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Nova Genesis World versus A List of 40 Superhero Cliches and Tropes

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On February 3rd, 1947 a supernova wavefront changed everything. A previously unknown galactic civilization intervened saving the majority of life of Earth. In the wake of the Galactics' intervention, people started to develop powers declaring themselves superheroes and supervillains. Thirty seven years later Michael Gurick watches his superhero father die, and vowed to revenge him by Dispensing Justice. (e)

I recently came across this posting at laying out a list of 40 superhero cliches and tropes and it got me thinking about the tropes I use (or abuse) in my Nova Genesis series. So I put together the following table based on B. McKenzie's list.

Warning: This is a work in progress.

-- Fritz Freiheit


Plotting (and Setting)

  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
1 The story’s inciting event is most often the murder of a loved one(s).   yes no In DJ, Michael's father is killed in action against the Demolition Squad. In RR, Penny is sucked into superheroing by the needs of her friends.
2 The superhero usually gets his superpowers first.     no no NGW main characters are all second generation. But even from the measurement of main characters revealing their powers first, this is only partially true.
2.1 The superhero and main villain frequently gets their superpowers either from the same source or similar sources.     yes yes NGW has a single origin event (Supernova 1947A and the intervention of the Galactics) which caused, one way or another, all supers on Earth.
3 Many villains and heroes share some sort of personal connection outside of work.   no no Occasionally true for NGW, as many of the characters go to the same high school and live in the same suburban neighborhood.
4 Nuclear weapons cannot destroy anything, but hand-to-hand combatants are largely unstoppable.   no no Not that this has come up in NGW so far.
5 Nobody stays dead (comic book deaths never last).   yes and no n/a In DJ, Michael's father, the original Dispenser is dead. Michael becomes the second Dispenser.
6 New York City (or an obvious stand-in like Gotham) is the default setting for most superhero stories.   yes and no yes and no Galacticity isn't New York and has specific location known to the reader, but it is a large city.
6.1 95%+ of the world’s superpowered activity will usually happen in and around a single city.     no no While it's true that the action that occurs in DJ and RR is mostly in a single city, this is not because there isn't activity in other cities. There are explicity references to supers in other cities. In upcoming NGW stories there will be activity outside of Galacticity, which is certainly true for HPWT.
7 Besides possibly a stirring death scene, most superheroes’ parents almost never interact with them.     no no Not that there is a lot of interaction with parents, but it's significantly more than 'almost never'.


  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
8 It’s rare to have a team of 3+ characters without at least one superstrong/tank character.     yes yes The Dispenser and Lensark as a team have no bricks, The Aegis Team 85 does. The Nova League, based on a large number of members, certainly has superstrong/tank characters.
9 A hero’s superpowers will almost always come without any difficulties or inconveniences.     maybe maybe Haven't dwelled on this point in NGW, but I haven't ignored it either.
10 Some superpowers skew to one gender.     maybe maybe Not sure about this in NGW. Probably not.
11 Superheroes learn very quickly.     maybe maybe Perhaps. Again, not sure about it in NGW. Micheal does go out and start martial art training soon after his father's death.
New     yes yes Kim Kinnison's powers started to manifest at puberty.


  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
12 After getting superpowers, most protagonists decide very quickly that they want to be a superhero.     yes no But to be fair, both Michael and Kim have always wanted to be a superheroes, and Penny, who started out super, has been having second thoughts.
13 Virtually everybody that has superpowers will become a superhero or villain.         NGW/DJ/RR make some statements indicating that this isn't true, but it hasn't been played out.
14 The youngest character will complain/whine the most.     no no  
14.1 The best way to identify the oldest superhero in the story is that he’s a hardass, usually in a leadership/logistical role.     no no Although, to be honest, the oldest known character in NGW who is a super is a hardass / übermensch.
15 If there’s a secret identity, side-characters will usually get uncharacteristically stupid whenever it’s necessary to keep the secret identity safe.     no no Characters aware of secret identities are overtly careful.
16 Women protagonists are almost always hot.   yes yes So far. It's debatable how 'hot' Penny is, though. Her mother, The Silver Archer, is more statuesque than 'hot'.
16.1 A heroine’s hotness may be plot-relevant, but a hero’s hotness almost never is.     n/a n/a We'll have to see what happens with this one.
17 The protagonist is a nondescript teenager without any notable goals.     no no Michael may not be particularly striking, but he has goals. Penny could be considered striking, but doesn't really have well formed goals, more like anti-goals (she knows, or thinks she knows what she doesn't want to be).
18 Some superhero naming conventions recur for no readily obvious reason.   yes yes Certainly the Red Rook is an example of this.
18.1 In comic books, first names and last names are disproportionately likely to start with the same letter (i.e. alliterative names).   no no Mostly no. We do have Kim Kinnison, though.
New Superheroes and villains have secret identities. Secret Identity yes yes Most certainly. The Galactics made this easier with their G.I.D. system.


NGW is Science Fiction

  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
19 A scientist or any other super-smart character can perform more or less any mental feat.   not sure not sure I don't think this is the case.
19.1 Protagonist scientists get everything right, usually instantly.   no no Michael takes a while to come up to speed, and has a number of failures.
20 A super-scientist can perform miracles of science with a budget of $0 and/or a box of scraps in an Afghani cave.   no no Michael has inherited his father's (rather vast) resources.
20.1 Anybody with a scientific budget is probably an evil CEO.   no no Doc Styx is a counter example.
21 The only mental miracle a brilliant scientist cannot perform with science is making substantial changes to the real world.   no no The general rule in NGW is that the existence of supers, including supergeniuses, has accelerated the advancement of science and technology. Note that the real-world tech of 1984 in NGW is equivalent to the real-world tech of 2011 in the real world.
22 Even (allegedly) brilliant scientists regularly use themselves as test-subjects.   no no Hasn't happened yet.
23 Scientific experiments will never be replicable.   no no False.
24 Scientists perform highly dangerous experiments in densely populated areas.   no no Hasn't happened yet.
25 Scientists will suddenly develop amnesia whenever it’s convenient to the plot.   no no Hasn't happened yet.

Law and Order

  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
26 No matter how catastrophic a superpowered brawl gets and how many buildings go down, civilian casualties will range from 0-1.     no no There hasn't been much discussion about the aftermath of any supers fight. Additionally, because of the events surrounding Supernova 1947A, normals are harder to kill.
27 No matter how many people he’s killed, a supervillain will never get the death penalty.     n/a n/a At this point, one doesn't know whether or not the Death Penalty exists in NGW.
28 Supervillains can break out of prison at will.     no no  
29 Superheroes must have really bad lawyers–if they get arrested, they’re going to jail, even if the charges make no sense whatsoever.     n/a n/a None of the heroes have been arrested yet.
30 Violence is the ideal solution to any crime.     no no At least for the crimes so far in NGW, violence is a good solution.

Nonhuman Characters And Exotic Cultures

NGW is Science Fiction

  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
31 Most aliens/nonhuman protagonists are like humans, but better.     sort of sort of There hasn't been much interaction with the Galactics in NGW so far. Most of the Galactics are tourists. A small number are supers (mostly heroes).
32 Many exotic civilizations are either disgustingly virtuous (like Switzerland) or one-dimensionally nefarious (like Sweden).         So far, the Galactics appear to be totally virtuous. Wait for HPWT.
33 I’d [B. McKenzie] like to see more interesting combinations of cultural traits.          

Supervillains and The Eternal Stupidity Thereof

  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
34 No matter how smart a supervillain allegedly is, he will commit 95%+ of his crimes in a city that has superheroes.     no no All major cities have superheroes.
35 When a supervillain holds a hero captive, it doesn’t work any better than when the police try putting a villain in prison.     no no Technomancer is held captive by Mirage and Kingfisher.
36 Virtually every supervillain has violated multiple rules on the Evil Overlord List at some point.         Maybe. Probably. I'll have to go over the Evil Overloard list again.
37 Supervillains make their own money, but superheroes inherit it.   yes and no yes and no The first Dispenser made his money, the second inherited it.
37.1 Superheroes and villains are markedly more likely to be vastly wealthy than the population as a whole.     yes yes I think this is a given when considering supergeniuses.
37.2 Anybody that uses superpowers to gain wealth is almost certainly a villain.     no no Counterpoint: The Dispenser, Doc Styx; and there are instances of retired superheroes using their reputations to make money, such as the White Whirlwind.
38 A supervillain’s power level affect’s the hero’s power level.     yes yes But, perhaps, not in the way you might think. Consider the rock-paper-scissors theory of superhero-supervillain interaction.
39 Villains are far better at escaping than killing.         Perhaps.
39.1 When antagonists chase after the protagonists, they will almost never catch them.     n/a n/a Haven't had an instance of this.
40 Supervillains want superpowers and are more likely to acquire them intentionally.     n/a n/a There haven't been many cases of normals seeking powers in NGW.
40.1 A superhero may wish to get rid of his superpowers and/or be normal, but supervillains never do.   no no The supervillain Iodine is counterpoint to this.


I've added the costumes, or supersuit section. Perhaps this should go under Characterization.

  Superhero Nation trope TvTrope name FritzWiki trope name DJ Trope? RR Trope? Comments
New Superheroes and villains wear costumes.     yes yes  
New Superheroes and villains announce their identity. Chest Icons yes yes  

Some notes on Nova Genesis World

Nova Genesis World is science fiction. This was my intent from the very start. Before I came up with the idea of Supernova 1947A and the Galactics' intervention, I had wondered if it was possible to create a superhero world that was SF rather than fantasy (that is, no magic, no mythology, and no other supernatural agencies). But I still wanted to have all the tropes of a superhero world: superheroes and supervillains, masks and costumes, secret identities, vigilantes, epic battles between good and evil, and a populace that thought superheroes were a "good thing". In order to do this, I thought, something had to happen that would both create the superpowered individuals as well as the superhero culture that went along with them. Without a culture of superheroes, it would just be about superhumans, and while that's fine (I love a good superhuman SF story, like the The Boosted Man) I wanted a straight-up superhero story. Thus, cosmic radiation mixed with nanotech repair by a benevolent alien civilization that was willing to do a bit of social engineering in order to prepare Earth cultures to deal constructively with the inevitable occurrence of superhumans and turn them into heroes.

-- Fritz Freiheit

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