Strip Talk #07: What makes up heroes or villains?

Lyn­d­sey Mosley, editor-in-chief

I’ve often won­dered what makes a char­ac­ter a hero or a vil­lain in comics. What makes a char­ac­ter “good” and another “bad”? How does the writer who cre­ates the char­ac­ters sit down and decide “I’m going to make this per­son evil per­son­i­fied” and another “the great­est hero to have ever lived.”

I’ve always won­dered about those who are obvi­ously at the dif­fer­ent ends of the spec­trum, such as Super­man or Apoc­a­lypse. Super­man is the embod­i­ment of all that is good and right­eous in the world of comics. He has a sense of right and what is morally accept­able in the uni­verse ascribed to him. He can do no wrong, and he is con­sid­ered the paragon of what is “All-American” and apple pie. Then you have some­one like Marvel’s Apoc­a­lypse, a 5,000 year-old-mutant who is hell bent on world dom­i­na­tion and sur­vival of the fittest. Who came up with the idea that these two char­ac­ters are the sta­tions of their par­tic­u­lar ideologies?

And what about the mid­dle men, as I like to call them? Those anti-heroes who fol­low a fine line between good and evil? Say what you will about Mag­neto or Bat­man, but they have their points to be made about what they’re try­ing to accom­plish, and they will accom­plish it through any means necessary.

The case of Mag­neto is espe­cially com­plex. Here you have a char­ac­ter based on a real fig­ure, Mal­colm X. His neme­sis, Charles Xavier, is based on also real Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Who’s to say that Mag­neto is nec­es­sar­ily a villain?

Exam­in­ing the char­ac­ter traits of comics’ heroes and vil­lains is an inter­est­ing bit of research for those who want to dig deep into the minds of man. Some­times, it seems, not every case can be made for strictly good and bad.

Lyn­d­sey Mosley is editor-in-chief of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. She pon­ders the nature of heroes and vil­lains at

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