Heroes (2017 edition)
For long-time readers of my material (and those who know me personally), the subject of what exactly constitutes a ‘hero’ is a familiar one. I have already voiced my opinions about this subject three years ago, but reading it now… I disagree with some of my choices. Rather than simply deleting the original article and starting again, I think it’s interesting to keep both (and any future) articles to see what has changed.
The following characters have had a lasting impact on me as a writer, either due to their actions or purely their personalities. So in no particular order, here are my heroes for 2017.
DISCLAIMER: There may be be plot-related spoilers referring to the characters I have chosen.
‘It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.’
The secret identity of billionaire Bruce Wayne, Batman has captured the imagination of every generation since his creation. Sometimes referred to as the Caped Crusader or the Dark Knight, he prowls the streets of Gotham City by night, intent on foiling criminal activities in an entirely non-lethal manner. That’s not to say he doesn’t pack a powerful punch or break a few legs on the way. This DC hero has no supernatural abilities up his sleeve, unlike his sometimes-rival-sometimes-ally Superman. Instead, he relies on his keen eyes, sharp mind and an arsenal of amazing gadgets, weapons and vehicles.
Everyone has their light and dark sides and Batman dramatises both well. Bravery, morals, strength and a fierce intelligence combine to create a complex character simply brimming with reasons to like and empathise with him. He perfectly demonstrates that heroes don’t have to lap up the limelight, they can often be hated or feared by the general public, who don’t understand how much good he really does for them while they sleep.
Corvo Attano—Dishonored 1–2
‘Forgiveness isn’t my specialty.’
Finding a quote for the once-silent protagonist of Dishonored was rather tricky, let me tell you. Luckily, our mate Corvo is back in Dishonored 2, with a voice no less, and while I have yet to play through the game as the Royal Protector (I just finished my first play through as Emily), I expect to play the character exactly in the same way as I did in the first game.
Corvo Attano was framed for the murder of his lover, Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, in Dishonred and spent the entire game trying to do away with the usurpers of the crown and track down those who had betrayed him and kidnapped his daughter, Emily. Depending on how you played the game, Corvo was either a merciless force of vengeance, killing his targets upon meeting them; or a master of the shadows, manipulating and neutralising his targets in various non-lethal ways—my favourite being when you’re given the opportunity to befriend gang leader Slackjaw who will then abduct your two targets, cut out their tongues and throw them in a mine to work as slaves.
With me pulling the strings, Corvo Attano was no assassin, though he had all the tools of the trade—he was simply a wronged man who was trying to get his daughter safely back onto the throne, and he put himself in danger time and time again to do it. In the time of the Rat Plague, Dunwall brought out the worst in people, but Corvo rose above it all and cleared out the corruption—for the memory of the dead Empress, for his daughter and for the common folk of the Empire.
‘I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.’
His life shattered by circumstances beyond his control, the only thing remaining to him is vengeance. From respected and honourable Roman general to expendable slave, Maximus is driven by a sense of revenge along the long and painful road to Rome, where the man who killed his friend and ordered the murders of his wife and son sits upon the throne as Emperor.
Why do I like Maximus so much? The story of Gladiator shows that characters don’t always have to be in control of their journey. Instead of driving the storyline from location to location, their strength of character comes from how they react to the events that transpire in their lives. Maximus rises above his grief and decides to become the best fighting slave in Rome in order to come face to face with the Emperor and that’s what makes him a strong character. When he has nothing left and is resigned to die, he decides to do one last thing—but his quest to kill the Emperor isn’t simply a selfish one: his family is dead, nothing can bring them back, but he believes he needs to save Rome from the Emperor and reinstate the power of the Senate.
‘You shouldn’t have to go. There are plenty of young men to fight for China!’
(This story varies somewhat, depending on the version, but I first met Mulan in the Disney version.) Set in Mediaeval China, Mulan goes off to war to prevent her father, who is old and carries an old injury, from going off to war and probably getting killed. She steals her father’s armour, cuts her hair and impersonates her fictitious brother in order to become accepted into a recruit army. At first, she is weak and quite hopeless, like many of the other recruits, and a confrontation between herself and her captain, Li Shang, motivates her to try harder, as failure would bring dishonour to her family. Her strength of character, as well as in body, enables her to pass her initial training and she joins the army to go off to war and consequently becomes a champion.
I admire her because she is risking her life to save her father and trying her best to bring honour to her family, but not only that—she wants what all the other soldiers want: to save China.
Commander Shepard—Mass Effect 1–3
‘I’m going to do what you brought me back to do. I’ll fight and win this war without compromising the soul of our species.’
Commander (insert first name here) Shepard is a human—an unpopular race in the universe of Mass Effect, one that other races resent for their greediness and false sense of entitlement. We first meet the Commander on a mission that, thanks to Mass Effect 1‘s antagonist, goes horribly wrong. On the hunt for answers, Shepard gathers a crew of talented aliens and stumbles across an ancient race of machines intent on destroying the galaxy. Despite the mistrust and denial of the galaxy’s most senior authorities, Commander Shepard and co thwart the Reapers’ plans, not once, not twice but three times across the series. There are countless situations that demonstrate Shepard’s bravery and heroism, not least of all is the final endgame moment where you can sacrifice you life to destroy the Reapers for good.
Just like Corvo Attano, the character of Commander Shepard reflects your choices in the game, but regardless of your dialogue or moral choice decisions, you will still be at the forefront of the fight against the Reapers with the aim to save the galaxy. Personally, I enjoy the odd jaunt down the renegade Shepard road (mainly because certain situations need a firm and decisive hand), but I always end up playing as a paragon for the simple reason that that version of Shepard is the one that feels truest to me. Commander Shepard is fierce, brave and strong, but also compassionate. He/she is not fighting simply for him/herself or the human race—he/she is fighting for life itself, the billions of humans and aliens that now live and will live in the future. Can’t really get more heroic than that.
Harry Potter—Harry Potter series
‘There’s a reason I can hear them… the Horcruxes. I think I’ve known for a while. And I think you have too.’
If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series (or at least seen the eight main movies—yes, including the fourth one), then I suggest you do so now, because this is a story that will move you. After the death of his parents, baby Harry was begrudgingly taken in by his aunt and uncle, and for 11 years, he suffered humiliation from his cousin and cruelty from his aunt and uncle. When it was discovered that he was a wizard, however, Harry’s journey from nobody to the hero of the wizarding world is long, believable, and full of wonder, loss and many acts of bravery. At first, he seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time over and over again—acting simply to keep him and his friends alive—but as his character develops, he begins to understand that he needs to involve himself because, if he doesn’t, nobody else will and he knows that, to others, he is a leader who inspires bravery.
The most heroic act that he performs (in my opinion, at least) is when he realises that Lord Voldemort cannot be destroyed unless he, Harry, allows the Dark Lord to kill him. He walks to his death willingly—afraid, yes, and of course with sadness that he will never see his friends again—but he also knows that his sacrifice will mean that everyone he leaves behind will have a chance of defeating Lord Voldemort and his followers, and living free. In the truest sense of the word “hero”, he gives up his own life so that others might live. Good boy.
Garrus Vakarian—Mass Effect 1–3
‘If you don’t respect your enemy’s capabilities, you’re in for one nasty surprise after another.’
There’s something quite special about this NPC. As a young turian, Garrus followed in his father’s footsteps and became a member of C-Sec, the law enforcement agency on the Citadel—the centre of galactic civilisation—in the Mass Effect series. Always willing to go further than duty dictates, Garrus winds up investigating a rogue Spectre agent, Saren, despite being told that the investigation has been closed. He teams up with Commander Shepard and co, and sees the villain brought to justice. But that’s just the beginning of his story.
At the beginning of Mass Effect 2, Garrus has become a notorious vigilante on the crime-infested space station-cum-asteroid Omega. He and his team risk life and limb to pick off the various mercenaries making life hell for the residents of Omega, leading to the creation of his nickname Archangel. He and Shepard reuinte and he agrees to step up, once more, to help save countless lives in the mission to save the galaxy from the Reapers.
But what makes him different to the other crew members? They, after all, also accompany Shepard on his/her mission and risk their lives. Well, I think the answer to that lies in his character and his choices. After quitting C-Sec (due to the amount of red tape that was preventing him from investigating Saren), he didn’t find another job in law enforcement, try out for the Spectres or join the turian army. He became a vigilante and sought out criminals. On a larger scale, he was helping Shepard save the galaxy (again), but when he’s not in Shepard’s shadow, he’s just as willing to put himself in harm’s way to make the galaxy a better place.
Other worthy mentions:
Jon Snow—The Song of Ice and Fire series
Neo, Trinity and Morpheus—The Matrix
Eowyn and the Fellowship—The Lord of the Rings
Luke Skywalker—Star Wars