Superheroes are awesome, they have a high moral standing, do things the right way and give people a figure to aspire to. They’re inspirational individuals, doing things we wish we could do. Anti-heroes, well, they’re on the good side, most of the time, but they either have a much rougher way of getting things done, only do good because it benefits themselves, or sometimes act out against the general consensus of good for one reason or another. They’re wildcards, with people never really sure who’s side they’ll show up on or how they’re going to behave in certain situations. Sometimes they really are fighting the good fight, but with extremely violent methods often frowned upon by conventional superheroes, like the Punisher. Sometimes they’re absolute bastards in it for themselves, using they’re abilities to bring themselves more power, higher social standing or wealth, but have a twisted set of morals in there that ocassionally have them side with the just cause, like Jackie Estacado. They’re frequently complicated characters, and often misunderstood by many, and one of my favourite character types in comics.
The guidelines I’m using for counting a character as an anti-hero is they must either walk the line between good and bad, have crossed the line between good and bad multiple times, or use extreme methods in their fight for good. So, on with the list!
5. Spawn (Al Simmons)
He get’s a raw deal, doesn’t he? I know that’s generally what happens when you make a deal with the devil, but even considering the sheer stupidity behind that particular decision, you can’t help but feel sorry for Al. Stripped of pretty much all of his memories from before his death, he doesn’t even remember the colour of his own skin, he’s sent back to Earth as a hellspawn. He tries to fight the good fight, trying to reclaim his own memories in the process, but man he is a violent sod. And not only that, but there’s only so much good you can do when in the service of Lucifer, and unless he wants the devil himself constantly breathing down his neck and raining shit on him, Al has got to get his hands properly dirty from time to time.
Part of what drew me into this series was the wonderful art from Todd McFarlane, the hellspawn uniform looks absolutely incredible, with it’s flowing cloths and hanging chains. It get’s better too, with this being another series that has had the genius that is Greg Capullo working on it, coming in a little way through the series. One of my all time favourite series, Spawn has rightfully gone on to be one of the longest running independant titles in comics, although granted Al is no longer Spawn, but he will always be the best.
4. The Darkness (Jackie Estacado)
Another one who got a messed up deal, at the age of 21 Jackie inherited the powers of The Darkness. One part awesome, two parts curse, all seemed great at first when Jackie was learning what he could do. As a mafia hitman, the ability to literally wield the darkness around him was perfect for Jackie, anything he could imagine would pretty much just pop into his hands. Of course, this all came with a price, and as the series moves on we realise The Darkness itself is a sentient being from another dimension which is trying to exert it’s will over Jackie and make him it’s puppet.
Jackie was never a nice guy, let’s get that straight from the outset. His time in the orphanage was basically a string of fights, ocassionally broken up by relatively serene moments with his best friend Jenny. Once adopted by uncle Frankie, the mob boss, his fate as the ultimate bastard from hell was sealed, and Jackie flew through the mafia ranks and became Frankie’s most trusted. With The Darkness at his disposable Jackie became irreplacable.
Things change with a chance meeting with Batman, and this is where we see that Jackie has a dim light still flickering within, and he turns state evidence against Frankie and his mob. This is where it all unravels, Jenny gets killed and Jackie goes from bad to worse. We do see more good deeds come from him as time goes on, especially when Jackie starts having a closer relationship with Sara Pezzini (Witchblade). We also see considerably more depravity from him, and his violent nature is ever present throughout his series.
He has cool pets
3. The Huntress (Helena Bertinelli)
Another one raised in the mafia, Helena wasn’t allowed to be actively involved in the day to day business of her father thanks to the archaic rules of the mob. Helena became a highly trained badass nonetheless, except that she decided to use her skills for the good of the world rather than trying to make herself a tonne of money. The thing is, and this is the main reason that Batman discouraged her and tried to distance himself from her, Helena has no problem with permanently putting down the criminals she takes on. She’s a hero, but a killer, so that firmly places her in the anti-hero group.
Funnily enough, considering the “it’s too dark and grim waaah” complaints that pop up everywhere online about the New 52, the series which co-stars The Huntress and Power Girl, Worlds’ Finest, has actually toned Helena down considerably. She uses trick or blunt bolts in her crossbow now, only using traditional bolts to pin people in place. She’s still a fearsome hand to hand combatant, but hse’s not a killer anymore, which I find quite interesting.
The times she does team up with the Bat family are always extremely interesting, and even considering her fairly extreme methods I consider her as much of a member of the Bat family as the Red Hood, which is to say she’s a Bat. Even if not in name, she is, and I’m fairly confident that if push came to shove, Batman would have her back.
The more combat appropriate New 52 costume
2. Ravager (Rose Wilson)
Daughter of the infamous mercenary Deathstroke the Terminator, Rose Wilson was born from a love affair between Slade and Lillian Worth. She is kept a secret from Slade for her own safety as much as anything, but Wintergreen discovers Rose when she’s 14 and pretty much clocks it there and then that she’s Slade’s daughter. Already in posession of precognitive abilities, when she is taken in by Slade after DeFarge kills her adoptive parents Slade secretly injects her with the same serum that gave him his healing, super strength and amazing reflexes.
It sends her insane. Seriously insane. To the point where she attempts to bring herself closer to Slade by stabbing herself in the eye with a big ass knife.
Now, during this part of her career, she does, and has previously, work with the Teen Titans. And she really tries, no one trusts her mind you, but she wants to throw off the shackles of her father and try to help make things right. Problem is, she struggles to control her abilities and mental state, and automatically goes in for the kill when an opponent is beating. It’s pretty tough for someone like that to fit into a team like the Teen Titans. So she fits the bill quite nicely, she’s walked the dark path, moved over to the light with violent methods, moved back into darkness again and killed all the way through. Good stuff, Rose.
You’d think she’d value depth perception…
1. Black Cat (Felicia Hardy)
On-off lover of Spider-Man (note: not of Peter Parker) the Black Cat is a highly trained, incredibly talented burglar. She has a great relationship with Spidey, and her interactions with his current girlfriend, whoever that may be at the time, is always really funny. She’s been a member of The Defenders, a team up partner with Spidey, a nemesis of Spidey and a thief totally out for herself.
While much of her activities fall into the “crime” column, she has a great sense of loyalty to those who help her and work with her. As they say, there is honour among thieves. Wait, that’s not how it goes, is it? Never mind, Felicia walks the fine line between good and bad, sometimes dipping her toe in either side but never really fully jumping into either pool.
She also has a really cool super power, thanks to some dodgy experiments performed on her. She has the ability to essentially force bad luck onto people, again something which usually has hilarious consequences. There’s a great scene with Spidey swinging through New York (I forget which issue, I know it was Amazing Spider-Man and within the last 5 or 6 years) when one of his webs snaps, and both of his web shooters instantly run out at the same time.
A lot of the time when Felicia shows up, you know that you can sit back and enjoy some light hearted, fun capers. The only time I think I’ve read anything with her as a main character where things have been really awful was the Kevin Smith “The Evil That Men Do” story line, which was still a cracking read. So yeah, Felicia stands as my favourite anti-hero, after her very brief appearance in Superior Spider-Man I really hope we get more of her when ASM returns shortly.
How do you sneak is something that squeeks?
And that wraps up this week’s top 5. Thanks for stopping by and checking it out, not sure what I’ll be going for off the list next week but there’s some stuff I’m really looking forward to going through. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next 31 days post. Take care everyone, and good night!