Even when you win, you lose in the end.

16 Jun
By Darryl Ayo

Returning to Wolverine and the X-Men, No. 31 for deeper consideration.

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Why is it that the bad guys lose? Not only lose but keep trying as though they will eventually win? And when they win, as Norman Osborne did in Marvel Comics for a while, they eventually get beaten up extra-badly and placed in a prison beneath the earth, never to be free again. Crime really does not pay when one is a supervillain?

The problem with villains winning in comic books (or similar media, television, movies, “genre” novels) is that the villains goals are fundamentally unacceptable to the audience. The world will no longer be “like ours” if a villain transforms all the people into monsters or detonates the Earth’s core or succeeds in invading the USA or what-have-you. The sense of it being “our world” becomes lost.

I think it would be interesting to experiment with villains who have more modest goals. Things that can be lost to the hero without changing the fabric of society, thus ruining the “world outside your window” illusion.

Let’s say you’ve got a villain who likes robbing banks (an archaic crime, if you look up the real stats, but roll with it). Then your superhero (Batman will do) attempts to foil the plot. He fails, gets beaten up, the villain gets the loot and Batman staggers back home with his cape between his legs. Lesson learned. No second act, no “this time it’s personal,” just simply “you win some, you lose some.”

I would like to see an element of plot uncertainty in action stories where the goal being battled over is forgiving enough that there remains a fair chance that the writer can send the hero into defeat without ruining the world.


*art by Nick Bradshaw, story by Jason Aaron

One Response to “Even when you win, you lose in the end.”

  1. Andy Sherwin (@andysherwin) June 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I’m working on a novel (ugh I hate typing that) in which the protagonist is trying to stop A Bad Guy, save some people under his thumb, and survive herself. I’ve got the whole story except for the ending, but I know she’ll get two out of three, at the very most. Maybe even just one. It’s a lot more interesting to me, and a lot more realistic, that a story that contains violence as plot catalyst (good grief I sound like an asshole) would, by necessity, cause casualties all around, and just because she’s my protagonist doesn’t mean she’s superhuman (not that kinda story).

    I like where your head’s at with this question.

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