?In days gone by, most characters fit snugly into one of two categories: good and evil. Good guys wore primary colors and their underpants on the outside for some reason, while bad guys wore black and usually had some form of hideous disfigurement, like being bald. Then in 1939 Batman came along with his tragic past, gloomy disposition and borderline personality disorder and changed everything. Suddenly the typical hero seemed, a little, well… typical.
Today, Knights In Shining Armor and Captains Fantastic are out. Dark Knights and Captains Jack (of the Harkness and Sparrow variety) are in. In fact, it sometimes seems as though every second fictional character is a antihero who play by their own rules, and are more worried about getting the job done than doing what’s “right.” But you won’t find Han Solo, Wolverine or Batman on this list. We know they’ve got a heart of gold hidden beneath that tough exterior. This is a list for the guys who don’t just walk a fine line between hero and villain, they pretty much jump back and forth across it whenever they damn well feel like it.
10) Midnighter, The Authority
?Imagine living in a world where Batman actually exists. Now imagine that rather than just being incredibly disciplined and well trained, Batman has enhanced strength, speed, an auxiliary heart and a crazy healing factor. Oh, and a mental combat computer that allows him to predict every move an enemy will make well before they ever think about making it. Now imagine that this Batman character, let’s just call him “Midnighter” for the sake of argument, really doesn’t mind ripping out your spine if you piss him off, or sodomizing you with a jackhammer if you mess with his husband, Apollo. That is one scary dude.
?When you think of heroic characters, an ex-CIA assassin resurrected by Malebolgia, one of the Lords of Hell, as a hideously disfigured Hellspawn to lead the armies of Hell against God probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Although Al Simmons has done some heroic things in his time, he’s also not above killing the occasional scumbag, or even wiping out all of humanity (yes, he did it to “save” us all, but still). Recently, in the most ludicrously drawn out crossover event of all time, Image United, Simmons returned from apparent death by suicide as Omega Spawn, intent on destroying Heaven and imprisoning God, and he unleashed every supervillain in Hell to help him do it. Also, he inflicted the Spawn movie on us all, which you have to admit is pretty evil.
?Wise-cracking, homicidal and completely insane, the “Merc with a Mouth” isn’t going to be anyone’s first pick for a superheroic savior in times of greatest need. In fact, if presented with a choice between saving your proverbial bacon, switching allegiance to the bad guys and shooting at you instead, or having a conversation with the nearest potted plant about the Eurythmics greatest hits, there’s a fair chance he’ll pick one of the latter two. It’s probably fair to say that Deadpool is the last person on this list you’d want to meet, because you at least know what you’re getting with the others.
7) Vegeta, Dragonball Z
?Once a cruel Saiyan Prince intent on collecting the Dragon Balls so he could wish for immortality and take over the galaxy, Vegeta has mellowed over time. Which pretty much just means he doesn’t want to rule everything anymore. He’s still the most arrogant, angriest bastard in cartoons, willing to do whatever it takes to surpass Goku and become the strongest fighter there is, including allowing himself to be taken over by Babidi’s evil magic and killing a whole bunch of people. The bottom line is, if the world’s in danger, Vegeta will be there to help. Unless he sees an opportunity to go one up on Goku, or thinks the problem is beneath him.
?Any comic character played by the truly frightening Dolph Lundgren had to be a lock for this list. Everyone knows the story: Frank Castle’s family were slaughtered by the mob so, logically, he decided to kill every bad guy in existence. We’ve all been there, except replace “slaughtered family” with “watched Transformers 2” and “kill everyone” with “impotent nerd rage”. Frank’s twisted sense of morality means that if you’re on the side of the angels, you’ll be fine, but even think about going Dark Side and he’ll shoot you in the back of the head without blinking. He’s also a bit of a downer at children’s birthday parties.
5) Alucard, Hellsing
?The vampire Alucard works for the Hellsing Organization, fighting against other vamps, Nazis and assorted creatures of the night. Which sounds great, except he’s not so much the “sparkly tortured soul on a quest for redemption” type of vampire, as the “torture and rip out people’s hearts” kind. Instead of reading them heartfelt poetry or creeping into their room at night to creepily stalk/lovingly watch over his prey, Alucard uses his vast supernatural powers to taunt his enemies, making them think they have a chance before killing them horribly. Which still sounds like a better deal than spending a night with Edward Cullen.
4) Jaime Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire
?Apart from being dashing and incredibly handsome, Ser Jaime, the Lion of Lannister, the Kingslayer, is one of the most famous and gifted knights in all of Westeros. He’s the youngest ever member of the Kingsguard and now its Lord Captain, brother to Queen Cersei, and the killer of mad King Aerys. All in all, a pretty typical bio for your average Fantasy hero, right? Right. Except for the fact that he’s a total, total bastard. If you haven’t read George R. R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, then at least do yourself a favor and watch HBO’s Game of Thrones. By the end of the first episode, you’ll be wondering why Jaime isn’t higher on this list, guaranteed.
3) Saint of Killers, Preacher
?Pro tip: If you ever find yourself in a position to hire a new, completely impervious to harm, Angel of Death and you give him two Walker Colt revolvers that never miss or run out of bullets, and can kill anything in creation, probably don’t choose an ex-Confederate soldier who has so much rage it literally caused Hell to freeze over. Because he might just turn around and point those guns at you, which is exactly what he did to the Devil, and then God and all of the angels, after discovering it was God who arranged for the Saint’s family to die in order to set him on the path to becoming the Saint.
2) Kratos, God of War
?It’s a tale as old as time itself: boy’s brother gets kidnapped by the Greek gods and sent to Death’s Domain, boy becomes a rampaging, murderous soldier who accidentally kills his entire family, boy declares war on the gods and decides to kill them all. Yes, it’s a bit clich?d. Sure, we’ve all been there at some point, but what sets Kratos apart is his complete ruthlessness and unfailing determination to finish the job, no matter the collateral damage. Also worthy of note is the extremely violent way in which the “Ghost of Sparta” dispatches his enemies: gouging out Poseidon’s eyes, beating Hercules to death and cutting Hermes’ legs off to name but a few. A good rule of thumb is: any guy willing and able to rip off somebody’s head and use it as a torch is definitely not somebody you want to argue with. Or possibly even be in the same zip code as.
1) John Constantine, Hellblazer
?If there was an award for Most Bastardous Bastard in the Field of Advanced Bastardry, John Constantine would win it, hands down. And there’s a whole list of dead friends, current enemies and even a few Lords of Hell who’d be quick to cast a vote his way. Hell, Constantine would probably vote for himself too. Cocky, charismatic, incredibly clever and not a little reckless, the occult detective is the man you call on when dark magic goes awry or you make a deal with the devil, then decide to wriggle out of it. The only problem is, Constantine is a fair magician but a master manipulator. He’s the living embodiment of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for”, because he’ll deliver on his end… two seconds before you find out he sold your soul to do it.