PRAY FOR VILLIANS

ImageOver the last few weeks I’ve received two batman comics in the mail; one was Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and the other was Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan. Now, I’ve never been a huge Batman fan, but I was more interested in who wrote these titles than the Dark Knight himself. Alan Moore and Kevin Smith both wrote about the Joker. Although both their ‘Jokers’ had similar qualities, they were written differently. It got me thinking, out of all the villains they could have chosen to write about, why Joker? They could have picked Penguin or Riddler or Poison Ivy or whoever, but both these writers chose the same villain. Why?

ImageLuke Skywalker has Darth Vader, Harry Potter has Voldermort, Optimus Prime has Megatron. With heroes that live up to a high caliber, they have to have an equal and opposite opponent. Penguin is short and can’t really go one on one with Batman by himself. Riddler has riddles? (and not much else). Mr. Freeze has his equipment etc. But the Joker has something the rest really don’t have. He wasn’t born disfigured, but he doesn’t look quite normal. He doesn’t have gadgets or cars or planes. He has the Charles Manson quality that these writers want to write about; an ultimate villain, a completely twisted and deranged psychopath.

Without a major villain, who would Batman fight? Street gangs, shop lifters, muggers. All of these enemies are faceless and pointless. You don’t need a bat-cave and bat-mobile and bat-copter and gadgets to beat off some junkies snatching a handbag. In order to justify a lot of heroes you need the rival to be beyond the normal street crook. All these faceless enemies are used as fodder. Take the Stromtroopers or the Foot Soldiers, they have no character, no back story, nothing. They can be thrown into the meat grinder and no one cares.

With Luke Skywalker, the rebel alliance was created to rise up against the Empire. It makes you want to cheer for the underdog, especially when the villain is a military-type, nazi-esque brigade with countless soldiers and weaponry. The Rebels are dressed almost haphazardly, with no distinct familiarity or recognizable figure head. Now the Empire on the other hand has Darth Vader, who is very recognizable. He’s tall and solid with large shoulders and points a lot. He seems to not even care about his own men, choking one at the table in New Hope. With Vader, the whole idea of the Rebels winning is so farfetched that you believe it’s nearly impossible. If you look at all the Star Wars toys and games and posters, they all have Darth Vader on them, either his whole mask, or full body. He’s recognizable and you’re instantly attracted to walk over and check it out because he’s the ultimate villain.

In The Killing Joke by Allan Moore, Joker broke out of Arkham Asylum and shot Chief Gordon’s daughter (Bat-girl) and put her in a wheelchair. Moore wrote the Joker as a Manson type leader with a band of merry, deformed, individuals that did his bidding. Joker was written as someone pushed to the brink of lunacy that never really came back from it. He wasn’t Batman’s equal in physical strength or mentality, but was so insane that it brought him up higher in the scale of opponents. Joker didn’t care about the law or human life one iota. His clown makeup really drove home the point of his state of mind.

When I write, I try to invent a great villain. Someone who is above the hero, so the hero becomes the underdog. It’s important to show how strong the villain can be, and also to show the hero’s limitations, this way, we, as readers, can compare the two. Who ever thought a moisture-farm boy, who wasn’t even allowed to go see his friends because of his chores to do, would take on a great sith lord, and win?

Heroes and Villains should balance like yin and yang. But Villains rarely get any victory. We don’t hear of villains winning. This may be deliberate to introduce this to children, to let them know the good guys always come out on top, but in the real world…it may be a different story. Maybe that’s why we can’t stand by and let awful things happen, because we can see when a savior is needed. I wrote a short story once, a long time ago (and I’ve forgotten the name) where an old hero is wandering the streets with his Imagecape and boots on, looking for crime. A van pulls up and it’s the old age home coming to get him because he escaped. They tell him that he fought all the crime, and there were no more villains. He’s rejected from society now because he did his job, now everyone lives in peace and no one cares about him. Heroes exist because of villains, and villains exist because of heroes.

Mitchell Tierney

*please note this blog was written before the Aurora Dark Knight Rises shooting. Ouroborus Book Services and all of its writers wish to send our deepest sympathies to those affected.