- Mairead Levitt
Who Is the Ultimate Byronic Hero?
In both DC and Marvel, there are multiple types of heroes. You have The Boy Scout (Superman or some iterations of Captain America), The Humorous One (Iron Man, the Flash or seemingly 9/10th of the MCU), but what about the Moody, Angsty One? Or in other words, the Byronic Superhero?
First, let’s discuss what a Byronic Hero is. There are many Byronic Heroes in literature, notably Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights”. Byronic Heroes are characters who are heroes but aren’t your typical heroes. They often have obsessive tendencies and are prideful, dark, isolated or exiled. They are moody, passionate, arrogant and cynical. They have a superior intellect, and they know it. They usually are heroes, so they fight bad guys, but they are often vigilantes, so they fight crime while working against the police or conduct themselves in a way that isn’t associated with being a hero. They are very attractive (for the most part). Finally, most Byronic Heroes have a troubled past that still haunts them. In other words, they are angsty characters who you know would be a mistake to like, but you can’t resist them.
There are a lot of superheroes who could fit this description, or at least aspects of it, so I have gathered the top seven Byronic Superheroes as requested by my peers. I’m going to break down their personalities, backstories and choices to determine which hero is the most Byronic.
Number Seven: Deadpool (specifically the Ryan Reynolds movie version)
Snarky, sarcastic and fourth-wall-breaking, Deadpool is not who you would immediately think about when you think of an angsty character. He certainly wasn’t what I thought about, but he fits the bill better than I would expect. He was abused as a child, a fact that impacts his life choices, and he eventually becomes a mercenary. He shows his obsessive and passionate tendencies after he is given his powers when his only goal in life is to hunt down Ajax (Francis), the man who tortured him and made his face look hideous. Deadpool, however, is not arrogant, prideful or dark. Humor is his key attribute, and while his humor is definitely a way of deflecting many of his emotional issues, he still is only partially Byronic.
Number Six: Loki (the MCU version)
I know what you’re thinking. Loki being called a hero is a little bit of a stretch, but canonically, he was recognized with the rest of the heroes during Marvel’s 10-year anniversary, and I stand by the belief he was innocent in “The Avengers” (see my earlier article). Now for the real question: is he a Byronic hero? From the outside, no. He didn’t have a traumatic background; he was raised as a prince. Really, he’s a whiny, spoiled guy who is jealous of his older brother. But, if you look a little closer, you’ll see Loki is more Byronic than expected. He is arrogant, cynical and really smart. He is prideful, exiled and obsessive about everything he does. Loki may not be that Byronic, but he certainly exhibits many key attributes.
Number Five: Bucky Barnes (the MCU version)
Bucky Barnes is not Byronic by nature. Only in his adult life did things really change and he become Byronic. His transformation into the character we all know started in 1944, when he was part of a special ops team (working with Captain America during WWII) and he fell from a train down into an icy ravine. He survived and was brainwashed and tortured into being an evil assassin, a pretty dark backstory if I do say so myself. As the Winter Soldier (his evil alter-ego) he is angsty, dark and moody. Once he isn’t brainwashed anymore, he’s still moody, but he’s also passionate to help Steve Rogers. He isolates himself in Romania, away from anyone who would know him. He also channels his vigilantism to help Steve, and he’s played by Sebastian Stan (I might be biased because I love Sebastian Stan). So, Bucky may not have started as a Byronic Hero, but being frozen, brainwashed and forced to be a mercenary can really change someone.
Number Four: Wolverine
Wolverine is more Byronic than I thought, when originally researching this article. He was born James Howlett. He had rich parents, but he is actually the illegitimate son to the groundskeeper. The groundskeeper was kicked off the property, but he returned and killed the patriarch, John Howlett. In revenge, because Logan (the name Wolverine usually goes by) believed that John was his father, Logan killed the groundskeeper with bone claws that came out of his hands (his mutant manifestation). If that isn’t a traumatic enough backstory, I don’t know what is. He is also moody; being angsty and belligerent are some of Wolverine’s key character traits. He is passionate, is prideful, and has a story as dark as his history. He may not be the perfect Byronic Hero, but he certainly has a lot of its traits.
Number Three: Nebula (the MCU version)
If you want to talk about bad childhoods, grudges and a very violent life mission, Nebula is your girl. In the MCU, Nebula and Gamora are sisters, and they are both Thanos’s adoptive daughters. By adoptive, I mean Thanos killed Gamora’s entire race and kidnapped her, so I can only assume that he did the same to Nebula’s family/race. Anyway, if that wasn’t traumatic enough, Thanos would always pit Gamora against Nebula in fights, and when Gamora won (she always won), Thanos would replace parts of Nebula’s body with robot parts. So, yeah, Nebula has a dark past. Nebula is moody and very dark, and she isolates herself because she is always obsessed with killing someone (either Gamora or Thanos, depending on where you are in the plot). She fits the Byronic hero criteria to a T.
Number Two: The Green Arrow (“The Arrow” TV show version)
Season one Oliver Queen is the most angsty person to ever roam the Earth. He might not have had a traumatic childhood, but he was stranded on a very violent island for five years, so I think that’s enough trauma. He follows his obsessive mission to kill everyone on his father’s Evil Person List and isolates himself in his self-made cave (and another cave after the first cave gets exposed and then a third cave after that one. He really has a thing for caves). He is very moody, especially in season one, a trait that leads to some of his isolating because he really doesn’t have people skills. He isn’t super arrogant for most of the series, but he was arrogant before being on the island. Also, bonus because Stephen Amell is Stephen Amell, and he’s objectively attractive.
Number One: Batman
How could Batman not be the most Byronic of all Byronic superheroes? In fact, he’s pretty Byronic in the terms of all Byronic Heroes. He had trauma at an early age when both his parents were killed in front of him. He isolates himself in his house with only his butler for company. He is as dark and angsty as anyone and as moody as a PMS-ing girl going through puberty. He is ingenius, prideful and obsessive. He rarely does anything besides fighting crime. Batman personifies a Byronic Hero. Everything from his backstory to his attitude to his vigilantism makes him the ultimate Byronic Hero.