I really wish I could find this one particular essay I once read.
It was from way back in the 1990s. Wizard magazine,back when the magazine was actually insightful and good, not just fluff pieces like it became later, had one of it’s first specials.
The special was all about villains, how the style of villains in comics has grown, the different types, and in the end there was a great essay, I THINK it was by Mark Waid but I’m not sure.
The essay was about how in fiction, the roles of the villain and hero have entirely switched.
How in the olden days the hero drove the story.
Odysseus to get home,
Jason to get the fleece.
Theseus to kill the minotaur.
Perseus to kill Medusa.
The story was about the hero achieving his goals.
But in the modern era (especially in, but not limited to, comics) that has entirely switched around.
The villain has goals, the hero exists to stop the villain.
Think of most superheroes.
Batman’s “goal” is stopping crime, a goal that can never truly be reached.
It’s the Joker who has a goal (usually killing a large amount of people, but still a goal). Batman exists to stop it.
If you removed the villains from the ‘classic’ stories then what you had was a story of a person who achieved their goals with no trouble.
If you remove the villains from the modern stories, you have heroes who sit around waiting for something interesting to happen.
The villains of today are, in a very literal way, like the heroes of the older stories.
The essay theorized this is a big part of why ‘rooting for the villain’ was a thing. (and yes, that existed long before tumblr and villains being played by handsome british actors)
I really do wish I could remember for sure what the name & writer of the essay was, and that I could find it somewhere online, because it really was brilliant.
I think that’s because once you’ve accomplished your goal, there’s no more story. If Joker ever actually manages to kill Batman, or Lex Luthor Superman, that’s their end as villains. At that point, they either have to change or die. The comic book hero’s goal, rather, is something they can never feasibly attain. They can never truly defeat their enemies because crime can never truly die. And the villains can never stop trying, because otherwise they wouldn’t be villains.
People like Mr. Freeze or Harley Quinn are tragic heroes - decent people, but for a fatal flaw that leads to their undoing. Bruce has a bit of tragic hero in him too (especially in BTAS. will never forget Bruce growing old and lonely. BTAS was brilliant that way.). But that’s more Greek-style, where everyone contributes to their own fates.
that sounds like a really brilliant article tho. if you ever track it down let me know.
So, there’s the Bechdel test.
I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK. Kelly Sue DeConnick, at ECCC’s ‘From Victim to Hero’ panel. (via brokenblumenkind)
lovelyblueroses replied to your post: The new title of “Batman and Robin” in the wake of…“Crippling Manpain” sounds like it should be the name of a cologne line. Someone with more art skills than me needs to make an ad for “crippling manpain” featuring Bruce Wayne.
If I had anything resembling photoshop skills, I would so do this because this needs to exist (and he needs to have like that one glistening man-tear you know?). Someone out there should do this…
*looks longingly at the abyss that is the internet*
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