Nov 10 2012

Tips for Writing Superhero Ensembles and Superhero Teams

1. I think the most important aspect is to develop your characters beyond one-dimensional cliches. Generally speaking, a few interesting characters will excite readers much more than many not-so-interesting characters would. Unless you’re doing children’s television, I’d recommend against a Power-Rangers-style setup where the members on a team have a single trait. For example, if your team consists of characters who have nothing going on besides a single trait/archetype (e.g. a hothead, a curious scientist, and an immature joker in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), it’s probably less promising than it could be. In contrast, Tony Stark had all of those traits and I think it both made him a deeper and more interesting character while enhancing his dramatic possibilities with other characters (especially in Avengers). For example, Tony Stark’s curiosity combines with his lack of restraint when he decides to cattle-prod Bruce Banner to see if Banner has the Hulk situation under control. Batman’s preparation and paranoia come together in Justice League when he pulls out Kryptonite against a enemy and cryptically says he had it on hand as an “insurance policy.” In contrast, I think there are only two types of scenes between Raphael the hothead and Leonardo the hardass leader (scenes where they hate each other and scenes where they don’t). There’s only so many ways you can have characters act out a single trait with each other.



2. Another problem I’ve seen occasionally is where large superhero teams cut the roles too fine. I’ve seen 3-page synopses for stories which have (say) 8+ characters and half of the characters only get a line of description along the lines of “Avatar has fire powers and defends the base” or “Gridley is incredibly intelligent and is the team’s hacker” or whatever. I would recommend making your characters more versatile than that. For example, pretty much any superhero can defend the base–if base-defense is plot-relevant, just rotate that task among the notable characters or delegate it to a faceless extra that won’t take much space, but please don’t just randomly insert a character that will take space without actually getting to be interesting (or at least develop more interesting characters).

For example, let’s say a team has a scientist, a hacker, a soldier, an explosives expert, an outdoorsman/hunter, a negotiator, and a criminal. I think the most intuitive (though not necessarily best) approach would be to merge some of the characters (e.g. a scientist/hacker, a soldier with a background in wilderness recon and explosives, and a silver-tongued criminal). However, you can mix and match pretty much any of these archetypes into more promising combinations. For example, you could have a criminal scientist, a USAF hacker, a survivalist that knows far more about bombs than he can admit to, and a negotiator that enjoys coercion and/or blackmail far too much. Or a scientist that’s fascinated by explosions, a military hostage-negotiator (or a special forces operative with really good people skills), and a frightfully competent hunter/poacher who’s been coerced by the authorities into helping them catch the antagonist, etc.  Hell, if you wanted to, you could probably combine most of all of those characters into 1-2 characters (e.g. a spy with both electronic and physical skills whose main job is tracking down a target and either convincing him to defect or eliminating him).


3. In most team stories (but not all), plot coherence comes either from a single main character (e.g. Mr. Incredible on The Incredibles) or from the team members spending most of their time together (e.g. Fantastic Four). If you have an ensemble story that isn’t about a coherent team (like Watchmen or Wild Cards), I’d recommend being especially sure to make the story feel coherent. For example, giving the characters common problems will help ensure coherence even if they aren’t constantly interacting. Come up with ways that their individual journeys affect other characters and/or create obstacles for each other. The first season of Heroes stands out there—in particular, Sylar (and secondarily the Company) created plot threads which made the story feel coherent than just 10+ superpowered people doing their own things.



4. With a larger cast of protagonists, I think satisfying protagonist-vs-protagonist conflict is necessary. Along with character development, I think that PVP conflict is the main aspect which separated great team and/or ensemble movies (e.g. Avengers and X-Men: First Class) from okay ones (X-Men 3 and probably Watchmen) and godawful ones (Batman & Robin and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). In addition to three-dimensional personalities, I’d recommend coming up with ways in which each character’s goals and actions affect and/or set back other character’s goals and actions.



5. In a story centered on a lone superhero, you may be able to find space for a forgettable action scene or two (e.g. bank robberies featuring faceless mooks doing nothing more memorable than letting the hero show off his/her powers*). Ensemble pieces generally have less margin for error here—with so many characters pushing for development, it will be more obvious if time is wasted. Incorporating unusual actions/decisions is one way to use action scenes to develop characters — for example, Captain America asks a team of assailants preparing an ambush if anyone would like to back out before they get started, whereas someone like Wolverine would have attacked first while he had some element of surprise. Spider-Man breaks off a chase to save a civilian in danger, but the Punisher probably wouldn’t.

*In contrast, the bank robbery which opens The Dark Knight did an excellent job developing the villain and unfolded in a much more interesting way than a superhero coming in and showing off his superpowers on undeveloped bank robbers.


5.1. I would highly recommend checking out how X-Men: First Class incorporated both nonaction and action scenes into a central plot which at face value is mainly about action. I’d also recommend checking out how it incorporated dialogue into action. (Many less-effective stories focus on one-liners in action dialogue, but I thought that First Class’ action dialogue was both more substantial and more entertaining).



6. As more characters are added, there’s less time and space for each character. Among other things, this tends to limit how much space there is for aspects like the origin story and complicated superpowers. In a novel centered on a lone superhero, it probably wouldn’t be an issue if you took 10 or maybe 20 pages on the origin story. In contrast, if you have 5+ characters, there just isn’t that much space for each character’s origin. One workaround is a mass origin (e.g. in X-Men, Heroes, Static Shock and TMNT, the characters all develop their superpowers from the same source, although not necessarily in the same incident). In contrast, if you spend 5-10 pages describing one character’s demonic/magical training and 5-10 pages describing another character’s powersuit and 5-10 pages describing Captain Badass’ training and so on, that’s a substantial chunk of the book that probably isn’t contributing to the main plot as much as it could. (One possible workaround: perhaps the origins relate to the main plot in some way–maybe all of the protagonists were motivated or affected in some way by the central protagonist or antagonist or perhaps the origin stories affect each other in major ways).


6.1. Instead of introducing side-characters that mainly interact with only a particular character, I’d recommend focusing on side-characters that are more versatile. For example, TMNT’s Splinter can interact with all of the turtles, whereas Fantastic Four’s Alicia Masters is 99% limited to interacting with The Thing. If you have an ensemble of 5+ main cast members, it’s probably not very practical to give each of them multiple side-characters that don’t interact with other major characters.

86 responses so far

86 Responses to “Tips for Writing Superhero Ensembles and Superhero Teams”

  1. Nayanon 10 Nov 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I think there were a few protagonist vs protagonist conflict in Watchmen. Comedian vs other members, Dr. Manhattan vs Silk Spectre 2, Rorschach vs Dr. Manhattan in the climax etc. I think the film was more than okay.

  2. Karmaon 11 Nov 2012 at 2:19 am

    Hey B.Mac,
    Why did you mention The League of Extra-ordinary Gentlemen as a God-awful movie?

    Many of my School mates like that movie.
    I would like your views on the movie. ^_^

  3. Nayanon 11 Nov 2012 at 3:48 am

    ‘LXG’ was a very ordinary film with lot of plot holes and 1D characters. I watched it only because there was an Indian actor in a major role (Naseeruddin Shah as Captain Nemo).

  4. B. McKenzieon 11 Nov 2012 at 8:19 am

    League of Extraordinary Gentlemen got 17% on Rotten Tomatoes.

    –Adding Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray was probably not helpful. The cast was already large enough to present challenges.

    –The movie did actually attempt character growth and noncombat interactions (e.g. Quatermain mentoring Tom Sawyer), but I’d recommend checking out First Class, Incredibles and Avengers for a much sharper execution. In particular, the resolution on a development arc should be less direct than “Tom Sawyer has trouble with long-range accuracy -> Tom Sawyer passively receives training from Quartermain on long-range accuracy (arguably the movie’s blandest scene?) -> Tom Sawyer hits a climactic shot he couldn’t have hit before”. Too obvious, and blandly executed. Havoc’s training scene in First Class is a similar concept (he’s not very reliable at controlling his key skill and needs training to overcome this), but the training is much more entertaining and provides better character development all around.

    –There’s very little depth to most of the characters. For example, Quatermain doesn’t really have flaws or make interesting decisions or otherwise do things which compare favorably to the protagonists of others movies. I’d recommend checking out Bob/Helen in The Incredibles, James Bond in Skyfall and Casino Royale, Tony Stark in Iron Man, Wikus van de Merwe (the main character) in District 9, and Xavier/Magneto/Mystique/Beast in First Class.

    –My suspension of disbelief fell apart when they fit a submarine through Venice’s super-narrow canals… and then had a car chase in a city without streets.

  5. acharaon 11 Nov 2012 at 10:37 am

    “6.1. Instead of introducing side-
    characters that mainly interact
    with only a particular character,
    I’d recommend focusing on side-
    characters that are more
    I briefly had this problem with my MS and superhero team. 😛 One of the characters, Leah, mainly served as a foil and morality pet for my semi-reformed supervillain, but I thought that this limited her usefulness too much. So I made her into a conman supersoldier. 😉
    B.Mac, are there certain cliches that are very predominant in superhero teams?
    For example, nearly every team I can think of has a ‘scientist’ character on them – (Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Hank McCoy, Hank Pym, sometimes Peter Parker, Dr.Manhattan etc).
    So are there certain ‘roles’ that are typically filled on a team?

  6. B. McKenzieon 11 Nov 2012 at 12:05 pm

    “B.Mac, are there certain cliches that are very predominant in superhero teams?
    For example, nearly every team I can think of has a ‘scientist’ character on them…” I would regard this as a convention rather than a cliche–it would be relatively easy to do a scientist character that was interesting. A nerdy scientist whose main flaw is a lack of social boldness is a cliche–harder to do interestingly.

    Some other conventions that come to mind:
    –Somebody skilled in stealthy situations (e.g. perhaps someone with a criminal background, a spy, a master of deception, a shapeshifter, or a quiet-and-mobile character like Batman, etc). However, as with any archetype, I think personality and distinctiveness are critical.

    –If the team uses vehicles, it would make sense if somebody on the team were really good at driving and/or flying. In most cases, I’d recommend giving this person some other role(s), though. For example, in First Class, the team pilot was also the brilliant scientist.

    –Perhaps somebody who’s unusually skilled in social situations (perhaps a Batman-style interrogator, a Holmes-style investigator, an Iago-style liar/manipulator, an agent provocateur, a police handler of criminal informants, or someone really good at cutting red tape and/or wringing assistance out of reluctant authority figures, etc).

    –If the premise involves supernatural or highly unordinary activity of some sort (e.g. aliens or magic or realistic-but-unmundane material like conflict between the team and the military), I can definitely see why the writer might choose a character personally familiar with the subject at hand (e.g. an alien, a spell-caster, an occult investigator, a demon or some other supernatural being, someone affected by magic in a very personal way, someone who’s worked with aliens very closely, someone with military experience, etc). As with every other archetype, this can stack with other archetypes. For example, a character’s role should not be limited to being The Alien–e.g. the Martian Manhunter is a technological expert, a detective, a shapeshifter, occasionally hilarious, and contributes interesting relationships with characters like The Flash. He also happens to be an alien.

    –AT LEAST one person who gets witty and/or clever lines. This person doesn’t need to be a stereotypical joker–for example, I think Batman is consistently the funniest character in the DC Universe even though he’s consistently serious. He also does a great job as a dramatic foil to pretty much every other character–it’s hard to find great lines from DC that don’t involve Batman in some way. (PS: I regard it as a red flag when a synopsis describes a character as a “joker” or “funny.” It’s so rare for these characters to actually BE funny–more often they weakly attempt to force humor which doesn’t work nearly as naturally as it does for characters like Batman and Iron Man. See also: the cinematic Green Lantern and probably the Flash [UPDATE: and MCU’s Spider-Man].

    –It’s not uncommon to have an authority figure and/or someone more sympathetic to authority. However, I’d recommend coming up with a more original angle here than giving this character a conflict with more free-spirited and/or young and/or hippie characters (e.g. the USMC’s Jon Stewart vs. Supergirl, Hal Jordan vs. Green Arrow, drill instructor types vs. recruits/trainees, Leonardo vs. Raphael, Captain Atom vs. Superman, etc). Captain America vs. Iron Man took this in a slightly less conventional direction in Avengers than Rhodes vs. Iron Man in the Iron Man series. Skyfall had an interesting take with M and Bond. Another possibility is forcing a character into a leadership role even though he/she is grossly out of place as an authority figure (e.g. Wolverine or perhaps Hellboy).

    –Somebody unusually familiar with the enemy’s operations? (Could be someone that’s had run ins or a long-standing vendetta against the antagonists, a former associate of the enemy, a former victim of the enemy, somebody that has some sort of professional or research interest in the enemy, a present or former undercover agent, someone who’s unusually connected to people that are familiar with the enemy, etc).

    –Somebody the enemy is unusually interested in, perhaps as a target or some other sort of goal for the villain? See also: The Taxman Must Die 🙂 .

  7. S.nirvanaon 11 Nov 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Mr B. McKenzie, why don’t you make reviews for some mangas like death note for exemple ! that manga is a work of a genius !!

  8. Dr. Vo Spaderon 11 Nov 2012 at 2:52 pm

    “…I think Batman is consistently the funniest character in the DC Universe…”

    Superman had a great line in the Justice League game.

    Batman: “Braniac must be behind that door.”
    Superman: “You really are the world’s greatest detective.”

  9. B. McKenzieon 11 Nov 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Sorry, but I don’t know anything about manga.

  10. Marion Harmonon 11 Nov 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Probably the best “way in” to a team story is to have the protagonist be the new guy on the team; this allows the writer to introduce everyone and explain what needs to be explained without too obviously info-dumping. Doing an origin story, then introducing the new hero to the team works very well.

    It is actually very easy to do large teams–as in Legion of Super Heroes size–if you divide them into several categories: i.e., main characters, strong secondary characters, support characters, background-color characters, etc. A classic example of this is X-Men and X-Men 2: In X-Men, Rogue (and Wolverine) were the new guys, and X-Men 2 had a mutant student-body that formed a larger “team” around the X-Men themselves.

  11. B. McKenzieon 11 Nov 2012 at 10:16 pm

    “Probably the best “way in” to a team story is to have the protagonist be the new guy on the team; this allows the writer to introduce everyone and explain what needs to be explained without too obviously info-dumping.” I agree, MH. An additional advantage here is that the new guy usually starts out with the same information as the reader does, which contributes to relatability and perhaps a more extraordinary/novel feeling than for characters that would regard the events as more routine.

    “Doing an origin story, then introducing the new hero to the team works very well.” That could work, although I think the individual origin for the main hero could be skipped (particularly in a team story) unless it does a really good job contributing something to the characterization and/or plot we wouldn’t see otherwise. (If the only thing the origin story does is explain where the superpowers came from, I think it could probably be skipped, especially in a team story–like in The Incredibles, for example).

  12. S.nirvanaon 12 Nov 2012 at 2:33 am

    Mr B. McKenzie you will understand my insistence if you just have a look a this piece of work ” Death note ” !
    I asure to you that you will be a huge fan of mangas too 😀

  13. M. Happenstanceon 12 Nov 2012 at 10:55 am

    Death Note is admittedly an interesting piece for writers, especially in terms of legitimately gripping hero vs. villain conflict that actually feels like it’s taking place between supergeniuses*. I’d review it myself if I had the time.

    * I don’t care what you’re trying to do, if I can figure out a genius supervillain’s master plan before he does, HE IS NOT A GENIUS SUPERVILLAIN.

  14. DICKY JOEon 12 Nov 2012 at 4:46 pm

    i want examples of writing it will help me with the writing man like help me

  15. B. Macon 12 Nov 2012 at 8:36 pm

    DJ, to learn from writing samples firsthand, I’d recommend a novel. That’d probably be more coherent than super-brief blog snippets. If you’re into superhero stories, I’d recommend starting with Wild Cards #1.

  16. B. Macon 12 Nov 2012 at 8:37 pm

    “Death Note is admittedly an interesting piece for writers, especially in terms of legitimately gripping hero vs. villain conflict that actually feels like it’s taking place between supergeniuses*. I’d review it myself if I had the time.” Please let me know if you’d be interested in reviewing it later.

  17. ekimmakon 14 Nov 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Yeah, my problem with my first attempt at writing was a severe lack of any character development, flaws, or really that much of any good writing. Plot wasn’t really interesting, either.

    I rewrote the whole thing, throwing in a lot more main characters, and gave everyone a much harder time than ‘here, money, go save the world.’ While I can say that it was certainly better than my first attempt, I think Extreme Team still had a few problems with it.

    From reading this, I think my problem was that I put too much thought into the characters, but not enough to connect them. Twelve characters is a handful even for a seasoned author, which I most certainly am not, and the only thing tying them together was the consequences if they failed in their “quest for justice”. Example:

    *Michael, Zach, Tacha, and Sarah could all tie their power origins back to BioTech industries.
    *Rayne, Ace, Raven, and Farley could tie their origins back through ancestry
    *Rayne, Mark, Janet, and Calvin were all mutants
    *Rayne, Raven and Farley more specifically had arcane origins (Yes, Rayne had two origins)
    *Ace, Rayne, Zach and Tacha all have (unknown) connections to the Electrical Eight
    *Mark, Janet, Zach, Sarah, and Farley all have (unknown) connections to Vainflower
    *Sarah and Rayne were friends for practically forever
    *Sarah and Farley knew each other before Farley was turned
    *Janet and Mark used to be romantically involved
    *Furthermore, those two used to be friends with Zach

    … and the list just went on. I was probably too ambitious with it, to be honest.

  18. B. McKenzieon 14 Nov 2012 at 6:20 pm

    “From reading this, I think my problem was that I put too much thought into the characters, but not enough to connect them. Twelve characters is a handful even for a seasoned author, which I most certainly am not…” While you’re right about 12+ characters being helluva challenging, I’d recommend checking out Wild Cards #1 for an example where an anthology made it work. I think the key there was getting rid of characters and/or demoting them to side-characters as soon as they were no longer needed on center-stage. Also, most of the characters weren’t on superhero teams together (it may be harder to sideline characters on the main team*).

    *Some workarounds: the character was only a temporary member (e.g. working with the team on a particular mission, but not a full-fledged member), the characters are on separate squads and don’t necessarily interact often with members of other squads, a character is killed or seriously injured and spends a lot of time recovering out of sight, etc.

  19. Aj of Earthon 15 Nov 2012 at 8:01 pm

    This article is really useful. Pow.

  20. B. McKenzieon 15 Nov 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks. Please feel free to suggest any other articles you would find useful.

  21. Derp Writeron 16 Nov 2012 at 5:38 pm

    “Probably the best “way in” to a team story is to have the protagonist be the new guy on the team; this allows the writer to introduce everyone and explain what needs to be explained without too obviously info-dumping. Doing an origin story, then introducing the new hero to the team works very well.”

    I was very relieved to read this, and even more so when B. McKenzie agreed with you.

    In my WWI story, the main character is a new machine-gunner who is adopted into the specific squad that he serves in because the story’s “badass” (Barrett, for those few who’ve read my small review area (though it should be noted that in the original and final story there are no zombies and none of the other characters involved are present except for Barrett himself) is close friends with his father and promises to take care of him during the “Last War”. He’s only even entering military service because his father believed that it would be good for his character to participate in the last war in history.

    However, this idea does seem to me to be a twist on Saving Private Ryan for some reason. though I can’t explain why. Does anyone else see it that way or is it just me?

  22. Aj of Earthon 19 Nov 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Hey B. Mac, so an article suggestion if it strikes you: It would be righteous if you covered an entire film, beginning to end. Your choice of flick obviously, though definitely from the point of view of your What makes a hero? question.

    That’s probably more than just an article, but it *would* be righteous.

  23. B. McKenzieon 20 Nov 2012 at 6:29 am

    Do you mean like a purely chronological review (i.e. covering events only as they happen in the movie)? That’d be helpful for scene-focused ideas (e.g. what the villain did effectively/ineffectively in a particular scene and/or how to improve an exchange between the villain and hero), but I think it’d be harder to look at substantial changes to the movie (e.g. how to make the conflict between the villain and the hero more interesting throughout the entire movie).

    If I could alter your idea, I think it might be interesting to do a dialogue-centric review. Among the superhero movies that I haven’t already reviewed, I think Kick-Ass and Spider-Man 1 or 2 would be really useful as examples of dialogue that is very sharp, whereas most of the dialogue in Superman Returns could have been more effective at developing the characters, advancing the plot, and interesting viewers.

  24. Aj of Earthon 20 Nov 2012 at 8:23 am

    Purely chronological, yes, but totally fleshed-out. I like the idea of cracking open an entre film, dissecting motovations beginning to end, etc. rather than choice scenes only. Like I mentioned in my review of your recent book, your perspective is relevant and you provide awesome insight. An at-length piece (instead of bite-sized) would be extremely useful, and really interesting besides.
    And I like your alteration, focusing on a more dialogue-centric approach. That’s definitely just as important as character/plot analysis. And if that’s the route you want to take, I vote Spider-Man 2.
    Dig it.

  25. Jade D.on 14 Sep 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Dear B.Mac:
    I need a little help with some characters in my team, I just have this feel that there are too many. Hear is a basic list and explanations:

    – Criminal mastermind+ team joker. Has burning rebelliousness to authority, also major show-off. Mainly in field, but also interrogation expert .

    – Goody-goody that feels like he has to prove his worth to the team, other than being good cop, social intelligence is his specialty.

    – Team leader who believes she really isn’t qualified, so she is overly emotional, which counteracts her fake, tough persona. Also awesome field solider.

    -Scientist, ironically girly-girl as well, nerd who’s major goal is popularity. Major tecky.

    -Tank, but philosophical. She keeps the conflict to a low minimum in group, but dose all the butt-kicking.

    could any of these characters be combined or made better? open to suggestions

  26. B. McKenzieon 15 Sep 2013 at 9:40 am

    I’m excited about the criminal mastermind / team joker / interrogation specialist. I can easily see how such a character could have interesting action scenes and interesting conversations both with members on his team and with outsiders.

    It sounds like the “goody-goody that feels like he has to prove his worth to the team” and the “leader who feels she isn’t really qualified” could probably be merged — it sounds like they’re both insecure, so there may be some redundancy there.

    The scientist whose major goal is popularity also sounds like she might be insecure about how many friends she has. It might help to take this in a more mature direction (e.g. a desire for recognition) to help differentiate her from the other insecure characters. It might also help if her goal could create high-stakes conflicts and/or problems. Helping stop criminals is great, but if she really cares about what other scientists think, it might bother her if most other scientists looked down on what she was doing, whereas she might have won a Nobel already if she were working for a university/laboratory/etc.

    “Tank, but philosophical… keeps the conflict to a minimum within group…” I’d definitely have to see how this is executed, but my guess is that if the character’s most notable trait is being philosophical and her main function outside of combat is calming other people down, she may not be so interesting outside of combat. My main suggestion for the character would be giving her the ability to contribute to conversation independent of other characters having their own conflicts. If you’re looking for an unusual mental combination for this character, going scientific with a tank might be easier to work with than going philosophical. (If you were interested in that route, it could either be a merging of the scientist and the tank, or perhaps the tank is scientifically competent enough to handle some scientific tasks whereas the scientist is brilliant enough to handle almost all of them — this would make it easier for the tank and scientist to have interesting scenes if they sometimes have a reason to work together).

    Interesting relationships… I can easily envision the relationship between the criminal mastermind and the team leader being interesting. The relationship between the leader and the insecure goody-goody sounds sort of workable (particularly if there’s some conflict between them — perhaps the team leader is more ethically flexible than the “goody-goody”). The scientist and tank sound like they don’t have as much to work with in terms of personality right now. A calming character might actually REDUCE dramatic/interesting events on the team, and I’m having trouble envisioning seeing how a desire for popularity might result in interesting scenes and/or interesting conflicts in a team of adults. (In contrast, it’s easier to see how the desire for popularity could result in a conflict in high school).

  27. Jade D.on 15 Sep 2013 at 10:35 am

    Originally the team was designed for a high school-drama setting, but when I actually started writing, naturally I thought the idea was tired and juvenile. Thus, I came to you to re-evaluate the team. I think for story purposes the “goody-goody” just can’t really be combined with the team leader, because she kind of a kick-ass and he is my vision of a competent C3P0. I thought of cutting him, but it didn’t turn out well, being he seems to be the only character with common sense. But I love the idea about the tank being intelligent enough to help out the scientist. Thanks :)!

    p.s. Do you have any more articles on character-combining? I just think I have too many extras with big parts.

  28. Thalamuson 20 Sep 2013 at 7:53 am

    I don’t exactly have a team in my story, but I do have a duo, and so I would like some advice on my idea about why a heroic type character and an anti-hero character (massive over-simplification of the characters, but it works for this) would work together: because they help each other to survive. The anti-hero (Ambrose Mierdan) has kept them as efficient as possible over the years, and is probably the reason the two are still alive, because he will do things that the hero (John Winters) will not allow himself to consider. John is the only reason Ambrose hasn’t become little better than their enemies, as he acts as Ambrose’s moral compass, and John is also the reason the two haven’t been taken out of the game by some of their superiors – a lot of people know and like John, and would object to his death or incapacitation in a way that they definitely would not if Ambrose were killed (and, since John’s moral principles would not allow him to abandon Ambrose, John would inevitably have to be taken down in order to get to Ambrose).
    What do people think? Is it any good? Does it have potential as an idea? Should it even come up in the story, or just be something I keep in mind while writing the characters?

  29. Blackscaron 21 Sep 2013 at 2:07 pm


    I’m no B. McKenzie, but I hope I can offer sufficient advice. Personally, I think that’s an interesting idea you’ve come up with. I think it definitely has potential, and could possibly create an interesting conflict between the two, depending on what scenario they were inserted into.
    Perhaps you could try to incorporate it into the story at some point, yes – though the timing of said incorporation depends on the sort of story you’re writing, honestly.

    I’d like to hear a bit more about your ideas; your characters seem to have an interesting dynamic. 🙂

    I hope this helped, if only slightly.


  30. Thalamuson 22 Sep 2013 at 2:33 am

    @Blackscar: Ideas, advice, and opinions are always helpful, especially when coming from an unbiased source, so thank you for reviewing the idea.
    The story I am writing is an urban fantasy set in England (primarily, or at least initially, in Gloucester), and focuses on the aftermath of the fall of what might reasonably be called the “governing body” of magic in England (it has more in similarity with a business enterprise that just happens to have the most influence over magical beings and people, though they like to play up the magical ruler aspect of it to maintain a degree of decorum, calling themselves the “Elder Court” – as in the tree, not the indicator of age) and so a lot of groups and factions are rushing in to fill the power vacuum left in its absence.
    The two main characters are forced together mostly by circumstance, as they are two of the few of the Court’s enforcers that stayed loyal, though for different reasons – John Winters did it out of his belief that without a central pillar of authority things would fall into chaos (I have explained John’s character in more detail elsewhere on the site), while Ambrose Mierdan wants to regain order in the hopes of setting up a new Court to control magic in England, with himself as a prominent figure. The two have different ideas, but compatible aims in the short term – try to regain order, and build a Court to keep that order, even though they disagree on whether that Court should be a new one, or the old one restored.

  31. Blackscaron 22 Sep 2013 at 8:32 am


    You’re welcome! I’m glad I could offer even the smallest bit of assistance!

    Ah, urban fantasy? Personally, I’ve always had a certain affinity for urban fantasy, haha. 🙂
    What event brought on the downfall of the “governing body”, then? Will you mention that in-story, or no?
    Also, I like how John and Ambrose are forced together by circumstance – it will offer plenty of opportunities for character development. Also, the fact Ambrose and John have radically different goals will contribute to some interesting protagonist-vs-protagonist conflict, though not necessarily always physical!

    I think you have an interesting premise going so far. By any chance, have you written any chapters yet?


  32. Thalamuson 22 Sep 2013 at 12:49 pm

    I have written a few chapters, yes, but I am not quite at the stage where I would be comfortable with peer review. It is a flaw that I recognise in myself that I am prone to procrastination, so I try to do a certain number of pages per week at least. I will mention what brought out the downfall of the Elder Court in-story: on a superficial level it was tension between various factions and powerful individuals, but it was definitely engineered by another group, who are still working in the background to achieve their goals. Of course, the two protagonists are also being subtly manipulated as well, though they (and the reader, hopefully) may not realise it straight away.

  33. Blackscaron 22 Sep 2013 at 7:09 pm


    That’s perfectly reasonable; I’m the same way, at times. (Though, I am just now beginning to ask others to review, haha. It takes different people different amounts of time to become comfortable with that sort of thing!)

    Subtle manipulation is always an interesting twist; I, personally, am partial to incorporating it into my own stories. If you are subtle enough, I think it might be a pleasant surprise for readers later on once the manipulation is revealed. It all depends on how you execute it, honestly!
    I don’t think you’ll have much trouble with that, though; you definitely seem capable of pulling such a thing off!


  34. Elecon 25 Sep 2013 at 4:53 am

    Thalamus, your plot summary sounds fresh and original, at least to my ears :). I wish you every success in writing it, and I hope to read some of it one day, when you get over your aversion to peer reviewing :P. It’s okay though, I’ve had to finished the entire first draft of my novel before I even thought of peer reviewing, so you’ve got plenty of time.

  35. Keziaon 16 Nov 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I was wondering if supervillain teams would be ok too. If so, here are a couple of the members of my group of antagonists.

    Asher- Goody-guy/ Corrupter- Though a generally kind, pleasant, and soft-spoken guy, he is always the first to rationalize, defend, and justify the bad guys more heinous and generally unforgivable actions and choices. Also constantly tries to take advantage of the superheroes prejudices and preconceptions about people to turn them against each other or even to bring them to his side. Minor telepathic and telekinetic powers. Excellent manipulator and strategist. Capable with firearms and close combat weapons.

    Kirsten- Techy/ pseudo-therapist- Creates and equips the team with her own inventions ranging from ray guns to pancake flippers she is also the main moneymaker of the team as many of her inventions are available in many stores nationwide, always under a front company of course. She is always there to listen to her teammates problems and will help in whatever way she can. Armed with a powered exoskeleton and some of her more “interesting” (read: horrific) weapons.

    Ingrid- Medic/ Boisterous- The first to the fight and the first to the party, she makes sure that her team is giving 110%, all the time. Her power is perhaps the strongest as it deals with regeneration and degeneration, she can either speed up her entire teams healing processes by a small amount or heal a teammate’s mortal injuries in minutes. Likewise, she can speed up the aging processes of multiple enemies or multiply an enemy’s body’s accumulated wear and tear to crippling amounts in a blink of an eye.

  36. Keziaon 17 Nov 2013 at 12:20 am

    Last member of supervillain team

    Dave- All-Out Assault/ Only Sane Person- A balanced person with a cool and calm approach to any situation, he is only a part of a supervillain team because of the corruption and infighting within superhero teams and their supervisors. Dave is the leader of this small group and ensures that his team doesn’t do anything to jeopardize or stray from the mission, which means he constantly has to contend with Asher’s constant psychological and social machinations; Kirsten’s experiments and inventions, and their massive collateral damage; and Ingrid’s substance abuse problems and deathseeker attitude. Body Horror powers forces Ingrid to maintain a degeneration effect on him whenever out of combat to counter the monstrous mutations he undergoes when Ingrid’s power is not in effect. Third lowest bodycount of the whole team after Asher and Kirsten.

  37. NatureWitchon 18 Nov 2013 at 3:30 am

    It does seem intresting, but I have to say that Ingrids power doesn’t seem to have any limitations. A teammate is dieing, BAM, now you are healed. They have an opponet that is to powerful, BAM, now it is just pile of bones. It kind of takes away the suspense. Or forces the heroes to just randomly beat ´the villains, without much explainations.

    Otherwise it do seem intresting.

  38. Keziaon 18 Nov 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks for the advice NatureWitch, you’re right I should probably nerf Ingrid or put limitations on her powers. Or give her new powers altogether, will post any changes. Thanks again. Have a good day.

  39. Grinny faceon 10 Mar 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Is it okay to have 2 characters in a team to have similar powers/roles in a fight as long as they have different personalities? Like, if 2 characters had super strength and durability and are both basically tanks but one is a party animal and the other is a quiet scientist.

  40. B. McKenzieon 10 Mar 2016 at 7:01 pm

    “Is it okay to have 2 characters in a team to have similar powers/roles in a fight as long as they have different personalities?” I think it’s probably not ideal, but not a huge problem. However, I think that merging the 2 characters into one (a scientist, a party animal and also the team tank) would probably be more memorable from both a noncombat and combat perspective. (If the best one-word summary for the scientist’s personality is “quiet,” I’d guess that he/she is probably not getting all that many great moments outside of combat).

  41. Grinny faceon 11 Mar 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Hmm… the more I think about it, maybe I should just cut out the the quite scientist tank guy because they don’t really mingle in scientific stuff and if they need any gadgets they can always just steal some from the bad guys so maybe a scientists character is kinda pointless.

    Only problem that leaves is that there’s an empty slot in the team now I think I need to fill. Cutting the scientists out, the team only has 5 members now and while I don’t have to have 6 that would be ideal. Just can’t think of a role to give to the last guy. Here’s who I have so far:

    1. The schemer – laid back mostly cool headed con woman of the group.

    2. The janitor – mostly just cleans stuff, gets drunk and is the hot head who’s assholeness always backfires.

    3. The tank – fight loving party girl.

    4. The doctor – most calm level headed guy of the bunch.

    5. The engineer – smart stressed out college kid. Not sure whether to cut her out or not.

    6. I don’t know who to put here.

    any suggestions for a role and personality for the 6th guy?

  42. B. McKenzieon 11 Mar 2016 at 11:29 pm

    “Only problem that leaves is that there’s an empty slot in the team now I think I need to fill. Cutting the scientists out, the team only has 5 members now and while I don’t have to have 6 that would be ideal.” What are you looking for from the 6th character that you’re not getting from the first five?

    I’m not very familiar with your plot (or even the genre of the work), but some possibilities for a 6th archetype that come to mind would be something to stealth, another type of criminal, a soldier/warrior, an outsider (maybe a former enemy, maybe someone with a really exotic background, or just someone who’s very different in some way), an investigator of some sort (e.g. a conspiracy nut, a detective, someone whose major goal involves figuring something out, etc), someone with a background highly specific to something in your story (e.g. unusual familiarity with the enemy, maybe a genre-specific specialty like magic/occult/supernatural/alien expertise, etc). Maybe someone who’s unusually dark or hard-bitten in some way (most obviously a badass or a noir protagonist, but less obviously someone who’s been really shaken up by what he’s done or seen or is cosmically cynical, e.g. Det. Cohle from True Detective). Also, team leaders, but that’s pretty half-assed, I think — if you do have a character like that, I’d recommend giving him/her another role and/or archetypes as well.

    “2. The janitor – mostly just cleans stuff, gets drunk and is the hot head who’s assholeness always backfires.” I hope this character is hilarious, but what else can he contribute?

  43. Grinny faceon 12 Mar 2016 at 5:45 pm

    “What are are you looking for from the 6th character that you’re not getting from the first five?” Honestly I just feel that there’s one more role that could fit this group to make it more complete, just not sure what it is yet. Already have the smart ones (engineer, doc ), the smooth talker ( scheming con woman), the tank, and the comic relief asshole (janitor). I feel like I could add one more but have no ideas who. An investigator doesn’t sound too bad though.

    As for plot and genre, just a simple action/dark comedy about a bunch of mercenaries in a dystopian city setting. They all need money for one reason or another and will try taking out mayors and babysitting crime bosses kids to get paid.

    And yeah, the janitor is there mostly to be the (hopefully) funny asshole. He’s also kinda the main character or at least most used POV character. I know that sounds like a bad idea but this story’s also a comedy so might as well make the main guy the most foul mouthed and cynical of the bunch. For example, when he’s seeing a therapist:

    Therapist : alright sir, I’ll say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Teacher.

    Janitor : Stole his car.

    Therapist : Cat.

    Janitor : Dog treat.

    Therapist : Fast food.

    Janitor : Soylent green.

  44. BMon 12 Mar 2016 at 11:25 pm

    “And yeah, the janitor is there mostly to be the (hopefully) funny asshole. He’s also kinda the main character or at least most used POV character. I know that sounds like a bad idea but this story’s also a comedy so might as well make the main guy the most foul mouthed and cynical of the bunch.” I don’t see any problems with a foul-mouthed POV, but why’s he a janitor? (Presumably that’s just his job title rather than what he actually spends most of the story doing, right? If so, I’d suggest defining his role in terms of what he actually spends most of his space on).

  45. Anonymouson 14 Apr 2016 at 11:09 am

    Hey B.mac I’ve got a group of five but I’ve got a large revolving cast of characters that come with them because I have already established them alone, any Ideas?

  46. B. McKenzieon 14 Apr 2016 at 7:46 pm

    “I’ve got a group of five but I’ve got a large revolving cast of characters that come with them because I have already established them alone, any Ideas?” Could you provide more details? E.g. what are the plotting circumstances that cause you to bring along the revolving characters? What purpose do they serve, and would it be possible to have that purpose served by either one of the main characters or a character that can be used and then moved out?

  47. Anonymouson 15 Apr 2016 at 9:11 am

    Hey B.mac
    I kind of got it figured out, I decided to leave two of the team off the rooster and leave in the other three. As for why I am using the side characters is because the way I set the heroes up in the first place they have a team arrow/flash style feel. Meaning you’ve got Tech’s and lawyer’s a small group of people the heroes find usefully and the villain is not some Loki or Doomsday style character he’s like a cross between Kingpin and Waller so the side characters come in handy. But with slight revisions I can make some of the sides able to take on the hero bill and besides the three I kept I’d already established as knowing each other.
    But if you can any more advice??? Help is always wanted.

  48. B. McKenzieon 15 Apr 2016 at 11:58 pm

    “Meaning you’ve got Techs and lawyers, a small group of people the heroes find usefully and the villain is… like a cross between Kingpin and Waller so the side characters come in handy.” Okay, that sounds workable. I’d generally suggest making the side characters less than 100% cooperative with the heroes. E.g. some thoughts on super-scientists here.

  49. Anonymouson 19 Apr 2016 at 9:09 am

    Yeah B.mac I’m trying to do just that, I realize even if a Lawyer is disillusioned he/she wont insistently sign up to help a batman style character or most any other hero. Do you by chance have any articles about the side characters.

  50. Andrewon 10 May 2016 at 3:40 am

    My hero team has 22 members. What would be an ideal way to get around them all?

  51. B. McKenzieon 10 May 2016 at 7:06 pm

    “My hero team has 22 members. What would be an ideal way to get around them all?” You’re doing a comic series, right?

    Some potential solutions:

    1) Demote many characters to situational roles rather than being present in most issues. If your story is built around a primary team, demoting many of their members should also be on the table. (E.g. If you put a gun to my head and we tried to make a 10+ man team work, I’d probably go for 1 main squad and 1-2 secondary squads, all of which would ideally have a distinct purpose and/or flavor and ideally 3-4 members.
    Some possible trios that come to mind:
    –white ops (e.g. Superman and Spider-Man), gray ops (e.g. Batman), and plausible deniability (e.g. Suicide Squad)
    –tactical precision (e.g. Black Widow and Captain America), Hulks, and noncombat/low-combat specialists.
    –careerists, reservists/part-timers, and blackmailees/criminal informants/conscripts/suspects.
    –cops, soldiers, and spies.
    –three groups that have fairly similar capabilities (e.g. because having all of your Hulks on one team may screw your other teams in heavy-combat situations), but are differentiated mainly by personalities and/or character development. E.g. 3 superhero squads led by Spider Jerusalem/Nick Fury/either Dr. Strange or Dr. Manhattan/Flash/the other Dr. Strange.
    –2 teams centered on a particular geographic area or a particular type of activity/crime (e.g. super-drugs, magic, mutants, Swedes, mad scientists, whatever), and 1 more general team that’ll probably be more primary in the story.
    –any three archetypes of superhero team (e.g. family/Incredibles, police/SHIELD, military, scientific adventurers, Suicide Squad, odd men out, corporate/NGO, anything magical, etc).

    2) Merge* and/or eliminate and/or defer many characters. With 22 characters, I’d guess that there are at least 5 pairs of characters that would probably be more interesting merged than separate, and that’d probably also be more space-efficient.

    *E.g. if you have any characters that are fairly one-dimensional archetypes (e.g. The Scientist, The Criminal, The Soldier, The Wizard, The Hacker, The Stranger, The Comedian, The Vengeful, The Badass, The Zamboni Getaway Driver, etc), pretty much any two of these characters combined at random will probably be significantly more interesting. Hell, Deadpool has like 8 archetypes going on, even Zamboni Getaway Driver.

    3) If the situation is unusually serious, as a last resort I’d delete characters at random. Roll dice if you have to.

    Disclaimer: Except for very experienced authors working on highly experimental stories, I can’t think of any remotely good reason to be planning for 20+ protagonists. The least unappealing scenario that comes to mind would be that many protagonists will be killed and/or otherwise fade away. What drew you to 22? If you had to pick 5 characters that feel least crucial, what sort of benefits and/or roles do they serve?

  52. Andrewon 11 May 2016 at 8:25 am

    I am doing a series, the main plan is to introduce them as the series goes on

    22 just sort of happened as lore was added on.

    And as far as least crucial goes. I can’t really think of any. The team members are good fighters and have their own personality and roles, some even have their own fighting styles and have their Elemental Power. I think it’s just plot and how I put it out that I require advice for

  53. Anonymouson 11 May 2016 at 9:48 am

    Hey Andrew good buddy!!!No clue who you are…:)
    Well if a series I could see it working if you did a revolving cast of 7 or less with on or to stationary characters. But B.mac is smarter

  54. B. McKenzieon 11 May 2016 at 6:42 pm

    “The [22] team members are good fighters and have their own personality and roles, some even have their own fighting styles and have their Elemental Power. I think it’s just plot and how I put it out that I require advice for.” I’d recommend checking out the Game of Thrones novels, in particular how George R. R. Martin makes a cast of 20+ major characters and maybe 10+ major plotlines work. But keep in mind that the series is up to 1.7 million words so far and will probably reach 2.5 million with the final two books. (The average adult novel is something like 70-100K words, so we’re looking at about 20+ novels worth of content here). If I wrote a comic every month (a fairly brisk pace), it’d take me ~70 years to cover that much material (assuming a generous 150 words per page and ~22 pages per issue).

    Paraphrasing George R.R. Martin, if you were climbing your first mountain, I wouldn’t recommend starting with Everest.

    “And as far as least crucial goes. I can’t really think of any.” At the risk of flippancy, may I suggest that desperate times call for desperate measures?

  55. Andrewon 12 May 2016 at 1:40 am

    I wasn’t thinking about a monthly series, more like a weekly series like the Injustice Comics and Batman and Robin Eternal. The main outline of them is the team going up against a villain with a dastardly plan while going through character development, usually switching the spotlight of central protagonist for each one while making room for the others

  56. Andrewon 12 May 2016 at 1:41 am

    BTW, what’s with the pic of the dice?

  57. B. McKenzieon 12 May 2016 at 7:13 am

    “I wasn’t thinking about a monthly series, more like a weekly series like the Injustice Comics and Batman and Robin Eternal.” On a weekly schedule, 15-20 years. Are you working with a team on this? (e.g. B&R Eternal has had 8 writers and 11 illustrators so far, and the 52 series has had 4-5 writers and 17 on art).

    “BTW, what’s with the pic of the dice?” Explained above.

  58. Andrewon 12 May 2016 at 8:45 am

    No team. It’s just me, most of the people I know are rather simple minded so asking them for help would be like asking Joel Schumacher to direct another superhero movie

  59. B. McKenzieon 12 May 2016 at 7:54 pm

    If you can do 80+ pages a month by yourself, cool. Generally speaking, I think it’d be really stressful for a full-time artist to take on more than 20-40 pages per month, and that’s without writing responsibilities.

    “It’s just me, most of the people I know are rather simple minded so asking them for help would be like asking Joel Schumacher to direct another superhero movie.” If you do find someone very good, it might be easier to get them on board for a smaller ask, at least to start, like a 20-24 page standalone or a small arc. If things go well they might be interested in a larger project.

  60. Hion 28 Sep 2016 at 6:02 pm

    This helped me a lot (and if you don’t mind id like to share with you what i’ve got as far as characters are concerned and see what you think of them and if there is anything you’d suggest changing about them) I’ve recently begun working a spoof of the Teen Titans animated series and Deadpool Mercs for money revolving around Damian Jackson A.K.A “Luno” , the drunken washed up 19 year old ex sidekick of the world’s greatest hero Moon Man wanting to return to the spotlight he forms a team consisting of himself and four up and coming teen heroes (who are spoofs of my favorite characters in comics) Parasite (Carnage) a young man with Schizophrenia who gained abilities similar to Carnage when exposed to a strange expiramental Parasitic virus that was supposed to “corrupt his bad genes and stop the voices” ,Animalia (Beast Boy) after an expirament to merge the entire animal kingdom into a single entity Craig Mitchell gained the ability to transform into every animal known to man and became a hero (however he is known for his comedic failures which normally result in his villains escaping), Burn (Firestorm) the self appointed co leader of the group real name; Kevin Faith who uses a high tech suit that grants him the ability of pyrokinesis and Crusher (She-Hulk) the muscle of the team and Luno’s bodyguard she is normally the butt of many of the teams jokes and antics and is a serious and stern character rarely ever speaking and giving people an “Ice Cube stare”

  61. B. McKenzieon 28 Sep 2016 at 8:03 pm

    “I’ve recently begun working a spoof of the Teen Titans animated series and Deadpool…” Okay, some observations…

    First, most very funny superhero stories (especially ones that sell well) aren’t actually mainly comedies. Most of their protagonists (e.g. Iron-Man, Batman, Ant-Man, Incredibles, and probably Guardians of the Galaxy) are relatively competent and plausible superheroes. The closest thing I can think of to a mainly comedic hero that has actually sold fairly well is Deadpool, and even his movie works on non-comedic levels (e.g. action and romance). In comics, even Gwenpool is surprisingly capable.

    More purely comedic superhero works tend to be a tougher sell, I think. In comics, I think the only superhero comedies that cleared 3,000 sales last month were Deadpool and Gwenpool. For novels, it’s even grimmer.

    “Craig Mitchell gained the ability to transform into every animal known to man and became a hero (however he is known for his comedic failures which normally result in his villains escaping).” I’d recommend checking out this article on incompetent protagonists. Personally, I’d recommend experimenting with some alternative concepts here. I think being at least a fairly competent hero is a significantly more promising route to creating humorous situations than a bumbling hero would be. Of the proposals I’ve seen, most stories that attempt to use incompetence to create humor undermine their ability to deliver on anything outside of comedy, and are almost never actually funny. The personality conflict between the more professional/sober Crusher and the more casual members of the team feels a lot more promising to me.

    Lastly, I’d recommend proofreading carefully before submitting anything to a publisher. If there are more than a few typos in your proposal, it’s probably dead on arrival.

  62. Hion 29 Sep 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Well honestly I was only gonna keep it in the spoofing/self referential territory for like three issues or so before ramping up to more serious topics and fleshing out their back stories more (such as Luno learning to value friendship over fame and getting help for his alcoholism and Parasite gaining the full cure for his Schizophrenia while also learning the original use of the virus was to turn him into a biological weapon) but I was still gonna keep the overall comedic themes with the team occasionally pranking Crusher in a way little boy’s tend to prank their older sister (like putting plastic wrap on the toilet seat in her bathroom or taping an airhorn behind a door so when the door hits the wall it goes off)

  63. B. McKenzieon 29 Sep 2016 at 7:17 pm

    “I was only gonna keep it in the spoofing/self referential territory for like three issues or so before ramping up to more serious topics… getting help for his alcoholism and Parasite gaining the cure for his schizophrenia…” If the tone shifts suddenly, I’m guessing issues 1-3 will probably put off readers that might have enjoyed 4+, and vice versa. Alcoholism, schizophrenia, and plastic wrap on toilets… I’m having trouble visualizing readers that might enjoy both sides here.

  64. Hion 30 Sep 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Alright I’ll try a little harder to keep it tonally consistent one last thing though. What do you think Moon Man’s role in the series other then adding to Luno’s origin should I use him for? I mean I cannot figure out a role for him in this story

  65. B. McKenzieon 30 Sep 2016 at 9:06 pm

    “What do you think Moon Man’s role in the series other than adding to Luno’s origin should I use him for?” Some possibilities that come to mind:

    –Killing him would be an option (either as the inciting event that brings the team together and/or a major point of escalation in a plot arc).

    –For whatever reason (maybe injury, maybe weakening superpowers, or a loss of heart), he’s not much of a superhero anymore, and is trying to transition from being a superstar hero to more of a Xavier/mastermind. Hopefully with great difficulty. Or he’s still a superhero but having trouble transitioning to a new era. (E.g. in The Taxman Must Die, I was thinking that a protagonist with a more combat-heavy experience dealing with villains that rob a bank and stick around long enough for a fight might have trouble adjusting to more proactive investigations where a smart villain can kill hundreds of people before anyone can react and the police have to actually find him first).

    –Some sort of major conflict with Luno. Maybe they remember their time together very differently. Maybe they perceive their current working relationship very differently. I think a cliche approach here would be that MM is having trouble respecting Luno as something more than his kid sidekick and Luno routinely makes rash/boneheaded/overconfident mistakes. Basically any other point of conflict would be more original. E.g. maybe MM respected Luno too much and rushed him into situations he wasn’t ready for, and Luno blames MM and/or himself for some really big superheroic failures that might have gotten some people killed. I think that’d be a plausible explanation for how he’s a washed-up drunkard at 19. Alternately, maybe he was a superstar sidekick way back when and everybody thought he was going to be an unbelievable success, but some distinctive trait of his kept him from actually making it. He cracks under the pressure, gets increasingly into drinking, and eventually he’s pretty much disgraced himself by throwing up on a reporter or being obviously intoxicated during some high-stakes situations.

    –MM as a symbol of a particular life goal. Most obviously, something related to superheroics (e.g. being very successful, famous, or respected as a superhero). Less obviously, in X-Men: First Class, Beast and Mystique represent two very different approaches to how mutants deal with being mutants. (Later on in the series, in Apocalypse, Storm idolizes her as a symbol of pride and/or self-confidence). Also, there’s an episode of Simpsons, Pranks and Greens, where Bart starts out idolizing someone as someone who’s recognized as a much better version of Bart (more epic pranks in this case), but actually meeting him (unemployed loser turned TV comedy writer, which is probably worse) it makes him wonder a bit about the path he’s on.

  66. Hion 01 Oct 2016 at 9:39 am

    Thanks man now I kinda know what to do with Moon Man and what role he should play in the series as it goes on and I think I might do it like this; Moon Man found Damian at age 11 stopping a mugger in his home town seeing that he had the ability to manipulate starlight in a similar fashion to himself he took Damian in and trained him as his sidekick however over the next six years the responsibilities and constantly being in the public eye took its toll on him and he began to make mistakes and after accidentally getting a family killed in a battle with the duos archenemy he angrily lashed out at Moon Man seeing it as soley his fault and attacked him in front of a reporter and left deciding to be a hero on his terms but because of his final confrontation with his mentor and the events that happened minutes before the whole world thought of him as a threat and felt it hard to trust him leading him to become a drunken ex-sidekick with no purpose for the better part of two years refusing to even speak to his former mentor before the start of the series

  67. Dark-S1ayeron 13 Jan 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Hey B! It’s been awhile!

    Thanks for putting this up! I find it immensely useful for the webcomic I’m writing!

    I could actually use some advice in how to start a story involving a team. I have stories planned out for each of the members, individually, and I do want to bring them together from time to time. But I want to know whether or not it’s a good idea to start with the team first, how much should be told about each member beforehand (or saved for other stories), and whether or not an “origin” tale is necessary to start with.

    I mostly want to ask what are some good ways of beginning a story that involves a team. Does it ALWAYS have to involve them coming together to battle a major threat? Or could there be other reasons?

    To give you an idea of what I’m working with, here’s my cast:

    1) A Female Mercenary – Meant to be the heart of the group as well as the matriarch.
    2) A Boxer – He’s dealing with inner demons most of the time.
    3) A hacker/rebel – He’s currently trying to bring down a suspicious company.
    4) A werewolf – Currently exploring Man’s world.
    5) A vampire – A Private Investigator
    6) A bar owner – He provides information, but prefers not to take sides.
    7) A college student – A young man with a unique gift.
    8) A dragon – This beast is cursed by the villain of the story.

    In the beginning I tried to write these characters separately, with the intention to tell their stories individually, with no interaction, but as I kept developing them, and even some of their supporting cast, I realized, they would actually connect well.

    I managed to find links due to their backgrounds, their motives, or even because of their circle of allies/friends. It became the team you see before you now.

    Only thing is, the last three, I’m pondering how much involvement they should have.

    The bar-keep, I’m thinking of having just be either be supporting, or have him appear during the more important plots, or whenever they’re simply in the bar, since it’s point of interest in the story.

    The student, I have a few arcs planned, and he’s more like an X-Man character, due to his origin story, and the aftermath.

    The Dragon, is actually more plot-related, due to his ties to the villain, and one of my plots that is meant to feature the whole team.

    I also had to nix other characters, because this was already getting to be a large cast. It was actually much larger than this originally.

    I will gladly take any advice you can give.

  68. B. McKenzieon 13 Jan 2017 at 7:55 pm

    “But I want to know whether or not it’s a good idea to start with the team first…” Either one would be workable. Of the two, I think that starting with the team (or at least introducing a few characters fairly quickly) would probably be a better introduction to what you’re building towards. E.g. you COULD start an Avengers comic series with a Hulk-only issue, but if you’re thinking of an ensemble where the characters are roughly equal in importance, the group dynamic would probably be more representative of the work as a whole. (If I loved the Hulk, I’d be annoyed when he got demoted from “apparently the main character” to “one character out of eight,” and if I hated the Hulk, I’d probably give up on the story long before I encountered any of the characters I might have liked). Also, if you have 8 major characters, space will probably be at a premium, so I’d suggest having major characters and/or villains interact relatively quickly (to allow you to save space on side-characters the characters would otherwise be interacting with).

    “how much should be told about each member beforehand (or saved for other stories). I think it depends on context. E.g. I think this Taxman Must Die scene develops characters’ personalities and conflicts moving forward. I didn’t spend any space on individual backstories or why they became federal agents or basically anything they’ve done prior to today.

    “To give you an idea of what I’m working with, here’s my cast:
    1) A Female Mercenary – Meant to be the heart of the group as well as the matriarch.
    2) A Boxer – He’s dealing with inner demons most of the time.
    3) A hacker/rebel – He’s currently trying to bring down a suspicious company.
    4) A werewolf – Currently exploring Man’s world.
    5) A vampire – A Private Investigator
    6) A bar owner – He provides information, but prefers not to take sides.
    7) A college student – A young man with a unique gift.
    8) A dragon – This beast is cursed by the villain of the story.”
    As far as very brief character synopses go, these are pretty good. Some thoughts:

    –As far as archetype-mixing goes, I’m really liking the vampire PI and explorative werewolf.

    –The bar owner sounds like a deus ex machina waiting to happen. I worry that a character whose role is mainly providing information will make at least some scenes less interesting by providing information that characters would have had to come up with more interesting solutions for. (Also, with a private investigator, a hacker, and an exploration-minded werewolf to work with, you will always have more interesting alternatives than hearing something from a well-connected bartender).

    –The rebellious hacker with an anticorporate agenda is pretty cliché, but could be really useful for driving a plot forward. My recommendation would be moving the anticorporate agenda and computer skills to a character that’s less predictable or comes from an unexpected background. E.g. the bar owner. Why would someone with really good hacking skills become a bartender and publicly appear not to take sides while secretly plotting against a shady megacorporation? (PS: I think characters are generally more interesting when they can’t be 90%+ summarized in 1-2 words, and there are a lot of potential layers beyond “anticorporate hacker”.

    –“A young man with a unique gift.” I’d suggest taking a look at the werewolf, dragon and vampire. They have a unique gift AND a detail hinting at how they’ll contribute to forward plot development.

    –In the abstract, I can think of at least one matriarchal ‘mercenary’ that is an A+ character (Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones, with a phenomenal conflict between her personal ambition, her protectiveness towards her family, and her suspicious nature). I would suggest against executing “heart of the group” in a mainly “reminding everybody what the right thing to do is” direction – if so, she’ll probably make scenes less interesting than they would have been otherwise.

    “Does it ALWAYS have to involve them coming together to battle a major threat? Or could there be other reasons?” I’d generally recommend giving them a motivating force(s) to come together, but it doesn’t have to be a specific threat (e.g. most police forces aren’t founded in response to a particular crime, and Xavier was interested in training mutants for self-betterment long before there was a need for paramilitary mutant commandos). It doesn’t even need to be their own choice that brings them together (e.g. the protagonists in The Usual Suspects are brought together because they’ve unwittingly angered somebody very powerful and the protagonists of Watchmen and Heroes spend a lot of time working mostly independently of most of the group members).

  69. jonon 10 Aug 2017 at 4:29 am

    Hello B.Mac
    Am writing a comic series of a team of five (each member has his/her individual story), from your reply to dark slayer, I plan to start with an ensemble before detailing the origins of the most important characters on separate issues,( I think this will introduce the team to readers first hand while avoiding the probability of boring readers with the story of a character they may not like).
    I currently have two ideas for the upfront but I still can’t really decide which is promising,
    • three different heroes are enlisted by the government to eliminate a much powerful hero, unknown to them is government’s secret agenda was to get them all in a single location for termination, added to the situation is a global threat.
    (this story introduces four of my characters).

    • a villain much like DCU’s darksied , but with the goal to save his people invades earth; a time traveling hero who has seen the outcome of this invasion over and over again goes back in time to gather an elite team of heroes to combat the threat.
    any suggestions
    this is unrelated
    what gives a comic book an E (everyone) rating?

  70. Anonymouson 10 Aug 2017 at 9:48 am

    “what gives a comic book an E (everyone) rating?” In the DC Comics ratings system (which I think Image’s is based on), they describe it as “Appropriate for readers of all ages. May contain cartoon violence and/or some comic mischief,” as opposed to the teen rating, which would be “May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.” In terms of marketability, the overwhelming majority of comic readers are older than 16, so if your work blurs into teen, that probably wouldn’t be an issue. (In contrast, if you were making a AAA movie, an R rating would probably cost you tens of millions of dollars vs. a PG-13 rating).

  71. Brianon 11 Aug 2017 at 12:54 pm

    “three different heroes are enlisted by the government to eliminate a much powerful hero, unknown to them is government’s secret agenda was to get them all in a single location for termination, added to the situation is a global threat.” I like the idea of creating a team as some sort of setup/trap. Though why an organization would assassinate cooperating superhumans might take some sort of explanation. Preferably something more interesting than “We hate you because you were born.” E.g. perhaps the organization had some really bad experiences with superhumans that appeared to be cooperative but were actually one bad day away from snapping and going full supervillain or were already secretly supervillains or mutant supremacists or whatever. Alternately, perhaps the heroes make an interesting choice that causes them to become a major liability (weak preference for a choice that wasn’t overtly confrontational, e.g. accomplishing a goal in an unexpected way and somehow uncovering evidence/information or speaking to someone/something they weren’t supposed to find alive/intact).

    “A villain with the goal to save his people invades Earth. A time-traveling hero who has seen the outcome of this invasion goes back in time to gather an elite team of heroes…” This sounds like a completely different series than the first setup in terms of tone/mood (e.g. no betrayal, no authority figures as villains, no major “us vs them” theme, etc). Also, it feels a lot more linear/predictable. I’d recommend working in some twist beyond this, e.g. the time-traveling hero is actually some sort of threat himself, maybe sabotaging Earth’s defenses or maybe he’s trying to oppose the invasion in a way that creates an opportunity for him to make some sort of move of his own. Or maybe a lot of the information he has of the future is incorrect*/out of date/thrown off by new developments/incomplete, or he’s holding something major back for some reason**. I strongly recommend against having a 100% cooperative character with that much knowledge of future plot events.

    *E.g. he might honestly believe that the aliens have been planning an alien invasion from day 1, but maybe he’s misunderstanding what actually happened, e.g. it was actually a scouting mission that misconstrued Earth actions as a preparation for some sort of preemptive attack on their settlers. Perhaps their actual plan had been to settle some uninhabited corner of the Earth (e.g. the Western Sahara) but they scrap that plan after they conclude that the only way they’ll ever be safe anywhere on the planet is by eliminating the humans.

    **E.g. maybe he has seen a particular tactic be effective, but for whatever reason, he feels he has to hide a lot of it from his allies. For example, perhaps the closest he’s gotten to repelling the invasion before was using millions of civilians as bait in a everybody-dies trap or using heroes as unwitting suicide bombers.

  72. Fae Lanson 11 Aug 2017 at 4:10 pm

    I wrote a small series of one shots about a team of fantasy villains once. They were called the Malevolent Lords and worked for an arch demon called terror.

  73. jonon 15 Aug 2017 at 7:05 am

    Thank you Anonymous and Brian,
    your replies were helpful.
    I’ve decided to go with the first, I think the setting would be understandable and would give room for good character development; after researching I believe the second setting has been done a lot, like you said it’d be too predictable. Once more thank you.

  74. jonon 15 Aug 2017 at 8:07 am

    As for a better explanation to why the government may want them dead, the said universe has a growing race of superhumans thus superhuman criminal activities, the organization W.S.A put up to combat this developed a airborne substance supposed to cure this people but a flaw results to the death of these superhumans after treatment (something they have been covering up). Solar flare (the primary target of the assassination) had somehow uncovered the truth and plans to tell the world, this may result to superhuman civil war, to prevent this the organization selects distinct characters to eliminate him with the agenda to also kill them for their individual crimes
    •Dusk treader is a boy scout but ready to get his hands dirty to do the right thing, a wanted vigilante, a traitor to his former team of murdering outlaw vigilantes, this leaves him with a back story of deaths,
    he is selected because he is problem to society and they also needed someone who can do what needs to be done.
    •fir girl (still looking for a better name) is on the run after being framed for a city wide disaster, she cooperates with two W.S.A just to clear her name.
    •the last character is to be blamed for the existence superhumans in the first place.
    these are some ideas I came up with, what do you think?

  75. Fae Lanson 31 Aug 2017 at 5:24 pm

    So, as i mentioned on a different post, my story revolves around a group working a malevolent archdemon god. I think I have enough development on each group member, but would like to check it out anyway.

    Terror: the god in question. Terror is described as greedy, and most desires to take his revenge upon the gods who imprisoned him. Terror is known to have his followers collect rare and magical objects for reasons unknown to them. He’s incredibly no nonsense with his followers. He has control over their body. When someone summons him through a pentagram, he appears before them in a horrible projected form. The form changes depending on what the person fears most. The way it usually goes is that they ask for something, and Terror says his return price. They then bargain almost like a shop keeper. Best case scenario, the person owes Terror a one time good or service. Worst case scenario, the person owes Terror service for an extended amount of time. If it is the latter, a mark appears on your body to show that you are Terror’s follower. Terror is smart and cunning in the way that he knows how to assign his followers to missions that will make them stronger. He knows that he needs them in order to succeed.

    Eris: A human. She’s most known for her anger and rage. Has a tendency for bloody murder that is hard to clean up. Eris was of a noble family. She was constantly being compared to her older better brother, Indigo. Eris knew she would not get even a single part of the family fortune, she made her deal with Terror gain a skill. All she asked for was “to be better at something than Indigo.” Terror gave her an acrobatics ability and ability to be sneaky. Upon realizing her newfound skills, Eris challenged her brother to sword fight. However, her family felt it was unwomanly for her to be better than her brother and they banished her. The Vandel family name is now said to be curses. She is 21 years old. Eris loves nature and has a soft spot for animals. There is a sort of initiation ritual amongst the new Malevolent Lords. She throws a knife at them and sees how they react.

    Stormy: A child given to Terror as an infant in exchange for his mother’s never-ending beauty. Terror does not care for Stormy, but he is cared for by Terror’s other followers. Despite being young, he has seen horrible things, such as people being murdered and houses being burned down. In a fight he’s extremely powerful, but will play with his opponent in a way a cat plays with a toy mouse. The difference is that he’ll get bored after 20 minutes and simply kill his opponent. He is 6 years old.

    Adrik: A dwarf. The closest to nice they have. He is king of a small kingdom and does the best he can for his people. He made his pact with Terror to protect his people from a war. Another kingdom was attacking them. Adrik hates that he was so weak that he needed Terror’s help. He generally tries to be a good leader to his kingdom. His subclass is a paladin. He is 42 years old.

    Shava: half elf. She flirts with everyone and everything. “It runs in the family” so she says. Her older brother, Corin, is also a worker of Terror’s and has a tendency to flirt. If asked about it, they both flinch and change the subject. Shava often uses her flirting to take advantage of her opponent in a fight. No one is sure about her pact. Corin says he left home and came back 4 years later to find that Shava had gone missing. Several months later, Shava turned up at the follower’s castle with the mark of Terror on her shoulder. She is 16 years old. Corin is 24.

    Pax: A dark elf. His eyes are dead and void of emotion. He acts like he no emotions though after spending a lot of time with him, you are able to read a few. He’s a necromancer who was imprisoned in an asylum as a child. His parents were worshipers of a Life goddess and thus when Pax showed affinity for necromancy at an early age, they thought he was satanic. He only escaped when a he made a pact with Terror. Please note, even Terror thinks his lack of emotion is kinds creepy. Pax has a habit of whispering poetry under his breath as a calming technique. In the asylum, he was mentored by an old story teller which is where he picked up the habit. Pax is a massive bad luck charm, but is totally chill about it. For instance he’ll nearly be killed by stepping in bear trap and not say anything. He is 23 years old.

  76. Fae Lanson 31 Aug 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Should mention Shava and Corrin have more develop than I put.

  77. Ujjwal bhargavon 13 Jun 2019 at 7:29 am

    In the new part of my story
    My oc is captured by an unknown group
    While he’s not around
    Big powers of the world ( countries) have their leaders randomly executed, toppled and etc
    The new leaders are all like dictators and world is on brink of
    a World War III
    Now, arch enemy of my hero rescues him to put down the war
    While this is happening
    Superheroes are also hunted by new government and leaders who are revealed to be part of an inactive terrorist organization
    What could be consequences of war around the world
    In normal lives and economy , geography etc
    How can I show the war’s beginning
    ( I’ve planned that a country launches a missile on itself and shows off the new nuclear shield they’ve made
    It turns out that this country will be base of leader of that organization and he’s become dictator now )
    Also what could happen in war other than trench fights, water and air battles and all

  78. B. McKenzieon 16 Jun 2019 at 9:15 pm

    –“What could be consequences of war around the world”. Political/economic instability sounds pretty likely. Institutions and practices that normally benefit from low levels of chaos (e.g. banks and the stock market, international shipping lanes, supply logistics) would get strained. E.g. a public panic might lead to shoppers hoarding food/water/etc at grocery stores and gas stations, international shipping might slow down considerably if ships start getting targeted, sailors might refuse to serve some routes that are particularly unsafe, etc). Critical supplies will get more expensive and less available. Fast forward 6-12 months, if countries are not able to prevent hostile pro-chaos forces from interfering with key shipments, maybe hypothetically there’d be rolling brownouts in cities that rely on energy shipments which haven’t been arriving regularly. Unreliable electricity is going to create very noticeable issues everybody will see/feel (e.g. if your job relies on having electricity, your company is at risk of going bankrupt and/or laying you off… unreliable heating/air conditioning… lights are less reliable… medical care might get less reliable… water/utilities might get less reliable, etc).

    –“My oc is captured by an unknown group. While he’s not around, big powers of the world ( countries) have their leaders randomly executed, toppled and etc”. This is probably idiosyncratic on my part, but at the risk of proposing a major change to the story, I’d suggest considering a fictional world in this case rather than Earth. Unless you’ve seen many works in your field that have a similar tone/setting, I think avoiding reader preconceptions about what feels realistic vs. ridiculous would probably be helpful here (and also taking creative ownership over material that doesn’t sound very similar to Earth to begin with).

  79. Ujjwal bhargavon 17 Jun 2019 at 4:22 am

    Thanks for suggestions… They’re helping
    I think I didnt got last point clearly

  80. Cat-Vacuumer Supremeon 17 Jun 2019 at 5:53 pm

    It looks like he’s saying that you might want to set this in an alternate universe (different names for world leaders should be enough). It seems he is worried that readers might think “this political leader wouldn’t do that!” or “worldwide terrorist group? Why haven’t I heard of them?” and he thinks your world is already a bit different from earth.

  81. B. McKenzieon 17 Jun 2019 at 6:30 pm

    “I think I didn’t get the last point clearly” — If you see works like yours in a tone(s) you’re comfortable with, then please disregard the last point. (Changing a setting from Earth to a fictional world is a major change and should not be done lightly). My thinking is that controlling tone might be easier in a non-Earth setting rather than using actual countries with reader preconceptions on what is/isn’t believable. Your story may involve some events which may feel fantastical in a real-world setting (e.g. a heretofore largely unknown nongovernmental actor pulling off coups in multiple major countries and destabilizing most of the world without getting quickly driven underground or vaporized). Looking at a work like Iron Man 3 or GI Joe or Man of Steel or Suicide Squad or Dark Knight Rises or any of the White House invasion movies, I think the quality ceiling would probably be higher if the world were fictional. Among other things, there’ll be fewer moments where an author feels pressured to do something because it feels realistic (or to meet reader expectations) rather than because it’s the most interesting decision for the story.

    E.g. I think the DCU’s real-world setting leads to wasting a lot of time on military/governmental extras, much more so than their plot impact or character development warrants. In a completely fictional setting, it’d be easier for you to make radical adjustments as the story needs.
    –Let’s say hypothetically you don’t have a plan to use military scenes effectively, e.g. like Man of Steel or Suicide Squad didn’t. If you’d like to avoid military extras that would probably be low-impact filler, it’d be easier to do so in a completely fictional setting that is completely at your disposal. For example, maybe the setting is loosely based on Costa Rica (no military) or relies more on nuclear weapons/MAD than on conventional military forces, or there is a military that gets a small-but-cool part like the scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where the Nova Corps almost keeps the enemy from reaching the planet. Or maybe the the zombie invasion unfolds too quickly for them to respond. (This last option could be used in a realistic Earth setting, but I could easily see this rubbing moviegoers in the designated country the wrong way — depending on how it’s executed, the U.S. military being completely useless in a zombie invasion of Chicago may come across as a political jab, whereas Star Wars can portray the Rebels as a start-to-finish clown show without offending anybody*).
    –Easier to dish out extreme devastation without worrying too much about tone (e.g. blowing up Alderaan is a big moment in Star Wars but probably less of a permanent downer than blowing up [insert major actual country] would be).
    –It may be easier to build in character mistakes that don’t feel like incompetence. E.g. there are several moments in Game of Thrones where characters walk into traps because they don’t think their enemies will cross some major social lines like blowing up a major holy site of their own religion or killing the hero at the wedding party they’re throwing for the hero’s uncle. In contrast, a White House invasion story almost by definition needs sheer incompetence all around, there is no Plan B. And marketing considerations could limit creative options, mainly in movies (e.g. a Hollywood studio might rule out a plotline where China attacks the U.S. for fear that Chinese censors would block a Chinese release, leaving the writers to work with something particularly insane like North Koreans invading the White House, at which point you just need to embrace the suck and revel in how incompetent you need the defenders to be). In contrast, when Darth Vader or Kylo Ren kill the Emperor in Star Wars, the incompetence required of the Emperor’s team is less obvious.
    –Governments turning to a bunch of criminals to save the world/galaxy feels a bit less ridiculous in Guardians of the Galaxy than Suicide Squad. Authority characters are also less of a drag in GOTG than in most DCU movies. (Exception: the makers of Wonder Woman had a much better concept and execution in how to incorporate Steve Trevor into their story than any comparable DCU characters got, and generally there are more opportunities to use military characters in a WWI movie than in an alien invasion where the military isn’t able to accomplish anything meaningful).

    *Dear God are they incompetent. At some point between being the ascendant power in the galaxy (having defeated the Empire in Return of the Jedi) and being reduced to 1-3 ships with a few hundred troops in Last Jedi, it might help reconsidering whether decades of rule by a princess-turned-generalissimo is the best option available. Also, if you have the ability to call in allies or assistance, like Leia tries at the end of Last Jedi, maybe it would have helped calling in those resources before you’ve been 99% eradicated. Luke Skywalker laughs off the idea of a space wizard saving the day but, make no mistake, space wizardry and plot armor are ~all the Rebels have at this point. Their main fleet is a single ship (which they can’t keep fueled) and their intelligence network appears to consist mainly of a well-connected bartender. Without space wizardry, the Rebels couldn’t even take over suburban Vancouver, let alone a planet.

  82. Ujjwal bhargavon 18 Jun 2019 at 9:38 pm

    Now I understood
    Thanks for examples
    They helped
    I think I can start now

  83. xoton 25 Jun 2019 at 11:14 am

    I have to have 12 characters but none of them is my main one, so I thought to introduce them slowly through him, we meet them as he does. Would that work? They are all like mentors more or less…

  84. B. McKenzieon 25 Jun 2019 at 8:37 pm

    ” I have to have 12 characters but none of them is my main one…” This by itself does not sound terribly problematic depending on how much space you need for each one.

    “They are all like mentors more or less…” Usually when a character is described as a mentor, it’s mainly a logistical support role (e.g. explaining how a character develops a key skill) rather than a dynamite character in their own right. What’s the situation like where you feel you need 12 mentors? (It seems like this would push the plotline to spend a lot of time/space on training scenes, particularly low-stakes ones, but I think it’d be unusual to spend more than 5% of pages in a novel or 10% of a Western comic book series on training scenes and these are rarely very memorable).

    (Exception: in an epic novel series, having many characters who incidentally happen to do some mentoring but are not mainly mentors would probably not be an issue. For example, in Game of Thrones, at least 10 characters help train family members (either kids or younger siblings) in how the world works, and it’s actually a great introduction to major conflicts, the central plot (different families vying for power), and character development. For example, one child who is about to marry into the royal family gets “be honorable/marry the right guy” advice from her parents and advice ranging from confrontational (the palace schemer encouraging her to undermine her parents’ plans for her) to perverse (e.g. her prospective mother-in-law encouraging her to develop her sexuality as a weapon). Her future husband, the crown prince, is getting radically different advice from a variety of sources that are trying to manipulate him or turn him one way or the other. It’s usually much more interesting than, say, “now we’re going to learn how to swordfight or use this superpower”.

  85. xoton 26 Jun 2019 at 11:03 am

    Thank you for replying.

    “What’s the situation like where you feel you need 12 mentors?”
    Long story short, the main character meets 12 Zodiacs, they are the ones with superpowers, he is not, but he learns different things from them.

    “(Exception: in an epic novel series, …”
    I did imagine it like a series, graphic novels series, although I read here that publishing a series is very rare but I’m having so much fun writing this, even if it is just for me.

    “it seems like this would push the plotline to spend a lot of time/space on training scenes, particularly low-stakes ones…”
    I’ll keep this in mind, I don’t think stakes are low because he is very much mortal and they (Zodiac) are not all very friendly, taking him for an enemy, a spy and so on.
    Maybe mentors are not good explanation, they are all testing him in their own way, so he goes through 12 labors (yes, like Hercules). Some of them are mentors, others more like enemies but at the end they are superheros and they all end up in an epic battle against antagonists. By that time I hope to give each of them at least some shape and colour.

  86. B. McKenzieon 26 Jun 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Best of luck, but if the development doesn’t quite come together in however many pages are available for these 12 side characters, alternatives might help then. I’d recommend against feeling like you’re obliged to have X characters included because there are X signs of the zodiac.

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