Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sample Contrast Paper

Students, please find below a sample of a contrast paper, as discussed here.  As with earlier papers, please keep in mind that this is a draft and therefore likely could stand to be improved upon.  Also, keep in mind that when it is formatted for submission, as indicated here, it is at the higher end of acceptable paper length.

Unlike earlier examples of contrast papers I have posted, this example follows what the course textbook describes as the block pattern.

The anti-hero can be defined as a character who achieves heroic ends by carrying out actions that are themselves generally considered evil; they attain fair ends by foul means.  Both Wolverine, as depicted in Ultimate X-Men, and Hida Kisada of the Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game can be regarded as anti-heroes.  Of the two, Hida Kisada is the superior example of the type.

That Wolverine of the Ultimate X-Men series of graphic novels is an iteration of the anti-hero is fairly obvious.  Certainly the "hero" part is widely acknowledged.  The fact that he is regarded as part of the heroic X-Men speaks to his heroic status.  There are other factors in his heroism, as well.  In Ultimate War, it is remarked that Wolverine had served with Allied forces in World War II.  As the Allies were allied against the clearly-evil Nazis, they must be regarded as protagonists, and so Wolverine's service to those powers casts him as a hero--and one of the "Greatest Generation."  In Absolute Power, Wolverine works to end the manufacture and distribution of a drug that has horrific effects on those who use it.  Acting to limit the contact people have with a dangerous substance, even at personal risk (Wolverine loses a leg at one point and is subjected to the immediate effects of a large chemical explosion in the course of eliminating the substance), is typically regarded as a helpful act of bravery--in brief, the act of a hero.  That Wolverine performs the act helps identify him as a hero.

He is also clearly given to evil actions.  When he is introduced in the Ultimate X-Men series, it is as a highly-ranked agent in the service of Magneto, the series' main antagonist.  That he is in such service (which takes the form of double-agency, with its overtones of necessarily evil betrayal) indicates early on that he is party to evil deeds, an indication reinforced by the initial graphic representation of Wolverine with hands still bloodied form killing a large reptile in close combat.  Soon after, he is described as "the most dangerous killer in the world," which is hardly a pleasant image.  Later in the series, in Return of the King, he leaves one of his comrades-in-arms for dead, not because of tactical necessity (which is suspect at best), but to eliminate him as a rival for the sexual attentions (not love, just carnal pleasure) of a young woman significantly his junior.  That the action takes place at all casts Wolverine's morality into doubt.  That it takes place to secure sexual favors clearly condemns him.  That it secures those favors from a decades-younger person--one who is, in fact, still a teenager--further blackens Wolverine's character, affirming the evil actions from which Wolverine goes on to carry out heroic deeds.  He is a solid example of an anti-hero.

Even so, Wolverine is not as prominent an example of an anti-hero as is Hida Kisada.  Certainly, Kisada's heroism is more pronounced than is Wolverine's.  As the Champion of the Crab Clan, Kisada occupies a key position in the defense of his homeland against actual demonic hordes.  In Way of the Crab, it is remarked that "Since the coming of Shinsei [a major religious event], the Crab have defended Rokugan's southern border against the unholy forces of Fu Leng [the Satan-analog of the game]," and Kisada is the linchpin of that defense (8).  This clearly marks him as a heroic figure, one whose every deed works to save the very souls of his countryfolk.  Even more pronounced a mark of his heroism, however, is his posthumous elevation to godhood.  The Vacant Throne notes that he "lived for two years with a wound that would have killed any other man instantly, and upon his death was declared the Fortune of Persistence," elevating him to the status of a minor deity as a reward for his aid in defeating Fu Leng (124).  Returning to mortal life for a time, he fought against a massively powerful evil sorcerer and died only after slaying "nearly two dozen of his attackers" in his last battle (124).  Upon his second death, he returned to his status as a minor god, clearly achieving a noble end to another life.  He far exceeds Wolverine's heroism in doing so, for the X-Man falls far short of either defeating or attaining godhood as Kisada does.

Kisada takes a dark road to reach his brilliant end, however.  Although he is sworn to fight against the forces of the underworld, he makes alliance with them during the uncertainties of civil war (Wulf, Carman, and Mason 8).  That he betrays his duty is an evil act whose evil is compounded by his alliance with literally demonic forces.  The evilness is further marked by Kisada's actions towards his own children in the name of that alliance.  The younger of his sons "is sacrificed and placed upon the Terrible Standard of Fu Leng," and the elder "is forced to lend his name to an oni," binding his soul to a demon from the darkest pits of hell (33).  It cannot be called good when a person slays one son and parades his body as a war-banner while selling the soul of the other son to a devil.  Although it is certain that Wolverine commits evil deeds, his failings are as nothing compared to the depravity in which Kisada indulges.  Because Hida Kisada exceeds Wolverine both in his degree of heroism and in the degree of evil he enacts before coming to that heroism, he stands as a superior example of an anti-hero.

That the lesser-known of the two characters is a clearer example of a character type than the better-known suggest that more widely disseminated ideas become less pronounced as they reach a larger audience.  If the suggestion is accurate--and it will take more study to verify or deny it--it will have some decidedly negative implications for mass media.

Works Cited
~Carman, Shawn, et al. The Vacant Throne. Alderac Entertainment Group, n.d. Print.
~Coleite, Aron E. Absolute Power. Ultimate X-Men 19. N. pag. New York: Marvel, 2008. Print.
~Millar, Mark. Return of the King. Ultimate X-Men 6. N. pag. New York: Marvel, 2005.
~---. Ultimate War. Ultimate X-Men 5. N. pag. New York: Marvel, 2005. Print.
~---. Ultimate X-Men 1.  N. pag. New York: Marvel, 2003. Print.
~Vaux, Rob. The Way of the Crab. Five Rings Publishing, 1999. Print.
~Wulf, Rich, Shawn Carman, and Seth Mason. Time of the Void. Alderac Entertainment Group, 2001. Print.

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