" The whole point of this exercise was to bring a little choice into that sad, pathetic thing you used to call your life."
Meet Wesley Gibson. Wesley's father abandoned him when he was eighteen weeks old, and things have gone steadily downhill since. He works for a disgusting boss at a job he hates before going home to a girlfriend who's sleeping with his best friend. But suddenly, Wesley is tapped to join The Fraternity, a league of elite international assassins. He is trained specifically to kill Cross, the rogue Fraternity member who killed his father, mostly by getting the shit kicked out of him by the rest of the team...
Wait, that last bit was the movie
. Let's try again.
Meet Wesley Gibson. Wesley's father abandoned him when he was eighteen weeks old, and things have gone steadily downhill since. He works for a disgusting boss at a job he hates before going home to a girlfriend who's sleeping with his best friend. But suddenly, Wesley is tapped to join The Fraternity, a shadowy cabal of comic book-style villains who claim they're behind all organized crime on Earth, and that further, Wesley's father was one of them.
And that's when Wesley's life gets much more interesting
is a comic series by Mark Millar
and JG Jones that operates on one simple principle: superheroes really do
exist in our world. Well, at least they did until 1986, when all the supervillains in the world teamed up for the express purpose of defeating every superhero in the world. However, getting rid of the superheroes and divvying the world up into sections to make money unencumbered by spandex-clad do-gooders wasn't enough for the supervillains. Did we mention they are super
villains? They used magic and technology to alter reality and people's memories, removing the superheroes from all recorded history and recall.
You see, this still
wasn't enough (super
villains, remember). So they took the heroes who had survived and gave them meaningless lives, then left most of the heroes exploits around... in comic books.
The series has its origins in Millar's childhood, when his older brother convinced the young Mark that Superman and all other superheroes had
existed before Mark was born, but had all been killed by the supervillains. And then Mark grew up and became a comic writer. Was originally a proposed reboot for the Secret Society of Super-Villains
, but when rejected, Mark decided to go Darker and Edgier
Wanted (the series) provides examples of the following tropes:
- Adorable Evil Minions: The Doll-Master uses robot dolls to commit crimes.
- Adrenaline Makeover: Wesley trades in his jeans/t-shirts/windbreaker style for tailored three-piece suits.
- Affably Evil:
- Professor Solomon Seltzer seems like a fairly nice, easy to get along with guy. Then you remember that he was the person who engineered the heroic genocide...
- The Doll-Master is as evil as the rest of the Fraternity but he loves his family and won't swear in front of children.
- Ax-Crazy: Mr. Rictus in a nutshell.
- Badass Decay: Turns out that this universe once had a Batman expy, who Mr. Rictus described as essentially being the "scariest man in the world" (and considering what Mr. Rictus is like, that says a lot). After the villains effectively retconned the existence of superheroes, that same guy is now an expy of Adam West, and is an actor who portrays a superhero in a campy TV show.
- Badass Normal: Wesley. Yes, Wesley's marksmanship abilities are genetic, but aside from that he doesn't seem to have any powers — although it's hinted that he might have the power to kill anything he wants to, as long as he has access to some kind of weapon.
- The Bad Guy Wins: It already happened. Why do you think it's such a Crapsack World? The main plot itself ends with power in the world changing from one mass-murdering supervillain to another mass-murdering supervillain.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: Inverted; Mr. Rictus ''makes love'' to goats. Plural. As he is part of a group of supervillains, nobody is overly bothered by this.
- Better Living Through Evil: Rather than being recruited by assassins to become a badass hero, Wesley's trained to become a supervillain. The Fraternity of the graphic novel make no pretense of heroism or righteousness — they Kick the Dog on a regular basis because it's fun, and encourage Wesley to do the same. In fact, at the end, in a fabulous deconstruction of the Comes Great Responsibility Aesop, Wesley pretends to have a moral epiphany, tells his sidekick/fuck buddy that he was just kidding, then mocks the reader for having a moral compass. And then he rapes you.
- Beware the Nice Ones: After Mr. Rictus gloatingly informs him that his wife and daughters have been raped and murdered, The Doll-Master orders all of his dolls to kill Rictus' gang. It doesn't work, but give him points for trying.
- Black and Grey Morality: One of the defining traits of the series.
- Blasphemous Boast: At the yearly conference of Fraternity heads, Adam One doesn't see the point in Mr. Rictus advocating for the Fraternity to step out of the shadows, since they're "already sitting here with more money than God".
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Invoked with Wesley by the end.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The entire series is Wesley telling you, the reader, all of this after it's happened and giving you a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for thinking it's just a comic book.
- Brotherhood of Evil: The Fraternity.
- Bullet Time: This is shown to be part of the reason Wesley is so good at killing people.
- Canon Welding: Some bits of dialogue in both titles indicates that Millar's Chosen takes place in the same Universe.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Pretty much every member of The Fraternity; they're evil and darn proud of it.
- Catch and Return: Done with a bullet. Using a knife.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: The Fox subverts it. She seems like one at first glance, but stick around and you'll find her to be crass, vulgar, and ultraviolent.
- Cluster F-Bomb: The Fox.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Eminem as Wesley, Halle Berry as Fox and Tommy Lee Jones as The Killer.
- Conqueror From The Future: The Future. With Nazism.
- Contemporary Caveman: Fraternity leader Adam-One, a millenia-old immortal from the dawn of humankind.
- Contract on the Hitman: When Wesley and The Fox escape him, Mr. Rictus goes about finding them by the simple expedient of revoking their Fraternity protection and letting their faces and names be plastered all across the news.
- Corrupt Politician: In a world run by super-villains, a number of world leaders have to be on the take.
- Crapsack World: Ever wonder why the world seems like it sucks? Because it does, thanks to the villains erasing superheroes.
- Creepy Doll: The Doll-Master's weapons of choice. Able to fly and loaded with Professor Seltzer-designed weapons.
- Cross Over: Millar was reluctant to do any crossovers but agreed to do one with the Savage Dragon since he and Larsen are pals and had worked together in the past.
- Cuckold: This was the initial fate of the protagonist, which is what prompts him to become a misanthrope and turn to a life of crime. When he becomes a supervillain, he cuts up his friend into little pieces before telling his girlfriend that he knows everything and walks off.
- Not just of comic books and super-villains (see below), but to a larger extent, society's glorification of violence. It's a widely-established fact that becoming an action-hero and "manning up" is a power fantasy frequently entertained by adolescents (mainly males). Here, Millar suggests that such dreams are not only unrealistic, but just downright dysfunctional and reprehensible. For example, Wesley mentions several times about how his transition to cold-blooded killer changed his life for the better, but isn't portrayed sympathetically at all. In fact, at this point readers are most likely disgusted by his actions, with his callous murder of innocents, like the moment where, on a whim, he decides to walk into a police station and kill every male officer and nearly rape the sole female survivor, all because he was bored. In fact, towards the end of the comic, as he enacts his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Mr. Rictus, he confidently states "I am John Wayne, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood", among other action heroes. At this point, would you really cheer for him, even if he plays on your power fantasies like a videogame?
- Wanted explores the entire Hero's Journey archetype of storytelling. Wesley is a horrible, horrible person, and every person he comes across seems tailor-made to cheer him on in his horribleness and mould him into a more competent horrible person, offering moral support and justifying his actions for him, so that even when he has moments of introspection the answer is always "you're right, and you deserve all the power". Compare the journey of Wesley Gibson with the journey of a character like Harry Potter. Lots of conveniently inherited guardians, assistants, resources, and lucky powers that save the day with bizarre ease. When changed to this context, the insidiousness of the archetype kind of comes to the fore.
- Defector from Decadence: Wesley's mother was a former supervillain who left the life of villainy after becoming a mother, coddling Wesley to the disgust of his father, who wanted his son to follow his legacy.
- Depraved Bisexual: The original Killer occasionally engages in homosexual acts once in a while when he gets bored with women.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The main character gains the resources to do whatever he wanted. As an example, he deals with the frustration of a neighbor being too cheery with...a bullet to the face.
- Dodge the Bullet: Despite having a vast array of firearms used against him, Wesley never actually ends up getting shot, most likely due to this trope. His father is explicitly shown dodging bullets, and since Wesley got his powers from his dad, it makes sense that he would be capable of the same feat.
- Don't Think. Feel: Wesley's first test is to shoot the wings off some flies. He's unable to even try until The Fox is literally about a second from blowing his brains out.
- Driven to Suicide: In a way; Wesley's dad can't stand the thought of not being the best killer in the world or of someone less talented than he is taking him out, so he gets Wesley to do it.
- Even Evil Has Standards: In spades. Wesley Gibson: Mass murderer and remorseless rapist? Oh yeah, absolutely. But at least he has a tiny sense of decency when he displays his appreciation of family. Mr. Rictus, on the other hand, commits such heinous atrocities that disgust even Wesley and most of the other villains. Fox mentions this as the reason she moved from Rictus's gang to Seltzer's. Sure, she kills people, but Rictus was shooting babies in cribs for the hell of it. In fact, Mr. Rictus' evil is pretty much the only reason you would cheer for Wesley when he goes on his killing spree against Rictus: the latter is only slightly better than the former when it comes to morality. Just barely.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Wesley, Wesley's father, and Doll-Master all have families and sincerely care about them. Fox had a genuine love affair with Wesley's father in the past and with Wesley himself in the present. The immortal African dictator Adam-One is shown at his oldest son's death bed and hates it when he's interrupted because he wants to be with him in his last moments.
- Evil Duo: Wesley and The Fox, who by the end of the series are the new leaders of the North American branch of The Fraternity.
- Evil Mentor: The entire Fraternity serve as this to Wesley, but Solomon Seltzer and the Fox in particular. Their goal is to make him a powerful and feared supervillain like his father, but in a subversion they do have his best interests at heart. Wesley's father is a more distant version, as he doesn't reveal himself until the end to complete his son's training.
- Evil Only Has to Win Once: The premise of the setting is that the supervillains of the world finally decided to all team up and thus overwhelm the superheroes by sheer numbers. After their victory, the villains used one of their Reality Warpers to retroactively change reality so that the heroes became normal people (with ironic twists to their lives), and they themselves were set up as the secret rulers of the world. The only hint that anything was ever different is the existence of superhero comic books, which represent the ultimate victory of the supervillains — although the comics depict actual events from the previous reality, nobody would ever take them seriously.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: It seems like The Killer wanted his son Wesley to stay out of the criminal life and therefore never contacted him. Subverted at the end when it turns out that he very much wants him to become a mass-murdering supervillain and set up all the events of the comic book to get Wesley to follow him in his footsteps.
- Evil Versus Evil: The finale, with Wesley and The Fox facing off against Mr. Rictus and his crew.
- Expy: Inverted in-universe. In a twist, the comic book heroes and villains Wanted's are based on are implied to be expies of Wanted's "real life" versions, while the comic book versions are all that remain of humanity's knowledge of them after reality was edited. The book apparently started as a pitch for an Alternate Reality take on DC's Secret Society of Super-Villains, so all the characters can be traced back to The DCU villains in some respects.
- The Killer (especially the first one) seems inspired by Deathstroke the Terminator. Considering he started off with the "Batman enemies" group and has the power of infallible aim, he's also rather like Deadshot. Millar confirms it here.
- Mr. Rictus has elements of The Joker, but visually looks like a mix between Judge Doom and the Red Skull.
- The Fox is blatantly Catwoman.
- Professor Seltzer is pretty much a Golden Age Lex Luthor.
- Superman's counterpart is not named, but he is explicitly shown as a paraplegic, like Christopher Reeve.
- Batman is alluded to several times - as the Detective - before his post-1986 persona who basically Adam West, along with Dick Grayson who has turned into Burt Ward, are placed in a death trap by Mr. Rictus and fed to an octopus. It's a bit of a Tear Jerker when Mr. Rictus points out that the fat, pleading slob with the hood over his head was once the scariest man in the world.
- The Emperor is Fu Manchu. Given the DC origins of the pitch, he's also Ra's Al Ghul.
- Adam-One is Vandal Savage.
- Shithead is Clayface.
- Deadly Nightshade is Poison Ivy.
- Imp is Mister Mxyzptlk.
- Fuckwit is Bizarro.
- The Doll-Master is Toyman, albeit with a slightly different personality.
- Johnny Two-Dicks is Two-Face combined with Scarface.
- Brain Box is Brainiac.
- Sucker is Parasite.
- The Frightener is Scarecrow.
- The Puzzler is The Riddler.
- The Future is Per Degaton, another fascist time-traveling villain, but with the inversion that he's from the future like Kang the Conqueror at Marvel or the Lord of Time at DC.
- Face Death with Dignity: Doll-Master is calm and accepting of his impending death when Mr. Rictus and his men come for him during their elimination of the American Fraternity chapter. All he asks of them is that they leave his face intact for when his wife and children find him. When they reveal that they already killed his family beforehand, Doll-Master unleashes his dolls in retaliation.
- Faking the Dead: Wesley's father faked his own death so he could set his son on the path to succeeding him and becoming one of the most powerful supervillains in the world.
- Ms. Fanservice: The Fox, a hot, nymphomaniacal chick who wears leather and a pair of fox ears.
- The Multiverse: To satisfy their supervillainous leanings, The Fraternity often raids other universes for treasure, as well as some trivial things.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Adam-One bears a striking resemblance to President Mobutu.
- Not in the Face!: Doll-Master asks Mr. Rictus that he leaves his face intact while killing him. He already knows that he's gonna die — he just wants to make sure his family finds a relatively peaceful body. Mr. Rictus then reveals that he already killed them.
- Not My Driver: Shithead kills Seltzer by posing as his driver.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Professor Seltzer doesn't look that threatening, does he? Now look at him again, while remembering that he personally killed this universe's Superman. Worse: During the rewrite of reality, he made him into a quadriplegic — that is to say, Christopher Reeve, the actor who played the titular character of the first Superman movies.
- Number of the Beast: Shit-Head is made up of the collected feces of the 666 most evil human beings in history.
- Offing The Annoyance: Wesley (once he's found out about his new powers) kills (among others) his neighbor, who annoyed him by always repeating the same mindlessly optimistic message every morning. His first step to becoming a supervillain is to go down the list of everyone who annoyed him in some way during his life and murder, rape, or torture all of them.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Wesley's boss finds extreme sadistic glee in tormenting him daily.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: The Future, who is actually a Nazi Conqueror From The Future and now rules over Europe. Not even the amoral Mr. Rictus is that petty. He even claims he's going to start a second Holocaust near the end.
- Power Parasite: This is Sucker's primary superpower (he's a Parasite expy), but it's limited to a 24 hour timeframe. After he defects to Mr. Rictus camp and betrays the protagonists he absorbs the Bizarro expy's Flying Brick abilities, and boasts of his new powers. He's defeated when he forgets the time limit, and falls to his death just as the clock runs out.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The stated purpose of The Fraternity. They've already conquered the world, and all they want is their pleasures. Widespread chaos threatens that. Solomon Seltzer just wants to party and practice Mad Science. The Emperor just wants to party and run his empire. Adam-One just wants to party and enjoy his eternal life. However, the heroic genocide required more firepower than the three of them had, so they had to make alliances and therefore share power with less pragmatic types. The Future just wants to party and slaughter the inferior races. And Mister Rictus just wants to party While Rome Burns.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Averted; they're neither pretty nor little.
- Professional Killer: The Killer, who is Wesley's father.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Deconstructed in a rather interesting way. The protagonist Wesley Gibson starts out as an almost comically gutless, whiny loser before he is introduced into the world of supervillains. As part of his Took a Level in Badass act, he instead becomes a sadistic, depraved mass-murdering monster through an inversion of The Hero's Journey-type of story arc, while the reader is forced to side with him due to the Villain Protagonist perspective and Evil Versus Evil morality. In reality Wesley's enemies are barely worse than him, and the comic ends with Wesley becoming one of the five supervillain overlords of the planet, his journey to power, wealth and evil completed. Any readers who at this point were still rooting for the guy as an Anti-Hero badass despite his depravities are soon reminded how bad he is when he turns to the reader, calls them out on supporting him, and then rapes you. Don't forget, he's the villain.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Wesley seems to believe this, talking up how "macho" he becomes after becoming a villain.
- Reality Warper:
- At times it is subtly hinted that The Killer's powers make mundane objects like lead bullets and steel blades deadly to entities who would otherwise be immune.
- Imp is explicitly this, at least according to the appendix. For instance, he once turned the entire US into a marshmallow land for 12 hours before he reversed the effect.
- The Reveal: Several, though perhaps the most jarring is Wesley's dad being alive, having faked his death in order to jumpstart Wesley's down the path of the supervillain.
- Rewriting Reality
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Wesley narrates a very detailed montage of him killing every single person in his life that gave him grief. And later, Wesley and The Fox go on one of these after Mr. Rictus tries to kill them.
- Rule of Cool: They fly a jet through the portal back to their dimension in the second book. The portal inside of an office building. And all of this is part of a heist to steal a radioactive condom.
- Shiny New Australia: One of Mr. Rictus' grievances is that, when the villains divvied up the continents, he got stuck with Australia.
- Shout-Out: Wanted references other comic books very frequently, as the series is based on the idea that the supervillains of a comic book continuity won utterly and completely. For starters, the year they defeated the heroes was 1986 — the same year that The DCU was doing its Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover which involved pretty much every hero and villain in the setting duking it out.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Mr. Rictus ensemble includes a pair of red, shiny glasses.
- Sliding Scale of Villain Threat: Mr. Rictus' idea of running roughshod over the world instead of staying in the shadows is repeatedly shot down by the other Fraternity heads, because if they did so, heroes from other realities would most likely show up to stop them and The Fraternity would lose everything. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rictus doesn't care.
- The Sociopath: Mr. Rictus. Ohhhh, boy, Mr. Rictus.
- Straw Nihilist: Mr. Rictus was a devout Christian before he briefly died and encountered no reward or afterlife. He then decided that life itself is meaningless and abandoned all his morals so he could satisfy every sadistic whim he ever had and just commit murder and other atrocities on a daily basis.
- Stupid Evil: Rictus is proud to be this. When he takes over control of the Fraternity to blow the League of Supervillains' cover and start a new campaign of unremitted slaughter, the rest of the organization's heads warn him that it will bring the weight of every superhero in the multiverse to bear down on them. Rictus is delighted at this, for even if they lose he will have enjoyed the carnage.
- Talking Poo: Shithead, a Clayface Expy creature made of the feces of the 666 most evil people in the world, including Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer.
- Take That, Audience!: Wesley constantly, especially at the end.
- This Loser Is You: Taken to truly sadistic levels. Wesley is a weak, cowardly, petty, jealous, racist, sexist, homophobic jerk who thinks it's a tragedy that he isn't rich and powerful. The world of supervillains seems purpose-built to glorify him and confirm all of his petty delusions of entitlement, and he uses his newfound powers to start raping and murdering to his jealous heart's content.
- Took a Level in Badass / Took a Level in Jerkass: Wesley goes from a cuckolded corporate drone to a cold-blooded killer. Who's a dick.
- Training from Hell: Part of Wesley's physical training is being tied to a chair while a Brute beats the shit out of him. Every day. Until, as part of Wesley's graduation, the ropes are left loose, allowing him to shove a broken chair leg through the guy's throat and into his brain.
- Training Montage: Wesley gets used to the training (which uses innocent civilians as targets, eventually) with glee.
- Turn Out Like His Father: Wesley's dad was watching him as a kid once and saw Wesley getting beat up by some other kids. Upon seeing Wesley not fight back and get rescued by his mom, who praised him for his actions, he realized that she knew, at least on a subconscious level, that if Wesley resorted to violence there'd be no turning back. And she was right.
- Unwitting Pawn. Wesley. And how...
- Villain Antagonist: Mr. Rictus and The Future are part of an enemy alliance of supervillains.
- Villain Protagonist: Wesley, who upon going evil shaves his head into an Eminem-style crewcut and freely commits murders and rapes just because he can. Not to mention being a misanthropist...
- Villains Never Lie: Oddly enough, Mr. Rictus doesn't outright lie to Wesley until their final confrontation, and even then it's subtly hinted that he wasn't. He said that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Wesley's father, and the Killer later mentions that he's "killed Presidents from Grassy Knolls".
- Villainous Breakdown: Wesley seems to have one of these while talking with The Fox near the end of the series; then he admits he was just messing with her.
- Visionary Villain: Professor Seltzer convinced all the other supervillains in the world to team up in one massive attack that the superheroes wouldn't be able to stop. And it worked.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Shit-Head. He assumes Fuckwit's form so he can kill Professor Seltzer.
- War On Cops: The equivalent of Deadshot walks into a police station and opens fire. There's no Batman to stop him...
- Who's Laughing Now?: Wesley in spades, after he joins The Fraternity.
- Written by the Winners: Literally. After they killed or brainwashed all the heroes, the Fraternity used their magic and mad science to rewrite history, making everyone believe they were never real to begin with.
- Yellow Peril: The Emperor, who is an Expy of Fu Manchu and other similar villains.
- You Bastard: At the end of the series, Wesley gives a speech to the audience because they suck compared to him. Of course, the fact that Wesley is nothing more then a comic book character makes shutting him up as easy as closing the book.