Category: Comic Books

Rise of the Anti-hero

People have been fascinated with heroes since the dawn of time. The Greeks and Romans had their pantheon of heroes, as did the Celts and Native Americans (among others). Often those heroes represented a perfect ideal, the ultimate vision of our human potential. Usually this meant a hero free of flaws–a one dimensional 1950’s boy scout who loves his mother, is ind to animals, and helps old ladies across the street. A worthy image yes, but terribly boring and unrealistic.

Enter the Anti-hero.

The anti-hero often lacks grace along with a few other desirable qualities (like tact or sobriety). They represent a less than perfect ideal, a more realistic picture of a hero who may not do everything right–despite their good intentions, who may not have a handle on his personal life, and who deals with other issues such as unemployment. The anti-hero finds a soft spot in heart because even though they screw up most of the time they come through when it matters most. They are also more interesting to watch (because you really aren’t sure if they’re going to come through) and are more dynamic than the perfect superman, which means they can actually grow and change.

I’m sure we all have our favorite anti-hero. McClane from Die Hard, Tony Stark as Iron Man, Hellboy–the list goes on and on. I fall into this category. I know I’m not perfect. I’m a little messy, have a temper, and I don’t always react the way I should in certain situations, but I like to think that when it matters most I come through. So I may not be a 1950’s Girl Scout–at least I’m not boring!

So here’s to the anti-hero. May you not destroy more than you create, may yo always come through in a crunch, and may you please work on the relationships that matter most


Would Batman be Batman without the batlike getup? Could Magento have been as menacing if his trusty helmet wasn’t blocking Professor X’s mental intrusions? Most likely not. The clothes don’t make the person, but they do go a long way to completing the persona and often give the superhero that extra boost of power they need to completely take the superhero plunge (remember Spiderman’s over-sized pajamas . . . exactly!)

No matter what kind of superhero you are–an environmental hero, teacher, police officer, volunteer, or socially conscious business owner–you need to dress the part if you want people to take you seriously. More than 90% of a person’s judgement of you is made before they ever hear you speak. Looks are the biggest part of the quintessential first impression, and yes first impressions do matter especially for the aspiring hero. You don’t want to start off with a bad impression. Witness, exhibit A:

Courtesy of the Fail Blog

A true superhero knows that to look the part they need to:

  1. Dress appropriately for the occasion: An environmental hero knows to wear comfy shoes and to come armed with trash bags and antibacterial hand lotion when attacking a dirty park. Just like a police officer doesn’t fight crime without his badge and uniform.
  2. No B-O for the Hero: Good hygiene is a must for any superhero. I’m not saying sacrifice personal style here. Piercings, tattoos, colored hair, and other expressions are all a-okay in the superhero handbook. What’s not good is offensive body odor, creepy toenails that look more like talons, and greasy hair and skin so slick we could oil down a whole fleet of semis (shutter).
  3. Clothes that fit: Clothes that are either too big or too small look all wrong. Clothes that fit make you look and feel good, and when you feel good your confidence exudes that superhero strength people respond to.
  4. Signature style: No two superheroes look-alike. Each one has their own unique look to match their persona. Develop your own signature style, one that lets villains and citizens alike recognize you and what you stand for.

We all know that we have to dress to impress. That phrase means even more to the hero. So be sure to dress the part. People will notice your hero style and respond in kind. It’s just one more step toward achieving your hero status.

Most villains have a reason for being the way they are. The Runner Up is a villain because being left out made him jealous. The Self-Proclaimed Savior suffered a great injustice and is seeking revenge. The Lunatic, however, is just plain crazy.

The Lunatic may have a reason for becoming crazy, but everything they do after they’ve tipped over the edge is devoid of logic and reason. This makes them one of the most dangerous villains of all.  The hero can’t predict what the Lunatic will do next, can’t reason with him or gain leverage. The Lunatic is willing to sacrifice all to hurt the hero–there is no boundary they won’t cross.

One of the best examples is the Joker–not the Jack Nicholson one but the Heath Ledger one. The Joker had no qualms about blowing up buildings, people, and things. Never thought twice about who or what was destroyed in his wake. He was unpredictable, intelligent, and relentless in his pursuit. Beware the Lunatic.

There is a thin line between heroes and villains. Oftentimes heroes and villains share common experiences and similar backgrounds and challenges. We are inherently good–look at any child, they want to be good. Ultimately, what makes person a villain or a hero comes down to a matter of choice.

Day in and day out we are faced with thousands of small choices, each one compounding into a series of consequences–both good and bad–that affect your life. Much of what affects our lives happens outside of our control–dealing with poverty, childhood abuse, layoffs, recessions, traffic, etc. You can choose to be ruled by those circumstance, or you can recognize the effect of your environment on your life and use it as a tool to rise above it.

When faced with a choice, the hero will:

  • Stick to their ethics, even when it’s not popular or no one is looking.
  • Resolve to rise above their circumstances to become something better than what made them.
  • Think of others when acting (though they will still be prone to selfish acts–there is no perfection here).
  • Avoid causing harm to others or oneself.

We’re not perfect, and often we falter, but for the most part we can decide if we want to take the path of the villain and cause harm, damage, and steal from others and ourselves or if we would rather take the path of the hero, moving with an understanding of the impact of our actions, striving to make things better, and showing concern for others.Like my mission states:

I choose to be a hero. What about you?

The world is decaying–morally, genetically, intellectually, or some other way–humanity can no longer be left to its own devices. In steps the Self-Proclaimed Savior. Steeped in good intentions, the misguided efforts of the Self-Proclaimed Savior usually work against the free will of the people he is saving. Oftentimes it means the demise or eradication of a species–hence the villain stigma.

My favorite example is Magneto. Our polarizing friend believes that the only way for mutants to be free is to rid the world of humans–the weak link in the genetic chain. Despite his love of mutants, he is willing to sacrifice anyone–mutant or otherwise–for his cause and will destroy anyone who gets in his way. Even his docile attempt to create a new world in Avalon came with many challenges, and well, a villain will almost always default back to his deviant ways when things go wrong.

So beware the villain who claims to be acting in your best interest, they may not be so altruistic after all.

I struggled to find the right term for this Archetype. The Disappointing Seed won out for several reasons which I will discuss after I describe the villain who fits this mold.

The Disappointing Seed is the child (usually a son) who never quite lives up to the parent’s (usually the father) expectations. Often times the child is close friends with someone who better performs to the parent’s expectations, and must compete with his best friend for his father’s affection. The father is typically a villain in his own right possessing intelligence and/or an intensely cruel demeanor. He respect’s the friend’s intelligence, all the while ignorant to the fact that the best friend is in fact the superhero who is his arch-enemy. The superhero eventually destroys the father, leaving the son who never quite lived up to his father’s cunning and cruelty to fill his shoes. Key examples of this are the Osbornes from Spiderman and Red Mist from KickAss.

You may be asking yourself why not use the term “Prodigal Son?” Well, the prodigal son is one who doesn’t share and openly rejects his family’s values. Think a pacifist born into a family who owns a weapons factory.  The Disappointing Seed never rejects the family values, he is merely lacking in some skill or personality trait that is necessary to perform at the same level as the father. Plus, the son almost always makes friends with the hero (unknowingly) which adds the awesome twist of friend against friend.

Stay tuned . . . more Villain Archetypes coming your way!

In this installment of Villain Archetypes, we look at the classic villain boilerplate I like to call “The Runner Up.” This person always comes in second next to the hero, whether in terms of professional or romantic conquests (sometimes both). The constant thwarting fuels a deep-rooted hatred spurred by jealousy and an intense desire to be the one in the spotlight. Oftentimes, the Runner Up is always in second place because they are lacking in intelligence, creativity, strength, charisma, or some combination thereof.

Because they know they can’t best the hero on their own, the Runner Up decides to join forces with another villain. This villain tends to be less flamboyant, but also more intelligent and cunning than the foolish Runner Up funding the endeavor. Unfortunately, the Runner Up can’t control their partner, and suddenly finds themselves in an even worse situation then before (third place).

I’ll use iron Man 2 as an example since it just came out and even non-comic book geeks will be able to follow the story. Weapons manufacturer Hammer continually falls in second place to Tony Stark both professionally and personally. Frustrated, Hammer is willing to work with a convicted felon Vanko in order to best Stark on his own turf.  As predicted, Vanko is an unstable and unwieldly villain in his own way and bent on doing more than just show up Stark–he wants murder.

This theme is common in all types of superhero media, from movies and comic books to television shows and novels. Jealousy is an old motive. It’s just more fun when they have superpowers and gadgets.

Being the super-geek that I am, and because of the major hint dropped at the end of Iron Man 2, I can not stop thinking about the Avengers and Thor.

My love for comic books started at a very early age. Not in 1960 when the first Thor comic hit the stands, but in 1984 when I purchased Clash of the Titans at the ripe old age of 5. I soon discovered X-Men, Wonder Woman, the Avengers, The Justice League, and well I can’t get enough of the classics or the new emerging characters.

Why comic books?

I get asked this all the time, especially because I am a woman (for those of you who weren’t already aware of that fact). The answer:

Comic Books and the characters in them show me what can be. They represent endless possibilities while also communicating the relate-able, heart warming and often tragic facets of the human condition. They talk about love, hate, family, government, fear, want, need, mercy, greed, and occasionally an unhealthy addiction to candy bars (HellBoy). We all can relate to that one!

I love comic books so much I even started out my higher education career pursuing an art degree hoping to go work for an Indie studio and creating some new beloved character. I got pregnant instead, and went after a real degree. Now I’m back to my obsession, writing about superheroes and signing up for art classes.

Side note–follow your passion. There is no such thing as a real job. Sorry mom.

Back to comic books–you can imagine how incredibly nuts I have been going over the resurgence of comic books and the many amazing movies coming out. I’ve been watching the many attempts to translate comic books to the big screen. I felt terribly deflated after HeMan, and the X Men: Generation X pilot was so cheesy it made me cry. Even though X Men 3 totally pissed me off (along with anyone who actually read the comic books), they cannot extinguish my love for the printed comic book and I will still go and see every comic based movie they put out.  Which reminds me, where is my Wonder Woman they’ve been promising me?

Even before Kick Ass hit the theaters, a wave of citizen activism swept the nation. Concerned citizens across the United States are donning caps and spandex in an effort to educate children on the dangers of drugs, host neighborhood watches, and in some cases fend off would be criminals. They go by many names, but their mission is the same: to make a difference.

Being a superhero isn’t easy, and finding other like-minded individuals to form a superhero team is even more difficult, as Greenwich based superhero Darkslay notes. The truth of the matter is, being a superhero is dangerous and it doesn’t always pay to stick your neck out. Does this mean he should give up?


What we need is for every citizen to find the superhero within them. Too often, bad things happen because people LET them happen. We become passive, complacent, desensitized, and in some cases intrigued and hungry for the depravity and crime that runs rampant. Does this mean that you should dress up like Batman and go after the mob like Big Daddy?


It does mean that every person has a duty to be active in their community and to give back in any way you can. Every volunteer who spends their weekend teaching an art class, picking up trash at the park, volunteering at a local shelter, collecting donations for veterans, rescuing stray animals, and any other worthwhile venture is a superhero. The person who talks back to the rude customer is a hero. The single mother working two jobs then going home to help her kids with their homework is a hero. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Which one are you?