Jul 03 2011
1. Please make the base distinct to your superheroes or supervillains. For example, you can put in unusual touches that help develop the character(s) or team. For example, one of the secret doors into the Batcave is opened by setting a clock to the minute when Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered. Superman’s Fortress of Solitude incorporates the hero’s dead parents in a much different way (he keeps his family recordings and other mementos of Krypton there).
2. Please use the architecture and scenery to set the tone. It’s hard to get grittier and more bleak than a cave built into an almost-unpopulated Gothic mansion. In contrast, the Fortress of Solitude is much brighter and generally looks more hopeful and futuristic.
3. I’d generally recommend a headquarters appropriate to the circumstances and needs of the owner. For example, if your team will be arrested on sight, it’d make more sense to do a low-key safehouse or something else discreet rather than a downtown skyscraper.
4. It might be interesting to describe how the characters came by this particular facility, particularly if they’re not very wealthy. You can use it to establish traits of the characters. For example, in The Taxman Must Die, one of the supervillains is undercover as a crime scene investigator for a police superagency. He needs a base he can easily sneak off to without arousing much attention. Buying a building would leave a paper-trail (paper-trail + taxman = location for airstrike). This police agency maintains life-size models of several critical buildings on its training grounds. (Like the Secret Service and FBI do in real life). So, for example, agents will do a lot of counterterrorist training at models of the White House, the Capitol Building and the Sears Tower in case terrorists ever do attack these buildings. The only model building that is not used for training anymore is the World Trade Center, since the real building has since been destroyed. So the villain sets up at the model World Trade Center because it’s unused, large and not linked to him by any documentation. I think this helps establish that the villain is dangerously clever and disturbingly utilitarian.
5. If you’re doing a comic book, it might help to do something more visually interesting than a generic skyscraper. I feel like it’s been done a lot. (Mansions, too). There are so many other possibilities, like a space station with a death ray, a Starbucks in the Space Needle, a berserk Eiffel Towel with a death ray, a Broadway theater, Area 52 (“the last last line of defense”), a really unusual science lab, an alien planet, a prison cell and of course a Motel 6 (the preferred base for budding supervillains).
6. If you have a training area in the base (like the Danger Room in X-Men), please use it for something more interesting than a training montage. Alternately, if you must have a training montage, at least keep the writing lively. For example, in X-Men: First Class, the writers worked in some really funny bits about how Xavier and McCoy had trouble trusting the accuracy of Havok’s death rays (see :33-:43 here). If the training montage is just a really bad superhero becoming a pretty good superhero, it’s probably not very interesting. Show us more. For example, you could do other sorts of character development, relationship development, comedy, developing the team, foreshadowing a problem for a character(s), raising the stakes, etc.