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Our Favourite Older Versions of Heroes

Our Favourite Older Versions of Heroes

By Tim Butcher

As the continuing popularity of “geri-actioner” movies like The Expendables 3 attests, there’s something inherently appealing about seeing old people cast as heroes. Perhaps it’s the way they inspire us by showing that age is no impediment to being courageous. Perhaps it’s the way they tug at our heartstrings by showing that the vulnerable and infirm can still overcome overwhelming odds. Or perhaps it’s the way they go about their day-saving business with a refreshingly world-weary attitude. Whatever it is, it's all about wrinkly champions these days. The trend's got us thinking about times we’ve been presented with aged versions of our favourite heroes in the worlds of sci-fi and comics. You know, like when they do a "thirty years in the future" type thing? Here are some the best.

Batman in The Dark Knight Returns

Perhaps the most famous instance of "what would [insert comic book hero] be like if he/she were older?", The Dark Knight Returns is perhaps also the most troubling and dark. In the graphic novel, Bruce Wayne, having retired as Batman a decade earlier, finds himself feeling purposeless and frustrated. Unable to resist any longer, he reassumes his former mantle—only to find himself up against a new generation of Ne-er-do-wells more vicious and value-less than he could have ever expected. This comic pretty much redefined Batman—transforming him from spandex-clad Silver Age superhero that he once was to the growling badass that’s been turning up in comics and movies ever since.

Old Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4

Solid Snake is a character that, on some level, always seemed like old-age would suit him. So it was intriguing rather than jarring when it was revealed that a slightly more venerable version of the character would be acting as the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 4. As predicted, he fits the role like a glove. He’d pretty much become a wise old sage of war by the end of MGS2 anyway. This just added a sheen of wrinkly gravitas. What’s more, you can totally tell that he’s loving being old. He hams it up at every turn: clutching his back whenever he picks up a gun and moodily shaking his head and grunting through every cut scene. He’s clearly been waiting for the chance to really act like a grumpy old coot his whole life and is relishing the fact he finally gets to.

Superman in Kingdom Come

Would years of fighting crime make a superhero less idealistic about good and evil? Slightly more willing to cut corners? Would superheroes really stick to the principles that defined them as young men and women thirty or forty years later? These are the questions at the heart of Kingdom Come, a graphic novel in which Superman forgets about "truth, justice and the American way" and goes all intergalactic dictator, shoving super-villains into a massive super-gulag without trial. It's a disconcerting meditation on the terrifying potential of having a guy who can level buildings as the self-proclaimed protector of earth and it does leave you thinking: would superheroes existing in real life actually be a good thing? It's food for thought and totally refreshing to see a Superman-centric story that recognizes the way that heroism and villainy can easily overlap.

Spock in Star Trek

Giving Leonard Nemoy a cameo in the rebooted Star Trek film was a risky move on the part of JJ Abrams. Recasting every part, placing the series in a new universe and giving it a markedly different tone and atmosphere yet still featuring one of the original series’ crew members in a side role? In the end though, the cameo worked great. Rather than corrupting the new film, it made it feel more legitimate. It was like the old Trek was just briefly stopping by to wish the new one luck on its journey. Take note, other directors of re-purposed seventies and eighties properties: that’s how you do reverence with style.

Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who

Well, we don’t know what’s going to happen here, but we’re super excited to find out. Peter Capaldi is by no means the first older actor to play The Doctor, but he is the first since the series was revived in the early aughts. What kind of Doctor will Capaldi be? Early promotional trailers seem to point towards him being a slightly more tortured figure—perhaps a little less fun and carefree than the versions played by Matt Smith and David Tennant. What will that mean for the series? Will it be darker? More difficult? More dramatic? Well—if you’ll forgive the pun—only time will tell.

Which superhero do you want to see as an old person?

Tags: movies, tv, superheroes, batman, old people, video games, superman, the dark knight, dc entertainment

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