How To Write Antiheroes
(Note: This is my opinion. Feel free to disagree, ignore, use, praise and do with this as you feel)
(Note 2: This post marks 2000 posts in Comic Vine’s fan-fic, out of a total of roughly 2500 posts in total so far…kinda live here in the fan-fic department)
The Antihero: Too cool to be a good guy but not quite evil enough to be a villain. Someone who inhabits the grey area and often makes choices which clash with what society deems normal. Or as I like to think: what most people would be if they took up a career in super heroing.
I know myself I’d be in this category. I don’t have the noble qualities to be a hero but I’m not a super villain. I agree at times with Frank Castle’s methods, but at times his execution is a little more for his gratification (I once read a comic where Frank smashed a man into a TV and another where he pulled out teeth from a guy before shooting him). If confronted with a warehouse full of money I’d probably take some BEFORE I burnt the rest.
I do wonder at times why Spiderman never killed Green Goblin or Daredevil never threw Wilson Fisk off the roof of his building or Batman finally ending the Clown Prince of Crime with ruthless efficiency.
1) A Bit of Research Goes A Long Way: So you want to write Deathstroke? Well read some old Deathstroke comics, look him up on Comic Vine and see what he’s like. Get a feel for them. If it’s an original character, make up their back story. Because you need a little knowledge because if you jump head long into your Deathstroke Vs Batman 90 page epic merely knowing that they both have cool costumes…you’re probably biting off more than you can chew and people may not comment on your stuff.
2) Put Them Through The Wringer: An antihero needs purpose and reason to do what they do. Frank Castle would’ve happily been a police officer for the rest of his days and never strapped on the skull unless his family was murdered BEFORE HIS EYES! Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson in the Deathwish series) would have just been a mumbling cop unless someone RAPED his daughter and KILLED his wife. Al Simmons was killed and made a really bad deal with a demon which in turn he lost his wife, soul and face!
The best example is Deathstroke. Though he’s more villain, though he flirts in the grey area. He got super powers, then lost them, watched one of his son’s get their throat CUT due to his own bravado, had his wife GOUGE his eye out, his other son died fighting by his side, his daughter joined the good guys after she CUT OUT HER OWN EYE to be like him, his best friend got his HEAD CUT OFF by his son inhabiting his body…pile on the pain and anguish to give them drive and purpose.
3) Attitude: The hero thinks they’re good. An antihero KNOWS they are good. An antihero usually has the inbuilt swagger and confidence. Best example is Han Solo and the moment he turns up in Star Wars. When he did, I wanted to be a smuggler! Sure I wanted a lightsaber but his attitude (blowing a hole through Greedo, flicking coins to the bar keep) made me want to be more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker, and Han could always steal a lightsaber if need be. Harry Callaghan from the Dirty Harry franchise has the same attitude about him; he knows he’s good and would be better if it wasn’t for all the red tape.
4) Relatable: Wild Dog. He’s just a guy in a hockey mask who kills people. Most of you may have never even heard of him and if you have you could probably tell me very little about him. Why does he kill people? I actually don’t know and care very little for him. But he has almost the exact method of operation that the Punisher does and if I random polled a group of nerds/fan-boys/geeks they could tell me the origin of the Punisher off the top of their head!covers this in How To Write Villains and it’s true, you need to be able to relate and connect with your antihero otherwise they are actually just some nut with a gun shooting up a shopping mall, a brief 15 minutes of fame and forgotten. Like DC’s
5) Flawed: The antihero is probably more flawed than a hero or even a villain. This links into the two above chapters, but they are damaged goods. Frank’s tortured by his family’s death and stubborn refusal to let it go. Batman swore vengeance and refuses to be happy. Dirty Harry just keeps pushing until something breaks.
6) Don’t Be Afraid To Get Dirty: An antihero will stand knee deep in raw sewerage, in a lightning storm, holding a beaten and battered enemy by the scruff of the neck getting ready to dunk the bastard into the filth AGAIN! When the last time Superman got dirty…my recollection was versus Manchester Black, and even then he faked the whole thing and still had a clean uniform! Antiheroes often end up in the worst places, chasing the worst people who have often done the worst stuff! Blood, mud, spittle, vomit, urine and raw sewerage can add to a story and change a simple chase into an enthralling cat and mouse pursuit.
7) Good Dialog: Notice that Dirty Harry has great one-liners? He’s written well. Try to give the punchy dialog to your heroes, your pontificating bad guys and just give your antihero what they NEED to say. Their actions often speak louder than words. But every so often they need some exposition eg “Do you feel lucky punk? Well? Do you?”
8) Shameless Self Promotion: You’re no Stephen King but every so often you need to shout out to people to read your stuff. Don’t do it on every story because people get pi$$ed at you (I know from experience) And be prepared for critiquing, correction and pointers along with praise, applause and congratulations because you need both because you’re not going to write Pulitzer Prize winning stories every time. Speaking of Pulitzer Prizes, have you read my Marvel Genesis: Punisher run? Well here they are:
Punisher’s New Biography & Timeline: http://marvel-genesis.wikispaces.com/Punisher
9) Just Write: Regardless of what I’ve written above, write what you like, when you like, as often as you like. There are really no right or wrong answers in fan-fic…EXCEPT spelling and grammatical errors which are inexcusable and punishable by death! Seriously run a spell check, copy it onto a word doc BEFORE you post…it does the work for you!
I hope this helps someone, at the very least gets a smile and a bunch of people to read my Punisher run.
Thank you and get writing
Kevin aka batkevin74