I now call this meeting of the [[FunWithAcronyms Terrifyingly, Villainous, and Truly Reviled Order of Persons Evil and Super]] to order! I'm sure you all know the reason we are here... The Allies of Order have bested us once again! But Fear not! I, [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Marcus Murderous]], The leader of T,V,T.R.O.P.E.S., have formulated the most diabolical plan yet! We shall write SuperHero stories ourselves, thereby gaining power over our hated foes, the Vanguard of Virtue!

In one way or another, we've enjoyed stories about superheroes for centuries; tales about men and women blessed with extraordinary powers and abilities using those gifts to champion the innocent and battle the forces of darkness have circulated throughout mythology and literature since ancient times. However, the idea of what we today think of as the superhero has its origins in the [[TwoFistedTales pulp magazines and comic strips]] of the 1930s, and its genesis with the 1938 debut of {{Franchise/Superman}}, who over seventy years later remains in regular publication as a comic book as well as the subject of cartoons, films, television shows and more besides. Since then, armies of superheroes and supervillains have been created in the pages of comic books (where they dominate and practically define the medium) and on the big and small screens, and they show no sign of disappearing any time soon.

If you want to write a superhero comic book (or a superhero story for any medium), these pointers will show you what the common themes, advantages and pitfalls these characters present. Naturally, do check out SoYouWantTo/WriteAStory for advice and tropes that hold across genres as well. See also SoYouWantTo/BeTheNextStanLee for specific advice on how to follow in the footsteps of one of superhero comics' most noted figureheads.

!'''Necessary Tropes'''

Well, for superheroes, you generally need [[StockSuperpowers superpowers]] -- although of course Franchise/{{Batman}} [[BadassNormal got around without them]]. But then, some might say that his CrazyPrepared abilities and superhuman level of [[CrimefightingWithCash easily accessible monetary wealth]] are superpowers in and of themselves....

Superheroes also generally require the SecretIdentity - a public superhero identity and a private civilian identity. This is not uniform, however, and there's many superheroes who only have one (and even for those who have both, sometimes it's the ''[[SecretIdentityIdentity civilian identity]]'' that's the mask, and the Superhero form is the real "them").

!'''Choices, Choices'''

What ''sort'' of powers do you characters have? Are they active all the time, or is there a sort of [[HenshinHero on/off switch between their regular persona and their hero one, with only the hero one superpowered]]? And where do these powers come from? Magic is certainly a possibility, but may turn away a good chunk of your audience for various reasons (religion, sci-fi leanings, etc.). ComicBook/{{X-Men}} managed to HandWave it as science, letting us get past the initial hurdle of ''why'' they had powers (let alone how the powers managed to work... Seriously, genetic ability to ''[[{{Storm}} control the wind]]''!? Enlighten us, [[StanLee o wise one]]; [[RuleOfCool how the hell does that work?]]) and just move on to the storytelling.

And how many people have powers? If it's more than one, there's the question of whether they have the same powers, or similar ones, or wildly differing ones. Whether they have a common origin is another question; too many ways to produce a super may make your world seem random, but too few limits your scope.

Furthermore, are you going to deconstruct the genre a little - show what those powers would ''really'' be like? If you get hit with a fireball, does your body react like you've been actually set on fire, or does the story stick with over-the-top antics in which a fireball is a mere inconvenience? To what extent can characters get hurt, bloody, dirty - and how long does it take to heal from injury?

Do their powers have limited use ({{Mana}}) and the need to be recharged, or are they simply available whenever the character wants to use them? Or even [[PowerIncontinence unable to be turned]] ''[[PowerIncontinence off]]''?

Also consider the nature of the character; is your superhero going to be TheCape, the traditional upstanding and noble ideal of a superhero, or are you going with a more cynical AntiHero? Be warned, however, that if you go down the latter route, you can end up running into the highly discredited NinetiesAntiHero.


Your characters need to have personalities. They have to be ''people'', instead of merely [[CharactersAsDevice a reason]] to show off whatever powers you cook up for them. And they need to interact in a realistic way.

Also, everyone is sick of "teams" who [[LetsYouAndHimFight fight each other more than they fight the enemy]]. Stop doing that.

Oh, and don't forget weaknesses. Only [[{{Superman}} one superhero]] ever got away with being the best at everything, and even then he had [[SuperDickery trouble]] with the writing. Also, when looking at weaknesses, you don't automatically have to go with a KryptoniteFactor. Many characters do well with a LogicalWeakness or, as mentioned below, the lack of a RequiredSecondaryPower [[note]]Both of which can be great opportunities to show off how clever your villain is when they exploit them.[[/note]]. And many superheroes, though possessing powers, are of a low enough tier or possess obvious enough weaknesses that they don't need special weaknesses. The barely superhuman Captain America is an obvious example, but even powerful characters like Storm, who can call lightning down on you but will still fall to a gunshot, don't need special weaknesses.

When dealing with female super-characters specifically, many (particularly male) writers and artists also fall into the trap of granting super-women the MostCommonSuperPower, to at times absurd degrees; try and watch out for this. Superhero stories by their nature generally provide highly-idealised versions of both the male and female physique, to be fair, but there's no shortage of overly-busty superwomen out there, and showing a few different physique types (both male and female) couldn't hurt. Similarly, plenty of superheroes have costumes that could be best described as {{Stripperiffic}} -- consider the practicality of the costume as well as the character's appearance in it. Furthermore, don't you dare make female super-characters [[DisposableWoman disposable]] such as killing them off merely to motivate the male characters; not only does having them StuffedIntoTheFridge like this frequently come off as sexist and misogynistic, it is also ''incredibly'' insulting to the fans of said female super-characters (as well as female comic fans in general), and they will not stand for it.

The modern superhero universes (Marvel and DC especially) tend to suffer a lot of {{Continuity Snarl}}s as a result of the long-lasting continuities of many different characters (most of whom were created by different people with different objectives in mind, but have been acquired as properties by a select group of owners over time) being forced together. Comic book fans tend to demand that continuity is kept straight and clear, so that's something to keep in mind. However, try to avoid PanderingToTheBase too much; too much [[ContinuityPorn obsession with continuity]] and backwards-gazing can cause ContinuityLockOut if you're not careful, which tends to drive away new readers.

As discussed below, an increasing tendency has been to examine the DarkerAndEdgier aspects of the superhero mythos. Whilst it's a valid approach to take, do not make the mistake of assuming that it's automatically more interesting or original than the more traditional approach to the superhero; an entire period of superhero comics is called the DarkAge precisely ''because'' almost every superhero comic being published had to be DarkerAndEdgier, so a lot of it's been done before. And not necessarily that well; with superhero comics, it's quite easy when shooting for 'adult and mature' to end up in '[[RatedMForMoney adolescent and immature]]' instead. Violence, sex and cursing aren't automatically more grown-up or interesting than the alternatives, so keep this in mind. Also consider that some characters are more suited to being made darker than others; what works for Batman might not necessarily work for Superman.

!'''Potential Subversions'''

Superpowers featured in comic books tend to be grand, idealized and desirable - super-strength, for instance, or flight. A possible subversion is to grant your character powers that, on the face of it, [[WhatKindOfLamePowerIsHeartAnyway do not seem particularly useful]], and then [[{{Series/Heroes}} explore how they can nevertheless use them within superhero situations]]. Removing RequiredSecondaryPowers also can add new spice to old cliched power sets -- imagine The Flash [[InertiaIsAHarshMistress unable to slow down]], or Superman actually having to [[ArtMajorPhysics follow the laws of physics]].

Another subversion would be to focus on non-heroic characters. For example, a comic about the trials of a sidekick, or a VillainProtagonist -- the webcomic ''{{Narbonic}}'' did both (at the same time!) to great success. Changing the focus from Heroes to Heroes-in-Training, such as in the webfiction [[WhateleyUniverse Whateley Academy]] and the webcomic ''{{PS238}}'', is also an option. Or even a character who isn't a hero or a villain at all, but just happens to live in a world with them; how might the InnocentBystander feel about living in a world of superheroes?
!'''Writers' Lounge'''

!!'''Suggested Themes and Aesops'''

ComesGreatResponsibility is one of the biggest themes of a lot of superhero works. Just having extraordinary powers is not enough, as there are many people who would use such powers for less-than-heroic things. What makes a super''hero'' is the decision to use such powers to help other people, not for mere personal gain. One of the best ways to show this is to pit your hero not against a villain with powers opposite to those of the hero (though that villain can still be a valuable addition to the hero's RoguesGallery), but against an EvilCounterpart -- a villain with the ''same'' powers as the hero, and who may have even had the same thing happen to him in his origin story, but who chooses to use said powers for evil.

AllOfTheOtherReindeer is also a common theme in superhero stories, especially in modern works; many such stories tend to have the superhero regarded with suspicion, fear and even contempt by the populace at large - you may wish to explore the reasons why this might be (jealousy, inadequacy, fear, etc). A common set-up here is to have a VillainWithGoodPublicity[=/=]HeroWithBadPublicity dynamic, where the villain is popular and well-respected despite their (usually well-hidden) corruption, and the hero is treated with suspicion and fear despite their good works.

In recent years, it has become common to present a [[SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism more cynical take]] on the superhero, reversing the traditional ComesGreatResponsibility image of the hero to present the opposite; selfish, reckless, irresponsible and egotistical "heroes" who are only considered heroes because they are, on the surface at least, on the side of law and order. See NinetiesAntiHero Alternatively, the hero might be just as well-meaning as the traditional hero, but despite their best efforts usually ends up doing more harm than good. They may also be presented as government, military or corporate stooges who aim only to keep a repressive status quo in place, and have no particular interest in whether the innocent live or die as long as the goals of their organization are met. Any of these can lead to a BewareTheSuperman situation where the world is actually ''worse'', not better, for having superhumans around; the villains would be bad enough, but the heroes are in many cases just as bad. Keep in mind however that this theme, whilst initially a subversion of ComesGreatResponsibility, has been used a lot since the mid-eighties (so much so that the proliferation of these types of stories in the mid-eighties and nineties was common enough to see that era named the DarkAge), and so isn't necessarily fresh or original by itself; a fresh spin on it couldn't hurt.

!!'''Potential Motifs'''

Lots of superheroes end up with power-based motifs: [[PlayingWithFire flames]], [[AnIcePerson ice]], [[AvianTropes birds]], [[GreenThumb plants]], [[ThePowerOfTheSun the sun]], what have you. You can also have a motif to go with your theme; for example, in ''Watchmen'', in keeping with the deconstruction theme the motifs of the various superheroes are often subtly based around their various neuroses; for example, the Comedian is a sociopathic nihilist who believes everything's just a bitter joke.

!!'''Suggested Plots'''

You have the option to make the ''powers'' the basis of most of your plots, or even specifically [[PlotTailoredToTheParty The Plot]], but it's better to include character-based plots as well. Still, it makes sense for your characters to grow into their powers or have to [[HowDoIShotWeb learn how to make their powers work]]. For a character with complicated powers, the story line can include not only character growth, but developments as the character learns new ways to use his or her powers. Even for a character with simple powers, like the FlyingBrick, learning to use those powers carefully can take time and stories.

Introduce PsychicPowers such as telepathy into the mix and you have the potential to do JourneyToTheCenterOfTheMind and other related plots.

And the ''loss'' of powers is nearly always traumatic, dramatic, and everything you want to milk to the last drop. Don't overlook the potential for some good power-cancelling objects (or forces, or characters) in your universe.

The secret identity issue can be effectively used in a scenario where [[BruceWayneHeldHostage the hero is placed into a situation which would be easily solved were they in their superhero persona, but because they are currently in their civilian persona presents the challenge of ensuring that a satisfactory resolution to events can still be achieved without compromising their secret identity]].

Also, a major asset to superhero fantasy is ''[[GenreRoulette subgenre flexibility]]''; most superhero characters can be put into ''any'' subgenre setting and make it work. This arose over the decades with writers, who needed to make the monthly deadlines, have put superheroes in a wide variety of fantasy/science fiction tropes so often that you'd expect them to work. For instance, name another fantasy genre that can shift settings and dramatic tones so completely from story to story that reader would accept. For instance, one publishing year period for the classic 1980s ''[[ComicBook/TeenTitans New Teen Titans]]'' comic book series by MarvWolfman and GeorgePerez had the team fight a supervillain's cult, then go off into outer space for a SpaceOpera story, and then return for a gritty, and relatively down to earth, FilmNoir story about runaways, without having to justify the change.

!!'''Set Designer / Location Scout'''

Traditionally, superhero comics are set in the modern city. While this affords many classic possibilities, if you want to do something different, consider playing with the timeframe or the population density. How many superheroes are found in suburbia, or protect the wide fields surrounding a farming village? There have been a few superheroes spotted TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture as well as a few further out still, but rarely many modern-style superheroes in places inspired by times prior to the 20th Century.

!!'''Props Department'''

Actually, the more powers you have, the less useful actual ''weapons'' become... depending of course on the ''type'' of powers the characters have. Why use a gun when you can shoot fire from your fingertips? In this regard, you get more leeway when dealing with stuff marketed at kids, because while a gun is "teaching kids imitable violence," fireballs are, well, not exactly something they can emulate. [[PlausibleDeniability As far as we can tell, at least.]]

However, if you're doing something more an older demographic, you ''could'' even make guns the primary "[[BadassNormal superpower]]" of the character. We call this a SuperheroPackingHeat.

!!'''Costume Designer'''

SpandexLatexOrLeather? Spandex has been done to death; so have tights and body suits. Do you want to go with CivvieSpandex, for a mixture, or maybe even dump the body suit altogether? Are you going to go for actual crunchy armor, ''{{sentai}}''-style? Is this a form of PoweredArmor? Is it going to be futuristic, or is it going to be old-school metal armor? ComicBook/TheMightyThor wore the latter. The choices really depend on the flavor of both the character and the setting -- Comicbook/{{Batgirl}} wearing MagicalGirlWarrior FrillsOfJustice would just be weird.

One potential use for heroic costumes, beyond maintaining a separate identity, is the same as the reason that soldiers wear uniforms: to say "shoot me - and not that civilian over there". This may be a useful factor, depending on whether there's any sort of honor code among the villains, or even as a psychological game of sorts ("I'm shiny, I'm a bull's-eye, you'll shoot in my direction even if you don't ''care'' about harming civilians").

The costume could also be functional instead of just hiding one's identity and making them recognizable. The costume could be bulletproof, fireproof, or be resistant to any number of other things. A cape could also have these properties, ideal for protecting innocent civilians with it. Costume qualities really depend on the hero: dark and stealthy for the [[TheCowl ninja prowler]] or ultra-resilient for the big brawler. If the costume is a suit of PoweredArmor, there are a number of armaments and upgrades the character could get for it. The costume could also be a ClingyCostume, made up of anything from [[ChromeChampion liquid metal]] to [[SpiderMan an alien symbiote]]; a ClingyCostume might also be useful if [[PowerLimiter it protects others from the effects of the hero's powers.]] CivvieSpandex, especially a CoatHatMask deal, is ideal if the hero wants to be able to blend in a crowd, slipping away after removing anything identifying them as a superhero.

Regarding superhero''ine''s especially, try and avoid making their costumes overly {{Stripperiffic}}; consider practicality as well as showing off the superperson's good looks and excellent physique. If you wanna do this, make sure you aim for equal-opportunity {{fanservice}} -- try adding in a male WalkingShirtlessScene or two for every female gogo-fighter.

!!'''Stunt Department'''

This is where the superhero comics shine: big battles with {{Big Bad}}s. Don't skimp on the punches, the kicks, the throws, the arm bars and whatever else you can think up. If you're going to include some martial arts more sophisticated than the punch in the face, at least do a little research into martial arts so you can make the fight look good.

You'll have to decide the amount of property damage, though, and whether it has [[TheIncredibles an effect on the heroes]] once the battle is over.

!'''Extra Credit'''

!!'''The Greats'''

''Creator/{{Marvel}}'' and ''Creator/{{DC}}'' have spent decades doing a great job of holding our attention. Study them well.

In particular, the work of StanLee and his collaborators at Marvel, especially JackKirby and SteveDitko, in the 1960s is widely credited for creating the ideas of superheroes (and villains) with more than one dimension, and for spearheading a lot of what we take for granted in modern superhero comics. Twenty years later, ''ComicBook/TheNewTeenTitans'' proved DC's earliest really successful emulation of style with a youth oriented style that proved so influential that DC decided to revise all of TheDCU towards it in ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths''.

In the 1980s, the work of the great talents like Creator/AlanMoore, Creator/FrankMiller and Creator/JohnByrne show how you can modernize the classic characters to make them feel like truly complete characters who are true to their times. Those ways are respectively, subtle tweaking (ComicBook/SwampThing), emphasis of a different tone (Batman), and wholesale revision (Superman).

Also study the X-Men movies, especially the second, fifth, and seventh. They did a ''great'' job of porting to a new media. ''Film/TheDarkKnight'' is also extremely well-regarded for a very dark FilmNoir take on the genre. In addition, the classic ''Film/{{Superman|TheMovie}}'' movies starring Creator/ChristopherReeve will show you how much masterful sincere acting can contribute to the genre's dramatic power. Also, the ''Film/TheAvengers'' is now a stand out example of how to finely balance tone to have action, drama and humor in the genre while properly allotting screen time for each character so everyone gets to shine. Also, although it is not adapted from a comic book, ''WesternAnimation/TheIncredibles'' is fantastic (what do you expect, it's {{Creator/Pixar}}!), and is a perfect example how to do a classic-style superhero story without being {{Camp}}y.

!!!'''Western Animation'''
Speaking of new media, the {{Franchise/DCAU}} as a whole is an excellent job of transporting comic book characters into WesternAnimation while ''WesternAnimation/AvengersEarthsMightiestHeroes'' is the best example of how the Marvel characters get such treatment. In addition, {{Creator/Disney}}'s ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'', created by GregWeisman, is a superb original creation that can show you how Shakespearean literature and medieval history can provide a wealth of material when use in conjunction with the conventions of the genre. Just remember to confine yourself to the first two seasons that were first-run syndication, avoid ''The Goliath Chronicles'' episodes and read Weisman's SLG comics that replaced them as canon.

!!!'''Deconstruction and Reconstruction'''
For a great {{Deconstruction}} of the Superhero genre as a whole, there are none better than ''Comicbook/{{Watchmen}},'' ''TheDarkKnightReturns'', and ''Comicbook/KingdomCome''. However, remember that their dark tone is balanced with a degree of sober intelligence and a mature sense of redemption or tragedy at the end. Without that deeper feel, any superficial emulation will feel like a despicable despoilment of characters who deserve better.

But, if you do read the deconstruction, be sure to also read the {{Reconstruction}} to avoid setting your story in DarknessInducedAudienceApathy territory. ''ComicBook/AstroCity,'' ''Comicbook/{{Justice}}'', and ''{{Marvels}}'' are good ones.

!!'''The Fails'''

Much of the work of RobLiefeld tends to be criticized as being representative of many of the faults of the DarkAge of Comics - poor art, ludicrously over-muscular and over-macho characters and dialogue, poor plotting and an overly-adolescent idea of 'maturity'. His work is often considered a good example of what to avoid.

Outside of comic books, the later movies in the original ''Superman'' and ''Batman'' movie franchises (particularly ''Film/SupermanIVTheQuestForPeace'' and ''Film/BatmanAndRobin'') are generally looked upon dimly, being considered over-campy, poorly-plotted and written and generally of low quality.

You may also want to avoid most of Jeph Loeb's later work, particularly ''TheUltimates 3,'' unless you have an obsession with death and/or women being eaten. His earlier work, in particular those that involve Batman, Tim Sale or both, are safe for consumption, however.

Also, beware Creator/FrankMiller's later works as well. ''TheDarkKnightStrikesAgain'' um... didn't quite live up to its predecessor and both ''ComicBook/AllStarBatmanAndRobinTheBoyWonder'' and ''ComicBook/HolyTerror'' were poorly received as well.

''CountdownToFinalCrisis'' showcases the pitfalls of writing in a shared universe, especially CharacterDerailment, ContinuityPorn, WritingForTheTrade, and [[DecompressedComic too much padding]].

!!'''Online Resources'''

* GailSimone's [[http://comicssurvivalkit.tumblr.com/ Comics Survival Kit]] offers advice from comics industry pros.


Now, my minions! You have what you need, now go to the studios of DC and Marvel and take over the writing staff! Make Franchise/{{Superman}} as weak as a baby! Make Franchise/{{Batman}} afraid to leave his home! Force the ComicBook/{{X-Men}} to go back into hiding! Force {{Spider-Man}} to make a [[DealWithTheDevil deal with Mephisto]] to undo everything that has been done since the Silver Age! (What do you mean, [[JoeQuesada they]] [[WriterOnBoard already]] [[OneMoreDay did that?]])

'''Not so fast, Marcus Murderous!'''

''Gasp''! The Vanguard of Virtue! This... ThisCannotBe! T.V.T.R.O.P.E.S., Fight off the intruders!

(many bad puns and onomatopoeic sound effects later)

Curses, our plans have been foiled again! But you have not seen the last of Marcus Murderous! [[EvilLaugh AHAHAHAHAHAHA! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!]]