Jul 20 2011

Question Roundup (starting a superhero story, the biggest superhero flop ever and more)

Published by at 8:00 am under Reader Questions

How do most superhero stories start?  Usually shortly before a major event shakes up the main character’s life.  Some common examples:

  • The main character(s) get superpowers and decide to become superheroes.
  • Alternately, perhaps the main character has had superpowers for some time, but the major event in the introduction is that he/she joins a team of superheroes.
  • Perhaps the beginning focuses on how the main characters met each other and/or formed a team of superheroes.
  • If the team is already well-established when the story starts, perhaps the story opens with an exciting new case, preferably one different and more serious than the ones the characters are used to.

Please note: Just because these are the most common ways to start a superhero story does not mean they are necessarily the best!  Feel free to experiment with whatever works for your story.


How much did Green Lantern flop?  It was arguably the biggest box-office flop ever. Worldwide, it grossed only $145 million after five weeks against a total budget of $300 million (production and marketing).  Currently, that gap of $155 million is the biggest in box office history.  Before Green Lantern, the worst disasters were The Alamo, Sahara and Pluto Nash, which came in around $110-120 million short.  When you factor in that the studios split about half of the ticket sales with the theatres, Warner Bros. might end up losing more than $200 million on GL unless it does surprisingly well in DVD sales and other incidental revenues.


Where do hipsters come from?  The demonic union of hippies and gangsters, of course.


Financial help for comic book writers – If you’re self-publishing (which I don’t recommend unless you’ve been professionally published before), you can apply for a grant from the Xeric Foundation to help subsidize your print run. The next deadline for submissions is September 30. If you’re a college student working on something of a relatively literary nature, you might be able to look for funding on-campus.  (In my experience, well-endowed private universities tend to be better-equipped there).


Why do little boys like to read superhero comic books?  Actually, the main audience for superhero comic books is  men ~18-30.   Kids usually don’t have access to many comic books unless a parent is willing to pay for them, which is pretty rare.  I think a better question is “Why do little boys like to watch superhero cartoons and movies?”

  • The protagonists do incredible and exciting things.  That’s a huge plus for most boys, maybe even a requirement.
  • Cartoon shows for kids have to keep the violence pretty tame.  Shows for boys pretty much need exciting action, but network censors probably won’t let you do many serious injuries, killings or bloodshed.  Superheroes have an easier time threading that needle because it doesn’t hinge on guns or swords.
  • Compared to other incredible-and-exciting premises, superhero shows have a greater opportunity to be relatable.  Many cartoon superheroes are teenagers or kids working in modern cities and dealing with everyday things like school.  I think it’d be a lot harder to make, say, high fantasy, space operas, Westerns or military action as relatable.  (You could have a GI Joe character go to War College, but I don’t think it’d be the same 😉 ).
  • A caveat: Admittedly, superhero stories for kids aren’t always relatable.  Relatability helps, but I think kids will go for unrelatable stories if they are sufficiently incredible-and-exciting.  For example, I don’t think Justice League has an audience stand-in and its main recurring location was probably a space-station.  But it was a space-station with a death ray.  (Long-time readers agree: My most important advice is that you shouldn’t forget the death-ray 😉 ).
  • My impression is that boys are generally not as receptive to fantasy as girls are.  (For example, a lot of girls are into that princess stuff, but I’ve never heard of a boy dreaming of being Prince Charming).

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Question Roundup (starting a superhero story, the biggest superhero flop ever and more)”

  1. Contra Gloveon 21 Jul 2011 at 10:05 am

    I’ve never heard of a boy dreaming of being Prince Charming.

    If Prince Charming was a badass super soldier, boys would love to be him.

  2. B. Macon 21 Jul 2011 at 10:40 am

    I agree that boys tend to idolize toughness/badassery a lot more than prettiness (i.e. Prince Charming). But even if we took a tough/badass sort of character from high fantasy–like knights–I don’t feel like they’d excite most boys too much.

    And it’s not just that knights are sort of archaic. I would put ninjas and dinosaurs pretty high on my decidedly unscientific pre-tween boy interest scale.

    PS: Speaking of which, what’s the only thing more badass than a supersoldier? A ninja supersoldier. What’s the only thing more badass than a trenchcoated supercop? A trenchcoated supercop that sort of looks like a dinosaur–well, that’s what he thinks, anyway.

  3. Contra Gloveon 21 Jul 2011 at 10:51 am

    What about Extreme Dinosaurs?

    Also, has “super-soldier boyfriend” been done from the girl’s point of view?

  4. Contra Gloveon 21 Jul 2011 at 10:53 am

    I do agree, though. Ninja super-soldiers are quite badass.

  5. B. Macon 21 Jul 2011 at 11:18 am

    Becca’s working on a novel with a supercop sort-of-boyfriend where the girlfriend is the main character. I highly recommend it.

  6. Contra Gloveon 21 Jul 2011 at 11:28 am

    Don’t worry, I don’t despise my audience, so I guarantee you Alien Frontier‘s quality won’t suffer. 🙂

    By the way, you forgot to close the link tag. Your whole post is a link now.

  7. B. Macon 21 Jul 2011 at 11:29 am

    It’s a work in progress! 😀

  8. invader-mynaon 21 Jul 2011 at 11:38 am

    I already thought dinosaurs were pretty extreme. o.o

  9. Cool don 21 Jul 2011 at 11:39 am

    Hey guys, how do you link a website to a word or sentence?

  10. B. Macon 21 Jul 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Please see this article.

  11. Castilleon 24 Jul 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I got a question… did you see Captain America yet, B.Mac? I thought it was good, but have some reservations about how it will play out if they proceed with their obvious plans for franchising. I thought it was at least on par with the X-Men movie, and much better than Thor, or Green Lantern.

  12. B. Macon 24 Jul 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I’m seeing it with friends tonight. It’s gotten something like a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 25% for Green Lantern. I’m more receptive to the Captain America series (and Green Lantern, for that matter) than Thor or Hulk.

    One minor concern going in is how they handle Bucky, the kid sidekick. I think one of the more serious problems with the 1990s Batman movies was how they handled Robin as a fairly one-dimensional character (the angstball). On the other hand, Kickass had excellent writing and acting/casting for Hit Girl. I liked that they had something in mind for her besides just trying to bring in younger viewers.

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