Feb 14 2009

Common Superhero Day Jobs, Part 1


Journalist/Photographer

  • +: Can be easily tied into almost any plot.  Whether Godzilla’s attacking, a meteor is about to hit Metropolis or every car in town has mysteriously turned bright pink, a journalist will have something to do.
  • +: Good opportunity for conflict (with his editor, with his co-workers, with the people he’s covering, etc.)
  • -: Cliche.  Between Superman and Spiderman and Tin Tin and Spider Jerusalem, journalists have been used a lot.
  • Tip:  If you use a journalist, give his media outlet a distinct style.  That will help differentiate him from Clark Kent and Peter Parker.

Businessman

  • +:  Like journalists, businessmen can usually be involved in a plot fairly easily.
  • +:  Businessmen may have access to interesting and exotic resources.  That will give you room to shake things up a bit.
  • -:  Less potential for conflict with a boss.  A journalist will have an editor, but a corporate executive doesn’t really have a boss.
  • -:  Corporate intrigue is usually harder to follow than journalism.
  • Tip: Make him low-ranking.  That will help keep him relatable.  Also, try to avoid complicated plots where one businessman does corporate battle with another.

Scientist

  • +:  Character flexibility.  There are a ton of scientist archetypes, but here are a few that come to mind:  quiet and brilliant, eccentric and brilliant (Einstein), restrained-and-professional (CDC), wacky-and-professional (DARPA), etc.  Your character will probably be some flavor of smart, but aside from that the sky’s the limit.
  • +:  Science is fairly easy to work into stories.
  • -:  In his lab, he’s probably boring.
  • -:  It’s hard for an author to fake scientific competence.  You may have to do research to make the character sound believable.
  • Tip:  Get him out of his lab as much as possible.  Field research is more interesting and has more storytelling potential than lab research.

Detective/Cop

  • +: Built-in audience.  There are a lot of people that like reading detective stories.
  • +: This doesn’t require as much research as a scientist, and there are many excellent cop shows.  (I recommend the first few seasons of Law and Order and The Wire).
  • +:  Good potential for conflict between superhero and police.
  • -:  Poor plot range.
  • -:  These stories tend to feel like rehashes of Law and Order or Sherlock Holmes.
  • Tip:  If your hero is a cop, it’s particularly important to make the hero and the villains stylish.  That will help distinguish you from Law and Order.

Private Investigator

  • +:  Usually easier to write than detectives and cops.  (Less legal jargon means less legal research).
  • -:  Not particularly well-suited for a wide range of plots.
  • -:  Less potential for conflict than most other professions here, because a PI usually doesn’t have a boss.
  • Tip:  Have him work for a PI agency.  That will give him someone to fight with at work.

Did you like this article?  If so, please see part 2 here for details on lawyers, criminals, teachers and mercenaries.

82 responses so far

82 Responses to “Common Superhero Day Jobs, Part 1”

  1. t3knomanseron 14 Feb 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I think you sell the PI short, when it comes to conflict at work. The PI does have a boss, or at least a client. A client that wants results, or doesn’t like the PI’s methods, or is trying to game the PI, etc.

    The range of plots is a bit narrower than something like a journalist, but at the same time, a PI is the sort of character that’ll give you lots of opportunities for “side quests”. Informants that need favors before they’ll hand over information, things like that.

    In terms of working for an agency, it goes either way. The Continental Op worked for an agency, and that did have some really good conflicts with his superiors. Interestingly, even though you get a good feel for the character of his supervisor while reading Red Harvest, the “Old Man” is never actually seen or does anything more than send telegrams. But the way the Op and his assistants feel about him gives you a really good picture of the character.

  2. Dforceon 18 Feb 2009 at 2:07 am

    B. Mac, you have any ideas for a “part-time” job for a teen superhero, aside from photographer? Just wondering…

  3. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 18 Feb 2009 at 4:29 am

    My character Isaac is a waiter.

    Other possible jobs:

    supermarket shelf stacker and cashier

    a newsagent or paper route

    ice cream vendor

    bakery or fast food place

    delivery (pizza, Meals on Wheels)

    apprentice carpenter (depends on the age of the character)

    apprentice mechanic (depends on the age of the character)

    apprentice hairdresser (depends on the age of the character)

  4. B. Macon 18 Feb 2009 at 7:32 am

    I like the delivery route option in particular. It’s a good balance for authors, I think… it helps gives you some leeway having the hero take off whenever there’s trouble, but offers good opportunities for job-related conflict. (“That’s your third late delivery this week!”)

    You could also consider an entry-level position or internship at a more demanding workplace. For example, Peter Parker gets his first job at the Daily Bugle when he’s 16, which feels plausible (even though it probably isn’t).

    UPDATE: In the latest Spiderman cartoon, he gets an internship as Dr. Connors’ lab assistant.

  5. Ragged Boyon 18 Feb 2009 at 8:12 am

    Well, if Adrian’s career takes off, I suspect it would be difficult to be an actor and a superhero, but then again actors do have a little leeway.

  6. Stefan the Nuclear Manon 18 Feb 2009 at 8:58 am

    I think that for the purposes of characterisation you could give a character a job that conflicts with his personality. For example you could have a character with a boring desk job. By night, however, he is a brutal street vigilante or something and beats on criminals partly because of his suppressed anger or violent tendencies.

  7. Anonymouson 28 Feb 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Alright, here’s my basic concept. Superhumans have existed in my setting for quite some time, and they are generally regarded by the public as punks or criminals. My character is a detective who was chosen to help solve superhuman crimes, and one morning, he finds he has gained a mutation, he has turned into what is essentially a human alligator, complete with green skin, scales, and a prehensile tail. So in addition to solving a metahuman crime (is this okay?), he has to deal with the prejudice of being a superhuman in an intolerant society. Does this sound okay? I think there might be a possibility that the superhuman criminal he is chasing is not actually a superhuman at all, and he committed his murders in a well-planned mundane manner but made it look like it was superhuman who did it. Oh, and by the way, anyone who wears a costume and mask in my setting is institutionalized by now. :)

  8. B. Macon 28 Feb 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Hmm. Here are some observations and suggestions.

    1. It might be a little bit contrived if a detective who is on the superhuman crimes squad randomly becomes a alligator-man. From a plot perspective, it would probably be stronger if he got turned into a metahuman by one of the criminals he’s investigating. For example, the criminal is angry that humans hate him, so he strikes out at the city’s superhuman-crimes detectives by turning him into a freaky alligator thing. I think it’s a novel attempt at revenge. Magneto had a similar goal in the first X-Men movie, but I think it’d feel fresh here because Magneto wasn’t actually successful and your story would be able to look at the actual effects of the attack.

    Alternately, maybe the transformation is related to his job, but not the fault of a criminal. For example, maybe he rushes into a mad scientist’s lab and slips into one of the vats because he’s careless (or because he’s rushing to save a hostage, if you’d like him to seem more sympathetic).

    However, I think it would help to explain what caused the transformation. A few transformation books don’t explain the underlying cause (like Kafka’s Metamorphosis), but I think it would probably feel more contrived to try that here.

    2. If the criminal is actually just a regular criminal, what’s his motive to make it seem like he was a superhuman? Making himself out to be a superhuman guarantees that these special detectives (who are trained to deal with superpowered criminals) will take the case instead of some random cops off the street. If I had a choice, I’d rather take my odds with the regular cops.

    3. What’s the hero’s personality like?

    4. What’s the main antagonist’s goal?

  9. Anonymouson 28 Feb 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Well, basically what I was going for is to describe his own reaction to becoming a superhuman, when he’s spent so much time fighting against them. He kind of becomes what he fights against. But for the bit about the regular criminal, I am thinking he’s going to have an insane prejudice against superhumans, and his motive to impersonate them is to lower society’s idea of what metahumans are, and what they stand for. I was actually thinking of something along the lines of the Metamorphosis, he doesn’t understand why he’s changed into such a creature. His personality, for the most part, is a bit of a loner. He’s rather blunt, and not good at expressing his feelings or anything like that. His personality is kind of based off of the alligator totem, I always found that interesting. I guess I’m kind of working on what causes these latent powers and mutations for now.

  10. Jacobon 01 Mar 2009 at 2:48 am

    Will he be relatable after the transformation? I think that will be really central to whether the character is likable or not.

  11. Dforceon 13 Mar 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I have a query to complement this article… maybe…

    What would be some common jobs that would allow (or force more likely) for parents to leave their teenagers unattended for lengthy spells, if not most of the time (to allow for superheroness with little parent supervision… oversight… with parents not watching, lol)?

  12. B. Macon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:26 pm

    If you want the teens left alone most of the time, it’d probably be best if the parents both had day-jobs. Ideally, jobs that involved a heavy commute and/or a strong emergency component. For example, if Mom’s a paramedic and Dad’s a firefighter, they might get called out because someone’s threatening to throw himself off a building or a supervillain tears into a bank. Hmm… it might be really awkward if the teen superhero responded to a situation that his parents were also handling.

    Or you could just give the parents office-jobs with a long commute. That’s fine if you want the parents to be mostly non-factors in the story. If you’d like them to be slightly more present, I’d recommend giving them a job closer to home. That would raise the likelihood that they notice that their kids tend to get home pretty late.

  13. Dforceon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Hmm…

    I really like the idea of having the kid and the parent answer to the same distress call– but I don’t see me making the parent the cop (too obvious, no?).

    At the risk of annoyance– What are my moves on the Geko story (alien girl)? Are you writing something or am I supposed to give more detail? Just wondered.

  14. B. Macon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Ah, I thought so too! After I originally wrote my comment, I edited “cop” into “firefighter.”

  15. Dforceon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:36 pm

    lol,

    I suppose FBI agent is also less credible– But what about an insurance agent (one that goes to the scene)?

  16. B. Macon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Hmm. I’m trying to find the Geko story but I can’t. Where is it?

  17. Dforceon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:40 pm

    The Geko story is on the The Beginner’s Guide to 30 Comic Book Companies.

  18. B. Macon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Hmm. I’m not sure about insurance agent. First, I don’t think that they’d actually be called to an emergency as it was happening. Second, I don’t think it’s as easy to understand what an insurance agent does as, say, a firefighter or FBI agent. Third, if you want to create some tension between the kid and the parents, it will probably help if the parent actually has some authority. When a cop or paramedic tells someone not to get involved in an emergency situation, they have some moral (and legal) authority that an insurance agent probably doesn’t.

    For a more intellectual, white-collar feel, you could try a police psychiatrist or hostage negotiator.

  19. Dforceon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Police psychiatrist that takes an interest on the superhero, profiles and such– and then figures out its the son! (Hmm?).

  20. B. Macon 13 Mar 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Hah, I like that.

  21. Dforceon 13 Mar 2009 at 10:09 pm

    You do? Sweet. I’m feeling it’s the mother who discovers this (if my heroes have parents as factors, it will probably just be a mother… maybe a father. Maybe.

  22. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 5:48 am

    Hmm. Isaac’s parents don’t feature in the story much, but I want them to become larger factors later on. His mum is a secretary and his dad is a greengrocer, but I’m going to edit it to something more prominent in the story. His dad will probably be a lawyer by the end of the final draft.

    I was thinking he could have access to a database of injuries the Guardian has suffered and slowly match them up to Isaac’s various cuts and bruises. He figures it out as his son’s excuses get more bizarre (“I fell on a fence”, “I tripped and my arm went through a window”, “It was an accident in the science lab at school”, “I don’t know how this barbed wire got lodged in my arm, I just looked down and there it was”). I was also thinking that he totally ban Isaac from doing any superheroism because of the dangers. When Isaac’s mother finds out that he’s the Guardian, she goes nuts at how her husband and son kept it from her for so long.

    What do you think? Thanks!

  23. B. Macon 14 Mar 2009 at 5:59 am

    Hmm. Whovian, I’d recommend that the father be something like an insurance agent. That will give you more flexibility to describe how he sees through his son’s attempts to deceive him. (After all, his main job would be to thwart insurance fraud). Alternately, if you’d like him to be a lawyer, I’d recommend something like a district attorney because that would still give him the investigating mindset. (It would also explain why he has access to something like a record of known injuries to the Guardian).

    However, I would not recommend relying too much on a database of injuries. That would raise questions like “why is his father interested enough to check through the database? Who has put together this database and why?” I’d recommend tweaking this a little. For example, the morning news is covering one of the Guardian’s fights and the Guardian takes a nasty gash on the back that extends all the way to the edge of the neck. That morning, he sees that Isaac got a cut on his neck. Then he’ll want to see if his son has the cut on his back as well…

  24. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 6:04 am

    Okay, thanks! I’ll start editing straight away.

  25. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 6:56 am

    I just had another thought: what if Isaac’s dad were a journalist? He could be one of the contributors to the database, and Isaac could have many embarrassing run-ins with him.

    (Isaac – in his Guardian outfit – runs around a corner, practically bowls his father over)

    Isaac: Whoops, sorry Da- Uh, sorry.

    Dad: Can I ask you a few questions?

    Isaac: Sorry, I can’t stick around. You know what Mum’s li- Uh, I have to get home to my wife and 2.5 kids.

    Dad (suspicious): How old are you?

    Isaac (running away): Old enough!

    I could involve the father a lot more by having Isaac visit him at work or having him at some of the more important fights between Isaac and Cable. If he were to figure out that his dad was getting suspicious, he could get Tristram to come from the US and be the Guardian for a day while Isaac hung around his dad. After all, the Guardian couldn’t possibly be in two places at once. ;)

  26. Tomon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:10 am

    I assume that particular scene was just an example, because it was kinda lame. But I like the journalist idea. And then Isaac decides to cash in on the Guardian by taking pictures of him for the newspaper his dad wor-wait…

  27. B. Macon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:16 am

    Unless his dad is under an unusual amount of pressure to find out the Guardian’s identity, I think it will feel lackluster as soon as he finds out the truth. If his newspaper treats this as just another story, his father can just pretend to his employer that he’s just not having any luck with that story and it’ll blow over. In contrast, if this is the story of the decade, then the newspaper might say something like “give us a name or get a new job.” Then Isaac and he might have to come up with some sort of plan to save the father’s job. For example, if they know the alternate identity of the supervillain, they might be able to plausibly say that he is the Guardian. After all, he seems to be mysteriously missing whenever the Guardian shows up. (Because the Guardian shows up to fight him!)

    This is not ethical journalism, of course, but as long as the only victim is the supervillain, I think readers will easily pass it off as a father protecting his child. (If you want to get nitty-gritty, you could claim that the public would also be victimized by the lie, but few readers will go down that path).

  28. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:17 am

    Yeah, it was just an example. If I were to put something like that in, it would be far better written and the situation would be more awkward for Isaac. What if he were to drop his house keys with the address on the tag? That would be a total giveaway. No way talking out of that!

  29. B. Macon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:19 am

    If he can’t talk out of that, he isn’t trying hard enough. If the Guardian is present when the dad notices the keys, the Guardian can say that someone dropped those keys and the Guardian picked them up with the intention of bringing them to the address listed. He should bristle at the imagined insinuation that he’s a thief.

    If the father confronts Isaac with something like “why did the Guardian have your keys?”, then Isaac can say something like he got robbed and didn’t want to tell his father because it would reveal that he was sort of a wuss. He can surmise that the Guardian picked up the keys later because he is obviously investigating a ring of thieves. Duh.

    Alternately, if Isaac gets desperate he can admit that he knows that the Guardian is a student at his school. That’d probably lead the father to investigate further, so I’d be careful with that one. You wouldn’t want to pace it too quickly.

  30. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:28 am

    Yeah, you’re right. I wouldn’t be able to, though. I can talk myself out of detentions but I find it hard to lie on the spot.

  31. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:31 am

    I have a lot of trouble with pacing. I need to practice more often until I get it right.

  32. B. Macon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:35 am

    If the father is a real investigator (like a journalist or something), he’d probably pick up on some flaw in the story. For example, it seems way too contrived that the Guardian would just happen to have the keys to the house where the journalist works.
    JOURNALIST: I’m worried. The Guardian has my keys because he’s trying to break into my house, either to silence me or force me off the story. God knows he’s resolved all of his other problems with violence.
    ISAAC: That’s ridiculous! If he wanted to hurt you, he probably would have done it when you were driving home. He probably has the keys because he wants to meet you to discuss the article. Maybe he’s looking for assistance?
    JOURNALIST: You don’t have to have my keys to get in contact with me.
    ISAAC: Wouldn’t it look weird if the Guardian were just standing out on the curb waiting for one of us to get the door? It’d be dangerous both for us and him.

  33. Tomon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:38 am

    lol, you’re pretty much just making an entire chapter here.

  34. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:42 am

    Yeah, but since the Guardian popped up, a lot of people wear black hoodies. That’s the beauty of a casual-looking costume – no one can tell you’re wearing it! Haha.

  35. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:43 am

    I think it’d make a whole arc, not just one chapter. Haha.

  36. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:44 am

    Oh, I keep forgetting to say what his dad’s name is. It’s Reiji.

  37. Ragged Boyon 14 Mar 2009 at 7:51 am

    Lying on the spot is so easy. You have to think of it as improvisation though, then you won’t fel as bad. Do you know how many times I’ve had to “watch my little brother.”

    Adrian doesn’t know his father. As of now Adrian’s mother is a stripper/lady-of-the-night, this gives him alot of time away from home without notice. I may change her job, but whatever it is I want it to be something bad and something associated with living in the hood. His mothers main profession is one of the major reasons Adrian decided to be different from the people around him.

    I was also going to use her profession as a major spark between Eric and Adrian. “Your mom’s a hoe!,” Adrian then attacked Eric.

  38. B. Macon 14 Mar 2009 at 9:16 am

    Working a hot dog vendor on the corner might also work if an editor would like you to tone down the work for a PG-13 audience.

  39. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 30 Mar 2009 at 5:33 am

    I just had another thought. I may or may not use it.

    Reiji writes about the whole Guardian-with-keys incident for an article, discussing the effect he had on the teens and saying that he is a bad influence. Parents read it and agree that their kids are showing behaviours that emulate him, putting themselves in danger. They form a group, Parents Against Superheroes. (A running joke could be that whenever the group refers to themselves by their acronym – PASH – the kids start laughing and the adults don’t know what’s so funny)*. The teens form a similar group in favour of superheroes and have secret meetings and sign language to communicate in public, in a way similar to the Christians in Rome communicated with the Jesus fish symbol.

    What do you think? Thanks!

    * “Pash” is an Aussie slang term for a French kiss.

  40. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:26 am

    I need help coming up with an acronym for the teen’s group, perhaps something like HUG. Haha.

  41. B. Macon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:42 am

    Ok, but why do the teens need to go underground? Are teens really that afraid of irritating their parents? Isn’t that pretty much the point of being a teen? ;-)

    Here’s another approach you could consider. People (and teens especially, I’d say) are afraid of sticking up to their peers. If most teens felt really strongly that the Guardian was up to no good, then it would make sense that his supporters might go underground. I mean, umm, my brother got death threats for writing opinion pieces for his college’s newspaper. If people will give out death threats about topics that are not particularly important or visible, I suspect they’d react even more strongly when the topic is something as big as the superhero that’s on the news every night.

  42. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Mar 2009 at 3:36 am

    Okay, thanks!

    I don’t think most teens would feel that he was up to no good, but they could be pressured by their parents not to be so strongly supportive of him.

    Most of the members would be severely punished if their parents knew what was going on, so going underground would be an attractive option.

    Holy hell. He got death threats for an article? That’s really stupid. I hope whoever sent them got caught, because that’s just freaking ridiculous.

    I just thought up a scene where the PASH acronym could be used for comedy.

    SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: There will be a PASH meeting here at the school tonight, and I am aware that many parents will be attending. I encourage you to do the same.

    STUDENTS: (Start laughing like crazy)

    TEEN 1: Ew, the images!

    PRINCIPAL: What? What’s so funny about PASH?

    STUDENTS: (Some fall out of chairs)

    PRINCIPAL: Be quiet! PASH is very important!

    TEEN 2: (Runs out of room) I gotta pee!

    Haha. I know my school would be laughing their butts off at something like that.

  43. Marissaon 31 Mar 2009 at 3:39 am

    A warning, though: I didn’t know what ‘pash’ meant until you told me, so I’m not sure how many people are going to understand it.

    Otherwise, I found that snippet to be pretty funny. =D

  44. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Mar 2009 at 4:37 am

    I’ll have Isaac explain it.

    REIJI: There’s now an anti-superhero group: Parents Against Superheroes, PASH for short.

    ISAAC (narrating): I managed to suppress a laugh. He was totally unaware that “pash” was teen slang for a French kiss.

    Haha, thanks. :)

  45. B. Macon 31 Mar 2009 at 5:04 am

    I don’t think that explaining it in-story is really effective. This sort of comedy pretty much needs the target reader to get the joke on his own*. So I suspect that this joke is sort of limited to Australian teens.

    *However, you can explain it to publishing professionals and reviewers so that they understand how the passage will work for the target audience.

  46. Limaon 03 Apr 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I like the idea of having a criminal career. It could be used to tie a character to the world he fights against, it gives the character a host of skills, and it allows for an interesting hero (how would you justify committing crimes in order to combat them?).

    Something that just struck me… has there ever been a homeless superhero? It may sound dumb but…

  47. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Apr 2009 at 1:07 am

    In the movie Hancock, the titular hero lived on the streets.

  48. Ragged Boyon 04 Apr 2009 at 7:51 am

    A main character in one of my other stories is technically homeless. But the field is still mostly untouched.

  49. B. Macon 04 Apr 2009 at 7:53 am

    Lima, what would you get out of making the hero a homeless guy in his spare time? I’m not sure how easy it would be to make his homeless persona part of the story.

  50. Dforceon 05 Apr 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I was not sure where else to post this, so I’ll aks it here:

    How crucial is it that there be a “go-getter” journalist out to find out the hero’s secret identity? Does one just need to touch on it as a Big Story that some people may be after or is it a must to chronicle the adventures of “Go-Getter” in a plot B scenario?

  51. B. Macon 06 Apr 2009 at 3:57 am

    Well, if the hero’s secret identity is a major focal point of the story, you kind of need someone trying to out him. If no one’s out there looking for the secret identity, it won’t be very hard or dramatic for the hero to protect his secret. Typically, stories use a journalist as the main investigator. That’s fine, but it’s not your only option. For example, JJ Jameson once ran a contest offering a million dollars to the first person to out Spiderman. That moved the focus from the Daily Bugle to the lay people competing for the prize.

    Alternately, you could try using the villain as the main investigator, but it’s generally less interesting for a hero to protect his identity from a villain than from a journalist or someone random on the street. Against a villain, the hero can use violence and otherwise break the law; against a journalist, the hero doesn’t really have the option of force or coercion. He has to devise a more clever strategy. Clever and savvy heroes are generally more impressive and interesting.

  52. Dforceon 06 Apr 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you, B. Mac.

  53. Anonymous-Manon 24 May 2009 at 7:11 am

    Sorry Whovian but Hancock lived in a mobile home on a mountain or something. I think he was just passed out on a bench at the start of the film

  54. Chevalieron 15 Jun 2009 at 3:04 pm

    D-Man A.K.A. Demolition Man spent some time as a homeless superhero. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Man

  55. B. Macon 18 Jun 2009 at 6:47 am

    Hmm. I think that it sounds a lot like a quasi-police position, conceptually similar to Yu-Yu Hakusho (spirit detective) or Jake Long (magical guardian) or the Temps Aeternalis (time police, from Umbrella Academy).

    I’d recommend coming up with a smoother name than “dimension cop,” though. For example, Star Trek used Starfleet rather than “space cop.”

  56. NewAgeZombion 21 Oct 2009 at 11:25 am

    One of the heroes I’m writing, James, is a pest control guy. Y’know, the sort that deals with termite to snakes to possums and everything in between.

    Phyllis, the main character, is a student, with no part-time job or anything. However, seeing this made me remember that I have to write some stuff about her parents. A lot of her psychological state has to do with her being alone waaay too much as a kid, so her parents’ jobs have to tie into that. What do you suggest?

    The remaining member of the team doesn’t have a day job because of being found in a deathlike state before becoming a hero. The result was that Amber is thought to be dead by everyone but her two teammates.

    The end of this conversation:
    “Isaac: Whoops, sorry Da- Uh, sorry.

    Dad: Can I ask you a few questions?

    Isaac: Sorry, I can’t stick around. You know what Mum’s li- Uh, I have to get home to my wife and 2.5 kids.

    Dad (suspicious): How old are you?

    Isaac (running away): Old enough!”

    sort of reminds me of of an excange between Static and Mr. Hawkins on one episode of Static Shock. I know, off topic, but I just felt like I had to say it.

  57. Swapnil Siddharthon 22 Oct 2009 at 2:24 am

    Thanks for the post.
    My novel is based on technology (computer, amazing gadgets & devices ). Please tell me what should be the job of the protagonist.
    Can I make my protagonist a software engineer ?

  58. B. Macon 22 Oct 2009 at 3:35 am

    I think a software engineer would work, but I wouldn’t recommend delving too much into the details of what he does. With a journalist, the details of how he pumps a source for information or looks for damning evidence are really interesting and show us a lot about the character. In contrast, the details of software engineering are kind of hard for laymen to get into…

  59. ???on 31 Dec 2009 at 12:44 am

    Why not make a teenage hero a bike courier?

  60. B. Macon 31 Dec 2009 at 1:46 am

    I think it’s a bit cliche and, aside from a setup like Infamous where the hero has been chosen to move some massively important item, I think it’d be hard to work into the plot. (At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the setup of Infamous. I’ve never played it).

  61. ???on 31 Dec 2009 at 9:14 pm

    You just have to know how to work an angle.
    As a courier a character has a reason to be virtually anywhere. Your hero rescued someone from a burning building, his alter-ego could say he was making a near-by delivery. You just need to know how to work it.

  62. Beccaon 01 Jan 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I think bike couriers are a little less universal than other jobs, too. I mean, I’ve never heard of someone actually being a bike courier. Never seen that kind of thing here. A different job would be easier for everybody to buy.

  63. ShardReaperon 02 Jan 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I think bike couriers went the way of the dodo when UPS and FedEx entered the game.

  64. B. Macon 02 Jan 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Mailman-as-superhero. Now THAT would be unexpected… ;-)

  65. ShardReaperon 02 Jan 2010 at 7:37 pm

    That would be cool! If I had a name for that hero, I’d put it down. Maybe the Deliveryman of Justice?

  66. ???on 02 Jan 2010 at 11:14 pm

    People still use bike couriers. Hell, every year there’s a competition in New York that hundreds of bike couriers compete in.

  67. B. Macon 03 Jan 2010 at 12:03 am

    Or the Postmaster Generalisimo, if he’s a villain.

    Incidentally, there was once a minor Daredevil villain named the Surgeon General. About as awful as you’d imagine.

  68. B. Macon 03 Jan 2010 at 12:30 am

    Personally, I’d sort of recommend against bike couriers. I suspect it’d have limited plot applicability. But if you’re really into it (and it sounds like you are) then go for it.

  69. Red Rocketon 13 Aug 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Taking a different spin on the journalist approach, what if Aaron/ Sentinel is a reporter for some tabloid magazine, like the ones that are full of junk that you see in the check-out isles? He still has the liberty of the investigation, but the magazine is looked down on by the big time newspaper that dominates the town and he has to compete for the scoop with another reporter and company. All the stuff about UFOs and Bigfoot affect the credibility of the magazine, but something like a superhero would fit in just fine there, and the fact that he’s a real superhero might help the reputation of the magazine. (P.S. the magazine is owned by his uncle, and that’s why he has a reporter job as just a teenager)

  70. B. McKenzieon 13 Aug 2012 at 6:04 pm

    “He still has the liberty of the investigation, but the magazine is looked down on by the big time newspaper that dominates the town and he has to compete for the scoop with another reporter and company. All the stuff about UFOs and Bigfoot affect the credibility of the magazine, but something like a superhero would fit in just fine there, and the fact that he’s a real superhero might help the reputation of the magazine. (P.S. the magazine is owned by his uncle, and that’s why he has a reporter job as just a teenager).”

    Some thoughts:

    –”something like a superhero would fit in just fine there, and the fact that he’s a real superhero might help the reputation of the magazine.” They know he’s a real superhero? So why does he choose to work with a tabloid rather than a real newspaper? (This could be an unusual decision–is there something he likes better about the tabloid?)

    –It might be more interesting if he gets his journalist job because of an unusual achievement rather than because his uncle runs the place. His relationship with the company would also probably be more interesting if the owner isn’t family (e.g. it’d be easier to hold him accountable for anything that might go wrong). Also, I imagine the tabloid would be more receptive to teenagers without journalistic credentials than a prestigious newspaper would be.

  71. Red Rocketon 15 Aug 2012 at 8:24 pm

    No, they’re reporting on a superhero that everybody already knows is real, so that might give some credibility to the other reports and articles that they run in the magazine.

    For the unusual achievement, what if he gets turned down by the real newspaper and so he writes an article about the hero that’s especially good for the tabloid (since he is the hero) and they hire him. They like his story and the fact that he dislikes the big newspaper for giving his spot to a guy obviously unfit for the job (in Aaron’s eyes) who he thinks got in purely on charm and the fact that he’s older.

  72. B. McKenzieon 15 Aug 2012 at 9:14 pm

    “They like his story and the fact that he dislikes the big newspaper for giving his spot to a guy obviously unfit for the job (in Aaron’s eyes) who he thinks got in purely on charm and the fact that he’s older.” I like this. I think you have a lot of potential for conflict between the two reporters. Also, I think a lot of people (especially relatively young people) can probably relate to that experience.



    You could also do superhero vs. tabloid conflict–the tabloid might want to cover the superhero in a more sensationalistic way than the superhero/journalist is ready for.

  73. Red Rocketon 16 Aug 2012 at 7:18 am

    Yeah, I like that superhero/tabloid conflict. He is a quiet guy by nature, so Aaron probably wouldn’t be used to-or want-the attention.

    Also, it could create a lot of conflict between both the tabloid and the rival reporter at the same time when he misses the scoop on the hero because he’s busy being the hero.

  74. Remi Lebouneon 05 Jan 2013 at 10:09 am

    Would criminal be a good day job???

  75. B. McKenzieon 05 Jan 2013 at 11:13 am

    Part 2 covers criminals, Remi.

  76. J. M. Maxwellon 04 Apr 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Originally, I’d considered making a superheroine-in-the-works of mine a teacher. However, due to Part 2 of this article, I decided against it, due to the needed devotion to faculty and the cirriculum. I later researched and found out a bit more about a pending codename for her.

    Her codename-to-be, Bastet, is of course inspired by the Egyptian goddess Bast. Apparently, festivals in honor of Bast involved music, singing, dancing, and a lot of wine. Very party-going. As such, I was thinking of having her be in an indie band. As a day job, I was also pondering something tomboyish… maybe auto mechanic? So, overall, I’m wondering if having a mechanic day job, a band-related hobby, and being a superhero could mesh together.

  77. Jade D.on 31 May 2013 at 10:42 pm

    I am writing a comic about a physic superhero who is an accountant for a mid-sized hardware store (or something similar) I wanted to know how to make that interesting, or if it won’t work I’ll think of something else.

  78. B. McKenzieon 01 Jun 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Jade, if the character’s an accountant for something fairly low-stakes (e.g. a hardware store), I think it could work in the background, but wouldn’t recommend doing very much with his day job — for example, if you’ve seen The Incredibles, we see maybe 5 minutes of Bob working on insurance claims, and it ties in effectively to his unhappy home life (which is very interesting).

    The Incredibles also had a highly interesting conflict on the day job between Bob and his boss, which did actually create substantial problems for Bob. If you do more than one scene with his job as an accountant, I’d recommend having some sort of on-the-job conflict, preferably something which ties back into the central plot in some way.

    If I could use my own story, The Taxman Must Die, as another example, I’m working with a main character that is an accountant (for the IRS) who gets transferred to a super-agency vaguely similar to SHIELD. In this case, I think his work as an accountant is higher-stakes and ties into the main plot (e.g. solving cases and catching villains)… the most dangerous supervillains are too careful to be caught just by a superhero blindly going on patrol, hoping for a lucky break.

    The main conflict at his job is between the accountant and his partner (a mutant commando), which ties back into the accountant being the only vaguely ordinary person at the agency.

  79. Clarisseon 23 Jun 2013 at 5:09 pm

    hey, i have a college female superhero, who as a child her mom was a scientist and her dad was a commander in the military. This girl name is Alex, alter-ego:compassionate and aggressive if you touch or get on her nerves (since she gorgeous).
    Alex is good with vehicles and weapons.
    I can’t decide what type of job or part-time she should have.
    And there’s more of her then this I just didn’t write it all.

  80. Isabellaon 14 Sep 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Clarisse, I would really need to leant more about your character. What you have really isn’t much of a help

    But I have a question of my own: how about waitress? It could lead to some conflict with other workers, and I think that since there are quite a few people in a restaurant, if my character chooses her allies correctly, she could be able to leave work to do whatever she needs to do while another waitress makes up a story about why my hero didn’t show up to work.

  81. Yuukion 20 Jan 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Actually, a job that might be unique, but is still constraint of familiarity, is someone doing forensic photography. This field is a form of photography, specifically, how individuals document crime scenes with the use of photos.

    The article above it seems like the major theme with most heroes’ occupation is enable them to be proactive. That said, this is very much similar to a normal photographer, but also carries added responsibilities, considering these photos are main pieces of evidence.

    The reason why I ask is because the possible revision for my draft will most likely have the protagonist, be a forensic photographer.

    All in all, how is that as an idea?

    P.S: Sorry if this is off topic. The character I am fiddling with will have force-field manipulation. That said, would it be plausible if he could utilize his abilities, to project a field around his eyes that is capable of blocking some specific spectrum of light?

    The reason why I ask, is suppose he is examining photos from a scene, and is unable to find anything, he can utilize this as a means to properly identify something hidden from most eyes, natural and technological.

  82. B. McKenzieon 20 Jan 2014 at 5:39 pm

    “My draft will most likely have the protagonist be a forensic photographer.” That strikes me as workable, maybe even promising. I think the connection to crime will make it really easy to tie his day job into the central plot. As for using the forcefields to somehow increase his crime-solving skills, I’d recommend just making him naturally very good (or even incredibly good) at his job rather than using his superpowers to make him very good at his job. If he’s very good at his job, it’s believable he will notice things that 10 other people might have missed.

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