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
After my anthology of superhero movie reviews (Avengers, Dark Knight, Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man, Catwoman and Green Lantern) gets published, I’d like to look into a follow-up edition of 4-5 more great movies and 1-2 disasters. Which of the following would help you the most? Are there any movies you’d suggest?
- A second set of superhero movies (perhaps a lineup like The Incredibles, First Class, Dark Knight Rises, Kick-Ass, and 2 disasters).
- Pixar movies–any five of their great movies (e.g. Incredibles, Up, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., WALL-E and Finding Nemo) and the disastrous Cars 2.
- Crime/cop movies (perhaps Godfather, Dirty Harry, The Untouchables, The Usual Suspects, Gigli and another disaster TBD).
- Science fiction (maybe The Matrix 1, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, District 9, Terminator 2, Avatar and Pluto Nash)
- Spy movies (perhaps Casino Royale, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Argo, The Avengers, and The Jackal)
- Something else?
We don’t have any ironclad criteria, but my publisher and I focus on these sorts of movies:
- Preferably, each movie is either a critical masterpiece or disaster. Strong opinions create interest.
- Preferably, the movie is a recent blockbuster and/or a memorable classic. The review will make more sense if many readers remember the movie well.
- Ideally, each movie offers stylistic variety compared to the other selections. In particular, I’d like to avoid doing 2+ movies from the same series in a book.
- Ideally, each work clearly fits into the category. (E.g. the Matrix isn’t clearly a superhero movie, even though it has superpowers and a dual identity between Mr. Anderson/Neo).
Shannah McGill has a character questionnaire based on character actions rather than character traits.
I would add the following situations:
- The character’s lover or trusted friend does something which raises questions of fidelity. The Incredibles, for example.
- The character’s main goal is irrevocably lost. See the first ten minutes of Up, for example.
- The character is badly failed by the legal system and/or is involved in a situation where the legal system badly fails another character. See Gone Baby Gone and The Incredibles, for example.
- The character is in a situation where his preferred approach is totally unworkable. For example, if someone like The Hulk were facing a hostage situation with multiple gunmen, running in will get a lot of civilians killed.
- A movie or reality TV series is made about the character.
- The National Enquirer publishes wild (and perhaps mostly-accurate) stories about the character.
- A disgruntled ex goes public. Bonus points if the ex was driven away by a major decision of the main character (or vice versa), rather than the ex just being generically crazy and/or vengeful.
- The character is forced to deal with two extremely urgent problems at the same time. Bonus points if he deals first with the problem that most readers wouldn’t.
- A competition begins with a much more competent rival.
- The character is abducted by Canadians and/or aliens.
- For social and/or career reasons, the character has to fake enthusiasm and/or knowledge during a high-stakes situation. (For example, the character is excited when ESPN offers him a commentating gig, but it’s an ESPN2 program on melon-tossing, synchronized shuffleboard, or soccer).
- The character sees three police cruisers parked outside of his house. Or a tank. Bonus points if his/her response is not to immediately turn around.
- The character has to offer advice in a field where he/she is extremely unqualified. For example, helping a child with homework in long-forgotten subjects or providing life advice in an area where the character has been unusually unsuccessful. “Don’t get cocky, kid.” Bonus points if the character does not immediately realize he is in over his head.
- The character faces opposition from a totally unfamiliar sphere. For example, someone like Spider-Man facing off against a super-commando or someone like Wolverine facing off against a journalist.
- A parent commits adultery. (Hat tip: CW in the comments).
- Finding out that the true enemy is someone that has been relatively close. (Hat tip: CW).
- The character is hunted by a supernatural police group. (Hat tip: CW). Alternately, perhaps the character gets involved in the supernatural equivalent of a lawsuit, a custody case, marital/family counseling, conscription/drafting, the Inquisition, a court-martial, a divorce, an election or caucus, a citizenship/immigration issue, jury duty, a neighborhood spat that starts with something random like dog droppings and gets really heated, a predatorial lender trying to collect on loans or library late fees, a strike, bounty-hunting/subpoena-serving, or the mother of all speeding tickets. (The space police and/or Bureau of Dragon Licensing can ticket me all they want, but they have to catch me first–giddyup, Smaug).
- The character needs to remove himself/herself from consideration for a promotion or assignment without damaging his/her position at the company.
- The character does not know why (and preferably has trouble figuring out why), but a really respected and/or feared person has suddenly turned on him/her in a major way. This is one way of fleshing out unforeseen consequences to the main characters’ decisions–they might antagonize characters for whatever reason (e.g. arresting one minor villain might anger superheroes working a much bigger case against an elite villain). Bonus points if the decision was intelligent when it was made.
- The character has a burning desire to accomplish a goal tragically and/or hilariously at odds with his background, like a rat dreaming of being a 4-star chef, a deaf-dumb-and-blind kid ravaging the pinball scene, or Dan “Potatoe” Quayle/”Mojo Slow Joe” Biden running for President. Bonus points if the character’s limitations are depicted in at least a semi-realistic way–the character’s triumphs and defeats will be more satisfying the more we see him/her struggle.
- The character needs to leave a company or organization without nuking bridges there, but the company is very concerned about loose ends. What does the character need to do to reassure them? Does the company put any restrictions in place (e.g. the supernatural equivalent of a non-compete clause)? Does the organization have methods other than killing and/or threatening to kill anybody that wants to leave?
- The character used to be great at something, but is declining (preferably in a long-term situation not easily undone). For example, it is exceedingly rare to see superhero stories seriously deal with aging*–For one alternative, I really like Batman Beyond’s take. (Alternately, perhaps the characters aren’t notably old, but their capabilities fade. “House of M,” for example). *99% of superheroes embody youth and stamina–it’s part of the fantasy appeal.
Examiner: “Currently no deal is in place and it is far from being a sure thing. Warner Bros. and DC have a “Justice League” script by William Beall they have sent Affleck to gauge his interest as both a director and potential star. Affleck has had a spotty acting career, including playing the Marvel hero, ‘Daredevil,’ but he has excelled as a director.”
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Marvel: “Whedon will write and direct Marvel’s The Avengers 2 as well as help develop a new live action series for Marvel Television at ABC.”
I’m working with Hyperink on an ebook of superhero movie reviews aimed at prospective writers and movie-makers. I’ll let you know more details as they become available. Thanks for your help, everybody!
Scarecrow is working on a book titled Harvest.
Plot Summary: During the height of human civilisation, a secret society, dedicated to the decoding of an ancient book, finally make a break through, and learn abilities that can only be described as magical. However, their virtually unlimited powers eventually corrupt them as they gain a lust for power and wealth, which turns them against one another. The inevitable magical war destroys human society, leaving a shattered world in its wake, governments broken, entire nations wiped off the face of the earth in the mages quest for power against each other, leading to the war being regarded by what remains of humanity as an apocalypse. A few million people are left scattered across the world, gathering together in order to survive in the ruins of the apocalyptic world. Many are normal human beings, but others have been affected by the magical fallout, gaining abilities that are superhuman, though not nearly as powerful as the mages who broke the world and led to their creation. In the midst of this post-apocalyptic world, Arc, a young man with the ability to generate and control electricity, struggles to survive….
1. Hancock’s personality and interaction with other people made for some interesting conflict. The train scene with Hancock, Ray, and the other people at the intersection is a great example of Hancock’s alienation and anti-social nature. He’s one of the few superheroes that people generally hate, as opposed to, say, Superman.
2. The mechanics of Hancock’s superpowers were very fascinating. When he kicks off the ground to propel into flight, it yanks stuff up out of the ground. His invincibility could be cliche, but was used creatively (the shaving scene was a kickass example of that). The physics behind the powers was believable. In contrast, Superman has to use special Kryptonian razor blades when he has to shave (ugh!).
3. Superheroes can commit crimes, and they can get in trouble for it. Hancock went to prison because of the way he used his powers. He had several crimes hanging over his head: aggravated assault and battery, destruction of property, reckless endangerment, and even endangering the safety of a minor (the French bully he launched into the sky). This is very refreshing—in most superhero stories where the police are antagonists, they don’t actually add significant consequences to the characters’ actions. (For example, Batman might have a chase scene or two with the police, but it rarely actually costs Batman anything).
4. Hancock’s significant other was an interesting twist, but could be confusing and contradictory. During the major fight scene with Hancock and his “wife,” she keeps screaming that she hates him, and that she’d never forgive him for what he did. What did he do? They never explain what he did, and they gave no reason for why she’d hate him. Then, in the hospital scene towards the end, she explains how he always saved her over the centuries, and how he was meant to be humanity’s hero. But didn’t you say earlier that you were faster, stronger, and smarter than him? Lady, you’re confusing me!
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