The Anti-Hero

Robert Smoke, by Harcloniter

They call this fellow “The Rat with the Knife”, for he surely is one. From when you meet him in Red Viper and eventually find out his initial objective, you know that he’s a terrible, greedy person. But Robert Smoke doesn’t remain this way at all. He’s forced to work with the heroes and eventually, well…something happens.

The antihero arc has to be among my all time favorites. I’m a sucker for bad-guy-gone-good, or enemies-made-friends. What can I say, it’s a lot of fun watching a character grow and change into something wonderful. I have a habit of turning tons of my characters into one, meaning it’s a bit difficult for me to keep a villain when I roleplay. It’s because I inject morals into most of my characters unless I’m sure I want them to remain pure evil.

I think a perfect example of an antihero arc has to lie with the hilarious movie that is Megamind. In this story, an alien with a large blue head lands upon Earth, making rivals with a superman-like character called Metroman. Megamind turns into a goofy super villain, but when he thinks he kills the main hero, he finds himself without a purpose. Therefore, he decides to create a hero himself to fight. That, of course, goes terribly wrong. Once he’s actually shown love and the brighter side of humanity through Roxanne Richie, a news reporter, he realizes that perhaps he was being quite a bit of a jerk. Eventually, he becomes the hero.

A general example of a different type of antihero is one of whom kills or tortures villains to protect the innocent. Generally speaking, this is considered either chaotic good or chaotic neutral. There’s heavy debate as to whether or not that’s right, but personally I find it just fine. I’m much more firmly seated in the idea of ‘justice by blood’, where the villain meets a very grisly end. What can I say? I’m an adult dark/urban fantasy writer, naturally I would gravitate toward characters and stories like that.

A great example from a video game universe of an antihero would have to be a Death Knight or Demon Hunter from World of Warcraft. Both of these types of characters sacrificed quite a bit and did terrible things in order to gain power. In the case of Death Knights, they broke free from being puppets to an evil Lich King, opting to fight for their people and use their dark talents for the innocent. Demon Hunters on the other hand were in full control and harnessed the power of demon souls to fight fire with fire against an evil demon faction. Both of these here kill quite often and do some dark things, but it’s for the good of their world.

How an antihero is interpreted falls upon the perspective of a reader. I could claim that a character is doing all the right things by hunting down and ripping apart the antagonists. Another person could argue with me that it makes the character just as bad. But does it really? To me, certainly not.

Let me flick on a serious light. Suppose a rapist/serial killer goes around in a story, too powerful and tormenting innocent people. An equally powerful antihero hunts them down and tortures them nearly to death, ripping out information of the location of others like him. Many people would point and call that out as wrong. To me, however, the villain in the case didn’t deserve to live in the first place, and the butchery was 100% valid. Now, people will shove ‘due process’ in my face, but that’s why vigilantism isn’t a good thing in real life. In a fantasy universe, however, it’s very nice to see the bad guy getting TRUE karma where often real life fails us in that respect.

Actually, the TV series Lucifer (one of my favorites) makes the main character, or the devil of whom is taking a ‘break’ from hell, into a very good antihero. He uses unconventional methods to catch bad guys, though rarely ever kills. He’s certainly seen as evil by many people, however in reality he’s out to get the bad guys and deliver justice in most cases (when he’s not being a bit selfish, of course.)

And so, there two types of antiheroes mentioned here: Villain turned hero, or hero that accomplishes their goals through relatively dark means. Either way, I tend to really enjoy them, and I think since I write violently in a darker, dystopian world with dangerous characters, I don’t have any true lawful good heroes. All of them do kill, and there’s no real ‘following laws’ with that. Granted, in my story, there’s a gigantic world shift, so human laws don’t even apply in that case anymore.

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