Today’s Digger made me realize something.
I have a hard time with villains.
In today’s strip, for non readers, we have two characters we met a few pages back, two sort of patchwork, scruffy lizards wearing–or possibly made of–random stitched together hides. They want to skin our heroine, but for all the right reasons, and one is actually patting her hand and assuring her that they would be very, VERY careful, and that her skin would be very well treated. Digger is having none of this, of course, but the reader hopefully gets the impression that the skin-lizards aren’t actually malicious, merely…very odd.
Their first appearance is literally on page two of Digger, when they were creepy voices in the dark. They appeared again much later, still as creepy voices in the dark. They were initially meant to be something monsterous and rather one-dimensional–I wasn’t really sure what. But by the time they were finally revealed, they had started to grow on me, until they seemed like a cross between Ed Gein, a puppy, and the rat-creatures in “Bone,” I didn’t meet them too long before the reader did, but I found myself liking them. They’re fairly nice lizards, they just have a totally skewed world view, and they genuinely think they’re doing Digger a favor by offering to preserve her skin for posterity.
This is the problem I had with all my villains. I like them too much. I can’t do evil very well. I start out with the worst intentions, and I wind up with “misguided, but sincere.” And while this is arguably a better thing than “PURE EVIL FOR NO APPARENT REASON!” it’s also a sort of needlessly complex thing–if I like all my villains too much, if they all turn out to be decent people operating under different cultural mores, as seems to be my standard fall back position, we wind up in a world with no real villains, and I worry that in what is basically a fairly simple fantasy travelogue, this will eventually come back and bite me in the ass–I’ll need a villain to slot into a plot space, and I won’t have one, just a lot of random characters blinking at me and saying “But I’m not bad at all once you get to know me!”
My own experience is no real help. I don’t know any deeply evil people. I’ve known people who are malicious and spiteful and lazy and selfish, to the point of not being redeemed by their other qualities, but generally they only succeeded in making life miserable for the people immediately around them, and I suspect even most of them would have offered a hand to somebody dangling off a cliff without even stopping to think about it–they weren’t EVIL, just lousy. So I dunno.
I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I come to it….
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