Anti-heroes: You love them, you hate them, you love-to-hate them, you hate-to-love-them (but mostly you love them). This week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is one I’ve been pretty excited about, since I tend to gravitate towards anti-heroes. And for reference, this is what I consider an anti-hero to be:
Any hero or protagonist who displays traditionally villainous characteristics (e.g. Snape in the Harry Potter series); or any villainous character with heroic motivations, or with whom the audience is very clearly supposed to sympathise (e.g. Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Most anti-heroes walk the thin line between being heroes and being villains, and are often difficult to put into either category.
Unsurprisingly, it was a tough list to narrow down, so I’d like to start off with a few honourable mentions: Luke Castellan, from Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan; Rose Wilson (a.k.a. Ravager) from the DC Universe (but particularly as she was portrayed in Teen Titans); and Warner from the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi, who I am liking more and more the further I get into Unravel Me.
But now onto the actual top 5!
5) Sandor Clegane, a.k.a. the Hound (from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series)
Sandor is one of those characters who seems truly despicable upon first encounter, and he seems to always do his best to promote this idea of him. But the further you get into the series, the more he grows on you (and I, personally, am really anxious to see whether he’ll be showing up in The Winds of Winter). He’s not a main character in the series, and we never see things from his perspective, so most of the insights into his character are gleaned from his interactions with first Sansa, then Arya Stark, the former of whom is terrified of him (but possibly also in love with him), and the latter of whom despises him (but also feels a grudging respect towards him). So there’s a lot of mixed feelings there, but ultimately he’s one of my favourite characters in A Song of Ice & Fire.
4) Severus Snape (from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)
Despite general adoration (which was certainly not discouraged when Alan Rickman was cast as him in the films), I hated Snape for a very long time. The combined powers of fandom and Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows eventually persuaded me to give him a chance, but it was still only very recently that I actually started to like him. Snape is probably the quintessential anti-hero, though: Every book leaves you more and more uncertain as to his loyalties and motivations, and the final reveal in book 7 was both shocking and heartbreaking.
3) Yassen Gregorovich (from the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz)
Yassen is a Russian assassin who shows up continuously throughout the early Alex Rider books, employed by the various villains that Alex is trying to take down. But although he’s usually just a side character, he’s the most memorable of all the villains in the series, and he probably also has the most character depth. We find out in Eagle Strike that Yassen actually had a history with Alex’s father, and this discovery has a profound affect on Alex’s outlook on things in the later books. Yassen was even the main character in the series’ prequel, Russian Roulette, and it was really great to get a deeper look into the backstory of one of the series’ most mysterious characters.
2) Shrike (from The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve)
Shrike is quite possibly one of my favourite characters of all time, ever. He’s a type of resurrected, half-corpse, half-machine soldier called a “Stalker”, and when he’s introduced in Mortal Engines, he’s working as a bounty hunter for the Mayor of London, and his targets are our two protagonists, Hestor and Tom. But it was really in the last couple of books that I grew to love Shrike, and the epilogue of A Darkling Plain utterly killed me. There’s a prequel series (Fever Crumb), too, which apparently features Shrike when he was still human, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet…
1) Jason Todd, a.k.a. Red Hood (from the DC Universe)
Ah, what to say about Jason? Except, of course, that he’s my favourite Batman character, and that I have basically stalked him through the DC Universe: Which comics I decide to read depends largely on whether Jason (&, to a lesser extent, a couple of other characters) will be appearing. He first showed up in Batman as the second Robin, but was generally despised by fans, and was consequently brutally murdered by the Joker. But, in death, he became significantly more popular, and it’s notable in the comics that whenever Batman feels particularly guilty about something (and he happens to be in the bat-cave), the glass case with Jason’s Robin suit will show up in the background.
In the usual manner of comic book characters, though, he is eventually brought back to life, but instead of everything going back to normal, he is enraged to discover that Batman never avenged him, and (worse) that he has been replaced by a new Robin. There are several series that he shows up in, but the most prominent Jason Todd stories are probably in Batman: A Death in the Family, Red Hood: The Lost Days, Batman: Under the Hood and the new Red Hood & the Outlaws series.