Dec 12 2008
The guys at Atomic Robo compiled a Few Simple Rules to keep their work from making the same mistakes as other comic book series.
…maybe it’s unfair to say that we “hate” comics. More accurately, we hate the reality of the state of American comics today; what comics have become… We see so many titles making the same mistakes that pushed us away from comics in the ’90s, and the tragedy is that these are wholly unnecessary elements and easily remedied. But it feels like no one ever does.
They have five solutions.
- No angst.
- No “cheesecake” (ass-shots of women and other distasteful treatment).
- No reboots. When something happens, it can’t unhappen.
- No filler.
- No delays.
I really like those, and I will add eight rules for my work.
1) Superhero Nation will be fun. Everything else is secondary.
2) Superhero Nation is finite. Twenty years from now, writers will be working on Spiderman and Batman and so on, mostly telling the same stories they are now. I don’t approve. Stories need an end. I anticipate that SN will end after 192 pages.
3) No resurrections, time-travel, or mind-reading. These powers kill the drama. When any character is brought back to life, death becomes a meaningless trick. Mind-reading removes the potential for secrets and betrayal.
4) No propaganda. I don’t really care what you think about politics, about America or the American government, or any of the other real-world elements that come up in Superhero Nation. Our goal is only to tell an entertaining story, not to “enlighten” or convince readers. See #1. If you’d like a work that’s more political than fun, I can show you my political science articles. (No one has ever taken me up on that offer).
5) No casual violence. When killing becomes a mundane, everyday act for the character, violence becomes boring and forgettable. Oh look, the Punisher killed another twelve gangsters. So what? When I have a fight scene, I want it to matter. Killing shouldn’t be just another day at the office.
6) No rape. Rape makes stories extremely somber and strangles out the fun.
7) No magic. I’ve never found an interesting magical fight in any medium.
8. Nonhumans should be genuinely different from humans. None of this Superman “human but better” crap. If a robot, a mutant alligator, an alien diplomat and a human IRS agent are having a conversation, it should be easy to tell who’s saying what because the characters aren’t similar.
Feel free to apply these to your own work as you see fit, but I didn’t mean these to be universal guidelines. So, how about you? What sort of rules guide your work? How is your story better than its competitors?