Now that we know volume three of Heroes will be called "Villains," it's not too soon to start bracing ourselves for the worst. After all, that show hasn't had the greatest track record in creating and sustaining villains so far. There's no surefire way to make a villain scary and memorable. But there are some proven methods for making your villains dull and wimpy, and Heroes has used a few of them. Here's the complete list of how to create a boring villain.
Over-exposure. We've seen way, way too much of Bob the Company stooge on Heroes. But there are even worse examples. The Master on classic Doctor Who comes to mind: He appeared in one story and was awesome. So why not have him appear in every story after that? Always hatching one daft scheme after another, always not quite managing to kill the Doctor. And then in the 1980s, the show had Anthony Ainley on contract to play the Master twice a year, like clockwork.
Draggy, saggy storylines. Sylar has many powers, but the power to hold our attention while he seduces the inky-eye woman isn't one of them. It took him like twenty hours to get to first base with her. This is more often a problem in comic books, where storylines get moved around. Kurt Busiek wrote a storyline where the Atlantean time traveler Arion comes forward in time to torment Superman, because he believes Superman will ruin the Earth. This storyline was supposed to last eight months, but lagged because of delays in other things and cross-overs with other titles. Busiek had to keep putting off the resolution to the Arion storyline, until it lasted more like sixteen months.
The villain can't kill the hero, because... It's bad enough when the villain tries to kill the hero over and over, and never succeeds. But it's horrendous when the villain makes a speech about how he/she can't kill the hero because the hero must first fulfill some purpose, or because the hero may know something, blah blah blah... It becomes a crutch for lazy writers.
Middle managers. The Holy Grail of villainy is a character who's complex and misunderstood, and has a believable point of view. Plus if you've ever had a crappy office job, it's tempting to make your villain the reincarnation of your annoying boss. But this can lead to bad guys like Bob, who really just ought to be fixing photocopier paper jams. Or Ming the Micromanager, over in Flash Gordon.
Turning them into quasi-good guys. The best villain Heroes ever had was Claire's dad, aka Horn-Rimmed Glasses. He was creepy and disturbing, but you could also sense he had a core of decency to him. So of course he had to go and become a Tarnished Good Guy (TM), who still goes over the line occasionally but has a good heart anyway. This is a chronic problem that can, uh, Spike your most interesting baddies.
Everybody's related. So far, Angela Petrelli has been the most boring villain on Heroes, because all she ever does is scold her lazy-bum kids for messing in her business. She actually has the potential to become the show's best baddie, because she's totally cold-blooded and vicious. But we need to see her demonstrating a larger vision than just making her son president or whatever. She should have a monstrous plan, or an agenda, or something other than a note for her kids.