Anti-Heroes and the Appeal They Have in Comics
When you think about anti-heroes in anything you’ve read or watched from 2013 to now, you might have noticed most of them have a back story that is leaning towards giving the reader/watcher some sort of sympathy. Despite the character on the TV screen being a flawed and most of the time corrupt human being, along with lacking any heroic traits, there’s something about their struggle that leads them to where they are that makes you feel sorry for them. Depending on the genre you are watching, the anti-hero could be differently created—but, that often brings up the question what is the difference between the anti-hero and the villain? And how do those differ from the hero? If there is one. Have they found that line where you as viewers blatantly see two different characters? Most anti-heroes could also be considered villains for the most part and vice versa. It also might have something to do with the fact that television is going darker and darker as the year’s progress.
What is an Anti-hero?
An anti-hero is essentially a character who lacks attributes a hero should have, a villain, is someone who conspires up evil plans and sometimes kills other characters for their own benefit—majority of the time for their own benefit. They could be intertwined and some anti-heroes possess villain traits and so on.
When anti-heroism began with Greek Tragedies, it was something original and something no one even really knew about. What they were doing in these plays was something fresh and new, so it was not overused. It started with a flawed character who was intending on being good but essentially went back to their old habits every now and again to get what they needed. This character makes emotional moral judgments that the hero would not otherwise make. With the diversity of different types of anti-heroes, it could cause it to become overused. Superhero movies have a huge fan base for anti-heroes because they derive from the comics and the comics are one of the things that also created the glamorization of the anti-hero. For every anti-hero you had in a comic it would be followed by a hero and a villain; normally, all three would be included in a series, they needed one to have the other and so forth for the plot.
When is an Anti-hero Successful?
What declares an anti-hero a successful one, would be the character back story and depth; such as, the things that they’ve done and how crucial were they and if they still do them now and how often.
Black Widow (Newer 2015 Version)
Like stated above, superhero movies pull off the anti-hero very well. Black Widow would be a very good example, as well as Catwoman. Black Widow is an anti-hero because she’s, of course, an avenger, but she’s also still someone who was a villain first and foremost. She kills and fights to get what she wants and most of the time those people are innocent that she kills and fights. She does not do this often, but alas, she does do it.
Selina Kyle a.k.a., Catwoman
Catwoman is mostly a good anti-hero, but she is also a thief and a burglar and on many occasions fights with Batman. She’s also on his side a fair share, so that makes her, in a sense, that line we make between the anti-hero and the villain. Both of these examples have very good backstories as to why they have gone from a villain to an anti-hero, so when we see them go back to their old ways we feel sympathy because we know what they’ve been through.
Deadpool (Wade Wilson)
Deadpool would also be considered an anti-hero because Wade Wilson is selfish and he uses most of the good he does for his own benefit; but, when he does do good things that aren’t for his benefit he could be a good guy. You can see that when he teams up with Spider-Man and Hawkeye. He can genuinely be a decent person; but, that’s only 15% of the time and that’s being generous.
When is an Anti-hero Unsuccessful?
What constitutes an anti-hero character an unsuccessful one? Qualities, if they have less redeemable qualities, then they are more than likely a villain or simply just a character (antagonist, etc.) Throughout plenty of series’, comic book characters have went from hero to villain to anti-hero back to hero again and it works when it does, but most of the time it doesn’t and makes a character seem like someone they are not or simply unreliable. Not only that but switching a character from hero to anti-hero makes it unsuccessful after that fact because we already viewed them as a hero with heroic qualities and then they all of a sudden start killing innocent people, it just doesn’t look good to the reader’s eye. Another thing is the beginning of a character’s arc, if they don’t show redeemable qualities starting from the beginning of the introduction of the character, it’s really hard to make them an anti-hero after that fact. Like mentioned before, the back story is one of the important things for a successful anti-hero.
If Marvel then tried to take a villain character such as Loki from Thor and make him an anti-hero, it wouldn’t necessarily work and here’s why: Loki is in for the better good of himself, it’s rare, if at all, that he will change that fact even when he tries his hardest. Loki is too much of a villain, the qualities that he possess are too cruel for him to become an anti-hero. He is a likable villain, but a villain nonetheless. If Marvel were to change that character into an anti-hero, he wouldn’t be liked as much because it doesn’t suit who he is as a character. The same effect with Thor, he is a hero and if they made him an anti-hero it wouldn’t have the same effect as him being a protagonist hero character. Seeing Thor do any bad just doesn’t seem right to the comic readers eye because he’s been a hero for decades. An anti-hero has to possess those qualities to begin with, so the introduction of their characters would have to have some redeemable quality that leads them to be an anti-hero down the line.
Hulk or Bruce Banner (human version)
A character that wouldn’t be considered an anti-hero, but frequently is, would be the Hulk. Simply because Bruce Banner didn’t choose the Hulk and when he is, he doesn’t necessarily have full control over his actions. Although, the Hulk does attempt to do what’s best for him and his team (the Avengers), sometimes he does do non-redeemable actions without realizing it. The reason that he wouldn’t be considered an anti-hero is because he doesn’t know what he’s doing until he is Banner again. The term anti-hero wouldn’t apply to the Hulk, he isn’t exactly a hero, but he isn’t a villain or an anti-hero either. Hulk just might be his own character in itself.
Harley Quinn and the Joker
A comic book character that is strictly a villain, because she sides with the Joker quite a bit (they also had a previous on/off romance) would be Harley Quinn. Some do consider her an anti-hero, but she doesn’t have many redeemable qualities since she sides with the Joker whenever she can, which concludes her as an unreliable character. She would have redeemable qualities if she didn’t do most of what she does for the Joker or for herself. She has done some good, it’s a rare situation, we can’t deny her that fact, but she also has done more bad than good. Then again, her character didn’t have many redeemable qualities to begin with when her character arc started, so if she was considered an anti-hero by the creators of Suicide Squad and the Harley Quinn comics, it would be an unsuccessful title.
What it comes down to is, a character being true and honest with good morals and intentions are not what appeals to the audiences anymore. That’s where it is changing. Watchers and readers don’t see heroes around them in real life, they see anti-heroes and that’s what they want to see on the screen as well. It’s a relatable factor. Watchers and readers love to relate. They don’t see themselves in a hero like they used to and they are ready to move to more realistic characters and that’s what an anti-hero is.
There is a fine line between a hero and a villain and that is where an anti-hero stands.
What do you think? Leave a comment.