Everybody knows what a ‘Hero’ is, right?
By their very nature, they’re people that do what’s right and proper, and in doing so they display ‘heroic’ traits. You know the kind of thing? Honesty. Idealism. Courage. Morality. Generic hero stuff.
But the pages of comic books are also populated with another group of people that do what’s considered ‘the right thing’. Only these people aren’t quite as idealistic or virtuous as their heroic counterparts. More often than not, due to a variety of reasons, these protagonists are quite flawed in some way, maybe even displaying all the traits of somebody that might be considered, oh, I don’t know, villainous?
These, my friend, are the anti-heroes. In our darkest hour, when all is lost and the heroes lie vanquished, these are the souls who might spy a business opportunity, or the chance to further their own ambitions a bit more, and put a bullet in the back of the conquering bad guy’s skull. They don’t want your validation, or your thanks. They just want to satisfy their own psychological aims and ambitions. And if that’s what’s best for everyone’s else, that’s just plain lucky.
So who in the DC Universe fits the bill for being an anti-hero? Well, due to the large number of multi-story arcs that take place on a regular basis, most of the bad guys have teamed up with the good guys from time to time and performed what would be considered heroic acts. ‘Blackest Night’ and ‘Forever Evil’ are cases in point.
Then there’s the Suicide Squad, forced into heroism via the threat of explosive detonation. But these are occasional and circumstantial anti-heroes. Who is there that more regularly helps out the home team?
10. Selina Kyle
She’s a career criminal who’s spent her entire life getting into trouble because of her fascination with all things shiny and precious. But she just can’t help but do the right thing when the chips are down. Regularly fighting side by side with the Batman against elements of her own criminal community, she truly is the tart with a heart of gold.
9. Thomas Wayne (Flashpoint)
Encountered by a dimension-hopping Barry Allen, Thomas Wayne adopted the Batman mantle when his son Bruce was accidentally killed during Thomas’s attempt to apprehend a street robber in Crime Alley. With his wife driven mad by grief, Thomas took to the streets with a pair of handguns, and a lethal working knowledge or surgery and medicine. Totally without mercy, he’s cut a swathe through the Gotham underworld, until persuaded to assist the Flash in saving their world.
8. Jonah Hex
The good news about this Western bounty hunter is that he’s bound by a strict moral code to protect and avenge the innocent. Which is all well and good.
The bad news is that it’s up to him how he interprets who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. And also if he needs to bring them in dead or alive. Being a Bounty Hunter, the pursuit of financial recompense is slightly more important to Jonah than the good will of others, and his ability to work well and communicate effectively with others leaves somewhat to be desired.
7. Harvey Bullock
If Jim Gordon represents all that is good in the GCPD, then Lt Harvey Bullock is his diametric opposite. Yes, his clean-up rate is impressive. But his methodology falls somewhat short of the values and goals of the organization he works for.
With a love of excessive brutality, bribes, and an unhealthy relationship with the people he arrests, Harvey really shouldn’t still be holding a badge, but he’s an integral part of Gotham’s police, and remains a tool to be employed as and when required, with his own unique interpretation on what ‘justice’ entails.
6. Harley Quinn
Now in Harleen Quinzel’s defense, there are a couple of underlying mental health issues that prevent her from being heroic. And these were made even worse by choosing a relationship with the most insane villain that ever lived.
Any real trace of normality or positivity that Harley had was destroyed by the Joker, and the screwball character that remained is as up as she is down. One minute she’s repaying her debt to society, the next she’s committing mass murder to appease her ex-boyfriend. There’s still good in her, it’s just that even she doesn’t know where it is now.
5. John Constantine
That Constantine is a force for good in the universe, and an ally of the heroes is beyond doubt. But his methodology is more than a little morally flawed. Which is perhaps unsurprising, considering his background.
John will do whatever it takes to keep evil in check, just woe betide anybody who’s his friend and just happens to become useful to his perceived endgame, because he’ll have no issue with screwing them over wholesale in order to get the win.
Let’s not forget that Sinestro started out his career as an intergalactic policeman. Or that the whole purpose in him turning to the yellow power ring was in order to try and save the Galaxy.
Yes, he has some very misguided ideas about how where we all fit in in the bigger picture, and how we should all be living our lives. And yes, he’s prepared to massacre us wholesale to try and make us live that way. But when faced with a suitably forceful threat, that old policeman training kicks in, and he comes out batting for the home team. For a short time, anyway.
This indestructible biking bounty hunter is, on the surface, the least heroic specimen you could find in the DC Universe. When your name literally translates into the English language as “He who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it,”, there’s a clue there about your personal thoughts on the taking of lives.
And he’s taken a lot of them. But yet, he does have a strict moral code that he lives by, and he does have a very strong track record for helping the heroes out during major events. When it suits his purposes.
2. Jason Todd
Though he started out his crime-fighting career as a Robin, bound by the Batman’s moral code, it seems that being beaten to death with a crowbar and bought back from the dead by a madman may have somewhat skewed Jason’s moral compass.
Becoming the Red Hood, Todd emerged from the Lazarus Pit as a gun toting killer, using his past knowledge and abilities to prevent crime. And the best way to prevent it is to kill it. Dead.
1. Talia Al Ghul
Love’s a funny old thing, and can make you act in the most irrational ways when it chooses. Talia was the heir apparent to the world’s most deadly criminal empire, but surrendered herself to the world’s greatest force for good.
Since that point, she’s repeatedly gone against the code of her own organization, turning to and assisting the Batman, bringing her into direct conflict with her maniacal father. For the figurehead of a force of evil, she’s quite a good person, deep down. Just don’t let her hear you say that.
Agree or disagree with the list? Sound off in the comment section below!