I’ve got some very particular ideas about what I want in a hero and it all stems back to when I read comics as a kid. I was never attracted to the comics about gritty anti-heroes or the guys that were just bad guys killing other bad guys. They aren’t, by the strictest definition, heroes. Then again, neither are most comic book heroes.
If you’ve read anything by Joseph Campbell then you all ready know about archetypes and the Hero’s Journey. It’s a classic structure that’s found in every culture. It also appeals to us because it’s somewhere inside all of us. Look at Star Wars. That IS the hero’s journey brought to the present day. It’s those characters I love the best. It’s those characters that no one wants to read about.nCharacters like The Punisher and Wolverine don’t do it for me. I want a likable person, or an unlikeable person who changes and becomes the hero he (or she) should be.
Maybe I’m bucking the trend or maybe I’m falling back on old archetypes, but I want my heroes to be remembered. I want people to relate to them and root for them. I want them to feel the pain they feel as they travel through their lives. Above all else though, I want that journey to end. It is a journey after all. That journey should change them. They shouldn’t be the same person they were when it started. Despite all the years of stories, Peter is still the loser who puts on tights and tries to fight crime. He’s still a smart-ass. Bruce Wayne is still a fractured rich guy who spends his money and nights fighting criminals. He’s never healed and found a higher reason for doing it.
I think that’s one of the biggest problems with today’s heroes. They keep going. The longer the series run the more changes and crazy ideas they have to incorporate. The more watered down the premise gets. What you eventually get are things like Superman killing people, Batman getting kids murdered, and crap like Superior Spiderman. It’s a gimmick. The characters should have had planned arcs and set timelines. They should age. They should end. Well, except Superman I guess. He’s practically immortal, isn’t he? Still, there are other things they could do with the character. I have my own ideas for that, but that’s another story.
I always try to have a mental picture in my mind when I write a series. I have an image of the character at the beginning of the series and at the end of the series. If they’re the same then something has to be rewritten.
Then again, maybe I’m in the minority here. Maybe people don’t want heroes any more. Maybe we’ve become a culture that celebrates the horrible and the mean spirited. Maybe we want a person to be and stay and asshole. . .