by Rauf Fadzilla

Pix Credit:, Marvel Comics
The original anti-hero of the Marvel Universe...who strangely did not get an entry in the article below
The verdict is in. Tough guys rule and dweebs drool. Judging from the trend that has steadily progressed in recent years across all mediums of popular culture (movies, games, comics...etc), it would seem that we now prefer our heroes bloodier and towing the line between "good" and "bad".

Personally, I’ve always been more interested in the darker side of life and by the meaner characters that inhabit the fictitious worlds of popular culture. It took a while, but it would seem that I'm not alone anymore (thank God).

So what the heck is an anti-hero anyway? Well, it’s a character who is technically the good guy of the story but who does some seriously bad guy stuff that’s out of the hero boundary which still doesn’t warrant the character to be the villain of the story. Confusing huh? Think of it as a sort of teacher that beats you up but means well.

I suspect that this shift may have something to do with the nihilistic and more destructive tendencies of the world we live in today or maybe we're just becoming more screwed up people, numbed by the usual gore and violence presented on TV and in the news.

Whatever the reason, we've somehow become jaded with the normal definitions of morality and are more into exploring the gray areas of life.  


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Back in the day, we had Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain America - super heroic individuals with unshakeable principles and a penchant for brightly-coloured tights with the underwear worn over the pants (I could never figure out why they did that). Interestingly, we also had emotionally dead heroes like Batman and Wolverine, tragic boy wonders like Spiderman and Robin, and good guys who are naturally aligned to complete opposites of all things right such as Lobo, Spawn, and Ghost Rider. So it kind of balances out somewhat

As for the heroes of the modern day era, we have Sandman’s Morpheus and Lucifer Morningstar. Dark, complicated and brooding characters.

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And who could forget Marv, the ultimate anti-hero bludgeoning his way through the depths of Sin City - a town filled with nothing but anti-heroes and bad men.

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Anti-heroes can come in groups like the frail and flawed cast of The Watchmen or in power packed individuals like gun-slinging gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem (modeled after Hunter S Thompson) in Warren Ellis' graphic novel Transmetropolitan.

Spider Jerusalem embodies the anti-hero ethos as he battles the corruption and abuse of power of two successive United States presidents in a dystopian future city known only as 'The City".

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Even when I was a kid, I grew up on a heavy diet of X-Men comic books and in the X-Men universe I got swept up in the story of Gambit who was from a community of Thieves who were perpetually at war with another clan called The Assassins.

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And then there was Legion, the son of Professor Xavier.

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Legion was the baddest mutant on the planet and suffered from his inherent psychokinetic abilities as well as severe multiple personality disorder (for those of you who don't know, that's the same condition that many of our staff writers get after too many cups of coffee).

Legion's different personalities triggered different powers that drove him completely loony. 

Even classic detectives that we've grown to love have been given the anti-hero rubdown in their most recent on screen depictions.

Sherlock Holmes
Before: Played by Basil Rathbone as a stoic super-sleuth.

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After: Played by Robert Downie Jr as some sort of Victorian Jack Sparrow on land.

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There’s also the extremely sarcastic House, which was based on Holmes.

The legendary James Bond AKA 007's interesting transition manages to keep the charm but with an added sense of brutishness, danger and meanness in his most recent portrayal by Daniel Craig (just look at him for crap’s sake! He doesn't even need to hold the gun).

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Not to forget, Riddick, the dark protagonist played by Vin Diesel in the Chronicles of Riddick.

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The trend it seems continues to films outside the mainstream such as the cult revenge flick from South Korea, Old boy which featured a main character, Oh Dae-su on a homicidal path of destruction after being locked up in a hotel room for 15 years by a rich psychopath.

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Solid Snake (Metal Gear)
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Snake, spy and commando extraordinaire from the game Metal Gear Solid spares no one in his relentless pursuit of his mission's objectives.

When it comes to companies that are pushing the boundaries, no other name is more popular (and more controversial) than Rockstar Games who produced the video games Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt and Bully which allows the player to control anti-heroes with questionable motives.

Rockstar Games
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Grand Theft Auto (GTA)
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These are just some of the numerous anti-heroes and heroines. Attempting to cover them all in this one article would inevitably lead to servers crashing and tech people throwing themselves off buildings, so I'll stop here.

See if you can spot some more the next time you're out at the movies or browsing the aisles of the bookstore.

Look! Here's a collectible sticker (Right click to save). Collect them all!