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Lets make a Comic Universe the nonpoll polls

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O.k. so far our first two polls mean our comics universe will consist of a whopping six comics with the heroes spread out in made up cities. Though there is a 2 vote difference between first and third place in a lot of cases, so that could change. Now technically these next two items should also be polls, however for one thing I'm pretty sure I know what the voting would result in. And the first one is so varied I don't want to do it as a poll, because I'm sure I'd miss something major. So I'm just going to leave it open for comments for those who want to tell me I've guessed wrong.

 

First Powers from where?

 

Neither Marvel nor Dc set out to make comic universes. They just made a superhero and ran their comics ignoreing all the rest, until someone said "Hey wouldn't it be cool if so and so met so and so?" We however are planning to tie our six comics together from the start. So the question is how do the heroes get their powers? Do we go the kitchen sink route with one guy getting powers from a space rock, one changed by an alien, one an alien, one a mystic, one with power armor. Do we make it one source, the particle accelerator exploded. Do we make it a few limited sources, Aliens transform humans, and the government transform human to fight the aliens? And if they are limited sources what are the sources? I'm pretty sure the vote would be for the kitchen sink approach, but I could be wrong.

 

 

Second age tone?

 

While theres nothing stopping someone from adopting a golden age, or silver age tone in one particular book, this is supposed to be a universe so most should have the same age tone. I'm pretty sure the vote would be for the universe to have a modern tone, but again if I'm wrong now is the time to mention it.

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Honestly if i were starting up a superhero comic universe, I wouldn't bother with origins or reasons for powers.  They'd just be there, doing their thing, without any justification or reason.  How do they have these abilities?  Who cares?  I think people are kind of burning out on origin stories.

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I like tied origins. But WHAT that origin is we don't know yet. Let things play out a bit first. Then decide what will make a good one.

 

And for tone, yeah modern. Some dark aspects, but plenty of room for light moments and idealism.

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A key problem with tied origins is: science or magic?

 

Fudges like "science is really magic" or "magic is really science" don't help.

 

Basically you end up having to choose between "master of magic" and "strange visitor from a distant world".

 

Ideally you should be able to have both, as well as "normal guy who may or may not use advanced technology".

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@assault

 

Yeah tied origins implies that one forgoes a whole lotta things in favour of one(ish) thing. By choosing one origin a whole swag of things have to be foregone.

 

"Ideally you should be able to have both..."  I disagree. Your point is perfectly valid for the wide open origins option.

 

But the point of the tied origins option is to disallow a lot of things in favour of a more strongly knit story background that then, hopefully, allows for a more strongly knit universe and stories.

 

A tight story-verse allows for a certain type of "shoe drop" moment for the audience. Something along the lines of "holy sh!t, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage got their powers from the same place!" There is a lot to said for tight story.

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A tied origin could work. For example, something like Jack Kirby's 4th World could support Superman, Batman and even Wonder Woman. By leaking out technology into the wider world, a near infinite set of characters could exist.

 

But I'm not sure there is enough benefit to outweigh the constraints. At some point, a writer will run against the limits of the setting, and start subverting the intention. This is likely to start quite early on.

 

And supernatural elements would have been ruled out for no good reason.

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Tied origins could work.

Wide open origins could work.

 

I'm not suggesting ruling things out for no good reason. I'm suggesting doing it for tighter story worlds.

 

And if writers started subverting that... well if I was editor in chief I'd be having words with them.

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Tied origins is a recipe for going out of business.  It's telling that no successful comic book company has ever used it exclusively.  The closest you get is the X-Men movie universe.

 

The problem is that what feels cool today is going to feel dated tomorrow.  In the 30s and 40s, ancient Egypt was cool.  In the 50s, western comics were cool.  In the 60s, everything was radiation.  In the 70s, the occult was a big thing.  The 80s gave us ninjas, the 90s had genetic engineering, and I quit reading after that.  I'm sure there have been other trendy origins since then.  But the fact is, if you are limited to just one origin, you're going to miss out when the next big thing comes along.

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To make a successful comic book universe, you need people with a very strong artistic vision.  It might be one guy like Stan Lee, or you could have multiple people who all sort of share an idea of what they want to do with their comics.  But this vision has to function as the backbone of the world.  Everything else gets built around it.  Some books can be responses to the primary artistic vision.  Swamp Thing doesn't really fit in that well with the regular DC superhero universe, but his book allows you to examine that universe from an entirely different perspective and tell stories that you can't elsewhere.

 

You need at least 5 or 6 comics with strong ideas that are very popular with the readers.  DC had Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Legion of Superheroes, the Flash, the Teen Titans, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, etc.  Marvel had the X-Men, the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four, Wolverine, the Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man.  These books establish the most important events in your comic book world.  They have a broad appeal to readers, they are big brand name characters, and they get cartoons and movies made about them.  If you establish your own superhero universe, you need characters just as iconic as these guys.  This is hard to do because you have to sift through a lot of crappy characters to get to the good ones.  Your average Champions campaign isn't going to produce a character on the level of a Spider-Man or a Flash.  At best you usually get a decent quality knock-off, or occasionally you'll get a unique character who is about as interesting as Moon Knight or somebody else third tier.  But you have to honestly ask yourself, do people want to read a comic book about this guy every month?  Or preferably 3 or 4 comics starring this person?  Most of the time that answer will be "no".

 

In addition to your half dozen or so main characters, you'll probably want 9 or 10 who can sustain a book for 40 or 50 issues.  Adam Warlock, Guy Gardener, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Booster Gold, Ghost Rider, people like that.  These books can supplement your main guys and help flesh out the universe.  Their popularity will rise and fall depending on how recently they've had a good run.  They can sell just as well as your main guys, but they probably don't have the staying power to do it consistently.  There will basically always be a Spidey comic, there won't always be a Punisher comic.

 

Finally, you want some third tier guys who can support a comic for a short period of time.  They don't have to be popular enough to stay in continuous publication, you just need to be able to get some people to plunk down 3 bucks a month for a comic about Cloak and Dagger for a year or two.  Have one really good story arc with them, and then one mediocre story arc, and then the book can lose its way and get cancelled for a while, and in 7 or 8 years you can try it again.  Nobody actually cares enough about Zatanna to really read a whole book about her for any length of time, but you'd probably be willing to take a chance and hope that it doesn't suck.

 

You need all that stuff for a successful comic book universe.

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I agree. Which is why when I started this I said I worried about how ambitious this group of threads is. While its fun speculating about the broad strokes it's the books themselves that are the most important. And sooner or later we will get to the point of actually making the charecters. Which is all well and good but as we aren't going to be making the actual books, how viable the universe is we'll never know. Which leads me to a question I've been wondering about. Should we take it that far, or stop before we get to the make the min characters stage?

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From personal experience 20 years ago attempting to do this very thing, let me assure you that it is a gargantuan amount more work and time than you think.  And it is quite expensive to set up and get going with little expectation of return on your investment, particularly these days.

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Tied origins is a recipe for going out of business.  It's telling that no successful comic book company has ever used it exclusively.  The closest you get is the X-Men movie universe.

 

The problem is that what feels cool today is going to feel dated tomorrow.  In the 30s and 40s, ancient Egypt was cool.  In the 50s, western comics were cool.  In the 60s, everything was radiation.  In the 70s, the occult was a big thing.  The 80s gave us ninjas, the 90s had genetic engineering, and I quit reading after that.  I'm sure there have been other trendy origins since then.  But the fact is, if you are limited to just one origin, you're going to miss out when the next big thing comes along.

 

By way of counterexample, there is at least one successful superheroic universe that has a shared origin - Wild Cards. I admit that it's shared-world anthology writing, not comic books, but that might be a more fruitful approach for us.

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