Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Two Cent Tuesday: Anti-Anti-Heroes

I can't dance...
Tony Laplume frequently compares A Hero's Journey to Adam West's Batman, which is not something I approve of.  For one thing Emma does not dance--and when she tries it's usually a disaster for anyone in the vicinity.

I like to think this is his way of saying that Emma is not the gritty anti-hero so common in today's movies and comics.  For the most part she's a squeaky-clean goody-two-shoes.  She doesn't drink or smoke or eat fatty foods or curse or whore around.  At the end she does ride a motorcycle, but that's for strictly operational reasons.  While she did suffer a childhood trauma, she doesn't brood about it in a cave; mostly she just focuses on her studies and then her job to repress the pain.  When she fights people, she doesn't kill her enemies.  Most of the time she doesn't even hurt them too much.

The point being that she's more of a hero-hero than an anti-hero.  Actually at three points in the series we contrast Emma with a grittier version.  The first time is in Book 4 when her friend Becky takes over as the Scarlet Knight for a brief period.  Becky has no qualms about using a gun to shoot her enemies, though she does stop short of killing them.  She doesn't have much qualms about cussing and such either.  The second time is in Book 6 when Emma's daughter Louise inherits the mantle.  Louise is a lot mouthier than her mother and unlike Emma she kills her enemies--not so much by choice.  Then in Book 7 it's Emma who becomes darker and grimmer, though really it's more like a separate personality that develops after she suffers a psychological trauma.  That Scarlet Knight routinely puts her enemies in traction (though still doesn't kill them) and tortures people for information.  I guess it'll be up to any readers to decide which version they like better.

It's not to say I don't like anti-heroes.  I don't mind cussing (obviously) or drinking or smoking or that.  I think killing is where I draw the line.  I don't have so much of a problem if they kill out of self-defense or when there's no other option.  It's when they do it as pretty much the first and only option that it becomes a problem.  So-called "heroes" like Frank Miller's Batman or the Punisher or Rorshach and the Comedian from Watchmen are not really any better than the thugs they bust.  I'm not so much a fan of that.

I suspect other people feel differently or those wouldn't be so popular.  As someone who grew up with Adam West's Batman, Superfriends, and Christopher Reeve Superman movies I guess my idea was superheroes should be heroes, not bloodthirsty thugs.  It's not even so much about not smoking, drinking, or having sex so much as it is about the attitude.  Emma does what she does because she feels she's obligated to--that whole with great power comes great responsibility thing.  It's not about working out childhood trauma or thrill seeking or anything like that.

Some crank reviewing the book said she doesn't earn the armor, which simply isn't true.  She earned it by 19 years of being a good person.  That's why it seeks her out and calls to her, because it knows she'll use it right.  I think that's a lot better than having her simply stumble upon it in a basement or something.  The original short story I wrote featuring Emma was called Heart of a Hero and that's what it's all about, the heart inside the hero.  If your "hero" has a dark heart then they probably aren't much of a hero.

I am not a role model.
Since I own quite a few revenge-oriented movies like Darkman, Robocop, and the Crow and did something similar in Chance of a Lifetime, I should really draw a distinction there.  I think I can tolerate those characters killing people more because we're not billing them as superheroes.  They're just someone with a score to settle.  The way Stacey Chance differs from Emma Earl is that she does kill some people and has no problem torturing people to get information; Stacey's standard operating procedure is pretty much to go find the nearest snitch and shake them down by whatever means at her disposal.  The difference though is that Stacey isn't a superhero; she's just a girl who used to be a guy who used to be a cop.  She's not really intended to be a role model or anything.  I guess I'm old-fashioned enough to think superheroes should be role models, which is probably where I differ from many comic book writers.  This might be why the Stacey Chance books are outselling the Scarlet Knight ones by a wide margin.


  1. So what your saying is "Peace sells but who's buying."

  2. So much thought goes into the creation of these characters. I could never function in this genre but I can't help admiring those who do.

  3. Some of what you're talking about is why I have an issue with the Nolan Batman movies. He took a character that was based around ideas of justice and protecting the innocent and made him into a reach dude with a case of the revenges. The fact that Batman wasn't after revenge is what made him interesting.

  4. I think the point for me is that heroes have to follow the rules. We have leaders, district attorneys, cops, and other real-life 'justice' types who break the rules or bend them or turn out to have moral flaws -- Eliot Spitzer, for example, or the DA in Wisconsin who was propositioning sexual crime victims -- and those people let us down because the people who enforce the law need to follow the law.

    So superheroes who kill are breaking the most basic of all of our laws. I'm anti-death penalty (something that changed when I was about thirty; as a young guy I was for it), but even in states that have the death penalty we have rules of evidence and the right to a lawyer and a trial by jury. That all seems to go out the window if you let some guy in a mask drop a criminal off the roof because he caught him in the act.

    I haven't read "Chance" yet but I'm really really enjoying "Hazards of Love." And I don't mind that Emma is squeaky clean; everyone else in the books is so morally compromised that she stands out for it.

  5. Superman was a goody-two-shoes also. Squeaky clean, no dark secrets, always did the right thing. Kinda boring. I liked Batman with all his broodiness and conflicts of conscience. There are sweethearts out there who need a hero like that.

    No me. I do like the sense of justice; but sometimes justice is blind to the facts of right and wrong, legal and moral.


  6. I evoke Mr. West because of the tone, although your straight-arrow approach to superheroes is another common attribute.



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