Villains – Anti-heroes | Anti-types by Stephen McCarthy
The Modern Villain
The Modern Villain |Monster
This part of the site is explores the relationship between the Hero and his anit-type the anti-hero villain or monster – and often they are way more interesting. This section will be paying special attention to arguably the best villain of all ‘The Joker’. The joker or trickster is an ancient figure, rooted in mythology we see him in the Norse sagas as Loki and in the Irish tales as Lug(h). He is always subversive and threatening. He does not play by the rules.
Why focus on villains and not heroes? Villains fascinate me even though they are often the underdog in a particular society; maybe it’s an Irish thing about always backing the underdog? What I mean by the underdog is that they must compete against
impossible odds and in the end always lose. So whether it is the modern human version of the anti-hero – for example Lex Luther versus ‘the man of steel’, or the quirky Dr. Evil versus the very confident Austin Powers the villain is always in some
respect the underdog. Villains do what we all wish to do they break the rules they push boundaries. They live outside society in predominantly liminal spaces. From Grendel to the cannibal giant in The Alliterative Morte Arthure they are defined as ‘other’.
The ‘ultimate’ breaker of society’s boundaries is the clown prince of crime himself, the Joker. Why the joker? Even though Batman has probably the widest array of foes of all the superheroes, and to talk about all of them would take forever, Mr J is uniquely fascinating. The combined elements of his persona are what make him best bad guy of all. I believe it would be fair to say that, on some level, everyone wants the joker to succeed -and why not? He is the supreme underdog; his appearance contrasts sharply with that of the hero – he is depicted as a skinny pale man with no past, no heroic genealogy, that we know about. He has never beaten Batman yet at least in popular media (there is a death of batman graphic novel but I have not been lucky enough to get my hands on it).
One of my favourite quotes of his is:
“all it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy that’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day”.
This argues that at one stage or another The Joker was just like every one else but also that any of us could turn out be just like him. I have heard that The Joker is a version of the trickster god (reference The Mask movie). This shows where the idea for making him a clown in the ‘60s TV show and later in the ‘90s cartoon came from. The Joker has spanned many generations; originally a maniac he became a clown when the character moved into television. When Jack Nicholson played him in the movie he evolved yet again in yet another manifestation of his character to an archetypical criminal master mind.
When we reach the ‘90s The Joker reverts to the clown; on this occasion voiced by Mark Hammel. Mark’s voice becomes The Joker’s for evermore. The reason for bringing The Joker back to the clown in the cartoon was because he could not kill (killing being something the joker was quite famous for) so he left his victims paralyzed with a large grin on their faces. To be honest I think the grins are worse, especially as a ten year old, watching the images and seeing these huge grins on his victims. I think the idea for paralyzing his victims came from Anglo-Saxon and Norse elves who could poison their victims too.
As I have said The Joker is a murderer and there are plenty of tose monsters or villains through the years for example Grendel in Beowulf. He is a murderer and a fiend preying on the unsuspecting Heroes of Heorot. The difference between the Joker and Grendel is the Joker does not want to use the element of surprise. He wants the whole world to know what he is doing. He will tell the world who he is about the kill, when he will kill them and give
ways in which he can be stopped. All this leads up to The Joker of the new millennium.
In 2008 we see a reversion to the original joker depicted in the guise of
a twisted lunatic with Heath Ledger’s representation. I believe that The Joker tells of his plans as he wants to be caught. He thrives on the idea of the unknown – he does not know if Batman, his foil, will foil him.
The Joker and Batman represent the classic Good Vs Evil polarity in a pitched battle. It is clear to see that they are the epitome of the othering, centred on their humanity they opposed each other equally. I have created a video
montage here to track the development of the Joker’s characterisation as ‘other’.
Evolution of the joker video. I believe that this is why the character is so strong. This leads us to other villains too – for example Austin Powers and Dr Evil are both played by the came actor. They are the reverse side of each other.
To be honest this is what makes villains so interesting. They are, more or less, everything the hero is not. They more often then not do not have the pro
blems the heroes have: for example spiderman’s moral questioning is at the heart of every Spider-man movie. Their Loki like function is to cause chaos.
Scores of information
Loeb. J and Sale. T – “The long Halloween” – published by Detective Comics – New York – 1996
Moore. A and Bolland. B – “The Killing Joke” – published by Detective Comics – New York – 1988
Madsen. M, Keith. S and Stewart. D – Arkham Asylum Madness edition – published by Detective Comics – New York – 2010