Some of these ideas will be radically changed in the final thing, but you can all strip-mine this for your own ideas. Note that the Freedom Fighters name would have to be changed, as I'd forgotten about the Charlton/DC comic team of the same name.
Note, when I wrote this I had *not* read Superfolks, Twilight Of The Superheroes, Kingdom Come etc...
NO MORE HEROES
A proposal by Andrew Hickey
OK, this is all first thought stuff, just to give you an idea of the kind of thing I want to be doing with this. It's all open to change at any point whatsoever, and anything you don't like we can change as we go along. Most of the stuff will evolve as I write actual script...A lot of this stuff is also deep background – some of the stuff in this may well never be explicitly referred to in the story as it develops, but it's always a good idea to have an idea of what else is in the world you're creating.
The Basic Concept
The basic idea behind this is: What are the effects in the consensus superhero universe (the DC or Marvel universe or their imitators) if superpowers suddenly cease to exist? What happens to a USA which has relied on people who are almost gods to defend itself against attack, when the gods are suddenly powerless? How does it feel when one day you're capable of leaping tall buildings at a single bound, to next find yourself incapable of climbing three flights of stairs without being out of breath? And how does a non-powered hero feel when they go from being the weak link in the chain to the only link left?
So what I'm suggesting here is a world where there's been some kind of big catastrophe, probably caused by a supervillain, about ten years earlier, that has removed all 'supernatural' elements from the world, leaving only those elements that exist in this world. Any characters that had superpowers no longer have them, but any superheroes whose abilities were based on technology or brute strength are entirely unaffected.
Because of this, there are huge power shifts in the world. Nuclear weapons, which had previously never really taken off, are suddenly built up in huge arsenals around the world. In response to this new threat, a populist right-winger has become President of the US, and has essentially turned it into a fascist state. Those superheroes who had survived the cataclysm unaffected are blamed for the current troubles and turned into a scapegoat group. Many of those whose bodies were modified – cyborgs or whatever – are lynched or executed as terrorists, while most of the rest hang up their masks and stay in their civilian identities.
The basic idea of this series is to play with the ideas of superheroes. I want to be able to do a comic that contains both grim 'n' gritty 80s style 'realistic' superhero stuff and also 'holy underwear, Batman!' style 60s comic adventure stuff. For this reason I've chosen for now to go to a format similar to Alan Moore's run on Supreme (a lot of this proposal will be very influenced by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, but hopefully if this lasts any length of time at all, I'll be able to find a more original voice as a writer). We have one long story arc lasting however many weeks/months it takes (I'm looking at this being an ongoing thing), split up into very short chunks. Each issue should hopefully stand up by itself – while it's an ongoing series with an overall arc, I don't like comics where you can't pick up issue 23 without having read the first 22 issues. The format of the early issues will be to have an introduction set in the present (lasting a page or two), then a few pages of flashback to a Silver Age story featuring the character we're dealing with, before the rest of the story is set in the present again. The stuff set now will be fairly dark, while the stuff in the past should be as cartoony as we can make it.
What I want to do is write a story set in the sort of consensus superhero universe, using the same generic characters that appear over and over in superhero comics. The idea is that we have characters who are instantly recognisable to readers, who need no real introduction – they just look at them, and their knowledge of superhero clichés provides them with all they need to know about the characters. As the story progresses they will all become more rounded characters, and hopefully the story will be different from anything that's been done in the genre before, but for the first few issues (in the flashback sequences at least) the characters will just appear to be like every other superhero.
This is an attempt at coming up with some generic superheroes who do still have the potential to become interesting characters – they're based on the archetypes, but all have one or two differences that can hopefully be built up. They will probably be slightly skewed toward similarity to DC rather than Marvel characters, simply because I've read more DC comics, but that can be changed.
The superheroes all belong to a superhero team along the lines of the Justice League or the X-Men, called the Freedom Fighters. To a certain extent the members can be changed – other than Hypron and Lycanthrope, both of whom are essential parts of the first story arc – so if there are any character ideas you don't like, we can drop them, and if you have any character designs you want to use, they can be incorporated.
Hypron is your basic big powerful demigod in a cape and a primary colour costume. Think Superman, Captain Marvel, Miracleman, Captain America, those kind of people. He's the first hero we meet, and he's the central character. His powers,when he had them, were created by calling on the spirit of a dead alien, Helkhar, to take over his body and make him invincible, able to fly, etc. etc. . Hypron has long flowing blonde hair, huge muscles, and looks like every image you have of superheroes.
In his 'human' form, Alan Richards, he's grey and balding and has to wear glasses, and looks in his mid-40s, but otherwise is similar in appearance to his superhero self. He needs a job in which he can be humorously overlooked, much like Clark Kent as a reporter. My idea is that he's the bass player in a band which were a one-hit wonder, Robin and the Hoods. This band should be halfway between Adam And The Ants and Paul Revere And The Raiders. The lead singer, who's the only original member, dresses as Robin Hood (despite now being in his 50s and about 18 stone), while the rest of the band dress as 30s gangsters. They're playing tiny bars and probably Butlin's camps too, but the lead singer still thinks he's a big star. The rest of the band see it as just a job, and not a good one.
While he's still a superhero, of course, this job is just a way for him to be humble and amusing and interact with his love interest (the keyboard player, who's in her 20s and totally unaware that he's interested as anything other than a friend). But after the catastrophe, he gets seriously ground down by the job – going out night after night, grinding out the same moronic shit for audiences who really don't care about anything other than the one hit, and don't care much about that. He's drinking far too much at the start of the series.
Lycanthrope is a darker character. For this one, think Batman or Wolverine – your semi-homicidal dark vigilante with a grudge against the universe. His costume is all dark and should be based on a wolf theme. He has no powers, and doesn't even have much of a toolkit – no utility belt or anything like that. Maybe he has some nunchakas or something, if you feel like some martial arts scenes at some point, but in general he fights with his fists and his wits.
Even in the flashbacks, there should be a sense that maybe Lycanthrope might go a little too far, but in the present he's the only costumed hero not to have hung up the mask. He still fights (and now often kills in a quite horrific manner) criminals in the darkened streets of the city where he lives, and also leads the resistance against the fascist government in place – this resistance still having the name Freedom Fighters - and as a result is portrayed as the leading terrorist on the TV and newspapers. He's helped in this by the fact that he never gave out his secret identity even to the other heroes. His mask must cover his entire face.
In the flashbacks, Stretch is the comic relief – whenever the story is getting a bit too heavy, we can cut to him. He's your standard stretchy Plastic Man, Elongated Man, Mr Fantastic type, who can stretch his body and contort into any shape, and is always ready with a bad pun to lighten the mood (think of Changeling from the Teen Titans, or Blue Beetle, as well as the usual stretchy characters). He's the youngest of the team, and he's desperately in love with ERIS, who pretends not to notice.
In the present day though, he's truly pitiful. When the cataclysm happened, Stretch got stuck in a contorted shape, and his body retained that shape. He can now barely move and suffers crippling pains constantly. Doctors have told him he'll probably have to have his right arm amputated soon.
Eris is the main female member of the team. The Greek goddess of chaos and discord , she should be our Wonder Woman/Xena figure, and should be costumed accordingly, but possibly slightly more tastefully and with a chest that doesn't distort the whole of space-time with its sheer mass.
As you may know, there is a geek tradition of pseudo-worshipping of Eris and a whole lot of in-jokes that have developed because of this. I'd like to make use of these very occasionally, but basically I want to use Eris as the team's Wonder Woman type figure .
Her costume might be vaguely toga or tunic based. She carries a knife, which she used to keep between her breasts (actual mythology bit there) but now keeps in a belt, because she kept cutting herself and because no-one likes having cold metal pressed up against her chest all day. The other main 'weapon' she has, and one we can get quite a bit of use from, is her Golden Apple Arsenal. In Greek mythology, Eris caused the Trojan war by rolling a golden apple marked into the middle of the gods, causing the goddesses to fight over it. Her Golden Apple Arsenal is a set of metallic apples that, when thrown, give off a gas that confuses and disorients everyone except her. She also has all the usual superstrength etc. powers.
After she loses her power, she changes her name to Eve and runs a dress shop called Desire. She dresses rather like Mrs Peel from the Avengers, and refuses to have anything to do with her former colleagues, even when the story gets going. The only clue to her secret identity is her car's Ford logo, which reads Fnord... She also makes very occasional references to her twin sister, Anna. From those references, Anna is not someone you ever want to meet...
There are a couple of minor team members as well – Cypher, the code-breaker, NightHawk, a character who's invented a pair of wings that help him fly, maybe one or two others, but the four above are the main ones...an interesting minor team member who I've not fully thought out is The Magician. He could perform magic in the fantasy, spell-casting way. Since he lost his powers, he's been running an occult bookstore, selling off his old spellbooks. Of course, none of them work now, but if for some reason the supernatural ever makes a comeback in this world, there's a lot of scrawny pale geeks out there who've accidentally bought themselves a lot of firepower...
The basic storyline for the first story arc is that a student has been researching what caused the catastrophe that caused the sudden loss of power of the heroes. He manages to figure out the secret identities, and comes across some clues as to what caused it – not the actions of a supervillain, as they originally thought.
He goes round and meets one at a time with the old members of the Freedom Fighters, and discusses various pieces of the puzzle with them (their discussions leading into flashback sequences which reveal additional clues), before being mysteriously murdered, shortly after meeting Lycanthrope.
Hypron investigates the murder, even though he initially dismissed the student's ideas, and makes a shocking discovery...