1. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Superhero tropes and cliches you're tired of

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by X Equestris, Feb 16, 2018.

    Since I'm stuck spinning my wheels when it comes to getting short stories going, I decided to do some worldbuilding and plotting on a novel idea I've been kicking around for a while. It's basically superhero fiction in a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting inspired by Renaissance Italy.

    Before anything gets set in stone, I wanted to know what superhero tropes and cliches you all are tired of seeing. What makes you roll your eyes and say "not this again!"? Plots, character traits and origins, powers, settings, whatever grinds your gears.

    My own consumption of superhero media while researching for this project has shown me what I find tiresome (a certain lack of finality and death having little weight, to name two examples), but other perspectives would be extremely helpful.
     
  2. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    Boring villains, and villains that are just "evil version" of the hero.
    Mentor character dying.
    Tension regarding the character's secret identity and hiding it from the public or their loved ones.
    Issues with tone. Some recent superhero movies (not naming names ;P) have become too jokey. One recent movie for example, had this dramatic climactic battle where something sad happened, followed by a side character cracking a bad joke. It really frustrated me. Alternatively, some superhero movies are grim dark SUPER SERIOUS BUSINESS. Even ones that should be more lighthearted or uplifting. Know your material, your world, and your characters, and provide the tone(s) that works best for it.
    And remember, even The Dark Knight movies had jokes, even Marvel movies have sad moments.
     
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  3. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not tired yet :pop:. As long as you are not copying existing works, I'll probably enjoy it.
     
  4. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    This one is fairly new but it's quickly become pretty overused: The whole 'sex with a superhero could kill you' thing. Missile-shot ejaculations, being crushed by cowgirl, etc. Yeah okay it was a funny and quirky observation to make once or twice but shut up already.
     
  5. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Can't say I've ever seen that one used seriously, but I'm sure it's been used in parodies ceaselessly.

    Definitely agree about mentors, regardless of genre. There are ways to put a mentor aside without killing them.

    I'll admit, I was looking at some secret identity tension. Though since the protag was born into what is basically a mob family, not addressing it would be a little odd. Hopefully I can put something of a fresh spin on it.

    The tone issue has been one I've been hearing about a lot lately. I don't have much experience with comic relief and humor, so tempering the seriousness with levity will take a little work.
     
  6. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    It's done in parodies and as a joke in serious stories. I think it was also the plotline of several Marvel/DC stories. Ever since Hancock made a joke about 'missile sperm' it seems like you see the joke here and there pretty often because people think they're being original by pointing out "lol getting fucked by superman would kill u".
     
  7. LazyBear

    LazyBear Senior Member

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    * Heroes that compare themselves to Jesus while using excessive violence.
    * Villains that are evil just for the sake of evil.
    * Easily gained powers without any weakness.
    * Overly large swords.
     
  8. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    You know, I'd actually forgotten about Hancock. It's been a while since it came out. I'll have to add it to my viewing list.

    I can't recall having come across any of the first.

    Totally with you on "evil for evil's sake". Even Joker in The Dark Knight had deeper motivations.

    I'm aiming to keep as realistic an aesthetic as possible, so no worries on the overly large swords front.
     
  9. soupcannon

    soupcannon Active Member

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    1. noun; the act or process of locating.
    Here's just one of my many, many complaints about supervillains.

    Don't bend the story over backwards to make the villain related to the protagonist. Sometimes it's fine, but too often it becomes needlessly intimate for the hero. The trope is overused, in my professional opinion as an anonymous internet nerd.

    Also, the villain should win, from time to time. Doctor Doom becomes hard to take seriously when he keeps losing to every hero he faces. How is he the feared threat they make him out to be when he keeps losing?

    And make sure the villain has a real motivation. She must be the hero of her own story. Just committing evil for the sake of evil is boring. Even someone who just goes about committing atrocities for laughs would have some deep mental illness that should colour the story. Still, just don't do the pointlessly wicked villain.

    And that's my one complaint.
     
  10. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Agreed on all points. I'm working on crafting the villain lineup at the moment, so the input is particularly helpful.
     
  11. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Finally got around to watching The Dark Knight Rises yesterday, and the climax grated on me enough to add this to my list: climaxes that throw away tactics and logic in favor of a brawl. By all rights, the GCPD should've been mulched during that charge.
     
  12. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Heroes having moral codes that make them chicken out on certain extreme stuff and letting the villains live.
     
  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Superpowers. Plural.

    What I mean by that is when superpowers start to appear in the populace, like in Heroes, Powers, X-Men, and probably a few others, as a new thing, something that hasn't been around for all of human history, but suddenly all sorts of abilities are cropping up.

    People are able to fly.

    Others are able to shape-shift.

    Project fire.

    Telekinesis shows up.

    As does teleportation.

    Mind-reading.

    Instant healing.

    I could deal with any one (or two, flying and telekinesis could be closely related) of these emerging in humanity (I'm leaving out external heroes, like Superman and Thor, in this little rant), but punctuated evolution or no, how often have you seen anything suddenly develop multiple, radical new branches nearly simultaneously? There's a fairly straight line from ENIAC to the iPhone, but it took blue whales and scorpions a long time to get from their common ancestor.

    Sorry, superheroes aren't really my thing, so take this with a grain of salt, but I prefer a little more realism. That's one thing I like about the various Batman universes, it's just a whole bunch of mentally unwell millionaires beating the crap out of each other. Kind of like the Senate, but that's another conversation.
     
  14. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Senior Member

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    Movies, and the people that make them saying 'it's the same as the comic book was', when it is nothing like the comic was.
    The only one I disliked when young was 'the punch'. If all you can do is punch something real hard, you still aren't a superhero.
     
  15. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Precisely why I decided to set it in a fantasy, secondary world with a (very limited) history of powers before things radically change. There's no way I figured things could be plausible otherwise.

    You know, I don't have a problem with no kill codes in certain circumstances, since not everyone is irredeemable and there's room for getting the wrong person, but the extremely rigid ones always rub me the wrong way. The Joker issue in various continuities being the most prominent example.

    Nailing down a moral code that I like and also gives the feel common to the subgenre has been a challenge. At the moment, I've settled on "doesn't intentionally kill most of the time, but will in extreme circumstances".
     
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  16. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Try not to have your superhero gain powers by being bitten by something. People being bitten by wolves and becoming werewolves, for example, or Spider-Man being bitten by a radioactive spider. (Heck, if I wanted superpowers gained by being bitten, I wouldn't pick a spider. Spiders can't even fly! Also, often the female kills the male after mating, so that's a turn-off right there.)

    If I were to get superpowers, I'd want to be bitten by a radioactive Warren Buffett. I'd have super money powers! Bwahahahaha!

    Sorry about the threadjack. I just wanted to get that off my chest.
     
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  17. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Well, if someone is torturing, leaving innocents to die and murdering every enemy they face, they're not really a superhero any more--they could be used as a villain, though.

    Dark superhumans can work--Dark Knight Returns, Irredeemable, etc, are all good at what they do--but gratuitous darkness and "idealism is for suckers, maaaan!" edginess just gives you another laughable extreme. Look at 90's Image comics for prime examples--scowling, character-less musclemen with vague powers, Mysterious Pasts and massive guns who talk entirely in action-movie one-lines while blowing villains to pieces in sprays of lovingly drawn gore.

    Not killing villains is only a problem if you have ineffectual prisons where the Joker escapes yet again and kills a fresh batch of civilians before he gets chucked back into Arkham. And that is something I'd like to see gone, but it's more a problem with a multi-decade continuity and not being able to let go of popular characters, than with superheroes as a concept.

    So I suppose the thing I don't like is gratuitous darkness. It really is okay and not childish to play superheroes straight if you want to. There's certainly room for deconstructions and mature revisions which look at "but how practical is it to work like that?" or "would superhumans become pawns of the government or embrace celebrity culture?", but their appeal started as the ones who appear in a time of need and save people.

    Superpowers are implausible by default. :) I wouldn't advise trying to make them too "believable" because at the end of the day, that woman still picked up a car and smashed it over the head of that guy made of rock. Unless you can get some plot mileage out of where super-powers came from, just explain it as much as the story needs, then get on with it.
     
  18. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    They're implausible in our world, due to the rules of our world. In another world, with different rules, that might not be the case.

    But yeah, there is lots of plot mileage out of the source. I mentioned my idea being in a post-apocalyptic secondary world; as things stand now, the event that makes superpowers more common also causes the apocalypse. The state of the world shifts titanically due to it, on many levels.
     
  19. The Green Marker

    The Green Marker New Member

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    If I'm being honest, I'm writing this from a biased perspective. I love superhero stories. But if there's one thing I wish would go away it would be the use of black-and-white hero and villain tropes. I hate it when the hero is just being "good" for the sake of the plot and the villain is evil for some reason that only exists to make them a villain. I thoroughly enjoy stories where the hero isn't all they're cracked up to be and/or the villain isn't necessarily evil. The best superhero stories are the ones where there's more grey area pertaining to the characters than anything else. No one is entirely good or entirely evil.
     
  20. ∊η∊ηra

    ∊η∊ηra Smoke and Mirrors

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    As others have said, I would definitely avoid mustache-twirlers as villains. Also, motivations such as world-domination or amassing great wealth are pretty worn out, as are "doomsday machines" (I'm looking at you, Star Wars/Marvel).

    I also hate one-dimensional characters. You want your heroes and villains to feel like real people, and real people exist on a spectrum of morality. No one is 100% virtuous or 100% evil.
     
  21. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Agreed about doomsday machines. Lower scale stakes often works better, in my experience.

    Don't worry about it; the thread's point is to air your grievances about particular tropes. And yeah, outside some of the classic monsters, powers from bites just comes off as corny.
     
  22. Asher_Elric

    Asher_Elric New Member

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    Super hero giant their powers through science accident.
    Super hero has abusive child hood.
    Super hero lost a loved one
    Super Hero basically just did something stupid
     
  23. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Can't argue about lab accidents; you'd think all these scientists would observe basic lab safety procedures. With my world having a relatively simple understanding of science, this one is easy to avoid. All the powers are rooted in a single, world changing cataclysm.

    While dealing with abuse and being motivated by it could make for a powerful story if done right, I don't recall many instances of it being done well.

    Losing a loved one can make for good plot, but I agree it's overdone. Especially in origin stories. And of course there's the whole problem of characters being "stuffed into the fridge" solely to motivate the protagonist.

    I'm not exactly sure what you're going for with this last one. Could you elaborate?
     
  24. ShannonH

    ShannonH Member Supporter

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    I like to see certain tropes turned on their head. Namely the idea of the love interest in distress being male rather than female. The old WW tv show was a perfect example of this - You had the rugged, good looking, capable Steve Trevor character being constantly knocked out, kidnapped and in need of Wonder Woman to rescue him.

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]
     
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  25. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Inverted tropes are fun to play with. I don't have any Damsels in Distress planned (of either sex), but I am looking at flipping the whole "Dating Catwoman" trope, with a male villain/anti-hero and a female heroine (a deuteragonist of the piece). A whole array of gender stereotypes makes the inversion a bit more difficult.
     

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