Archive for August 10th, 2009

Aug 10 2009

How to Handle Competence on a Superhero Team

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.

It’s usually a problem when some of the characters on a team of superheroes are substantially weaker or less useful than others.  Here are some tips to avoid those problems.

1.  I recommend giving all of the teammates skills and/or powers that can be useful in a variety of situations. If a character’s skills are so limited that he doesn’t have the ability to participate, he will probably come across as useless and may attract the scorn of readers.  (I’m looking at you, Aquaman).  Additionally, if your characters have versatile skills, you won’t have to come up with goofy contrivances so that each teammate can contribute.

2.  In most cases, I would recommend keeping the characters roughly as powerful as each other. Otherwise it will be hard to come up with challenges that match one hero without being effortlessly easy or absolutely impossible for the rest of the cast.  For example, any hit hard enough to hurt Superman should kill Batman, right?  If teammates one teammate is that much more powerful than another, the writer will probably have to just pretend that Batman is actually strong enough to shrug off a punch that can break a skyscraper. That is a goofy and contrived way to try to work Batman-like characters into a Superman fight.  If you’re dead-set on a significant superpower disparity, the best solution is probably having them split up as much as possible.  Alternately, you could do fights with some weaker antagonists and some tougher ones.  The problem is that this usually relegates the weaker heroes to cleanup duty, because the most plot-central villains are usually the most dangerous and get the most face-time in battle.   (If the weaker heroes are minor characters, that might not be a problem).

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