I recently read about a big change scheduled for a Superman comic. Superman won’t be in it. Lex Luthor will star. That raises a question you could ask for any medium: Can villains be the stars and still be villains?
Luthor will be the lead guy in Action Comics starting in issue #890, which goes on sale on the last day of June. Luthor won’t just be the lead character, he’ll have a famous girlfriend and will tussle with… villains. Maybe that makes him the bad guy, but it sure looks like he’s being plotted as a hero.
Rare is the instance when a villain can be the lead villain by acting villainous. Look at examples from video games: How bad a guy are you in Wario Land games? Or in Dragon Quest Rocket Slime? You’re a bad guy in Overlord, but it’s all relative. That game lets you loot people’s houses and beat up civilians, but so do a lot of games in which you play as the hero. The descent into decadence offered by Overlord actually feels like a licence to just act a little more rotten than most games normally permit. Ostensibly we are the good guys in Grand Theft Autos and even Manhunts, however horrid our in-game actions may be. There’s a Bioware game in which we’re actually the bad guy, but it doesn’t feel like it when you play the game. I’m not sure where Metal Gear Solid 3 fits into all of this.
Have I ever felt like a villain when I played as a video game villain? Not really.
Monster movies get named after the villains, which I guess proves that they are the stars. Godzilla and Jaws are the “bad guys”, right? (Same with Donkey Kong, who turned into a good guy – or maybe he was one all along.)
The problem I have with these star turns of villains, the thing that keeps it from working most of the time is the problem with the concept of villainy: In the narrative of their own lives, villains are heroes. What would it be like reading a Lex Luthor comic that kept Lex as a villain, someone we detested as we read about him? What would a game be like if we had to do things we disagreed with, that we thought were bad? It’s an unlikely scenario because, the closer you get to standing in their shoes, the more the bad guys seem, well, good – or the more the people making this fiction back away from letting evil feel evil. It feels like a missed role-playing opportunity.
All that said, I’m reading Luthor’s comic.
Are you looking for video game comics this week? These are your options among the new releases:
Cyd Sherman has finally assembled her in-game team: Vork, Bladezz, Zaboo, Clara, Tinkerballa, and her own character, Codex, but is the guild ready for its first quest? With her boyfriend pushing her away for a bandmate and her therapist only confusing matters, Cyd decides it’s time to find out, and pushes for the guild to join a major tournament.
The comic adventures of Kratos continue! The Gods have chosen human champions and set them up in a battle to the death! Ares’ champion, Kratos, is now a young captain in the Spartan army and he leads his men on a quest they most likely won’t return from…a quest that takes them to battle Poseidon’s deadly underwater monsters!
Escaped prisoners on the run, Rios and Salem are hell-bent on getting back to America. After their chopper goes down in the Mexican desert, the Army of Two are on foot. With a price on their heads and their faces plastered across television everyone in Mexico wants them dead! Meanwhile, Jaime’s lust for power has reached the upper levels of the Mexican government and may ignite a civil war!
On the heels of Warcraft: Death Knight, this class-based manga follows a young mage who faces his greatest challenge when he is forced to confront a foe only he can stop.
Which comics did you pick up this week?