'90s Anti-Hero

Everything that was wrong with comics in the '90s in one cover.From the top: 

"I smolder with generic rage."

In the late 80's-early 90s, it seemed like Moore and Miller were right: they had pushed the comics medium to its logical limit. However, instead of breaking it, or inspiring it to look beyond those limits, the industry became comfortable there. The decades following Watchmen and DKR were infested with stories and characters that mimicked the 'adult' content with none of the maturity. Enter the Nineties Anti-hero, a very specific version of the Anti-Hero. Not all such characters were created during the 1990s, but that was the time when they were most common and most popular.

This guy is the polar opposite of your typical Silver Age superhero. Not only are they flawed, they may lack any heroic attributes, apart from the fact that they never lose. They appeal to the audience strictly due to being totally committed to... whatever the hell they're doing at the moment. They have no compunction about killing criminals, and indeed, this may extend to anyone who gets in their way; when confronted by classic archetypes, such as The Cape, they dismiss them as dupes and fools. Their "super"-powers tend towards the lethal, and the ones who lack them usually make up for it by carrying guns. Lots of guns. They are usually demonic or technological in origin and never received said abilities through the idealistic good graces of anyone.

Male N.A.H.s are easy to identify: ridiculously muscled, and often wear lots of pouches or bandoliers. There's a good chance he's either middle aged with lots of long, grey hair and beard stubble, or scars, but either way, he's likely to be Rated M for Manly incarnate. He also probably has at least one eye that looks fake, injured, or diseased and he carries a ludicrously oversized gun or sword which no mortal could possibly carry.

Female Nineties Anti-Heroes, like most female superheroes, have large breasts and small waists, but unlike most female superheroes, this is often taken to disfiguring extremes. They don't tend to wear very much clothing (or if they do, it'll be typical superheroic barely-there "spandex" which showcases their exaggerated/inaccurate anatomy). But they still usually wear tights in some form. The ultimate extreme of the female version was the "Bad Girl Comic" subgenre, featuring ludicrously buxom, near-naked Dark Action Girls, generally with some kind of supernatural nature or origin, hacking and pouting their way through plots designed solely to offer as much Gorn and Fanservice as possible.

Usually they'll have one word, gritty names that used to be reserved for villains, often creatively misspelled ('Shade' becomes 'Shayde', etc) to appear more dramatic or, because poor literacy is kewl, to make the character look radical. Never, of course, for trademark purposes.

In terms of characterization, they have - at most! - only four emotions: brooding, sarcastic, badass, or just plain psychotic. How much of any one side they show over the others is the main thing that sets them apart from each other.

Artist/writer Rob Liefeld is most prominently associated with Nineties Anti-Heroes (and pouches). Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee are also prominent artists from the period.

An argument can also be made that the Nineties Anti-Hero came about more from the influence of the Action Hero archetype that was popular in movies at around the same time than anything seen in Watchmen. Indeed, many nineties anti-heroes would spout one liners that would not at all be out of place in an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal movie.

Note that, in spite of the cynical-sounding write-up, this is not a bad trope, it's just that, as with most Darker and Edgier fiction, its very difficult to describe without making the whole premise sound inherently ridiculous. note 

In hindsight, one could think of this phase as the teenage years of comic book characters. An age of awkward and angsty characters with often-dubious fashion sense, but also an age of innovative and more complex characters contrasting the heroes of the silver age and further exploring the shades of heroism introduced in bronze age. The more humanized superhero of the modern age is an answer to the question first asked in comics by the Nineties Anti-Hero: "What really makes the difference between a hero and a villain?".

Meanwhile, for many classic characters who received this sort of makeover, it could be described as a midlife crisis. Like new Empty Nesters, comic creators in the 90's suddenly found themselves free from the stagnated and formulaic practices of the previous decades and in possession of a healthy Auteur License account. Its no surprise that so many classic characters began wearing leather outfits and driving motorcycles, trying to recapture the wild, irreverent, and often dark and violent, pre-comics code days of the genre for a while. While their attempts to recapture their youth may have lead through some awkward combovers and chrome-plated BFGs, it also introduced a fresh, relevant spin to many of the long-runners. Aquaman, for instance, rode his 90's arc from Scrappy status to full fledged Ensemble Dark Horse Badass.

If one is replacing an older more optimistic hero, you have an example of an Anti-Hero Substitute. It's also one of the stages of the superhero Reconstruction (as seen in that Trope's page image.)

Commonly paired with Superhero Packing Heat.

Generally these prominent figures are True Neutral or Chaotic Neutral in the Character Alignment.

See also: Sociopathic Hero, Designated Hero and Byronic Hero. Should not be confused with the Heroic Comedic Sociopath, who is blatantly evil and Played for Laughs. Generally, Nineties Anti-Heroes tend to stay in Nominal Hero territory though some can be Villain Protagonists.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Guts from Berserk, who debuted with the publication of the manga in 1990, has almost all the characteristics of a nineties anti-hero. He has a gritty but simple name, is missing an arm and an eye, has ridiculous muscles but relies on his lethal equipment instead of superpowers, wears a black costume with lots of bags and bandoliers, is a badass with a Dark and Troubled Past and sarcasm to boot, and uses a ludicrous BFS as his main weapon. During the early Black Swordsman Arc he tells Puck that he doesn't care about anything except Revenge, considering any bystanders who get caught up in his vengeance as weaklings who didn't deserve to live, and he brutally tortures any villains he defeats. In spite of all this he turns out to be something of an Unbuilt Trope example, or at least a more subtle one, as the state we first see him in is when he's at his very worst and using a Jerkass Façade to hide from his pain. He goes through several shades of Anti-Hero through his Character Development, but always has some redeeming qualities such as loyalty to his friends and sympathy for those who have suffered like he has.
  • Revy from Black Lagoon. Rough but cool name, nihilistic outlook, stripperiffic outfit, sizable... tracts of land and a gun in every hand. To top it all off, the story is set in the mid-nineties.
  • Black★Rock Shooter: The eponymous heroine has the idiosyncratic name spelling, skimpy clothing, Badass Longcoat, fights without uttering a word with her humongous, morphing cannon and black katana and fights to kill. Add the ability to shrug off lethal wounds without blinking and a blue flame around her left eye. She's only missing one thing: The Most Common Superpower.
  • Killy from Blame! is this trope - minus the "hip" clothing and ridiculous muscle mass. The series was even created in the mid-90's.
  • Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index. Rough but cool name, rough outlook and oversized power.
  • Digimon is full of non-human examples (though many look humanoid), especially the early generations created during the nineties, reaching from Badass Furries to Hollywood Cyborg dinosaurs. However, the characterization seen in C'mon Digimon and Digimon V-Tamer 01, the earliest works in the series, didn't reflect this trope and the designs of Digimon as originally shown in "C-mon" didn't even reflect it, though this was quickly corrected and referenced in "V-tamer".
  • Vegeta of Dragon Ball started off as just another psychotic villain, but evolves into this trope during the Freeza and Cell sagas. Even after becoming a full-on good guy in the fight against Buu, he still retains a shred of his former badassery, such as punching out his opponent for mouthing off to him at the World Martial Art Tournament.
    • Dragon Ball as a whole is a very Iron Age-ish anime, except it still doesn't take itself very seriously in that spot.
  • The general characterization of Kurei from Flame of Recca after the Tournament Arc. Despite separating himself and his loyal followers from the Uruha, and pursuing the same quarry as Recca and his allies, his vicious and ruthless nature remains unchanged, even until the end of the series.
  • Depending on continuity, the protagonists from Getter Robo may be portrayed as such. The early cartoons tried to remove this aspect, but it's back in newer adaptations.
  • Fon Spaak and Sven Cal Bayan from Gundam have a very strong Nineties Anti-Hero vibe to them. They are both savage and brutal Gundam pilots with a sadistic streak. They are a contrast to characters like Setsuna F Seiei and Kira Yamato.
  • Alucard from Hellsing - minus the ridiculous muscle mass. Not to mention, he was born in the nineties.
  • Ogami Itto from Lone Wolf and Cub might be oldest example, being first published in 1970. If you think about it he has all the tropes of the typical dark age anti-hero. His Katana is heavier and more ungainly than others since it was designed for cutting the heads of people who committed Seppuku, thus qualifying it as a BFS. He pushes around a babycart bristling with weaponry, including but not limited to: a Naginata, James Bond style wheel-blades, and (at least in the movies) a freaking makeshift cannon! Framed for a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to commit Seppuku, he is rebelling against authority by his mere existence. He's constantly brooding and frowning and he will kill anyone who gets in his way without a moments notice. In fact, since he makes a living as an Assassin he will kill anyone who DOESN'T get in his way also, if the money is right.
  • MD Geist, despite being from the 80's.
  • Being a series about American-style superheroes, My Hero Academia has a couple of characters based on this archetype:
    • Endeavor is a man who became a hero solely for the prestige and attention. Otherwise, he has absolutely no regard for anyone else, is always moody and surly, uses a lot of force when in battle, and is emotionally consumed by rage. He is particularly furious that All Might, an idealistic Silver Age-style hero, always seems to one-up him in the public eye. He has since become a father—bringing his anti-hero morality into parenthood. His son, Shouto, absolutely hates Endeavor with every ounce of his being, and refuses to use his powers he inherited from Endeavor to spite him.
    • Stain is a Hero Killer who, ironically, is doing so because he believes so strongly in what a hero should be that very few live up to his standards besides All Might. Stain also not only has a name that would fit in with other Nineties Anti-Heroes, but a power activated by consuming someone else's blood (which complements his sadistic joy in seeing others in pain) and an arsenal of knives he keeps on his person via a lot of belts and bandoliers.
    • Subverted and parodied with Gang Orca: He is a hero with a thuggish, brutal appearance and uses large amounts of angry force when in battle, but he is actually a nice guy and a good sport. Parodied in that Gang Orca is said to be 4th on the official list of "Top Heroes Who Look Like Villains," indicating that there are enough people like Gang Orca for there to be a sub-category of heroes.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Saito Hajime is basically what The Punisher (mentioned below under Comics) would be if he were a late Nineteenth century Japanese Sword wielding policeman. While he does not have the physical appearance of this archetype, his brutal nature and lack of regard for those that he believed to be scum certainly fit it.
  • Skull Man, prototype of the Lighter and Softer, but still rather edgy Kamen Rider, is another good example from the 1970's.
  • Texhnolyze: Ichise is a coolheaded prize fighter who becomes one of these, granted a more subdued example along the lines of the aforementioned Killy, through the course of the show's twenty-two episodes. He becomes increasingly violent and psychotic after acquiring his cybernetic limbs, the eponymous Texhnolyze, both as he becomes more corrupted by the power he has to take out his pent up rage and also in response the increasingly dire circumstances as he and others face in-universe Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, the inhabitants of Sternbild City are introduced to the concept of the Nineties Anti-Hero with Lunatic, a menacing vigilante who unhesitatingly kills criminals, racks up the property damage like nobody's business, and mocks the established superheroes for their idealistic 'weakness'. Given what end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism the show occupies, he serves as both a villain and a Knight of Cerebus during his introduction. Though later episodes in the series put him in a more sympathetic light.
  • Violence Jack: Jack is possibly one of the oldest examples having been created in 1973. The setting of the story is already a nightmarish, gory Post-apocalyptic wasteland, but the moment the titular character appears on the scene, it goes From Bad to Worse after that. Jack is a Villain Protagonist whose only motivation for engaging in the bloody battles he gets involved in is out of mere curiosity or boredom.
  • This is a common criticism of Jotaro Kujo, the protagonist of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders. He's a stoic, aloof badass who delivers one-liners and punches his enemies senseless. However, his edgier traits are toned down in later parts of JoJo, coming off as more of a Big Brother Mentor in Diamond is Unbreakable and being given a Decon-Recon Switch as a flawed but well-meaning father in Stone Ocean.
  • The main character of the Witchblade anime is more of a subversion than in the comic book. She may be an extremely scantily-clad woman who's fight scenes are the epitome of Orgasmic Combat, but out of costume she's a very amiable single mom.
  • Shun Kurosaki of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V is something of a minor deconstruction. While he's badass on his own, his inability to work well with others gets him in trouble once or twice, and he creates or escalates conflict in situations where he doesn't need to because of his attitude and attack-first mentality.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Hiei, originally a one-off villain, is a demon with a jigon eye who doesn't just use any fire but Hellfire and couldn't care less what happened to humanity as long as it didn't involve him, and won't hesitate to cut anyone deep who was in the way of his goals. Though unlike most of the examples on this page, he prefers speed over bulky strength. He also has a soft spot for his younger sister Yukina, but that is more of a reminder of why one shouldn't get on his bad side.
    • One particular incident that demonstrates this is in the Chapter Black arc. When he learns about Shinobu Sensui's plan to bring about an apocalypse by way of opening a portal to Demonworld, Hiei seems entertains to the idea of the Human world turned into Demon's paradise. Though it is only a ruse to bait Yusuke Urameshi into fighting him and test his strenght, but his belief that Humans Are the Real Monsters is one that he very much holds as true. They only reason he finally decides to help out Yusuke and friends prevent Sensui allowing any demon "tourists" to come as they please is based on two demons who expressed a desire to rape human women, and as Yukina was journeying throughout the Human world at the time and thus would potentially become a victim in a demon overran world, is one thing he would not tolerate.
  • The Anarchy Sisters of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt are crude and snarky Fallen Angels who spend most of their time lazing around, indulging in their own vices, or acting as the sex symbols of Daten City. They have simple yet cool names, with their first names representing where their hyper-destructive weapons come from, and their surname pretty much summing up what they cause. They don't care about what lengths they go to in order to achieve their goals, and to top it off, their designs are heavily inspired by nineties cartoons.

    Comic Books 
  • Rorschach and The Comedian of Watchmen are probably the joint Trope Codifiers. Unfortunately, nearly everyone failed to realize that they weren't supposed to be sympathetic characters, and things just deteriorated from there. This may have been a natural progression; in his history of superheroes/autobiography Supergods, Grant Morrison says:
    At the time, it was a dreadful setback for the idea of "grown-up" superhero comics. In hindsight, it was America's inevitable reaction to Watchmen, and the only response that could possibly be effective: Fuck realism, we just want our superheroes to look cool and kick ten thousand kinds of ass.
  • The Chase Lawlyer version of Manhunter from DC and Nightwatch from Marvel, both of whom were rather shameless rip-offs of Spawn.
  • During Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics, in one alternate universe Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen created a device that would allow the user to create a super powered Tulpa. They wanted to create The Cape, however the executives thought this trope would have more wide-market appeal, and deliberately attempted to invoke it.
  • During The Death of Superman, Superman had an Anti-Hero Substitute in the form of the Eradicator, one of the four replacement Supermen who appear after he dies.]] He's portrayed as a negative version of the trope, finding himself being lauded by Guy Gardner, which makes him question things, and chewed out by Lois Lane and Steel for using the S-Shield and causing death and destruction in its name.
  • After having his back broken in Knightfall, Batman is replaced by Jean-Paul Valley a.k.a. Azrael, a character with no compunctions about killing. Azrael is chosen by Bruce, who is then chewed out by Nightwing over it, and Bruce himself admits it was one of his worst mistakes. Azrael, especially his time as Batman, was written as a Take That! towards those who wanted Batman to act more like The Punisher, though he was still written as a sympathetic deconstruction, in that he is shown to suffer from mental illness from his brutal upbringing by the Order of St. Dumas' Program rather than being a Tautological Templar Jerkass like many other examples of this archetype were. From the moment after he meets and befriends psychiatrist Brian Bryan, Valley becomes more of reconstruction of the trope.
  • In the Else World story Superman at Earth's End, Superman is portrayed as this, being depowered and having to rely on huge guns, being a lot more willing to kill, and drawn to be overtly muscular and with huge pouches.
  • Image Comics specialized in these for as long as the fad lasted:
    • Spawn, quite possibly the most popular Nineties Anti-Hero. Edgy one-word name, grim-n-gritty backstory (an assassinated mercenary damned to Hell and sent back as a soldier of Satan), killing bad guys who were slightly worse than him, and written and drawn by Todd McFarlane. The character became less of a typical example of this trope as the series went on, however. The first issue of Spawn had a little parody of the trope's common appearance. Entertainment TV Talking Heads commenting that while the spikes and chains are "totally gauche", trying to bring back capes is a bad idea.
    • The Darkness and Witchblade both exemplified this trope. The former is a former mafia hitman who becomes a living vessel of the world's dark energies, complete with an army of flippant, happy-go-lucky demons who delight in every opportunity to torture someone; the second is a pornolicious detective with powers both lethal and which rip her clothes off whenever she uses them.
      • The former, however, is a Reconstruction of this trope, since he's much more subtle and complex than many other examples.
  • Youngblood by Rob Liefeld's.
  • The second-tier Marvel superheroes Dark Hawk and Sleepwalker, both of whom had their heyday in the early 1990s, are downplayed examples of this trope. While they have strange and bizarre appearances, neither one was especially dark in their tone, at least compared to titles like Spawn, or the other characters that exemplify the Nineties Anti-Hero.

    Darkhawk was about a kid who followed in his policeman father's footsteps by fighting crime with the mysterious alien armor he had obtained, while simultaneously keeping his Nuclear Family from falling apart. At one point he finds a journal of his father's, the last entry stopping with him and his partner preparing to go in pursuit of a hit-and-run driver before seeking medical attention for his victim. Chris refers back to this several times to remind himself to take a harder edge, before discovering the journal had a stuck page, in which his father hesitates, calls an ambulance, and makes sure the old woman who was hit survives.

    Sleepwalker was about an alien from another dimension that became trapped in a human's mind and manifested to fight crime while he was asleep, carrying on the similar role he had carried in his home world. There were, both in the letter columns of the old Sleepwalker comics and more recent web postings, positive responses from fans who liked the fact that Sleepwalker wasn't a violent antihero.
  • Valiant Comics had a number of Nineties Anti-Heroes.
    • Bloodshot: Mobster Angelo Mortalli was framed by the Carboni crime family, forcing him to become a witness for the state. While under Federal protection, Mortalli was betrayed by his protectors and sold to Hideyoshi Iwatsu to become a test subject for Project Rising Spirit.
    • H.A.R.D. Corps: A group of Vietnam veterans who where revived from comas by a corporation who fits them with brain implants that give them psionic powers, and explodes if they're killed, or caught. One of them dies in every other issue, so they're always being replaced.
  • Aquaman became a version of this in The '90s and lasting until Infinite Crisis. He grew his beard out to adopt a Father Neptune look, and lost one of his hands and had it replaced first by a hook and then by a form-changing magical water-hand. He also adopted a more aggressive attitude on behalf of Atlantis. These changes were actually very well-received by much of the DCU's fanbase, and is considered an implementation of this trope that actually worked, as the goal of Peter David's revamp was to essentially rescue Aquaman from the scrappy heap that Superfriends had left him in. Unfortunately, years later much of the general public is still unaware of the revamp, and still picture poor Arthur as he was in Superfriends. (One thing that saved Aquaman from the negative qualities of the 90s anti-hero is that the book was often funny and while he might have had more of an edge, he didn't take himself too seriously either. Because, you know, Peter David.)
  • Pretty much everyone in Dark Age arc of Astro City, as one might expect in a deconstruction of The Dark Age of Comic Books. There is also lampshading aplenty. There is a notable subversion in the character of Hellhound who, despite having the demonic background, monstrous appearance, torn leather and chains costume and "edgy" name, is actually a Noble Demon, and a respected ally of the local Captain America and Spider-Man expies.
  • The Authority represent an entire Justice League of Nineties Anti-Heroes. They are, however, unusually idealistic for their kind, as part of their remit is to "make the world a better place". Their methods, however, seem to involve copious amounts of ultra-graphic violence (no Thou Shalt Not Kill for them), ruthless cynicism towards their enemies, and disdain for opposing points of view — they once overthrew the government of the United States.
  • Black Adam: He was never this in the original Fawcett owned Captain Marvel comics, but under DC's revival has sometimes portrayed as this archetype, being someone who has joined and fought alongside the Justice League as many times as joining battles against the league, depending on whether which side benefits his own goal to regain the power of Shazam from Billy Batson to enact justice as he sees fit.
  • Joe Martin did a Deconstructive Parody of this in the one-shot comic book, Boffo in Hell, starring the two main characters from his newspaper comic strip, Mister Boffo (although everyone and everything except these two were drawn in a more-realistic, superhero style); the title was a reference to Spawn. In it, the government suspects that people are mean and violent because of self-esteem issues. As an experiment, they take a bunch of psychotics, give them a bunch of super-powers so that they'll feel "special" and then have them do community service among the public. Needless to say, it doesn't go as they planned. Earl Boffo, the dim-witted title character, winds up gaining super-powers of his own (with a Spawn-like appearance to match) and - completely by accident - manages to subdue and kill the murderous anti-heroes.
  • A strange example is Deathlok the Demolisher, who was created well over two decades before the heyday of the trope. Each of the various versions of Deathlok have very 90's Anti-Hero traits to them: he is always a dead man resurrected as a cyborg (cyborgs being common in 90's comics), and turned into an unliving cybernetic weapon that uses huge guns as it's primary method of offense. Usually however the plot often involves Deathlok's unwillingness to succumb to his programming and kill wantonly, instead struggling to non-lethally dispatch his foes.
  • In 1994, DC turned Doctor Fate into an Anti-Hero named Fate who was a grave robber and had melted Dr. Fate's helmet into a knife.
  • The Doctor Who Magazine comic introduced a full-blown Nineties Anti-Hero to the Doctor Who universe in the shape of Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer. He's a "chainsword"-loving professional criminal and multiple murderer who was exiled by a future Earth society to a Dalek-occupied world to kill as many Daleks as possible before his inevitable death (although he turned out to be badass enough to survive). Of course, he first appeared in 1980 and in some ways was a deconstruction, so could be considered an Unbuilt Trope.
  • Doom has the Doomguy going around and punching and/or shooting things...just because. He's also borderline psychopathic. What makes him stand out from the crowd is that he doesn't brood or snark, and is instead a Large Ham and a bit of a Boisterous Bruiser. It's oddly endearing.
  • Around 1994, Guy Gardner, a roughnecked, "macho" member of the Green Lantern Corps, was reinvented as "Warrior," with ridiculously huge muscles, tattoos all over his body, and the ability to form his arms into any kind of weapon he could think of, mainly gargantuan guns. Rumor has it that the reinvention was the result of writer Beau Smith writing the pitch as a joke and accidentally having it approved. He eventually reverted to his old (but still roughnecked) Green Lantern persona after the fad played itself out.
  • Ghost Rider: The various holders of the mantle have had varying degrees of this with most having Demonic/Infernal derived powers received via a Deal with the Devil (Actually Mephisto, but you get the point) and leather clad biker outfits, complete with chains and spikes. The most blatantly exaggerated example is Vengeance who can see here.
  • Holy Terror: As one of the individuals who influenced the Dark Age of Comics, it was the natural evolution of Frank Miller that he would eventually create a Dark Age Anti-Hero of his own in the form of "The Fixer". He is a Blood Knight so psychopathic that even the darkest iterations of Batman (of which he is a Captain Ersatz), including even those by Miller himself, would seem saintly by comparison. This is demonstrated with The Fixer's slaughter of the Al-Qaeda cell in the underground of Empire City with a multitude of guns, ranging from pistols to bazookas, as well as a chemical weapon of some sort (and yes, you read correctly). Granted, while the setting tries to justify his methods in that he is fighting a Terrorist group who is orchestrating an act of war rather than the typical mobsters and other criminals that would be the purview of the Justice system to try and punish,[[note]] (and to what extent should either the military and/or law enforcement be involved in addressing terrorism is another matter of debate).
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac parodied both the male and female versions of this trope in one of its "Meanwhile" stories.
  • Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, was in part a savage denouncement of Nineties Anti-Heroes, and was one of the things that caused the changeover from the Dark Age to the Modern Age. One of the themes of the comic was the classic generation of superheroes fighting the violent "modern" heroes. Of course, the "classic" heroes shared some of the blame as well; many became just-as-violent Knight Templars attempting to deal with it. The "face" of the anti-heroes, Magog, is practically every Dark Age stereotype rolled into one cybernetic, sacrilegious package (though Waid and Ross admitted a certain fondness for him due to how over-the-top he was). In a brilliant twist of idealism, Magog realizes how screwed up he is, turns himself in, renounces violence, and is one of the people left alive at the end; in the prose novelization of the story, he becomes the Dean of Students at Paradise Island!
    • Magog himself was able to pull a Canon Immigrant, and was introduced in the Main DCU in a JSA storyline. In 2009 he got his own solo series, which is something of an Affectionate Parody of the old school Nineties Anti-Hero. His Rogues Gallery includes an insane homeless man with mind control powers and a silver haired woman who talks like a 1980s valley girl.
  • Lady Death: She is a Stripperific Dark Action Girl with a BFS who coincidentally first appeared in print in 1991.
  • Lobo was created to parody this sort of character, even though he came out of the early 80s. Later played straight at times after he got a lot of Misaimed Fandom popularity.
  • Marshal Law is an Anti-Hero who specializes in hunting heroes, though as he always says, "I haven't found any yet."
  • At the end of the "Omega Effect" The Punisher/Daredevil crossover, Daredevil defies and deconstructs this to Frank Castle's partner, Rachel Cole.
    Rachel: You know what gives me strength? My loss. We're alike that way, I imagine. Admit it: nobody who's a stranger to that particular pain could ever be as driven as us.
    Matt: Never... *throws one of his sticks at a wall so hard behind her it plants in it* ... Don't you ever say that to me again. That is a repellent statement. It is a vomitous insult to every cop — every fireman — every soldier alive who steps up to fight for those who can't! I am sorry for your loss! But if you genuinely believe that only the death of a loved one can motivate a human being to take up a cause... then get your pathetic, cynical ass out of my way so I can do my job!
  • Penance in the Marvel Universe, originally the happy-go-lucky character Speedball, is a strange version of this. After believing himself responsible for the death of 612 people in Civil War, he designs a costume in dark colors designed to give himself constant pain with 612 spikes. This was intended seriously, but having happened long after the 1990s, is treated like a parody in most of his appearances outside Thunderbolts.
  • Speaking of The Punisher, he definitely fits this trope when written by certain authors. He's vacillated between a somewhat reasonable vigilante fully willing to abide by other heroes no-killing rules during team-ups, to an frothing lunatic who'll murder jaywalkers (retconned into being due to drugs he was exposed to without his knowledge), to being a serial killer who uses his family's deaths as a justification for the endless war he wages to sate his bloodlust.
  • Shadowhawk was an Image Comics title about a successful, scrupulously honest African-American attorney who refused to fix a case for an organized crime outfit and, in revenge, was kidnapped by them and dumped after being given an injection of the AIDS virus... which prompted him, in a fit of rage and desire to try and make some sense out of the world, to don exoskeletal armor and start brutalizing thugs as a vaguely Batmanish vigilante. The suits got more and more elaborate as the disease took its toll, to help compensate for his weakness, but he ended up dying of the disease anyway. Apparently even series creator Jim Valentino hated the character, and killed him off purely out of spite. Why he even bothered with the whole affair in the first place is anyone's guess. That may be why the second Shadowhawk ended up so... different.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Venom. First there was the "black suit" Spider-Man, basically a Nineties Anti-Hero before his time, caused by an alien symbiote bonding to him. He later removes the symbiote, and it bonds to another man, becoming Venom, basically an Evil Spider-Man. That would have all been well and good, except Venom proved to be something of an Ensemble Dark Horse, and entered his peak of popularity during the peak of the Nineties Anti-Hero's popularity, and thus Venom was given his own Comic and re-worked into one. Then they have Venom's Symbiote give birth to a second one, which bonded with a Serial Killer to become Carnage, an evil(er) Venom. This opened the floodgates. Venom's symbiote gave birth to 4 more Symbiotes, but these fused into a single one which bonded with a police officer to become another Nineties Anti-Hero Hybrid, meanwhile Carnage's Symbiote gives birth to yet another symbiote which bonded with another police officer to become yet another Nineties Anti-Hero called Toxin. Since then, however, the original Venom symbiote has exchanged hands a few times and and its current host is a normal Anti-Hero.
    • Kaine. Seriously, just look at him. (At least he was salvaged in Spider-Girl.) And in the 2012 Scarlet Spider comic series written by Chris Yost, Kaine is now reluctantly (the reluctant part coming in with his regularly proclaimed ambition to move to Mexico and drink margaritas on the beach for the rest of his life. No one really believes him) trying to be more of a traditional super-hero and move away from this motif altogether, as part of an attempt to live up to his 'brother' Peter, who he considers to be generally a far better person, and to be an example to his Morality Pet Aracely, usually coming off more as a Knight in Sour Armour. On top of that, he is aware that he used to be an awful person. Moreover, he believes wholeheartedly that he still is, simply telling Aracely to leave it at the end of his solo series when the residents of Houston (including his girlfriend) freak out and reject him after his transformation into a giant spider monster in order to destroy Shathra and save lives, and she tries Shaming the Mob.
    • Morbius. Edgy leather gimp suit, magical demonic powers, slaughtering bad guys by the dozen, less moping and more badass-itude and even more exaggerated 90's villains to fight with... Only aversion might be that the 90's comic made him more generic handsome.
    • The entire plot of Superior Spider-Man sees Doc Ock stealing Peter Parker's body and using it to become a darker, more "badass" version of Spidey. He even has a black and red costume that was originally designed by Alex Ross for the first movie (since Movie Superheroes Wear Black). The entire thing is a bit of an Idiot Plot, since it requires all of Spider-Man's friends and teammates somehow not realizing that Peter Parker has been replaced. But like Azrael was to Batman, it ends up being a deconstruction; as Doc Ock slowly loses control over the situation until he's forced to concede that Peter Parker is, in fact, the "superior" hero.
    • Spider-Girl has April Parker, that is simply a jerk version of main protagonist with the powers of Venom. She fits this trope perfectly, right to the point that a woman she once saved from bandits run away, because she is more violent than they. Oh, and she killed Tombstone too.
    • One of Spider-Man's lesser villains, Cardiac, was one of these.
  • Supreme, who eventually moved from a Nineties Anti-Hero ripoff of Superman into an affectionate homage to the Silver Age Superman (largely because Alan Moore took control of the character).
  • The late eighties and early nineties had the Teen Titans sister team, the "Team Titans," who were this to the point that one of them took to calling himself Deathwing.
    • Though that probably doesn't count since adopting the Deathwing identity marked the character's descent into villainy.
  • Likewise, in The DCU, Jason Todd (Batman's second Robin) has been a Nineties Anti-Hero type ever since he came Back from the Dead. Amusingly, he was absent for the entire decade.
  • After Dark Empire revealed that Boba Fett survived falling into the Sarlacc, Fett was given various one-shots and miniseries and basically acted like the Star Wars equivalent of this.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were originally like this: later versions made them more unambiguously heroic and less feral.
  • Warrior Nun Areala: "Shotgun" Mary Delacroix, who was created specifically to complement the protagonist Shannon Masters. Though Delacroix has many elements that other examples of the archetype (as can be read and seen here) such as her disdain for authority (particularly the Catholic Church for its disapproval of homosexuality) and her preference for guns (with blessed bullets) to fight demons and other supernatural threats, she is a Lighter and Softer downplayed example and also a mild subversion in that she is more a Knight in Sour Armor rather than an Unscrupulous Hero In Name Only like others on this list.
  • The "Winter Soldier" mega-arc by Ed Brubaker in Captain America subverts a lot of these tropes. When Cap's sidekick Bucky turned out to be Not Quite Dead after all, he was revived as a brainwashed assassin with a cyborg arm; it could have been really stupid, but it wasn't. Then, when Bucky took over as Captain America, he seemed poised to be a Grim And Gritty alternative to the more traditional model, with much made of him carrying a gun — however, Bucky almost never uses the gun, and in fact tries overcome his past and be a more traditional superhero.
  • In the Dark Horse Comics superhero line Comics Greatest World, X filled this role. He was at least willing to give you one warning, a vertical slash across the face. If the X across your face or an image of your face was completed, however, he killed you. No exceptions. He was willing to do whatever it took to cleanse the city of Arcadia of its crime and corruption.
  • The X-Men have featured plenty of these throughout its run:
    • Cable, of the New Mutants, X-Force, and the X-Men was a major Trope Codifier. Tragic and mysterious past? Check. BFGs coming out the ass? Check. A "badass" look that used to be reserved for villains? Check. His first appearance was even in 1990. Over time, though, he's been developed into a more heroic/complex character, somewhere between Messianic Archetype and A God Am I.
      • According to the rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks FAQ, Rob Liefeld originally designed him as a villain, but later reused the original design when he was asked to create a "New Leader".
      • Cable's leadership was also a catalyst in giving the existing members of the New Mutants a 90's Anti-Hero look, even though many of them did not have the personality traits.
      • Not long after Cable's introduction, Liefeld followed up with Feral and Shatterstar, who were basically 90's Anti-Hero expies of Wolfsbane and Longshot respectively.
    • Cyclops, of the X-Men, had his personality largely unchanged, but despite having been nicknamed "Slim" his whole life suddenly developed a chest that pro wrestlers would find intimidating.
      • His personality has changed later though. During Grant Morrison's New X-Men and especially after he became pretty much Nineties Anti-Hero despite the fact that it started in 2003.
    • Deadpool (created by none other than Liefeld himself) started out as a villain, then moved into Anti-Hero territory, and when a non-Liefield writer got a hold of him became more of an Affectionate Parody.
    • Wolverine went from being a complicated, interesting character in the 80's to "stabby stabby stabby!" in the 90's. It took "Enemy of the State" and "Wolverine: Origin" stories to restore his former glory.
    • There's an obscure X-Men character named "Random", who started out as a recurring character for the second incarnation of X-Factor and can turn his arm into a gun. In Generation Hope #15, Pixie calls him "Johnny '90s". What's generally forgotten in later appearances is that Random is a shapeshifter who was actually a 13-year-old kid when first introduced, and took the form of a muscular giant with gun-arms because it's what he thought a badass was supposed to look like.
  • The Tick: Big Shot, who also appeared in the animated series, was originally introduced as a one-off character in the comic as someone hanging out at the vigilante table in the superhero club. While other vigilantes had complicated backstories, Big Shot's reasons for being a gun-wielding vigilante? "I just like to kill people."
  • This trope hit Transformers: Generation 2 hard. A lot of the Autobots came off as gung-ho and violent; some who were already Blood Knights, like Blades or the Dinobots, started killing downed opponents outright. Inexplicably, they also found ways to stick pouches and belts on robots, as well as redoing several of them with darker decos to be more grim and gritty—most notably, Sideswipe went from a red-painted Boisterous Bruiser to a black-painted example of this trope.
  • Every number one issue of a Milestone Comics book was written like one... and then every issue from then on subverted it. Unfortunately, this had the effect of painting the comics as "me too" and never caught a foothold (save Static, who had his own animated series.)
  • Inspired by various anti-heroes of the list, Chilean vigilante Diablo is the Trope Codifier for Chilean comic books, wearing a Badass Longcoat and a Cool Mask with an Irisless Eye Mask Of Mystery, having a plenty of guns, being accompanied by a Horny Devil who's his devilish tutor and having pages full of Gorn, especially when he summons The Legions of Hell.


  • Ace became one of these in the Doctor Who New Adventures. On TV, she had been a rather messed up but still quite bubbly and exuberant school-girl with a taste for explosives and chemistry. In the books, she became a hardened and gritty Blood Knight space marine. It was relatively mild compared to some examples of the time, but it was this trope nonetheless.
    • Several of the Doctor's other companions in these stories were also quite close to the '90s Anti-Hero archetype, also being rather hardened and angsty space marine types.
  • Parodied in The Man in the Ceiling by Jules Feiffer. Jimmy's friend Charley Beemer (who doesn't like capes) commissions him to draw his idea of a comic, which would feature a superhero named Bullethead, a weapon of death who drills through his enemies with his head, with lots of severed bodily parts to be drawn in detail (which the author refuses to show, since it's written for children).
  • The Rules Of Supervillainy is a book starring a somewhat offbeat fellow, Gary Karkofsky, who finds a magic cloak and decides to become a supervillain. The book Deconstructs the '90s Anti-Hero and The Dark Age of Comic Books by having Gary disgusted by heroes who kill and overly psychopathic villains. It also serves as a Decon-Recon Switch because Gary, himself, is a well-written '90s Anti-Hero. The book, notably, treats Lighter and Softer superheroes significantly more sympathetically than most examples of the Capepunk genre.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire introduces Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody – a paranoid, callous war veteran who used to hunt Dark Wizards, complete with a replacement magical eye, wooden leg, scar-covered face, long grey hair, gruff voice, Dark Magic detecting gadgets, and a long tattered cloak. His first name means "avenger" in Ancient Greek. In the film adaptations, he's using a long staff while all other wizards use a wand.

    Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? featured a comic book nerd becoming obsessed with a violent Nineties Anti-Hero type comic character who he thinks is the coolest thing ever. That is until this character comes to life, and he comes to realize just how uncool violence really is.
  • The obscure 90s comedy series Bob, starring Bob Newhart, focused on a comic book creator of a Silver Age hero named "Mad-Dog", who was forced by his new employers in the 90s to reinvent his character into a hero of this fashion.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Faith. Also an Anti-Hero Substitute. Unlike virginal Buffy, she drank, swore, and had sex. She's also more ruthless as a Slayer than Buffy, and she wound up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope after an Accidental Murder and went on a Face–Heel Turn.
    • Spike came as close to a televised version of Lobo as you could get. He rode a bike, lived for battle, hated all forms of authority, smoked ciggies and listened to rock n' roll. His Popularity Power ensured the heroes would never kill him off, and Buffy eventually fell in love with him.
    • Wishverse Buffy is what Buffy might be like had Todd McFarlane or Mark Millar gotten their hands on her.
  • Parodied in Community with "Kickpuncher", a series of D-grade Robocop-style movies that main characters Abed and Troy watch primarily to make fun of it.
  • An episode of Criminal Minds has a comic book artist create a character named "True Night" who seems to be one of these. It has plot significance because the ways Night kills the other characters in the comic reflect murders the artist is committing in real life. In fact, if one looks at the episode a certain way, it can be viewed as a brutal deconstruction of this trope and Dark Age comics in general.
  • An episode of Dexter features a comic book character (The Dark Defender) based on Dexter's Serial-Killer Killer self that is a perfect 90s Anti-Hero; "Stalker of the night, his blade of vengeance turns wrong into right..." The "real" Dark Defender, upon seeing a pin-up of the character, has the most satisfied smile on his face for all of three seconds before he shakes it off as absurd not for any moral reasons (Dex is a Poetic Serial Killer and proud of it), but because, "Miami's too hot for all that leather". He does later have an Indulgent Fantasy Segue where he crashes the key moment of his "Super Hero Origin", kills the bad guys and saves his mother from being hacked to gibbets with a chainsaw. In leather.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Ninth Doctor. Though he came much later he still follows the formula perfectly, dark past, broods a lot, comes dangerously close to killing his enemies (being stopped just short by a companion), makes sarcastic one liners frequently and he dresses in a black leather coat.
    • The War Doctor, with Nine's leather jacket, a Badass Bandolier and a more violent methodology. However he seems a deconstruction of this trope, he doesn't like how ruthless the other Time Lords are becoming and while prepared to destroy Gallifrey this is only a last resort, with the later Doctors disowning him for this. It is later revealed he hadn't actually destroyed Gallifrey but due to Timey-Wimey Ball it is three regenerations later that the Doctor remembers this.
  • Heroes: Sylar, the Big Bad of the first season, is this from Season 2 onwards.
  • Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger has an episode that parodies Power Rangers by altering things so that it started in America in the Nineties and was then adapted into the Japanese Super Sentai and not vice-versa. We're shown an image of a "Powerful Rangers" comic book cover, and the Red Ranger an overmuscled character in keeping with the style of the time. The Powerful Rangers seen in person are complete jerks, too.
  • In a serial of Kamen Rider Double, the Cockroach Dopant runs a website where people list those that have wronged them for him to assassinate. While basically a glorified contract killer, he considers himself this trope, calls himself "Roachstar" and "the Dark Exterminator", and even has and draws his own manga in-universe.
  • Smallville lampshades this by having a comic-geek-turned-supervillain threatening to push Chloe off a tall building and that it is "big in the nineties".
  • Iron Enforcer represented this type of "super hero" in the first season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?. Unfortunately for him, Stan Lee is not fond of this archetype. So he made him a villain instead.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess. It's all there; stripperiffic costume, a dark, violent past, a name that is spelt with an "X", a distinct lack of compunction about killing her enemies, frequent brooding, sarcasm and extreme badassery.

    Mythology And Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism example: In The Bible, we have the story of Samson in the Book of Judges. While most Bible heroes had their flaws, Samson was characterized almost entirely by vengeance; and would often commit mass slaughter when something pissed him off - but those slaughters were of Philistines, whom God wanted dead too, so it's all right. His other major point of characterization was a weakness for women, to the point of committing a Too Dumb to Live blunder with Delilah. He even fired off a stereotypically-badass Bond One-Liner at one point - a possible English translation would be "With an asses' jawbone, I have made asses of my enemies."

     Newspaper Comics 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling founder Atsushi Onita, along with his rival\sidekick and Shin FMW founder Tarzan Goto, who naturally got it started in 1989. Onita was more cheery and off base than most examples, with the trademark 'brooding' and willingness to destroy his own allies or even uninvolved bystanders to "make men out them" being Goto's trait but both were fond of extreme violence and believed everything up to landmines should be allowed in Puroresu. Onita also sometimes parodied top stars of "mainstream" Japanese promotions such as The Great Muta and also challenged kick boxers and mixed martial artists from K-1 and Pride Fighting Championships to face him in no rope exploding barbed wire death matches.
  • While the Gangsta's New Jack, Mustafa Saed and D'Lo Brown were initially part of a race bating angle(and Brown would continue to be in them with The Nation of Domination and Thuggin And Buggin Enterprises), the former two would become nineties antiheroes when they jumped from Smokey Mountain Wrestling to ECW and their criminally violent tendencies were admired rather than feared.
  • The head trainers of the Long Island Wrestling Federation's doghouse, Laithon, Lowlife Louie and Homicide, as well as many of the graduates, the most notable being Low Ki, who went on to form a tag team known as "The Strong Style Thugs" with Homicide, who were openly cheered when they stole the JAPW tag team titles from The Hit Squad.
  • W*ING Kanemura from the rival promotion to FMW of the same name was initially a villain coming into FMW to invade but became a nineties antihero when another invasion from IWA Japan in the form of Victor Quinones's "Puerto Rican army" forced him to team up with the FMW Sekigun. Despite his Heel–Face Turn he still threatened his enemies with death, even when they weren't really enemies such as when wrestlers from ECW like Balls Mahoney came to celebrate FMW's success.
  • From 94 onward, Cibernético tended to be one whenever he made a Heel–Face Turn in AAA, as this was a "tecnico" who nonetheless killed off someone who betrayed him(ever so briefly). Similar things can be said for his rivals Vampiro, La Parka, La Parka Jr and Mesías during their tecnico runs.
  • When El Hijo Del Santo returned to CMLL from AAA, his long time nemesis Negro Casas had become an unironic tecnico and the two teamed together until September of 96 when Santo turned on him. As shocking as his Face–Heel Turn was though, it only worked in CMLL as Santo continued to be cheered everywhere else no matter what he did, making this a Heel–Face Revolving Door example. Even then, the CMLL fans gradually started cheering for him again too during and after a hair vs mask match with still tecnico Casas in 97, leading to Hijo Del Santo becoming this trope in CMLL too before eventually softening in September of 98.
  • Late 90s WWF saw most of the baby face in this era act as such, with the charge being led by acts such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin(originally given a stoic Serial Killer gimmick but then grabbed the microphone at King Of The Ring and became an anti authority rebel), The Rock(given a 1980s baby face gimmick ten years too late before lashed out at the fans and then targeted Austin), and D-Generation X (a copy of the nWo with a more playful, less megalomaniac slant).
  • The WWF trend was the direct result of having to compete with WCW, who hit on this concept with the New World Order. While the nWo were essentially just popular villains, the Wolfpac formed and as definite 90s antiheroes up until the Finger Poke of Doom. The most successful aspects of the WWF's Attitude Era were directly inspired by the nWo, the Austin vs. McMahon feud, almost universally considered the key to the WWF's resurgence, is the nWo vs. WCW with the roles reversed. WWE also borrowed heavily from the growing underground success story known as ECW(Austin shared many traits with The Sandman for instance) and allowed a number of wrestlers to develop their own grittier gimmicks but the need to change was a result of WCW's runaway success with the nWo angle.
  • The later top faces of FMW, Megumi Kudo, "First Son" Masato Tanaka and Hayabusa were less insanely violent, more subdued and socially adjusted faces who just happened to be in a very violent promotion. Though that changed for the latter when Kodo Fuyuki took control of FMW and declared he didn't want "superheroes" in his promotion, forcing Hayabusa to unmask and then putting the mask on a porn star to ruin his reputation. This caused the former Hayabusa to take on the name of H and become a delinquent who used the same tactics as the Fuyuki backed "Team No Respect". It was the less ironic face, Tanaka, who ended up being the one to personally defeat Fuyuki though.
  • Carly was a late bloomer, as though he certainly looked like a nineties antihero when he debuted, in the nineties, wrestled similarly to both The Rock and Stone Cold, and had a signature foreign object in the form of a shovel, he was a nice enough guy who simply had to resort to such tactics to save the family business(the Puerto Rican version of the World Wrestling Council) from La Familia Del Milenio. It wasn't until the mid 2000s that he became a complete jerkass too, such that he at one point hated getting baby face pushes because he felt someone who insults, spits on and poisons people shouldn't be cheered.
  • The ongoing success of MMA (UFC in particular) in 2010 has seen a partial revival of this trope in WWE with the resurgence of the newly-turned Randy Orton (especially when compared to his Hoganesque counterpart John Cena).
  • Referenced by Rory Mondo in CZW, where he complained that the baby face Danny Havoc went too far when he tried to light him on fire when the match stipulation was barbed wire casket. Havoc responded that if Mondo didn't want to burn alive he shouldn't have kicked out. CZW did start in the 90s after all.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Given the cyberpunk setting, the player characters in Shadowrun can be this since the game's rules include giving the character cybernetic body parts, edgy clothing and a variety of exotic weapons and deadly powers. Most Shadowrunners in-universe are also mercenaries who are not concerned with the safety of civilians.

    Video Games 
  • Arc System Works has created two characters like this trope in their games:
    • BlazBlue has this in Ragna the Bloodedge. Not only does his name sound like something right out of the Dark Age of Supernames, he's also ill-tempered, has Too Many Belts, a BFS that unfolds into a scythe (fittingly called "Blood-Scythe") is motivated by revenge, and has no problems with harming anyone who gets in his way. To top it all off, his powers consist of draining the life out of others by using the power of darkness in the form of summoning parts of an Eldritch Abomination.
      • The hilarious irony in Ragna is he's Adorkable and a bit of a loser, with most of the cast snarking and looking down at him. He has a crippling fear of ghosts (likely owing to the fact that the person responsible for burning down his home, lopping off his right arm, and kidnapping his kid sister is a ghost), and Screams Like a Little Girl, and indeed a lot of the game's humour takes place at his expense. He's also quite a nice, compassionate guy beneath his gruff exterior, and he's a great chef. Essentially, while he has the badass appearance and power-set of a textbook Nineties Anti-Hero, his abrasive and headstrong personality get him into trouble more often than not. In fact, much of his Character Development revolves around him realizing that his "destroy my enemies" mindset typical of the trope hasn't gotten him anywhere and instead vows to use his power to protect his loved ones.
    • His spiritual predecessor, Sol Badguy of Guilty Gear, also fits the mold. Well-muscled, a Stripperiffic outfit with Too Many Belts, and a bad attitude, even sharing a few similarities with Jotaro Kujo. He's something of a subversion, as despite his rough exterior, and brutal methods, his goals are completely altrustic.
  • It's hard to tell who's supposed to be a hero in Blood Storm and who's a villain. They all have menacing one-word names, are all capable of ultra-violence, all look positively Liefeldian and almost all of them are dicks with selfish motives and no care for others. Tremor manages to at least buck this trait by being the only unambiguously good character in the game.
  • Champions Online has many player characters fitting this trope, and also a few amongst its NPC cast:
    • The Drifter. Got retconed from a mystic cowboy into a Cable-esque cyborg cowboy.
    • Black Mask (the 10th) is a female example. Her costume is the single most revealing of all heroes, and her power is carrying a big gun.
    • The PRIMUS Recognition Vendors, mainly to display the 90's style costume unlocks they are selling.
    • The Bag Vendor! Because what kind of character would know more about pouches?
    • The default costumes for the Scourge, the Blade and the Specialist archetypes, being based on Spawn, Deathstroke and Deadpool respectively.
      • The costumes for the Marksman, Soldier, Impulse and Unleashed also kind of.
    • While not exactly antiheroes, quite a few villains get at least the look right. Amongst those are Hard Target, Leathal, Drago and the ascended fan creation Devana Hawke.
  • City of Heroes lets you make these with all the Spikes of Villainy costume pieces that are equally available to heroes. Though there's no real representative of them in-game (it has more of a Silver Age flavor), the closest could be Hardcase, an Anti-Villain Sue and one of the most loathed contacts in the game.
  • One of the criticisms leveled at DmC: Devil May Cry is that it tries to take a light-hearted series and give it the full Nineties treatment, leaving it overwrought with attempted edginess and shallow satire. This is exemplified by the reimagining of Dante, who is a few pouches and a bucket of steroids away from leaping off a Liefeld cover. What's really weird is that the game does still go full camp every now and then, leaving the game with characters who can't decide if they want to crack wise or tell each other to fuck off.
  • Asshole!Warden in Dragon Age: Origins has a tendency to wander through Ferelden, kicking ass and taking names, while slaughtering whatever unconscious wounded soldiers or small children get in the way, condemning a significant number of elves, men, and dwarves to And I Must Scream fates for the sole purpose of getting cooler-looking allies during the final battle, and slaughtering the entire Denerim Circle of Magi for the sake of convenience.
  • By the standards of JRPGs, Caim from Drakengard is a Nineties Anti-Hero, bordering on straight-edge Villain Protagonist if not for the happy side effect that the people he happens to be on a genocidal rampage against want to destroy the world.
  • Duke Nukem. A sex obsessed, mirrorshade wearing Action Hero wannabe who hangs out in sleazy biker bars and strip clubs, with a Lantern Jaw of Justice and blond flattop haircut. He's armed to the teeth with BFGs (as it's a FPS and all), addicted to steroids (or whatever those pills are) and loves to spew one liners like "I've got balls of steel", "Some mutated son of a bitch is gonna pay!" and of course the immortal "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of gum." And his games were big in the early 90s. Duke is generally accepted as being a full parody of the 80s/90s action hero rather than actually being one. He's no exception to the fact that most parodies and extreme cases of this are deeply entrenched in Poe's Law, though.
  • In the later 90s, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII came out.
    • Cloud Strife in the original VII was something of a Deconstructed Character Archetype version of this, attempting to act like this as a conscious affectation, and soon abandoning it. Played completely straight in most of his later appearances, especially in the Kingdom Hearts games and Advent Children. He certainly looks the part in the first Kingdom Hearts.
    • Squall Leonhart also plays this completely straight, but is given a Freudian Excuse in that he's been raised as a Child Soldier from the age of about 5 or 6. He, too, appears in Kingdom Hearts, quiet and snarky as ever, but he seems to have opened up quite a bit (at least to Yuffie and Aerith). His disposition does improve greatly in Kingdom Hearts II, where he's mellowed out (getting to return to your once-doomed home world and rebuild it is likely to do that) and acts as a Big Brother Mentor to Sora.
  • Tombstone from Freedom Force vs The Third Reich, a series that is an homage to the high Silver Age of comic books, is a Nineties Anti-Hero. And he still fits into the game, because his overblown "dark and tormented" act makes him just as laughable as the rest of the cast.
    Alchemiss: [sarcastically] So how did you spend your sabbatical, Tombstone? Performing in musical theater? Raising puppies?
    Tombstone: animals wither in my presence.
  • God of War: If Kratos' muscle-bound and grizzled appearance combined with his multitude of oversized weapons and dark backstory don't convince you, then his lethal and very brutal methods and HIS MONOLOGUES IN WHICH HE DECLARES THAT HE WILL ASCEND OLYMPUS TO KILL THE GODS!!! may show otherwise.
  • Varik, the protagonist of The Halloween Hack, is made to look like this, what with being a brooding, alcoholic bounty hunter with a Dark and Mysterious Past. We quickly find out this is not played straight at all — his stats suck, and he's honestly scared of the undead monsters.
  • Immortal Souls:
    • John Turner is a subversion of the trope. He certainly looks the part, with his black leather coat, dark jeans, Guns Akimbo and baseball bat, incredibly muscular build, and gritty hardcore fighting style. He even is a vampire and a former street racer, to boot. But personality-wise he's pretty much a softie Dork Knight who cares about helping innocents when nobody else will, with his only flaw being that he wishes somebody else would do so, so he doesn't have to.
    • Raven, on the other hand, is a much more played straight example, who both looks and acts the part (albeit more conservatively dressed than average). She even got herself turned into a vampire specifically so she could hunt down and enact Blood Knight-fueled revenge on the monsters in question.
  • K' from The King of Fighters. Given life at the end of the decade but still fits in with the trope. Abrupt and harsh name ("Kay-Dash"), cold-hearted SOB who only cooperates when it suits his end (his victory pose has him saying he's good enough to fight your whole team), and has a laser-like focus on his objective (stamping out the NESTS organization and anyone associated with it). However, he does move away from this a bit as time goes on. K' also, surprisingly enough, has a strong moral compass and sense of justice (perhaps even more so than previous KOF lead Kyo Kusanagi) in spite of his general disdain toward being dragged into the eponymous tournament year after year, with more recent entries establishing that beneath the stoic, unfriendly surface lies a rather decent guy who prefers solitude as he tries to piece together his missing past and establish himself as something more than a mere "Kyo clone."
  • The Legacy of Kain series gives us two interesting examples. While Kain is more or less a straight example character-wise, Raziel is a much more heroic/noble character. His character design, however, positively drips of it. This is because the game's dev team outsourced the concept art to Top Cow (a comic studio that broke off from Image, responsible for such works as The Darkness and Witchblade); due to complex corporate politics behind the creation of Soul Reaver, which was being made at the same time as Eidos was having Top Cow publish the Tomb Raider comic.
    • Kain himself is an odd example: while certainly an incredibly anti-heroic person, he is remarkably sophisticated whereas most examples of this trope are noticeably (and unfortunately) somewhat more crude, and though arrogant and callous in the extreme, his ultimate goals are fairly noble, even if his motivations are selfish. Meanwhile, Raziel is far more outright heroic, often trying to do the "right" thing in any given situation, except his attempts at nobility often lead to even worse things than he attempted to prevent. It might be said that Kain is an outright Villain Protagonist while Raziel is a true Anti-Hero as Raziel ATTEMPTS to be good but his imperfections cause him to fail, whereas Kain doesn't bother to try at all and ends up helping the world anyway as a side effect.
  • Jack Cayman of MadWorld and Anarchy Reigns. Well-muscled? Check. Chained by Fashion? Check. "Edgy" weapon in the form of a chainsaw? Check. No compunctions about killing people? Check.
  • Renegade!Shepard in the Mass Effect series: a ruthless and pragmatic person, willing to take the morally grey (or outright black) actions to get the job done. Basically, s/he is out to save the galaxy, but doesn't much care who or what s/he tramples to get there. Some of the Renegade choices available (particularly in the first game) can paint Ren!Shep as uncaring, incredibly xenophobic and a human supremacist with near sociopathic levels of disregard towards others.
  • Mortal Kombat: As a series that started in 1992, Mortal Kombat in many ways embodies many elements of the Iron Age/Dark Age of Comic books particularly in the form of its overt violence and gory Fatalities, but also avoided being completely serious replications of those kinds of comics by including some tongue and cheek humor. These are two characters who exemplify this archetype:
    • Scorpion is an undead, fire wielding Ninja who is a Wild Card who will assist whichever side is most convenient to his own agenda (Of seeking vengeance against the murderer of his clan and resurrecting his fallen loved ones to the living) and tends to be one of the most brutal fighters in the series, with the exception of Shao Kahn, to boot due to being fueled by his unquenchable rage. Though Mortal Kombat X presents him as being a double subversion of this trope due to being more reasonable after being freed of Quan Chi's service as one of his revenants but also seeking to kill the sorcerer responsible for murdering his family and turning him into a revenant to perpetuate Quan Chi's schemes and prevent the necromancer from continuing to commit any other atrocities even if it means voiding any opportunity to free any other revenants from his curse.
    • Another Kombatant who falls into this category on occasion is Raiden in his Dark Raiden persona. In this corrupted form, which debuted in Deception (and reappeared in the last scene of MKX due to being exposed to the Jinsei that was tainted by Shinnok), the thunder god ceases to be the benevolent mentor he is known for and turns into a far more ruthless tactician who takes more aggressive measures to protect Earthrealm from foreign invaders including the destruction of all the other realms, even those that were harmless to the earth itself.
  • The Prince started to go this route in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, where he became more dark and smouldering with generic rage (to the point of growling angrily while smashing pottery) thanks to being hunted relentlessly by the Dahaka after his actions in the previous game.
  • [PROTOTYPE] has Alex Mercer. Mercer intends to stop a bioweapon outbreak and the military unit willing to destroy New York to contain it, mainly by murdering his way through both. Mercer, being a shapeshifter, can transform himself into a clawed, bladed abomination. Players also regenerate health by violently killing and consuming people and monsters, including civilians. This leads to some Gameplay and Story Segregation, where the gameplay gleefully embraces player's darker tendencies, while the cutscenes try to make the main character sympathetic.
    • [PROTOTYPE 2] replaces Mercer as the protagonist with James Heller, making Alex the villain in the process. Heller broods substantially less than Mercer, but makes up for it in being always angry, all the time. They tried to make him a bit more sympathetic than Mercer; jury's out on whether they succeeded, as many fans of the first didn't like the change in Mercer's characterization to accommodate Heller as a protagonist, and the game still tries it's best to stoke its players' sadistic tendencies.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog is not usually an example, but he was heavily marketed as one for his spin-off game where he swore, used guns, and rode motorcycles to fight an alien invasion.
  • Twisted Metal: Needles Kane (AKA Sweet Tooth), who debuted in the first game released in 1995 and was created by David Jaffe (also the director for the God of War series), is a sociopathic Blood Knight serial killer who has no compunction to killing anyone in his way to getting to at Calyspo.
  • Parodied in Saints Row: The Third by the Show Within a Show Nyteblayde. The titular hero ticks of pretty much every single point on the checklist... while being played by an actor who only has two modes, Bad "Bad Acting" and Chewing the Scenery.
  • Doomguy was originally something of a Featureless Protagonist, but Fanon rapidly turned him into one of these (aided and abetted by the infamous comic described above). Brutal Doom picked this interpretation up and ran screaming at a horde of demons to beat them to death with it, and then DOOM made it official. Rip and tear!

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • '90s Kid's ideal comic book hero is Bloodgun, a faceless dude with a gun that shoots other guns.
  • Battlecat, a cowl active in the New Orleans of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, is the epitome of this trope from that setting. Ballistic, Fusillade, and Ablaze are all good examples as well.
  • The Nostalgia Critic: Devil Boner!, introduced in his review of Small Soldiers (mentioned above under the Film section). He is a spiked-and-black leather-jacketed guy armed with a Machine Gun of Peace as well as the ability to pyrokinetically blow things apart with his mind, which is totally child-friendly.

    Western Animation 
  • Deconstructed in Beast Wars: an episode saw Optimus Primal's aggression turned way up by a computer virus- to the point he tries to kill someone and orders himself locked up. He ultimately storms off to retrieve the anti virus, saying that making a plan first is cowardly. While he's certainly more than capable in battle, to the point Megatron comments on it, he also takes on severe damage as a result, and it's only through the cunning of his normal persona and the plan of his allies that he survives. Interestingly enough, Dinobot ultimately decries this trope and provides the best commentary applicable to it, calling Optimus' altered mindset a "berserker" and this line, when Cheetor tries to emulate this approach:
    Dinobot: There is no strategy, only blind aggression!
  • Captain Sturdy, a pilot for a proposed series that aired as part of What A Cartoon, presents a subversion and parody of this archetype. The eponymous character, an aging Silver Age era superhero, watches as a nineties anti-hero type character demonstrates how a hero should approach criminals, but then threatens to tear off a hypothetical criminal's arms. When the character is told "what if he has no arms?", the hero then does a 180 and begins to mope about the hypothetical criminal's misfortunates. Captain Sturdy already didn't have a high opinion of the nineties anti-hero character, but after this he especially became disillusioned with how the Union of Super Heroes are more concerned about avoiding offending people than doing what is necessary and pragmatic for the common good.
  • Darkwing Duck became one of these in an alternate future where Gosalyn disappeared (because she had been sucked through time into that alternate future). He might've been this earlier on, but by the time Gosalyn ran into him he had long ago crossed the line and was solidly in the Knight Templar category.
  • Spoofed in an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, where Timmy called upon the help of several different versions of the Crimson Chin to defeat an escaped supervillain, including a bandoleer-wearing, gun-toting "edgy" version of the Chin from the eighties. He was apparently the only version that ever got away with profanity, but was canceled because of it anyway. Interestingly, the actual nineties Chin is depicted as more of a grunge rocker.
  • The Pack was an (in-universe) live-action example in Gargoyles. The actors eventually turned into supervillains through a series of literal Xanatos Gambits, complete with actual powers and an even more Dark-Age-ish look.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee spoofed it with Boomfist, who battles an idiot Mad Scientist in a futuristic Crapsack World and delivers Family-Unfriendly Aesops. Although he does respect Juniper's abilities and makes a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The eponymous Major Lazer certainly has elements of this - bonus points for his BFG being a literal Arm Cannon.
  • When the The Powerpuff Girls briefly decide to split up as separate superheroines, with Blossom taking on a Wonder Woman-ish persona and Bubbles dressing up as a cute bunny girl, the sullen and quick-tempered Buttercup reinvents herself as "Mange", a brooding, shadowy character with glowing green eyes who only emerges at night. Unfortunately for Townsville, this means she has to wait until nightfall to stop a monster attack in the middle of the day: she spends the hours beforehand just brooding awkwardly in the living room. Or watching TV, that part was never quite clear.
  • While not exactly a superhero, Matrix in ReBoot is pretty much this trope to a T, as a foil to Bob's idealistic Silver Age-ish personality. Matrix also serves as a partial deconstruction of this type of hero. The events that made him this way left him an emotional wreck and he has difficulty adjusting to peace.
  • Skysurfer Strike Force featured typical "Iron Age" character designs, but was otherwise not very edgy.
  • The Tick: Spoofed with Big Shot, a Punisher-esque character who shoots up inanimate objects while tears run down his face. After running out of bullets, he says "Why didn't you love me, Mom?" and collapses, sobbing, on Arthur. He's someone so obviously messed-up that the Tick tells him to 'seek professional help'— the Tick! When next seen in "The Tick vs. The Tick," after Big Shot has done so, he's relatively well-adjusted and tries to convince the Tick and Barry to discuss their problems rationally. With emphasis on 'relatively' well-adjusted. He starts foaming at the mouth when he mentions how he used to solve all his problems with... violence, and gives a rather, um, passionate outcry for Barry to "put it in the happy box!". In his final appearance in the show on "The Tick vs. Neil and Dot's Wedding", Big Shot goes on a shooting spree... With a camera, having channelled his enthusiasm for firearms into flash photography.
  • The Venture Bros.: While developed after the 1990s, Brock Sampson is a semi-affectionate parody of this trope.

Alternative Title(s): Nineties Anti Heroes