Darryl Knickrehm is a filmmaker, writer and illustrator, who was co-editor/co-publisher of Waylines Magazine. He is also the creator of his own anti-hero: The Immortal. A limited series comic that is part hard-boiled mystery, part sci-fi manga, the first digital issue launches in October. A Kickstarter campaign is running now to make the trade paperback edition possible. Only from August 14-September 12. Check it out now.
written and drawn by Darryl Knickrehm
SOMETIMES WE DON’T WANT A HERO
We all get a little disillusioned from time to time. The world can be a fairly daunting place when things don’t go our way, and especially, if they go the wrong way. And when we delve into our fantasies to take a break from reality, sometimes seeing a figure better than ourself, someone who is perfect, above judgment, and beyond fallacy, is just not what we want. Sometimes what we need is a hero that is a little flawed, someone who’s got problems, someone who is, well, like us. That and the ability to beat the crap out of badguys.
SOMETIMES WE NEED AN ANTI-HERO
The past few years our heroes have gotten a lot darker. Take the current trend of superhero movies. Batman has truly turned into a dark knight. Superman is more down to earth. Even the Marvel pantheon has changed to fit the times. And most of the figures of modern sci-fi aren’t any better. Figures like Mad Max, Riddick or The Terminator are as anti-hero as you can get. I guess we all want our fantasy in a world that remotely reflects our own. And apparently, for most people, the modern world is a dark and scary place.
In actuality, this is how it has always been. The anti-hero has always been a part of our speculative fiction. Here are 3 that prove age doesn’t matter.
There’s a reason this book was made in to a film. There’s a reason that film is also a classic. It has a distinct vision of the future. A future rife with social issues, a future living in the fallout of war. It’s a future a lot of people really fear. Most importantly of all, however, is its main character: Rick Deckard.
Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter. That’s an anti-hero’s profession if there ever was one. Underneath the surface, however, Deckard resembles the private dicks from hardboiled crime novels. He works outside the law, he has an affair with a client, he is low on the social ladder. What makes Deckard a true anti-hero, however, is that he’s depressed. He feels trapped in his life, a life where his wife is maudlin, a life where he can’t afford to be the person he wants, a life that he cannot control. This is not Superman. This is not even the Dark Knight. Deckard’s not trying to do good, he’s just trying to feel normal.
Rick Deckard (aka Phillip K Dick) has to be one of the most influential characters on this list.
While DADoES (or Dick’s other works) may not have been Harry Potter-famous during Dick’s lifetime, his works went on to influence many other important writers and become movies that helped define the genre. Thank you Mr. Dick. And thank you Rick Deckard.
The Stars My Destination is what many call the grandfather of modern cyberpunk. And there is good reason. TSMD is a world filled with corporate overlords, a world where society can’t keep up with changing technology, a world that is believable, something that reflects the real world. This complex world would not have worked, however, without its barbaric, vengeful protagonist – Gully Foyle.
Gully Foyle is pretty much the definition of a loser. He has no education, no life, no ambition. He is brutish. He is violent. On top of all of that, he reacts primitively to the world. If someone doesn’t help him, he hates them. If someone doesn’t do what he wants, he overpowers them. And that is because there is only one thing Foyle cares about in TSMD: revenge.
Vengeance against the Vorga is Foyle’s single driving purpose. This is definitely not the motivation of an average hero. But in a world where the people in power aren’t any better than the bad guys, it’s hard not to root for a figure who could lay waste to it all.
And that is what makes Foyle work, just like all great anti-heroes. His story is a foil to the reader’s frustrations with society in the real world. And maybe that’s why the cyberpunk and dystopian genres of today have become so popular. Both, however, need to give a nod to Mr. Foyle.
The final figure on this list could quite possibly be one of the most evil men in fiction. And the reason isn’t so much the vile things that he does, but because he is just so darn likeable.
Alex, the narrator of A Clockwork Orange, is a 15 year old boy that steals from, assaults, rapes, and kills any poor soul unlucky enough to cross his path. A normal teen in the world of ACO (and maybe Burgess’s commentary on youth in general). But he talks with such charm, such convincing politeness, you can’t help but listen. When the devil can convince you that he’s the good guy, it’s pretty assured that you’re dealing with an anti-hero.
What redeems this horrible character and elevates this work to a classic is what happens in the last chapter. Now if you’ve seen the Kubrick film or read the American version of the book, the story is completely missing this chapter, and completely missing the point. Because with Alex’s change in the final chapter, A Clockwork Orange becomes a brilliant portrait of no matter how many external forces we force on a person, the only force that can change someone is from the inside. Now that is a pretty powerful revelation, even when the anti-christ reveals it.