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Author Topic: What's so friggin' GREAT about World War II, anyway?  (Read 29340 times)
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Permanus
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« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2005, 11:37:56 AM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
A character can behave badly and still be accepted as a protagonist as long as they're likeable. (...) I would not want to read about an anti-semite, for example, no matter how good looking and charismatic they are. Ditto for an abuser of children or women. It is for this reason that every single AVENGERS writer since Shooter has had to play "damage control" on the character of Hank Pym after Shooter made him, in a lapse of his established characterization, strike his wife. And nobody (except the Japanese) has done a rapist hero.

I know what you mean and have often wondered about this. Does the protagonist always have to be likeable?

Surely it's okay to portray the the main character as a person with failings and moral lapses. In fact, the "hero" of Greek mythology is not necessarily someone who performs heroic feats by our modern standards (saving children from burning buildings and all that), but is a character who is larger than life. Achilles is a hero, for instance, but he behaves like a bloodthirsty maniac, and is not portrayed as a particularly nice chap at all. As I mentioned recently in another thread, the main characters of French pulp fiction aren't always likeable or even morally in the right, just interesting to read about. Hence, Fantomas does some pretty monstrous things, like putting acid in bottles of perfume, or unflinchingly sending an innocent man to the guillotine in his stead. I suppose Fu Manchu and Hannibal Lecter are also pretty good examples of this sort of character.

I remember being fuelled by an irrational hatred for Hawkeye in a miniseries back in the 80s, because he turned out to like Mantovani. I was recently turned off Marvel's The Ultimates, because of the anti-French stance the book, and especially its version of Captain America, adopted. I still bought it, though. Similarly, there might be things about Batman that I would really dislike if I knew them --  for all I know, Bruce Wayne believes in Intelligent Design and thinks global warming is bunk. (As an incurable old leftie, I'm happy to say that the Superman of Birthright is the sort of fellow I'd probably get along quite well with.)

In a way, this holds true for all our heroes, and sometimes one has to separate one quality from a thousand blemishes. I rather admire Winston Churchill, for instance, even though he was Conservative and I'm not (and he also said some very racist things in his day); I love Schubert's music, but I have no idea what his political views were and I don't really like the fact that he frequented prostitutes. Baudelaire and Shelley wrote some beautiful poetry, but I have no doubt that they were both unspeakably horrible men.
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Gangbuster
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« Reply #25 on: November 21, 2005, 02:10:01 PM »

Being an incurable young lefty, I tend to like characters who have that moral....stuff. Superman, Green Arrow, and Swamp Thing would be good examples of this. The JLA as a whole also possesses this mentality.

But while I mostly take a "role model" approach to reading (I'd also be likely to read books by MLK or Mother Teresa) there are some characters who are just interesting.

John Constantine is a b*stard, while Bruce Wayne and Wolverine have poor social skills. Tony Stark buys his way out of every problem. Yet these characters are usually interesting to read about. Not that I do, because you can't buy comics in a store anymore, and I live perhaps 2 hours away from the nearest comic shop. But I did enjoy these stories 10 years ago, when I could buy them.
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Captain Kal
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« Reply #26 on: November 21, 2005, 03:39:57 PM »

No, the protagonist does not have to be likeable.

And likeability is a very subjective thing.  While you and I might detest the personality of Lobo, others might find him compelling and very resonant with their own outlooks.  Surely there's a reason the WWF has fans.

Just because a character isn't what you'd like doesn't mean other fans see and feel things the same way you do.

I object to those kinds of characters on moral and ethical grounds since comics are supposed to be a medium for molding kids' values, or at least they used to be historically.

But I have no problems with the actual characterizations as that's purely subjective.  I don't like their personalities either but I don't consider that an objective standard to bash anyone else over.
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Captain Kal

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Kurt Busiek
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« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2005, 06:05:27 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
A character can behave badly and still be accepted as a protagonist as long as they're likeable.


I'd amend that from "likable" to "interesting."  There are many characters I enjoy reading about, but wouldn't find likable if I met them.

Quote
And nobody (except the Japanese) has done a rapist hero.


The hugely-popular Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, from the novels by Stephen R. Donaldson -- who once had a letter published in AVENGERS that Hawkeye was his favorite because he was such a never-say-die-get-the-job-done hero -- was a leper, a rapist and a colossal whiner.

I can't say I like him much, but those books sold really well, so a large audience clearly liked reading about him.

kdb
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Super Monkey
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« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2005, 06:15:43 PM »

Some of the most charismatic and interesting people are horrible people who you would never want to meet much less hang out with.

Why else would people be so fascinated with the Nazis? It's not because they like them!
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #29 on: November 21, 2005, 06:43:09 PM »

Quote from: "Permanus"
Achilles is a hero, for instance, but he behaves like a bloodthirsty maniac, and is not portrayed as a particularly nice chap at all.


At least by my reading, I think Achilles was an individualist who refused to allow himself to be dominated by others. There is something heroic about that.

Your general point is right, however: heroism that isn’t cookie-cutter can work very well.

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
No, the protagonist does not have to be likeable.

And likeability is a very subjective thing. While you and I might detest the personality of Lobo, others might find him compelling and very resonant with their own outlooks. Surely there's a reason the WWF has fans.  


I think a protagonist must be interesting or likeable so that you care about what happens to them. How many times have you seen horror movies where the teenage heroes are so utterly unpleasant that you really wish the monster WOULD just go ahead and suck their blood?

What I *really* find funny is how tons of angsty teenagers take GWAR  seriously despite the fact that Gwar is a joke band whose comedy comes from the fact they just go insanely over the top; the heavy metal equivalent of the Batman TV show.

Quote from: "Kurt Busiek"
The hugely-popular Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, from the novels by Stephen R. Donaldson -- who once had a letter published in AVENGERS that Hawkeye was his favorite because he was such a never-say-die-get-the-job-done hero -- was a leper, a rapist and a colossal whiner.

I can't say I like him much, but those books sold really well, so a large audience clearly liked reading about him.


I can't say I'm surprised. The listing of “traits a character can't have or else the audience won't care about him” is getting smaller all the time. Bret Easton Ellis proved that snotty rich kids and serial killers are actually pretty cool, whereas Alan Moore proved that devil worship is a comedy goldmine.
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Captain Kal
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« Reply #30 on: November 21, 2005, 09:51:00 PM »

Agreed with Julian and Kurt that the characters must be interesting and possibly likeable so the reader cares what happens to them.

OTOH, those are still subjective characteristics.  I know one poster on the Official DC Superman board who thinks Byrned Clark is interesting and likeable since he's a football jock and that poster was a football jock himself in his day.  Go figure.  Each guy relates on their own terms based on their own nature and experience.
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Captain Kal

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« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2005, 10:08:51 PM »

Quote from: "Captain Kal"
OTOH, those are still subjective characteristics.


They always will be.  As Donald Trump has been known to say, that's why they have menus in restaurants...

kdb
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