Hero/Villain Relationships

When you’re a kid, conflict between two people can usually be boiled down into a world of  black & white. You have Good Guys and you have Bad Guys. And despite the odds being stacked against them, the Good Guys trounce the Bad Guys, who are led away saying pithy things like “Curses, foiled again.”

As we grow though, those one-dimensional relationships aren’t as satisfying. So to spice things up, here’s a list of possible ways to introduce some gray into that black & white world.

Hero vs. Villain Who Thinks He’s in the Right

Some of the best conflicts are the ones where the villain really believes what he/she is doing is the right thing. Think Batman/Poison Ivy for this. Ivy is an eco-terrorist who believes that people and corporations who pollute the environment should be killed, usually via poison or turning them into trees. In Ivy’s mind, she’s doing the right thing, protecting the planet, and Batman is an obstacle in her way.

Hero vs Villain Who Thinks He’s a Hero

You can have a lot of fun when you go beyond a villain who thinks he’s right, and transcends to where the villain actually believes he’s the hero. Think Superman vs. Bizarro here. Bizarro is a backward copy of Superman, and on Bizarro world, the best way to help someone is contrary to what we’d think of as common sense. Case in point, when Bizarro encounters a kitten stuck in a tree, he believes the cat is harming the tree and chases the cat away. Supes always had his hands full trying to get Bizarro out of Metropolis and back to his home world. In this scenario, Bizarro genuinely believes that Superman is the villain, because Supes is trying to stop Bizarro from “doing good.”

Hero/Villain Love Interest

There’s something to be said for good folks being attracted to bad folks. Batman and Catwoman are the most famous good/bad couple out there. Bats usually recovers what Catwoman steals, but for some reason, she rarely winds up in Arkham with the rest of Gotham’s criminals. Why is that, you think?

Hero/Villain Friendship

Marvel Comics was big on having two characters who were enemies in costume, but friends out of costume. So Peter Parker and Harry Osbourne were friends, but Spider-Man and the Green Goblin were bitter enemies. When Spidey realized who was under the Goblin mask, he had to deal with the emotions of fighting and ultimately imprisoning his friend.

Hero vs Villain of Duplicitous Nature

This one’s fun because the Villain has a secret identity that he is either unaware of or can’t control. The Lizard from Spider-Man is a great example of this. Curt Connors develops a process to regenerate his lost arm using reptile DNA. But the process goes awry and turns Connors into a monster. Spidey has to subdue the Lizard without harming him so he can restore Connors to his normal self. This is different from the Villain Friendship entry, because Curt Connors has absolutely no control over what his alter ego does.

Any hero/villain combinations I missed? Which one of these do you enjoy reading about most? Sound off in the comments.

3 Things You Can Learn About Dialogue from the Justice League

You might have heard that DC is rebooting their entire line of superhero comics. The first one to hit the stands was Justice League, and it is fantastic. The first issue focuses on the first time Batman and Green Lantern meet, and the dialogue is absolutely brilliant. This comic highlights three effective ways to use dialogue:

Reveal Information
This is the simplest and most basic function dialogue serves. Two characters talk about something and thus convey information on to the reader. However, just because it’s basic doesn’t mean it has to be heavy handed. When Green Lantern first encounters Batman he says, “You’re real?” And right there we get a bunch of information about Bats. He’s mysterious. There are rumors about him, and for whatever reason, he chooses to stay in the shadows. Those two simple words define how Batman is perceived by the world.

Reveal Personality Traits
It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. This goes along with the whole “show, don’t tell” advice that every writer has heard at one point or another. There’s a panel in the comic where Bats & GL decide to go to Metropolis to look up Superman. Batman says they need to be careful because of Supes because “his power levels –“
“won’t be a problem for me.” GL interrupts. Right there, we get a bunch of info about GL. He’s cocky, he’s arrogant, and he genuinely believes that he is capable of handling anything.
Reveal Character Outlook/Intentions
Dialogue is great, but you should avoid spoon feeding information to the reader. Not all dialogue presents information directly – sometimes you have to read between the lines. There’s a point where Green Lantern is explaining what his role is in the world, that he’s responsible for an entire sector of the universe. Bats’ response to that is “uh huh,” to which GL gets defensive and then elaborates on the Lantern Corps. At face value, it looks like Bats just doesn’t believe GL. But then in a later panel, GL asks him if he’s met Superman. Bats’ response – “I’ve… researched him.” You read that and then realize that earlier on, it wasn’t that Bats didn’t believe GL, he was manipulating GL into providing more information on who he was and what he could do.

So there you have it, three things that you can learn from the rebooted Justice League. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it. In the meantime, are there other functions you can think of for dialog? Sound off in the comments.