Okay, the fact is that unless a hero has a very prominent dark side, they are BORING! I hate them, for real, I do. I hate Superman, I hate Spiderman, I hate most of the X-Men. I hate almost all the big heroes, save Blade, The Punisher, Elektra (not the Jennifer Garner film version), and others who are not above spilling some blood once and a while. Anti-heroes are always going to be interesting. This is a fact. These are characters who have the makings of a hero, but are unable to reach that status due to some pretty major character flaws. Here is a list that gives, what I believe, to be the top ten anti-heroes.
Batman: Arkham City
One of the things that always interested me about this character was the fact that Batman always seemed like kind of a thug to me. Sure, he won’t kill anyone, but he has absolutely no qualms about anything up to that point. He will totally destroy your body, believing that seeing violence as the first and only solution is correct. But none of the films or TV series have really acknowledged this, and that always bugged me. This game, on the other hand, fully acknowledges what this character is. The Batman of this game sees violence as the first solution and isn’t apologetic when he hurts people unnecessarily. He will beat up anybody and it even looks like he will Harley Quinn when she is defenseless and on the ground. They even acknowledge how far he has fallen when he is willing to let all the inmates of Arkham City die to go and rescue his girlfriend from Joker. To me, this was the best representation of this character, and part of what I love so much is how in the end, he is carrying Joker out of the theater and not the woman he claims to love. It’s an awesome character, in an awesome game.
9. Sherlock Holmes
There have been a lot of really good versions of this character in a lot of shows and movies. Robert Downy Jr. played this role very well in the Guy Pierce movie, and probably will again in the new one that is coming out. However, it is this incarnation that I think deserves a spot on the anti-hero list. This version of Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It is a modern interpretation of the title character. He is much more like an anti-hero than the other versions (and I think more on par with the novel character) because while he does good things, he is not motivated by good in the slightest. He is motivated by the search for a puzzle. Doing good is just a by-product of his work. He is not above doing bad things if it gets the job done. He also seems to not care for the victims of the crimes, and also for the feelings of others. He only cares about the work. It is a really interesting character to watch, and remarkably likeable, even though he is also a manipulative and often cold-hearted bastard.
8. Jimmy McNulty
Now, while Jimmy McNulty, played by Dominic West, is kind of a bit of a cliche by this point, this series made use of the archetype to its fullest. McNulty is a detective in Baltimore. He is a good cop, but has a problem of having little to no respect for authority. He doesn’t follow the rules whenever it suits him, and while he doesn’t brutalize prisoners, he isn’t above bending and breaking the procedures everywhere else. But he has a very strong sense of justice. If one were to look at the scale of what his character is, he would be chaotic good. To accomplish his sense of justice, he will do whatever it takes, regardless of the consequences. But where McNulty has good qualities, he also has a lot of bad ones. He is a hardcore drunk, complete womanizer, and is so out of touch with what the rules actually are that he has a genuine lack of understanding when he does something wrong. A running gag in the show is people getting pissed at him and McNulty asking, “what the fuck did I do?” But all of his flaws aside, he is still trying to do good, and is one of many characters who make this show the masterpiece that it is.
7. Spike Spiegel
I love this show. This character is what makes it so good to me. Spike is a interstellar bounty hunter who is trying to run away from his past. He used to be a member of the a crime syndicate, but left when he was betrayed by the woman he loves. He now works with a man named Jet, and over time, gets new crew members on their ship, Faye Valentine, Ed, and their dog, Ein. While Spike seems to not notice Ed especially much, it is shown that he does look out for her. Faye, on the other hand, is one of the points of contention in the show. It is hinted that Spike likes her, and that she may do more than like him. But his is an interesting character. He has no real concern for his own life, seeing death as just something that is coming. He actually looks at life as something to be overcome, that death is the ultimate end, and what he seeks most. He does good things, but at the same time, he is motivated by the need to pay the bills. Were it not for money being involved, he would likely not care about the problems of others. He is a tragic character in a tragic show. Check it out, if you have time.
V for Vendetta
V is an interesting character. His is a character who originally started with no goodness to his plan at all, but over time grew to gain some. The backstory to this character is shrouded in mystery. He was an ordinary man who was rounded up during the crackdown of the fascist government that rules England, and then given some kind of injection that turned him into a badass killer. A fire at the institution (arguably caused by him), burned him beyond recognition, but he survived. Now, many years later, he is back for revenge against those who did this to him. By chance of fate, he meets a woman named Evey, who unlocks the goodness that he had locked away for so long. This character is not only badass, but he is cool. Well-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent, and very dark, his is a character who you grow to like a lot, even though he does do crazy things, and sometimes he even sounds a little nuts. Check out the film, if you can.
5. Lelouch vi Britannia/Zero
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
I have already talked about this character in great detail in another post, where I compared why I favor Lelouch over the anime character Yagami Light from Death Note, so I won’t say too much here. Lelouch is a young man who, by sheer chance, comes into possession of a Geass. This power is different for everybody who has it, and in Lelouch’s case, it allows him to give an order that somebody must absolutely follow, so long as he has eye-contact with them. What makes his character so much better than Yagami is simply the fact that Lelouch does horrible things, but he has genuine remorse for his actions sometimes, and that is a good thing for a character who does do horrible deeds, and use people in cold ways. The dual-nature of his life, between the rebellious hero who is trying to destroy an empire, to the loving brother who is trying to look after his sister, is one of the charms of this character. It is worth checking out, and although I like Death Note more, this character is worth it.
4. Alan Shore
The Practice (Season 8)
This is a character who I will always adore because of how well he was played. James Spader plays the brilliant Alan Shore. He is a lawyer in Boston who not only has little to no regard for the rules, the idea of breaking them and suffering intense consequences appeals to him. He has a very strict code of justice, but he is most certainly not above doing really awful things to get to that point. He is a womanizer of the worst kind, and while he has an attraction to older women, he will sleep with younger women to satisfy his insatiable appetite. His strategy in the court-room is to identify the underlying failing of society that got his client to that point, and use that to sympathetic juries. He is often victorious. While he is quite the ladies man, he generally is disliked by the men that he works with. His lack of tendency to follow the rules puts him at odds with all of his bosses. But despite his lack of respect for authority, he often gets his goal, and rarely ever feels the hammer come down on him. All in all, a good character of a show that ended way too fast.
3. Gregory House
Here is a character who I will always love. A lot of people are saying how his character has gotten kind of stale, but I am not among them. I think this guy is cool, no matter what he does. He is a character who can keep charming, regardless of what he is doing. Played by Hugh Laurie, his is a character a lot like Holmes above. He does good deeds, helping the sick, but he doesn’t do it because he cares. He does it to feed his quest to find a puzzle to solve. He is a brilliant doctor who also has little to no regard for authority. No amount of authority scares him. He sees it all as a game. While most people believe that he not only doesn’t care about his patients, he doesn’t care about anybody else, his best friend, Wilson, knows otherwise. Part of the reason the two have stayed friends is that Wilson can tell that there is a good man underneath the cold, but he hides it well. This has been a good show, and I will always be a fan, because of the awesome antics of Greg House.
2. Dexter Morgan
Here is a character who is unique among the anti-heroes on this list. All of the others have goals, and are willing to do extreme things to get there. Dexter, on the other hand, his goal is to do extreme things. He is a serial killer, but unlike normal serial killers, he was trained by his adoptive father to channel his need to kill into something less heinous than it otherwise would have been. He finds and kills killers who have fallen through the cracks of the justice system. Granted, he does sometimes engineer their falling through, but always with the intention of taking them out himself, and he only does it when he really believes that this killer shouldn’t suffer in jail. That death should be their inevitable end. This is a remarkably likeable character, despite his proclivities. But it isn’t really his killings that are the interesting part. Not to me, anyway. Dexter is interesting because he does make genuine attempts to connect with his species, from having a girlfriend, to trying to make friends, to even having a best friend. But every time he does, his demons destroy the lives of everybody that he comes into contact with. I think most people can relate to that problem, of trying to find somewhere to belong, even though most of us are not serial killers. We are able to relate to him as he makes his way through life.
And the number 1 Anti-hero is…!
1. Omar Little
It had to be Omar. Omar really is the personification of what an anti-hero is supposed to be. He lives completely by his own rules, and doesn’t care at all about what the rest of the world wants, or about the games that the rest of us play every day. He is a character who lives in the slums of Baltimore, robbing drug dealers. He has a reputation of shooting those who do not cooperate with him, but while he comes off as a thug, Omar has a very strict code that he lives by. The first part is that he never swears, ever. His grandmother raised him and gave him that strict code. And while he isn’t above blowing somebody’s knee out with a shotgun, he will never raise his weapon onto a person who isn’t “in the game.” And when people step outside of that code, he does get very upset. He lives by the law of the old west, where the way of the gun made right. He regularly walks the street with his shotgun hanging from his side, and he never goes anywhere unarmed. Given that he has been in the game for some time, he has to always watch his back. Omar is a very intelligent character. He can plan and change up plans on a moment’s notice. He will stalk out the place or person he is after, and make sure he knows everything about them. This character was incredibly well-written, and if you have a chance, check him out. Omar is the kind of character that we needed – an old west outlaw in modern times, who lives by the gun, and inevitably dies by the gun.
Anti-heroes are always going to be interesting, and I recommend you check out all of these. So, what should I do in my next top ten?
Until next time, a quote,
“Don’t get me wrong, I done some dirt, but I ain’t never put my gun on no citizen!” -Omar Little, The Wire