Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tortured Heroes

Not talking about the Seahawks here.

Was watching the film Darkman last night. I've seen it before, but not for many years...I had no idea it was co-written and directed by Sam Raimi, but I can definitely see his "Evil Dead touches" to the film.

Not his best film or even a great film by any stretch of the imagination despite the big name acting talent in it. However, I love the concept of Darkman as a character. A truly tortured individual, forced to live outside the boundaries of civilization. He has no choice but to become something other than "polite society." His fate is a hideous one and he makes the best of it as he can.

[now, of course, not really...he could choose to wear a rubber mask and get a real job. He might be a freakshow in day-to-day life but he doesn't HAVE to become a vigilante killer. Hell, in the 21st century he could still have some semblance of a social life through internet interactions, too!]

The tortured hero is my favorite kind of hero. It adds much more motivation to the character, in my opinion. The Swamp Thing is a great example (and sorry folks, I met him before Man Thing so I'll stick with the DC version)...forget all that later stuff about him being an alien and such; I prefer the version of him as a scientist hideously transformed by disaster. Now does he have a reason to stomp around and kick ass? Hell, yeah!

This is part of the reason I am NOT a huge fan of Batman or Superman or that Wolverine, dude. What the hell is their deal? Batman's not "tortured." Sure, watching your parents get snuffed is incredibly traumatic. But kids are fairly resilient, and there IS such a thing as therapy; certainly Bruce Wayne could afford it.

After all he is FILTHY STINKING RICH. What was this guy bitching about again? Oh, yeah, dead parents. Unfortunately there are many of us who live through the deaths of our parents. It hurts, it sucks, but you get through doesn't torture you the rest of your life.

Superman, of course, feels alienated from Earth society because he IS an alien. But one that looks pretty much like any other human (albeit a Calvin Klein underwear model that doesn't need to work out or watch his diet). Oh, and he has a job. And friends and family. Nothing tortured there, as far as I can tell.

Wolverine? Well, he has a little more hair than an underwear model, but some women are into that. Um...he can't be hurt? He has amnesia? Why not simply make a new life as a firefighter or something useful? Why go around killing "bad guys" with those claws? Actually I suppose he's more of a "reluctant hero" (recruited by Professor X) than a "tortured one."

Anyway, adventurers in one's average old school D&D game aren't very heroic anyway (well, maybe the "lawful" ones), but rather mercs and rogues, perhaps with hearts o gold, perhaps not. Which is just to my taste anyway (I own a half dozen or more superhero RPGs for when I want to play with "heroes"). But even wanting to play a hero, there's no game mechanic for creating a tortured hero.

Unfortunately, even in the hero games there's not much place for the tortured hero.

I mean, I would think the average hero personality would fall under the tortured type (others like Batman falling under the "driven eccentric" type). But I feel that most heroes have to be "long suffering" in order to display that important trait of heroism perseverance.

Certainly heroes can be shown to persevere through being constant losers...this is kind of the tact of the RPG With Great Power... Characters have to build up a reserve of points by being defeated or failing at challenges, in order to blow away the opposition at the end. But how many under-dog stories can one tell?

More old school type games take the same under-dog route the Old Fashioned way: the opponent is more powerful than any single one hero, and the heroes must band together to take him down...this is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles versus Shredder approach. It too gets tiresome after awhile.

Hmmm...more on this later. I'm off to watch my favorite tortured heroes blow up the Detroit Lions.

: )


  1. I never saw Superman as tortured... I think he does what he does because he he was "raised right" by his surrogate parents. Remember the two Superman "what ifs" (one of them pretty recent) where his little escape pod crashed on Apocalypse and Soviet Russia, respectively?

    I think Batman started off tortured by the loss of his parents, but once he got involved with the Gotham underworld and it's various and sundry corrupt cops, psychopathic killers, and garden variety scum, he became driven to fight against this unsavory underbelly that exists. I think Batman is more tortured by the injustice he sees in the world, not so much his parents' death. Of course, that could just be my reading of it.

    ...unless you just watch the 60's TV show, where the only thing torturing Batman are those, er, snug looking tights...

  2. Yes, let's not talk about the Seahawks.