Loki. Evil but compelling.

Loki. Evil but charming.

My erudite Asian American spouse has the hots for Tom Hiddleston as Loki, the God of Mischief. In Norse mythology and in the early Thor comics Loki was pure snarling evil, but in The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World the Thunder God’s half brother has become a sinister Oscar Wilde, tossing off bon mots along with the usual “I’ll-crush-you -and-dance-on-your-bones” bluster.

It is a truth universally acknowledged by comic-book geeks that villains are far more compelling than heroes. This axiom often applies in real life as well. Good guys and gals are great, but some bad eggs have can’t-look-away qualities. Like these three teenagers who, whatever their motives, made an awful mess.
Princip: Kick started World War I.

Princip: Kick started World War I.


1. Gavrilo Princip was nineteen when in 1914 he assassinated Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an act that triggered the bizarre chain of events that brought about World War I. An estimated 37 million soldiers and civilians died in the conflict, which lasted from 1914 to 1918.

Should Princip be blamed for the death and suffering of World War I? Many believe war was inevitable, and would have occurred regardless of Princip’s assault.

Convicted of treason, Princip escaped execution because he had been a teenager when he committed the crime. He was just twenty-three when he died of tuberculosis in prison in April of 1918, seven months before the war ended.

Grynszpan: shot Nazi diplomat.

Grynszpan: shot Nazi diplomat.

2. Herschel Grynszpan, seventeen, assassinated a Nazi diplomat in the German embassy Paris in 1938. In retaliation, Nazi Germany launched launched Kristallnacht, or The Night of Broken Glass, which resulted in the death of hundreds, the razing of 265 synagogues and 200 houses, the demolition of 7,500 business establishments, and the incarceration of 30,000 Jews in concentration camps.

Grynszpan has been called “the boy who started a war,” and a broadcast called Kristallnacht “a turning point in German policy, setting into motion the Nazis’ systematic extermination of Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Christians, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and other Nazi enemies.”

That said, it’s not like the Nazi party was leaning toward a policy of compassion and tolerance before Grynszpan’s gunfire. The Holocaust was inevitable; Grynszpan merely provided an excuse to start it.

Williams: co-founded the Crips.

Williams: co-founded the Crips.

3. Stanley Tookie Williams was just seventeen when he co-founded the Crips street gang in South Central Los Angeles in 1971 (some say the Crips started in 1969). One of the most violent street gangs, the Crips have been connected to countless violent crimes in L.A. and elsewhere.

Williams and Raymond Washington, the Crips co-founder, initially founded the group in order to protect their neighborhood from other, larger gangs. The Crips grew quickly and by the late 1970s Williams and Washington had lost control of the gang.

In 1981 Williams was convicted on four counts of capital murder and sentenced to death. He was executed in December of 2005.