It’s so good to be bad

What do all these people have in common?

They all range from mildly attractive to drop-dead gorgeous, depending on your tastes.

And they’re all villains. I love villains. Well-developed, interesting, complex villains, that is.

I know. I’m super original.

Everyone loves well-developed, interesting, complex characters regardless of their status as a hero, villain, or anti-hero. If we learned anything from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it’s that villains are just as important (if not more important) to stories as heroes. In many cases, the villain could have been the hero at one point in his or her life; they had the same talent or power, but they were just a little more flawed. They’re just a little more human and a little less super. To me, a good villain is more real and/or relatable than a hero. I think we should give more villains their own stories.

I know of a few such stories. The first one that comes to mind is the manga and anime Death Note. If you don’t know anything about it, I’ll just repeat what everyone said to me before I watched it and tell you it’s a total mindfuck. I’ve only seen one episode of the immensely popular Breaking Bad, but everything I’ve seen, heard, and read tells me Walter White is a villain protagonist. I can’t exactly call Anna Karenina a villainess, but I certainly wouldn’t say she’s a heroine. I’m currently reading (or trying to read) Paradise Lost, and even though epic poetry isn’t my favorite thing ever, Milton’s Satan is incredibly likeable.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but look at the story potential even in that little selection of villains. Chris Hemsworth may be a gorgeous hunk of man, but I’d be way more interested in a movie strictly about Loki than I am in the Thor sequel. Queen Ravenna was a far more compelling character than Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman, and yes, Charlize Theron is 10 times the actress Kristen Stewart is, but I think the difference was built into the characters. And I would pay SO MUCH THEORETICAL MONEY to see more of Hatsumomo’s story even if I loved Memoirs of a Geisha just the way it was.

Here is where I’d love to get some good, honest-to-God conversation going. Do you like stories whose main characters are a darker shade of gray? If so, how is it done successfully? Do all the characters have to be bad (a hero-less story) and the main character just has to be the most likeable, relatable baddie?

On that note, what do you think makes a villain likeable or relatable enough that readers or viewers can enjoy them or want to spend time with them despite their actions? Which character traits are inexcusable? What was the difference between villains you may have been rooting for just a teensy bit and villains you couldn’t wait to see go down in flames?

I’ve just now realized what’s wrong with Untitled P.O.S. Damn it.

Anyway, I’d like to hear from my readers! I know how I feel about villains, but whether you’re a writer, reader, runner, baker, or candlestick maker, I’d like to hear your opinion on the subject. Even if you don’t have a theory on the subject as a whole, I’m really interested to know who your favorite villain is and what makes them great.

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Featured artist: Daniel Kamarudin

Daniel Kamarudin’s art is epic. With its dark fantasy and sci-fi themes, spectacular detail, and grand scale, I can’t really think of a better word to describe it. Daniel, who is from Malaysia and usually goes by his username theDURRRRIAN (count those r’s and tell me when your eyes cross) on the web, got some attention on BuzzFeed and other sites for his depiction of The Avengers. I don’t even like Captain America as a character, but I’ve shared Daniel’s version because I think it’s fantastic and a hundred times cooler than the usual rendition. However, my absolute favorite piece of his is “The Witch.” The eyes, the colors, the body language; how can I not love it? I want to write her a story, and that’s the feeling all of his work communicates. I can find a story in almost every single piece.

On top of letting me share his art with you, Daniel took the time for a little Q and A with me. Enjoy!

TCC: I had to look up what a durian was. What do they taste like?

DK: You get mixed answers to this question, so it’s more of an acquired taste really. Although [they have] a pretty pungent smell, I find the insides pretty nice!

TCC: Your deviantART gallery is so varied; one doesn’t often find the crew of The Big Bang Theory and the four horsemen of the apocalypse done in the same style. What’s your inspiration?

DK: TV, movies, games, basically pop culture stuff in general. I’m into that sort of stuff so I tend to draw what I like. My sketchbooks are full of miscellaneous fan art things similar to the Big Bang Theory stuff I did.

TCC: Your work has so much gorgeous detail. How long does one piece usually take you, start to finish?

DK: Depends really. The detail-heavy ones take 8ish hours but the character concepts take around 1-3 hours. These are just estimations though; I usually work on them on and off between class assignments.

TCC: Do you have any favorite books, movies, games, or music you want to share?

DK: I’m a HUGE fan of Guild Wars (my art style is heavily inspired by it). I’ve recently started playing (by that I mean 3-4 months in) and the game is simply inspiring. Other than that, the thing that got me into this whole fantasy genre was World of Warcraft and Dragon Age. Without them, I don’t think I would be pursuing a career in art.

TCC: Are you looking to do art for video games as a career? Or do you have another art field in mind?

DK: I definitely want to do something art/entertainment based; movies, TCG [trading card games], comics (I WISH) but video games preferred though. I guess I’ll go wherever I’m welcome.

TCC: How long have you been drawing/painting?

DK: Almost 3 years [author’s note: I was stricken with jealousy and disbelief when I read this]. I got into this about a year before I graduated high school and now I’m nearing my third year of college. I still have a lot to learn though.

TCC: Have you ever had a really serious creative block when it was difficult to come up with new things? If so, how did you get through it?

DK: Definitely. I had one recently, and I’m still in a bit of a rut at the moment, but it’s definitely getting better. I guess everyone has their own way of getting over the slump. I figured since mine was caused by fatigue in general I would step away from painting for a while and do something else. In my case, I played Guild Wars 2 for about a week, then got back on the tablet. Yeah, Guild Wars helps get over creative slumps.

TCC: Is there anything you find particularly difficult to draw? For instance, the lovely people who do Assassin’s Creed make some fantastic humans but their horses need some work. Anything like that?

DK: Haha! I have so many things I wish I could draw better I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’m pretty okay with characters [author’s note: understatement] but I wish I could draw cool sci-fi stuff. Moreover, I really don’t know how to draw animals. I use references to try to understand how they work but it never turns out how I want it to. Hopefully I can improve in the future.

For more of Daniel’s work, check out his deviantART and Tumblr! If you would like him to make something for you, send him an email at theDURRRRIAN@live.com (if you haven’t successfully counted the r’s, there are four of them). I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s featured artist, and a big thank you to Daniel for sharing!