What is the word that categorizes hero, villain and anti-hero? I am making a database of comic book characters and wanted to classify them under these, but I'm having trouble coming up with a word other than the generic-sounding "type".


"What _____ is Venom in this issue? Is he a hero, villain or anti-hero?"

  • 1
    how about "what role does Venom play in this issue?"
    – Artemisia
    Mar 7, 2017 at 16:09
  • That came to mind, and while I like it more than "type" it could potentially be confused with another part of my application that deals with the characters in comic book movies. For example Robert Downey Jr. plays the role of Tony Stark in the Avengers. Mar 7, 2017 at 16:17
  • Yeah... A little awkward but leaving it as "What is Venom in this issue" also makes sense technically.
    – Artemisia
    Mar 7, 2017 at 16:26
  • You may be looking for the term Protagonist; it includes heroes and other conspicuous viewpoint characters in stories. In the famous SF novel Snowcrash, the author names his viewpoint character Hiro Protagonist, aka The Deliverator. Mar 7, 2017 at 19:16
  • To 'fill in the blank' in your example, you could use: "classification", "literary classification", or "class of character".
    – Oldbag
    Mar 8, 2017 at 14:29

3 Answers 3


Archetype may be a better fit.

the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies

See also https://literarydevices.net/archetype/

Below is the analysis of common archetypes that exist in literature.


Example #1 The Hero: He or she is a character who predominantly exhibits goodness and struggles against evil in order to restore harmony and justice to society e.g. Beowulf, Hercules, D’artagnan from “The Three Musketeers” etc.


Example #7 The Villain: A character whose main function is to go to any extent to oppose the hero or whom the hero must annihilate in order to bring justice e.g. Shere Khan from Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” stories, Long John Silver from Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”” etc


  • I don't think so. An archetype is a special example that sets the standard for a type of character. There are many villains in literature, but few are archetypes.
    – deadrat
    Mar 7, 2017 at 17:04
  • A slight suggestion, add the definition to the answer in case the link ever goes dead.
    – Skooba
    Mar 7, 2017 at 17:58
  • deadrat is absolutely correct in that the word doesn't fit semantically: it does not serve as a hypernym for 'hero, villain, anti-hero'. Neither is it idiomatic in 'What _____ is Venom in this issue?' The acceptance of and high upvote given to this answer is not encouraging. Mar 7, 2017 at 18:52
  • Eidolon could also be put into that spot. However, I think it too would be a rough fit. Mar 7, 2017 at 19:16

Character works as a hypernym; also, persona.

"What character/persona is Venom in this issue? Is he a hero, villain or anti-hero?"


character noun
7 c :  the personality or part which an actor recreates: an actress who can create a character convincingly

persona noun

3 plural personae : a character in a fictional presentation (as a novel or play)


Both image and reputation seem to fit.

  • image - "a popular conception (as of a person, institution, or nation) projected especially through the mass media"

  • reputation - "overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general, recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability"

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