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History Kards - Aces - Greatest Villains Deck - Four of a Kind hand art


Welcome to the Aces Gallery for HISTORY KARDS: 50 GREATEST VILLAINS OF ALL TIME, where you can see the cards large enough to make out text and graphics. Klik "MORE ON THE ACES" below for additional info, or klik on any image to see it bigger.

The Aces

Meet the worst of the worst (The Greatest!) of our ugly little "family" of mass murderers and monsters, the Aces! The big surprise for most is that my "mass murder metrics"—the mathematical means by which I ranked these killers—indicates someone most folks today have never heard of. Or, if they have heard of him, they have no reason to include him in such exclusive (ahem) company.

I'm speaking of the god-like, unquestioned ruler of Japan, Emperor Hirohito, who signed off on large scale slaughter every bit as horrific as anything the Nazis did. And worse yet, it went on for the better part of a decade before war broke out in Europe—thus giving the brutal Japanese much more time to commit wide-scale war crimes and mass slaughter.

Interestingly enough, the ideology which powered this carnage was not dissimilar to that of the Nazis; the Japanese believed they were the master race and had every right to impose their will on the "subhumans" unfortunate enough to be overrun. Sound familiar?

Some historians believe that WWII began much earlier than is commonly understood. To this camp, WWII did not begin with the German conquest of Poland in 1939. Rather, it began with the Imperial Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and further attacks/invasions across all of Southeast Asia in the years following.

Study the behavior of the Imperial Japanese conquerors, and you'll begin to wonder if Hitler, Stalin and Mao didn't take their inspiration from the East, and if Hirohito hasn't gotten his full due. The atrocities committed by the Japanese were truly appalling. I try to correct that injustice in History Kards. 

In a strange coincidence (and I don't think it's more than that), the swastika of the Nazis is actually an ancient sign of good luck and fortune from the East. 


Nearly every astute person knows that Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler comprise a very special trio, all with links to the pre-WWII world and, with the exception of Hitler, well beyond. But there is one particular villain at this level whom most people never think about and, indeed, are often completely unfamiliar with, even though his crimes stand out in the annals of carnage for being on a truly epic scale and akin to his infamous rank-mates.

Like Chairmen Mao and Stalin, this ruler held absolute power across many decades and was never seriously challenged from within. This might have been because his subjects fervently believed his rule divine and decreed by the gods themselves. This was a status his rivals must surely have envied, because the inviolability of his office and station went far beyond fear; his rule was an unquestioned article of faith. What ruler doesn't want his subjects (i.e. slaves) to completely believe in his absolute, unchanging, evermore inevitability and infallibility?

This unassailable and unquestioned ruler was none other than Emperor Hirohito of Japan, whose armies committed widespread atrocities and mass slaughter in his name all across Asia and the Pacific region before and during WWII. This unprecedented tsunami of death and destruction places him squarely among the worst of the worst. Strangely, despite the scope and scale of his legacy of horror, he has largely escaped the verdict of history.

Some say this is because he was rarely seen, even by the Japanese—a shadowy, aloof figure one prayed in the name of but never expected to see. Others, because he did not fit the image of the other tyrants of his era. Hirohito was cultured and reserved. He was not perceived as a thuggish egomaniac or ruthless fanatic.

But as the numbers show, the carnage done in his name and with his approval puts him in the same rare company as the other far more infamous Aces.

Emperor Hirohito may have escaped the verdict of the court of public opinion, and perhaps, to some extent, that of academics and politicians, but he does not escape the judgment of HISTORY KARDS.


The kards are pretty self explanatory. Name, Born and Died are obvious. After "Died" is a number in parenthesis, which is the age of the villain at death. Era, Dtoll and Drate require a bit more explanation, which follows...


This is the "active period" during which the villain in question did the harm that made him or her infamous. It usually equates to the period of time in which he or she was in charge, or in command of some kind of entity which did the harm.

For instance, in the case of Hitler, it's the period from his appointment to Chancellor of Germany, upon which he declared himself Fuhrer ("Leader") and took complete control over all of the nation, to the end of his life (which was also the end, for all intents and purposes, of Nazi Germany). 

For someone like Mao Zedong, it represents the lengthy period of time from when he was a revolutionary and head of the Chinese Communist Party all the way through to being the undisputed leader of China.

Note that the bracketed number following the Era range is the total number years during which the villain did his or her worst.


This is short for "Death Toll." It represents the total number of deaths directly attributable to the villain in question.

Since killers on the scale of the 50 Greatest Villains of All Time don't achieve their infamy by working alone, it also represents the crimes of the people and organizations subordinate to said monster.

As I've noted elsewhere, and historians have pointed out time and time again, many, if not most, of history's worst mass murderers did not personally get their hands dirty. At least not much.

  • Stalin didn't personally arrest or convict the vast numbers of Soviet citizens who were exiled to near-certain death in the Gulags or simply liquidated under his authority. 
  • Hitler is believed to have personally executed a few enemies over the years, but most of the dirty work of the Third Reich was done by his henchmen (and women).
  • Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Zedong did spend a lot of time in the field where blood was shed, fighting the Chinese Civil War amongst themselves, and then fighting together against Imperial Japan's invasions. But when it came to genocide, political murder and crimes against civilians, it was generally others who did the real dirty work.
  • King Leopold of Belgium never came within a thousand miles of the blood being spilled in his name and for his benefit in the Congo Free State. The same near-total detachment from mass murder and crimes against humanity can be said for Hirohito. 

Nearly every villain down through the ages believes (or has convinced himself) that what he is doing is justified and even good. Even the pure psychopaths who don't need to justify their crimes need others to help them, and in this, an ideology which permits or even celebrates murder is more than just useful, it is necessary. Enemies must be demonized and dehumanized in order to get average people (most of whom have a conscience) to do horrific things to their fellow man. 

One wonders if mass murder and genocide would even be possible if it weren't for the odious ideologies which poison minds and convince large swathes of people that inhuman behavior is somehow acceptable and even preferential. 

In a way it makes perfect sense. No man, no matter how homicidal, can kill large numbers of people over weeks, months and years without willing collaborators and awful machinery at his disposal.  


This is short for "Death Rate." In some ways, it's a more important statistic than DToll, because it measures the average annual death toll during the Era in which the villain was active.

In other words, I divided the total number of deaths by the number of years the villain was active (Era); this results in an average, which is the DRate. Obviously, this is a rough estimate, but it certainly gives one a different perspective. 

For instance, in total numbers of deaths, Hitler ranks third, behind Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin. These last two dictators committed their crimes against humanity across decades, giving them much higher total body counts.

But what makes Hitler arguably the single worst mass murderer of all time is the rate at which people died under his reign. His regime set the standard for industrial-scale murder. Let us hope no future leader ever aspires to anything like it.


If you want to know more, you can read a detailed explanation of the background to this project. As I discuss there at length, rating history's greatest (i.e. worst) villains is hardly an exact science. No two experts, looking at the same evidence, arrive at the same conclusions. In the end, it all falls into the realm of "best guestimate," and in that regard—perhaps appropriately, given the project—it is more art than science. 

I doubt that "exact science" for something like History Cards is even possible. 

For example, even in a hyper-anal, super-detail oriented society like WWII-era Nazi Germany, where extensive and voluminous records were kept on everything—including the very regime's crimes against humanity—it's impossible to have an exact accounting of its worst transgressions. Records were lost and destroyed, of course, and some attempt was made to cover up the most egregious crimes of the Third Reich, especially towards the end of the war (many of Hitler's subordinates realized that all was lost and a reckoning on the way).

But even if we had a perfect set of records, they are not to be fully trusted. Nazi exterminators had incentives to lie about their "kill count," just as US troops did in Vietnam. There were inevitable mistakes and record keeping errors. And beyond this is the ugly truth that for millions of Nazi victims, there was no record kept whatsoever. Does anyone really believe that the Einsatzgruppen (the SS death corps) kept a tally for every single person they killed in the vast swath of death they cut across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union? 

When compared to most other eras and entities involved in large-scale crimes against humanity, the Third Reich's book keeping was damn near perfect—and it is the exception which proves the rule. 

By contrast, when Genghis Khan was laying waste to entire regions, and killing people on a vast scale, there was a dearth of detailed records—few which exist today and are considered useful by historians. What is true for Genghis Khan is true for most of the mass murderers in history, which probably explains why even the experts disagree—and in many cases, so dramatically.  

So, for each villain I chose a number range, from low death numbers to high death numbers (though in some cases tossing the far outliers), based on the estimates of respected academics and experts. From there I took an average, which became the DToll. I think it's about the best anybody can do. 

If YOU have information or ideas which might be value to this project, please leave a comment below or kontact me directly. The former is preferred, as others will then be able to see what you have to say and weigh in.