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?