Alongside the astonishing number of truly original Batman villains Alan Grant has created, Anarky and the Ventriloquist stand out as my favorites, with Anarky in a big lead
Of course, Anarky isn't really a villain. He's a misunderstood hero, and this is just the beginning of his uniqueness.
Anarky's singularity is due partly to his being, at his age, nearly as competent as Batman. I'm amused by Alan's originally grooming Anarky to be the new Robin; the Robin role now seems too small for him! The audaciousness of a non-super-powered teenager functioning as a highly effective adult without a mentor is pretty iconoclastic in a genre where it sometimes appears "it's all been done before."
Another neat quality of Anarky's is his lack of a fifty-year-old publishing and merchandising history, giving us the freedom to do almost anything with the character.
Anarky's most unparalleled characteristic, however, is something else entirely: he's a philosophical action hero, an Aristotle in tights, rising above mere "crime-fighter" status into the realm of incisive social commentary. In fact, Anarky exists primarily to challenge the status quo of hierarchical power, and he may be the first mainstream comics hero of his type to do it consistently and with such rational intelligence.
Anarky might call his rationality "anti-mysticism" but I prefer "anti-superstition" because authentic poetic wonder, also called "mysticism," is not at odds with rationality but complementary to it. A mystic may only mean to express poetically what an anarchist says rationally. Their statements might appear different but be metaphorically compatible. Maybe I'll raise this semantic quibble with Anarky in a dream one night, since (after 300 faxed pages of debate) Alan and I now seem to agree.
Judging from the friction and catalytic chemistry between Alan's outlook and my own, Denny O'Neil's teaming of us appears prescient. I was a bit of a novice when I began working with Alan about eleven years ago, but with increased experience I've offered many suggestions, and Alan's patient and attentive reading and responding to them has been a great encouragement. He's my best pen pal.
Anarky's original look was based on the V FOR VENDETTA protagonist, but with deadline pressures (and my not recognizing Anarky's long-term potential at the time) I made no preliminary sketches, simply draping him in long red sheets. The enduring aspects I did provide were his golden face mask and priestlike hat and loose neck fabric, by which I instinctively expressed the purity of Anarky's mission. This, along with his ever-present cane and circled "A" anarchy symbol, have now become the basics in all his costume designs.
When reading this collection you'll notice that Anarky's "head" was originally a fake, suspended over his real noggin to hide Lonnie Machin's true age and height. This was unique and provided a drawing challenge in that the reader should later say, "So that's why Anarky looked so awkward!" Such awkwardness, in fact, was one reason I eliminated the fake head in the miniseries (also featured in this collection). Another reason for its excision is Lonnie's apparent onset of puberty in a big way; during his existence he's gained quite a few inches and pounds, filling out his costume! The change from black eyes to white may also be seen as indicating that Lonnie's real eyes now peer out of the mask. He's literally grown into the role!
I also feel that I've grown... into the role of Anarky's visual choreographer, if you will. It's often difficult to view one's older work, but, like old diary entries of good times, the overall nostalgic pleasure that these stories provide me never diminishes.
I support the Anarkic ideal of "no force, no fraud." I may not possess an exclusive preference for rationalist semantics, but I fundamentally agree that we probably are doomed if we let the present status quo of superstition, deceit, and force continue unabated. The global teaching of a new consciousness seems required, a whole-brain fusion of logic, intuition, technology and art through deep honesty, compassion and self-responsibility. Although super-heroes' primary goal is to entertain, they also have the potential to meet this higher challenge, and I like to think that Anarky is leading the charge. After all, it's his very nom de guerre and purpose for existing!
But from far above and beyond all this, all of our greatest supermen and superwomen are mere specks on specks on specks of dust. Let's all pray God's got a dustpan! (Relax, rationalists. That's not superstition. It's just a poetic metaphor for the unknown possibilities of existence.)