When you look at the typical comic book bad guy, there is often a clear cut case of black and white. Hero and villain. Good verses evil. This is never clearer when it comes to the Joker, or Sabretooth (although that has been known to be more in flux over the last half decade or so). However with some antagonists it can be a bit murkier, sometimes a villain’s motivations are almost understandable when you take a moment to remove yourself from the hero’s narrative. When you look at the antagonist’s motivation removed from the protagonist’s story you can begin to see that when experienced from a different angle, these characters wouldn’t be seen as villains.
The Thin Line Between Good And Evil aims to take a look at the characters traditionally portrayed as villains within the world of nerd culture, primarily comics, and explore if it were their story we were reading, whether the villain would instead be seen as a hero.
This month, in honour of Valiant’s Hero Of The Week event, we’re taking a look at Toyo Harada.
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Toyo Harada is just your standard evil overlord/CEO, but that would be doing a huge disservice to the character. Instead, it’d be slight more accurate to suggest he’s a blend of Professor Xavier and Magneto, but only in broad strokes.
Harada is a rare psiot born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers; within the Valiant Universe, most psiots are dormant until they’re activated – usually by an incredibly painful and risky procedure – but very few, often the most powerful, are born with their abilities activated. Harada’s abilities were activated by the nucleor weapon dropped on Hiroshima, and this understandably shaped a lot of the man he would become (explored in detail during The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada, though it is touched upon in Harbinger and Imperium briefly).
Toyo Harada is arguably one of Valiant Entertainment’s more complex characters. He is a Psiot using his incredible telekinetic and telepathic powers in order to shape the world into a better place for everyone by using his company’s immense wealth for philanthropic efforts. Harada’s methods haven’t always been perfectly angelic, and he exemplifies the phrase “the end justifies the means.” But his heart has always been in the right place.. his end goal is to end war, to which he conquered a small country… and then tried to turn it into a Utopian free state (in Imperium).
The more you learn about Toyo Harada, the more you realize that he’s far from an evil man. He spent decades trying to influence political policy, gradually and gently nudging the world in the direction of a Utopian future while gathering and training the smartest minds and craftspeople of their generation to further the technologies that humanity will come to rely on.
Only for some ungrateful little drug addict that wants to start to tear down everything you’ve worked for (which you can read all about in Harbinger). Now it wasn’t all Peter Stanchek’s fault; circumstances didn’t quite favour Harada. He’d spread himself too thin, and eventually the final straw landed upon his back and things started to fall apart, but one has to wonder whether things would have been different if not for Stancheck. Whether Harada could have continued to guide the world in the shadows rather than forcibly showing governments how to create a self sustaining society.
But this column isn’t about recapping the man’s history; there’s a great resource here if that’s all you want to know, or you can check out the links below with the first volume of Harbinger, which kicks the saga off.
Instead, we’re here to look at why Toyo Harada is considered a villain, and I genuinely think it’s because of how he’s been framed in stories. When reading Harbinger, you’re following the story of Peter Stanchek and the Renegades. In X-O Manowar and Unity you’re naturally rooting for X-O because of Harada’s desire to acquire the armour whilst also preventing a cataclysmic confrontation.
If it wasn’t for that, and his penchant for making some questionable decisions in pursuit of (what he believes to be) the greater good, then I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in viewing Toyo Harada as Valiant’s greatest hero. He’s doing what he feels he needs to do to save the world, despite our best efforts to the contrary. He’s been working for decades to make the world a better place, and in the grander scope of things he forms the question: can we save ourselves, even if we wanted to?
That’s what this really comes down to; as a global society, are we really capable of lifting the most unfortunate and desperate members up and coming together to save ourselves? Toyo Harada clearly doesn’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Toyo Harada is the villain we need to save our world.
And he’ll do it, by any means necessary.
Read the start of Toyo Harada’s story here:
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