, one race of aliens, the Affront, like to adorn their war spaceships with huge spikes and blades.
  • The Shrike in Dan Simmon's Hyperion novels is a cryptic three meter tall killing machine constructed of razor-sharp metallic spikes and blades. It's named after a bird that impales its prey on spikes.
  • Lampshaded in David Eddings's final book of The Elenium trilogy, when they find the temple of the Big Bad guarded by warriors in heavily spiked and hooked armor, which the heroes laugh at - not only would the spikes get in the way of the wearer, they'd also serve to guide sword blows in to weak spots in the armour. It turns out that they were created because the Big Bad was intimidated by the appearance of heavy armor, but did not understand it. Besides, it turns out the guards weren't intended to fight anyway.
  • The Steel Inquisitors, Elite Mooks from the Mistborn trilogy, are a strange example of this...because the spikes are hammered into their bodies and through their eyes. Actually, Ruin's whole branch of Blood Magic, hemalurgy, is based around hammering Spikes Of Villainy into people.
  • The Yuuzhan Vong.
  • The Kill-O-Zap gun from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was designed around this trope.

The designer of the gun had clearly not been instructed to beat about the bush. 'Make it evil," he'd been told. "Make it totally clear that this gun has a right end and a wrong end. Make it totally clear to anyone standing at the wrong end that things are going badly for them. If that means sticking all sort of spikes and prongs and blackened bits all over it then so be it. This is not a gun for hanging over the fireplace or sticking in the umbrella stand, it is a gun for going out and making people miserable with."

Live-Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, the Daleks have Spikes Of Villainy in their DNA. It certainly explains them being Exclusively Evil.
    • Just remember, Thal DNA would have the same structure; it's for the whole planet Skaro.
  • In the Super Sentai franchise:
  • Firefly‍'‍s Reavers.
  • Anything to do with the Shadows in Babylon 5. Even their ships all look like big black spiky nightmares...Even their planet-killer, unveiled in season 4, works by firing big spikes from orbit into a planet that then destroy it from the inside out.

Professional Wrestling

  • The tag team The Road Warriors/The Legion of Doom was well known for the spiked shoulder pads they wore as they entered the ring. In fact, these, along with their strangely-painted faces, punk-style hair, and tree-trunk-like builds, made for 100% grade-A Nightmare Fuel for some people. Of course, the entire look stayed intact long after their Heel Face Turn. They even broke off a spike and stuck it into the eye of Dusty Rhodes.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons, naturally, has a lot of this.
    • There are several types of devils that have spikes growing out of their skin.
      • With a particular one of note being the Spined Devil who is literally a winged mass of spikes.
    • The Lord of Blades in the Eberron setting of Dungeons & Dragons has blades all over his body.
    • Forgotten Realms setting
      • In Tantras (2-nd book of Avatar trilogy) a high-ranked Banite and his two leutenants had stylish black armor with dagger-long spikes. One of them was slammed into a wall with magic... He was absent during the following chase. Bane himself as the god of tyranny promotes this style and was wearing the same style of carapace while fighting Torm. He managed to land some hard hits with the spikes, but when he falls, they get stuck in the ground, so while pinned he was hit hard too.
      • An orc warlord named King Obould wears spiked full plate. He ended up as an Anti-Villain, possibly a secondary protagonist as well and later demigod. A subversion occurs with dwarvish battleragers, who are, if not good, then on the good guys' side, and also wear spiked armor.
      • There is a prestige class in service to the Chaotic Evil deity Cyric called the Spur Lord, and a few of their abilities are all about making use of the spikes on their armor.
    • Basic D&D Immortal level module IM3 The Best of Intentions. The Chaotic Evil Immortal NPC villain Hircismus takes the form of a Shaggy Demon. Beneath his long, shaggy hair are short, stiff poisonous spines. He likes to grapple opponents to force them against his spines.
  • In Mutant Chronicles, the Dark Legion cover their vehicles, firearms, and armor with spikes. Examples include Alakhai the Cunning, Golgotha, and Stahler's One-Winged Angel form.
  • Pretty much all of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000. They actually use the spikes on their armor and vehicles to impale the heads of slain foes/victims and eventually make a gruesome trophy rack. At least one Chaos army book has included "Spiky Bits" as a piece of equipment that makes its bearer more effective in combat. That guy up there in the picture? He's a good example.
    • Also, Da Orcs (or Orks) in both series, but to a lesser extent.
    • The Dark Elves/Eldar actually use blades instead of spikes, but otherwise have this trope in spades.
    • The Lizardmen can rival Chaos in the spikes department, though, especially because pretty much all of their melee weapons are spiked clubs...though they're not as evil.

Video Games

  • Speaking of Orcs, the Horde in Warcraft held onto this for the first couple games, then became a subversion when pretty much the entire race pulled a Heel Face Turn and kept the spikes.
    • Also used and subverted by World of Warcraft, some of the Warlock armor sets had spikes on them, which is to be expected as they use the powers of demons. Some of the more morally-neutral classes' armor have them also, as does armor which is not class-specific. They all look cool, but it makes you wonder about Blizzard...
    • GU Comics believes the definition of epic by Blizzard coincides with spikes...
      • Of course. Diablo 2 has Antiheroic examples; Necromancer and Assassin can get armors festooned with Spikes. Though not the villains, neither of them explicitly deny evil motives and revel in evil methods.
    • The recent expansion took this trope to new heights with Saronite, a metal made from the blood of an Old God, everything that's made of it looks very evil and spiky.
      • Except, somewhat surprisingly, The Lich King himself. Other than a moderately spiky helm (very reminiscent of Sauron's from the movie), his armor works with a skull motif rather than spikes.
    • The demonic Felguards have spikes on them growing from everywhere. That includes 3 huge spikes on the back (presumably the reason why they don't wear chest armor) and one horn on the forehead.
    • Icecrown...just...Icecrown.
  • Bowser in Super Mario Bros.. His Giga Bowser form in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl takes this and runs with it, pumping his spikiness up to Kaiju levels.
  • Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat.
  • Sigma from Mega Man X added spikes to his armor after his Face Heel Turn.
  • Enthusiastically embraced by City of Heroes with the expanded costume elements added in the release of City of Villains, including all manner of clothing pieces featuring horns, spikes, chains, barbed wire, and other pointy bits. Additionally, one of the Veterans' Rewards badges gives the player access to a special set of high-tech spiky bits.
    • And ironically enough, these costume parts are equally accessible to heroic and villainous characters.
  • Ashnard of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance took Spikes Of Villainy to a whole new level. Not to mention the big spiky dragon he rides, who subverts it by actually being a good guy stuck as a dragon due to Psycho Serum.
    • Inverted by plenty of heroic characters throughout the series; spiked armour is a staple part of the outfit of the Hero class and is also found on other allied characters like Echidna of Sword of Seals and, most famously and exaggeratedly, Jagen of the Akaneia games.
  • Bloodline Champions uses this trope for the Thorn in the vein of branches jutting out on it...and, being a monstrous tree, it's pretty much justified.
  • Final Fantasy IV both uses and subverts this trope: Dark Knight Cecil has spiked armor and wields darkness—but when he becomes a paladin, he keeps the spikes. White mage Rosa also has spikes on her...well, I guess it's armor. Interestingly, Kain's armor is spike-free.
    • Well, lack of spikes reduce air drag while leaping. The only spike a dragoon needs is the one that's about to go deep into some poor sap's skull.
      • Every Final Fantasy until the ones helmed by Tetsuya Nomura subverted and played this trope straight: villains and heroes alike had dark, spiked armor. The Warrior of Light even has a devil-horned helmet.
      • That also happens to look completely badass.
  • Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl's antagonistic group, Team Galactic, had a headquarters with large Spikes Of Villainy on both sides. (The spikes were white, though.)
  • Overlord takes this one very literally: as you do evil deeds and your Corruption Level rises, you literally grow spikes and spines all over your body, particularly on the shoulders, which get bigger as your villainy increases. Your Dark Tower follows suit, though you can adorn it with a lot of nifty spiky things even if you stay (relatively) good. If you go evil, it just seems to spontaneously grow them.
    • Similarly, the tower that acts as your base in Black and White starts out with several flat, blunt rays spreading out from the bottom. As you become more evil, the tower turns black and the rays curl up into wicked spikes.
  • Jin Saotome from Cyberbots: Full Metal Madness, better known for his Marvel Versus Capcom appearances, is a good guy with spikes on the shoulders of his outfit.
  • The Shake King in Wario Land Shake It had this, with the standard evil overlord spiked beard (with viking horns), spiked bracelet type things, and the like.
  • Given how the Dwarves of Dwarf Fortress act at times, it's no wonder that everything they decorate ends up menacing, with spikes of wood or basalt or dwarf bones.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Many outfits for high-level Sith Inquisitors have these.
  • Wolf O'Donnell from Star FOX wore spiked shoulder pads in his later appearances. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, his claws are almost long enough to count as well.
  • While not actually a villain, Sonic's Werehog transformation in Sonic Unleashed has spikes on his shoes akin to golf cleats. They actually seem to serve a purpose since they allow him to stop on a dime.
  • The People's Liberation Army of Venezuela in Mercenaries 2 is basically equipped with Vietnam-era vehicles with spikes and barbed wire all over everything.
  • Lechuck, in his Pirate God form, in Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of the Pirate God.
  • Wodan Ymir from Super Robot Wars wears spikes on his armor and is on the Shadow Mirror side, and he is Sanger's Evil Counterpart. However, he's not 100% evil.
  • Wolfgario the Ravager, leader of the enemy army in Mitsumete Knight, has horns on his helmet. Subverted in that he's not an evil man, just a guy consumed by a thirst of revenge for the country who wronged him.
  • In a subversion, it's the heroine who wears spikes in BloodRayne, as the heels on her boots are basically metal spikes.
  • Gulcasa and Leon of Yggdra Union both have extremely spiky armor, but although they're antagonists, the former happens to be The Messiah and a Hero Antagonist, while the latter is a slightly deranged Jerkass Woobie.
  • The Final Starman and Starman Deluxe from EarthBound have spiked shoulders and spikes on the top of their heads. The Final Starman and the Starman Deluxe happen to be one of the stronger enemies in the game.
  • In Fallout 3, one of the Ax Crazy Raider armors is aptly named "Raider Painspike Armor". Unconfirmed reports state that when enemies engage you in close combat, they take damage as they hit you, so the armor is not so useless. Of course, it's still a low-end armor, and while many enemies use them, they become less of a threat and more of an annoyance by mid to late game (picture this, while they may hurt you in close combat, by then you might already have a minigun, so why bother?).
    • Semi-example would be the Tribal Power Armor and Ashur's Power Armor from Fallout 3's DLC, The Pitt. Highly stylized PA sporting makeshift repair that included a horned cow skull, the Tribal PA doesn't do melee damage like the Painspike does, and for a PA, it has the lowest Defense Rating. However, it does give you +15 AP to be lined up for those satisfying VATS kills.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Legate Lanius' armor has spikes on his shoulderpads.
  • The Sansha's Nation pirate faction in EVE Online is all about spikes. And villainy.
  • Acknowledged by developers as an important design decision for Mordekaiser in League of Legends.
  • The Vindictus boss Sturdy Emuloch is encrusted with these. He has a spiky shield on each arm with a bunch of knives attached to the rims and punches you with them.
  • Hades in God of War has these protunding from his whole body, mainly the back. Subverted in that he's actually less evil than the other gods, like Zeus or Athena. His sole reason for fighting you is your murder of his loved ones.
  • Quercus Alba, the Big Bad of Ace Attorney Investigations, gains these once he reveals his true nature. (He had been masquerading as a frail old man until that point.)
  • The Darkspawn in Dragon Age. Everything they wear or carry around (weapons, shields) is adorned with spikes. They even build spiky altar-like structures wherever they camp and adorn statues from other civilizations with spikes wherever they go.
  • Sarevok in Baldurs Gate.
  • Daedric weapons and armor in The Elder Scrolls are all pretty spiky. They are also the trademark equipment of the Dremora, the vicious servitors of Mehrunes Dagon, the daedric Prince of Destruction.
  • Most of the invading Machines in Mini Robot Wars have spikes on them, but some get more spikes as they get stronger. Smasher (the basic enemy unit) has a stronger version called the Heavy Smasher, which is basically black and has more health and more spikes. An even stronger version is called the Mega Smasher, which is purple, has more attack power and health, and...even more spikes.
    • Then there is the Giant, which has an upgraded form called the Titan, which is green, has more health, can pull a One-Hit Kill on THREE of your units instead of just one, and has more spikes.
    • Hell, even the True Final Boss plays with this. Compared to the Disc One Final Boss, it is blue, has more health, attacks faster...and has more spikes.
  • Inverted in Brutal Legend. None of the villains wear spikes (despite both those factions being based on the Goth and S&M subcultures), but almost all of the heroes do.

Web Animation

  • The Head of Square Enix from Super Flash Bros' Decline of Video Gaming flash movie series is merely a person with spiky anime hair, a dress shirt, and random spikes sticking out from under his arms to make him look evil.

Web Comics

Annie: You need to make yourself look more evil, Mort. More horns?

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The original design of Avatar: The Last Airbender had Fire Nation characters, especially in regards to Prince Zuko, sport spiky, red armor. This was scrapped and even came to receive an internal Take That in the actual series when Sokka mocks the fact that the Water Tribe has Fire Nation uniforms that are almost a century out of date by sproinging the spikes on the shoulders. The current armor still has spikes on the scary masks the Faceless Goons wear, and Aang actually uses one to cut the rope tying his hands after beating the other guards.
    • Another parody came when the Gaang was in a weapon shop and Aang was wearing a ridiculously large set of armor that even has a spike with a buzzsaw in it. It was even accompanied by a metal riff (which is incredibly out of place in this series). Said costume was included because the merchandisers tried to insist that Aang wear one like that for his battles, despite the fact that it's completely against his fighting style.
  • Metalocalypse's Dethklok have this kind of design on their vehicles and other accessories. "Dethfone", a cell phone designed by them while drunk, has so many spiky bits that it's almost impossible to use without poking out one's own eye. Murderface uses it to kill a monster.
  • Chase Young from Xiaolin Showdown; so evil that he has (retractible) spikes in and on his underwear.
  • Baron Ünderbheit in The Venture Brothers has these on his armour.
  • Aku, the Big Bad of Samurai Jack, does this massively. He's spiky, he puts up spiky towers, even his original pre-humanoid form was growing fields of spikes out of the ground...
  • Not only does Vilgax have a bunch of spikes on his armor, but his land vehicle of choice is essentially a giant, spikey ball with spike launchers that pop out of the sides.
  • Shredder again. In the original cartoon series, he is depicted as having large blades on his gloves, arm, and shoulder plates. Justified, however, in that he actually uses his glove blades in combat. It doesn't help him.
  • Transformers Animated: Megatron starts out spikey, but trades them in for Eva Fins and a more G1-esque look overall. Lockdown and Oil Slick have smaller spikes on their armour.
    • The Michael Bay live action movies have all Cybertronians spiky and more alien in their pre-Earth forms, and Megs is the one who never takes an Earth vehicle mode. As such, pretty much every single inch of the Emperor of Destruction's body is twisted, razor-sharp death.
    • Transformers Prime: Megatron once again. His robot mode is basically pre-Earth Animated Megs with some Bayformers touches.
    • And in Transformers Cybertron. As a result of rebuilding himself with pieces of Unicron's body and absorbing what remained of the dark god's power, he sports demonic horns and numerous spikes. Unicron himself features these, of course.
  • Mr. Ten on Jimmy Two-Shoes. Turns out to be a subversion, since he's a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold.
  • Jafar from Aladdin gains a spikier-looking outfit after wishing to be "the most powerful sorcerer in the world!" His shoulder pads become larger and pointier, his hat loses its feather and gains two spikes facing either side, and his cobra staff actually opens its mouth.
  • Maleficent actually has spikes covering her dragon form at the end of her film: four on her neck, six on her back, five on the base of her tail, and three on the tip of her tail.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: a whole bunch of reasons have been given for the big ole' hat-spike which came to define Germany from Bismarck up to WW 1. None of them hold up to any sustained analysis except one: "It looked badass." Now, being German does not, of course, make one a villain, but real-life examples always stretch it, and, really, if you want to avoid a Historical Villain Upgrade, you shouldn't go around with a spike on your head.
    • The "big ole' hat-spike" is referred to as the Pickelhaube and was, mind you, likely inspired by Russian designs and is still in use in Sweden, among other places.
  • Oakland Raider fans.
  • Viking horn-helmets are kind of a historical Dead Unicorn Trope. They did exist, but were only worn in pagan rituals, not when burning down monasteries. Also, the only helmets with horns that have been found are dated as being from the late Bronze age or at least 300 years before there were vikings.
  • Depending on who you ask, the metal studs/spikes/pins/sharp objects that some metal bands or fans have on their clothes play this straight or subvert it.
    • Such spikes are probably derived from those worn by bikers, which, like most garments identified with motorcycles, are actually a form of armor against road rash (metal spikes, particularly round-tipped ones as usually seen, slide across hard surfaces and keep the wearer's flesh off of it)