Jan 05 2008
Beat’em-up superheroes like the Hulk and Superman often suffer from these six problems.
1) Winning a battle with raw strength is rarely interesting. When people rave about the Matrix fight scenes, they mention the insane acrobatics, not Neo’s ability to slam a crater into the ground. X-Men 2’s White House scene was far more gripping than anything the Hulk has ever done. It’s hard to surprise your readers with a character that’s just super-strong. It may help to give your character a minor power or two to help him mix it up.
2) It’s hard to write dramatic fights for superstrong, supertough characters. A fight can only be dramatic if the protagonist faces some plausible threat. But if the hero can survive a bullet to the eye and is only vulnerable to an extremely rare mineral, then that means that only a supervillain can have an interesting fight with him. In contrast, Batman and Spiderman can have interesting fights with bank robbers and other low-powered thugs.
3) Incredible feats of strength are usually cheesier than feats of agility. Readers can accept even the most ridiculous acrobatic stunts. For example, Live Free or Die Hard (which isn’t even a superhero movie) was believable even though its acrobatic stunts made Batman look clumsy. In contrast, it was damn cheesy when the Hulk threw a tank and Superman pushed a planet out of its orbit.
4) It’s very hard to apply superstrength creatively. If a superhero can only solve problems with brute strength, it will get tedious very quickly. It might help to give your superhero a minor power or two so that he can mix things up a bit.
5) Superstrength is generic. That’s both an asset and a liability. Readers can understand generic powers more easily. But you’ll have to work harder to distinguish a superstrong character from other superstrong characters because there are so many of them.
6) Superstrong characters are harder to relate to. Humans are vulnerable; Superman isn’t.