How to Be a Supervillain


By Michael Fry

Foreword by James Patterson

Read by Noah Smith

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In this rollicking middle-grade adventure and national bestseller, Michael Fry’s witty text and hysterical artwork combines superhero action with classic fish-out-of-water humor.

Victor Spoil comes from a long line of famous supervillains and he’s fully expected to join their ranks one day. But to his family’s utter disappointment, Victor doesn’t have a single bad-guy bone in his body. He won’t run with scissors, he always finishes his peas, and he can’t stand to be messy. Hopeless!

As a last-ditch effort before they give up and let him be a — gasp! — civilian, Victor’s exasperated parents send him to apprentice under a disgraced supervillain called The Smear. This matchup starts off as a complete disaster, but Victor and The Smear eventually find that they have a lot to learn from each other. When the stakes get high as Victor is forced to choose between his mentor and his family morals (or lack thereof) . . . what will the world’s nicest bad guy do?



Look at me.

More than lame.

I mean, I try to be bad. Seriously, I do. But it's harder than it looks.

Being bad requires a lack of imagination. You can't allow yourself to imagine what might happen if you do a bad thing.

You have to not care.

You have to not care that your space plane takes up three parking spots. You have to not care that no one appreciates having their car crushed by the overpass that collapses after your Disintegrator Ray misfires. You have to not care that evildoing is very messy and those grass stains on your supersuit are really hard to get out.

I can't do that.

I can't not care.

I've tried. Really, I have. I tried running with scissors.

But I'm not the most coordinated kid and I just hate to make a mess.

I tried not eating all my peas.

But I like peas. They're full of vitamin K and a good source of fiber.

I even tried not washing behind my ears once, but it just felt… I don't know… so very, very wrong.

I'm a good kid. Which, in my parents' eyes, means I'm a bad kid. But I'm not the good kind of bad kid. I'm the bad kind of good kid.

My parents try to understand. But it's hard.

It's hard on all of us.


I come from a long line of supervillains.


My parents are minor supervillains and pretty much semiretired. Let's call them supervillainish. These days they're more into battling to take over the recliner than trying to take over the world.

Still, they want what all supervillain parents want. They want me to grow up evil, with a chip on my shoulder and a burning desire to spread chaos and mayhem across the universe.

Did I mention how much I don't like to make a mess?

So instead of a hard-charging destroyer of worlds, they got me: Tidy Boy.

Destroyer of spots.

I feel bad for Mom and Dad. Like I said, I've tried to be bad. And they've tried everything to help me be bad. They've tried talking to me.…

They've tried punishing me.…

They've tried tutors.…

But nothing works. No matter what they do, they can't jump-start the bad in me. I feel bad that I can't be… you know…bad.

I especially felt bad that I couldn't be bad after Mom and Dad had the Talk with me.

No, not that Talk. The other Talk.

The one about how the superworld really works.


It's true. All those crazy battles between supers over, in, and through major cities are staged. They have been for years.


So if it's all just fake, you'd think I should be able to fake being bad. Right?

Wrong. Even after I knew the supertruth, I still couldn't bring on the superbad.

My parents were so disappointed. Seriously disappointed. Who-switched-our-child-with-this-goody-goody-at-birth-we-should-change-his-name-to-Disappointing disappointed.

Mom sighed. "What are we going to do with him?"

Dad said, "I have a plan."

"Wait," said Mom. "You don't mean—"

"Mean what?" I asked.

Dad said, "Now that Victor's out of school for the summer, he can take him on as an apprentice."

I was confused. "Who can take me on?"

"Seriously," said Mom. "He's the only option?"

"The Walrus turned us down. Mr. Sour Cheeks said no. Even Infectious said, 'Are you kidding?' He's our last hope. And he should be here any second."

Now I was getting anxious. "Who's my last hope?"

Dad opened the door and in stepped the lamest supervillain of all time.

He smiled. "The Smear…

I did mention how much I hate messes, didn't I?


The Smear? Not the Smear! Anyone but the Smear!

Why? Because he's…


There are many supervillains. Hundreds of them. Some of them are pretty cool.

Some are okay.

A few are seriously lame.

And one of them is just pathetic.

Here's how pathetic the Smear is: He once brought a jar of grape jelly to a photon saber fight.

Who brings a jar of grape jelly to a photon saber fight? That's right.

This guy:

Just pathetic.


Dad smiled at the Smear. "This is our son, Victor Spoil."

I backed away. "No way."

The Smear stared. "Well, at least he has a bad attitude."

"You don't understand," I said. "There's no way I'm going to apprentice for you."

Mom applauded. "How rude!"

"Seriously! I'm not going with him," I cried.

The Smear looked at my dad. "I'm not giving back your deposit."

Dad looked at me. Shook his head and sighed. "You want to be a civilian? You want to be like Benny?"

Benny is my uncle. He's the white sheep of the family.

"He makes socks," said Dad. "For a living. Socks. All day. Every day. Socks."

The Smear said, "Look, kid, being a civilian's not so bad. You keep your head down. Get a job. Not socks. That's just… wrong. But I hear they're always looking for janitorial help. Stain cleaner-uppers. Really nasty smear stains with worm guts and lizard brains. You know, the ones that never wash out."

He smiled. "You want to be a stain cleaner-upper? Or a stain thrower-atter?"

Hmm. I had to think about that.

Supervillainish or ordinaryish?

Being bad?

Or being boring?


I looked at Mom and Dad. Then I looked at the Smear. Then at my shoes. They were tied. They're always tied. But the loops were uneven. It bothers me when the loops are uneven. How'd they get uneven? Not sure why. Where was I? Oh, right. No big deal. Just the…

"He's got that look," said Mom.

"What look?" said Dad.

Mom said, "The look he gets at the mall when he has to choose between boxers or briefs."

See, briefs are nice and snug, but boxers don't look so underweary. It's not an easy decision.

"Maybe this was a bad idea," said the Smear.

"NO!" yelled Mom and Dad.

"He's fine," said Mom. "Victor, you're fine, right?"

No, I was not fine. I was faced with an impossible choice. When faced with an impossible choice, I get all panicky, and woozy, and wobbly.…

And fainty.

Mom said, "Oh, my. Maybe he really isn't ready for this."

She knelt down and curved her arms out awkwardly. Like she was hugging the air. Not me. The air. There's not a lot of touching in my family. Touching leads to hugging. And hugging leads to caring. And caring leads to a visit from the Supervillain Police.

Mom said, "Just give it a week, and if you really hate it, you can come home and we'll figure out something else."

Despite the rare display of almost affection, I was still undecided.

The Smear said, "Kid, you ever wonder why I'm the lamest supervillain?"

"Other than the grape jelly?" I said.

"Dr. Deplorable?" I said. "He's the—"

The Smear closed his eyes. "Most evil supervillain on the planet. We used to be partners. Until… the incident."

Dad and Mom took a step back.

Dad pointed at the Smear. "It was YOU!"

"Yeah, yeah, it was me," said the Smear.

"How awful," said Mom.

I shook my head. "What? What?"

Mom went to the bookcase and pulled out an old copy of Villainy Fair. She thumbed through the magazine, stopped on a page, and showed me a picture.

"Wait," I said. "Is that a wiener dog on his forehead?"

The Smear just smiled.

I stared at the picture. Then I stared at the Smear. Okay, sure, Mr. Sloppy-Pants here was super lame. But… staining Dr. Deplorable was pretty awesome. And funny. Maybe I could learn a thing or two from this guy. And have some fun.

I like fun.

And pie.

But mostly fun.


"Dr. Deplorable and I worked together on a few battles against Mr. Awesome," said the Smear. "This was before the Truce. Before all the super stuff became super fake."

I was impressed. "Mr. Awesome is the greatest superhero on the planet."

"I heard he has calf implants," said Mom.

"Almost got him in Boston. Over the Common," said the Smear.

Dad said, "The Bostocalypse, from twenty years ago? That's the final battle that led to the Truce."

"The last true fight," said the Smear. "Dr. Deplorable had Mr. Awesome cornered. I went in to blind him with a stain grenade… but it blew up in my hand."

I nodded. "So that's where he got the wiener dog stain."

The Smear sighed. "We lost the battle, and I lost everything when Dr. Deplorable brought me up on charges in front of the DSV. They found me guilty and banished me from superbattling for twenty years."

"The DSV?" I asked.

"Department of Supervillains," said Dad.

"You know, with the administrative office under the volcano?" said Mom. "With endless lines to take a number to get in more endless lines?"

"Back up. They banished you? But the stain was an accident," I said.

"Dr. Deplorable didn't see it that way. That wiener dog never washed out."

"Wow," I said. "Sure, that's not the best look for him, but banned for twenty years!"

The Smear said, "But the twenty years are up, and now I can make a comeback."

"A comeback? Why now?" I asked.

"It's true the battles are fake and the outcomes don't matter," said the Smear. "But I miss the action. There's nothing quite like the thrill of scrawling all over a superhero with permanent marker."

That did sound like fun. As long you wore proper protective gear and didn't scrawl on yourself.

The Smear continued, "I'm set to battle MegaMole in Des Moines in three days."

"You remember that time we dangled MegaMole over a shark tank in Topeka?" said Mom.

Dad nodded. "Good times."

The Smear laid his hand on my shoulder. Not around my shoulder. Actually on my shoulder. It felt weird. But warm.

"It won't be easy," said the Smear. "It won't be glamorous. And it will get messy. I can't guarantee fame and fortune. But I can guarantee adventure. And pie."

I lit up. "Pie?"

"Where do you think I get the base for all my smear stains?"

I said, "I like pie."

The Smear lifted his hand off my shoulder, leaving a hand-print stain. Normally, I'd freak out at something like that, but this time was different. This wasn't a stain. This was a mark. A mark of distinction.

The mark of a supervillain's apprentice.


"Have we talked about your evil laugh?" asked Mom the next day as she folded and packed my underwear (boxer briefs).

Dad said, "You know, when the supervillain has the superhero cornered, and he or she starts laughing."

"Not because anything's funny," added Mom. "But because it's super creepy. The creepier the better."

I nodded. "Creepy."

"But not too long. You go on too long and the hero can escape," said Mom.

Dad agreed. "Somehow they always squirrel out of it. And they claim we're sneaky."

"Wait," I said. "I thought all this was scripted."

"Well, yes and no," said Dad.

Mom said, "There's always a little wiggle room to, um…"

"Improvise," said Dad.

I shook my head. "Improvise?"

Mom and Dad shared a look.

"Supervillains have it tough," said Mom.

Dad closed his eyes. "Brutal."

"Mostly because we lose all the time," said Mom. "It stresses a villain out. All this losing."

Dad nodded. "The therapists we've seen."

"That's why when you have a chance to purple a nurple, you go for it," explained Mom.

Dad turned to Mom. "You remember that time you gave Mr. Platypus a wedgie?"

"It took them almost twenty minutes to pull his underwear out," laughed Mom.

Dad smiled. "Good times."

I said, "So what you're saying is that I should break the rules?"

Mom shook her head. "Victor, rules are made to be broken. By supervillains! It's the law!"

She turned to Dad. "Is he really ready for this? It's a bright, accepting world out there. A young villain could lose his way," said Mom.

Dad looked at me. "He won't lose his way. Will you, son?"

Mom stuck out her lower lip. "But he's my little baby, and I just want the worst from him."



  • Praise for How to Be a Supervillain:

    A National Bestseller!
    An IndieBound Bestseller!
    A Parents' Choice Award(R) Winner!
  • "The irreverent humor that middle graders relish will go a long way to capturing their interest. Superhero fans will enjoy this tongue-in-cheek take on the genre."—School Library Journal
  • "In this clever world, Over the Hedge comic-strip author Fry achieves an ideal balance of humor, poignancy, and zippy superhero/bad guy action, punctuated with frequent amusing black and white illustrations."—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
  • "Fry has written a hilarious story about an unlikely hero and masterfully incorporates the illustrations into the narrative. Victor's story is sure to be a hit among reluctant readers and fans of illustrated novels."

  • "This riotous story about heroes and villains will leave kids howling for more!"—Lincoln Peirce, New York Times bestselling author of the BIG NATE series
  • "Being bad at being bad has never been such good fun!"—Chris Grabenstein, NYT Bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
  • "Part novel, part comic, Michael Fry's humor shines in Victor Spoil's journey to discovering his true self!"—Dan Santat, Caldecott-medal-winning author of The Adventures of Beekle and illustrator of the Mighty Robot series with Dav Pilkey
  • On Sale
    Jun 6, 2017
    Hachette Audio

    Michael Fry

    About the Author

    Michael Fry has been a cartoonist for over 30 years, and is the co-creator and writer of the Over the Hedge comic strip which was turned into a Dreamworks film starring Bruce Willis and William Shatner. He lives near Austin, TX.

    Learn more about this author