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July 15, 2013

Writer Wrangler: Jennifer Harlow on Anti-Heroes


Anti-Heroes and Superheroes
by Jennifer Harlow

Full confession: I cannot stand Superman. I have never and will never like him (even when played by eye candy like Henry Cavill.) Why, you may ask? He saves people, he’s handsome, he’s almost invincible, he can rock tights like no one else. He is perfect. Well, there is your answer. I cannot stand perfect people either in real life (Hello Gwyneth) or in fiction. It’s just so boring and one dimensional. Most of us have layers, good and bad with good hopefully winning out more than its yang. The world and people in it live in gray. Given the choice between a conversation with a nice person or an interesting bastard I go bastard every time. 

Which is why I love my main character Det. Joanna Fallon in my latest book JUSTICE. She’s not the sweetest, softest of women. She cusses like a sailor, drinks too much, makes tons of bad decisions, and is prejudiced toward the superhumans who inhabit her world. Yet she’s also excellent at her job, owns up to her flaws, and loves with everything she has. When my agent was shopping the book around one of the reasons editors gave for not publishing it was Jo was too tough. She wasn’t “feminine” enough, whatever that meant. She was the kind of woman who if someone punches her in the face, instead of crying and shutting up, she spits blood right back in his. In other words, she wasn’t a perfect heroine. She was an anti-hero. And she’s in good company. Here are my top ten favorite characters of all time, and everyone an interesting bastard:



10. Beatrix Kiddo AKA The Bride
 “You and I have unfinished business.” Don’t mess with the top female assassin. Don’t try to kill her and kidnap her daughter or you’ll face the wrath of her katana. But what wouldn’t you do for your child?


9. Malcolm Reynolds
Smuggler. Space pirate. Wise ass. He’s a criminal without question, yet if you’re in his heart, you’re in for eternity no matter what he may try to make you believe. And he does look amazing in tight pants.


8. Walter White
Mild-mannered chemistry teacher dying of cancer wants his family to have some money before he dies. Why not cook meth? Of course now he’s a hairsbreadth from becoming Evil (his death count is almost as high as Dexter’s), but somewhere deep down his humanity remains intact.


7. Veronica Mars
Most teenage girls are obsessed with fashion and boys. Veronica is obsessed with following people around and solving murders. She’s always sassy, she does have sex, and her methods can be questionable but she gets the job done.


6. Batman
There’s a reason they call him The Dark Knight. He fights for good, sure, but his methods involve beating bad guys to a pulp and committing crimes for the greater good. He’s moody, misanthropic, and what normal human puts on a mask without something to hide?


5. Scarlett O’Hara
She’s beautiful. She’s determined. She’s strong. She’s a total bitch. She will go after your man, shoot you dead for stealing from her, and lie just as much as she breathes. But she’ll also deliver your baby, save a plantation, and support her family. Sometimes being a bitch isn’t such a bad thing.


4. Dexter Morgan
Can a serial killer have a moral code? This one does. A serial killer who only kills other serial killers, Dexter knows what he’s doing is wrong but he has to feed his dark side or else. Sure he’s cleaning up the streets, but for his own selfish reasons.


3. Sherlock Holmes
No matter the portrayal, or the hotness of the actor (*sigh* those cheekbones) one thing remains consistent: Sherlock is a dick. He is the smartest person in the room and knows it. He doesn’t care what you think about him or your feelings, he will literally walk over your corpse to solve the puzzle. And let’s not forget he’s a drug addict. But he puts his intellect to good use to solve crimes.


2. Tyrion Lannister
Part of the evilest family in all of Westeros, this put upon dwarf manages to survive by his wits and wit. Sure he drinks, whores around, and even kills once or twice, he also saves a city and tries to put the kingdom above his own needs. You can’t spell Pimp without Imp.


1. Catwoman
Some people place her in the villain category. She is a thief, she’ll play the side that benefits her, and she’ll cut or whip a bitch without hesitation, yet she’ll help Batman whenever she can. She believes in helping wildlife, especially felines, and she has been known to stop a crime or two herself.


What about you? Do you prefer your heroes in white or gray? Who have I left off the list? Why are anti-heroes so popular right now?

Purchase Justice



Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virgina home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills.


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