The Good, The Bad, & This Kid: “Xaphanism”
By Josh Stone
The late 80s through the mid-90s gave birth to a relatively new movement in the comic book medium. This movement brought about the “anti-hero;” the main hero who is not classically heroic. The classic hero is noble, fights evil on evil’s terms and will always prevail. The anti-hero throws those rules out the window. He’ll kill evil anyway he sees fit; he’ll pretty much do whatever he damn well pleases if he thinks it’s for the right reasons. To be fair, this movement started long before the 80s, we called them westerns. The 80s and 90s saw the outlaw cowboy taken one step further, where the cowboy would kill any man so much as crossed him wrong, the anti-hero would kill any man so much as crossed him.
We’ve drifted away from any extreme form of any one of those archetypes as of late. We don’t have die hard cowboys anymore than we have die hard anti-heroes. We’ve merged the two into something more human, but just as scary. Our society has a hunger for these types of characters. We hold them higher than the classic idealistic characters that led the way for comic books today. It’s my belief that our society seeks out characters who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, because our own justice has failed so many times before. Not merely in real life, but in comics as well. The classic hero would never kill the villain, he’d beat the villain black and blue and send him to jail. That led to the villain coming back in six issues. This rings too close to home, and so our society of let down victims cries out for justice, western style.
There is nothing wrong with the classic heroes: Batman, Superman, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Flash. These heroes are some of the best comic books have to offer, and they all share the fact that they would never willing take the life of any criminal. However, all these heroes are failures, no matter how classic and how respected they may be, at the end of the day they have failed their respected cities. Anti-heroes leave no room for mistakes, they leave no room for failure. When they take down a villain, they make sure the villain stays down. That’s the core reason why our society of blood thirsty victims accepts and applauds these characters. At the end of the day; however, the anti-hero is no better than the scum he stops.
One of the main reasons why our society has embraced the anti-hero, is because we see ourselves in them. We’re not a peace loving people, if someone hurts us, we aim to hurt back. Characters like the Punisher reflect the dark image of our society. We live vicariously through these characters, using them as an escape from our failed laws. Many readers put themselves in character’s places while they read, and our idealistic heroes of yore don’t hold up for us anymore. We as a society have grown tired of seeing the criminals have more rights than their victims, but the part of us that is still civil and domesticated clings to our laws; so we escape through the anti-hero. Cheering for the guy who kills the criminals before they have a chance to get away with murder.
So, the anti-hero has made his stamp on our society long before the 80’s comics could. The western tales of rouge cowboy cops avenging their family’s murder has had a facelift for our modern times. We’ve replaced the lonesome cowboy and his trusted horse with many different variations, but keeping the idea the same. Where the law fails, the anti-hero will be there. A vigilante beyond those of Batman, Daredevil and Spider-Man. The anti-hero knows that the criminals will slip through the courts, and plays judge, jury and executioner before the system can. Where our classic comic book heroes strive to believe in justice and in the system, and where they sometimes work side-by-side with the system; the anti-hero does not. Because, at the center of the anti-hero is a criminal. He knows it and so do the readers, but yet we continue to pull for him because of how let down we our by our system.
This is the part of my column where I mention something I’ve read, or watched that I think is worth checking out. This week; however, I want to use it for something else. I want to encourage anyone who might be reading this to go out and create something. Bring something positive into our negative world. Use whatever your talent may be, and bring about something new. Take whatever inspires you, turn it around and create something beautiful. Our world needs more creativity, don’t let it stop after you’re done reading, watching or listening to something.
I hope everyone enjoyed themselves this week, I’ll be back in seven. ‘Til next time…
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