Anti Heroes – Cinematic Bad Boys Who Aren’t All Bad – By Mike Wilson

There really aren’t any pure heroes anymore, are there? I suppose you could name a few if you tried, like, um…Luke Skywalker. But while the Star wars movies are fantastically popular, Skywalker is actually a boring character. A hero without flaws or a mean streak is hard thing to sell nowadays. Han Solo of Star Wars could be considered a Hero, and he’s a lot more interesting than Luke Skywalker. Seriously….Solo is brash, arrogant, tricky, a bit of a scoundrel and not totally honest. He’s what they call an Anti-Hero.

Anti-heroes are heroes…or at least protagonists that have some flaw or shortcomings that make them imperfect. Still they act for good, either directly or their actions do good indirectly. Usually they are far more interesting than the true-blue hero. Face it; most true blue heroes are boring. Yeah, they might be in movies and TV shows that are great, but heroes with no faults are snore inducing. I don’t know about you but I want my heroes to be a bit like me. I’m not perfect….I might shoot first if I felt like I was in danger. I would probably beat up a defeated enemy if I was angry enough. Hell, I might kill a guy if I felt it was necessary. Those aren’t easy words to put down here; no one wants to really look at their dark side. No, we prefer to live them out by watching anti-heroes perform the tasks we probably wouldn’t do ourselves.

In our modern society, most of the anti-heroes we watch in the media have one thing in common….they’re what I call cold-blooded to a certain extent. It’s because of our societies values they’re considered this way. They’ll kill if need be and sometimes when they don’t have to. Some of them are only a teeny-weeny bit better than the villains they fight. Just for the fun of it, I came up with this little Cold blooded rating scale:

(1) Warm- This guy might do some dastardly deeds, but he’s not really all that bad. Only does dirty deeds when no other realistic choice is available.

(2) Cold– Doesn’t really connect with others well. Prefers to be alone and doesn’t mind breaking the rules or a few heads to get the job done. Likely to kick your ass if you get in his way.

(3) Icy-Definitely willing to kick your ass if you look at him cross-eyed. Will have no problems abandoning comrades or acting out of pure self interest. Always looks out for number one.

(4) Frozen- Doesn’t really give a hoot about rules or laws or even friends. They’re just people that might be useful to this character. Able to kill enemies without a care….or anyone else that interferes with him or her.

(5) Glacial- Really doesn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves and/or their goals. Any ends justify the means. Other people practically don’t exist for this character. They’re either pawns or obstacles.

Here’s a list of some of the more interesting Antiheroes I’ve seen on TV and the movies. For the most part these characters are the reasons some of these shows or movies achieved popularity, even if they weren’t the main star. Hey, keep in mind, there are probably characters that could fit on this list that I don’t know about or didn’t consider. (Heck, if you can think of anyone post it in the forums).

Kerr Avon (Blake’s Seven, TV Show) On the UK science fiction series, Blake’s Seven, Avon proved that the bad guys didn’t have a monopoly on ruthlessness. (If you consider that Avon is supposed to be one of the Good Guys) On the run from the totalitarian government of the Terran Federation, Avon always had a backup plan that involved abandoning his shipmates if it would save his own neck. Its no secret either….he admits it to them several times. After Gareth Thomas left the series as Blake, Avon became the leader of the small band of Freedom Fighters even though he was probably the most popular with the fans from the beginning. To Avon the ends always justified the means…he’s used his friends as bait in traps he’s set for his enemies, and he was quite willing to happily kill his comrade Vila to insure his own survival in the episode Orbit. (Note: He didn’t kill Vila, but only because he found a last minute solution to his problems that didn’t require Vila’s demise.)

Cold Blooded Level: Frozen. On a scale of 1 to five, Avon gets a 4. He seems to never be swayed by emotion or feelings.

Abilities and Talents: An expert at electronics and computers. Superb tactician. Leaves nothing to chance, and doesn’t believe in luck. Avon is an interesting mix of an intellectual and cold blooded killer.

Would you want to Team up with him: The only way I’d ever team up with Avon is if I could be assured that he wouldn’t kill me. Avon is honorable enough to keep his word, but he’ll happily sacrifice anyone that threatens his own survival. Thus, if you team up with him and become a liability, he won’t hesitate to get rid of you. He may not kill you himself but he certainly wouldn’t go out of his way to save you.

Tyr Anasazi out of Victoria by Barbarossa (Andromeda, TV Show) And yep, that’s his real name. I wouldn’t make fun of it to his face, either, because Tyr is a big, mean dude! Tyr is a Nietzchean, a member of a genetically altered race of human beings that follow the philosophy of Nietzsche like Holy writ. He joined the cast of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda from the beginning of the series and has never been fully trusted by his shipmates….with good reason. Tyr’s burning ambition is to get revenge on the Nietzchean Clans that destroyed his own clan and assume leadership of them. To that end, he’s lied, made underhanded moves and used his friends on the spaceship Andromeda since day one. Eventually in Season three he’s found out and leaves the ship, but he returns as a recurring character. I don’t get to see the show that much, but from what I have seen Tyr is not to be trifled with. (I own several seasons of the DVD’s) On one hand you have to admire him, though….he’s only done what his own personal code of conduct and his Nietzchean ways direct him to do.

Cold Blooded Level: (5) Glacial. Tyr depends only on Tyr. He’s saved the other members of the crew on occasion, but you can tell it’s only because they are useful for his purposes.

Abilities and Talents: Tyr is a mercenary and thus acquainted with the use of many kinds of weapons. The bigger the better. He’s also a formidable hand to hand opponent and space pilot. He has a talent for subterfuge and deception, which is how he’s kept the crew of the andromeda out of his way for so long.

Would you want to Team up with him: Not really. In a scrape Tyr would make a good ally, since he’s a fighter’s fighter. But once you prove useless to him he’ll either kill you himself or backstab you.

The Punisher (Marvel Comics, Movies: The Punisher (1989), The Punisher (2004) ) In the comic version, The Punisher is Frank Castle an ex-marine commando. His family is murdered by the mob and he becomes the Punisher to exact vengeance. His first appearance in the movies followed that origin except that he was a cop, not a soldier. That movie, starring Dolph Lundgren didn’t fare well with fans. But he reappeared on the big screen again in 2003, this time as a retired DEA agent. No matter how they explain his origin though, the results are the same. The Punisher operates outside of the law and goes after evil-doers with the intent to kill. He doesn’t call it revenge, he thinks of it as mere punishment for their deeds. But his punishment is final. He doesn’t act with the idea that criminals should go to jail…he acts with the idea that criminals should be pushing up daisies. Though the authorities and perhaps the general public don’t like his methods, no one can deny that the results are effective.

Cold Blooded Level: (3) Icy. The Punisher doesn’t have any compassion for criminals. He’ll kill them without batting an eye and with intent that cannot be denied. He won’t harm an innocent person, though. He views the police and the law as ineffective but he once surrendered to them (in the comic books) rather than open fire on them. Still, if you’re a law breaker, expect no quarter from the Punisher.

Abilities and Talents: The Punisher is an expert with all manner of firearms and hand to hand fighting. He often plans out his attacks with great detail. He’s tenacious and hard to kill also.

Would you want to Team up with him: That would depend. If I needed to get some payback on the mob I might. The downside is that the Punisher is a hunted man, both by the authorities and the criminal elements he’s working to take out.

Blade (Marvel Comics, Movies: Blade, Blade II, Blade: Trinity) Can someone dedicated to destroying an evil like the Vampires be an anti-hero? Of course! Blade, half vampire, half human, is determined to kill all of the bloodsuckers, and any mortals helping his enemies are fair game also. In his first movie Blade made it clear that he wouldn’t brook any interference from the police. They opened fire on him and even though he was unharmed by it he asked them if they were crazy quite menacingly. When he found a police officer was in cahoots with his enemies he beat the tar out of the guy and was quite ready to shoot him at one point. Clearly the ends justify the means for Blade….get between him and his prey and you might forfeit your life. Blade doesn’t have time for the laws and trappings of our world. He won’t go out of his way to hurt innocent people, and he’ll do what he can to minimize any damage, but to him its collateral damage as long as he gets the job done.

Cold Blooded Level: (3) Icy. Blade only rarely shows any feeling other than anger and rage. He cares for his comrade, Whistler, and any friends he might make in his private war, but even to them he’s a bit cold. Blade opened fire on his nemesis, Deacon Frost while the vampire tried to use a child to shield himself. Blade only went to save the kid after it was obvious that he wasn’t going to get to kill Frost that day. He’s willing to sacrifice a life to get his foes, it seems. You can’t make mayonnaise unless you crack some eggs.

Abilities and Talents: Blade is faster, stronger and more agile than an average human being. He has the abilities of a vampire but none of the weaknesses. He can exist in daylight. His only vampire weakness is a lust for blood that he contains with an artificial serum. He heals rapidly and is extremely hard to kill. He is a master at using bladed weapons, firearms and hand to hand combat.

Would you want to Team up with him: If I were hunting vampires I’d want Blade on my side. He has an indomitable will and is confident in his abilities to the verge of arrogance.

Wolverine (Marvel comics, TV Show: Uncanny X-Men (animated) Movies: X-Men, X-Men II: X-Men United) Did you know that Wolverine started his lengthy career as a villain? Well, not a really bad villain, but he was a foe of the Incredible Hulk. The X-Men movies portray Wolverine as a solid hero, though he’s a bit of a loner in that team environment. No doubt that because children are likely to be the biggest fans of those flicks, Wolverine’s darker side isn’t made very clear in them. In the comic books Wolverine was loose cannon when he first joined the X-Men. His tendency to kill his opponents with his razor sharp, unbreakable claws disturbed his teammates. But let’s be honest, his powers seem to be designed simply for killing. Both in the movies and the comic books great strides have been taken to show that Wolverine only uses lethal force when he has no choice. In the comic book story when the X-Men faced the Hellfire Club, Wolverine supposedly killed three bad guy henchmen. However, Marvel Comics at that time was trying to make their comics a bit more kid-friendly, so a later story explained that Wolverine “almost” killed the trio of bad guys, but they survived. Hmmmph. What a way to screw up a great character’s rep. Wolverine isn’t a murderer, but he is a killer. Like the Punisher, he’ll kill a bad guy with no qualms, but won’t hurt an innocent person. His bloodthirsty, feral side puts him at odds with the good guys….and that’s just where Wolverine ought to be.

Cold Blooded Level: (2) Cold. Wolverine isn’t unfeeling, but he’s a hard nut to crack. He’s loyal to his friends and teammates. If a situation requires brutality and lethal force, though, he won’t hesitate to carve someone up.

Abilities and Talents: Wolverine has a mutant ability to heal from any wound almost instantly. In the movie X-Men II he even recovers from a gunshot to the head in a few minutes. His bones have been laced with an unbreakable metal and his claws are made of the same stuff. Wolverine also possesses heightened senses.

Would you want to Team up with him: Hell, Yeah! Wolverine is da man you want covering your back. Not only is he completely capable of taking on almost any foe, he’s a pretty decent guy when you get to know him.

Darkman (Movies: Darkman, Darkman II: The Return of Durant, Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die!) Dr. Peyton Westlake only wanted to help people before a gang of criminals destroyed his life. Horribly disfigured by fire, Westlake rebuilt his lab in an abandoned building and tries to perfect his “liquid skin” so that he can rejoin society. There are only a few kinks in that plan. An unorthodox medical procedure has rendered him immune to pain (or any other sensation of touch), and the liquid skin can only last 99 minutes in sunlight. That really sucks for him, but it sucks worse for his enemies. Darkman is fueled by almost uncontrollable rage, which gives him many times the normal strength of a man and 99 minutes is usually long enough for him to disguise himself as almost anyone when he goes out to get some payback. Though he isn’t an evil person, Darkman still walks among the ranks of the Anti Heroes because he dispatches his enemies with extreme prejudice and usually cackles “Die! Die! Die!!!” While he does so. Also, he’s insane. Darkman borders on being a Tragic hero as well, as his plight seems irrevocable.

Cold Blooded Level: (2) Cold. Darkman shies away from human contact, as many normal people are frightened of his appearance. He won’t harm an innocent person, but a criminal or anyone that has crossed him will be lucky to survive an encounter with him.

Abilities and Talents: Darkman seems to be able to mimic anyone with his liquid skin, making him a master of disguise. He’s a brilliant scientist and his liquid skin, though flawed, is the work of genius.

The medical procedure that took away his sense of touch also has driven him partially insane and gives him uncontrollable bursts of adrenalin charged rage. Anger makes him at least as strong as five men. His insanity makes him a dangerous foe.

Would you want to Team up with him: Yeah. If I needed to get some revenge on a bad guy, I’d want Darkman to help me out. He seems to fear nothing, he plays for keeps.

Doctor Zachary Smith (TV Show: Lost in space, Movies: Lost in Space) Dr. Smith is probably one of Science fiction’s most loved Anti-heroes…at least to the baby boomer generation. Even if you thought Lost in space was a silly show, you’ll still have an idea of who Dr. Smith was. Smith’s main goal in the first season of the show was to destroy the Jupiter II spacecraft and kill the space traveling family Robinson. That’s evil enough, but Smith’s goals changed a bit when he became marooned in outer space with the Robinsons. He wanted to go back to Earth and to that end he reprogrammed the Robinson’s Robot to do his bidding. His plan….kill the Robinsons and return to Earth without them. You see, Dr. Smith was a thoroughly evil and self-centered villain until the 2nd season of Lost in Space. That’s when he became the cowardly, bumbling, cartoony character most people remember. Instead of being somewhat scary, the 2nd season Dr. Smith was like the dishonest uncle that your parents tell you not to listen to. A bad influence, but harmless enough to be tolerated. And to be honest, it’s this incarnation that gives Smith his Anti-Hero status. Since he was no longer bent on killing the Robinsons, his adventures with young Will and the now friendly Robot were what made up most of the show. Smith might have been greedy, lazy, and untrustworthy, but he became part of the Robinson Family and he’s a villain fans weren’t afraid to root for. Its worth noting that the movie version of Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) is fiendishly evil. Unfortunately, that movie sucked.

Cold Blooded Level: In the first Season, Dr. Smith scored a (5) Glacial level. He was totally ruthless. He intended on killing every one of the Robinsons, even the children, Will and Penny. After that season though he gets a (1) Warm level. He was still a scoundrel, but he obviously cared for Will, like a grandson, and he didn’t want to kill the Robinsons anymore. (Probably because his own survival depended on their survival.) The movie version of smith gets a (3) Icy.

Abilities and Talents: Smith is a medical doctor and apparently a computer genius. He easily reprograms the robot to obey only him and throughout the shows run, seems to be able to repair and adjust the machine. When he’s introduced he’s an Air force colonel, but he doesn’t seem to have any military skills whatsoever.

Would you want to Team up with him: Hell, no. Smith is a coward. He’d turn tail and run when danger looms as sure as the sun will cross the sky. He’s completely undependable also. The Movie version is even worse. He’s a backstabbing bastard.

Mad Max (Movies: Mad Max, Mad Max II: The road warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) Discounting his third movie, Mad Max Beyond thunderdome, Max is a man that will survive his post-apocalyptic world at any cost. When Max first walked into screen history he went after the men that killed his wife and child with cruel efficiency. In his second outing Max looked out for his own self interests and well being, only aiding the other survivors when he had no choice. Max is a reluctant hero, preferring to be left alone rather than involve himself with the troubles of others unless it suits him. His third movie Beyond Thunderdome was sort of Mad Max Lite. But anyone who has seen Mad Max and The Road Warrior knows that Max will do whatever he has to stay alive and that he doesn’t have a problem terminating anyone that gets in his way.

Cold Blooded Level: (2) Cold. Max was willing to kill the Gyro-Captain when they first met. He didn’t really give a damn if the crazy bastard lived or died. The same with the other survivors he stumbled across in The Road Warrior. He just wanted fuel for his car, and didn’t really care what happened to anyone else. And of course in the first movie he was driven by grief and vengeance which allowed him to dispatch the bikers that murdered his family.

Abilities and Talents: Max was a police officer before the world fell apart, so it’s safe to assume that he knows how to fight at least reasonably well. He’s also a demon behind the wheel of his souped up V-8. (At least before it was destroyed). Max also knows something about explosives since he rigged his car to self destruct if it was tampered with.

Would you want to Team up with him: In a post apocalyptic world I would. Max is a survivor.

Q (TV shows: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager) He’s mad, bad and dangerous to know. Q is an alien with god-like powers. He can do anything, at least anything that our puny human minds can comprehend. To the casual viewer of Star Trek The Next Generation it would seem that Q uses his immense power to torment the crew of the USS Enterprise (and Deep Space Nine, and Voyager in his appearances on those shows) but there’s a method to his madness. Captain Picard remarked that by tossing the Enterprise into Borg space, Q actually helped the Federation by letting them know that there a danger lurking for them in deep space. Q also helped Picard relive his past and get over his regrets in the episode Tapestry. And in the final episode of the series it was Q’s interference that gave Picard the vital clue he needed to save the galaxy. Even though he’s done some good with these actions, Q delights in mean tricks and petty uses of his power. He knows that mere mortals can’t harm him, so to him it’s all in good fun. In His single appearance on Deep Space Nine, Q acted out of pure self interest and didn’t hesitate to pluck commander Sisko’s nerves for awhile before leaving. His later appearance on Star Trek Voyager had him trying to save his own people and he was a bit of an annoyance to the crew. All in all, Q is sort of a good guy. No one is happy to see him, really, but his visits usually end with him performing some kind of aid, whether directly or indirectly. But then again, he’s omnipotent… can anything he does be considered indirect?

Cold Blooded Level: (1) Warm. Q isn’t as cold blooded as he himself may like to think he is. He has never directly harmed anyone on the Enterprise, DS9 or Voyager. He’s tormented them, for sure, but to him it’s a big joke. A mean joke, but a jibe nonetheless. (The only time he is seen to act out of pure malice is a threat to an alien cloud being when his powers were stripped and then restored on ST:TNG and a cruel trick to Vash on DS9) He doesn’t seem to care too much for the actual feelings of mortals.

Abilities and Talents: There is nothing beyond the power of Q.

Would you want to Team up with him: Nope. Q is a braggart and it would get tiresome. He didn’t like it when Vash decided to break up their partnership and he hounded her about it. I can’t think of anything worse than an omnipotent alien badgering you like a lovesick puppy.

The Man with No Name (Movies: Fistful of dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The good the Bad and the Ugly) Bandit. Thief. Gunfighter. This is a good guy? Well, in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western trilogy he is. In the finale of that series, The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, he is given the nickname Blondie, and he’s obviously the Good of the movies three protagonists. Well, he’s only “The Good” because he’s not a bad as the others. Blondie is by no means a good guy though….he’s out for number one and his quick draw and uncanny aim make him a dangerous fellow to cross.

Cold Blooded Level: (4) Frozen. Blondie has no problems with double crossing Tuco in the TGTB&TU. The only thing that makes it not seem as heinous as it is, is the fact that Tuco is a murdering bandit. Blondie doesn’t seem to have any concern for anyone else and he’ll gun you down for money if he needs to.

Abilities and Talents: Blondie is one of the fastest and deadliest Gunfighters in the Old West.

Would you want to Team up with him: Not really. I’d only partner up with this guy if I needed some help in a gunfight. Other than that he’s not very trustworthy. Yeah, he’s only backstabbed people that would or have backstabbed him, but he’s not completely honest. And I don’t think I could out draw him.