Q: What is one of the great pleasures of the reading world?
A: An interesting villain.
One of the examples that comes to mind is Hannibal Lecter. Here is a man who indulges in murder, torture and cannibalism and yet is inarguably the most interesting character in the several books he appears in. Granted, he’s not really a sympathetic character, but he is the center of attention. I think part of what distinguishes the interesting villain from the garden variety is consistency. So the interesting villain doesn’t follow society’s rules but he does follow his own rules. Discovering and acknowledging the constancy of the villain to these rules is part of the enjoyment of the character. You see the payoff coming or some plot twist prevents it. Each occasion reinforces the pattern and adds to the fun.
Closely allied to this type is the anti-hero. He rescues you from a serial killer but then kicks you in the balls for making him miss his coffee break. He saves a bus full of nuns from falling off a cliff but then relieves himself on the bus tire in full view of the thankful occupants. Here the enjoyment comes from the juxtaposition of thrilling exploits and amazing skill along side of boorish behavior and callous disregard. Perhaps a more descriptive title is the Heroic Jerk.
For anyone familiar with Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series of books I think the character I would immediately associate with the anti-hero is Agent Franks. He carries out all assignments issued to him by the Monster Control Bureau (MCB) no matter how brutal and regardless of the impact on innocent bystanders. His almost complete indifference to human considerations of any kind is sort of his hallmark. Along with this is his almost complete lack of interpersonal skills. The closest he ever comes to tact is silence. Usually his version of conversation is an order prefaced by an insult and followed up almost immediately with a threat or an assault. Good times, good times.
The flipside to this is his willingness to fight evil no matter the odds and no matter the risk to himself. His underlying motivation is to fulfill his oath to destroy humanity’s supernatural foes (regardless of how many innocent bystanders must be coincidentally slaughtered to achieve that noble goal).
Starting out as a small recurring part in the first couple of Monster Hunter books Franks gains much greater importance in one of the later books and becomes pivotal to the underlying story line. But I find his curmudgeonly heroism endlessly entertaining. So much so, that I have decided to make it my life’s work to convince a major motion picture studio to bring the Monster Hunter world to the big screen, and most importantly, to cast Adam Baldwin as Agent Franks. I base this casting decision on Mr. Baldwin’s very similar character of Col. John Casey of the NSA (in the tv series Chuck). This was also a man of few words who would sacrifice himself (and anyone around him) in order to fulfill his mission. The aptness of this casting is I believe self-evident.
So all hail to the Anti-Hero. All hail the Heroic Jerk.