The antihero became prominent in early 20th century existentialist works such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915), Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938), and Albert Camus' L'Étranger (1942) (French for The Stranger). The protagonist in these works is an indecisive central character who drifts through his life and is marked by ennui, angst, and alienation.
Examples of antiheroes from modern pop culture are Marvel Comics The Punisher & Deadpool, Sega's "Shadow The Hedgehog", DC's Batman, Catwoman of Batman, Sweeney Todd, Light Yagami from the Death Note manga / anime series, Robin Hood, V from V for Vendetta, and Kratos from the God of War video-game franchise.
Most of the time it means a character in fiction, television, or movies. Sometimes it is used to mean a real person. Sometimes the antihero is linked to the author's social critique or message to the reader: for example, the unnamed protagonist in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground.
The whole concept was the subject of a book by Colin Wilson called The Outsider. There the author imagines he is in the position of many of his favourite characters in fiction, such as Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov.
- Barnhart, Joe E. (2005). Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Talent. Lanham: University Press of America. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-7618-3097-9.
- Asong, Linus T. (2012). Psychological constructs and the craft of African fiction of yesteryears: six studies. Mankon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG. p. 76. ISBN 978-9956-727-66-7.
- Gargett, Graham (2004). Heroism and Passion in Literature: Studies in Honour of Moya Longstaffe. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 198. ISBN 978-90-420-1692-7.
- Brereton, Geoffery (1968). A Short History of French Literature. Penguin Books. pp. 254–255.
- Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. Open Road Media. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-4804-1191-3.
- Wilson, Colin 1956. The Outsider. London: Gollancz.