I am glad I never stopped reading comics. My enthusiasm for the sequential art form has many times opened unexpected doors of perception -like the time I was reading Spider Man and I realised that maintaining a secret identity is hard work if you want to have a girlfriend too. Recently another of these doors opened.
It didn't happen while I was reading a comic precisely, rather it came as a result of thinking about the structure of a superhero team. Admittedly I devote scarce mental energies to the problem of how best to form a superhero team. Being expert at that doesn't lead to many realtime applications. But the other day I was wrestling with a question and the idea of the superhero team popped up, specifically the makeup of such a team and who would be the member of one.
I've been struggling with how to define characters in my book. As I write, I'm always looking for ways to distinguish individuals as the story progresses, to separate one from another in stark, easy to comprehend characteristics. It is hard to do! Usually, when composing dialogue, the speakers end up sounding like the flip sides of the same coin. They sound like the way we're supposed to think of the perfect married couple, where she starts the sentence and he ends it. While that ideal suits a marriage (maybe), on the page it sounds all wet.
So I started thinking about character types (an activity impossible to avoid, I think, while writing a conventional novel) and this brought me to the superhero team. In a team like this you see assembled representatives of each stereotype running around in tights. Put together a team and you're going to have a hero with brute strength, like Superman as a for instance. You also need Captain America, a soldier-type, plus about five others: a witch-type magic user, somebody with a ranged weapon, a brainiac, a buffoon and a belle of the ball. The last is like Jean Grey from the Xmen, beautiful and commanding fearsome energies, the ultimate alpha female (the witch, on the other claw, is more feline, cunning and secretive).
Cobble these types and you have yourself one mother-loving crew that leaves their bootprints on the jawbones of some serious perpetrators.
Believe it or not, coming to grips with the chemistry of a superteam has amounted to a kind of breakthrough in my writing. Since setting down these terms of definition, my dialogue has nearly begun writing itself... nearly, but not quite.