Let’s Hear It For The Anti-Heroes!
I churn through a lot of images in my relentless internet search for art to fill my Pinterest Galleries and Instagram photo stream, but something about this particular pinup (source unknown) made me pause and think about my comic book preferences.
I love Marvel and DC the way I love Betty and Veronica — it is impossible to choose! The differences between the two groups of heroes is a whole ‘nother column (or a whole blog!), but a big part of that difference comes down to the nature of Marvel’s heroes …
… or, more precisely, Marvel’s anti-heroes.
TV Tropes offers as good a definition of anti-heroes as any — “… an antihero is a protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. (S)he may be bewildered, ineffectual, deluded, or merely apathetic. More often an antihero is just an amoral misfit.” That description certainly applies to the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and Sub-Mariner above, all of whom are among my favorite Marvel characters.
The notion of the anti-hero seems baked into Marvel’s DNA — not surprising, given that so many of Marvel’s heroes were conceived as reactions to those pre-existing DC icons. Marvel’s heroes are not unique in their shades of gray, but the anti-hero trope is too central to Marvel’s heroes to be an accident: Spider-Man was hunted by the police; the Fantastic Four revolved around Ben Grimm’s troubled soul; characters like Hawkeye, the Black Widow, Quicksilver, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch all began as villains. Luke Cage was an escaped convict. The Defenders boasted Subby, Hulk, and the Silver Surfer as charter members, and prided themselves on being a collection of misfits. Marvel had a whole stock of supernatural characters that weren’t always good guys — Ghost Rider, Werewolf By Night, Morbius, Tomb of Dracula, Son of Satan. The X-Men made being a shadowy outsider their raison d’être, and Marvel is working hard to introduce us to yet another group of roguish quasi-good guys with the launch of their Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
DC has their anti-heroes too, of course. Batman was an anti-hero well before Frank Miller got ahold of him, and Swamp Thing is the greatest monster comic of all time. Many of Jack Kirby’s DC creations fit the mold — the Demon, and some of the most deeply troubled New Gods. But for the most part, when I think of DC, I think of sunny, Silver Age sentinels like the Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Superman. I love DC’s characters — I just love them differently than Marvel — and didn’t really decode how different they were from Marvel’s core approach until coming across this random pinup …
Tell me about your favorite anti-heroes in the comments section, below!