Well, congratulations. Rumor has it you’re interested in fighting the good fight, keeping the world safe from villainy, and cleaning scum from the earth. We need people like you. But if you’re going to be effective (or at least planning on being effective), then you have to know how to play the game. Remember, there’s more to being a superhero than just being a hero. You also have to be super.
It helps to have superpowers. Most superheros would have it no other way. As it happens, these are pretty easy to come by. If you’re an alien, like Superman, you probably have more than you need right away. If you got your powers in the 1960s, the odds are that you got them from radiation (the Hulk, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the ubiquitous X-Men, and their ilk). Mutants are a big source of supervillains, and we’re lucky to have them mostly on our side. Mind you, if you lack native abilities such as these, you’re hardly out of luck. All you need is some sort of special tool to make the magic happen, like the Green Lantern’s ring or Thor’s lucky hammer. We guess Iron Man’s goofy suit qualifies here.
Mind you, even that doesn’t matter if you’re well-funded. With money, you can become a superb superhero, even if you have no super abilities whatsoever. While Batman and the Green Hornet come to mind, it oddly didn’t work for Ross Perot.
You need a costume. Even the most meager superhero has a costume. Your costume should be so far funky that it won’t be mistaken for a west coast fashion statement. Capes are normally de rigueur, but quite frankly, we think they have limited effectiveness: if the Flash wore a cape, the windspeed he generates would make him sound like a raspberry blowing past you, and that would be pretty humiliating. Further, if Hawkman wore a cape, it would inevitably entangle his wings. The last thing anyone needs is somebody his size crashing into a crowded intersection from a thousand feet up. And many superheros have completely done away with capes (the Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Fantastic Four).
Your costume should say something about you or your powers. Batman looks like a bat. Iron Man wears armor. The Silver Surfer uses a surfboard, since JetSkis are unwieldy in space (unlike surfboards). But be careful here, because some superheros stretched this one pretty far, and end up having a superficial link to their costumes: Gambit looks like a risky gamble, Doctor Strange simply looks strange, and it’s a wonder that Wonder Woman still bothers with her swimsuit in this conservative age.
On the other hand, you can be one of the few superheros who have done away with the concept of costumes entirely. The Submariner sticks with a pair of trunks. The Hulk is also a notable example, and it wasn’t until we saw Bill Bixby stealing clothes from a laundry line that we even found out where he kept getting all those pants and shirts.
Well, now that you have superpowers and a costume, you need a place to work from. Basically you have three choices. You can choose…
- A real city. This is what Spiderman does. He opted to stick close to home in New York City, which is convenient given that his sick aunt lives there. We forgot where Daredevil hangs out, but we can always say Detroit. If the city’s rough, move out to the burbs. The X-Men did, living in a nice part of scenic upstate New York. Fortunately, there’s a lot of danger out there, so it works out for them, as well.
- A totally fictitious place. Batman is pretty smart to choose Gotham City, since it affords him all the worst elements of New York City without the hassle of paying a city income tax. And Gotham is lucky to have him, given that they haven’t hired one competent police officer since about 1940. Superman lives happily out in Metropolis, which one writer surmised might (because of the proximity of the farming community of Smallville) be either Chicago or Cleveland. Wonder Woman spent some time in Washington, DC, although it must have been difficult to land that invisible plane on the Mall. At least, not without plowing over a few homeless people.
- Some other place entirely. The Hulk wanders around, and could be anywhere at any time. The Fantastic Four spend an awful lot of time in space, or in alternate dimensions, which has got to get pretty expensive after a while. If you’re Thor, you get to spend time in Aasgard, which also has the benefit of having some of Wagner’s coolest music (even if the overall Nordic mythology is a little dizzy).
Sidekicks… Yea, or Nay?
Generally, this is up to you, although only a small percentage of the superhero population uses them. Superman and Spiderman have decided against it, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a helping hand time and again. Even Captain America used that little kid Bucky or whatever, before he realized that the Falcon (or whatever) was not only competent, but in many ways more hip. Generally, though, sidekicks are always needing a rescue, and quite frankly, the one or two clues they spot aren’t worth the trouble. Ironically, the only superhero who ever made good use of a sidekick was Batman, who by all accounts is a loner type. The Czar guesses everyone needs a friend.
You should have these. These can be of two types: cool tools, or headquarters. Spiderman has his special chemical webs which do just about anything a plot contrivance calls for, the X-Men have their Blackbird jet that not only flies in space, but also can go from one end of the earth to the other in a few seconds without melting. Also, a neat base of operations is definitely in order: the Fantastic Four own their own skyscraper (although they could net a fortune by subletting to some commercial and retail tenants), Wonder Woman’s golden lariat (some guys commit crimes solely so she’ll tie them up and make them tell the truth) and even Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, which is up at the North Pole, just down the street a piece from Santa’s Workshop, for which it is frequently mistaken.
But the absolute king of gadgetry is Batman. From his now famous utility belt, to his wide array of specialized vehicles (the Batmobile, the Batplane, the Batboat, the seldom-seen Batcycle, and the never-seen BatVespa), he stashes all of it in his monstrous, eighty-room BatCave. And Batman, like all the other superheros, has discovered the best part of all this: it’s all free! That specialized aircraft you want to use? Sure, it would cost several hundred million dollars, and require years of planning and design analysis from the best aerospace engineers… but only if you’re an ordinary schmoe! When you’re a superhero, none of this unbelievable engineering costs a penny. Ask the X-Men: they smash their stuff up all the time.
Well, now this is what you’re in business for. You have to get yourself some good archvillains to fight, or you’re really no better than the many vigilantes roaming the big city streets, illegally dispensing justice, making a mockery of the police and wearing red berets and white t-shirts. You need a supervillain!
Of course, some thought is warranted here. You can’t just go and get any old person to be an arch-enemy. For example:
- Good Names include Gor-Klops, Dr. Strangulo, the Astro-Men of Zeptar, Monstrolus, Vokaan the Annihilator, and the Fang.
- Bad names include Scruffy, Ned, Pushpin Boy, Prancer, the Floor Mop of Doom, Lord Nasally, and Downtown Badboy Brown.
Of course, what you get depends a lot on the decade in which you’re fighting. In the 1930s, you had to fight gangsters and other members of organized crime. Generally, superheros really did help the police.
In the 1940s, you fought Nazis for the most part, and did your best to help out the war effort. In fact, one of the major reasons the Nazis never developed the atomic bomb was because they spent too much time working on Kryptonite.
In the 1950s, most of your time was spent fighting communists. This was a great decade for Captain America, who spent an entire decade fighting the Red Skull, whom any other superhero would have pounded in three issues.
In the 1960s, you generally had to fight mutants, which was interesting because odds were you were a mutant yourself. Radiation produced some great villains, or some great monsters… or you could always fight robots, which were invariably powered by… that’s right… radiation.
In the 1970s, times changed a lot, and you probably wound up fighting racists, rednecks, or computers. The one thing these three had in common was a dislike for the common person. In many ways, this is still true.
In the 1980s, you spent all of your time fighting aliens. This was a banner year for SETI, as species of all kinds were dropping in and eating entire area codes. Who knows how many times the Golden Gate bridge was destroyed. Too bad the superheros didn’t use a Macintosh to defeat them, which Jeff Goldblum proved is far easier once you get it started without freezing.
In the 1990s, your time was spent battling environmental and toxic villains, although aliens are, by and large, pretty popular still. Ideally, the supervillain of the 1990s will be a mutant commie Nazi gangster from space intent on poisoning the oceans. And he’ll be a remake of a 1960s television series.
So for the new century, what sort of supervillains will we have? It’s too soon to tell, but if all supervillains are personifications of What We Most Fear as a society, there are three possibilities: (1) People Who Use Harsh Words; (2) Smokers; and (3) Cody Gifford.
Get A Life
Secret identities are essential. No superhero goes around telling people what his day job is. Even the Hulk has enough sense to run and hide from the media. Millionaire Bruce Wayne owns some companies, although it’s difficult to envision how he has time to run them. Tony Stark, when he’s not busy being Iron Man, manages to run his own Stark Enterprises in a similar manner. Peter Parker is an ordinary teenager who (like most teenagers) sticks to walls. A good identity is a must! It keeps the taxman off your back for unreported income, and it always helps to have a nosy neighbor almost discover your secret every five issues.
You don’t have to go to amazing lengths, either. No one has figured out Clark Kent, have they? Who would suspect that a skinny, awkward, nerdy guy with big glasses has immense and almost frightening power? Nobody! Except maybe Bill Gates.
Be A Role Model
Please! Superheros aren’t dumb. In fact, you always have to have a good line for the occasion! After you dispatch a bad guy, it’s a tradition to have a really bad pun ready. Hung a guy from a lamp post? “Why don’t you hang around until I get back?” Rope a guy up like a coccoon? “I’m afraid you’re tied up for a while!” Cook a guy up in a pan with corned beef, potatoes, and a little onion, black pepper, with an egg on top? “Let’s hash this out over breakfast!” It’s best to inspire your fans with good quips. However, a dumb comment never works. If you swap fists with your evil twin (which you don’t need to get, by the way: they turn up on their own), never say “Hey, you’re unbelieveably stupid looking!” On the other hand, don’t be an egghead or an obscurist. Don’t flip your opponent upside-down and remark “Hey, you’re as inverted as an E♭+6 is to a Cm(maj)7,” unless a jazz musician is your sidekick. Or your only reader.
Also, kids look up to you. Showing up with a half-smoked cigarette has been tabu since the mid-sixties. And it has never been acceptable to show up for work drunk. Nobody trusts an incontinent, drooling guy in a cape with slurred speech… even in the heart of DuPont Circle.
Now that you’ve got all this down, get out there and fight some crime. This page should have given you plenty to think about, and whether you’re The Dark Talon or Pink The Merry Tailor, you have to just bite the bullet (perhaps literally, if this is your super power) and smash some villains. But please! Don’t get an attitude just because you got some profressional pointers at this site. Batman and Spiderman have saved the world countless times, but even they stop to bag the odd purse-snatcher or burglar.
And you’re tougher than them, right?