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 firstname.lastname@example.org