The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Villain Protagonists

I was recently thinking about how my three favorite television characters of the past decade are Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan, and Nancy Botwin.

Tony Soprano needs no introduction. Dexter is a serial killer who kills other killers. And Nancy is a pot dealing soccer mom who gets deeper and deeper into the world of criminal activity, and all three are the protagonists of their respective shows. And they're all either amoral or immoral. Or, in Dexter's case, messed up morals.

I guess what I am asking is, do you think we will ever see a western produced animated series with a protagonist like this that is not being played entirely for laughs? And would you want to?

I'm all for it. Variety is the spice of life. But is there a market for it? I'd like to think so, but I think as long as television animation is (incorrectly) viewed as a medium for just children, this is unlikely to happen. Moral Guardians would have a field day with it.

Are there any villains who I think are strong enough to carry there own animated series? Of course. I think the Joker is a prime example of a baddie who could do it, and I would gladly watch a show starring him and his misadventures with Harley Quinn.

Demona from "Gargoyles" could easily carry her own series. Easily. There's a nine-hundred and thirty-seven year long gap between her falling out with Macbeth and when the gargoyles were awoken in Manhattan during the pilot. Just open a history book, think of a role she could play and already you have a cornucopia of material. Throw in Macbeth and the Canmores hunting her and you have something.

And then, there is always something original, built up from scratch.


  1. Hi Greg, I was wondering if you ever watched The Shield TV series? What are thoughts on villian protagonist Vic Mackey?

  2. I've always wanted to see a cartoon based on Marvel's Thunderbolts book. I think that'd be cool.

  3. I always thought the Demona flashbacks were the best parts of Hunter's Moon. The main story was good, but those flashbacks were AWESOME. She could definitely carry a series on her own.

  4. If any Gargoyles villain were to get a series, I think a Hunter would work well (but not, y'know, the current Hunter). Part of the fun of Demona's longevity is that it's not spelled out in easily accessible linear sequence. But a gargoyle hunter on his or her quest to slay the demon has some potential, particularly if it's one we haven't seen.

    I also think Joker would run into the same problem as what made Light Yagami a terrible character: a protagonist who takes that much blatant joy in doing his evil just isn't that entertaining when not comedic (unless you want to do such to analyze their psychological failings, such as August Underground). But part of Joker's gimmick is that he's any person the situation requires...stories that examine him make a point to exhibit the inherent falsehood of who and what he is.

    It's the same problem as Demona, albeit in a different way: telling us too much. There's an internet series called "The Joker Blogs". It's very well made, but it's ultimately not the sort of entertainment you'd want from this based on your stated tastes...but it also shows what a Joker show would basically be like, albeit with a grounding in Nolan continuity.

    But to try and ground Joker to his own series, you'd have to make analyzing his mental state the main sell...but normal Batman comics and cartoons already do that, so what's the point? Not to mention that an adaptation would inevitably puss out by virtue of needing to know about him and thus try to stick to one interpretation over others.

    If you want to adapt a villain into leading his own animated series, pick one who isn't intricately tied to the arc of any given hero. Because then you eliminate the inevitable bullshit pretension of making the HERO ANTAGONIST WOAAAAH AIN'T THIS NEAT?! (it's not, it's gimmicky and a pointless reversal). Pick a villain who can DO things. Pick a villain who can actually have room to grow without expectations or lore to betray thematically.

    I say Cletus Kassady. Do a Carnage series about this magic space goo serial killer who must learn to survive against his own offspring, which could be modified to be appropriate foils relating to his life philosophies. Turn all the bullshit symbiotes into Carnage spawns that are fragments of the wider Kassady mosiac. They can imply things about his history, childhood, WHATEVER. Go nuts and be as revisionist as possible.

    An animated series is an opportunity to take conflicting myth and put it into a coherent context. Carnage is a horrible character but wildly popular. This works in your favor. His show would attract a crowd and the heavy rewrites to accommodate for "superpowered serial killer fights fragments of his own evil" would make him come off as deep as his stupid fans would already assume he was. Given how much he DOESN'T fit Spider-Man, you'd also have good excuse to break him off and create a solid self-sustaining mythos for the symbiotes.

    I say Carnage.

  5. Shit, this and that post was me, Harlan. But this registration is being awful for me.

  6. If Cowboy Bebop were to recieve ANY sort of follow up, then I wouldn't mind a prequel/spin-off detailing Spike's time with the Red Dragons. That would make for a pretty cool Villain Protagonist story.

    And Harlan Phoenix. I disagree about protagonists taking joy in doing evil not being entertaining. Hellsing's Alucard , for example (who's pretty much a villain who happens to be on the side of the good guys) is an example of one such protagonist. He has such a cool, charismatic factor to him, that whenever he does take pleasure in doing monstrous things, it actually comes off as entertaining. The reason it may not work as much for Light is because he genuinely thinks he's doing good for the world, which makes all his grinning and smirking one offing someone off-putting for some.

    An animated Star Wars series focusing on one of its villains would be pretty good too. Darth Vader? Excellent. They could show him exterminating any surviving Jedi, his relationship with Tarkin when he was working under him, his more tactical side, etc. Boba Fett? Sure why not? He may be a blank character, but that works in his favor. They could show us what kind of jobs he takes, what standards he has as a villain and Bounty Hunter, his apparent rivalry with Han, etc. Same deal with Darth Maul. So much potential that was wasted because Lucas apparently though adding in an annoying comic relief was more worth while than developing his villains. Show us his hunger for battle, his thirst for power, show us how much pride and arrogance he must have under his seemingly emotionless nature.

    Hell with a franchise like Star Wars, they can easily make a cartoon set in any time period with its own villain protagonist.

  7. Death Note is an animated series with a villain protagonist.

  8. A villain protagonist, eh?

    Hm... I say Kazuo Kiriyama from Battle Royale, mainly to see his life from childhood to Battle Royale juggernaut.

    It's either that or maybe the Rogues from The Flash.