I have a few oddball books in my “Way With Worlds” collection on worldbuilding, and the Superhero one is one of them. It’s the first book of the series to tackle worldbuilding in a given genre directly, and though it may not be the last like it, it’s one near and dear to me.
I love the superhero genre.
The superhero genre is a meta-genre that combines many other genres, tropes, ideas together in one heady brew that wears a cape. Orphans turned detectives team up with godlike aliens and humans transformed by chemicals to fight sentient gorillas and criminal clowns. It takes a few trope frameworks (people with unusual abilities develop specific identities and roles) within which you can go wild.
I even helped run a shared universe superhero newsletter back in the day. The crew created their own characters in a shared setting, we’d often trade-off, and the result was a four-year-plus series of stories and a giant body of work. It went every direction, yet also was still recognizable as a superhero body of work.
Again, I love the superhero genre. That would have been enough to write a worldbuilding book on it – but there was more.
Superheroes are a genre that deserves more exploration as it is a meta-genre, a wrapper for many familiar characters and story types. Because it allows one to write so many ideas while still using an easy-to-access framework, you can make the bizarre accessible. The Grant Morrison Doom Patrol or the anime Concrete Revolutio are just some examples – the former surrealist, the latter a puzzle-box. In today’s grand age of superhero tales, we have a chance to explore.
I was further motivated by thoughts of new caped horizons and masked adventures. Yet, one other motivation came into play.
We’re so inundated with superhero stories, I wanted to make sure people didn’t fall into tropes old and new, so my book is a small contribution to avoiding that. My superhero worldbuilding guide asks hard questions to help people make believable worlds. Because superhero worlds are often many genres, that means such a worldbook inspires people to think through bizarre possibilities – and make them seem real! To reconcile alien invasions, time travel, cybernetics, and a mild-mannered reporting career pushes one to artistic heights.
So my worldbook was born of a love of the genre, hope for more, and fear of stagnation. A small contribution, perhaps, but a heartfelt one, and one I hope inspires others.
Sometimes the best thing you can do when you love something is to inspire others who love it to go to heights you never imagined. That’s where “Superheroes and Worldbuilding” came from.
Who knows what other genres I could tackle?