story idea

a superhero story where the villain and the superhero are roommates and they keep making excuses to each other about why they are out all the time and after battles they stitch each other up after battles but neither has any idea that the other is their nemesis and they keep on having to lie to each other why they are covered in scratches and bruises

Why “Boyscout” Characters are Underrated

In any given narrative in any genre, be it film, novels, comic books, video games, cartoons or stage plays, having a likable main character is important. Very important. One could argue it is the most essential part of the puzzle of storytelling in fact. After all, a story is all about following the adventure(s) of a person or collection of people who go through trials and conflicts and drama to fulfill a goal. Whether it’s a wannabe superstar tenaciously working towards glory or a strong man in tights seeking justice and apprehending criminals, we’re going to be sticking with this character for a while, so by all means the last thing you want is to make your character somebody who the audience is uninterested in or, even worse, neglectful to follow. 

But that said, opinions on what makes a strong lead can very among different audience members. It’s only natural; all art is subjective and has an appeal not everybody will appreciate. But sometimes certain tastes can trend; and that taste comes with a bitterness to it’s alternative. In this case I’m talking about the hardening and darkening of heroes, the promotion of moral ambiguity … and the mocking of “boyscout” characters. Characters often criticized for being too unrealistically moral and upstanding, “perfect” is the word often used. Superman is the prime example of this: for years people have been calling him boring because he’s so impossibly powerful he can resolve any situation and he’s so morally upright that his conflicts with bad guys become rinse and repeat. Even with the character gaining significantly more depth over the years the sentiment has been the same; Superman is just too good and powerful to be interesting. The same has been applied to other heroes, albeit to a lesser extent, such as Wonder Woman, Shazam and Captain America. Meanwhile, those characters more favored by a larger audience are more flawed individuals; people who make mistakes, whose acts of selfishness have consequences, whose good nature is often challenged and will go to a farther extent at apprehending criminals then boyscouts, perhaps even going as far as killing. Batman, Wolverine, Spawn and Lobo all have these reputations. The “Badass” of the crew is always the top seller: because it’s not enough for a reader to be morally upright and just. They also have to be badass and edgy.

Originally posted by vikaq

Now I didn’t type up this long winded article to bash anybody for liking brooding gritty characters. Far from it; I understand the appeal of them perfectly well and am also a fan of these characters. It’s not a bad thing to have leads who feel broken from loss and torment, and thus distance themselves from others and have a hard time trusting people, putting up a tough guy attitude to hide the fact that they are actually quite sensitive. This is a very real thing that many people in the modern world feel. Plus zealousness and confidence along with the capacity to back up such bravado is very endearing. If anybody is proof of that fact it’s the late Muhammad Ali.

But the question I want to ask is; are these characters naturally superior in likability to boyscouts? Are non problematic, morally upright people in fiction just not interesting? Again, this stuff is subjective, but if more people gravitate towards the gritty brooding Batman then the sunny, happy go lucky Superman, so much so that DC has been essentially making Superman out to be a tortured alien soul, then does this give us a window into what it means to be an objectively likable character?

My answer is: Not really.

Think what you will about Superman, but consider how long he’s been around and how much he has shaped our culture. The character has been around for over 80 years now, and he’s gone through many changes and adaptations to be sure (most comic book characters go through the same process) but his core elements and ideas have remained in tact and, to be honest, his franchise has told some of the finest stories of the 20th century. He’s still the highest selling comic book superhero franchise of all time. I think it’s safe to say there is something about this boyscout that sticks.

Originally posted by giphy

So in defense of these boyscout characters who I have an admitted fondness for, I will be pointing out the main criticisms against these characters and giving a retort against each.

1: Morally perfect characters aren’t interesting. 

 I disagree. Often times this criticism comes from a misunderstanding of what a “morally perfect” characters conflict really is, because it isn’t as simple and clear cut as “will this guy defeat this guy?”. Superman often comes under criticism for resolving his situations and defeating his bad guys way too easily, and as a result bad guys always resort to either repetitive weaknesses or are absurdly powerful themselves to even compete. But here’s the thing about Superman: It’s not about whether he’ll win or lose. It’s about whether he’ll do the right thing. He’s already proven time and time again that he’s the most powerful character in all of comics, possibly in all of fiction. His dilemma is whether or not he’s managing those powers responsibly, and whether he still belongs to the human race in spite of those powers. He may be on the level of a God, but he’s still a Cansas born farmboy raised by Christian locals, works on a reporters salary, is in love with his attractive female co worker and has an affinity for beef bourguignon. That sure as hell sounds a lot more relatable then a boy born into wealth and fortune, most likely went into private school, who traveled the world to study under the greatest masters of martial arts on earth after his parents were suddenly murdered, but that’s just me ;). Captain America’s conflict is also commonly misunderstood. He’s all about being a fish out of water who has to do his best to do the right thing in a world where other heroes such as Iron Man represent the modern age far better then he does. Superman and Cap are quite similar because they hold onto traditional values and morality. Make no mistake, traditional =/= perfect. Both of their ethics have been challenged and shaken time and time again in comics.

Originally posted by mithborien

2: Boyscouts aren’t relatable.

 So let me get this straight: You DON’T relate to trying to be a good person as often as possible? You DON’T relate to just wanting what’s best for yourself and people around you? You DON’T relate to seeking justice and hope and love? Maybe not everyone does; again, subjectivity is a real thing. But just because you may not aspire to higher ideals doesn’t mean nobody does. If nobody ever did I don’t think superheroes would even be a thing.

But that said, relatability isn’t objectively necessary for a main lead to have anyway. Don’t get me wrong; it’s always a nice and welcome touch. Depth is NEVER a bad thing. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the thing that drives the story nor does it have to be the thing that defines what makes the character so likable. What’s more important then a character being relatable .  . .is a character being motivated. For evidence of this claim, look no further then some of the most popular VILLAINS around in pop culture. Relatable villains can occur and get popular, certainly, but more often then not the villains that become the most romanticized and trend the most are villains who are so malicious, so intent with their evil, so driven to make everything around them miserable that you can’t help but get involved with the chaos they’re bringing. Perfect example: The Joker. EVERYONE loves the joker, but I sincerely doubt anybody would say they relate to him. Moreover I think people are just invested because HE’S invested, and we’re interested to see just how far he’ll go to carry out his goal …whatever the hell it is.

Originally posted by vikaq

Heroes can work in very much the same way. How far will they go to seek out justice? What are disciplines they set for themselves? How committed are they to their cause? Will they ever break their code, and if so, can they be redeemed? I don’t buy the idea that good people don’t invite conflict because doing good even when it’s hard and having restraint even when people disagree with you is a conflict in and of itself.

3: Good guys don’t lend themselves to conflict.

 Allow me to repeat what I just said: Doing good even when it’s hard and having restraint even when people disagree with you is a conflict in and of itself. You don’t have to be flawed to invite conflict: matter of fact, heroes are literally DEFINED by their desire to seek out conflict because they would not be heroes if they remained indifferent to tragedy and crime. I know what you’re thinking: “What people mean when they say this is INTERNAL conflict”. People are interested by tortured souls who all too often do morally ambiguous things. Again, I understand the appeal of that, but on the other hand, if you aren’t convinced that people wouldn’t want to enact good in the world unless they learn first hand the consequences of evil when it strikes them, then I’m sorry, that’s a very cynical perception of reality. Wanting to do good can be propelled by wanting to SEE good in the world, and not wanting your powers or whatever it is you do to fight crime to not go to waste. Characters do not have to be defined by tragedy to be compelling: they can be defined by how they define themselves. What disciplines they set for themselves, what their code of honor is and how it conflicts with others. Personally I think it’d be really refreshing to see a character who didn’t learn the hard way that crime sucks and that’s what convinces them to take responsibility for once, because that’s just really selfish when you think about it. You don’t give a shit about what goes wrong in the world unless it effects you. I can’t assert this enough: I understand that writing characters in such a way can instill more drama, but I disagree that they have to be written in such a way every time.

4: Dark and gritty is more realistic.

No, it’s not. dark and gritty =/= more realistic. Matter of fact it’s just as much a fantasy as a light and upbeat world. Goodness and kindness is just as  much a part of life as cruelty and sadness. It is not “realistic” to highlight either extreme. It shouldn’t be necessary for entertainment to be “realistic” anyway. If you wanted realism you wouldn’t devolve into fantasy; you’d just go outside. Fantasy is about escaping realism and fulfilling a need to feel certain emotions by indulging in a particular genre. Every genre is valid for that reason. We watch comedies to laugh. tragedies to cry, romances to gush and horrors to scream. If you like your dark and grittiness more then other themes then by all means go for it; but it’s unfair to say lightheartedness and peppiness is any less valid of fantasy fulfillment, especially under the fallacy that it’s “less realistic”.


So I’m hoping this article broadened the readers horizons a bit about what  it means to be an interesting character, and in particular I’m hoping they’ll be more open minded about “boyscouts” and “goody-two-shoes”. A good character is not always defined by tragedy and is not always defined by things they can’t control. A good character is defined by what motivates them, what actions they take, what disciplines they hold for themselves and what they do with their capacity for either good or evil. A likable character is one clearly defined and adds to the stakes, and in that regard good guys are no less valid.

listen if a dude starts quizzing you about superheros and comic book shit to see if ur a “fake nerd girl” just be like “who would win in a fight squirrel girl or (literally anyone)” bc guess what the answer is always squirrel girl she can kick anyones ass remind him squirrel girl could kick his faves ass she kicked dr dooms ass, wolverines ass even thanos got his ass kicked by squirrel girl



2nd) I wonder if Kara ever helps wash hospital windows as Supergirl like those awesome window washers that dress up as Spiderman and such to make kids happy….

3rd) I love those superhero window washers they make me have faith in humanity