Friday, July 11, 2014

What Makes a Hero?

So looking over my article about villains I did earlier I got to thinking about heroes and what make them.  And I quickly concluded that it pretty much is the same, which would make a rather boring article.

But after thinking about it some more, heroes are kind of meant to be larger than life.  They should have almost otherworldly skills, all the better to bring down the villains after all.  I think, though, that heroes feel more real than villains generally, so those powers should be balanced out with something, something mortal.  We, the consumers of such stories, want to think that "you know, I could do that" and so we look for things that seem closer to us.  So I came up with a few traits that I think we all look for in heroes, if only to be more like us.

Resourcefulness - It's rare that the hero has the same resources, abilities or talents as the villain, especially at the start of the story.  This means they have to use what they have to win, often things that normally wouldn't be considered against various foes.  From simple weapons made household goods to just simply being more clever are all things we think we can do, even if we can't.  Chuck from Weapon Brown is a great example.  Yes, he has some advantages, including that big robot arm, but often that's ALL he has.  He often has to scavenge gear and get lucky to survive his many fights.  Even his last battle with CaL was done not with his fists or weapons, but with a few well chosen words.

Desire - I doubt I'm the only one who dreamed of getting some random superpower then going out and fighting crime or saving the world.  There are so many stories where ordinary people do just that that entire books and libraries can be filled with them.  Of course Aaron from Blue Blaster went the other way, but I'm not talking about characters like him, I'm talking about ones like Heather from Spinnerette.  Her first thought upon growing extra arms is to become a superhero (and trying to figure out how to shoot webbing from her wrists, which doesn't work out).  It does come back to bite her more than a few times, but she never loses her desire to do good throughout the comic.

Friends - Going it alone, while a noble effort, often fails, especially when that person doesn't have 6 arms or just one giant robot arm.  The best option, often, is to get a group of people together, who often tend to be friends of one sort or another.  Often each one has a quirk that makes them invaluable to the effort and in the end all of them can celebrate their victory together.  Which is why the gang over on Sluggy Freelance, led by Torg, seems to fit this bill nicely.  Oh, they're more than they were at the start of the comic, that's true, but early on, they were all on a pretty even keel (well, Riff was a bit out there, but still. . .).  Their early, wacky adventures cemented them as group, and even now, almost 2 decades later, they're still hanging together, working to save the world, and often themselves.

Flaws - Way back in the old days, meaning ancient Greece, heroes were perfections of humanity.  They held all the virtues that all people should live up to and had few, if any, flaws.  This idea held sway for centuries, millinium even, all the way up until and through much of the superhero comic eras, with Superman being the ultimate result.  Nowadays, though, having a perfect hero feels odd.  We'd rather have ones much more mortal, more like us.  Thus having flaws in character also allows growth of those characters as they confront them.  Chuck starts his comic kind of hopeless, merely surviving in the world rather than trying to make it better.  Heather starts her story as very naive about the world, about being a hero and shy and introverted.  Torg starts out as a goofball and his friends are varying levels of wacky or insecure.  All three rise to their various challenges and grow as a result, but those initial flaws draw readers to them and cheer them on.

All those things aside, there is one thing we want from our heroes:  for them to be heroic.  That's something even the most ordinary of us can do.  I have an example of that too, BTW, Julie from Aptitude Test.  The entire basis of the comic is that she took an aptitude test that said she was to be a superhero.  It's only at the end of the first book (and thus the end of the planned part of the comic) that she does become a hero, jumping out of a damn building to save her friend.  Nothing super about it, just a regular hero.  That's what makes a hero.

Next week, I believe, will be the end of Dreams of Stars, so I'll be doing something for that.  Until next time kiddies.

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