Before there was Marvel’s Wilson Fisk, Kilgrave, Agatha Harkness, Cornell Stokes, or Abomination, they existed days of our lives‘ Stefano DiMera – a villain that the writers of Marvel TV shows could learn from.
days of our lives could be the most important piece of television history ever conceived. What started as another daytime soap opera about the life of an everyday American suburban family has grown into so much more over the years, and its storylines and characters have been altered to suit each new generation since it aired on television in 1965. In more than half a century of stories and characters, I could argue that none of them were as influential as the villainous Stefano DiMera. From deals with the actual devil to an immortal AI, Stefano’s borderline cartoonish villainy changed the tone of forever days of our lives for the better.
You never knew what the Machiavellian machinations of Stefano DiMera would bring to the town of Salem next, and that’s what turned a standard soap opera into such a brilliant piece of daytime television. The element of surprise became essential days of our lives and that may have been why the series enjoyed such a successful TV run — one that continues to this day on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.
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Joseph Mascolo brought to life one of the greatest TV villains of all time, and it’s easy to see how Stefano DiMera could have influenced many other villains over the years. Stefano’s villain formula is just too irresistible, which is why it’s surprising that the Marvel TV shows haven’t yet created a solid villain in the same league as Stefano DiMera.
Coming from a franchise that gave us Thanos, Ultron and even them civil war Version of Baron Zemo, the Disney+ villains were very disappointing in comparison. The best we got was probably Agatha Harkness, and even then she didn’t have a big enough part in WandaVision considered a formidable antagonist. If anything, Wanda was more of a villain than Agatha on this show, but that seems to be the norm in the Marvel TV universe.
I specifically mentioned Baron Zemo for the same reason Captain America: Civil War and not those of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: The villains in these Marvel TV shows hardly pose a threat and serve more as a teaser for what’s to come in the MCU movies than being a major character in a TV show.
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Even Loki‘s Kang the Conqueror was little more than a red herring by the end of the series. While I’m sure Kang will become a central part of the larger MCU, his role on the show is ridiculously short. Again, Loki could have benefited from a more menacing villain that felt like straight out of classic Marvel Comics. In the TV Hall of Fame, only Stefano DiMera fits that description exactly.
Superhero shows are today’s soap operas. Instead of the familiar dramas and love triangles, TV fans now want to see the same over-the-top action they see on the big screen on a smaller, more personal scale. The idea of making these Marvel TV shows to develop some of the perhaps lesser-known characters in the Marvel Universe is fantastic, but it needs a little more thought about its self-contained narratives.
Characters like Stefano DiMera took a good show and turned it into an excellent one, and the same could happen to these new Marvel shows. We just need some villains that are more of a foil for the heroes and less of a marketing tool.
Say what you will, but none of Marvel TV’s villains have been as interesting or memorable as Joseph Mascolo’s Stefano DiMera.
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