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Title: Batgirl & Robin: Strategy Sessions (Chapters 1-2)
 DCU comics about Batman, Batgirl, Robin, etc.
Genres: Parody, Romance
Spoilers: Very much a parody of the "Robin OYL" issues which I recently read for the first time. If you haven't read that material, this may not be as funny -- and it will definitely give away details of the plots from those 2006 issues of "Robin."
Rating: PG
Word Count: 7170

Author’s Note: On Friday, October 16, I bought the “Robin: Wanted” TPB. Yes, that’s the one reprinting the “One Year Later” issues of Tim’s old Robin title; the issues in which he learned that Cassandra Cain had gone very bad during the year that Bruce and Dick and Tim spent away from Gotham after they had survived “Infinite Crisis.” The details of the plot were just as lame as I had heard from online reviews I had seen over the last few years—which is why I didn’t buy that material sooner. But once I did buy it and read it, I found myself facing the question: “Do I laugh or do I cry?” I chose to laugh! If you have also read that material, this parody will probably make more sense!

For the purposes of this parody's plot, I assume that almost everything published in the six-year run of Cassandra’s old “Batgirl” title still happened. But I make no guarantees about respecting anything that's been published about her since then! It makes no sense to think it all happened exactly the way it's been portrayed in the comics . . . therefore, I say, something else entirely was going on “behind the scenes!” Here's where we find out what!


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AUTHOR'S NOTE: After examining Darths & Droids, which apparently is built on the premise that the "plot" of Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace resulted from a bunch of accidents in a roleplaying session, rather than being carefully planned out in advance, I was inspired to try writing something with a similar premise, just for fun.

I thought about "classic" comic book story arcs I could parody, and settled on this concept: What if the events known as "The Dark Phoenix Saga" had simply been part of a campaign in a superhero-themed roleplaying game, with the players living in a world where no one had ever heard of "Marvel Comics" or "Chris Claremont" or "John Byrne"?

Make no mistake -- I admire "The Dark Phoenix Saga," and I wish its tragic ending had been allowed to stick. But I'm going to make fun of it anyway! Or at least of its first issue ("X-Men #129," cover-dated January 1980). If you have never read "The Dark Phoenix Saga," then be warned that this parody will naturally be stuffed full of Spoilers for it.

Consider this a "transcript" of what happens in a gaming session (with some of the boring parts edited out). The guy running the adventure will usually be called, very simply, the GM (or just plain GM for short). His real name is Bill, but that's almost never mentioned and doesn't mean anything subtle. I toyed with the idea of giving him some silly name such as Clare Byrnemont, but I restrained myself in the nick of time. (I hear your sighs of relief!) The players will only be referred to by the names of the superhero characters they are running; I figured that would be easier than asking you to remember a whole new set of names and mentally keep track of which person (such as "Steve" or "Pat") was running which superhero.


GM: Okay, so you've said goodbye to all your pals on Muir Isle and you're now on the plane for your transatlantic voyage. Any of you doing anything special after you're airborne and cruising along at 20,000 feet?

COLOSSUS: Guess I'm leaning back in my seat, putting on some headphones, listening to some Grateful Dead tunes.

GM (blinking): Anything else? Any reaction to recent trauma in your life, fr'instance?

COLOSSUS: Oh, right. Ah . . . listening to the music is just part of the brave front I'm putting up. Sensitive, artistic soul that I am, naturally I'm brooding like nobody's business over the "sad necessity" of destroying Proteus at the end of our last session . . . but being a Russian, I keep all this suffering just bottled up.

GM (happy that lip service has been paid to the idea that killing the villains is somehow a "bad" thing): Okay, okay. Anybody else?

NIGHTCRAWLER: I'll just be happy to get home.

GM (deciding to work in some more of his latest Mysterious Subplot): Cyclops, you see Jean leaning against a bulkhead looking a bit blank, as if she isn't really tracking whatever's going on around her.

CYCLOPS: Okay, I guess I'll just leave her alone.

GM (blinks as his script is derailed): What?

CYCLOPS: It's a rule of thumb I live by. If a babe has incredible powers, and appears to be lost in thought -- it's best NOT to disrupt her concentration unexpectedly. No telling what might happen!

GM: Is this how you normally handle it with the women you know? I mean, in real life? Just ignoring them whenever they seem worried or zoned out?

CYCLOPS: Is that RELEVANT? In real life, my girlfriend isn't telepathic and telekinetic. People won't get their lives ruined if I interrupt her when she's brooding over her homework or whatever. Likewise, if she suddenly reached over and affectionately tugged off my glasses, it wouldn't cause a red optic blast to smash holes in whatever was in front of my eyes (such as her face!). The etiquette for super-powered mutants is, of necessity, ENTIRELY different!

[The GM makes a note for future use -- something about that hypothetical example with removing the boyfriend's glasses has triggered a new train of thought.]

GM: Okay, okay, you've got a point. Let's just say that she suddenly blinks hard and seems -- once again -- to be focused on what's in front of her.

CYCLOPS: Right, right. I guess I'll ask if she's feeling okay.

GM: She doesn't want to talk about it. She doesn't seem to resent your efforts to strike up a conversation, but she doesn't want to dwell on whatever it was that just happened a minute ago. The ball's in your court again, Romeo.

CYCLOPS: Now there's a heavy hint if ever I've heard one . . . suggestions, guys? What should I say to prove what a nice, sensitive fellow I am beneath this shell?

STORM: Might be a good time to tell her about dating Colleen Wing when we thought Jean was dead . . .

CYCLOPS: Good point! I make a clean breast of it. I also explain that while Colleen is a nice girl and all that, she doesn't make my pulse pound the same way a certain red-headed Phoenix does.

GM: Jean explains that she already knew about it, what with her telepathy and all. But she's glad you're being honest.

CYCLOPS: Whew! Dodged a bullet there, didn't I? If she thought I was trying to keep it all a deep, dark secret, she'd probably never forgive me.

GM: Seems likely.

WOLVERINE (softly, to Colossus): Makes me glad my girlfriend in real life ain't telepathic.

COLOSSUS (whispering back): My last one came close enough to be terrifying.

CYCLOPS: Anyway -- now that I've broken the ice, I'll go ahead and chat about how numb I was, emotionally, when I thought she was dead -- and how overjoyed to realize she was actually still among the living. Do we need to roleplay this in excruciating detail?

GM (showing mercy): No, I think we can fast-forward a bit. She kisses you. Apparently all is forgiven! Anybody else got anything you want to roleplay while you have a captive audience, here on the plane?

[GM waits a few beats.]

GM: No? Okay, we fast-forward some more. You touch down at the X-Mansion and disembark. In the main entry hall, you are surprised and delighted to see Charles Xavier sitting in his wheelchair, beaming at you!

WOLVERINE: Aw, no. Professor Plot-Hammer is back in our lives!

STORM: How the heck did he find out we were alive? I was sure we'd finally thrown him off the trail!

NIGHTCRAWLER: All that trouble we went to, making sure the two NPCs in the Antarctica adventure -- Jean and Hank -- "just happened" to get separated from us as all that lava was flooding Maggy's underground base . . . but it was worth it! We figured they'd run home and tell Charlie-Boy that we must have died. I thought he might give us a nice epitath on a memorial or something . . . "Greater love hath no mutant than this, that he lay down his life for another."

WOLVERINE: Yeah, I got all misty just thinking about it. Anyway, we figured he'd take off to another galaxy with his alien princess sweetie, and so it would be happy endings all around! He would settle down with what's-her-name, Lily Andrea, to make babies, and we wouldn't have him pushing us around with his nasty telepathy every time he had another mood swing!

CYCLOPS: Served him right, too, after he pulled the same 'dead and buried' stunt on US, way back when.

COLOSSUS: "Us"? What do you mean, "us," white man?

NIGHTCRAWLER: Actually, I think he only pulled the same stunt on YOU, "fearless leader." The rest of us only joined up last year, remember? The only other "teammate" who dates back to those days is "Jean," and she's a GM-run NPC nowadays, ever since Tracy quit running her right after that "space shuttle crash" incident.

GM: Guys, I've told you before. Tracy was quitting anyway. So she VOLUNTEERED to sacrifice herself by exposure to the radiation as she piloted the shuttle down to save the rest of you.

STORM: But did you tell her you were planning to resurrect the character, call her Phoenix, and take control of her as an NPC from then on?

GM: No, but what did she care? She was planning to spend her gaming nights with a "RuneQuest" group from now on!

STORM: I was just thinking that if you'd said she would be getting super-telepathic, you might've been able to keep her around.

GM: Do you have any idea how nerve-wrackingly unbalanced it is to run a group where one of the PLAYERS has a majorly telepathic character? I've seen it tried -- when I was just another green roleplayer, I was with a group called "the Justice League of America." This one power-gamer had a hero our breathtakingly gullible GM had already approved before I ever came along. Super-strength, energy blasts, super-breath, super-speed, shapeshifting, flight, intangibility, AND telepathy. He kept insisting that if the villain-of-the-week wasn't telepathic, then his character should be able to read the guy's plans straight from his mind. Not to mention ours, whenever we were planning anything we wanted to keep a surprise from him!

COLOSSUS (whispering to WOLVERINE): Swell. Another "war story" from his misspent youth, to remind us how lucky we are to have him as a GM instead of Whosis, the guy who ran their "Justice League" adventures . . .

GM: Between that and all his other powers, I had to wonder why the rest of us even bothered to show up for gaming sessions. Then it turned out this hero -- "The Martian Munchkin," or some such name -- had a weakness to fire. A bunch of us "leaked" this to all the tabloids, and pretty soon it seemed like every villain we met carried flamethrowers and incendiary bullets and stuff around all the time. I think my favorite was the time one mad scientist sprayed gasoline all over the room before we entered, and then triggered a spark as Martian Munchkin came charging in . . .

[We'll spare you the rest of the GM's interminable reminiscences, and just skip ahead to a Danger Room training session, happening some days later in game-time]

GM (sternly): Okay, Wolverine, the Professor says that if you're going to throw a fit over every little thing in these vitally important training sessions, then he's just going to have to put ten demerits on your record.


[Wolverine wipes his eyes]

WOLVERINE: Thanks, Bill. I needed a good laugh. But seriously, what does he say?

GM: No, seriously. He's scowling at you ferociously, as if he expects you to be intimidated.

WOLVERINE: Hold on. Is the Prof under the impression that I hang around this madhouse just on the off chance that someday he'll give me a nice report card to take home to mother?

GM: In a word: Yes. That's how he handled his first batch of students, back in the day!

WOLVERINE (looking around at the other players): Whaddaya say, gang? Should I explain to him that I'm in this first for the slugfests, and second for the chance to impress the chicks?

NIGHTCRAWLER: Actually, if the Professor wants to keep us happy, he might want to address some sad inequities in the gender ratio in our line-up. We've got what, four guys and two gals on active duty at the moment? And Cyke has Jeannie all locked up, and Storm isn't interested in the rest of us, except for treating us like a bunch of well-meaning but snot-nosed little brothers . . .

GM (muttering under his breath): I always said Storm was a good judge of character . . .

COLOSSUS: Much as I hate to say it . . . they've got a point.

GM (rattling some dice): Okay, okay, I'll tell you what. I was about to have Cerebro register a "hit" from a new mutant. To move things along, I'll make it a double hit -- simultaneously, by sheer coincidence -- and I'll make BOTH of them girls. As to whether or not you guys can convince them to join the team . . . well, there you're on your own! Fair enough?

COLOSSUS: Let me guess -- then the Prof will order us to go check them out, and one or both of those gals will coincidentally happen to be tangled up with whatever Big Bad Conspiracy you were planning to unleash as the centerpiece of our next adventure, ANYWAY?

GM (looking incredibly angelic): Would I do a thing like that to you?


GM (shrugging): Look, do you want to meet these girl mutants, or don't you?

[Evidently they do -- we now fast-forward a bit to when half of the group -- Storm, Wolverine, and Colossus, accompanying Professor X -- are approaching the Pryde home in a nice quiet suburb]

GM: As you wheel Professor X up the sidewalk, you pass a woman just exiting the Pryde domicile. She's still young, but rather severe-looking. Pale blond hair up in a bun, and she wears spectacles and a conservative brown suit. She just sorta nods at you politely as she strides past.

COLOSSUS: I think I recognize the pattern. Kinda like what's-her-name, Marian the Librarian, in "The Music Man." Very intellectual, very prim and proper, very lonely and repressed, but incredibly hot if you can get her to take the glasses off and let her hair down and generally unwind. Betcha some of my "naive Russian farmboy charm" would soften her up!

GM (straight-faced): Interesting theory. Too bad she isn't lingering to chat. She's already down at the curb, getting into her car.

COLOSSUS: Oh well, two ships that pass in the night . . . guess we'll never see her again?

[A few minutes later -- after they've all been introduced to the Prydes]

COLOSSUS: Hold on a minute! We're here to recruit a scrawny THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD kid? Have we ever had anybody at the Mansion who wasn't at least SIXTEEN? Y'know what? Why don't we come back in three or four years, when she's filled out a little? I might've known you'd find a way to cheat on your promise to introduce us to a couple of mutant babes in this adventure!

GM (smugly): I didn't say "babes." I said "girls." A teenaged female qualifies as a "girl."

STORM: Just BARELY teenaged? I've got a bad feeling about this . . .

[We fast-forward again. They are now in the local Malt Shoppe. Storm and Kitty are sitting at a table chatting; Wolverine and Colossus are currently finding other ways to pass the time]

WOLVERINE: Okay, I'm flipping through one of the *ahem* men's magazines; the kind that only adults are allowed to buy.

COLOSSUS: I'm shocked. I'm chagrined. I can't believe these decadent capitalist shopkeepers are allowed to sell such trash in places where schoolchildren congregate.

GM: In other words . . .

COLOSSUS: Naturally I stand right behind Wolvie, looking over his shoulder, just to double-check on how decadent and trashy it all is! Besides, anything is better than staying over on the other side of the store, with that thirteen-year-old brat making eyes at me!

STORM: Thirteen AND a half. She's very insistent about that extra half-year!

COLOSSUS: Thanks for reminding me. Is that supposed to make it feel less creepy?

[We'll skip over the surprise attack by men in armored suits. I'm not trying to do a panel-by-panel, blow-by-blow rendition of the entire saga. It goes pretty much the way you remember -- for a little bit, the X-Men on the spot seem stymied; then Wolvie has the "brilliant idea" of switching opponents and they polish off one another's "assigned" attackers in very short order.]

GM: Done congratulating yourselves on your tactics? Now let's see all three of you roll for a defense against psychic attack!

WOLVERINE: How strong is the attack, exactly?

GM (sweetly): Just make your roll, and I'll tell you if it did any good.

STORM: Gee, that doesn't sound menacingly predestined or anything . . .

[STORM, COLOSSUS, and WOLVERINE all roll. They are NOT terribly surprised when told they all get knocked out cold by the mysterious ringleader's overwhelmingly powerful psychic sledgehammers.]

COLOSSUS (rolling his eyes): Admit it. You just made that up. If the ringleader is a telepath on the same scale as Professor Plot-Hammer, then she could have begun AND ended this fight in ten seconds flat, WITHOUT all the brawling and associated property damage that went BEFORE!

STORM: But hey, who needs "efficient use of resources" anyway?

WOLVERINE: Grudge Monster Alert, people! Betcha that even when we wake up, he'll insist we're Utterly Helpless until further notice, because this Mysterious New Telepathic Supervillain is just so darn unstoppable until someone else pulls our fat out of the fire!

STORM: Wait -- did they get what's-her-face, Kitty, along with the rest of us?

GM: Probably not. You think she was already out of the store long before you got mind-zapped.

STORM: Ah. The pieces begin to fall into place. She gets to rescue us now, doesn't she? I guess that's how we'll finally find out what her mutant power is, and we'll be terribly impressed and grateful?

COLOSSUS: I think you hit the nail on the head. We're going to get stuck with her as an X-Man whether we like it or not, aren't we?


Well, what did you think? Did it make you laugh? Or did you pass out from boredom in the middle? Do you want me to do this again sometime, until I've worked my way through the entire saga? Or are you praying I'll drop the idea before any more time has been lost on it?

Current Mood: mischievousmischievous
17 October 2007 @ 02:12 am
12 Tricks for Keeping Superheroes Young

In the Marvel and DC Universes, most superheroes age very slowly (if at all). And even when a hero has "visibly aged" over the years, he may later get "visibly de-aged" on one excuse or another!

In 1938 Superman jump-started the Golden Age of superheroes in "Action Comics #1." In those days, he was a young man, presumably twentysomething years old, just starting a journalistic career as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. Today, 69 years later, the latest issues of "Action Comics" still feature a Superman who has no gray hairs, no wrinkles, looks like he could still be in his twenties (if you assume Kryptonians age at the same rate as humans), and is supposedly somewhere in his thirties. If DC is still publishing new Superman comics in another 69 years, I don't expect any of those details will have changed in any significant and permanent fashion by 2076.

Much the same applies to Batman, who debuted in 1939. And his protege Dick Grayson, who debuted in 1940, with the "modern version" of Dick still being no more than "twentysomething" years old today. I will be frankly astounded if Dick Grayson, meaning the "mainstream continuity" version (not an Elseworlds or alternate future timeline's version or whatever) is ever clearly stated to turn "thirty" in any story set in "regular continuity." (And if it did happen, I would expect it to quickly be retconned as soon as the editor who approved the idea was replaced by another one.)

After all the trouble that DC (and other related companies, such as Warner Bros.) have taken to firmly implant in the general consciousness the idea that "Superman is the Last Son of Krypton, aka Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet, and his girlfriend (or wife) is Lois Lane, and so forth," and the idea that "Batman is Bruce Wayne, richest and most eligible bachelor in Gotham, who was scarred for life by witnessing the murders of his parents as a child," and so forth, the chances of their allowing either of those characters to ever get visibly middle-aged, maybe even retire and be replaced by a grown child or other successor as a permanent thing, are right up there with my chances of winning the election for President of the United States next year.

So Superman and Batman will never be more than "thirtysomething." And since they are supposed to live in one coherent universe which they share with their contemporary superheroes, many of whom are roughly the same ages as Supes and Bats, DC appears to feel that if Superman and Batman are going to be perpetually "thirtysomething," then most of their fellow members of the Silver Age and Bronze Age JLA should be locked into the same age range, give or take a few years. (Zatanna may still be in her late twenties for all I can tell; on the other hand, various stories have hinted if not stated that Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen may be past 40 by now -- but in all of those cases, the differences from the ages of Clark and Bruce are probably only a handful of years, rather than a decade or two.)

Marvel has not yet had to jump through as many hoops as DC in this regard, because most of their big-name superhero characters were only created in the 1960s or later -- with a bare handful of conspicuous exceptions, including Captain America, the original Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner, and the Tricks that have been used on them will be mentioned below! It helps a lot that such characters as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil do not have backstories that are strongly tied to specific historical events of the 1930s and 1940s (such as the Great Depression and the Second World War.) But Marvel follows DC's lead by not allowing their heroes to "age in realtime," either. Otherwise the characters who were Professor X's teenaged students in the mid-1960s would all be at least in their late fifties by now . . . unless, of course, some other Trick on my list had been applied to the problem somewhere along the line! (Which it probably would have been! )

Here's the list of approaches that I've seen Marvel and/or DC use on various characters in order to keep those corporate assets young and fit for as long as possible:

The 12 Tricks
01. The Ongoing Sliding Timescale Retcon
02. Different species
03. Nonorganic
04. Natural Side-Effect of the Powers
05. Fountain of Youth
06. Replaced Behind the Mask
07. Starting Age Gets Retconned
08. Suspended Animation
09. Time Travel
10. Changing Bodies
11. Rejuvenation/Resurrection
12. Reboot

01. The Ongoing Sliding Timescale Retcon
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17 October 2007 @ 02:09 am
14 Motives for Becoming a Superhero

Why do they choose to do it in the first place? Why do they keep at it, week after week and year after year? (Always bearing in mind that some would-be heroes don't keep at it -- they die, or retire to get married, or lose their powers, or just fade away into comic book limbo for some reason without any clear follow-up being provided to the readers for the next several years!)

I'm not just talking about why our beloved superheroes often pull on masks and invent new names for themselves. The desire to have a "secret identity" and thus maintain some sort of "private life" is understandable, but I see the problem of choosing whether to have one as a secondary decision. The primary decision is whether to jump into the superhero lifestyle in the first place! If you decide you aren't going to do that, then the problems associated with a "secret identity" (or the lack of one) will remain purely academic points, right?

I asked myself those questions, and I pondered many superhero origin stories, and I came up with the following list of basic Motives. Of course, some superheroes change a great deal as the years roll past (and as one writer replaces another and imposes his own tastes upon the hapless hero he's writing about), so that a hero's Motive today may not be the Motive he had when he started. And -- human beings (and sentients of other species) being the complicated creatures that they are -- sometimes there may be several motives all tangled up inside a hero's head, whether or not he is consciously aware of each and every one!

14 Motives for Becoming a Superhero

01. Seeking Revenge/Justice
02. Family Tradition
03. Greed
04. Atonement
05. Self-Defense
06. Spokesperson
07. Patriotic Duty
08. Action Junkie
09. Rebellion
10. One Mission
11. The Power Goes With the Job
12. Glory
13. Public Service
14. Phony Heroism
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17 October 2007 @ 02:06 am
14 Ways to Rehabilitate a Disgraced Hero

Sometimes a superhero gets dragged through the mud. He does something that, according to the traditional rules his fans hoped he lived by -- moral, legal, or both -- is awful, perhaps even "unpardonable." And yet some of those heroes later get "rehabilitated," restored to a heroic condition where fans are expected to cheer them on once again! Sometimes an "excuse" was planned all along, and in that same issue -- or at the end of a longer story arc -- the excuse was trotted out and waved in our faces so that we could relax, secure in the knowledge that everything important had once again reverted back to the Sacred Status Quo. But right now I'm mostly interested in cases where a writer really and truly intended to portray a hero "going bad," but much later, someone else (or occasionally the same writer?) said, "Hmm. It's Damage Control Time! How can I clean this mess up and put everything back the way it was before, good as new, so that he can convincingly function as a superhero again?" (Although I do cover a few other cases, such as when the "sins" of the hero are retconned in, long after the fact.)

14 Ways to Rehabilitate a Disgraced Hero

01. Impersonation
02. Mind Control
03. Working Within the Criminal Justice System
04. Death and Rebirth
05. Retcon-Erasure
06. Total Amnesia Retcon
07. Deep Undercover
08. No Evidence
09. Outside of Anybody's Jurisdiction
10. Mindwiped After the Fact
11. Second Thoughts
12. Extortion/Blackmail
13. Belated Awareness of the Problem
14. The Retconned Sinful Past
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17 October 2007 @ 02:03 am
10 Types of Superhero Successors

Sometimes someone at a publishing company decides that a veteran hero "needs" to be replaced by a successor. By "successor," I mean someone who will use the same superhero alias, and sometimes the same costume, but will be (or claim to be) a different person. The reasoning behind this move can vary in different circumstances. Sometimes the plan is to give the old guy the boot to make room for the new guy in a hurry; other times the old guy has already been dead for years anyway! (Or just hasn't been heard from in any significant way for a long, long time, even if theoretically he's still alive somewhere.)

From the perspective of the other characters living in the same universe as the "old guy" and the "new guy," there are many possible reasons why the "old guy's" superhero role might be vacant, awaiting a successor. He could have died. He could have been injured badly enough (physically and/or psychologically) that he’s no longer fit for active duty; not now and maybe not ever. He could have voluntarily retired, either because of advancing age or simply because he discovered there were other things he wanted to do with his life -- such as getting married and raising kids -- without being distracted by every supervillain to hit town. He could have been fired from his superhero identity -- if his costumed role was actually in the nature of a “job” which he performed for an employer. He could have somehow lost whatever special powers or equipment made his heroic career possible (although otherwise he might still be in excellent health by any “normal” standards). He could have simply gotten tired of his old costumed identity and created a new costume and alias that he intended to use from now on (and he might be very frank about this and make it clear to the world that he was still the same hero --with a new paint job). He could have faked his own death in order to have some privacy from now on. Or maybe he just disappeared a long time ago and, as a new story begins, nobody seems to know which of the above possibilities is closest to the truth!

Be that as it may, if we grant there is a vacancy to be filled, what sort of successor might we end up with? Here are the possible types that occurred to me!

10 Types of Superhero Successors

01. The Carefully Groomed Protégé
02. The Family Member
03. The Copycat
04. The All-New, All-Different Version
05. The Rookie Created Out of Thin Air
06. The New Employee
07. The Mandated Replacement
08. The After-The-Fact Retconned Replacement
09. The Impostor
10. The False Replacement
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17 October 2007 @ 02:01 am
14 Functions for a Superhero Costume

At one time or another I have written all sorts of commentary on various aspects of the superhero lifestyle, but I don’t think I’ve ever said much of anything about the nifty costumes! So let's take a look at the subject. It occurs to me that there are many different possible parameters a superhero might want a costume to meet. Different heroes will have different priorities in choosing their wardrobes, and sometimes the poor costume is expected to perform several functions all at once!

The 14 Functions

01. Masking
02. Built-In Firepower
03. Restraining Power
04. Camouflage
05. Colorful Propaganda
06. Intimidation
07. Titillation
08. Team Uniform
09. My Appearance is Freeform
10. Natural Appearance
11. Continuing a Proud Tradition
12. Homage to an Inspiration
13. Body Armor
14. Artificial Body Parts

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17 October 2007 @ 01:57 am
13 Reasons to Use a Deathtrap

Months ago, I saw someone on DC's own boards asking why villains so often capture a hero and then dump him into a complicated "deathtrap" instead of just chopping his head off right away so they'll never have to worry about him again. It was a good question! I responded with a few possible reasons at the time, and made a note to come up with a better list later. Which I did. Then I saved it on a floppy disk and lost track of the disk for awhile. Today I managed to unearth it and decided to spruce it up a little and post it for you!

Note: Not all of the traps that villains set for heroes are actually intended to be deadly, but in the name of simplicity I am sticking to the term "deathtrap" for any such situation.

13 Reasons to Use a Deathtrap

01. Crazy
02. Insecurity
03. The Pursuit of Science
04. Sadism
05. Sportsmanship
06. Cover-Up
07. Meant to Escape
08. Interrogate First, Kill Later
09. Patriotism and Other Scruples
10. Lack of the Killer Instinct
11. Proving a Philosophical Point
12. Greed
13. Conversion

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17 October 2007 @ 01:55 am
Superhero Finances: 10 Situations

In Green Lantern #70, well after Kyle Rayner had taken over the Green Lantern title, had joined the Titans, and had been dating Donna Troy for a while, there was a scene where Donna complained about his bad habits and irresponsible actions. Some of her points may have been fair – but at least one of them I thought she was dead wrong about. As proof of his character weaknesses, she cited the fact that he had recently missed some Titans training sessions.

As I recall, Kyle’s excuse was that he was a freelance commercial artist with deadlines to meet and rent to pay, and sometimes getting a job done, on the timetable he had promised to meet, to earn a paycheck, took priority over getting together with some other costumed heroes to practice beating people up (without pay).

When I read that story a few years ago, I thought that was an excellent excuse. A man’s got to eat! And he should also honor his promises as a general principle. He had evidently promised an editor to have a certain project ready by a certain time. Had he ever promised the Titans, when he joined, that he would break off any other commitments on any day of the week, just so they could go hold some mock slugfests and suchlike to stay in shape? It seems highly unlikely that they had told him this was one of the ground rules when they recruited him.

(Donna, near as I can recall, did not pursue that particular point any further in their argument. Possibly she realized it was the weakest criticism on her list, and should be carefully avoided for the remainder of their discussion rather than admit she was being unfair?)

Thinking about that, and other scenes where heroes have had sharp differences of opinion over financial subjects, some time ago I started jotting down notes on the different financial situations of various costumed superhero types. Here's what I came up with.

Superhero Finances: 10 Situations

01. Independently Wealthy
02. Self-Sufficient
03. Supercop
04. Paid Professional with a Hobby
05. Freelance
06. Scraping By
07. Cashing in on Fame
08. Constantly On Call, Totally Unpaid
09. Living off the Land
10. Somebody Else’s Problem

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Secret Identities: 10 Ways to Unspill the Beans

Lately I've been thinking about secret identities. For instance, how can a superhero's real name become known to the "wrong" people - without this fact permanently changing his lifestyle in the process? I've seen a lot of diferent ways used over the years, and I managed to break them down into a basic list of ten categories. It is likely that I've missed a few, however.

I'm skipping over a few special cases - such as the False Alarm where the cover makes it look as if the hero's secret will be revealed, but it really isn't. Or the Deliberate Revelation to someone "trustworthy," such as a parent, sibling, spouse, or lover would supposedly be. (Some such gestures of trust have turned out to be unjustified in the long run, but that's a different problem.)

My concern is with cases where the hero didn't intend for a particular person to find out, and probably doesn't have any solid reason to trust that person, but it happens anyway. Then a writer - either the same one who wrote that story, or a new writer who comes along later - starts looking for ways to do damage control and preserve (or restore) the Sacred Status Quo where the hero really does have a Secret Identity.

After the beans have been spilled, how do you unspill them? Here's what I came up with.

10 Ways to Unspill the Beans

01. Unexpected Virtue
02. Secret Agenda
03. Retcon
04. Disbelief
05. Throw Doubt on it
06. Fear
07. Killed in Action
08. Missing in Action
09. Amnesia
10. Mindwipe

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