Dark Lord

Dark Lord (also known as an Evil Overlord) is a name often used in fiction to talk about a powerful villain with evil henchmen, especially when pronouncing the real name is thought to bring bad luck. Such a villain usually seeks to rule or destroy the world, galaxy, or universe.

In "religious orders" (as opposed to entertainment literature) contexts, it usually means Satan or other similar entities who hold power over lesser fiendish creatures and seek to disrupt the comfort and lives of people, sometimes tragically, and definitely maliciously.

Many of the clichés of a dark lord came from totalitarian states with a fascist propaganda and ideology. In a modern setting, they are sometimes megalomaniac dictators whose minions are depicted in outfits resembling Nazi troop uniforms, and the architecture is often in the geometric, modernist style common in the former Soviet Union.

In fantasy novels, Dark Lords have become something of a cliché following the success of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, in which the Dark Lord is Sauron. The case of Sauron also started the habit of characters being too afraid to mention a Dark Lord by name: the Gondorians of Middle-earth as a rule never refer to Sauron by his name, because they are afraid it will bring Sauron there: they always call him either "The Enemy" or "The Nameless Enemy", even though they know he has a name. In the prequel "The Silmarillion", it is revealed that Sauron is the second Dark Lord; he was the lieutenant of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, until the latter's defeat. Morgoth brought original evil to the world and created the Orcs by torturing and mutilating Elves.

Following the example of Sauron, Dark Lords in fantasy are always depicted as immensely powerful, implacably evil creatures with an insatiable lust for power, who cannot be reasoned or bargained with. Only by their ultimate destruction can peace be restored.

In Star Wars, Dark Lord is an actual rank that is achieved by those who become Sith Lords

Dark Lords often do not actually engage in direct conflict with the heroes; frequently, they are dark gods or demons, exist in other dimensions, and/or maintain a dark, inaccessible fortress. They usually rely on a vast, shadowy network of minions, often with an extremely hierarchical structure.

The frequency in which these cliches occur spawned the Evil Overlord List, a popular web site satirizing the mistakes Dark Lords make.

Among the Dark Lords in fantasy and science fiction are:

  • Hordak in She-Ra: Princess of Power, a sinister white-faced warlord who used to assist Skeletor, now tries to rule the land of Etheria on his own with an evil Horde of armed soldiers. He is the worst enemy of She-Ra, He-Man's sister.
  • In Blizzard's Warcraft series, the greatest Titan, Sargeras, went mad and gathered an army of demons called the Burning Legion to spread chaos throughout the universe. Since his destruction, his lieutenants Kil'jaeden and Archimonde took over as Dark Lords of the Legion, however only Kil'jaeden truly believed in the Legion's mission. Archimonde was killed during the second invasion of Azeroth, though Kil'jaeden's servant, the Lich King Ner'zhul, grew too powerful and betrayed its master; still leaving two Dark Lords, albeit competing ones.
  • Evil Harry Dread in the Discworld mythos; Harry started out with just two henchmen and his Shed of Doom; he is now a well-known villain on the Disc. He does every stereotypical Dark Lord thing imaginable, from henchmen as dumb as possible to building escape tunnels in his evil mountains so that when he escapes the 'heroes' will have 'something to fight tomorrow'. He laments, alongside former adversaries such as Cohen The Barbarian, the loss of such practices in a new, less heroic, age.
  • In the fantasy RPG video game Okage: Shadow King, the main character Ari's shadow is possessed by Stan, the defeated lord of darkness, who accompanies Ari as his wise-cracking companion throughout the game. For most of the game, Ari bumbles across the world trying to bring Stan back to power so Stan can conquer the world and leave Ari alone. The game is a light-hearted parody of the cliches of fantasy RPG games.
  • Torak in David Eddings' Belgariad and its successive novels is the Dark God, or rather embodies this title, which is later passed on to someone else.
  • Sarevok in Baldur's Gate. Sporting a heavy spikey armor, a booming voice and sending various henchmen towards the hero, he seeks to become the successor of god Baal, Lord of Murder.
  • In the online RPG RuneScape, the Dark God Zamorak, or either his predecessor Zaros or his son Iban.
  • In Max Barry's Nationstates, the term could be and has been applied to a variety of prominent players or moderators, usually the heads of some major dictatorial district.
  • Morkhan, an all-black red-eyed ghost-like overlord, villain in the French cartoon "Le Fils de l'Etoile" (Son of the Star).
  • The TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer has various characters fulfilling the role of Dark Lord, but the character that most closely resembled the archetype was the first season's The Master, an ancient vampire, and the only villain to have successfully killed Buffy (she got better, of course). Glory, the insane god, was a Dark Lord character, complete with bumbling henchmen who worshipped her. The shapeless and immaterial First Evil was another notable Dark Lord character, and served as the main antagonist and Buffy's final enemy in the last season of the show.
  • The Overlord (played by John Steiner) in the Italian movie Yor: the Hunter of the Future. He is an Emperor-Palpatine-like war leader wearing a dark hood who builds Darth-Vader-like robots in order to carry on his plans to create a robotic race.
  • In the Key to Time storyline, the BBC series Doctor Who introduced a Dark Lord called the Black Guardian. Other villains, such as the Master, have occasionally shown Dark Lord elements.
  • In the Lone Wolf gamebooks, the Darklords are twenty minions of the Dark God Naar. The individual leaders of the Darklords (especially Vashna), as well as Naar himself, fill the singular "Dark Lord" role.
  • The comedy film Time Bandits featured a Dark Lord called, simply, Evil. The ending credits, however, list him as Evil Genius, and the novelization claims his full name is Gordon Evil.
  • Sigma in the Megaman X video game series. Sinister, evil, bald, eyebrow-less, white-eyed, hefty-armoured and often wearing a cape, he is the leader of the Mavericks, the antagonists.
  • Dr. Funfrock from the Little Big Adventure video game series. He is a fat sharp-teethed dictator who builds geometric grey modernist buildings and employs robotic clones of the Twinsunian people to maintain his reign of terror. He plans to become the ultimate Dark god by taking over the planet core power according to the prophecy.
  • In the 1985 movie Legend, Tim Curry plays a Satan-like Dark Lord named, straightforwardly, Darkness.
  • In Tad Williams' fantasy of cats, Tailchaser's Song, the feline Dark Lord is Grizraz Hearteater.
  • The big villain Anubis from the TV series Stargate SG-1 has many of the characteristics of a Dark Lord, from his appearance as a black cloaked figure with an echoing voice to the fact that he's an evil spirit-like energy being.
  • Much of Kim Newman's fiction features Derek Leech, a modern-day Dark Lord who rules an international media empire from his pyramid in London's Docklands.
  • In the Slayers anime, Ruby-Eye Shabranigdo acts as the Dark Lord for the demon race (mazoku). He is the source of the powerful spell Dragon Slave. He also commands five subordinates: Hellmaster Phibrizzo, Chaos Dragon Gaav, Deep Sea Dolphin, Greater Beast Zelas Metallium, and Dynast Grauscherra. Much of the story in the TV series focuses around Gaav and Phibrizzo.
  • Lord Deadcross in the Astro Boy manga, anime and video game. He can roughly be accounted as a Dark Lord character.
  • Count Devil and General Machine in the Gate Keepers anime. They are leaders of an alien invasion.
  • Nightmare/Dark Matter, from the Kirby video games and anime, is known for overpowering many planets, and constantly tries to dominate Popstar as well. Marx, from Kirby Super Star, also shares this trait, but he had been completely defeated, whereas Nightmare/Dark Matter cannot be.
  • Golbez from Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II in American edition) is a shadowy Dark Lord working for an empire who is followed by four element-based fiends.
  • Makuta of Lego's Bionicle was responsible for putting the Great Spirit Mata Nui into eternal slumber in a attempt to rule over the Matoran people.
  • Ganon, or Ganondorf, from the Legend of Zelda video game series is known as a Dark Lord, but does not always begin as one.

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