The Monstrous Hero

Spike and Angel

This might be a rehash of Monday, but I’m still wondering about having a monster as a protagonist.  I’m going to be more positive about this though because there are unique approaches to such an antihero.  In fact, there are storylines that you can do with a monster hero that you can’t do with a more human one.

Question of Humanity

When your protagonist is a creature like a demon or vampire then you have to find a balance between their monster and human side.  Some might not have the latter exactly, but I mean the side that makes them be a hero instead of a villain.  For example, a demon might not have a true human side.  In it’s place would be a world view that drives this creature to do good.  There has to be a catalyst for this kind of deviation from the normal archetype, which needs to be established early on or prior to the story.  After all, monsters are considered monsters for a reason.  Honestly, this can be as simple as a misunderstanding by humanity.

Now, this subplot requires that there be inner turmoil.  The decision to be a hero has to come into question in some fashion.  Maybe they fight and start to wonder why if humanity shuns them.  Others might have a natural instinct to eat humans, which they are constantly trying to hold back.  An enemy might repeatedly tempt them to step back into the darkness by committing a crime.  The trick is to maintain a sense that a monster protagonist can cross a line from antihero to villain.  I’m not saying this is the end of their story, but it makes it pretty hard for them to remain with humans.  So, you can see that there is a greater risk of falling than you would get with a human antihero.

In a way, this comes off as a Nature vs Nurture subplot.  A monster is destructive and deadly by nature, but one acting as a hero is being nurtured to act good.  It makes for a fun and interesting dynamic that can be played from various philosophical angles.  After all, can a creature of evil or darkness find a way to be an agent of good or light?

The Evil of Humanity

This is a weird one and could be seen as the opposite of the last idea.  Yet, it’s fairly simple if you think about it.  With a monster doing good, you and readers can compare how the humans are acting around it.  What do you think when the villains are human and the hero is a monster?  Sometimes the most disturbing act is committed by people, who don’t consider that they can be evil.  Possibly even worse than the monster because they aren’t seen as having the destructive instincts.  Maybe the monster points this out and asks others why they are trying to hard when those considered ‘normal’ are giving in to their darker instincts.  Here is where it connects back to the previous idea.

Being an Outcast

We see this a lot with humans, but it works out differently for monsters.  Using a vampire for an example (I’m tired of writing monster all the time), these creatures feed off people and make for great villains.  Yet, there is a history of solitary vampires turning on their own to protect humans.  They are shunned by their own kind, but not really accepted by those they are fighting for.  You have a handful of understanding humans while the vampire has to hide from others.  It’s a lonely existence and can bring up a lot of survival questions.  How do they get food?  What will they do if they win and no longer have to fight any more?  Again, this is predominantly internal.

This becomes an issue when there are other heroes around too.  Those who hunt vampires or werewolves could be enemies of a monstrous protagonist.  So, they’re not only an outcast to general society, but hero society too.  Unlike others, these monsters can’t go for help without risking their own life.  Even if they prove themselves, they will always be under suspicion to some extent.  One slip, even a fake one, means they go back to being shunned and possibly hunted.

I’m sure I’m missing a few subplots for monstrous heroes.  Can you think of any that work for these types?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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22 Responses to The Monstrous Hero

  1. You’ve touched upon some neat twists. I’ve played with some, mostly in short stuff, but there is a ton of opportunity there.


  2. Stories that touch on what constitutes a monster usually show that ‘Humans’ are the true monsters, whether THEY are the alien invaders from outer space, or, strange versions of humans intent on destroying ‘The People’ (a Neanderthal perspective), or even, Dr. Frankenstein’s motives compared to ‘The Monster’.
    That’s not even touching on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde scenarios.
    Similarly, what constitutes a hero?
    The West revere Alexander the Great as a hero, while those in the Middle East and India, regard him as a monster and destroyer of people and cities.
    Bottom line?
    There are heroes AND monsters within everyone, it’s all a matter of perspective.
    (Picking up broken old soapbox and shuffling off into the blogosphere forest again)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. L. Marie says:

    I can’t help thinking of Hellboy–at least the movies, which I’ve seen. I haven’t read the graphic novel. I loved his origin story, and his love for one of his fellow “freaks”–a fire starter. So poignant. I love the movies!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You covered the subject so well I’m stumped on other subplots.


  5. I just can’t stop thinking of the various Buffy subplots. Then again, you did lead with Angel and Spike.


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