Amazing Kids! Magazine

How the Antihero Is Strategically Angling into Popular Culture

By Sarina Patel, Jr. Assistant Editor and Comic Hub Co-Editor


In the previous article, we analyzed the seismic superhero trend and key factors that have shaped its commercial success. Today, we’re going to dive deeper and explore one of those factors in detail.

At the core of most friendly neighborhood superhero stories, one will often find a hero that strictly obeys and upholds the law. This is usually done to preserve peace in his or her society.

But, as recent action comics and movies have shown, a different type of hero can seek to preserve peace using alternate ways and still earn favor with the audience. This type of hero acknowledges that he or she is not completely good or bad and seeks to reform the system that currently obstructs justice through alternative and creative ways. This type of hero is the antihero.

“Contrary to the sound, the antihero is not the villain…[they] unwittingly end up challenging those in power, that is, those who abuse their power,” Tim Adams narrates in his TedEx animation “An Antihero of One’s Own.”

But what may sound like a recipe for success has experienced a lack of that in popular culture. Antiheroes in the comic multiverse have experienced a real conundrum. The antihero is a trope notoriously regenerated by Marvel’s classically disillusioned underdog superheroes and reluctant heel-turn villains. The antihero has also been popular in movies—especially in the action genre. However, the emergence of the antihero in comic movies did not blend well, nor did it warrant significant commercial success…until recently.

In The Mummy (2017), one of the characters becomes an antihero. This riveting plot twist at the end of the film resulted in major profits—according to The Numbers’ movie statistics, The Mummy (2017) raked in over $80 million domestically and $320 million in international box office revenues.

One of the distinct and different details of this monster movie rehash was its use of a character that embraced the best and ugliest parts of personality in order to ward off a creature of darkness.

This move to include the antihero in a live-action animation film provoked some intriguing questions among fellow audience members after the show. I myself was thrilled by the fuzzy interpretation of what it means to be a human and whether being a monster is a mentality or a form from the perspective of an antihero. It’s nice to see the addition of a complex figure that challenges authority as a central force of justice in movies.

This aside, The Mummy (2017) is just the tip of the pyramid for live-action animation films looking to test the waters with a hero that isn’t graceful or cheerful in endeavors to enforce good.

In fact, The Mummy (2017) is only one film in Universal Studios’s Dark Universe series, Universal Studios’s newest platform to reinvent classics released by the same company in the early 1900s. They evidently hope that the cinematic twists and turns generated in the new remakes will inspire new endings to iconic films such as Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein.

It’s unclear whether the Dark Universe series will have the same bite as other films in the monster universe, but perhaps the success of the antihero will continue to expand with the expansion of the Dark Universe films. In the meantime, the antihero has earned itself the spotlight in less conventional ways.

Acclaimed pop/R&B singer The Weeknd, also known as Abel Tesfaye, finally admitted what he had been teasing on Twitter for several days in October 2017—that he is collaborating with Marvel to release a Starboy comic based on his bestselling album of the same name.

In an interview with Zane Lowe, Tesfaye said, “I guess this is the fourth chapter. [Starboy’s] a character that we created. It’s so funny; we wanted to create a comic out of him as well.”

The antihero has a long road ahead before it warrants the same merit as a conventional lawful hero. But with the Dark Universe films in production and an inventive collaboration between two brilliant titans on the horizon, it would appear that things are looking up for the dismal antihero.