Tomorrow I'll be on a panel at Revolution Brewing discussing the topic of Antiheroes for One Book One Chicago. I have to say that in researching the sorts of characters who can be defined as Antiheroes, I keep coming across a few who really aren't. It's also clear that we love Antiheroes but they are not to be trusted.
Here's the deal, Antiheroes generally are characters who have to do good things but lack qualities that most standard heroes would have, such as being willing to kill or having a problem with narcotics. Antiheroes have to be flawed in some way and when we cheer them we are meant to examine ourselves. Remember that time that guy moved in next door and was super inconsiderate, rude and obnoxious? Remember how he ended up crashing that party you threw and you or a roommate were left the next day absolutely regretting some life decisions? That can happen around Antiheroes.
By my reasoning this should let you know that Wolverine was most certainly an antihero when he joined the X-Men. He pretty much decided he had no use for authority, needed to stab his enemies early and often and made a bee line for Jean Grey, who was clearly the girlfriend of a teammate.
Batman is thought to be an an antihero but isn't really one in my opinion. There is nothing Batman does or espouses as a believe system that should set him apart from any other hero who wears a mask. Being a third shift worker is not actually counter culture. Batman is as much of a hero as Superman is. He just wears darker colors.
John Constantine is most certainly an antihero. Just being his friend could get you killed or eaten by demons or both and not necessarily in that order. Constantine will lie to anyone to achieve his goals and while those goals might be saving all mankind, the person he might be lying to, more than likely is someone who trusts him and who will not survive the world being saved.
Sherlock Holmes makes the because he's an insufferable jerk with a opium habit. Old School Victorian era literature is full of heroic figure who were drug addicts, killers, racists and more.
I've seen Judge Dredd listed as an antihero and I can't say that I get it. An antihero needs a hero to be compared to. All Judges in Dredd comics have the same powers and abilities he does. They are all licensed to kill and the people he has to kill have been legally sentenced to die. It's the same reason why James Bond is generally NOT an antihero UNLESS he's willing to torture people.
This brings us to Jack Bauer, the most patriotic, smack addicted, anti authority, water boarding, protector of our freedoms to hit our TV screens since Jim Morrison! Jack Bauer is most certainly an antihero.
In comics, the Punisher is an antihero generally because while he kills, he also has a personal code that only allows him to kill bad guys. This puts him at odds with pretty much everyone else in the Marvel Universe and makes team ups very awkward.
If you've watched the Wire, Jimmy McNulty is an antihero because all he wanted was whatever suited his own ends even if it burned the careers of his fellow cops. He was also willing to go to pretty extreme lengths to create the idea that a serial killer was plaguing Baltimore just to force the hand of the press/police on a case. McNulty is a dick but that alone wouldn't make him an antihero but falsifying evidence certainly would.
In Star Wars. Han Solo is certainly an antihero if for no other reason than he shot Greedo first. He didn't square off like in old cowboy movies and Greedo didn't buy the farm trying to apprehend Solo, losing a battle with a garbage truck.
I think we as consumers of media are pretty cynical bunch. We have developed an innate distrust of the world. This makes us perfect receptacles for all things antihero. There's a reason why Smallville lasted 10 seasons on television and Tom Welling never put the Superman costume on, while Arrow was a hit right out of the gate.
If you'd like to hear the antihero panel, here's the relevant info:
One Book, One Chicago!
Acting the Anti Hero
Thursday, February 19, 2015 from 6:00PM - 8:00PM
Mark your calendar now!