So, I checked through the tweets of whyiwatch (If you have any love for the Whedonverse, check her stuff out) and she asked her followers who their three favorite fictional characters of all time are. Twenty minutes later I needed to start writing stuff out, so here we go. If you want to cut to the chase, the answer is at the bottom.
Of course, my first instinct is to through out Spike, Mal, and Wesley. But then I realize I have an unhealthy obsession with Whedon's characters and I need to take a step back and think this through. What are my other areas of fiction I enjoy, what has influenced me, what have I observed since I was young? Here we go:
Spike: You folks want an accurate example of irony. Angel says, "People change," and Spike responds, "Not us. Not demons." Six years later, no character has changed more than William the Bloody. Rise to power, fall from grace, help the good guys, loss of love, return of confidence, get stuck with rebound girl, and neutered all before becoming a series regular. We all know what he goes through in the Buffy-verse and no one is more dynamic or shifting than Spike, and in his first episode, he seems disgusted with change. Also, he's hilarious, has his deep moments, and his fighting style is something I personally love.
Mal: Someone said I should cosplay as Captain Malcolm Reynolds. I could only think, "You don't ask a Christian to cosplay as Jesus." Everything you can put into a character to make them awesome was put into Mal and it worked. He's loyal to himself, his crew, and his ship. He's conflicted over how to live his life. He hates the establishment. And he is hilarious ("Kaylee's dead"). Smart and impulsive, he always makes for a good story. I'm trying to put together a Serenity RPG and my biggest problem is that the 'Verse feels empty without Mal.
Wesley: Like Whedon, I love for characters to change. For those unacquainted with the Angel series (and without spoiling), Wesley started on Buffy as a pompous jack-ass and as he progresses through Angel, he becomes a badass and loses his mind just a little bit once or twice. I loved, and hated, watching his character fall apart while researching. Beautifully done. Also, he had a thing with the character I had the biggest crush on in the Whedon-verse, Fred (especially season five, with the lab coat and the skirts...)
So, after getting that out of my system, I can move on. Man, this is going to take a while.
Kyle Reese (Terminator): I wanted to be him. Tough, resourceful, tormented, compassionate. This guy rocked hard. Take a man from hell and put him in the eighties in LA and what the hell can he do. Thank Odin he had a mission or he might have lost his mind. Well, lost it more. My mom sat me down to watch Terminator back when I was five and I still am obsessed. John Connor may be the hero of the future, but Kyle Reese created him. And not just in the sex way. I meant, you know, influencing Sarah Connor.
Odin (From Norse mythology): The god of battle, the god of poetry. Norse gods already get props for being so human (something us humans enjoy in fiction). They feel lust, greed, despair, betrayal, a full spectrum of human emotion and yet they are still gods. And Odin, the All-Father. Terrible One-Eye. After learning that Freyja, a goddess he lusts after, gave herself to the dwarves for half a week, he forces her to make men fight. Forever. He teases his own son, Thor ("Your wife's a whore") while in disguise. He sacrificed himself in an attempt to gain knowledge. I almost wish I lived in northern Europe in 800 ad so I could follow him, but I hate the cold.
Jesse Custer (Preacher comic books): Tough, funny, driven. Guy had a fucked up youth and is doing his best to make the world better, in his own morally questionable way. The guy is pissed off at everyone, especially God - for abandoning humanity. Here's the kicker: This series is probably hated by those who burn with righteousness, but it inspired faith for me more than anything I've read, watched, or heard. Also, he has the ability to make people do anything he says. That's just wacky.
Guy Montag (Farenheit 451): Like everyone else in his world, he's raised an idiot. he, however, realizes this and takes the initiative to change. There's strength in this man that was barely hinted at in the novel.
Kitty Pryde (X-Men, particularly Astonishing X-Men): I can't say much without spoiling this for the people I'm trying to get to read this, but her character is possibly my favorite in the Marvel Universe. Funny, strong, insecure (I love contradictions), and a big damn hero. Listen, read the book, you'll love her, too. (And I just realized that's someone else from the Whedon-verse. Damn it.)
Aragorn (Lord of the Rings): Like Kyle Reese, I wanted to be him. He grew up hard, living in the woods and being friends with the elves. Learned some cool tricks and how to be a real person, the whole time knowing that he's supposed to lead a kingdom. Finally, he gets the balls to take back control (I love character growth) and he takes it. Is enough of a leader to convince his people to take on a suicide mission.
Han Solo: He shot first. He came back to help Luke destroy the Death Star. He's witty, smart, and needs cash (at first). He changes and develops into an honorable man from a scoundrel. He's everything a less bad ass Malcolm Reynolds almost was. I suppose Mal would beat him out though, since Han Solo is less complex.
Kira (Deathnote): An incredibly intelligent young man who is overwhelmed with ennui is given the power to eliminate anyone. How could he not become a serial killer? And he truly believes he's creating a better world, and maybe he was. I love how brilliantly evil this guy really was. Forcing multiple people to kill themselves, infiltrating the investigation to catch him, manipulating people into helping him, and all while killing random criminals all day every day. Guy had a work ethic. Writing this now, I'm surprised how much I like his character.
This has been exhausting, and I'm sure I could think of more. I just want to give out some honorable mentions: Buffy, Batman, Johnny Truant (House of Leaves), Tyler Durden, David Dunn (Unbreakable), Snake (Metal Gear Solid), Parker (Leverage), Elektra (Elektra: Assassin). They are all great characters, but all have something keeping them out of the "Best of All Time". Buffy is almost a necessity on this list but I hate cliches, Bats has too little character development, I still don't have enough of a grasp of Johnny Truant's incredibly complex character, Tyler Durden is too close minded, David Dunn isn't substantial enough, Snake is too simple, Parker is great but her show is too new to make any "Best" lists of mine, Elektra was deep but mostly just bad ass.
So, choosing three is hard. I have to limit myself to one Whedon-verse character, to keep balanced. When I have to go with just one of them, it's between Mal and Spike. Mal was a better built character, but Spike grew much more as a character. However, only one of them was constructed nearly perfectly. Alright then, final answer is Mal, followed by Kira and Odin. I think I am comfortable with these choices, and it was no easy task. Thanks for coming out, goodnight.
tl; dr: Mal Reynolds (Firefly), Kira (Deathnote), Odin (the Norse god)