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  1. #1
    Spectacular Member Banner's Avatar
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    Default Creating your own superhero universe

    Imagine being an editor in a new comics publishing company, and when hiring writers and artists, you gave them a list to follow when they started to add their own ideas to the universe.

    My own lists:


    No social issues and metaphors. Perhaps a single issue or so, but don't dedicate a whole title to it.

    Bring in the fun of giving each character their own origin story like in the old days, instead of a single reason for all the powers like we often see in shows like Smallville (meteor shower), The Flash (dark matter energy) or the Wildcards books.

    No realism as in "what if superhumans were real".

    No realm of death. Instead of killing a character and then find a way to bring it back to life, simply don't kill it in the first place. If people can simply come back like they have visited another realm, the whole concept of death become useless. That itself could actually work as a story idea in a movie or novel, but not in my comic universe.

    No incarnations of natural phenomena such as chaos, order, death, dream, love and hate and so on.

    Cosmic entities are okay, but not a hiearchy. And no god or highest being or cosmic judge. No origin story of the universe.

    No time travels or alternative futures. Once you open that door, you will soon get lost in what is the real future or present timeline, can anyone be erased from history, does death mean anything if you can just see them in another timeline? In Days of Future Past, John Byrne intented the dark future to be permanently erased, which would have made Rachel's sacrifice even bigger. That didn't happen, and the rest is history.

    No "next step in evolution" or incorrect descriptions of evolution. I can accept that people are turned into monsters by radiation, but no evolutionary concepts unless they make sense and are vital to the plot.

    No pseudo-scientific explanations when it is not required. How can someone suddenly increase in mass? We don't know, they just can. In Marvel attempts have been given by suggesting that Hulk's mass is hidden away in some pocket dimension or some nonsense.

    And no superpowers like good or bad luck. No ridiculous superpowers either, which can be the result when trying to come up with some new powers for each new characters.

    Villains should have better reasons for their actions than being evil or wanting to rule the world.

    No background superhumans. In X-Men we had the Morlocks, which were too numerous to give each and one of them a design, name and powers. Later mutants started to count millions for a while. If you can't give them a name, look, background and powers, then don't bother.

    No breaking of the fifth wall when included in the actual story. I think it was in Jim Starlin's original Adam Warlock stories that Captain Marvel was used in an intro where he told us who Thanos was. Which is OK as long as it takes place outside the story. And no guest appearences of the comic book creators. I remember that the Watcher once visited John Byrne and took him for a ride. It kind of takes you out of the story.

    No retconning or personal spins on established characters.





    Being a bit greedy, there could also be a second superhero universe that's a bit more realistic:

    Just like the one above, but a couple of differences;

    Superpowers are created through science and technology, not accidents.

    No morphing, and no increase or decrease in mass, and no change in size.

    Cool costumes allowed, but not as insane as those of some characters in DC and Marvel. And they should make sense (Wolverine is supposed to blend in while on missions, but black and yellow makes him stand out).

  2. #2
    MXAAGVNIEETRO IS RIGHT MyriVerse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Banner View Post
    Imagine being an editor in a new comics publishing company, and when hiring writers and artists, you gave them a list to follow when they started to add their own ideas to the universe.

    My own lists:

    No social issues and metaphors. Perhaps a single issue or so, but don't dedicate a whole title to it.
    Doesn't really sound very appealing to me. But to each their own.

    Bring in the fun of giving each character their own origin story like in the old days, instead of a single reason for all the powers like we often see in shows like Smallville (meteor shower), The Flash (dark matter energy) or the Wildcards books.
    The world I created for an old RP campaign used one overall reason, but with a vast number of results. Exotic forms of matter and energy from various dimensions actually became part of the building blocks of nature, ultimately causing mutated people, plants, and animals.

    The world also had no supernatural whatsoever. Any "supernatural" beings, like say vampires, were all scientifically explained. Some people thought their super powers were magic, but they were just ignorant and/or nuts.

    No realism as in "what if superhumans were real".
    IMO, there has to be to a certain extent, but I agree it can get burdensome. I think the old New Universe quickly went way too far into this direction.

    No incarnations of natural phenomena such as chaos, order, death, dream, love and hate and so on.
    Yeah. See above with the crazy people. "I'm the incarnation of Love." Uh huh. Sure you are. *eyeroll*

    Mind you, it depends on the world. In my old D&D campaign, the gods were explicitly the incarnations of these things. But I wouldn't do that in a typical superhero universe.

    Cosmic entities are okay, but not a hiearchy. And no god or highest being or cosmic judge. No origin story of the universe.
    Well, there's always going to be a hierarchy. But yeah, my atheist grounding pretty much agrees.

    No time travels or alternative futures. Once you open that door, you will soon get lost in what is the real future or present timeline, can anyone be erased from history, does death mean anything if you can just see them in another timeline? In Days of Future Past, John Byrne intented the dark future to be permanently erased, which would have made Rachel's sacrifice even bigger. That didn't happen, and the rest is history.
    My opinion is to either have it two ways
    1. There is no past or future. Only the present. So, no time travel ever.
    2. You can never actually travel to your own timeline, past or present, because even traveling to another time changes the entire timeline. You don't even have to try and change anything, you being there taking up space is change enough.

    And death always means something, because those alternate counterparts are not actually the people you know. At all. Ever.

    No "next step in evolution" or incorrect descriptions of evolution. I can accept that people are turned into monsters by radiation, but no evolutionary concepts unless they make sense and are vital to the plot.
    Everything is a next step in evolution. If you're having people turned into superpowered beings, they have to be a next step in evolution. Doesn't mean they're the next step. Nature will decide that. Peter Parker or Reed Richards should be just as much of a next step as Kitty Pryde.

    No pseudo-scientific explanations when it is not required. How can someone suddenly increase in mass? We don't know, they just can. In Marvel attempts have been given by suggesting that Hulk's mass is hidden away in some pocket dimension or some nonsense.
    "They just can" seems very lazy to me. There has to be an explanation. And extra mass can only come from one thing-- a different dimension/universe.

    And no superpowers like good or bad luck. No ridiculous superpowers either, which can be the result when trying to come up with some new powers for each new characters.
    Eh. Quantum stuff.

    Villains should have better reasons for their actions than being evil or wanting to rule the world.
    Eh. Some people simply do just want to watch things burn.

    No background superhumans. In X-Men we had the Morlocks, which were too numerous to give each and one of them a design, name and powers. Later mutants started to count millions for a while. If you can't give them a name, look, background and powers, then don't bother.
    All part of world building. Having only a small fleshed-out amount is dull and lazy. Practically every story has background characters. Sometimes they're even better than the main cast.

    No retconning or personal spins on established characters.
    Often these things come about when established characters and events aren't properly, fully explained. Other times, creators don't think things through or realize the ramifications. IMO, Magneto was a reall quite horrible character until Claremont retconned him. Ultimately, such a rule just kills creativity, imo. Just try to be smart about the retcons.

    Superpowers are created through science and technology, not accidents.
    The two aren't mutually exclusive. Much in science/technology comes about through accidents. You cannot really have purposeful science and tech powers without accidental ones.

    No morphing, and no increase or decrease in mass, and no change in size.
    See above. It depends on how different you want to make various lifeforms. You're really not going to be able to have characters like The Hulk or Mr. Hyde without these things. These sorts of abilities have long histories going back to the earliest myths, so it would be difficult to make hard rules and not stifle creativity. And then once you have such abilities, there's only one way to explain them-- mass comes from other dimensions.

    Cool costumes allowed, but not as insane as those of some characters in DC and Marvel. And they should make sense (Wolverine is supposed to blend in while on missions, but black and yellow makes him stand out).
    Well, no, Wolverine isn't supposed to blend in. Logan might. Wolverine was his flamboyant identity created by the Canadian government. Different strokes would be my motto. Some characters would be practical about their suits. Others ostentacious. And others would like John Constantine or Pete Wisdom. Ever seen a fashion show? Now tell me, where do "cool costumes" turn into "insane?" Very subjective.
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  3. #3
    Astonishing Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Starting from a notion of creating a shared universe is a mistake. Neither Marvel or DC actually set out to create a shared universe when they started I think that is the mistake that so many creators make. Start off with one good character and story then build up.

  4. #4
    Spectacular Member Banner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MyriVerse View Post
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    I just find too much social issues in superhero comics boring. And because I'm convinced humans have a lot in common, I know I'm far from being the only one.

    Using a single reason for superpowers is not unusual in role playing games, or TV-shows. I just remember how I enjoyed reading all the different origin stories about how heroes and villains got their powers. If all superhumans for instance had been born as mutants for no spesific reason, it just wouldn't be the same.

    Supernatural elements don't bother me, but others prefer a world without them, which doesn't bother me either. Religious elements is something else. If we have a comic book world that allows space opera, where does the devil and god fit into other planets with their own religions?

    Normally superhumans exist in a world that is pretty much like our own, without any consequences for society. So there is not much need for worldbuilding in that regard. If we first start thinking about how these abilities would affect the world, there will be worldbuilding, and the society will no longer look like our own. Some comics may try that approach, but it is not the only alternative, and not better or worse.

    And yeah, fantasy worlds is not the same as a superhero universe, so having gods represent things like aspects of the human mind would be in the tradition of old myths.

    I prefer it when the origin in hidden in the mist of the distant past. Getting everything explained down to every little details could be difficult to live up to. And especially if it is done in an already established universe which has existed for decades, and someone suddenly decide to write their own creation myth for that universe.
    Fans grow up, and sometimes the fans becomes writer themselves. If given free hands to do their own take, there is a chance that we get fan fiction made canon.

    I love Jim Starlin's earlier work, but the cosmic hiearchy stuff that comes later, with the Living Tribunal and The One Above All, and Lord Chaos and Mister Order and other beings witnessing the whole process gives the impression of a shared world that has become domesticated, with less room for wild west stories.

    Death may mean something if it affects the characters. In the last Avengers movie, Quill is so excited to see Gamora again even if the Gamora he felled in love with is still dead.
    And sometimes the comic creators decides to kill off a character just for the sake of publicity or it is meant as a stunt. If they then just replace it with someone from a different timeline and assume the readers will adjust, a lost of the meaning has been lost.

    I disagree about next step in evolution the way it is often portrayed. As if evolution is directional, or that mutants are the next step. If so, all mutants should have the same powers. And mutations should be combined with selection processes to affect the common gene pool. Getting superpowers from being exposed to radiation is not much different than creating your own powers like Tony Stark does. It only matters if the genes are passed on to new generations.

    Not explaining every details about superpowers is not lazyness. It doesn't matter for the story, and you just roll with it. If not, you'll only dig yourself into a hole.

    Naomi Novik does this in the Temeraire series. Instead of just letting dragons being dragons, she decides to try to explain their ability to fly by giving their bodies pockets of gas. What you as a reader are told, is that it wouldn't work in the real world, and nobody needs to be reminded about that. Not to mention it just creates a new problem, but gas filled dragons wouldn't have been able to fly either, unless they looked like balloons.

    Take Cyclops for instance. You could just explain his powers as "the ability to shoow kinetic optic blasts from his eyes". But when you try to explain the energy from his eyes by saying it is actually from another dimension, the question is then what dimension, how his he connected to it, how does his eyes open a connection, how can they harvest energy from it without being affected themselves, and so on. To make it more realistic, whihc I guess it was an attempt to at first, more problems are being created instead.

    Some insane villains would perhaps want to see the world burn, but they should still need a reason, and it has already been done way more than just once.

    Background characters are still characters. What I'm referring to is off-screen superhumans that are so numerous there is not enough creativity or titles in the business to introduce them all. That's biting over more than you can chew.

    About retconnings; I preferred it when Cloak and Dagger were the products of a new syntethic drug, not some dark interdimensional force. When Sasquatch was the product of science, not some god or being from another realm. When Spider-Man got his powers from the radioactive poison from a spider, not from a spider totem. When Hulk was not the product of a mentally unstable Bruce Banner which suffered from multiple personality disorder, resulting in different manifestations like Hulks with various traits of his personality. Changing an established character's origin, which should long be a thing of the past, just to get more material for the title, is the equivalent of devouring your own products even if they still look pretty much the same.

    Exceptions can be done if the creation of a character is not properly explained or very badly done. Sasquatch and Cloak and Dagger and the other mentioned are not such creations.
    Developing a character's personality over time, is not something I consider as retconning. Changing them into someone else for no special reason is.


    That's all about the first universe. As I wrote in the first post, I was also interested in having a second universe, with some more restrictions, and have nothing to do with the first one.
    Getting powers from being hitten by a meteorite, a bomb or a lightning, is an accident. Strapped on a table in a lab with scientists performing experiments on you, is science. Within those frames, accidents as in possible unexpected but positive outcomes could happen. That happens in Marvel and DC as well, but in a world where also all the above occurs sometimes. And I disagree; it is fully possible to have superhumans created from scratch without having someone created by being exposed to chemical waste or something similar.

    Sure, in this second universe characters like Hulk or Ant-Man wouldn't have been possible. And I would still say that you don't need to explain the extra matter by invention another dimension. Hulk and others like him did fine without it for several decades before someone decided it had to be explained.

    If Wolverine is supposed to go on a resque mission and needs to avoid being detected, which is sometimes the case, black and yellow is not the best idea. With insane costumes I mean something that would stand out even in superhero movies if done in live action. In comics and animation on the other hand, it's luckily much easier to get away with these things.
    Last edited by Banner; 11-06-2019 at 03:27 PM.

  5. #5
    Spectacular Member Banner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathew101281 View Post
    Starting from a notion of creating a shared universe is a mistake. Neither Marvel or DC actually set out to create a shared universe when they started I think that is the mistake that so many creators make. Start off with one good character and story then build up.
    That's the way you would have done it. I would have gone for a different approach. I called this thread "Creating your own superhero universe", not "My own superhero universe". Which is why I have posted what I would have preferred myself. Either way, it's not like there would be huge crossover stories from day one.
    (Others are free to post what they would have done themselves. I assumed that was obvious, but if it is not, I'm mentioning it now.)

    When I first started reading Marvel, there was often references to previous stories I had not read yet, and sometimes they would meet old friends or enemies I had never heard of before, even if they obviously knew each other. All that made me realize the Marvel universe was a lot bigger than based on my comic collection. There was a long and impressive history there, and there were references to other titles not available for me. The fact that the whole picture was so much more than what I could see, was one of the things I loved about it.

    Starting from scratch with a single character would make the whole superhero universe seem anemic to me. Which is one of the reasons why the Spider-Man movies feels different from the comic.
    Last edited by Banner; 11-06-2019 at 04:33 AM.

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