Writing, taking online classes toward an advanced degree in education, teaching, gaming, and just being me...well, I hope that explains why I am not quite the blogging dynamo I used to be. I still want to keep my hand in though. So...
I am currently teaching a literature class and we are working on character development, looking at arcs of transformation and what makes a character memorable for the reader and the writer. The students and I began talking a bit about villains, and this got me to thinking.
As a writer and as a reader there is nothing better than a powerful baddie. For me, the villain that works best is someone who has fallen. The tragedy of that character has enough pathos to keep the reader hoping for eventual redemption. Maybe the vile person in question will see the error of his ways and turn toward healing and redeeming himself with the poor protagonist whom he has been tormenting. And of course the best villains remain those who are able to allow the reader at least a sliver of empathy.
Don't worry, I'm not going to launch into a long discussion here. I like using my blog for release. Besides long blog entries, more than five hundred words, are seldom read. But to show you how my mind works, I'll just briefly outline three of my favorite villains and why I enjoy them...some of these characters may seem a tad unconventional. I present them in no particular order.
Alice Cooper. What? Alice Cooper is the stage personae of Vincent Furnier. Although the name is clearly that of a rock icon, the stage personae is something different. When Alice is on stage, he becomes a corrupt, sneering reprobate. He enjoys shocking the world and reveling in disapproval. But Alice has no idea of moderation. He is hedonism unleashed. By the middle of the concert, he takes his hedonism and perversions to the limit, engaging in necrophelia, sexual violence, madness, and murder. And then? Like morality plays of old, Alice must be punished. He is usually captured and killed ( decapitation, hanging, electrocution...). After which, he emerges in white top hat and coat, resurrected.
The Ring. For me, The Ring in "Lord of the Rings" is very much a character. It is the embodiment of corruption. It takes the sweetness of Baggins and twists it into the worst of human nature. It has a voice. You can hear it echoed in Gollum's pathetic hissings: "Yes my precious, yes...kill it, we will." Does The Ring have an identity of its own? No. It has an identity as part of each character; it is a physical representation of greed.
Dr. Doom. Okay, yes, this is a comic book figure. Forget about the film version that they created in "The Fantastic Four". Fox's pathetic attempt to create a franchise. The real Dr. Doom is a fascinating figure. He is the ruler of an Eastern European country. Running the land as a dictator, he also has a sense of responsibility for his people. He believes that ruling them with an iron hand is a form of true devotion.
Doom, wearing a mask because of a small scar that he views as a horrible imperfection, is a scientific genius. He has no super powers apart from an amazing intellect. His nemesis is Reed Richards, the head of the superhero group and the man responsible for the tiny scar that has caused him to wear a mask. Of course the mask is a metaphor and the imperfections from which he hides run far deeper.
Darth Vader is based on Doom, but next to Doom, Vader is a pale figure, bereft of the complexities that form the prideful Doom. Doom is the embodiment of the idea that I will explore in my next posting: A villain isn't a villain to himself. Doom is a hero seeking approval, constantly battling his pride and temper.
I remember after the attack on the World Trade Center, Marvel ran a comic in which their different characters dealt with their feelings of the tragedy. One panel that struck me was Dr. Doom, looking at the carnage on his television screen, a tear in his eye.