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.

Rebooting Heroes

I’m thinking of a superhero. See if you can guess who it is.

  • He’s super strong
  • He’s nearly invulnerable
  • He has telepathic powers
  • He’s a king who renounced his throne

Did you guess yet? I mean, someone like that sounds pretty cool, and I guarantee you’ve heard of him.

Give up?


Yeah, that’s right. Aquaman. Everyone knows Aquaman as the “guy who talks to fish.” Sure he can breathe  under water and that’s kind of cool, but what sort of a superpower is talking to fish? Lame. And when I was a kid, he couldn’t be out of water for more than an hour or he’d weaken. That later got amended so as long as he got a glass of water or was near a humidifier, he’d be ok. That was lame too. It seemed that Aquaman would always be the laughing stock of the Justice League.

And then I read the rebooted Aquaman #1 that DC recently put out and everything changed.

I never thought I’d say this, but Aquaman is pretty kickass. This issue highlights all his strengths; Aquaman’s super strong and durable, which makes complete sense if you think about it. In order for someone to withstand the pressure at the bottom of the ocean floor, you’d have to be tough. Within the first couple of pages, Aquaman has lifted an armored car, withstood a hail of bullets and leaped to the tops of buildings from street level.

The other thing that this issue did well was directly confronting all the Aquaman hate out there. Someone asks him about talking to fish, and he responds with the following. “Fish don’t talk. Their brains are too primitive to carry on a conversation. I reach into their midbrains and telepathically push them to help me out.”

Wow. That’s a much more scientific explanation than I would’ve expected from Aquaman, which means he’s also a lot smarter than people give him credit for. When someone else asks him what it’s like “to be no one’s favorite super-hero,” Aquaman gives a very menacing glare, brandishes his trident and then walks away. The guy who was giving Aquaman crap genuinely looks rattled.

So Aquaman’s really not someone you should mess with. I never considered him like that, but I certainly do now, and I’ve added this to my list of titles that I’ll pick up each month. Maybe my kids will grow up with a lot more respect for Aquaman. I can safely say that anyone who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series has a much different take on the Dark Knight than the people who grew up with Adam West’s portrayal of Batman. (Bat-Shark Repellent? Come on, people).

Have you checked out the new Aquaman or any of DC’s other New 52? Let me know 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.


Kevin Hearne is running a contest where you can win an autographed copy of his debut novel, HOUNDED. All you have to do is create a Nerdscape, which Kevin defines as a photo that includes an action figure, a book and some junk food. Here’s mine; I call it “Bite-Sized Heroes Make a Stand For Romulan Ale”


Bite-Sized Heroes Make a Stand For Romulan Ale

(Click to enlarge)

You can get the full list of rules over at Kevin’s site.

And if you’d like to pick up a six pack of Romulan Ale, head on over to Thinkgeek. Yes, it is blue, and it tastes like blue raspberry. It’s quite good, and it’s much easier to get online rather than trying to sneak it across the Neutral Zone.