After making my way to a movie theater for the first time all summer and viewing The Dark Knight, I was left with a few unanswered questions: Why do all movie previews sound like they're using the same music? Why doesn't saliva drool copiously out of the singed side of Two-Face's face? And where do all those henchmen come from?
You never see any classified ads with openings for henchmen, but if you did, what would they say? "Henchman needed. The ideal candidate will be physically aggressive but blindly obedient. Intelligence is no obstacle. Skill with weapons a plus. Salary commensurate with experience. Interviews will be held in an undisclosed location. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."
Despite the lack of advertising, movie villains never seem to have any trouble locating henchmen, and they have to locate a lot of them because the working life of the typical henchman seems a bit brief. The villain may get hauled off to Arkham Asylum in the end and locked in a padded cell, but if you're a henchman, you're toast. The henchmen have to take orders from a lunatic, do all the heavy lifting, and end up six feet under, but people are apparently lining up out the door begging for the job. The benefits must be something special. I wonder if henchmen have a 401K?
A little research informs me that the word henchman descends from the Old English hengest (horse) plus man (duh), and the original henchman was a page to a noble person. Somehow, the word transferred from the man who serves the needs of a mounted prince to the man who serves the needs of a prince of crime--but that doesn't explain why anyone would want the job.
I lost count of the number of henchmen killed in the line of duty in The Dark Knight, but I was pleased with the failure of the Joker's massive henchman-recruiting effort toward the end. Apparently being a henchman is not for everyone, which is a good thing because if we were all henchmen, the planet would be utterly depopulated before the final credits.