Archive for the 'Reader Questions' Category

Oct 10 2011

More Random Questions About Superhero Stories

Published by under Reader Questions

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

From Google queries:


What does a good superhero story include?  

  • Interesting characters.  I’d like to see some personality traits (or combinations of traits) I haven’t seen before and some unusual decisions that most other superheroes wouldn’t make.  In particular, when the character gets superpowers, I think that a character’s decision to become a superhero will be more interesting if it doesn’t come right after the character gets superpowers.
  • Particularly if your target audience is older than 13, I think it would really help to give the characters something exciting to do outside of combat.  Depending on your genre and personal preferences, that could include investigation/crime-solving, relation-building , scenes from the superheroes’ regular lives that develop them, etc.
  • A hard-to-predict plot.


Interesting story blurbs.  I saw this synopsis on “…aboard a late night flight from Tokyo to Portland, a disabled war veteran transforms into a werewolf. Now it’s up to a Japanese punk band, a Muslim terrorist, two stoner pilots, and a limbless superhero to subdue the hellhound.”  Hmm.  I like the wacky mix of “protagonists” (although I’m more likely to root for the werewolf over the terrorist–at least the werewolf gets better 29 days out of 30).




Are there any implants that give superpowers?  The most common superpower, definitely.  I’m not aware of any other surgically viable superpowers now, but I think some will be within 20-30 years.  One surgical implant I use in my own writing is recoil suppressors in the wrist and sound mufflers in the ears that dampen the sound of gunfire.  In terms of mental abilities, some sort of implant for technopathy might be viable within 30 years.


If you’re rejected by one agent.  Umm, keep trying.  I’d recommend revising your query if you’ve submitted to 10 agents and haven’t heard back from any within a month.


Most evil animals?  My picks would be platypi, moose, Norwegians, jellyfish and squirrels.

7 responses so far

Sep 08 2011

Entertaining Survey Responses

Published by under Reader Questions

The last question on the SN survey is whether the reader has any questions or comments.  Here are some of the more notable (and notably wacky) responses I’ve received so far.

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13 responses so far

Sep 06 2011

Google Queries (Superhero Teams, “Danger Nut” and Noncombat Options for Superheroes)

Should superhero teams include a flyer?  If you want to, that’s fine.  But flyers aren’t necessary.  I don’t think superhero teams need any particular kind of superhero (although comic book teams might have more visually interesting fights if they have at least one character that can do melee combat–purely ranged combat can get tedious).


What do superheroes need in their lives? Anything interesting.  Here are some possibilities that come to mind:

  • Action that is driven by interesting goals and personality traits.
  • Interesting conflicts, preferably some with characters that aren’t purely unsympathetic.  (For example, in X-Men: First Class, Mystique argues with Beast over Beast’s attempts to cure his mutation, and I don’t think that the writers pushed either position over the other).
  • Unusual decisions.
  • Relationships that influence the plot.
  • Maybe some goals and problems that don’t have much/anything to do with being a superhero—romance is one possibility, but you have a lot of options here.  (For example, in The Incredibles, one of the main problems for Dash was fitting in despite being supernaturally gifted).


How many characters can you introduce in a first chapter?  However many you can develop effectively.  Generally, I wouldn’t recommend introducing  more than 10 named characters or more than 5 major characters in the first 30 pages unless you are confident in your ability to develop interesting characters with relatively few lines.  Gradually introducing characters will generally give you a better chance to develop characters without overwhelming readers.


What games do sailors play?  Danger Nut. In terms of raw peril, it makes Navy football look like a ballet recital.


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8 responses so far

Aug 25 2011

More Google Queries

Published by under Reader Questions

How are superheroes created? Write a comic book, short story, novel or graphic novel and submit it to publishers.


Writing Secret Service characters – You’re probably already familiar with the physical stereotypes (beefy, imposing).  But I’d like to recommend checking out this article for some mental characteristics in SS agents, like incredibly strong situational awareness, restraint (as the situation dictates), quick reflexes, pattern recognition, a basic grasp of first aid and an ability to override basic human instincts. (If somebody drops dead of a heart attack, the Service’s only concern is ruling out biological and chemical weapons).  Also, I haven’t read many novels where SS agents have searched dumpsters for explosives or taken Class 3 offenders to the movies while the President’s in town.  😉


Target audience for superheroes and villains—I think it depends on the medium.  Most superhero comic books are aimed at guys 18-30.  (“The number of girls who read superheroes is extremely minimal,” according to comic book writer Trina Robbins).  Most superhero cartoon shows are aimed at boys younger than 13 (although some develop a peripheral following among older viewers).  Comic book movies are usually aimed more at guys than ladies, but I think it’s much closer.  According to one report, 48% of the opening night audience for Dark Knight was women.   Age-wise, I think most superhero movies try to appeal to viewers from 13+.  I think the level of gore is usually lower than in most other kinds of action movies (e.g. war movies and shoot-em-ups).


 Say it loud!  I’m Mac and I’m proud?


Best superhero comic books for girls.  Obviously, it depends on the girl’s tastes.  I think I’d start by considering Invincible, Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.


What’s a TPB?  A trade paperback, a reprinted collection of comic books bound together as one volume.  Traditional bookstores and libraries are usually more amenable to trade paperbacks than comic books.  For more, please see Dark Horse’s FAQ.


Best theme song ever.  “Lemmetellyasomethin’. Bustin’ makes me feel good.”  Honorable mentions: Jurassic Park and Star Wars.


pokemon parody murder lizard.  I’ll keep my eyes open.


kid bruce wayne as a student in hogwarts fanfic.  “MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!!!”  “MINE TOO!!”


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3 responses so far

Jul 20 2011

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

Published by under Reader Questions

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

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

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


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


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12 responses so far

Mar 24 2011

I’ve responded to all emails and comments sent before March 20… right?

Published by under Reader Questions

If you sent me something to review or a question before March 20 and are still waiting on a response, please resend it.  Right now, I have Scott C., Harry,  Aaron J., Stacy B., Matt, Emily and Greg M. on my assignment list.  (Generally speaking, I usually respond to questions within one week and do chapter reviews within 2, so if you haven’t heard back by then, please send me a reminder).  As always, I can be reached through my contact form or by emailing superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.

5 responses so far