Today I have been participating in a discussion about which is better heroes or antiheroes and unsurprisingly enough people don’t seem to know the difference. Most seem to think that a pure hero is an unattainable flat character type and that the only good hero is a flawed hero.

Now I see nothing wrong with the flaws but they are mixing things up. The bad boy who becomes good is all fine and fun but it is not and should not be the be all and end all of heroes. Yes it makes them more touchable in a way but it takes away a lot of what made classic heroes memorable.

Way back in the 70s when Star Wars first came out (yes the one everyone is calling a new Hope now) Luke Skywalker was the hero. He was a simple farm boy who learned to stand up to the villain of the peace and he grew up as we watched. But then all of a sudden everyone decided that Han Solo, the bad boy, was the hero of the piece. WRONG. Han Solo was the eye candy, the side kick who the female lead could ‘save’ from his bad boy ways. While I enjoy Han, love seeing his growth from the bad boy to reluctant hero to real hero, he is not and can not be the pure hero that I grew to love reading the novel before the movie came out.

People now expect every hero to have dark parts to them and they argue that a pure hero like Superman or Captain America must be rewritten with dark shadows on their souls and that any hero that is a good boy who grows up to be a good man is boring. Again wrong. In fact we need a lot more good guys who start good and stay that way. We more purity in our story telling.

As for anti heroes there seems to be an overwhelming lack of understanding about them. Bad boy that become heroes are not the anti hero of legend. Anti heroes are villains who see the light and become heroes. The classic is of course Elric of Melnibone from the series of book written back in the 1970s. You take the villain, have something happen that teaches him the immediate and harsh lesson that his view of the world is wrong and that he needs to change his view and the side he fights for. In Elric’s case the understanding that fighting for the side of Chaos was leading the world to destruction and that he needed to fight for the side of Law…yes Law and Chaos instead of good and evil but the same thing really.

A well written anti hero will come off much better, in my opinion, than the simple bad boy who is the hero. The Bad boy, the biker with the heart of gold or the smuggler who really only smuggles things that are illegal but are good things (like medicine) are not Anti Heroes, nor are they really the pure hero. Yes I adore Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly, the Browncoat smuggler who is really a good guy and I will read/watch the new bad boy heroes in all their faces but I really miss the true honest to gods heroes who gave us something to aim for.

Bring back the heroes like Captain America, classic Superman and Luke Skywalker. Give the young men and women who are coming up a figure to fill their imagine with images of truth, honesty and good will. We need them as much as we need the bad boy who is saved by his actions or those of his love interest. As much as we need real Anti heroes who show that even those steeped into the deepest darkness can become heroes…lets not focus on the middle of the road heroes for a while.