I am in the middle of reading two urban fantasy series The Kate Daniels Series and The Dresden Files. I actually am up to date on the Kate Daniels one—which is the first time I have ever been able to say that about a series that didn’t end after 4 books. I started to notice a few commonalities between these two series. First, they involve people who happen to have magical talent: Dresden is a wizard while Daniels has more of a hybrid genetics thing going on. They both acquire a wacky, oversized dog that follows them around. And they both seem to get their butt kicked…a lot…and yet still come out victorious against any monster they face—because they are just that awesome. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say both characters are “wizard” type people.
In my reading, I see two types of “wizards”: the comic-book
hero, kick-butt-and-crack-jokes-while-doing-it kind and the nerdy, look-at-how-smart-and-wordy-I-am
kind. The first type is always strong, putting the navy seals to shame with their
physicality. They walk around in tight clothes…typically with leather…and,
while they will claim they lack attractive appeal, the reader is left with the
distinct impression that they are hot. I contribute this to the comic book style
of writing that seems to follow urban fantasy. If the writers could get away
with putting the little “pow” and “bang” bubbles in the middle of the text,
they probably would. To their credit, they still create epic fight scenes satisfying
the superhero status they are projecting.
The second type of wizard is all about the spells. There is
not so much the hand-to-hand combat, but rather a battle of wills. I am
thinking of the movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The battle scene at the end
involved bolts of lightning being thrown back and forth in battle. Another example
is Harry Potter. Again, most of the battles involved energies being thrown with
words and wands. There isn’t really any “combat” as we typically interpret the
word. While these characters may try to act cool, they are a little dorky. They
wear cloaks and perhaps glasses. Instead of working out in the gym, their way
to prepare is to study. After all, their battle is basically one of knowledge
and mental power. This type seems to follow more in the fantasy genre, at least
from what I’ve noticed, although, Dresden certainly mixes them.
Looking at these types of wizards, I couldn’t help but have
what I admit is probably a very nerdy question. Which style is better? Not
necessarily who would win if they went up against each other, but, rather,
which is more impressive? Am I captivated by the character that can battle an
eight-foot shapeshifter with just a sword…and win? Or am I more captivated by a
character that can elicit thunderbolts and manipulate the winds? I know movie
producers love the first…it creates more drama on the screen with their special
effects. But I actually am undecided. I lean more toward the raw, physical power…but
I think that is because it appears more human. In either case, I think there
has to be a struggle. One can’t just say a spell and win the fight. That’s
boring. What do you think?