They are sometimes used as foils to superheroes and other heroes. Whereas superheroes often wield fantastic powers, the supervillain possesses commensurate powers and abilities, and he could present a daunting challenge to the hero. Even without actual physical, mystical, superhuman or superalien powers, the supervillain often possesses a genius intellect that allows him to draft complex schemes or create fantastic devices. Other common traits include a megalomaniac streak, and possession of considerable resources to help further his aims. Many supervillains share some typical characteristics of real world dictators, mobsters, and terrorists and often have aspirations of world domination or universal leadership.
Superheroes and supervillains often mirror each other in their powers, abilities, or origins. In some cases, the only difference between the two is that the hero uses his extraordinary powers to help others, while the villain uses his powers for selfish, destructive or ruthless purposes.
The first supervillain who wore a bizarre costume was the Lightning, from the 1938 filmThe Fighting Devil Dogs. The first supervillain to regularly battle a superhero was the Ultra-Humanite, who first appeared in Action Comics #13 (1939). In contrast to the super-strong Superman, he was a crippled and bald genius, and could be seen as one of the first examples of the evil genius archetype, due to his deformed body and baldness. His appearance can be viewed as a prototype for that used for Lex Luthor, Superman's greatest enemy on Earth. However, another potential supervillain is the Batman foe Doctor Death, an evil scientist who used poisons. He appeared in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939) and #30 (August 1939); however, these were his only Golden Age appearances.