RJ Ross and I are back for another author chat and this time we’re talking superheroes in general. My first question for RJ is about tropes:
CY: Tell us your favorite superhero tropes and the best one(s) you’ve written!
RJ: I think my favorite–and the one I’m constantly using and abusing, is the most simple trope of all. The bad guy loses. This is something even the littlest kids knows, right? So my characters IN-CHARACTER know that the bad guys are supposed to lose. That allows me to set up the funnest part of Cape High, the on-screen/off-screen relationships between good guys and bad. I mean, three of my biggest badasses in the teen group are super villains. In an actual fight, defeating Ace (AKA Dragon) would be practically impossible for anyone under A-class, but Ace chose to be a “super villain” and takes a dive without a thought–because it’s in the setup. It’s a trope–it’s more than a trope, actually, it’s an unspoken rule for supers. Best part? It lets me make my three bad boys more approachable, likeable, and down-to-earth, regardless of their power levels. What about you? What’s your favorite trope to use/abuse?
CY: The villain monologue! It’s so ridiculously overdone and unrealistic to think that in real life a villain would pace the room, revealing all of their deepest secrets and explaining how each detail of their evil plan came to fruition. But people write it anyway, myself included. It’s fun to let the villain have their say and think they’ve won only to lose in the end.
What about superhero secret identities? Are you for or against a hero with an alternate persona to keep them hidden from the public?
RJ:One of my favorite super hero comics, Grrl Power, has it where there’s no secret identities. The first time I read that it sort of shocked me. I’m old school. If you’re a hero you should hide your identity! I learned that from all those old Batman shows with the “Holy metal, Batman!” jokes. But really, it depends on how big of a public identity you have. Some of my characters won’t have a super hero persona at all. Sunny has no plans on wearing tights or spandex for his job, and Morgan will be acting as a substitute teacher while working. I guess you could say “It depends” is my answer. Also? My super villains bring their own mics for that long exposition moment. Jack totally ripped Max off on that–and Ace doesn’t even bother with a uniform or mic, he just makes one up with illusion abilities. The lazy punk.
Tying directly into that response, since I’m a bit lazy, too, what do you think of in character public exposure for supers? Do you think the world should know what’s going on, or should they work in the shadows?
CY: I think it depends on the superhero world the story is set in. If it’s a singular hero ala Spiderman/Batman where a regular human becomes a superhero, then yeah they should keep their identities secret. I like the idea of superheroes living their normal human lives and having the superhero stuff on the side.
But in other worlds, it’s possible to be out and proud about your superheroness. Like in Powered, there’s a whole race of Super beings which are open to the public about who they are, but inside the Super race there are Heroes, who wear masks in public to keep themselves secret from humans. It’s mainly a privacy thing because the humans have turned the Supers into celebrities. I also wanted them to wear masks as sort of a kicking in old school thing. It’s fun to create a secret persona and to know that you only have to be that person when you’re in the mask- otherwise, you’re normal just like everyone else.
You mentioned comics, so let’s dive into that subject! Which comics are your favorites? Any suggestions for a first time comic book reader?
RJ: Honestly? I should lie and say I’m old school there, too, like I read the Batman comics and all that–and I DID read a few here and there, but I’m a manga girl at heart. I like ridiculous Japanese comedy with action tossed in. Lately, there’s actually a manga that’s super hero based! It’s called Boku no Hero Academia, where a kid gets super powers from the biggest super hero around, All Might. It’s been a lot of fun! Waiting for the translations, on the other hand, isn’t. I also (and this is terrible, because it’s full of big boobs and skimpy clothing–then again, so is manga) but I also like Gold Digger, and have for a long time. I’ve got a lot of the Gold Bricks, which are the big omnibus like collections of the comic. You should note, these have only a tiny influence on my series. (Especially in the well-endowed aspect. The only characters with large chests are Jeanie and Tatiana, and both dress very modestly, even in uniform.)
Let’s jump tangent for a little bit! If you could pick one trope to play with in a short story, what would it be?
CY: I like that you mentioned a short story, because those are probably the best ways to use a trope. You wouldn’t want an entire novel as one big trope, but a short story can still be fun. With that said, I’d love to write a story with a hero who fits the trope of being vastly wealthy and therefore has a hard time doing his superhero job because it’s just easier to pay off someone else to fix the problem, or to buy some fancy machine that will do the work for you.
That makes me think of a new question. How would you take a trope and change it, making the story happen in the opposite way of a trope?
RJ: Ironically, I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that, in a way. I spent a few weeks of spare time gleaning through the hodgepodge box that is Wattpad. There’s some good in it, and some so cringe-worthy it makes your eyes water. But me, I was looking at werewolf books just for the heck of it. Here’s the line-up, and it reflects in romance books too–the alpha werewolf, big, bad, manly, and overly-bossy, suddenly falls in love with a normal girl, or finds himself mated to a nerd/weakling/non-Alpha. Regardless, it always goes back to ALPHA ALPHA–it had me head-desking and I don’t even sit at a desk.
I have shapeshifters in my series. The way I had set it up, all the way in book 3, was that when they reached 13-14yrs old and their full powers came in, they shifted into a baby/cub/calf version of the animal. They have very little coordination, can’t control their instincts, and often look like idiots. So my idea was “Why not a wolf shifter?” He’d be the exact opposite of the manly alpha! (For that matter, exact opposite of super hero style as well–superhero males tend to be pretty alpha, too.) Dorky while trying to be cool, will NOT get the girl, will FAIL as a super hero/villain, whichever route he chooses, and will have trouble just finding a place in the school. And yet, he’ll still be a super>D
Of course I’d probably irritate those alpha werewolf/super hero fans, huh? Thankfully I write superhero books, not paranormal romance.
If there was one trope you would throw burning out a window from a very tall building, what would it be?
CY: I LOVE your shapeshifters! It was an awesome way to throw out an old trope and create unique new character abilities. There is definitely a divide between paranormal werewolves and superhero ones. I’m not even sure superhero wolves are a thing yet, so kudos!
The trope I hate more than every other trope is the main character being a boring, average man/woman and suddenly not one, but TWO incredibly attractive unattainable people are in love with them. I mean, really? Time to throw that one off of a very very tall building.
You have a lot of variety with your superhero/villains and their powers. Is there any type of power you’d never write for a character? Why?
RJ: Well, the closest I’ll ever get to magic will be illusion talents or healing abilities. I don’t feel like tossing in all the different types and possibly stumbling into the dark/blood magic thing–yeah, I’m planning on avoiding all of that. That’s actually something that came up when we were doing the whole PCS CYOA thing. Some super worlds have magic, others don’t. I think mostly it’s just a matter of choice. I just like my magic in fantasy/fairy tales, not sci-fi.
(There are some overlapping powers in my series, though. In fact I just realized that Mega (an established adult hero) and Ward (a 14yr old zoo kid cape) have the same base power of growing and shrinking. And both Panther and Taurus have shape-shifting abilities (different animals, but same basics.) And of course, family members have inherited powers. It keeps me from having to come up with TOO many different powers.)
You know, (and I’m guilty of this too) but the regular assumption/trope is that if you get a super power, it makes things BETTER for the character, eventually. Would you ever consider giving a super power that makes things worse for them? (The only one I can think of that has this is Rogue, tbh.)
CY: I would love to give a character a power that makes life worse for them and I’ve been toying with the idea of doing that to a male superhero in a WIP of mine. Mainly because it would make him so much more tortured and cute and unattainable for the female superhero in the story. Plus, I’ve always been the kind of person who, in grade school, would choose the topic I didn’t like and write persuasive essays over it, because it was more of a challenge to convince others and myself about an opinion I didn’t personally hold. So writing a character with a problem-causing superpower would be right up my alley.
R.J Ross is the author of the Cape High Series. (https://capehigh.wordpress.com/)
Cheyanne Young is the author of the Powered Trilogy. (www.CheyanneYoung.com)