I have a few questions on how to make a cynical character that people will still root for. I want to start with a character who is at first very much a selfless good guy, like Link from The Legend Of Zelda series. Willing to help anyone in need and put his life on the line for the greater good. Then, due to a rather traumatic event, I'd like to break him and make him become disillusioned with humanity as a whole. Not to the point that he actively torments people or anything, just insofar as he doesn't get involved with anything that doesn't directly involve him. He doesn't help old ladies across the street, he doesn't hold doors, he doesn't get involved when he sees a gang of people beating up a lone person. He doesn't feel like he owes the world anything anymore and he's careful not to get too close to anyone, assuming they're going to try to take advantage of him somehow. Then I want a good portion of the story to be about someone trying to rid him of that cynicism and get him back to the hero he once was. So, in particular, I have 3 question areas for anyone who wants to give me their input:
1. How do I keep him likable? I don't need my audience to agree with his views or anything, but I'd like to prevent most of them from outright hating him. For instance, I enjoyed Sasuke in Naruto. I felt like he was justified in acting so distant from others considering what he'd been through and it made sense that he was driven more by seeking power than anything else since his goal was vengeance against an opponent he felt like he was no match for. However, I've heard a lot of people say they felt he was too whiny, emo, hostile, or whatever. A lot of people. So what's the best way to make my socially cautious character seem justified in his attitude and keep the audience hoping he'll work through it rather than hoping he'll fall off a cliff?
2. Any tips on balancing tone? Like most people, I enjoy humor. I want my story to have its fair share. However, I want my dramatic moments to be dramatic. I want character deaths to be sad and have an impact. Adventure Time is really goofy. I have trouble taking its serious moments seriously. Batman v Superman was really moody. It would have benefited from having more lighthearted moments. I've never looked into a lot about how to keep from getting too goofy or too moody, or for that matter even the best way to transition from a comical scene to a character speaking at a gravesite. I want to keep my story capable of making people laugh and making people cry without going so far in one direction that the other becomes unobtainable, so I welcome tips on that front.
3. Can you think of any examples of popular cynics I should look into for some inspiration on how the process is done right? Books, movies, anime, video games, webcomics, anywhere and everywhere, bring me your lovable antisocial protagonists. Characters like Dr. House or The Punisher come close. Though, the former pretty much stays a cynic throughout the series and the latter does go out of his way to help the innocent, he just does it very violently. Let me hear your examples.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this. Hearing some thoughts from other people should allow me to look at this from a different perspective.