The anatomy of a superhero

Phoenix Jones is an actual guy in Seattle who dresses up and fights crime. He’s been shot and stabbed a few times in the executions of his duties to the public. On one hand, he’s a superhero in the strictest sense of the word. On the other hand, given that he’s a real guy, in the real world, he’s not.

I guess that would be the clean distinction between a costumed crime fighter, and a superhero, but I’ll not bandy semantics on this post. More, Phoenix Jones made me wonder a few things.

Firstly, it bought me back to the idea of writing superhero fiction. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, but something that I’ve also put on the backburner. I’ve always felt that a good superhero setting needs a good reason. Whether it be mutant genes, or a 4400 people suddenly blessed with superpowers.

All of the ideas are rather played out. Its a matter of coming up with a background or an idea that seems somewhat fresh. Especially given the fact that the superhero genre is very rooted in the visual.

As an aside, check Rising Stars, a recent and perhaps rather ingenuous variation on the superpower genre.

This bring me to the second thing that Phoenix Jones made me wonder about. What would it be like if there were more people out him like there, doing what he does. Would take make for good fiction? That hasn’t been done.

Too late. It already has been done. Further research turns up the fact that there are countless costumed crimefighters in the US.

I like the idea of the gritty and unpowered crimefighter that he originally made me think of. It’s Golden Age heroes like The Phantom, The Shadow, et al, who didn’t have superpowers. They took care of things with fists and smarts. To a degree, one of the biggest examples of the costumed crime fighter is Batman, other than the fact he takes a far greater beating than the average person.

And there again is the blur between fiction and reality. At the end of the day, and the more I explored Jones’ situation, the more I realised that there are no supervillains or even really villains in general in his job. The villain in his line of work is the apathy of mankind, the lack of resources in policing, and an ever increasing crime rate. There’s a certain gritty reality to all that, something that may or may not be worth exploring there. But how easy it is to tell a superhero story without supervillains?

Again I find it coming back to context and setting. I can generate a few crimefighters and put them into a situation (already have there, on a bit of pondering), but whats unique about the setting? How do people view them and their work, which is essentially vigilantist.

There’s nothing really to read into all these musings, other than the fact I’m still thinking and writing and thinking about writing. Writing only short stories at the moment lets me ponder on all number of settings and ideas, to see how they pan out.

If I can get at least a situation or two, I might put my crimefighter through a short story, and see what happens.


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