The relationship between heroes and villains has always fascinated me, even before I became a writer. I remember growing up watching the Doctor battling his mortal enemies, The Daleks on TV (in the Baker/Davidson era), watching Kirk repelling Klingons from the starboard bow, and Bond doing battle with Blofeld (so nice to see him back this year in Spectre!). Blake had Servalan, Obi Wan and co. had Darth Vader, Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty, Batman the Joker, Judge Dredd – Judge Death and Robin had his Sheriff of Nottingham in my favourite take on the mythos, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood from the ‘80s… but more on those guys later.
There was just something about it all, the two sides of the same coin thing, but also the notion that one can’t exist without the other – in fact in certain cases one creates the other. It’s the age-old struggle of good vs evil, and these characters symbolise it perfectly. Sometimes one side wins, sometimes the other: but it’s always entertaining to watch how things pan out.
I do creative writing workshops with my better half, the author and editor Marie O’Regan, and one of my favourites by far has to be ‘Heroes and Villains’ where we get people who have come along to create their own sets of characters. It’s so much fun! And also incredibly easy: think of a goodie; think of a badie; and then think of a reason why they might be in conflict with each other. Conflict is, after all, the cornerstone of story and the force that drives narratives along.
I’ve done it myself in the past. Take my first ever novel, The Gemini Factor – a serial killer thriller with supernatural undertones. I needed a villain, a killer, and a reason for him to kill… in this instance always one half of a pair of identical twins. That was his thing. This person creates his own nemesis when he takes the life of Jack Foley’s brother – and Jack then sees visions of what the killer is doing courtesy of his dead twin. You see, fun!
In my novella RED – the sequel to which is coming out soon through SST Publications, Blood RED (see the announcement here) – I cheated a little by reworking a well known tale or legend and giving it a different slant. I do that… quite often, actually. Here it was a horror version of Little Red Riding Hood, where the wolf is a shapeshifter, Red is a care worker called Rachael Daniels, and the woods are the streets of a modern day city. The wolf wants revenge because she was the one who got away, and she just wants to escape again – although if she can defeat the beast in the process then so much the better! I should also mention here that RED has ties to both my latest collection from the award-winning Alchemy Press, Monsters – which comes with a Clive Barker cover and Nicholas (Chatterer Cenobite) introduction – and also my novelette from Hersham Horror, The Curse of the Wolf.
The stories I’m probably best known for, though, are the Hooded Man ones – part of the Afterblight Chronicles from Abaddon/Rebellion – which also rework a certain famous legend. This time, it’s my version of Robin Hood – ex-cop Robert Stokes – and my take on the Sheriff, the mercenary De Falaise. When I was first offered the opportunity to write these books with the original novel Arrowhead, I thought it would make a nice twist if both the hero and villain were both equally aware that they’re simply going through the motions, that history is replaying itself and they can’t do a damned thing about it other that let it happen. Of course, Robert knows that Bill is Will Scarlet, that Mark is Much the miller’s son, that Jack is Little John and Mary is his Marian… He also knows that at some point he’s going to have to face the Sheriff in a big battle. But what was also an interesting thing to do, was to leave the outcome of that battle in doubt. Maybe evil would defeat good this time – after all, the world had gone to hell in a handbasket, so why not?
There are plenty of times in my Hooded Man tales where good gets battered by evil, and simply where evil will not die: it just comes back in a different form. That’s something the sequels to Arrowhead – Broken Arrow and Arrowland – have allowed me to explore again and again. And I’m thankful that I’m being given another chance with the brand new novella Flaming Arrow, which takes a look at Robert and the gang several years after we last caught up with them. An older, more grizzled Robert (yes, I do love The Dark Knight Returns by the way) is getting ready to retire and hand over the family business to a younger generation – but things just don’t work out that way, and we’re introduced to an equally new bad guy who is making sure that Britain doesn’t retain the stability Robert has fought so long and hard for.
It also allowed me to bring back a few villains from the past, plus throw a whole heap of monsters at our Hooded Man and see if he’s still got his edge. I can’t tell you how much fun that was, the siege sequences a refreshing change of pace for me after the huge battles of the original trilogy (which, don’t get me wrong, were just as much of a blast to write – and to read, if the fan mail I’ve received is anything to go by).
So there you have it, heroes and villains. Good and evil. They will always be around in one form or another, especially in the tales we write and read – and thank goodness for that, I say!
Because their relationship remains the most fascinating thing to me, and a lot of other people, about story itself.
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over fifty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014 and HorrorCon in 2015, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for network US television, plus his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film) and the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane). Forthcoming from him are the collection Monsters and the sequel to RED: Blood RED. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his website, which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.