superhero universe

Creating a Superhero Universe: A Practical Guide to Making Your Own Superheroes

It’s no secret that superheroes are all the rage now. With the influence of both Marvel and DC waning, both in comics and in film, there is no greater time to explore the idea of creating your own superhero universe. Practically speaking, this is not the easiest thing to do. I’ve been involved in the process of creating an independent superhero universe for over 7 years.

It is not an easy road. In my role as Creative Director and Lead Writer of Cornerstone Creative Studios, I’ve attended comic book conventions throughout the East Coast of the United States, selling posters of characters and a preview book that have yet to grace their own comic book titles.

At a convention promoting the Cornerstone Creative Studios superhero universe

For one, there is a matter of funding. When calculating the costs of making a comic book, you’d be surprised at how much it will run you, as there’s no way you can practically make a quality book for under $100-$110 a page. And with a whole universe of superheroes, it will take you longer than you’d think to accumulate that type of funding.

Unless you’re independently wealthy, creating a superhero universe requires dealmaking and the slow process of creating a fan base. As with any venture, we’ve had numerous false stops and starts in this regard. When we launch American Eagle, our official launch title for our independent superhero universe, we already have an established Facebook page and a bit of a fanbase around the character.

Beyond that though, the practical aspect is that we have an industry-established art team in place on the American Eagle book. This includes the following: artist Javier Lugo, Cornerstone Founder & CEO and inker Jesse Hansen, and colorist Mickey Clausen. All of these creators have numerous professional credits, which helps to bring their fans into supporting the book.

The cover to American Eagle, the launch title of the Cornerstone Creative Studios superhero universe

How to Create a Superhero Universe

The actual creative process of creating a superhero universe is, of course, challenging in its own right. You want to make sure that the characters you are creating reflect the modern world, but also have the style and sensibilities of the past they are honoring. Visually speaking, the character of American Eagle looks like a cross between Captain America and the Falcon from Marvel. But creating his superhero origin story was very different, and reflects a critical look at the history of our country.

Instead of being a symbol of patriotism during the World War II era, American Eagle is a Japanese-American who became a superhero in that era out of necessity. His family was rounded up in a Japanese internment camp, and he only became a spy (and later a superhero) to help his family. That being said, he is thoroughly American, and the conflict in this superhero story lies in his uneasiness in that role. We also took the character and placed him in the Vietnam era, which personifies that type of disillusionment with the American government.

American Eagle though is only one of the various superheroes in our independent superhero universe. And I have not written all of them. We have other great writers on the team, including Ryan Palmer, Andrew Lucas, Veronica Massey, and Alex Schnee. All of these writers bring differing perspectives, and have helped to establish a superhero universe that reflects the thoughts and viewpoints of our modern world.

The cover to Cornerstone Showcase, which highlights various superheroes of the Cornerstone Creative Studios superhero universe

Creating a Superhero Story

Nobody wants the next Iron Man or Batman. Instead, you need to think about how what has come before you, and how you can do things differently. Like the example of American Eagle, creating a superhero story can be a challenge, and you need to make sure that your entire superhero universe fits together in a dynamic if not somewhat original way.

What you’re doing is essentially creating a new mythology, and it needs to be treated as such. While the characters you create for your independent superhero universe may not have the same reach as ones created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and various other creators of the past, they can reach people like never before through the power of the internet. Leveraging options like crowdfunding to launch your superhero universe is a great way to get the word out, and platforms like Kickstarters currently serve as the one of the largest publisher of comics.

While using these platforms can certainty democratize the process and open gates, you also need to set them up in a way to promote your entire superhero universe. Launching one campaign in isolation is not enough; you need to keep launching new superhero titles to keep people interested, and make sure that the superhero stories you are creating will appeal to people on these platforms. To do so, make sure to do your research and see which titles are doing well, and figure out why they are doing so.

Launching a superhero universe is a real challenge, and nobody gets into independent comics to get rich. However, if you have stories you want to tell and an experienced art team with their own credits and fans, then there’s no better time to launch a superhero universe than now.

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