By Delphic 9 Comments
One of the last things anyone would suspect a villain to show is compassion, but here recently within the past year or so I’ve noticed it pop up from time to time. Most of your villains are capable of showing compassion, but usually there is an ulterior motive to their methods. Mostly it seems to involve the villain keeping their heroic counterparts on equal footing. Rather than take their enemies down in a moment of weakness, a sense of chivalry seems to take over as they either help bring their enemy back up, or set them back on the right path. Pity can also be considered as another form of compassion though. It’s a more negative form of it, but a form of it nonetheless.
The most recent form of compassion in the form of pity from a villain came from Killer Croc in a flashback moment in Red Hood and the Outlaws #3. We get a glimpse into Roy Harper’s most treasured memory, and as strange as it would seem, Roy’s treasured memory involves being brutally beaten by a cannibalistic monster that looks like a seven and a half foot tall crocodile. Roy refuses to back down though despite the fact that Killer Croc has broken his bow, crushed his quiver, and wailed on him repeatedly. Croc figures out though that Roy is trying to commit suicide in a “falling on his own sword” method, and that Roy is using him to do it. Then in a manner –that is very unlike Croc—Waylon takes hold of the boy and tells him to pretty much “to get his head out of his butt and move on with his life.”
This was the last place I honestly expected any kind of pity to come from. I don’t think we will really ever know why Croc didn’t snap Roy’s neck right there. Perhaps, Roy came across Waylon as so particularly pathetic at that moment, and that there was no real challenge or glory in defeating the boy. Maybe Waylon could relate to Roy’s moment of weakness which was why he gave him a second chance at living. It’s apparent though that for some reason a monster had a moment of compassion. Waylon is not the only villain to have shown compassion here lately though.
During the “Odyssey” storyline in the final issues of last year’s Wonder Woman volume Diana finds herself near death at the hands of fallen Amazons who have been resurrected by the Morrigan. Had it not been for Doctor Psycho’s obsessive nature, Diana would have died at the hands of Artemis and the others. Obsession is another form of passion and in passion one can show compassion and that is just what Doctor Psycho does here. Doctor Psycho leads Diana through parts in her mind to help her rediscover herself so she can fight against the Morrigan when the time comes, and he was also responsible for having her put in a hospital so she could be physically restored to health. Even though Doctor Psycho showed compassion in this storyline it was really based on the ulterior motive that she might feel passion towards him, and that’s the thing about villains who show compassion. There is always an ulterior motive.
Another example of ulterior motive compassion is shown by Talia Al Ghul in Red Hood the Lost Days. It was not compassion she felt for Jason that led her to throw Jason in the Lazurus pit against her father’s orders as much as it was more of a means to try to get Bruce to love her by giving him back something he lost. Things did not quite go to plan as Jason emerged from the pit a different being enraged that Bruce had not killed the Joker. Talia decides to help Jason though when she could have abandoned him. It is her own twisted love for Bruce that leads her to show compassion to Jason through training, resources, being a confidant, and even being a lover to him.
Perhaps the oldest compassion in the DC universe I’ve noticed comes from hatred and insanity. Though this is loosely based around the concept of there being no Batman without a Joker, it is still true that Batman is still alive when the Joker could have killed him several times and vice versa. It is probably more understandable for Batman to show compassion to the Joker by repeatedly throwing him into Arkham Asylum every time he breaks out, but that is the most obvious scenario. The Joker has even shown compassion to the Batman. Throughout several times in comics and other media there are references the Joker makes about Batman being his “favorite play thing”, which is what keeps the Joker from killing Batman or even unmasking him. During the events of "The Return of Bruce Wayne", the Joker went under the alias Oberon Sexton and served as a Batman expert and informant to the new Batman, Dick Grayson. The Joker was even the one responsible for burying the main villain alive at the end of the epic story arc. Though a twisted method of compassion the secrets and unspoken pacts between the Batman and Joker are still compassion shared by two insane men who both share “one bad day.”
Compassion in comics is not really an uncommon thing. Heroes show it all the time. In fact there is an entire lantern corps based off the emotion compassion. When villains show compassion though, it usually means something unique for the universal storyline throughout a comic universe. When Villains show compassion to their counterparts on the side of the law it usually means that the hero or heroine has reached an all-time low in their careers and the villain is the only one who can bring them back up. So what does this really say about our heroes? When our heroes have hit rock bottom the only one there for them to turn to is their arch-nemesis who on any other day of the week would love to see their brains splattered on the side of a wall? Perhaps the saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer is true after all.