Those who have been with Major Spoilers for a while may remember my repeated (and vocal) dislike of the use of Iron Man as the face of the pro-registration forces during the Civil War.  Not only did it go against his own previous characterization, the creators insisted on putting overwhelmingly fascist rhetoric into the stories, making one of their longest-serving heroes into a the villain of the piece.  Around the same time, DC resurrected and revamped one of their iconic heroes, Green Lantern, into a mouthy, anti-authoritarian,. loose-cannon, womanizing schmuck, again inverting some of the longest-standing parts of his character in the name of modernization.  Though different aspects of the characters were amplified, both men went from hero to jerkass without passing go, leading to my eventually dropping BOTH characters’ books due to a vehement dislike of the protagonist…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) should mention that I loved both Iron Man and Green Lantern growing up, especially when Hal was revealed to be fearless even without his ring, asking: Do you respond to the “Jerk Protagonist” archetype?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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8 Comments

  1. Ingrid
    July 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    Yeah,I respond. I respond by saying,”Gosh, this guy is a real jerk and I don’t care about his adventures,” putting the book down, and walking away. When a hero is too obnoxious, they get less interesting in my eyes. I tend to minimize my contact with jerks in real life too.

    • Gary
      July 26, 2013 at 1:41 pm — Reply

      YES

  2. B.V.K.
    July 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    I guess it depends on how it is used. Obviously people are going to enjoy something more if they don’t find it offensive and or they agree with the character. It is very hard to offend me and so I find I have a higher tolerance for these sort of things as long as the story is interesting. Someone like re-vamped anti-authority, mouthy Hal Jordan wouldn’t bother me, but someone like re-vamped anti-capitalism, commie Oliver Queen did. I didn’t stop reading Green Arrow when he started showing traits I didn’t like because the stories were still good. So I guess like most things in comics it just comes down to how well they pull it off.

  3. JacinB
    July 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm — Reply

    I kind of agree with B.V.K. on this one. So long as it fits the character, is written well, and isn’t an over-the-top caricature in its offensiveness, I can usually adapt.

    I think that I like a re-vamped Tony Stark, for example, because it fits with the Tony Stark I know (as played by Robert Downey, Jr.). I didn’t like the Fuhrer Stark of Civil War, but I like the arrogant jerk Stark that came after precisely because it fit so well with the guy I saw on the big screen.

    I’m a little less alright with an anti-capitalist Oliver Queen because, well, he’s a rich kid and wouldn’t be where he is without the system he’s so against. But, that’s a different discussion for a different day.

    Heck, a-holes don’t get much bigger than the ‘Negan’ character in the Walking Dead comics right now but, even so, he’s one of my favorite antagonists in a long, long while.

    It all comes down to whether or not the writer makes it work for the character.

  4. RAM_evilspaceknight
    July 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm — Reply

    I think most people dislike Jerks for protagonists.
    Interestingly though, *everyone* loves a bastard.

  5. July 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm — Reply

    Writers write what they know.

  6. Shush
    July 27, 2013 at 3:29 am — Reply

    It seems to me that a whole heck of a lot is forgiven and overlooked if one manages to be funny. A lot of humor, subsequently, revolves around being a jerk. The level of jackwagonry can vary, but it’s often there in protagonists that are snarky and full of banter.

    That got me to thinking about what actually qualifies as being a ‘jerk’. What actually qualifies someone as being a jerk? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives me the following definition:
    a : an annoyingly stupid or foolish person
    b : an unlikable person; especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded

    Ah. We can probably throw selfish into the definition as well. But, revisiting my earlier thought; if a person manages to be funny, they’re seen more as clever rather than as being a jerk though they can still qualify by being rude and cruel about it.

    Mostly, I guess, that it boils down to whether a character annoys you or not. If they annoy you, they’re a jerk; if they don’t annoy you, they’re not a jerk.

  7. AllenBT
    July 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm — Reply

    Interesting that one incarnation of GL (today’s Hal) is failing as a jerk character, while another (Guy Gardner) thrived on it (admittedly as part of a team book).

    Jerk characters can work, but they need a certain charisma beyond their basic bad attitudes and a logical reason for their personality flaws.

    TV’s House is a great example of this. He’s simply too smart and too non-conformist to act in civil manner.

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