Archive for August 4th, 2010

Aug 04 2010

Foreshadowing a Villain Without Giving It Away

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.

What if the villain isn’t supposed to obviously be the villain the first time he shows up?

1. Give the villain an innocuous explanation for the villainous/unseemly behavior we see, especially early on. If I offered you $50 for something valuable, it might not be that I’m trying to rip you off: Maybe I don’t know what it’s actually worth or am too desperate to offer you the going rate.  Or let’s say that criminals are threatening to brutally murder a captured character.  A hero that calls for an immediate attack might be genuinely convinced that’s the best way to rescue the hostage.  Or maybe he’s actually hoping the hostage will get killed in the crossfire. (Maybe the hostage knows too much or otherwise poses some sort of problem–that might explain why he was captured in the first place).

2. The circumstances surrounding the objectionable behaviors are ambiguous and/or encourage us to sympathize or relate with him. For example, let’s say that the readers know (or have some reason to suspect) that your Ozymandias just killed the Comedian.  You could present it as a public service and/or retribution for something unseemly the victim was involved in (such as murdering a pregnant woman).  We don’t need to know right away that the villain actually killed the victim to cover his tracks or for any other nefarious reason.  If you’re trying to keep it a secret that the character is a villain (and not just an unsavory side-character) but the readers can predict it anyway, you probably haven’t given him enough extenuating circumstances.

3. The eventual villain’s nonheroic traits might actually make him seem more valuable as a protagonist. For example, if you have a group of heroes that actually includes the eventual villain, the heroes might respect the eventual villain as a Batman (a mostly sensible but occasionally brutal problem-solver).  Maybe his rough style makes him more competent. Maybe the protagonists are generally gullible and naïve, but he is suspicious and cunning.

4.  The heroes are also morally gray. If all of the other heroes are 100% protagonistic, the one that isn’t will stand out in a bad way.  If your goal is to keep the villain’s identity something of a secret, that’s probably counterproductive.

5. You have a more obvious antagonist as a red herring. If readers think they know who the main villain is, they won’t think as hard about undercover villains.  For example, in the Watchmen, the Soviet Union probably served as a red herring because it had a plausible reason to kill the Comedian (something of a CIA operative) and it played a prominent role as part of the nuclear standoff.

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Aug 04 2010

Demotivational Poster: Pink Batman

Batman Demotivational Poster: Pink Batsuit

As if the nipples on the Batsuit weren’t bad enough.  To be fair, though, it was the 1950s (Detective Comics #241).

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Aug 04 2010

Fake Superhero Stories on the Kindle

When I typed “superhero” in the Kindle searcher, there were a LOT of books masquerading as superhero fiction.  Publishing pro tip: if you’re republishing a book like Aesop’s Fables, The Divine Comedy, The Arabian Nights, Tarzan, Best Russian Short Stories, or Hannibal the Conqueror*,  I would highly recommend against selling such books as something they’re not.  Mismarketed sales are far more likely to result in disgruntled customers and awful reviews.

*Unless the elephants know something we don’t.

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