Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Portraying Super Powers in Comics

There are a million and one super hero comics.  There's Batman, Superman, the X-Men, Wonder Woman.  I could go on.  The thing they have in common (well... except for Batman), is that they all have super powers.

Think about how super powers are described in books.  Last week, we read I Am Number Four and he had lots of super powers.  He was super strong, could run really fast, he could light up his has, was impervious to fire.  All sorts of things.  And do you know the way that you found that out?  You were TOLD.  I mean, ok, it was described to you, but essentially, you were told in detail how it worked.

Comics don't work that way.  Since 99% of the writing in comics is dialogue, it would be kind of weird if you sat there and had characters describe every last thing that they did.  Oh, wait... they did do that.

As you can see, the dialogue gets a little ridiculous in the original Avengers comic (and this is not even the worst.  I read the original.  They pretty much dictate EVERYTHING they're doing. "I'm Thor, and I am going to throw my mighty hammer and knock him off a cliff!"  No, really, a whole comic of this.)  In contrast, here's a more updated version of the Avengers.

A little more interaction with the person he's with and a little less of narration of his powers. (FYI, I pulled this from the internet.  I have no idea why he's choking Tony Stark.)

So let's look at some other superheros who have some crazy powers, powers that you have to SHOW, not tell the reader about.

Even if you knew NOTHING about Storm other than she had super powers, this picture gives you a good idea of what her powers are.  She very obviously controls lighting and can fly.  Most of us know that she actually controls the WEATHER, but the point is, you know what her powers are just by looking at a picture of her.

Superman.  Big strong guy, right?  But it's not like you can just come out and say, "I'm going to go lift that building."  Comics are not narrative in the way that books are.  So we have to show the reader the extraordinary powers Superman has.

That's a whole freakin' car, making it obvious that he's super strong.

Sometimes, superheroes get some really weird powers that are a little harder to convey to the audience.  A lot of times multiple pictures of the person over time to show you what exactly they can do.  Take Jubilee for example.

Here her powers look a lot like fireworks (which, they mostly are)

Here you can see that it's a little more concentrated.  
More like a solid firework on her hand.

Whatever powers are portrayed, today you have to make sure that you get it across to your readers.  As a comic book, you can't rely on the narrative, so you must really rely on pictures.  And as the reader, you have to pay a lot more attention in super hero comics.  They could be saying one thing, but a lot is going on in the frame when you have so much to work with.

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