Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Overlord Speaks: Dealing with the anti-hero in your team

The Overlord is currently based out of Lobotomy Fortress - an underground base where he is plotting his conquest of the universe. With extensive years in corporate management and world domination strategy, he has decided to share his insights with the mere mortals who read rags such as this.

There is a lot of waiting when you are taking over the world. Aggressive negotiations, hostile mergers, vigilante assassinations...a lot of the day-to-day stuff simply isn't ground for the future ruler of the world, as I'm sure you can imagine. Well, you probably can't, because you're slime compared to my grandeur.

While my minions and thugs are off taking care of business, I find myself with a lot of time on my bone-crushing hands. As The Overlord, I have efficiency down to a fine art - so what better way to ease you all into your impending doom than to spread some of my wisdom? Hey, some of you might be aspiring super villains, and with a bit of luck (and me not trying to kill you) maybe my highly trained death squad and I might be patching you over (or killing you anyway) sometime soon! But you are probably weak and plastic, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up (don’t get them up anyway, hope is for heroes, maggot).

Now that your puny, blog-reading mind has wrapped itself around what I am doing here we can get on with today's lesson: Dealing with anti-heroes.

Now, when recruiting your minions, you are going to have a few different classes: there are the low level guys, who often go with your gimmick and are basically a way to distract any meddling heroes while the higher-ups do the real work, you've got the mini-bosses - who are a bit tougher than the thugs, but never amounted to much, and finally you’ve got what I call the generals.

These guys are generally more entrepreneurial: they've got their own passions and their own bend – probably their own outfits, too - but for whatever reason they would rather follow your plan of domination and destruction than cut their own. Why? Parents probably didn't beat them enough or something.

Most of the guys and girls you find in this area are psychotic murderers, but every now and then you'll stumble upon someone a bit more...idealistic. They are probably the half-brother of a superhero, or maybe they made a deal with the devil, or their dog died or something. Either way, these guys are ones you really need to watch out for.

As every super villain worth their salt (so not you, worm) knows, an aspiring, passionate worker can be good in the short term: they are more likely to take that extra bullet to the shoulder for you, mess with the hostages a bit more - they might even off any other survivors at the end of a mission to increase their earnings (and your bottom-line!). These guys love what they do, and that's great.

What isn't so great is what we in the super villain business call the 'spin-off'.

See, the anti-hero is doing what they are doing for a reason other than lust of power or psychosis. They have a vendetta, and while they may be on your side for now, sooner or later they’ll probably figure out they can get what they want without all the killing and marauding. And when that happens? Well, do you really want the latest Venom, Deadpool, Spawn or Glenn Danzig to have insider knowledge on how you operate? Let me tell you from experience, you definitely don't want that last one happening...

So, what is the best way of dealing with the brooding, husky-voiced, introspective soul in your outfit? Well, look, to be real - you probably should just avoid them. But goddamn, their gimmicks are often so much better, their powers are cooler, and as I said before - they are really passionate about their work!

So, really the best thing to do is keep them away from a few key triggers that are likely to turn them into heroes. In my experience as The Overlord, I've whittled it down to three primary drivers:

The bigger evils
Luckily for me, there are no bigger evils than The Overlord. I reign supreme in terms of horrendous, soul-crushing deeds. If you are working for me, it stands to reason you aren’t likely to meet someone who really pushes your moral boundaries.

However, I understand that you readers are most likely more small-time than a Wedding band, and probably about as evil as Aunt May's wheat cakes. Any potential anti-heroes in your team are likely to someday come across something that makes them (and you) look tame. Alien invasion, cyber-zombie-torture-cult, infomercial producers...there's a lot of pretty evil stuff that goes on out there.

This is generally a turning point for an anti-hero, because they realise things are bigger than them and their end-goals. Taking on a bigger evil force might give them a taste for justice, and a realisation they can do good in the world. Which is terrible!

This one can be a hard one to handle, but the best thing to do is only send them out to take on good guys - save your psychopaths for killing rival villains and other carnage-causers. Not only will this limit their chances to revolt, but hopefully with all the good-guy-killing they'll feel guilty, which will decrease motivation and ramp up self-loathing. Everyone wins. And by everyone, I mean The Overlord. (I always win).

No pep talks with heroes
Here's another big one. The problem is, despite methods, these guys have a lot more in common with heroes than your average super villain.

Hell, the origin stories are generally the same: someone died (or everyone died), they led an average life before a nuclear reactor exploded...that kind of stuff. If you let your anti-heroes fight the good guys enough, they are likely to get chatting. Then the hero gets all pragmatic and turns into a youth group leader, preaching about turning your life around, fighting for justice and all that rubbish.

If your guy says yes? No problem! Chances are they are going to go undercover: they’ll tag along with the superhero, bust some crooks and then tear out their spine over the post-heist kebab. Sometimes your staff will surprise you, after all.

What you have to watch out for is if your anti-hero says something along the lines of "No...that is not the path for me," and disappears into the shadows.  Why? Cause that's their MO! That means they are thinking about it. I bet they did something similar when you recruited them, huh? Anti-heroes are conflicted guys and girls, so it makes sense for them to act like this (with weakness).

More importantly, keep family out of the picture. Anti-heroes are prone to have some annoying twin brother or childhood friend running around doing good deeds. If you absolutely must have them go up against each other, just be sure to remind your anti-hero about all the bad things their estranged relative did back in the day - toy breaking, getting better superpowers, not helping them kill their parents, that kind of stuff.

As any super villain (or middle manager) worth their salt knows, motivation kills productivity. You really think your staff should be given a ‘Go team!’ talk before they go out and blow up a nursing home? Of course not! That will only give them ideas of grandeur, and that goes for all rank-and-file henchmen. Enough motivation and even your more psychotic troops might start thinking they aren't so bad.

Summed up, the last thing you want any of your troops to think is that there is even a shred of decency in them.

Be sure to reinforce the three "S"s every chance you get: Self-loathing, self-doubt and self-destruction and you’ll keep your anti-heroes where they belong – beneath you.

Got a question for The Overlord? Of course you do, maggot. Send your queries about world domination to the plebs who run this pathetic waste of bandwidth at absolutepoweraus@gmail.com and I'll share with you some of my wisdom (or destroy you, one or the other).

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