How to Create Cool Comic Book Characters

Comic books are all the rage, and tomorrow’s star of the printed page will be the next big thing on the silver screen! Yep, Hollywood money is whipping up every able-bodied creator into a creative tizzy. WHO will create the next Iron Man, Batman and Jonah Hex so that they can be watered down into unrecognizable action figure grade silhouettes of themselves for a feckless public to mass consume?

Maybe YOU!

But classic comic book characters like Constantine, The Mystery Men and Tank Girl don’t just bubble up out of the ground like some sort of addictive, mind controlling white food substitute, they (unfortunately) have to be thought up in the minds of human beings, those rotten jerks.

“Ah dangit!” you weakly bleat. “I’m barely a human being as it is. How the heck am I supposed to come up with a new comic book character with warmth, foibles and features…especially when I only want to do so to enjoy the contemporary financial windfall that comic books are (supposedly) enjoying?”

Well, the real question, sir or madam is “Do you want a little cheese to go with that whine?”

Never fear, peasants. Unkiedev is here to tell you what to think. Follow these simple steps and you too can create legendary comic book characters!

METHOD #1: Old School

This is perhaps the simplest and most direct way to come up with comic book characters that will stand the test of time: simply reverse engineer your life so that you could be a poor impoverished Jew growing up in Hell’s Kitchen during the Great Depression!

It’s a statistical fact that every single Jewish boy who grew up in New York City during the depression who DIDN’T die in World War II ended up being one of the most talented and creative peoples of our nation. Jack Kirby is, of course, the most famous, though other geniuses including Will Eisner, Bob Finger, and Will Elder prove this to be true.

Between Kirby and Finger alone we get the Fantastic Four, Batman, Captain America, The X-Men, the Joker, Dr. Doom and a wealth of countless innovations to comics as an art form. I mean, Will Eisner wasn’t satisfied reinventing comics as a genre singlehandedly through the pages of his sensational comic strip The Spirit; he had to go and invented the graphic novel to boot!

Now it’s true that Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, the creators of Superman, were depression era Jews growing up in and around Cleveland, of all places, but it’s easy to imagine that, much like evolution and the heliocentric solar system, this is absolutely some sort of snotty hoax concocted by liberal eggheads. We’ll one day learn the truth that Siegel and Schuster were actually from New York City the whole time.

How did this region, religion and economic straight provide the future with every single trope and standard to dominate comic books for over 60 years? No one may really know…no one outside of our next class of creators, that is.

METHOD #2: Steal the Credit

A wise man once said, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Maybe it was a fortune cookie. Regardless, a wise man once stole it from a fortune cookie and said it to me.

The point is, if some staving, struggling descendant of the tribe of Israel is going to go through all the trouble to invent amazing characters that generations will love forever, then wouldn’t you be a fool not to ride their coat tails and hog all the credit years later?

That’s right! Stealing credit for creating comic book characters is just as legitimate, and frankly a far more legally protected way to cash in than actually creating them yourself! Proof is in the pudding: just ask Bob Kane, the “Creator” of Batman and Smilin’ Stan Lee, co-creator of every Marvel comics character from Spider-Man on up to She-Hulk.

Stan Lee is one of the great architects of American comics, but sorting out what he actually created and what he just legally swiped co-ownership of is like trying to steal candy from a naked Rachel Ray dipped in E.V.O.O.

The most important part of this process is to come up with enough of your own embellishments to the character, say like making them relatable to audiences for the first time ever or just having a cooler looking signature in a box on the cover. That way future generations won’t be able to spot the theft.

This subtlety escapes some modern swipers. Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and most of the Image crowd would flagrantly redesign a costume for Superman, The Thing or crib work from their betters month after month and expect to get away with it every time.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us for 3 years with 6 variant covers each and every time? Shame on the industry.

At least Erik Larson had the dignity to make his Hulk rip-off, the Savage Dragon, a cop!

METHOD #3: Go Dark!

Comicdom’s biggest offender to stealing credit is arguably one of its greatest writers. I’m speaking of beloved comic book creator Alan Moore. Moore has hardly created one character in his entire career. Don’t believe me? The Watchmen? They’re a pastiche of old Charleton comic’s characters such as the Creeper, the Blue Beetle and the Atom. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? All established book characters. Even break through career highlights such as Marvelman and Swamp Thing seem hollow when you know that they were all established characters Moore just filled with his own ideas.

IF you want to argue that he created anybody you could successfully lobby for John Constantine, the trench-coat wearing, chain smoking London street wizard, though I suspect that Moore used his OWN prodigious magical powers to turn a rival magician into a comic book character. THAT’LL show him.

So why does Moore continue to get away with it? A) He has more brilliant ideas and writing talent than a clone army of Stan Lees, Bob Fingers and Walt Disney’s combined. This ability allowed him to create NEW characters out of the old cloth by giving them depth, nuance and passion. B) He invented “Going Dark.”

If you want to rip-off Archie and the gang then make a DARK version of Archie and the gang, where Jughead has a literal jug for a head that he keeps covered by his weird hat, where Reggie is an opium addict and where Betty and Veronica is a Siamese Twin that Archie madly loves but whom he can’t share.

You’d read Archie now, I’ll wager!

Alan Moore’s success at this tactic invented a whole NEW way to come up with comic book characters.

METHOD #4: Be British

Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis, Peter Milligan and countless others all have amazing careers and were all fortunate to be British in the right time and place, i.e. the comics market of the 90’s and early millennium.

What? Bendis isn’t British? Hmmmm. Then why doesn’t he provide a birth certificate to prove it, then?

Even as we speak Marvel, DC and many other studios are flying over Britain with high-powered helicopters towing nets, scooping up British citizens and then forcing them to come up with new comic book ideas.

It might seem cruel but the spice must flow!

METHOD #5 Hard Work/Some other X-Factor.

Or you could reject the ideas that came before you and struggle with your own creativity until you’ve distilled your thoughts, hopes and dreams into something truly new, vibrant and different… but that would take, like, forever.

Nope, to really come up with the next Men In Black, Wolverine or Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel the best thing you could do is be a British Jew with a dark side growing up in depression era New York, or better yet just steal ideas from someone who is.

Trust me, I’m a comic book columnist.

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  1. Bob

    The Watchmen? They’re a pastiche of old Charleton comic’s characters such as the Creeper, the Blue Beetle and the Atom.

    You mean the Question, Blue Beetle, and Captain Atom. The Creeper and the Atom were DC originals, and had no counterparts in Watchmen (which doesn’t get preceded by a “The,” as it was the title of the series and not the name of the group).

    like trying to steal candy from a naked Rachel Ray dipped in E.V.O.O.

    Now that’s an image that’s going to stay with me for a while.

    Great article, by the way.