Archive for March, 2008

Mar 31 2008

Storyboarding Soon I Will Be Invincible: A Structural Review

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

I’ve already written a standard SIWBI review. My main conclusion was that most of SIWBI is wasted space that fails to satisfy readers or advance the main plot. So what do these wasted chapters do? To answer that, I will summarize and analyze the content and writing of each chapter.

This review will include spoilers.

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Mar 28 2008

A Photographic Essay: Text, Photoshop, and Header Art

In a header, text usually looks best when balanced. For example, in our header “a fairly unbalanced” is balanced nicely because it’s exactly as wide as the row below it, “guide to superpower politics.” If you’re interested in learning how to make text look pleasant, this will help.

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Mar 25 2008

A Hurricane of Coconuts

“I’m not a poker shark.  Did you know that coconuts kill more people than sharks do?  I’m like a hurricane of coconuts.”

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Mar 25 2008

Changes with Google Analytics?

Google Analytics reports that only 40% of our visitors on Tuesday were new. Previously, that number had never been less than 90%.

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Mar 25 2008

A Thought on Writing

Fiction is a response to threat. No one wants to read happily ever after. That’s why the story ends at happily ever after.

–Cadet Davis

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Mar 24 2008

Extreme Non-Prejudice

It has been incorrectly claimed that the Office of Special Investigation’s Human Resources branch terminates with extreme prejudice. Make no mistake: we are 100% committed to equal opportunity.

–Agent Orange, OSI-HR Director

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Mar 23 2008

There goes my bracket

I had the UConn Huskies going to the Final Four. They just lost in the first round to the San Diego Toreros. Although this screws my bracket, it does make me feel a bit better about Florida missing the tournament.

Hey, at least you made the tournament

The picture came courtesy of stock.xchng, with a hat tip to Squally-Chan.

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Mar 23 2008

Quote of the Day: 3/23/08

Agent Orange: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Agent Black: If you’re about to ask a question that includes the word “alligators,” “mammals,” “conspiracy,” or any combination of those, no.

Agent Orange: …

Agent Orange: Have you developed psychic–

Agent Black: No.

Agent Orange: Are you posi–

Agent Black: Yes.

Agent Orange: So how–

Agent Black: Wily mammal tricks. I could tell you more, but then I’d have to make you into a suitcase.

Agent Orange: …!

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Mar 22 2008

Don’t Shoot, I’m an Author!

A WWII German fighter ace just learned that one of the Frenchmen he killed was his favorite author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. (Whoops!)

This further shows that, if you should ever find yourself in a gunfight with an author, you should let him kill you.

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Mar 21 2008

$350,000 for Publishing Rights to Stuff White People Like Book?

Published by under Online Novel

Wow. Nice job, guys. The TWPL site started two months ago and has attracted 15 million hits (itself an astonishing achievement: I estimate they get 1800 times as many hits per day as we do).

If we assume that a publisher offers the same amount of money per hit ($.0233), then I’ve calculated that our site has so far created $600 worth of publishability. By my estimates, we work (collectively) between 20 and 40 hours a week for this website. I calculate that we earn $.83 per hour.  [Update: for the month of September 2008, we earned between $1.20 and $1.75]

Final verdict: I shouldn’t quit my day-job.

By comparison, if we assumed that the author(s) of SWPL worked 20 hours a day for the last two months, Jess has earned $292 per hour. (Minus his/her costs, but I don’t know what those would look like. Traffic control, I guess).

*The publisher says the Observer’s $350,000 number is off but won’t say if it’s over or under the actual number. If I had to guess either way, I’d say the real number is likely lower…

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Mar 21 2008

Quote of the Day:

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate groups: local cops, who investigate crimes like jaywalking and double-parking, and federal agents, who investigate crimes that the people care about.” — Agent Orange

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Mar 21 2008

Google Benchmarks is Running!

Published by under Superhero Nation

An evil genius provides some opening impressions on Benchmarks.

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Mar 20 2008

Gator Attack at NASA

Published by under Comedy,News

An alligator was found in a NASA building.

“Navi-gator! I said I needed a navigator!”

After politely explaining to the alligator that “public facility” actually meant “intruders-will-be-shot” didn’t work, they quickly showed Mr. Gator the door.

I have no evidence to suggest that this was in any way related to aliens posing as mutated alligators, but then again they’re usually pretty good about covering their tracks…

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Mar 20 2008

Quote of the Day

“Surf City’s hottest new bar is open, Blue’s Brewz!  Give us a shot and we’ll return the favor.”

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Mar 20 2008

Welcome, MicroISVers!

Hey! Superhero Nation offers comedy, superhero writing advice, generic writing advice, and a few assorted articles on how to manage a small online project, particularly an online novel (these include Using Header Art and Using Google Analytics to Self-Review).

Note:  if you’d like to read the article Pat mentioned, click here.

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Mar 20 2008

March Madness

Just to show that Florida doesn’t have any hard feelings about being cruelly rejected to the NCAA tournament…

However, his height might be a problem.

(I got the picture from Lolcats).

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Mar 19 2008

USAF Blocks Access to Many Blogs

Published by under News,Superhero Nation

The Air Force Network Operations Center is cutting access to most sites with the word “blog” in the web-address.  Most prominently, this includes reputable and professional sites like Counterterrorism Blog.  Fortunately, it does not include sites like ESPN or a certain site profiling the wacky adventures of the Office of Special Investigations.

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Mar 18 2008

How to Create Distinct Voices for Characters

Published by under Comedy

This is a brief series of questions designed to help you write character voices.

1. When your characters talk, do they actually sound different? If you’re not sure, try this thought experiment. If you were to write a transcript of a dialogue and remove the names, could readers figure out who said what? If so, then you’ve done a good job of voicing the characters.

2. If your characters do not have distinct voices, try this. Take an index card for each of your recurring characters and write a sentence or two describing how a strange might identify the character from a nameless transcript. Some ways you might vary the character’s manner of speech include the length of his sentences, his tendency to use long words, his use of contractions and incorrect speech, and then his invented words/jargon. Also, what’s his personality like? Is his conversational style very confrontation, very clipped, cryptic, etc?

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Mar 17 2008

March Madness!

At the Office of Special Investigations, March Madness can get heated pretty quickly.

Agent Black: Are you doing a bracket this year?

Agent Orange: I spit on your vile brackets. The NCAA was obviously embarrassed that the Florida Gators had humiliated the whole of mammal-kind two years in a row. And, last year, the Gators swept the national championships in football and basketball, so it was inevitable that the Vast Mammalian Conspiracy would keep us from the tournament.

Agent Black: It’s too bad you’re not doing a bracket. Guess who I’ve got winning it all.

Agent Orange: A wholly unqualified and helpless mammal team?

Agent Black: The Georgia Bulldogs!

Agent Orange: Gah! Mammal… conspiracy… vicious mammal conspiracy.

Agent Black: Hey, hey. Relax. Just because we had an “amazing run” and “reached heights no one could imagine” doesn’t mean you have to cry about it.

Agent Orange: Georgia’s presence is indisputable proof that gator-haters are conspiring against us. Georgia placed in the Western conference. Notre Dame, a team notoriously close to a mammal renowned for driving snakes and other innocent reptiles from Ireland, got into the Eastern conference. And Stanford, that crazy-eyed bastion of basketball-playing trees, got into the Southern conference. Portland—Portland!– made it into the Midwestern conference.

Agent Black: Portland played great basketball.

Agent Orange: That’s not the point. Portland is not in the Midwest, any more than Notre Dame is Eastern or Georgia is Western. The standings have been rigged by a bunch of deranged gator-haters to ensure that we will not be allowed to thrash their beloved trees and bulldogs.

Captain Carnage walks in.

Captain Carnage: Hey, Orange. I heard a joke today. What’s the difference between an alligator and a longhorn?

Agent Orange: One is a reptilian carnivore and the other goes great with tabasco sauce?

Captain Carnage: The Longhorns are in it to win it!

Agent Black: Ooh, nice one.

Agent Orange: …

Agent Orange: Mammals!

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Mar 17 2008

I am going CRAZY

Published by under Superhero Nation

My accursed computer has inversed the colors. So black text shows up as white, red as green, etc. Catastrophe shows up as a putrid, lime-ish green. Eww.

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Mar 14 2008

Learning to Write by Retyping

A writing professor at my university suggested that one way to study written rhythm and cadences is to type out someone else’s novel. He says that doing so will help you gain a better sense of style and flow. Maybe. I think you can do better with this technique, though. Instead of retyping someone else’s work, try retyping yours. I think that this will help the aspiring novelist uncover several tricky problems.

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Mar 14 2008

Villainous New Year’s Resolutions

What’s at the top of supervillain to-do lists for 2008? (Hint: not saving money or losing weight). Here’s a sample.

  1. [Paingod] Attain absolute power in at least one country. My first act will be to ask Evil Overlord to be my chief of police. If he says no, I’ll kill him. If he says yes, I’ll poison him so that he can live by earning regular doses of the antidote.

  2. [Chronic] Develop a time machine and get advanced technologies from a future version of myself. But I know that he will see an opportunity to exploit his foreknowledge and technology by replacing me. So I’ll kill him first.

  3. [Gangrene] Surf City’s been a bust. The cop-to-plant ratio is far too high. This year, I have a better idea. I call it Plan Colombia.

  4. [The Colombian] Cooperate with Gangrene to develop hardier drug crops. Then I’ll kill him.

  5. [Jihad Joe] Anything. I’m still relevant, dammit!

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Mar 14 2008

More Self-Learning

Published by under Comedy,Quote of the Day

“Know thyself”– some famous philosopher, probably someone both you and I have heard of.

I’ve learned today that– gasp!– I’m really bad on both sides of the camera. Clearly  I was voted most likely to be an Abercrombie and Fitch centerfold more for my latent sex appeal than my ability to strike a pose.

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Mar 13 2008

Quote of the Day: Horace Walpole

“Life is a tragedy to those that feel and a comedy to those that think.”– Horace Walpole

Whether you think or feel, if your name is Horace Walpole, your life is probably a tragedy.

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Mar 13 2008

Interesting Poll Movements

The RealClearPolitics polling averages are showing that Senator Obama has lost a lot of ground to McCain recently and now fares worse than Senator Clinton in a potential matchup with Senator McCain.  Respectively, Obama and Clinton have a 1.2 and 1.5% lead over McCain.  Furthermore, Obama’s once-noticeable lead over Clinton in head-to-head polling has dropped to a virtually nonexistent 1% in the RCP average.

Going into the convention… Continue Reading »

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Mar 12 2008

Eat Me!

Agent Orange: Greetings, mammals! I have a question.

Captain Carnage: (Unfortunately, Agent Black, I have an alibi. Just now, I realized I was due at the Capitol two hours ago).

Agent Black: (I hate you).

Agent Orange: Yesterday, National Geographic claimed that grizzly bears can eat five times their own body weight. Is that true?

Agent Black: Why wouldn’t it be true?

Agent Orange: Frankly, it sounds like mammalian propaganda. Five times their own body weight? That would be like me suddenly eating a ton and a half: you, Captain Carnage, the Beatles, and a golf-cart.

Agent Black: I’m not supposed to tell this to non-mammals…

Agent Orange: No, I must know!

Agent Black: Grizzly bears can eat a hundred times their own body weight. National Geographic lied to you to lure you into a false sense of security.

Agent Orange: The fiends!

Agent Orange: …

Agent Orange: … but that would be like me eating 75,000 racks of ribs. Waitresses already give me weird looks when I order eight!

Agent Black: I’m not supposed to tell this to non-mammals, either… but all mammals can eat a hundred times their own weight.

*Agent Orange gasps*

Agent Black: So, if you’re 600 pounds, that means that any mammal that weighs six pounds could theoretically eat you.

Agent Orange: But, but I’ve seen rats in the basement that must have been six pounds heavy! The Gator Gods would curse me for all time if I allow one to devour me. I thank you for your assistance, mammal-Black.

Agent Orange stalks off.

Agent Black pulls out his cell-phone and calls Captain Carnage’s voice-mail.

“Black here. I think I just solved the rodent problem.”

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Mar 11 2008

The Last Man Review

Published by under Book Review,Comic Books

I read The Last Man today, which made a biomask look pretty good with a hooded jacket. It’s a vaguely sci-fi story with some weird bits of fantasy mixed in. The premise is that the removal of an artifact from Lebanon triggers a curse causing every male on Earth to spontaneously suffer a death-by-eye-gushing. The only surviving man apparently survives because he has some magical trinket.


The character development was pretty flimsy. The male lead is a slightly more reckless but physically tricky version of Peter Parker. The female lead is a Secret Service agent– Agent 523, I think. (Naming a character after a number is painfully cliché)… I’ve seen reviews that praise TLM for this agent being innovative because she’s one of a very few strong black-female characters, but taking an extremely cliché governmental archetype (The KillBot) and making him a black woman doesn’t seem very fresh to me.


Most of the story has taken place in Washington so far. That is usually a cliché setting– second only to NYC, I think– but I’d excuse that because using government figures like the Secret Service pretty much requires Washington. Occasionally, the story took completely random tangents to Israel, which raised red flags about oncoming political sermons. However, in hindsight, Israel kind of makes sense as a setting because Israel’s women play an unusually important role in its national military. The story will probably make more use of the Israeli characters later, but right now it feels like characterization a la Heroes (keep throwing characters at us until someone sticks).


I enjoyed the writing, but tellingly I can’t remember any lines. By contrast, I remember five separate punchlines from The Hood, a comic I read three years ago. (One memorable scene: “You’d make a good FBI agent, Tommy. Do you want to be an FBI agent, like your uncle Carl?” “F*** that! I wanna be an Avenger”).


The villains were a major drawback. In this comic, we saw a neo-Amazonian cult and a gang of Republican widows that storm the White House with shotguns to take the Congressional seats formerly held by their husbands. (I’m not making that up. However, I should point out that the story has actually felt pretty even-handed when it makes political allusions.) The archvillain, the Amazonian leader, is wholly forgettable. The only thing I remember about her is that she once beat Bobby Fischer in chess.


The action has been pretty restrained so far. Frankly, I think that’s one of TLM’s strengths. I think it might help if the writing were as restrained. For example, the surviving women turn the Washington Monument into a memorial for the dead men. Because, you know, it’s phallic-shaped? Haha! Yeah. It was that bad.


The world-building has been moderately disappointing. There was one hilarious scene with a model whose job ended when all the guys died. But besides that, TLM has hardly ventured beyond the generic sci-fi dystopia. You’ve seen this before. Hell breaks loose: people go crazy, form gangs, commit suicide, etc. Except for men dying instead of women, the story seems eerily reminiscent of the N64’s Battle Tanx, which is as sophisticated as anything called Battle Tanx should be.


Verdict: I’d recommend giving The Last Man a look. Its execution is uneven, but I think that it has potential.

Oh, also. If you’re interested in working with comic books and/or visual design for superheroes, I’d really recommend it. There’s a few shots of the main character wearing a biomask with a hooded jacket and I think that the art does a really nice job of making someone with a mask look human. That’s always been one of my problems with masked heroes, that they look like machines.

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Mar 10 2008

Get mugged!

Published by under Superhero Nation

“A neoconservative is a liberal that’s been mugged by reality.”

Irving Kristol

Forget reality, what we care about at Superhero Nation is mugging.  Within a week, you will be able to mug yourself by spending a mere $9 on authentic Superhero Nation mugs.  Some designs we’re contemplating are…

  1. My own picture (I’m the guy in the middle of the header; no surprises there), with the tagline:  “Being bad has never looked this good.”
  2. Perhaps a PG-13 one featuring some raunchy coffee-related puns.  (“I always take it black and sweet.  Wait, you mean my coffee?”)  We’ll see.
  3. The Superhero Nation logo, with this tagline: “A neoconservative is a liberal that’s been mugged by reality; a Superhero National is a comic book fan that’s been mugged by political science.”
  4. “The human brain only operates at 10% capacity.  Hence, coffee.”  — Catastrophe
  5. “Death before dishonor, but nothing before caffeine.”

Clearly we need to have another editorial board meeting on this subject.  [For the love of Buddha, get the rights to a Paingod illustration.  If we can’t sell a mug with a quote from Paingod, we should just pack it up right now.– Cadet Davis]

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Mar 10 2008

Superhero Movie

Published by under Comic Books

The Superhero Movie trailer looks pretty poor.


  1. It seems to be focused entirely on Spiderman jokes, but its Spidey jokes are not too good. OK, it’s hard for superheroes to get suited up… I hope they’re playing with more fire than that. (I predict two jokes about Green Goblin’s power-ranger mask… one of those might have been funny, except that it was so predictable).

  2. Leslie Nielsen. He was hilarious in Wrongfully Accused and fine in A Space Travesty, but his presence does not inspire confidence.

  3. Nielsen’s movies frequently confuse random bursts of activity with comedy. Sometimes that works, like when Irish terrorists burst into step-dance in Wrongfully Accused. Usually it doesn’t, like when the Spiderman knockoff starts break-dancing on a wall.

  4. Time plays against Superhero Movie. Parodies in most genres need a conventional plot to meet their time limit. (How many underwear jokes can you do before people walk out?) The problem is that the trailer doesn’t inspire much confidence on that front. Wrongfully Accused and Airplane, for example, did a pretty good job putting together real plots to harness their comedy.


I expect that this movie will be a stream of disconnected and largely disappointing jokes.


If you want a funny superhero movie, I recommend renting Mystery Men instead. Alternatively, I’d recommend seasons 1 and 2 of Lois and Clark, which was a TV show that was closer to a romantic comedy than a traditional superhero action story. It was very well-executed and the acting was distinctly good. I don’t read many comic books, comical or otherwise, but I’d recommend The Hood for its comedic content. Its FBI side-characters were so hilarious that they actually inspired me to start writing Superhero Nation.

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Mar 10 2008


Published by under Comedy

“Is the University of Florida a better university because the school’s basketball team won back-to-back NCAA championships?”  — George Leef

“Not merely a better university, the best university.”– Agent Orange, everybody’s second-favorite Florida Gator.  (After Albert, obviously).

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