Dear New Writer,
As most superhero comics are based in the United States, and most of the companies are American, it is possible to have a writer who has never left the United States. This works when the setting is always New York City, but often a plot logically reaches beyond the borders of that USA. The most powerful and popular characters tend to have a global reach, and may have to interact with non-American characters in order to keep the scale of the plot intact for the reader. Writing a character from a country you’ve never set foot in may seem like a daunting exercise that demands a lot of research, but observation of not only the superhero genre but the mainstream American media as a whole proves that this is not the case.
In order to help these writers, the Mainstream Comics Industry has collected some short guidelines based on the great American superhero tradition.
5 Rules for Writing International Characters in Mainstream Superhero Comics
1) If the character is US-born and straight, script as normal. Consult the Thinly-Veiled Racial Stereotype Handbook and the The Wicked Witch, the Doting Mother and the Perfect Girlfriend: A Complete Guide to One-Dimensional Female Characters as appropriate. If the character is US-born and LGBT, seek advice from a conservative religious leader in your local community as to how obvious the character’s sexuality may be.
2) If the character is a guest-star based in a country other than the United States, skim the Wikipedia page of the country in question. If you are unfamiliar with the exact spelling of the country’s name, researching a better-known neighboring country will be just as good. Construct a nationalistic character with powers and costume based on the information in the basic Wikipedia article. Consult the Thinly-Veiled Racial Stereotype Handbook as appropriate.
3) If the character is based in the United States but born elsewhere, choose whatever powers and costume seems best for the story. You can portray ethnicity with some simple research. Obtain a vocabulary list for the predominant language (or what you suspect is the predominant language) of their native country. Choose three common words and two exclamatory phrases. In each scene with dialogue, make sure your international character uses at least two of the words or expressions on your list.
4) When interacting with American characters, your international character will almost always consider the government of his country to be absolutely correct in all ways. If this is a government that is in contention with the United States, your international character will discover that the Americans are actually in the right and he/she has been living a lie unless the character is meant to be a villain. If the international character does not consider the government of his country to be infallible, he/she abhors the oppressive nature of the government and idolizes the United States.
5) If your character is from a fictional country, locate it in a region that is crowded with hard-to-pronounce nations. Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East are favorites. Nobody ever notices a new one there. Pattern the history and culture after the stereotypes of the region, and cobble a funny-sounding name from the highest profile countries in the area. Make up your own words, phrases, and folkish sayings to give your character flavor.
The preceding rules are only guidelines. However, the Mainstream Comics Industry advises against researching another culture and creating a well-rounded original character based on actual facts, because this could result in your readers thinking of foreign nations as places with a rich history and culture populated by a variety of individual thinkers who are worthy of respect as human beings. This leads to the audience raising their standards and refusing to pay for books that don’t adhere to that standard. That makes more work for everyone, and may cost some very nice people their jobs. You will be very unpopular as a result, and have no chance of being invited to the good parties.
Good luck in your writing career!
–The Mainstream Comics Industry