The Psychology Of Supervillains Club..April 2020 - Sinestro

I will say that Superfriends Sinestro is almost a Richard Burton like voice. Similarly, Grodd is very Orson Welles.

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In Superfriends
Sinestro was voiced by Vic Perrin
Grodd was voiced by Stanley Ralph Ross. He is much better known as a writer, having written about a third of the Batman ‘66 episodes. He also famously wrote the intro for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and helped in developing the Wonder Woman tv series.

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the name is familiar. i am not sure if i am hearing something deliberate or if it is just “the audience is always right”.

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I knew the name from somewhere, and I couldn’t remember. But it’s his connection to Batman ‘66 and The Wonder Woman tv series that made the :bulb: over my head pop on. I had no idea that he did the ABC Wide World of Sports item.


The superfriends watchalong reminded me of my impressions when i rewatched it some months ago.


So, the good news is I’ve read enough of modern Sinestro, plus what I already know, to formulate my thoughts. It’s an historical analogy (who would have guessed I’d do that). But, it really does fit. The other good news is that I thought I had read the Sinestro series, but I was mistaking it for Green Lantern, so this is new stuff! The bad news is there is zero chance I’m going to skip any issues this series is just too good. But, I’ll be back so with some thoughts.


That Sinestro series is quite good.
Trying to wrap up my analysis of Sinestro and nietzschean philosophy as his fundamental psychological drive especially in the post-fall of the Berlin Wall era. Hoping I’ll have it done by tomorrow, maybe Friday.


God is dead and, yep, Sinestro did it and for good reason.
(How’s that for an opening supposition. :wink: )

We really need to look at Sinestro through two lenses. The Cold War (his early Silver/Bronze Age tales) and Post-Cold War (his modern age tales).

Let’s start in the Cold War era.
Green Lantern (1960) Issue 7, Issue 11, Issue 18 & Issue 52 and a VERY brief history of USSR politics during this era.

In these we see Sinestro as little more than a cruel dictator, ruling or attempting to rule with an iron fist. Yet, in looking at the GL issues 7, 11. & 18, we see him as very much an image of then Soviet leader Khrushchev. Possessing more practical realism and less ideological abstraction, yet still a mostly unpredictable force, all the while reveling in the Soviet’s temporary lead in the “space race”.

By the time we get to Green Lantern (1960) issue 52, there had been a change at the top of the USSR from Khrushchev to the the more conservative and repressive Brezhnev. Someone who persecuted his rivals and dissidents in much the same way that Stalin had done. He also held the top spot in the USSR government for 18 years, the second longest tenure, surpassed only by Stalin himself. This is mirrored by a greater knowledge of Sinestro’s impact on his home planet of Korugar. Where, over time, he used greater and greater suppression and instilling greater order through increased fear.

After the death of Brezhnev, in 1982, he appears only a handful of times in the DC Universe until the new millennia, where he experiences a true renaissance, as a character. His number of appearances in the GL mythos increases virtually exponentially from his Silver and Bronze Age appearances.

So why is this? What is the change in his psychology that we see in the modern era?

Sinistro embraces the premise that “gods are dead”. His embrace of Nietzschean philosophy.

In this case, these “gods” are the Guardians. That is not without merit. They have set themselves up as the arbitrators of what is “good” and “evil”, “right” and “wrong” in the behaviors of of all people in the universe. These self appointed “Guardians” first remove all emotion from themselves and create the Manhunters as an extension of their will to impose their morality upon the universe. They create the Manhunters in their own image, devoid of emotion. This doesn’t play out well because the Manhunters see only in a binary fashion of “good” and “evil” as defined by their creators, the Guardians. The Guardians see this flaw of lacking emotion in the Manhunters but refuse to acknowledge it in themselves. So they create the GL Corps, a force that has the potential for compassion and shades of grey, while still remaining within the moral framework laid down by the Guardians.

As we learn within his various arcs in the post 2000 era, Sinestro attempts to convince the Guardians of this flaw and to effectively change their morality by making the rings capable of lethal force. This would allow greater freedom to the GL Corps and allow them to make practical decisions in battle. Yet, the Guardians do not allow this. Enforcing their morality on the GL Corps because even after their Manhunter screw up they still “know better”.

It only magnifies the fundamental flaw of these gods and Sinestro has no other choice but to embrace Nietzschean philosophy.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
Nietzsche - The Gay Science 1882.

So Sinestro comes to that moment of a prime psychological event and embraces Nietzschean philosophy. His realization that the Guardians are not only wrong but their morality is irrelevant.The inescapable conclusion that the “gods (Guardians) are dead”, some instances are metaphorical and eventually will become literal.

Sinestro is confronted with the big nihilistic question. What happens when one believes there is no god(s)? Simply put, it creates two questions he must find the answers for himself.
Moral Nihilism: There is no objective moral framework for concepts of “good” and “evil”.
Existential Nihilism: There is no outside entity to determine our purpose of life.
Sinestro comes to grips with and solutions to both questions.
His response to “Moral Nihilism” is to take his personal framework for what is “good” and what is “evil”. This is affirmed by later behavior by the Guardians to allow the rings to use lethal force. A premise which Sinestro made and was rejected by the Guardians when Sinestro was still a Green Lantern. Essentially confirming that his idea was valid. This certainly gives him reason to see that he is justified in becoming a god himself.
His response to “Existential Nihilism” is to do what he was not allowed to do as a Green Lantern, by these now dead “gods”. Make his homeward a peaceful planet.
He understands that most people are to scared and incapable of making this leap to Nietzschean philosophy. They cannot handle “the will to power” at the core of Nietzsche’s principles.
The “will to power” comes easily to Sinestro, as the green rings were based on the willpower or more accurately defined,the “will to power”. Again, something the Guardians realized and suppressed as much as possible, only allowing a sliver of the premise, as to avoid the Green Lanterns from embracing such nihilistic philosophy.

“For an individual to posit his own ideal. To derive from it his own laws, joys and rights…that may well have been consider hitherto as the most outrageous human aberration and idolatry itself…the strength to create for ourselves and our own new eyes and ever again new eyes that are even more our own”
Nietzsche - The Gay Science 1882.

“There will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant – not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.”
Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil. 1886

Sinestro has now created his own moral framework. Decided what is “good” and “evil’. We see his thinking quite clearly on page 8 of Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War Special (2010-) #1.
“I have been to every corner of every sector of the universe and I have learned one thing. The universe needs to change. We live in a place with rotting hedonism and chaos. A place morally devoid. When I was inducted to the Green Lantern Corps, I believed I had finally escaped the darkness. I worked hard to validate the power ring’s selection. I tore apart my planet of Korugar free from sin. I brought order and vowed to do the same for the rest of sector 1417 … and then with the Corps support, the rest of the universe.”

He controls Korugar. He and his wife have a child. Giving her up “so that she could avoid the lawlessness of Korugar” (Secret Origins #6) His control over Korugar increases by implementing greater stages of fear to manage the planet. To break its lawlessness. Some see this as being a fascist. However, this is a matter of perspective. His edicts do reduce the lawlessness of Korugar. “Of course there were dissidents. Change — even for the better — is seldom met with cries of joy.” Again, there are those that will embrace their will to power, and those that will reject the change, in hopes of keeping the existing “status quo”, of not having to embrace their will to power but leave it in the hands of “gods” (existing moral and existential views) that have failed.

It begs the question. To what ends would you go to protect your family?
If it required instilling fear in others to raise your child safely, how far are you willing to go?

The Guardians, in yet another of their feeble attempts to control the universe, end up in a war which destroys Sinestro’s home world. Was it an unplanned consequence of war or was it planned by the Guardians? That depends on who’s view of history you chose to believe, The Book of Oa or The History of the Yellow Lanterns. The history of war is always subjective. Are the Guardians concerned with the aftermath of destruction of Korugar? Clearly they are not, their concern is about Cyborg Superman and his knowledge of the 52 universes, and what to do with him. We see Sinestro’s worst case view of the absurdity of the gods (Guardians). We see the truth of these gods (Guardians) with Appa Ali Apsa saying, “We can do whatever we like”.

By this time having endured the death of his wife, and the destruction of his people, Sinestro fully embraces his answers to both the moral and existential nihilism questions. He reforms his Yellow Lantern Corps. We hear his determination in his speech to his newly assembled Corps. “The Guardians had billions of years to bring order to this universe. They failed. Now it is our turn to spread out our light. Our turn to take control.” Sinestro has killed the gods (Guardians) and stepped up through the moral and existential elements of nihilism to become a god himself. To take control by his will to power.

Finally, Sinestro takes the ultimate step.
He kills the Guardians. The gods are now literally dead

Having done this and having lost everything that is of importance to him, he goes off to the far reaches of space. This action forces all the various lantern corps to embrace their own will to power. The repercussions of forcing all the corps to embrace their own destiny, to embrace their own will to power now that the gods are dead. This action being of such critical importance that the rest of his history is burned from the Book of Oa.
Sinestro now evolves his will to power by not seeking control but leaving the various Corps to find their new destinies without the gods of old. Freeing them to create and make their own moralities. To find their answers to the moral and existential questions of nihilism.

We see that he actually didn’t kill Ganthet, the only god (Guardian) to have evolved through this by taking back his emotion, the fundamental flaw of the gods (Guardians). Sinestro realizes that Ganthet had already embraced his own will to power. He reunites Ganthet with love, Sayd. Allowing them to have a life together. Without the need to be the gods of old. When asked why, Sinestro’s response is simple, “Because I know what it’s like to lose it all.”

He ends his journey with compassion. Compassion derived by learning from his mistakes. Something the gods he killed never did. He sets the universe and its protection on its own path. Tabula Rasa. A clean slate by which it can embrace its own will to power.

Sinestro killed the universe pulled by the strings of gods who thought they know better, and failed time and again. That is an act of life, not death. Not driven by the fear, avarice, and rage which can consume someone if their will to power is not strong enough. It is an act of compassion, love, hope and the will to make a better universe.

No other Lantern could or would have done that. Only one Lantern had the courage and ego to recognize that god is dead and embrace his will to power. That is Sinestro, the greatest of all Lanterns.


I’m going to need a little time to digest all those words.


Totally understand. It took me 14 days to put those words together.

I thought Sinestro was going to be an interesting villain to break down psychology. But, I never thought he would be this complex.

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Just started the 1960 issues. Keep “preserved for historical reference” in mind. otherwise, i had to stop at a critical moment in early Sinestro’s history.

The secret origins has a Wonder Woman spot that i could not pass up. Boston “Deadman” Brand, got skimmed because he is “off mission”.

My headcanon about Sinestro is being worthy of the ring, knew/respected Abin Sur, and can also include training Hal Jordan. I am still formulating the going renengade. I have First Flight as well as the Ryan Reynolds vehicle in my head, so the sooner I soak it up, the denser my canon can be.


Wow. I thought i was a fan! You just took sinestro to a whole new level.


Thanks. And I’m not a huge Sinestro fan, but I know he’s a great villain. Part of why he’s a great villain is because he was a GL and rejected/renegade the GL Corps. So there has to be some decent reasoning/psychology behind why. I really credit Geoff Johns with the renaissance of GL and Sinestro in particular.

But, I never thought I would find Sinestro as complex when I chose him.

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i followed an editor’s note in 1960’s #18 to #15, featuring the evil sinestro and his evil genius and all his evil being evil


As to a First Flight watchalong, I can start an internal thread to nail down a day and a time. I also want to make sure those that didn’t get a fair shake with Doom get their due. my only limitation is my work schedule (nights), so the earlier in the day you want to plan for, the harder it is for me to even show up (gotta sleep some time). Of course, I can always decide like a villain, but i would still appreciate the input, like a hero.


I’m down for a watch along! Let me know if i can assist in any way.

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I did notice that Sinestro quickly changed from red to his current purple (lavender?) in just a few appearances. The Silver Age also had Sinestro more drunk with power because the Guardians admittedly made a mistake. The tedium of absolute rule was his downfall as a green lantern. being banished to anti matter Qward only added fuel to his evil fire. He was close to winning an evil popularity contest, but of course his schemes were proverbially kieboshed.

His power ring has a mind control component as well as something to do with engineering because it assists Sinestro in building his weapons, such as a mind control device. i left 1960’s issue 52 unfinished and it may have his oath.

I do like that it’s not the “yellow lantern corps”, but the Sinestro Corps. his oath, his choice of weapon is to directly oppose the Guardians. but i’m getting ahead of myself.


First, somewhat surprisingly to myself, I’ve read the @DeSade-acolyte thesis on Sinestro and Nietzsche and find myself nearly uniformly in agreement. At least from a reasonable interpretation of events from Sinestro’s perspective this appears to be his journey from a repressive, and somewhat capricious, force instilling order through fear into an agent of order with a moral code guiding his actions. Which dovetails with what I wanted to say about Sinestro. While Darksied is Stalin, brutishly repressive with holding power the objective in and of itself; Joker is chaos for chaos’ sake; and so many more are just common thugs elevated by powers; Sinestro is something more. Sinestro is Napoleon.
Like Napoleon, Sinestro sees his people oppressed by chaos and violence. While France was awash in revolutionary blood; the people of Korugar are repressed by the violence and chaos of their world. Sinestro has the will to force a change, the strategic vision to see the opportunity to implement that change, and the tactical intelligence to make the best of those opportunities. Yes, his rule of Korugar is repressive. But, like other repressive rules on Earth many average people will take that repression if it means their families are safe and they can prosper. Just as Napoleon provides a legal code, freedom from local despots, and at least theoretically status as an equal citizen, Sinestro provides his people with safety and order.
The code that Sinestro enforces on the Yellow Lanterns is one of the elements that most strongly struck me as Napoleonic in nature. In the early issues of the Sinestro series his team strikes out violently, but they are required to do so in line with Sinestro’s moral code.
But, of course Sinestro and Napoleon confuse what best for themselves for what is best for their people. Sinestro’s ego comes through in his demand that only he can provide what the people of Korugar need to thrive, even when the keep telling him that he is now part of the problem.


Very nice @msgtv :+1::+1:
I hadn’t really thought of him as a Napoleonic figure, but it is a great parallel. He is probably the closest DC has to that parallel.

Thank you for the insight.

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You can help with voting in the sinestro watchalong thread, and if you can make the watchalong i scheduled before your watchalong, would be great.