I admit to having an inordinate fondness for Spanner in the Works characters. For two main reasons. First, there’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing an evil Take Over the World type totally derailed by the person they completely overlooked. Second….
Well. Let’s just say, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard some variant of “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” I’d probably be able to buy my whole Amazon Wishlist.
(It’s a really long list.)
Whether it’s bureaucracy, malice, or the simple laws of entropy, things go wrong. In any world, real or otherwise. So I try to write that into my stories. More, I try to write characters dealing with “what if things go wrong”. There’s a particular point in Seeds of Blood where our heroes have realized Plan A is out the window, and they have to go to Plan B. And hope they don’t need Plan C. They’ve spent days setting up a Plan C in case they need it, but they really hope not, because it’s kind of… extreme.
(Of course they need Plan C. Because Murphy; in this case in the form of annoying reporter and a grieving relative colliding with a Big Bad at the same time.)
The flip side of liking Spanners is that epic stories can annoy the heck out of me. Too often they seem to rely on everything going just right for the main bad guy, until the last moment when everything goes right for the heroes. That… just seems unbalanced. And, oddly enough, diminishes the bad guy.
Think about it. Who’s a more impressive, more interesting enemy? The unstoppable Big Bad whose every move crushes the hero’s hope farther? Or the Bad who has to take his lumps from the universe like everyone else, stop, and think his way through this latest setback – only to grow even stronger?
I grant you I’m not fond of villains, but if you’re going to have the heroes beat them in the end, the villains ought to get to show off why they’re worth beating. Not just because they’re evil, but because they have Villainous Virtues: they’re smart, determined, hard-working, and willing to put it all on the line for what they believe in.
A hero who beats all of that, has earned his hero status.