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Comic Countdown #46: Superhero Trademarks

Posted on November 25, 2012 AT 09:47pm

It’s that time again, with the forty-sixth edition of the Comic Countdown! This week’s topic will cover some of the more common situations that happen in comics, which have stood the test of time, even if they’ve gotten a bit campy over the years. While this focuses only on superhero comics, it does happen in other genres of comics, though not as often. With that, let’s move on to the countdown!

#10: Big City

Nearly ever superhero has an origin that brings them to live in a major city. From Batman’s Gotham City to Superman’s Metropolis to the Big Apple itself, most heroes seem to live in the heavily populated areas. While this makes things a bit crowded, it does help create relationships between heroes, and those big cities get the help they need. It being a bit more widespread would be more logical, but in the course of the franchises, it works.

#9: Utility Belts

A lot of heroes have tools, and that’s why the utility belt has been so important for so long. Batman, Deadpool, Captain America and many more have carried such devices, which give a writer an excuse to have everything the hero could need in one convenient location. This is especially true for heroes such as Batman, who rely on those devices to get through the tougher moments.

#8: Money

Another one that only fits some of the heroes, but is a tried and true mechanism in hero books. Being rich gives the writing team a blanket excuse for giving superheroes the coolest new toys to use each issue. It also helps explain how the heroes logo got on everything they touch. Tony Stark uses his money to build the Iron Man armors, Batman uses it to build all his awesome gadgets. The Fantastic Four use it to build incredible tools of science, and many more have their own uses. While not as wide-spread as some other trademark devices, this is one that is very common.

#7:  Dead Family Members

Need a good reason for your character to seek vengeance, vow to stop crime, or become a force for justice? Kill someone they love and it makes things pretty easy to explain. Uncle Ben’s death prompted Spider-Man to become the web-slinger he is today. The death of young Bruce Wayne’s parents motivated him to become the Batman. It happens so often that it’s basically assumed that to become a hero, someone very close to you has to have been killed by someone with bad intentions.

#6: Mentors

Everyone needs some help in the beginning. Someone to train them, guide them, keep them on the right track. While not everyone in this grouping is one that teach self-defense or the use of an ability, a helping hand is always there. Professor Xavier gave the X-Men a dream to follow, Captain America took an ambitious but green Tony Stark and taught him how to fight. From Alfred to Aunt May, nearly every hero has a guiding voice in their lives to keep them on track, and while it’s an old tradition, it’s still a great one.

#5: Hideouts

The Batcave. The Fortress Of Solitude. The Xavier Institute. All of these places house people with a purpose, with a goal, with a dream. Some may not be as glamorous as others, but there’s always somewhere for the hero to head home to at the end of a long day stopping the forces of evil. Even Spider-Man has his apartment in Manhattan, though its not much. Enemies have trouble entering, and the heroes have somewhere they can do their thing (whether it be building new armors in Stark Tower or creating the Negative Zone in the Baxter Building) without having to save the world.

#4: Secret Identities

Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker and Clark Kent are all names that some of the greatest heroes in the comic book world go by when they’re not fighting crime. Many of them also uses these identities to have normal jobs to continue to perpetuate the “normal person” persona. Matt Murdock is a lawyer when he’s not Daredevil. So is Jennifer Walters when not She-Hulk. These persona’s keep their loved ones safe, as well as make things easier for them on a day to day basis. Everyone would want help from Superman if they knew he was also Clark Kent, which would complicate his abilities to save the world.

#3: Sidekicks

Many heroes take on a trainee, a sidekick, or a partner to help them through the toughest times and the hardest battles. Batman has Robin, Captain America has Bucky, and Wolverine had Jubilee for awhile. These characters help the hero when they’re down or overwhelmed, and give them someone to trust to continue the fight when they are unable to do so. Sidekicks are one of the most important and time-tested techniques in superhero comics.

#2: Arch-Enemies

There are no heroes without villains, and this is something that  has been around since the very beginning of he superhero comic. Superman has Lex Luthor, Batman has The Joker, Xavier and the X-Men have Magneto and the list goes on and on. Without a villain to come back over and over for more with a brand new, complicated but dangerous plan, the hero would have little reason to go out and fight crime. Without the huge, elaborate scheme there would be nothing to stop, and that’s what makes comics so interesting: the dynamic between good and evil.

#1: Origin Stories

Most heroes have some kind of story that gets them into the situation that has carried them through their lives. Whether it’s a genetic mutation for the X-Men, an accident for Bruce Banner that turned him into The Incredible Hulk, or something that happened to them that took them along their path, everyone starts somewhere, which makes this one of the most important ways to start a superhero comic. Without the story of the planet Krypton there is no Superman. Without a radioactive spider there is no Spider-Man. Without gamma radiation there is no Incredible Hulk. These stories are compelling and bring forth the heroism of the person who puts their life on the line for those without the ability to do it themselves.

That’s it for the Countdown this week, make sure to come and check it out next week and leave any comments in the available sections below.

Russ Pirozek, known as "Noobcrawler" to some, is a gamer and comic book fan who sometimes gets around to writing for He's also awesome. If someone looked up "awesome" in the dictionary, his picture wouldn't be there, but that's because he's too busy being awesome to pose for a photo.

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