Whether it’s Darth Vader or Lady Deadpool, anti-heroes have always held a special place in our hearts. In fact, they are often more well-loved than many plain, “normal” superheroes, and some superheroes certainly stand on the line between the two. Here are 5 good reasons why this might be so …
Anti-Heroes Are More “Human”
The simple anti-hero definition is a “hero who lacks conventional heroic qualities, such as idealism, courage or morality.” Sometimes, they’re even lazy or selfish so-and-so’s who would prefer to be doing something else (e.g. Howard the Duck, Ant-Man). Heroes tend to be too clean-cut and goody-goody – all perfect and shiny.
Anti-heroes, on the other hand, seem that little bit more realistic, filled as they are with all the usual human frailties. They express rage, they get violent and they are sometimes mean to the wrong people. Think Bill Munny in Unforgiven or The X-Men’s Wolverine. For an anime anti-hero, Mugen of Samurai Champloo or Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop are good examples.
Basically, though an antihero may be “superhuman” and have many heroic qualities, they are not necessarily super loveable people!
They Make Us Question Things – Moral Ambiguity
What is right and wrong? How right is it to use extreme violence and outlaw tactics to defeat other outlaws? Do the ends justify the means? Are they good or bad, anti-hero or anti-villain (an antagonist who isn’t entirely evil)?
Watchmen’s Rorschach is pretty much the personification of such questions, as are many of the later iterations of Batman. These are the sorts of the moral and ethical dilemmas that are conveniently forgotten about when we look at the more “traditional” heroes.
The Humour, the Wit and the Situations!
It is a truth unspoken that the bad guys in films and comics tend to look like they’re having more fun. Sure, many of them may have had horrific accidents that scar them physically and/or mentally for life, but they like to make up for it with crazy crime capers, improbable inventions that break the laws of physics and zany schemes to trap their heroes.
Anti-heroes get to share in the villain-like fun a little bit, too. Sure, sometimes they’re brooding misery-guts like Spawn, but sometimes they’re also Artemis Fowl II or John Constantine. This means that anti-heroes not only get stuck in sticky situations filled with moral grey areas that normal heroes would never find themselves in, but they get to make off-colour, un-PC comments and jokes about the whole shebang, too! (Say “Hello”, Judge Dredd!)
They’re Invariably Bad-A**
When you see a guy or girl coolly walking away from explosions and plumes of smoke behind them – one that they no doubt caused themselves – you can be assured that they’re more likely to be archetypal anti-heroes as opposed to straight-up heroes. The Punisher, Marv (Sin City) and The Comedian (Watchmen) are all prime examples of this phenomenon, as is Desperado’s El Mariachi.
The silver-tongued rogue who goes from doing bad to doing good, albeit in much the same violent manner, is someone we can all root for. A person who goes from hero to villain disappoints us; a person who goes from villain to antihero gives us hope. Perhaps the perfect example of this is Cassidy the vampire from Preacher.
Anti-heroes, like their anti-villain and villain brethren, tend to be a bit more fun. Quite often, they’re seen as more “well-rounded” characters, and the antihero in them tends to make us ask, “Why did they become like that?” Antiheroes tend to make for better, more complex backstories, and that is probably one of the main reasons why we love them.
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