I got to say, I was impressed with the response my “Superhero Challenge” got. I knew that the topic was a fertile one, hence why my wife and I started talking about it. But I wasn’t sure how much thought other people were likely to put it into it. I’m so happy there are plenty of geeks like me out there! For those of you who came in and selected your powers and a name for your character, kudos! Now we just need to get to work on your backstory.
Every superhero and villain has one. They give them depth, motivation, and an origin story that makes their actions and purpose seem relatable. After all, a hero who does heroic things just because is no hero at all! He’s just a cardboard stand in whom no one can relate to. But a hero who helps others because of personal tragedy or to bring meaning to their own life is something we can all get behind.
Heck, the same is true for a super villain isn’t it? No one believes that a bad guy could kill, maim and plot the destruction of the world simply because he’s Evil the Cat. He too needs a history to explain how he became the way he was. It’s simply the way people work. We desire explanations and love a good origin story!
So I’ve prepared the following list of motivation/creation factors. I’d say pick one, but since there are some obvious places where overlap occurs, feel free to pick a second if it’s appropriate. And just to be creative, I’ll include a list of possible factions/forces that could have been involved. Circumstances are one thing, but going from that to the five W’s (who, what, when, where, and why) is a different matter. Read on and select:
- Tragedy – this can be the death of one’s parents, a wife, a husband, a sibling, or even a child. The loss effected you deeply, and led you to resolve that you would never let that happen to anyone else. Or maybe you just want some payback on the bastards who did it! Either way, the tragedy has become your weapon, and those who would harm innocents fear you now!
- Vendetta – a slight variation on Tragedy, this involves a purposeful attack on you which left you scarred, angry, and motivated to seek vengeance on the ones who did it. Whereas the loss of family is a tragedy that would have hurt you deeply, this is a wound that has left you pissed and determined to see the people who did it suffer horribly!
- Accident – maybe you fell into a vat of chemicals, got bombarded by some high-energy gamma rays, survived an atomic blast, had a brush with near death, or just stumbled onto something you weren’t supposed to. However it happened, the experience left you scarred and forever changed. Fighting crime or doing evil is now your outlet over the pain of the life you lost, and a means to put your freaky new abilities to work!
- Mutation – similar to option two, this could be your mother having been bitten by a vampire (a la Blade), the result of evolution (a la X-Men), or again exposure to some process that isn’t exactly scientifically possible. But it’s left you with powers and there must be a reason for it, or at least a positive (or selfish) way to use them.
- Alien Influence – alien technology came to Earth and picked you as its beneficiary. Or maybe you just accidentally found it and decided it was mighty cool and useful. Hell, maybe you ARE an alien who fell to Earth (i.e. Superman), and being one gives you strange and awesome powers that no one else has access to. How will you use it though is up to you. Will you be a savior, or a terrible force to be reckoned with?
Who hurt /changed and/or effected you? In short, what was the motivation behind the thing that made you what you are today? The list of possible candidates is potentially long, so I’ll try to break it down to as few possibilities as I can. And off the top of my head, and calling to mind all the examples that I can think of, I have come up with a list of seven different kinds of people/organizations who usually have a hand in the creation of superheroes and villains. Select one and proceed to the end:
- Crime Kingpin – every city has its share of crooks and criminal masterminds. Did you, your family, or someone else you care about run afoul of these villains? Did you, they, owe them some money, protection fees, a debt of blood which they exacted, thus leaving you hurt, bitter and angry?
- Negligent Superhero – let’s face it. Sometimes superheroes do bad things. Whether its collateral damage from their crime-fighting antics, the result of too much force, or maybe they were just having an off day, sometimes they hurt people without intending to. This is sure to leave some people angry, scarred, and looking for payback. After all, the Joker was either a hapless victim or a petty thug (depending on which back story you believe) before Batman sent him into that vat of toxic chemicals. And you got to figure a lot of victims get caught in the crossfire whenever there’s a big showdown between the good guys and bad. And in some cases, the victims blame the heroes…
- The Government – yeah, we all know they’re up to some clandestine stuff, or at least they used to be! And whether they decided to quietly bury the outcomes of their ugly projects and black ops, or simply don’t know about them anymore, you were the end result and now the truth must be brought to light. Expose their crimes, and if the ones who did are still around, make them pay! Otherwise, they might do it to someone else!
- The Corporation – and when it’s not the government doing dirty, crooked things and then trying to cover it up, it’s usually the private sector! We all know there are plenty of corporate magnates out there who love to experiment with weapons, chemicals, radiation, and risky ventures that will leave people dead, mutated, or just plain altered. And you know they won’t be held accountable for it. No sir, not by the courts and not by the law! It’s up to you to bring these bastards to justice, or perhaps they are after you because you are now in possession of something they want. Doesn’t matter, as far as you’re concerned, the initials CEO stand for Chief Enemy Officer!
- Aliens – sure, there are plenty of nice aliens out there. ET, Alf, and the Predator people can be pretty stand up if you know how to stay on their good side. But alas, there are plenty of aliens out there that are just like us humans. Cruel, manipulative, and irresponsible when it comes to how they treat other people and dispose of their technology. Maybe you came into something powerful by accident, or maybe it was the result of something they purposefully did to you. Either way, you gotta follow this up and figure out who they are. And while you’re at it, show off whatever it is they gave you!
- Vampires/Paranormals – far be it from me to discriminate against folks on a count of their background or supernatural affiliations. But when Vampires, Werewolves and other paranormal creatures start hurting people, it’s on! Was it you they hurt, your family, your friends, or do they just have it in their heads that “your kind” needs to be destroyed or pushed out of the way? Doesn’t much matter, because the end result is the same. Death to (fill in the blank)!
- International Villains – sometimes, its not our own governments or their secretive agents that we need fear. Sometimes, the threat comes from aboard, either in the form of renowned terrorists, spies, or assorted Bond-like villains. And when they crossed you, your family, your friends, etc, they went too far! Now it’s up to you to make them pay for their crimes. This may be a fight you pursue alone, or as part of a team or a government agency. But in the end, you will bring the fight to their doorstep!
Okay! That’s it, that’s all on my end. Once again, the challenge is to make your selection and combine them with your characters powers and name to come up with a profile that is all your own! And please feel free to comment and include a small bio blurb which I will then include in a list of superheroes in my third and final installment. I plan to call it, “The New New Justice League”! Okay, that name is negotiable, but the intent is pretty clear right? Let’s make some new and interesting comic book icons!