Sunday, March 15, 2015

Imaginary EIC Hat - Rules I'd Implement for Superhero Comics

If you've read comics for any length of time, there are tricks and tropes and storylines we've all seen, and worst and best practices for superhero comics.

Sometimes the worst practice stuff seems to get followed because things happen in the fog of trying to put a monthly comic out in a timely fashion, sometimes it's because you can tell the new writer hasn't done any homework prior to coming on and the editor appears to have a laissez-faire attitude regarding what their writers are doing, and more often than I care to admit, I look at comments online and am shocked by how many people really like the worst-practice stuff and are willing to say so out-loud.

I've considered a few things I find grating overall, considered their impact, and how often these could be used and still feel like, perhaps familiar ideas after a while, but to help keep them a little fresh or maintain their impact, we've given a rate for how often they can be used.

General Rules:

A Hero is Not Someone Who is Just Cleaning Up Their Own Mistakes:  Beyond the canon superhero origin, superhero stories will be about superheroes stepping in to situations in which their stake is not necessarily personal.  Stories must not be about a weirdo in a cape, mask, armor, etc... solving a problem either they or a family member created.  Solving a problem the hero themselves created is perfectly acceptable as an origin as the hero learns and grows from that mistake and dedicates themselves to the lessons of that mistake (see: Iron Man).  But...

We consider police, soldiers and first-responders to be "heroes" because they rush into action selflessly to assist and aid others.  If you put out the fire you just started when you dropped a match into the leafpile in your backyard, we basically consider you to be one grade above the kind of idiot we'd consider you if you had let that fire burn down your house.  If you keep finding ways your house might burn down, such as - because you left the iron plugged in, leaving candles going, as well as storing oily rags in warm rooms...  well, you're just a moron. Let's not let our "heroes" be defined as heroes because they have left a trail of hazards behind themselves at every step of their lives.  Because the occasional "my past has caught up with me" story is both inherently dramatic and potentially interesting, I'd say you can use it in once every 12 stories at best.  This also applies to the follies of one's parents. 

Your superhero plot takes place in a context:  Established characters must retain a status quo of some sort.  This status quo can change, but not more than once every nine years.  This includes: secret identity or lack thereof, day job, city of residence.  Most importantly, the characters must have a status quo supporting cast.  Supporting cast is not there to be murdered because a writer couldn't think of anything else to do.  

It is not Planet Superhero:  In solo titles, superheroes must interact with at least 60% characters who are not also costumed heroes or villains.  Team books get an obvious pass, but solo titles require that the primary character appear somewhat unique in their own title.

I don't feel like myself:  Enough with the someone stepping in to take a hero's place.  Captain America has been replaced twice in the last eight years, for what seem to be long stints each time.  Batman wasn't Batman for a while, and the list goes on. 

Green Lantern Corps

How does this guy still have a job?:  Hal Jordan may only get kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps or quit the Corps once every 5 - 7 years.  

Stop breaking up the band:  Furthermore, the Green Lantern Corps will remain intact.  For the next five years, no story will be about the dissolution of the Green Lantern Corps, disappearance of The Guardians of the Universe or destruction of Oa Itself.  The Green Lantern Corps will not be dismissed, disbanded or all murdered.  The Guardians will not quit, be murdered, or mysteriously disappear.


Stop dredging up the past:  There will be no further revelations about the history of the Wayne family for 7 years.  All dark secrets or historical ties to modern day villains are considered to now be told.  

Further, there will be no sudden revelations of mysterious puppet masters who've secretly been running Gotham that just, you know, somehow missed Batman's notice somehow.  You may tell a puppet master story no more than once every 9 years.

No more stories about the first year two years of Batman's career without a complete and solid reboot of the character for at least 12 years.

No More Robins:  No additional Robins for 15 years.  

Can You Dig It?:  "Gang Wars" may erupt in Gotham no sooner than five years from the conclusion of the last "Gang War".

Get to the point:  Writers will understand that villainous schemes must have a point, thus, "Hush" is no longer usable.

Wonder Woman

The Gods Must be Crazy:  Wonder Woman stories will be about the Greek Gods messing about with Wonder Woman in no more than one half of Wonder Woman stories.  

She is a superhero, right?  WW will interact with the world she supposedly came to work in and be seen as a superhero within her own title in at least 60% of stories.  

Where did I leave that thing?:  Wonder Woman will remember that she has a magic lasso and that she has an invisible plane.

I am the warrior:  Wonder Woman will only use swords and other pointy, stabby things in extreme situations (see: at what point Wonder Woman put on her armor in Kingdom Come and Our Worlds at War)

Get a life:  Wonder Woman will consider establishing a status quo of some sort, including a city of residence, a mission that makes sense, a decision on whether or not she has a secret identity, some sort of day job, and a supporting cast of non-magical beings.


A mind is a terrible thing to taste:  "Superman gets mind-controlled" stories are to occur only once per five year cycle and for no more than two issues per unless written consent by three sitting heads of state are introduced, but EIC retains final decision.

Like an overripe banana:  "What if Superman went bad?" has been answered extensively and Mark Waid's Irredeemable did it in a far less stupid way than in the video game and video game inspire comic book, Injustice.   This question needs only be explored once every seven years or more in auxillary titles.  One off Red Kryptonite moments are, of course, the obvious exception and may appear once every three years.

Stick to the basics:  Superman's day job is at The Daily Planet.  He lives in Metropolis.  His co-workers include Perry White, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane.  Superman has a complicated relationship with Lois.  This may be deviated from every twenty years for one issue.

You seem familiar:  Superman should know who Zod is and we should quit introducing him.  Full stop.

You can never go home again:  Krypton may stop returning now.  In the past decade it's "returned" three times and I don't know how many times in auxillary work.   Krypton may "return" once every 10 years.

Just be yourself:   Superman wasn't Superman for more than a year prior to Flashpoint (while Krypton returned the last time), and then he went for a walk in his own title that took a year, while Lex Luthor was the star of Action Comics.  And, I'd argue, Superman hasn't been Superman anywhere but the short-lived Adventures of Superman since 2008 or so, and for a few issues here and there (notably the Chris Roberson run that tried to salvage the walk, and a few issues of Action just before the New 52).  Superman should only be absent from his own title for one issue every three years.

So, let's hear some of your rules....


RHPT said...

No time travel
No multiverse/different versions of the hero

The League said...

I literally cannot imagine a DC Universe that did not contain those things.

But I agree that they should be used sparingly.

mcsteans said...

Sparingly yes, but I have to (maybe sheepishly) admit that I kind of love the multiverse concept, when done correctly.