“Megamind” and the Antihero’s Journey

So, you want me to write for this Heroes B-Side. I can’t say I blame you. After all, there’s no one better to write about being a hero than one who started out as an incredibly handsome criminal genius and master of all villainy.

Let me make one thing clear right away: I am still incredibly handsome. But my days of readying death rays and kidnapping reporters are behind me. Yes, that’s right, instead of terrorizing Metrawcity with evil plans that never actually worked, I am now the city’s top defender.

In order to demonstrate just how much of a hero I truly am, I’ve found the perfect source to aid in my explanations: The Hero’s Journey. Appropriate title, right? As much as I’d like to take credit, the concept came from a Mr. Joseph Campbell. And Roxanne is technically the one who found it for me, anyway. Are you happy, Roxanne?

The Hero’s Journey has many stages, which detail… well, a hero’s journey. Allow me to take you readers through my life story as it pertains to these stages.

Ordinary World: Where the hero exists before his present story begins. Well, see, there are several possible locations that could apply for me here. I was born on another planet, a broken home – literally broken – and had to be sent off on my own. That is where I existed before my present story began.

Or the Metrawcity Jail, where I grew up. I have my fellow inmates to thank for my knack for building objects of mayhem, though I’m sure I was born with my amazing intellect. I suppose my old schoolhouse is a valid option, too, since that’s where my days of villainy began: where I first decided that if I was gonna be the bad boy, then I was going to be the baddest boy of them all.

That’s three possible answers right off the bat. Maybe this is going to be harder than I thought.

Call to Adventure: The hero receives a call to action that disrupts the comfort of his ordinary world. Look, I may not be a villain anymore, but I did live very comfortably during those days. I had my evil lair, my Brain Bots, and, most importantly, I had my routine with Metro Man. Mr. Goody Two Shoes and I had a glorious rivalry. He would win some battles, I would almost win others. And I loved every second of it.

But that changed after I killed him. Or, I thought I killed him, but that’s not relevant here. I had spent my entire career having a nemesis to rely on, and suddenly I had succeeded at destroying him after years of trying. My plans had never worked before – and I had no idea what to do.

Oddly enough, it appears that I caused the beginning of my own hero’s journey. I wonder if that means anything.

Refusal of the Call: The hero has doubts or fears that need to be overcome before accepting the call. Never happened. Metrawcity was mine; without someone to stop me, I took my newfound freedom and I ran with it. Nope, no refusal of anything here. No doubts or fears either…

Okay, fine. Being a villain with no hero to stop me left me purposeless. I needed to do something other than simply run rampant through the streets.

Meeting the Mentor: The hero meets a mentor figure who gives him something he needs. If we take this stage literally, then I met a man named Bernard, dehydrated him, and took his place via my disguise watch. So the thing he gave me that I needed was… his body?

Okay, okay, I suppose Roxanne counts as a mentor too. After all, she’s the one who comforted me (while I was in disguise, of course) and helped me realize that heroes aren’t born; they’re made. And thus, my new purpose was BORN!

Crossing the Threshold: The hero is ready to act on the call and crosses over from the familiar to the unfamiliar. If I caused my own “call” by killing Metro Man – or so I thought, but again, not relevant – then it’s only appropriate that I act on the call by replacing him. After talking with Roxanne, the plan almost formed itself: I would create a new hero. Using a smidgen of Metro Man’s DNA from his cape, I’d extract his awesome powers and give them to someone else, train that person to become Metrawcity’s new hero, and voila, all of my problems would be solved.

Boy, if only I knew what I was getting myself into.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero is confronted with obstacles and has to learn who can be trusted. Where do I begin?

I faced countless challenges while crafting my new nemesis. The biggest one was easily my accidental double life. Keeping up the facade of being Bernard became a solace because it meant spending more time with Roxanne, but it also took away from my more villainous duties. And of course, once Roxanne actually figured out that I was not, in fact, Bernard, she dumped me. Alone. In the rain. Up until that point, I’d call her an ally.

Training my new hero turned out to be an obstacle as well. For one, the one single bullet containing Metro Man’s DNA was accidentally infused into a random stranger: Hal Stewart. I had envisioned someone of noble heart and mind as my new hero; instead, I got a 28-year-old cameraman who hadn’t accomplished anything in his life. I think of this hero/villain business as a game, and a fun one, if you play it right. Hal took a long time to do that, and even then, it didn’t last long – he eventually became an even bigger villain than me.

The one constant throughout all of the chaos was Minion. Fine, we may have been together since birth and his sole purpose in life may have been to look after me, but he was always by my side, no matter what crazy battle ideas I concocted. Even when I had to go ruin things by pushing him away, he still was there for me, and I’m grateful. Minion, you fantastic fish, you.

Approach to the Inmost Cave: Whether it is an actual location or an inner conflict, the hero reflects on his journey and takes the final leap into the unknown. I guess both of these descriptions of an “inmost cave” can apply to my journey. An actual location could be the old schoolhouse, where I discovered Metro Man had not only preserved all these years but had also turned it into his own secret lair – and he had been hiding out in it the entire time I thought he was dead. How messed up is that?

As for an inner conflict, my double life and budding romance with Roxanne led me to a somewhat horrifying conclusion – maybe I didn’t want to be the bad guy anymore. I had finally had a taste of all the spoils usually reserved for the good guys: I had cleaned up the city instead of trashing it, I was out in parks and restaurants without terrorizing people; I got this close to getting the girl. But I wasn’t myself. I felt divided. Being evil was all I’d known; if I left that behind, who would I be? Would people accept me?

Ordeal: A challenge the hero must face in order for the world in which he exists to continue. Hal getting rejected and turning evil is the only appropriate answer here. Sure, I might have made things worse by making him angry and revealing that I was not only his made-up “space dad” but also the “intellectual dweeb” he saw on a date with Roxanne. But still, how was I supposed to know that he would go rogue in the first place?

Here I am again, causing my own ordeal. This is an interesting pattern.

Reward/Seizing the Sword: The hero overcomes his greatest personal challenge and is transformed to a new state. Yet another instance where there is both a literal and figurative application for this stage. I guess I could say that my greatest personal challenge was finally coming to terms with the idea that I was no longer the bad guy – or, at least, there was now a worse guy. Of course, I already had the upper hand because what’s the difference between a villain and a supervillain? PRESENTATION!

I’ll admit, it was intimidating to take on such a big battle with such a long losing streak to my name. But there’s a benefit to losing: You get to learn from your mistakes. And the many, many mistakes I’d made in past battles with Metro Man certainly gave me the upper hand in my battle with Hal.

As for being transformed to a new state, I took that literally and disguised myself as Metro Man. Not to brag, but I was pretty convincing… well, almost.

The Road Back: The hero is preparing to return home with the reward. See, this is where things really get confusing. Because I didn’t have the time to return anywhere. There were also several times when I thought I defeated my enemy, only to be proven completely wrong. The whole “copper is my weakness” thing was a total dud, what with Metro Man actually not having a weakness to copper, which was proven when Hal punched his way through my failsafe copper prison in a matter of seconds. And yeah, I messed up when trying to scare Hal off by disguising myself as Metro Man because Metro Man refers to it as “Metro City” and not “Metrawcity,” and I got caught. Both of these instances started our battle all over again, so if either one counts as a “return home,” it was short-lived.

Resurrection: The hero has his final and most dangerous encounter with death – others will suffer if he fails – but he will win and be reborn. The thing about bad guys? They always lose.

Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world, forever changed and bringing a new perspective for everyone to consider. Look, my world was never ordinary. I was a supervillain, for crying out loud. This city was not my first home, and I would hardly call its prison a home, either. Having earned the new title of Defender of Metrawcity after supposedly killing the man who held it before me (and also getting a girlfriend, but that’s besides the point), nothing about my surroundings was the same as it was before. I had become a new kind of “super,” and I have to admit, it has its perks.

Even as a supposed hero now, I don’t know that I fit the definition. I still don’t always do or say the right things, and I think the people of Metrawcity are still a little scared of me. I don’t blame them – I mean, come on, even following this Hero’s Journey structure, I drove several of the stages forward myself. I called myself to action and created my own ordeal, and both of those were by accident. For all intents and purposes, I was the villain in my own journey too, at least in the beginning. Ironic, isn’t it, that I come to this conclusion after I’ve spent this long trying to convince you that I deserve to be called a hero?

Sure, you learn from your mistakes when you lose, but there are still lessons to be learned as one of the good guys. I think the one I learned that day still applies to my life now: Destiny is not the path given to us, but the path we choose for ourselves. My moral compass may still be questionable at times, but I have done some good in my life, and the mistakes I’ve made don’t make me any less worthy of that good that I’ve come by.

Plus, I did save the world. That has to mean something, right?

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