Hero or Villain?

Some heroes and villains, like Batman and Joker, are easy to tell which side they’re on. But there are those in the comic book world who aren’t as easily classified. General Thunderbolt Ross of Marvel Comics is a member of the United States military, constantly hunting the Hulk. Despite not being seen as a criminal, he was named IGN’s 71st Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time. Amanda Waller of DC Comics has good intentions, however her methods are sometimes questionable. The motives of these two are not pure evil, however, many comic book fans classify them as villains because their desire to do the right thing causes them to be antagonistic towards superheroes.

The motives of General Ross and Amanda Waller are somewhat between the lines of good and bad. To the public, they are seen as concerned individuals who feel that they need a way to fight against superhumans. Ross wants to find a way to use the research of Bruce Banner, the Hulk’s alter-ego, to make weapons. While it’s true that weapons are extremely dangerous, sometimes the best defense is the strongest offense. Amanda Waller wants to find a way to combat the Justice League, if they were to ever turn against humanity. She’s not paranoid, she follows the “better safe than sorry” idea. It’s people like these that have created the concept of anti-hero. An anti-hero may do good, but they always have a flaw that does not fit into the hero category. One of the best examples is the Punisher, who mercilessly kills criminals in the name of justice.

Ross and Waller are not the only best examples of the blurred line between hero and villain. Ross hunts the Hulk not only because he wants to make better weapons, he also does it because of the destruction the Hulk causes. In most incarnations, the Hulk has a child-like mind, taking out his anger on anything and anyone near him, like a rampaging elephant. This causes him to fight other superheroes like the Thing, Wolverine, and Thor. He also seem to attack villains only if they anger him. Most heroes are not wanted by the authorities; both the Hulk and his alter-ego are wanted by the United States government. Despite his monstrous qualities, both physically and psychologically, the Hulk is never considered to be an anti-hero by fans; only a superhero. Perhaps it is because fans sympathize with the Hulk. The Hulk himself, in most incarnations, just wants to be left alone. However, it is because of the Hulk’s gamma-induced powers that causes him to be hunted down by heroes and villains alike.

Another Marvel Comics character that shares the Hulk’s Jekyll and Hyde trait is the Lizard. In most of his incarnations, the Lizard is one of Spider-man’s most dangerous enemies. However, his human alter-ego, Dr. Curt Connors, is the complete opposite. Connors is usually an ally of Spider-man, and is a beloved husband and father. In an episode of the 1994 Spider-man animated series, Spider-man chooses to only cure the Lizard and keep his identity secret rather than inform the police. He does this when Connors’ wife, who knows about the Lizard, tells him that she’s afraid that the police will treat him like a freak, and hunt him down like a wild animal. Unlike the Joker, who commits crimes merely for his own amusement, or Darkseid, who conquers for power, Curt Connors is nothing close to them in personality. He is suffering from the sins his alter-ego commits. Though most incarnations depict him as a mad scientist or mindless monster, the Lizard himself can be an ally to Spider-man. One example being in the 1994 animated series. Sometimes this alliance is due to the Dr. Connors’ personality not being completely influenced by his reptilian transformation. However, this does not make him an anti-hero because this trait is rare in most incarnations. Despite his position of IGN’s 62nd Greatest Comic Villain of All Time, that position may only be for the Lizard’s persona, not including the persona of Curt Connors.

The classification of hero and villain is not always concrete. There are heroes that sometimes commit immoral acts, and there are villains that believe what they are doing is the right thing. Anti-heroes and anti-villains help with categorization, but there are still some characters that are still blurring the lines. The Hulk and the Lizard are only placed in the classification of hero and villain, yet their personalities and roles make one wonder if they can be categorized into another position. The complexity of heroes and villains may relate to the how people place individuals in society. Adolf Hitler and Mao Zedong are considered to be virtuous people in the eyes of their followers, and the most inhumane human beings by others. The classification system can lead one to question what is right and what is wrong in the real world. It gets one to wonder. Is a villain an individual who breaks the law, or is a villain an individual that has an immoral personality?