Archive for January, 2009

Jan 30 2009

Superman is faking his weakness to kryptonite!

Published by under Superman

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.

The Evil Overlord List recommends that evil overlords fake a vulnerability to confuse their enemies.

For example, I will order all mirrors removed from the palace, and scream and flinch whenever someone accidentally holds up a mirror, etc. In the climax, when the hero whips out a mirror and thrusts it at my face, my reaction will be “Hmm…I think I need a shave.”

Superman is obviously faking his vulnerability to kryptonite.  It’s highly suspicious that so many people have attempted to use kryptonite against him but none have managed to kill or maim him.  Also, doesn’t it seem implausible that someone would be fatally vulnerable to the radiation given off by his own planet?

Although some nay-sayers might argue that Superman is too honest to lie about this sort of thing, I think it’s just like a better version of his Clark Kent ruse.

7 responses so far

Jan 29 2009

The Cardinals will win the Super Bowl because Kurt Warner is a superpowered killing machine

Published by under Comedy,Football,Heroes,Sports

I’ve noticed some uncanny similarities between Kurt Warner (Arizona’s quarterback) and Sylar from Heroes.

  1. One has spent the better part of a season mangling his enemies in spectacularly gruesome fashions.  The other is a serial killer.
  2. One wears white and red.  The other is white and usually spattered in red.
  3. Sylar has superpowers that allow him to avoid any lasting injuries. Warner doesn’t need superpowers.

How does Larry Fitzgerald make all those crazy catches? Because he knows that if he drops a pass, his head is gone.

One response so far

Jan 27 2009

Care to offer some stylistic feedback?

Thanks, I’d really appreciate it.  Right now, the main thing I’m working on is character-design, specifically a mutant alligator that’s pretty much the Hobbes in a Calvin & Hobbes comic duo.

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17 responses so far

Jan 26 2009

“Ma’am, your son’s been murdered.”

CNN just did a piece on how cops break the news that someone’s loved one has been murdered.  I think the article is an especially useful resource for the authors of superhero stories because a lot of superheroes get so caught up in their superhero identities that regular people are essentially cut from the story.  For example, on Heroes normal people are sometimes used as props or plot devices, but they never get any important lines.   (Also, the characters haven’t had real jobs since season 1, and all of the recurring characters have superpowers now. Even Suresh and Ando!)

Although breaking tragic news to a spouse might get too angsty, I suspect that an author could play it quietly to add emotional depth to the superhero.  One of the things that annoyed me about Bruce Wayne/Batman is that he’s so socially retarded that it seems like he doesn’t care about anyone else.  Beating the hell out of bad guys is fine, but that’s just revenge for Batman.  If your hero is supposed to be likable, you might want to show that he’s at least trying to empathize with regular people.  I’d recommend having him stumble awkwardly in the conversation, though.  I think the scene depends on the awkwardness of the hero being thrust into a new role that’s hard even for professional chaplains.

What do you think?

2 responses so far

Jan 25 2009

What!?!

I wish I were making this up.

5 responses so far

Jan 25 2009

Test Post

Published by under Uncategorized



Blogarella link.
Humor Blogs link.

No responses yet

Jan 24 2009

What is the appeal of three-column websites?

Just wondering.

(We’ve also considered the appeal of Twilight and The Hulk).

3 responses so far

Jan 24 2009

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 10)

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.

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32 responses so far

Jan 24 2009

Please be careful with the phrase “Then he remembered…”

Published by under Writing Articles

“Then she remembered…” is usually an awkward way to remind readers of backstory.  Additionally, it creates sentences that depend on a boring verb (remembered).   For example, let’s say John is investigating a murder that may have been committed by his friend Cathy.

Cathy said that she had been on a safari when the victim was murdered.  Then John remembered that she was actually deathly afraid of large animals.

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No responses yet

Jan 22 2009

Death to Scrappy!

We’ve already done a general article on the dangers of using children as side-characters, but this article will discuss only the most dangerous kind of child character: The Scrappy.

Generally, a Scrappy is a character that is hated by readers, usually because he’s exaggeratedly inept in a way that is meant to be funny.  For example, instead of having a slight speech impediment, he’ll be Jar-Jar Binks.  Instead of being a bit younger than the other characters, he’ll be Scrappy Doo.  This character usually distracts from the more competent characters, often so much that he becomes a hate figure.

Here are some common misconceptions that lead authors to use Scrappies…

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36 responses so far

Jan 22 2009

Today’s Pet Peeve: Unearned Reputations

Published by under Writing Articles

Be careful when it comes to giving characters unearned reputations.

It’s insufferable when we hear something about a character and see something else entirely.   For example, everyone in Heroes tells the audience that Mohinder is a brilliant scientist, but his most notable act of science has been to inject himself with an entirely untested formula that accidentally turns him into a monster.  That makes both the character and the writers come off poorly.  (Mohinder’s a moron, the plot hinges on total stupidity and the writers clearly don’t know anything about scientific testing, etc).  If you need your cast to act very uncharacteristically, at least give us a reason why.  For example, if Mohinder’s life had been in immediate jeopardy, it’d be more plausible that he would have taken the formula without testing it first.

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6 responses so far

Jan 21 2009

I demand a recount!

Published by under Comedy

Champions Online (the latest superhero-meets-World of Warcraft game) has a quiz I found kind of amusing.

You are pure evil, and hate personified. You don’t care anything about your fellow man, and are guided only by your desire to rule over your inferiors, i.e. everybody but you. ‘Mercy,’ you ask, prior to grinding an enemy beneath your mighty heel, ‘What is mercy?’

Take the quiz!

4 responses so far

Jan 20 2009

Please Take Our Survey

Hi, I’m looking to get published. My prospective publishers want me to provide information about my audience. Specifically, are you interested in my book about how to write superhero stories? Would you prefer information tailored to novelists, comic book writers or both?

I would really appreciate 5 minutes of your help. Thanks!

No responses yet

Jan 20 2009

Comic Reviews: Atomic Robo 1-5

Atomic Robo is OK.  The writing is occasionally stylish but mostly forgettable.  Artistically, the main character is done pretty well and everyone else looks kind of awful.

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18 responses so far

Jan 19 2009

What’s the appeal of Twilight?

Just wondering.

16 responses so far

Jan 16 2009

Writing a comic book script? Check this out…

This comic book artist gives writers a few suggestions about how to lay out the story.  I found it very useful.

3 responses so far

Jan 15 2009

Please give me some stylistic feedback

Let’s see.  Right now I’m working on the cover of our first issue and a series logo.

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25 responses so far

Jan 14 2009

Another Five Common Mistakes of Comic Book Writers (#6-10)

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86 responses so far

Jan 14 2009

An Overview to Editing for Our Volunteer Moderators

Our overriding goal is to provide a friendly and professional meeting place for aspiring authors.  Please keep that in mind!

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No responses yet

Jan 13 2009

Six Fonts That Kill Webcomics and Comic Books

Published by under Fonts

These fonts are poison.

  1. Comic Sans
  2. Times New Roman
  3. Helvetica
  4. Arial
  5. Chronicles of a Hero
  6. Anime Ace

18 responses so far

Jan 13 2009

Don’t let minor characters steal the show

Sometimes a minor character will “steal” the scene from the main character, taking so much of the spotlight that the main character just seems to disappear.  Here are several scenarios that often to lead to scene-stealing.

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16 responses so far

Jan 12 2009

An eccentric bit of writing advice: don’t backtrack with your characters!

“Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”  Indeed!  If your character changes in some way , it’s usually a good idea to “keep the change” rather than undo the change later on.  Backtracking often makes the characterization feel unsatisfying and usually suggests that there was no reason to make the change in the first place.  If the hero moves from psychopathic to mostly sane, it probably won’t feel right if he suddenly jerks back to psychopathic two episodes later.  (I’m looking at you, Sylar!)

In a novel or comic book, backtracking is best-handled as a major failure for the main character.  For example, it might be a decisive event that sets up the climactic struggle.  As an immature kid, Simba runs away when his father gets killed.  That sets up his return to fight Scar in the climax, establishing that he has finally become responsible.  Alternately, the hero backtracks because the hero loses at the end.  For example, if The Lion King were a dystopian tragedy about Simba failing to become mature, Simba gets hunted down and eaten by the hyenas shortly after fleeing to the desert.  That’ll teach you to try to run away from your problems!

Backtracking is generally not well-suited for traits that aren’t particularly important, or for minor characters. Backtracking tends to take a lot of space (to clear up potential confusion), so it probably isn’t worthwhile unless the character and trait are crucial to the story.

Now I’m going back to watch Home Alone.

No responses yet

Jan 12 2009

The copyright on “superhero”

Fevered rumors occasionally surface that Marvel and/or DC have copyrighted the word “superhero” and plan to sue anyone that uses them.  That’s obviously bunk.  However, a more credible blogger claims that Marvel and DC have jointly trademarked the term superhero and are the only ones that can use it when naming a comic book.  It is true that they have the trademark, but there is virtually no chance that it would hold up in court. (Whether or not your publisher is actually willing to risk a case is another question, though… it’s cheaper to come up with a new title than go to court).

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53 responses so far

Jan 12 2009

Test Post

Published by under Uncategorized

No responses yet

Jan 10 2009

Hooray for comics in the public domain…

Published by under Comic Books

I’m kind of fond of this classic one about a Holocaust survivor and a former death camp supervisor.  However, the twist ending is too predictable.  (Hold your cursor here for the spoiler).

No responses yet

Jan 08 2009

Gators win! Gators win!

Florida just won the national championship in college football.  I feel a comic coming on, just not soon.

No responses yet

Jan 07 2009

Site Plug: Once Upon A Geek

Published by under Comedy

I was browsing around Once Upon A Geek, which has a lot of amusing superhero content.  For example, I liked this blending of Peanuts and the Watchmen.

They also collected some interesting Christmas-themed covers.  Below the jump:  Spiderman lassoing a surly Wolverine with Christmas lights, and two shots of Santa packing heat.

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3 responses so far

Jan 06 2009

Five Common Mistakes of Comic Book Writers (#1-5)

1.  The story fails to hook readers in the first three pages.
The easiest way to do this is to show a likable character facing a serious problem.  It doesn’t have to be a life-and-death threat, but that helps.  Another method is to establish that the writing style is particularly compelling.

2. The plot lacks urgency.

A character walking from his door to his car is not very interesting. Running to his car to make it to work on time is better. Running to his car to avoid gunshots? Even better. To make the plot more urgent, I recommend making giving the characters goals that are time-sensitive and high-stakes. If John doesn’t make it to work in ten minutes, he will be fired. If Captain Carnage can’t find and defuse the bomb in ten minutes, the building will explode. Etc.  The goal doesn’t have to be life or death, but it helps.

3.  The writers rely too much on exposition (particularly narration and dialogue) to tell the story.

Try not to tell your audience things that they should be able to see in the picture. For example, check out these two versions of one of our panels.

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45 responses so far

Jan 06 2009

What is the appeal of the Hulk?

Just wondering.

15 responses so far

Jan 06 2009

No alcohol was involved in the conception of these covers

Superhero Nation is slightly eccentric and wacky, so I kind of want an eye-catching cover that conveys that.  Here are a few of my latest ideas for our first cover.

1.  This cover shows a desk with a careful array of US presidential bobbleheads.  (It’s Agent Orange’s desk, so this should look a bit wacky).  At the front of the desk would be bobbleheads of Agent Black, Agent Orange and their boss.  In the background, we’d place a motivational poster for humorous flavor.  (Maybe “Human Resources:  Killer Service Every Time.”)

ALTERNATIVE:  The desk still has presidential bobbleheads, but the bobbleheads of the cast are gone.  Agent Orange is behind the desk in a surly boss pose and Agent Black is staring at him dumbfounded.  As before, there’s a motivational poster for humor.  (Hat-tip to Brett).

2.  Agent Black is getting chewed out in an over-the-top manner by Agent Orange.  I’d probably frame it like a scene between Peter Parker and JJ Jameson.  I’m relying on the “what the hell?” factor of having a mutant alligator as the boss to make this eye-catching and appealing.  I’d probably give Agent Orange a business prop like a wacky chart or graph in lieu of the motivational poster.

3.    Agent Black is in a mock Rambo pose, ineptly wielding a machine gun on a firing range.  All of his bullets are wildly off his target.  (The bulletholes may spell out the Superhero Nation logo).  Agent Orange is looking on exasperatedly with a hand on his forehead.  He’s shaking his head.  This is probably better-suited for the second issue than the first.

7 responses so far

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