One of the great things about supervillains is their lunatic schemes, which usually rely on the phases of the Moon and a squad of cyborg dolphins sailing into the bay at 12:07 precisely. The real reason the good guy always wins is because the bad guy doesn't keep it simple.
But every now and then, a supervillain comes up with a scheme that actually holds water. One that actually makes sense and doesn't have an obvious "deactivate" button within easy reach. Sometimes, the hero's scheme is the one that doesn't make any sense, and the hero only wins thanks to huge, crazy luck. Here are some supervillain schemes that really ought to have succeeded.
Note: For the purposes of this article, "supervillain" includes not just comic-book villains but also James Bond villains and people like the Master from Doctor Who.
Doctor Doom's scheme to destroy the Fantastic Four by hurling the Baxter Building into the sun
For once, Doctor Doom has a pretty solid plan, in Fantastic Four #6. He teams up with Sub-Mariner, who also hates the Fantastic Four (except for Sue Storm, whom he has a thing for). They'll trap the heroes in the Baxter Building, attach Doom's Grabber device to it, lift the building into space, and throw it into the sun. But Doctor Doom makes one critical error: he leaves the Sub-Mariner inside the building. Doom's mistake turns out to be good luck for the Fantastic Four. Realizing he'll die too, the Sub-Mariner turns on Doom and teams up with the Fantastic Four. They defeat Doctor Doom and the Baxter Building gets put back where it belongs.
The Master's plot to restart his regenerations
When the Master uses up all his regenerations and turns into an angry meatball, he stops screwing around with plans like "get the Ogrons to pretend to be Draconians so the humans will start a war and then the Daleks can show up and do something something... profit!" Instead, he hatches a pretty rock-solid scheme, in which he beams the Doctor a vision of the impending assassination of the Gallifreyan President. When the Doctor attempts to stop the vision from coming true, he ends up framed for the crime, as the Master intended all along. The Doctor comes close to being executed forthwith, which would leave the Master with a free shot at the President's ceremonial sash. But the Doctor finds an unlikely loophole: On Gallifrey, candidates for President have guaranteed freedom for the duration of the election. So the Doctor decides to run for President, giving himself time to prove his innocence.
Goldfinger's scheme to render the gold in Fort Knox unsellable
Usually, James Bond villains are stumblebums, coming up with plans that involve hypnotizing women to love chickens and launching flowers into space. But Auric Goldfinger keeps it nice and simple: he aims to have his pilot, Pussy Galore, spray a nerve gas over Fort Knox to neutralize the guards. Then, he'll enter and plant a nuclear bomb inside, to irradiate the gold so his own gold supply would rise in value. The only reason this plan fails is because Bond manages to seduce Pussy, and convinces her to replace the nerve gas with something harmless. If the guards were really knocked out, Goldfinger could have just walked into the fort unopposed. (His real error? Not finishing Bond off during the "I expect you to die" scene.) Similarly, Max Zorin's plan in A View to a Kill isn't totally unworkable — if Max hadn't betrayed his bodyguard May Day (Grace Jones) and caused her to switch sides, he'd have succeeded.
Harley Quinn's plan to kill Batman
In the so-wrong-it's-awesome annual "Mad Love," which became an episode of the Animated Series, Harley Quinn is tired of being taken for granted by the Joker, who's obsessed with Batman. So unlike her main squeeze, whose plans to kill Bats usually involve giant comedy mallets and things, she comes up with a plan that actually makes sense. She submits a video of herself to the GCPD pleading for Batman's help in stopping the Joker – claiming to feels he's "gone too far" this time. She gives Batman an address to meet her, and when he arrives, springs a decoy, distracting him long enough to knock him unconscious. While out, Harley wraps Batman in chains, then dangles his body upside down over a vat of piranhas (so it looks like they're smiling). With the blood rushing to his head, and dizzy from a concussion, Batman's only recourse is to convince Harley the Joker would never believe she was capable of killing him.
The Emperor's Plan to Crush the Galaxy
Building the Death Star is actually not a bad notion — it makes short work of Alderaan and puts terror into the hearts of any would-be rebels. It's the ultimate deterrent, really. The Emperor's gambit only fails because a teenage boy is able to shoot a two-meter exhaust port with his eyes closed.
The Key's Plan to Kill the Justice League
In Grant Morrison's Justice League of America #8, The Key, realizing the League's victory will always be inevitable, manages to trap its members in their own minds, siphoning the energy produced from their victories over imagined enemies. He's defeated when Connor Hawke arrives for a previously scheduled meeting and shoots him in the face with a boxing glove arrow.
Lindsey's Last Plan to Kill Angel
Lindsey McDonald's plan to activate the Senior Partners Fail Safe to kill Angel by endearing himself to Spike only failed because he decided to call himself "Doyle".
The Joker's Plan to Become the World's Greatest Artist/Art Dealer
In the Batman '66 episodes "Pop Goes the Joker"/"Flop Goes the Joker," the Joker uses his new celebrity to his advantage, vandalizing a roomful of paintings at an art gallery to create "Joker originals" — thereby heightening their value. After winning a competition (with a blank canvas called "Death of a Mauve Bat"), he opens an art school, charging millions for tuition so only the idle rich can afford to attend. Once he gains confidence with a student whose father owns a fancy museum, he convinces her to replace its paintings with his own, then holds the originals for ransom. But the Joker's disinterest in art is his downfall — and he accidentally steals a roomful of Alfred's worthless paintings.
Obadiah Stane's plan to take over Stark Industries
In the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark managed to survive Obadiah's attempts to kill him twice. When he's captured by the people Obadiah hired to kill him in the Middle East, Tony escapes by using his brain and creating the first Iron Man suit. The second time, however, it's thanks to pure dumb luck - and Pepper Potts' idea of a gag gift. Right before the big fight scene between Iron Man and Iron Monger, Stane paralyzes Stark with some kind of sonic device. He then pulls the upgraded arc reactor out of Tony's chest and proceeds to leave him there to die. Fortunately, Pepper has decided to ignore earlier instructions to destroy the first chest-sized arc reactor. If she hadn't given Stark that arc reactor as "proof that Tony Stark has a heart," he would have had no way to keep himself alive. Tony Stark would have died, and Obadiah Stane would have won.
Lex Luthor's plot to sink the Western United States' coastline and make the desert he owns into expensive beachfront property
In the 1978 Superman film, Luthor's plan revolves around a pair of nuclear missiles that are being tested. He has his people intercept the missiles, and reprogram their destinations — but one of Luthor's goons enters the wrong data. Although one missile is headed for California, the misprogrammed one is pointed toward Hackensack, NJ. Since Superman is the only one who can stop Luthor's plan, the supervillain lures Superman to his hideout. Luthor subdues Superman with Kryptonite, and leaves him to drown, but not before explaining his plan and noting the second missile's incorrect destination. Luckily for Superman, it just so happens that Luthor's girlfriend, Eve Teschmacher, has family in Hackensack. She releases Superman after getting him to agree to stop the missile heading for New Jersey. Superman, of course, proceedes to save the day by flying around the world fast enough to turn back time and avert the disaster completely. If that one henchman hadn't managed to point the missile at Eve's mother's hometown, Luthor would have succeeded.
Fire Lord Ozai's plan to use the power of Sozin's Comet to take over the world
Like a lot of the schemes on this list, it only fails because someone switches sides. Toward the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang and company decide to wait until the comet passes to try and fight Ozai. That way, the Fire Lord won't have the extra energy the comet grants to firebenders, and Aang might stand a better chance of defeating him. Unfortunately, that would have been a really bad plan — because Ozai had decided to use the comet's power to burn down the Earth Kingdom while the comet was still passing, thus destroying Aang's last hope before Aang even had a chance to launch his attack. Fortunately for Aang, Zuko has switched sides - but not before learning Ozai's plans. Back in the Fire Nation, Zuko had sat in on a war council and learned about Ozai's intentions, which he passes along to Aang. This spurs Aang to get his butt in gear, and Team Avatar prepares to fight the Fire Nation early.