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Monday, March 18, 2013 

How can the bad guys be more fun than the good guys?

CBR interviewed Mike Costa about a new GI Joe spinoff he's writing for IDW called The Cobra Files, and he thinks it's more fun to write about the villains:
Do you relate more to the bad guys than the good guys when writing stories?

Well, I think any writer will tell you that the bad guys are the most fun to write. I think there's a lot of wish fulfillment involved in breaking all the rules and just letting your id run rampant, which is why a good villain is always a great engine to power a story. I wouldn't go so far as to say I "relate" to them though.

The Baroness is a great character. When someone annoys her, she shoots them. She's utterly fearless, probably to the point of insanity. I enjoy writing a character that dynamic and strong -- maybe I even envy her a little, because who doesn't want to just bulldoze through all your obstacles like they aren't there? - but that's definitely not me. I relate much more to characters who are conflicted. Who are gnawed by guilt or regret. Who act selfishly and lie to themselves and lay awake at night eaten alive by self-loathing.
Granted, he says he doesn't "relate" to them, meaning, he doesn't identify or condone their MO. But while there are plenty of supervillains in superhero comics I've enjoyed seeing the good guys fight against, the idea that the bad guys are more fun to work with bothers me, because it's like they're saying that the goodies are "boring". This is exactly what's hurting adventure fare, when the writers suggest they find the baddies more entertaining than the heroes, a claim that obscures all the great wisecracks the heroes like Spider-Man and the Thing make, plus their relationships with ladyfriends and other neighbors. I assume Costa's ideas stem from a perception that, because we don't usually expect the villains to be 3-dimensional, so that makes everything you could do with them enjoyable. There are plenty of supervillains whom I enjoy reading about, but that doesn't mean I consider them more interesting in every way than the heroes.

And there have been at least a few cases in recent times where heroes have been marginalized in favor of the villains: we're supposed to find the villains and how they think/behave interesting, but not care whether the writers can successfully build a workable personality and personal life for the heroes, along with supporting casts and co-stars. I don't think that's a positive path to take, but with the kind of people running mainstream comics today, it shouldn't be surprising the villains would get more spotlighting than the heroes' own potential.

Costa should consider the risk he's taking of making it sound as though the villains are truly something to relish, all at the heroes' expense.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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