Let's see; so far on the Rungs of Villainy, we've looked at the Innocent Dupe, the Blackmailed Accomplice, the Faceless Fodder, the Nameless Underlings, the Unwitting Patsy, the Denominated Henchman, Sinister Sidekicks, and the Forgettable Moll.
Beyond all these is
the Crime Groupie.
The Crime Groupie is part of a tight gang with other costumed crooks, usually with a complementary mix of powers. You can recognize the archtypes a mile away, like a tarot spread of the Un-Major Arcana of Powertypes: The Empath, The Ninja, The Goliath, The Magician, The Mentalist, The Blaster, The Transformer, The Teleporter, The Shadowcaster, The Gunster, The Gadgetmaster, The Succubus, etc.
Crime Groupies are a study in the utility of diversity. Their diverse set of powers give them an advantage in a fight, but their group identity generally blocks the members from advancing to successful solo ventures. Crime Groupies are the comic book criminals' equivalent of boy-bands; occasionally, a member will attempt a solo career, but it seldom succeeds.
If you'll look back at some of our Character Donations, you'll notice that some of them are Crime Groupies. Standards for being a Crime Groupie are rather lower than those for stand-alone villains, don't you know. Remember Maxie Zeus's "Olympians"? If you do, try to forget them, as I did (therapy IS expensive!); if you don't, DON'T ASK. Shudder.
Which brings up another feature of Crime Groupies. They are very often introduced as tools of a real villain, who's outsourcing some villainous task. Amos Fortune, Cong. Bloch, Dr. Light -- guys like that hire or create a group to go attack somebody: "Destroy Ferris Aircraft!"; "Crush the Teen Titans!!", "Bring me the head of Joe Quesada on a platter!".
Later on, some deluded writer, wanting to make his mark, mistakes what is essentially a bunch of Free-Range Sidekicks for a real Villainous Supergroup (you know, like the Fatal Five or the Keystone Rogues), much to everyone's embarrassment. So the writer puts two of them in a romantic relationship, give one pangs of conscience about a criminal career, makes another slightly crazy, and give one a secret agenda or a vendetta; they call this "characterization". We call it "unpleasant". Previews calls it "The Secret Six."
The most distinguished Crime Groupies are, it almost goes without saying, the glorious Royal Flush Gang. We, they, and the writers have accepted them for what they are: an Unavoidable Concept.
No one cares who they are (since they are composed of a different set of people in almost each appearance),what their powers of the day are (they'll explain them, out loud, in battle when they use them), or what their motivations might be. They simply are. They must be.
As a nameless new member notes in a recent issue of Villains United, the idea of a poker hand come to life, whizzing around on flying playing cards is intrinsically cool. The rest is details.
In abandoning all pretense of being anything other than a collection of interchangeable Crime Groupies, the RFG has become the greatest group of Crime Groupies ever. In embracing humbleness, the Royal Flush Gang has achieved greatness.
It's quite inspiring, really....