Are Dark characters unlikable?

by Uchiha Sasuke

Question: My main character has an extremely dark and emotionally traumatic past, and it has made him him extremely dark and pessimistic in the current story line. He is going to heal throughout the story, but until maybe the last fourth of the book he's very dark. I think this is realistic, but Is this really unlikable?


Answer: There are plenty of dark tormented characters with huge fanbases. Batman, the Silver Surfer, and Rorschach are three that come to mind from the comic books. Ebenezer Scrooge, Captain Hook, Sherlock Holmes, Malcolm Reynolds (from Firefly), Richard Blaine (from Casablanca) and the Phantom of the Opera are popular, despite being pretty morose.

Many of these characters fall into the category of the Byron-esque hero, which is a superior person who has become disillusioned with others of his class (perhaps because of tragedy or betrayal) and instead now lives the life of a criminal or vigilante, surrounded by those he deems beneath him, and occasionally seeking revenge on the corrupt elite. Such characters, despite their villainy or lawbreaking in some areas, hold to a strong morality in other areas. They tend to be intelligent, powerful, proud loners.

The appeal of such characters lies in the fact that many intelligent people find the illusions that keep society together to be shallow or false. Many people have had tragic, disillusioning events in their lives such as coming from a broken home, fighting in a war, being betrayed by someone they trusted. They can therefore empathize with a dark hero more than a traditional idealistic hero.

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