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In Genre

Comic Book Superheroes

by RJ Grady
Mar 20,2003

 

IN GENRE: Comic Book Superheroes

by RJ Grady

What Genre Are We In?

This article concerns role-playing games that emulate the comic book superhero genre. Comic books features superheroes, super science, super magic, super evil, super good, super everything -- even super butlers and super rhubarb pies. The genre originates in the comic book format, although full-length graphical novels, movies, radio shows, television shows, and spin-off novels are also important. To kick things off, some definitions:

A genre is a category, in this case a broad one.

Comic book superheroes are characters with extraordinary abilities, frequently dressed in flamboyant costumes, who use their powers to aid others (or in the case supervillains, to harm others).

The word "hero" is of Greek origin; it refers to someone of a scale greater than ordinary men, often of divine parentage, whose adventures, passions, strengths, and failures are of a grand scale. In its modern sense, it implies moral fortitude, compassion, and other virtues.

The word "super" means above; it is the root of the word "superior." A "superman" is an over-man (an ubermensch). In a colloquial sense, "super" means something that is overwhelmingly good, something that is cool. The "super" part is integral to the genre.


There are basically three eras of comic book history. The Golden Age includes the war years and the early Atomic Age, the first superheroes apeparing in 1939 with the debut of Superman in Action Comics. A stranded alien with super-human powers, Superman was not a bug-eyed invader but a very human-like champion of good in a weird costume. Batman followed with the sensibilities and weird villains of the pulp crime stories, but dressed in a cape and mask like a modern-day Zorro. Comics like these borrowed heavily from detective stories, weird science and horror tales, and the science fiction of time. Most Golden Age heroes were also notable for a gimmick, such as the Phantom Lady's "black light" ray, the Flash's super speed, or the Green Lantern's mystic ring. One late development was the supervillain, someone with the same abilities as a superhero but who used them for evil purposes, and could provide a challenge no ordinary criminal could.

The Silver Age begins essentially with the Comics Code. Some moral crusaders deemed comic books to be junk entertainment full of violence, supernaturalism, sexual suggestiveness, and other questionable themes. The result was the Code, a voluntary policy adopted by the major comic book publishers to head off legal censorship. While horror comics got hit the hardest, superheroes also had to change to adapt. Superheroes could not take life, and had to behave in a morally straight fashion. The result were the "do-gooder" ethics parodied by the classic "Batman" TV show starring Adam West. Villains also had to be milder, and were sometimes quite silly. The Silver Age was characterized by light-heartedness, strong morality, and fanciful, often humorous, adventures. But at the same time, Marvel Comics was experimenting with more flawed, human characters.

The Bronze Age begins where the Silver Age ends. Exploration of socially conscious themes (like poverty, drugs, and racism) enter the picture early on. DC Comics revamped their comic book likes to fit into one coherent universe rather than a half dozen parallel Earths. Marvel raised the moral sophistication of their books with characters like the lethal Wolverine and the sympathetic, but villainous, Magneto. Frank Miller's masterpiece "The Dark Knight Returns" restored Batman's pre-Code grimness and brought satire to the main-stream, and Alan Moore's "Watchmen" introduced a rather unheroic group of heroes. Marvel and DC had long ruled the comic book industry, dominating the few other, smaller comic book lines. Image Comics changed that picture. Unfettered by a previous comic book continuity, the creator-owned Image comics typified a younger, fresher approach, often an angsty, anti-heroic one. The modern comic book store shelves everything from "gee whiz" Superman stories to the grim social-engineering of the godlike Authority to the silly self-satire of The Tick. Companies are always re-inventing their comic book lines to catch up with now-current sensibilities, technology, and aesthetics.

Building a Superhero Game

Before you can even begin to construct a superhero game, you have to figure out what you're trying to emulate. You need to decide what sub-genre(s) you are drawing from, such as Silver Age, Bronze Age, or Japanese superheroes. Your universe, like many DC and Marvel comics, may include a blend of characteristics from many sub-genres. If you are the GM, you have the choice to model the world closely after your own tastes, whether tropes of the comics (like Marvel's mutant bigotry) or your own personal touches (such as a particular superheroic origin specific to your campaign).

In a story, the writer can arrange events as he chooses. If he wants Batman to beat Superman, Batman will beat Superman, somehow. Characters will fall in love on cue, and villains will escape as the situation demands. There is a difference between gaming and telling a story. You can cleave to the dramatic flow of the comic books, or you can let things take their natural course. If you want to have adventures just like the comic books, you will probably want to start with a game that supports that kind of action mechanically. For instance, DC Heroes by Mayfair games has Hero Points and a combat system that make it easy to "stack the deck" in such a way that the heroes win, just like in the comics. Conversely, using GURPS for superheroes results in a very different kind of game. Success or failure can hinge on a die roll, and the combat system as written doesn't emulate the flamboyant action of the comics, even in its most cinematic form.

Conversely, you can treat a role-playing game as a chance to adventure in a comic book universe, but without the dramatic pre-sets of the literature. The Joker may kill the Batman, but if the Batman wins, it will be through the cleverness and luck of his player. At the extreme end, you can turn the genre on its head, playing a satire or thought-study, such as Godlike's lethal WWII-era game of superpowers and combat fatigue, or Aberrant's satirical, near-future setting of super-powered celebrities, conspiracy, and moral ambivalence.

Emulating the comic books will require a high degree of cooperation between the Game Master and players. The players have to agree to play by the rules of the setting, and they have to trust the GM to pull the plot together. In a Silver Age setting, players should not have their characters perform lethal attacks, and the GM should give them the opportunity to escape from death traps when captured. Conversely, in a dark world of conspiracy, the players have to take interest in strange mysteries and should not behave recklessly unless they want to end up dead or worse. Whereas in an "anything goes" campaign, imagination is the only limit. What if Superman decided to seize control of the UN? What if Magneto killed Iron Man? Is it always so easy to tell who the bad guys are?

Action in superhero games should emphasize the grand heroic scale of the comics. Four-color adventures should be bold and fun, while a dystopian science-fiction fantasy focuses on the burden, and dehumanization, of god-like power. But equally important is the human side. Even Superman thinks about dating and love from time to time, while the Night Owl of the grim "Watchmen" series genuinely enjoys putting on a mask and battling crime. Many superheroes have secret identities. As a superhero, they engage in terrific adventures, wield great powers, and enjoy celebrity (or infamy). But underneath it all, they're someone like you or me, with hopes, desires, dreams, and fears.

Optimistic treatments of the genre emphasize the idea that courage is not the absence of fear but action despite fear, that self-sacrifice leads to a better world, and that although heroes may tread close, they don't cross the line into arrogance and evil. Their principles guide them, protect, and set them apart. In pessimistic ones, superheroes are human, frail, zealous, and conflicted. In both, the hero's sense of personal responsibility is important, especially in stories without a clear sense of right and wrong. Most comic book series include a variety of characters, ranging from the redoubtable to the pitiable. One common trope is the angsty loner who doesn't quite fit in with the group but remains because of personal loyalty. No character should be a forgettable knockoff, but conversely, it's easy to over-think a superhero character, so think broadly and go with what feels right

Character creation should involve a lot of discussion, both between the player and the GM and the player and other players. Even more than in most games, characters can have unacceptably incompatible abilities or motivations with others in the group.

For instance, a skilled martial artist and a skilled martial artist with super-strength should not usually be in the same superhero team, at least not without distinguishing their respective roles. Besides the thematic overlap, it can also be difficult to balance encounters for such a group. If one player intends to be a lethal vigilante, he needs to work out with the GM and the other players how he is going to interact with more traditional, humanistic crimefighters. If one character is an anti-heroic vampire and another is a Silver Age do-gooder who gains Solar Strength and laser vision from the sun, there are going to be problems. Different motivations can distinguish characters with similar abilities, whereas common motivations can bring together characters with very different powers and backgrounds.

Every character should have an important role; there are no unimportant superheroes. That role can be a combat one, a social one, or just a stylistic one. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a good example of a superhero group here the characters have similar abilities, but different personalities and different secondary abilities. The Justice League of America is a good example of a group with wildly different abilities who share the common goal of defending the Earth from the greatest threats. The X-Men are a group of unique and varied individuals who complement each other in abilities and personality.

There are many possibilities for superhero crossovers. Costumed crime-fighters and super-spies can work alongside. Some comic books are set in the far future or in alien galaxies, making them superheroic space opera. Some superheroes have magical origins that lead them on occult adventures. You can also play variant settings, like powerful demi-gods in Ancient Greece or espers in the Wild West. And of course, superheroes can have any number of origins. Who is to say that an elvish wizard or a a far future traveler couldn't appear on our Earth and take up the cause?

Plotting the Superhero Game

One aspect of comic books that translates well into game-form is the episodic nature of the stories. Most stories wrap up in one to four issues. Similarly, every game night can be an entire story, or part of a mini-series. However, some players may become impatient with the reactive nature of comic book heroics. A detailed base of operations will allow the characters to leave their headquarters and interact with the world. You can even let the players take on the role of supervillains; whether they can win or not is up to the GM.

The traditional superhero story revolves around some crisis. Usually it's something like a natural disaster, an attack by a powerful villain or monster, a crime war, or a mystery. It could be something personal, like an infirm relative, complications with a hero's powers, or romantic difficulties. In either case, the expectation is that a superhero will tenaciously attack the problem. Sometimes players will need prodding. Minions, minor disasters, press conferences, and pleas for help can all serve to move the adventure along. While the game should not devolve into a series of meaningless slugfests, combat is central to the genre; generally there should be a significant fight no less than every other session. When done in the comic book style, with pompous challenges, hostage situations, and massive property damage, these battles serve as the meat and potatoes of your game, the central spectacle of the superheroic myth. Even in more realistic games, players will likely get frustrated if they have great powers but never get to use them.

As characters become more well-developed, adventures can become part of a greater storyline. It is important not to bog the game down too much with grand storytelling. Let the story build slowly, one issue at a time. Some villains have been recurring in the comics for literally decades; you should be in no hurry to orchestrate your own maxi-crossover double-sized epics. In designing epic campaigns for superheroes, there are several dangers.

First, you may overshadow the characters with the scale of events. For instance, if the entire team of player characters is incapable of taking out a single alien starship, they may feel totally helpless in the face of an armada. This can serve a story purpose, but make sure the player characters are truly involved and not just bystanders in colored tights.

Second, if the event is too grand in scale, it will change the world the superheroes live in. You might want that, but you run the risk of losing a comic book superhero flavor if the world becomes too un-Earthly. For instance, if the world gets conquered by aliens and then rescued, Earth will be a changed place, in wreckage and with alien technology everywhere.

Third, if the game centers too much on philosophical musing, conversations with deific entities, and repeated clashes with the same minions over and over, you may lose the dynamism of the comics. In the comic books, a superhero might visit a hidden city of super-apes in one issue, battle vampires the next, and in the third be shrunk by a villain's weird ray gun. In my opinion, epic campaigns should exist in the background. When the time is right, let the heroes engage in epic battle or plead for the fate of the world. But in between, let them bust a few heads and save a few school buses.

Game-Ography

I have created a list of what I feel to be representative and (generally) above-average games. Rather then review them all exhaustively, I have picked a few to say a few things about.

DC Heroes (Mayfair Games)
Although designed as a licensed product, DC Heroes included extensive character creation rules making it an early hit among home-brew campaigners. The 2nd edition introduced many fixes, while the 3rd brought its full-fledged Gadgetry rules and a complete list of published Powers, Advantages, and Drawbacks. DC Heroes' main strengths are its menu-style Powers, its wonderful Hero Point mechanics (including Sub-plot rewards), and the best gadgeteering rules ever. The DC Heroes (MEGS) game system saw a surprising resurrection as Blood of Heroes (Pulsar Games). While the BoH setting is often considered regrettable, the Special Edition contains essentially the DCH 3rd edition rules, plus the contents of Pulsar Games' Sidekick Sourcebook, incorporating a staggering amount of fan-created material, cool revisions, and options. To buy into the system, you will want either Blood of Heroes Special Edition, or the Sidekick Sourcebook and an old copy of DC Heroes 3rd edition. DC Heroes offers easy backwards conversions, even as far as the 1st edition. Not to be confused with WEG's DC Universe RPG, a D6-based product put out by a different company.

Champions/Hero System (Hero Games/DOJ)
It is a common assertion that it can do anything. Champions is, in some ways, the most battle-tested supers game ever. The 5th edition may be the tightest yet; despite some controversy about new combat rules and changes to Multiform and a few other abilities, it takes the well-regarded 4th edition and adds a layer of fine-tuning. The new Champions sourcebook is aimed at tyros, while the Champions Universe book is serviceable (and with upcoming roster books offers a complete house setting). Books like the Ultimate Martial Artist and the Bestiary offer almost endless expandability. To break into the game, you will need the Hero System rulebook; novices to the genre might think about Champions and Champions Universe.

Silver Age Sentinels: Tri-Stat D10 (Guardians of Order)
A glossy, mechanics-lite supers game by Guardians of Order, offering a versatility comparable to Hero System. The Tri-Stat version is a d10 variation on BESM's d6 system; besides an expanded scale, SAS enjoys many minor tweaks from its parent system, and will satisfy many critics of BESM. Still the new kid on the block, SAS has nonetheless already captured an enthusiastic fan base. SAS offers a well-designed RPG and a super cool house setting, plus comic book history and a little heroic proselytizing. While some have accused SAS of being an art book, it plays well as a roll-and-go, improvisational game, combining simplicity, elegance, style, and playability all in one attractive package. There is also a d20 version of Silver Age Sentinels.

GURPS Supers (Steve Jackson Games)
Perhaps the worst possible superhero game, rarely defended even by die-hard GURPS fans. GURPS rules are terrible for comic book stories. The rules for Super-Powers are particularly bad themselves. That said, it's IST setting is functional enough. The Wildcards sourcebooks are an excellent companion to the anthologies. To buy in, you would need some version of the GURPS rules, GURPS Supers, and poor judgment. GURPS IST or Wildcards might be worthwhile purchases from a used bookstore.

Aberrant (White Wolf)
White Wolf's Aberrant setting is a science fantasy set in a near future where powerful Novas embody power and celebrity. Not a superhero setting per se, but a pop culture satire with superhumans as the central characters in a morally ambiguous drama about humanity and power, law and liberty, celebrity and frailty. Novas wear tights, leap over tall buildings in a single bound, throw lightning bolts, and move at the speed of sound. Just don't call them heroes; call them Gods among men, but power sometimes comes with Taint and madness. Aberrant uses the Trinity version of White Wolf's Storyteller System (in nearly every way improved over the original version). With a few tweaks, Aberrant easily turns into a generic supers system. Its published setting is intriguing. Combine "Wildcards" with "Watchmen," and add a little WWF, MTV, "The Authority," and "Kingdom Come," and you have Aberrant. To buy in, you'll need the Aberrant core rulebook. The Player's Guide, Teragen, and Project Utopia books are all worthwhile buys.

Adventure! (White Wolf)
A relative of Aberrant, Adventure! is set in the pulp adventure stories of the 1920's and 1930's. Ideal for a low-powered Golden Age game featuring dashing mystery detectives, weird knacks, gadget heroes, and mesmerism. To buy in, you need only the core rulebook.

Torg: The Nile Empire and Terra (WEG)
Worlds collide in WEG's weird Torg setting. One of the invading realities is the Nile Empire, a superb and early treatment of the pulp adventure genre. "Terra" takes the fight back to Pharaoh Mobius's homeworld, an alternate 1940's of weird science, occult mystery, and adventure. Perfect for low-powered Golden Age adventures. To buy in, you'll need the core rules, a Drama Deck, and one or both of the two sourcebooks.

Mutants & Masterminds (Green Ronin)
A recent entrant as of this essay. An Open Gaming License product with many unique mechanics, but nonetheless enough in common with d20 to make conversions relatively painless.

Villains & Vigilantes
An early game that suggested you play a super-powered version of yourself.

Marvel Super-Heroes (TSR)
An early game that offered Karma Points and game mechanics grounded in the genre. Its character books are a goldmine of Marvel background. Later, TSR released an entirely different game involving cards.

Superworld (Chaosium)
An early point-buy system, using the Runequest game engine. Notable in that a Superworld campaign spawned many of the characters of the "Wildcards" series.

Bibliography

The world of comic books is too vast to exhaustively list the must-reads, and I encourage you to sample a variety. Again, I have aimed for the representative. Classic DC heroes include Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, the Flash, and the Spectre. Marvel icons include the Hulk, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Professor X, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Shadowcat, Doctor Strange, and the Punisher. I offer a list of a few landmark books, as well as some worthwhile oddities.

"Crisis on Infinite Earths" (1985)
This sometimes disparaged epic took in and transformed the entire DC line. Call it corny and grandiose, or call it classic and effusive, this book brought together hundreds of characters for a dramatic war with the fearsome Anti-Monitor. While it marked the end of DC's Silver Age continuity, the book itself celebrates decades of comic book history, the mythic, the silly, and a quintessentially Silver Age mix of the two. Many Golden and Silver Age cameos. Available as a trade paperback.

"Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" (1986)
Frank Miller's re-invention of the Batman. The once dreadful vigilante evolved into a bland do-gooder during the reign of the Comics Code. Here, Miller takes him back, showing us a future where's Bruce's personal darkness has nearly consumed him, and yet some surviving kernel of heroism drives him to continue fighting evil in a world that has all but surrendered to it. Available as a trade paperback.

"The Watchmen" (1986)
Alan Moore's satirical look at super-powers and morality. In "Watchmen"'s dark world, Golden Age mystery detectives were real, but all too human. Ozymandius, the world's smartest man, has his own vision of the future, while Doctor Manhattan, the world's only super-powered being, grows increasingly disinterested in humans and their self-inflicted problems. Masked adventurers gone to seed, pitiless zealots, and second-generation tight-wearing washouts look for answers in a world on the brink of Armageddon. An essential series, available in trade paperback.

"Astro City" (1995)
Another look at superheroes in the real world, but retaining the sense of the heroic. Characters patterned after classic heroes and tropes wrestle with dating, secret identities, and yes, the fate of the world. Available as a trade paperback.

"Kingdom Come" (1996)
A future in which mankind must be judged. A supernatural epic, with Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Batman on center stage, with a priest and the Spectre as unseen witnesses. Superman has abandoned heroism for the quiet life, Wonder Woman has embraced her warrior upbringing, and Batman is a smiling, somewhat creepy mastermind in a full-body brace. The world has forgotten what it means to have heroes, and super-powered rogues and anti-heroes are destroying the world one mile at a time in aimless brawling. Can Superman be persuaded to once again fight the good fight? And what about Luthor? Available as a trade paperback.

"Wildcards" (1991)
A written anthology about an alternate history were millions have been twisted into monstrous "jokers," while a few "aces" gained super-hero-like powers. Grim, satirical, and often lurid, Wildcards dispenses with superheroic conventions and focuses on the burden, and inhumanity, of power. The McCarthy hearings, Vietnam, and the AIDS crisis in Africa all step on stage for the horror-show, while characters like Doctor Tachyon, Fortunato the Magician, Modular Man, and Peregrine provide the compulsory heroics.

"Superheroes" (1995)
Billed as "All-Original Adventures of All-New Heroes," a paperback anthology of twisted superhero tales, such as "Theme Music Man," a go-for-broke custody battle, and generational superheroics. Stories by Zelazny, Watt-Evans, and other notables. Bizarre, amusing, and intelligent.

"Marvel Universe" (1996)
Non-fiction, a survey of iconic Marvel characters over the years, starting with the Fantastic Four and going to the then-present. Glossy, informative, and intriguing.

Filmography

"Batman: The Movie" (1966)
The Batman movie no one talks about. Hilarious, campy companion to the self-parodying TV series. No Comics Code ludicrosity or clumsy exposition escapes unmocked in this essential pop culture experience.

"Carrie" (1976)
Horror film of a troubled girl with powerful, dangerous psychic abilities is relevant for stories centering around mutants and wild talents.

"Superman" (1978)
Dated, slightly not-up-to-snuff film is nonetheless true to source. Christopher Reeve is totally convincing in the tights as the idealistic, slightly square Superman.

"Robocop" (1987)
Near-future dystopian science-fiction meets super-cop action thriller in this high rate-of-fire cyberpunk-superhero film

"Batman" (1989)
Much-anticipated film that irritated some, enchanted others. The Golden Age vigilante, complete with gothic art deco trappings meets Silver Age flair, with just a shadow of Miller's "Dark Knight," all filtered through Burton's unique sense of humor and gothic sensibilities. Michael Keaton plays a convincing Bruce Wayne, while Nicholson transforms into a memorable, classic Joker. The immediate sequel, "Batman Returns," offers a beguiling Catwoman and a compelling, freakish Penguin.

"The Rocketeer" (1991)
Two-fisted adventure based on the neo-pulp comic strip. A classic gadget-style hero battling Nazis.

"Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993)
Created for video as a companion to the animated TV series, this cartoon was released theatrically after getting rave reviews. Batman chases the Joker as well as a mysterious, and deadly, vigilante, who crosses his beat.

"The Shadow" (1994)
Neo-pulp period adventure featuring the Shadow, classic mystery man predecessor to modern super-heroes, a gun-wielding, hypnotist crime-fighter.

"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie" (1995)
Drawn from an imported kids show, the Power Rangers are super-heroes in a Japanese mold, using karate, super-weapons, giant robots, and teamwork to fight giant monsters. The movie is surprisingly fresh and fun for a franchise vehicle, and offers a new, and amusing villain.

"Blade" (1998)
Half-human, half-vampire anti-hero wears sunglasses and maims evil. In "Blade II," he makes a deal with the vampires to track down an even more dangerous threat, a mutant strain of vampires who lack many vampiric weaknesses. Adapted from the Marvel comic.

"Mystery Men" (1999)
Affectionate super-spoof about B-grade superheroes who get their chance to shine comes when villainous Casanova Frankenstein captures vain, arrogant heroic icon Captain Amazing.

"The Specials" (2000)
A bizarre, yet amusing film about super-heroes and their messed-up lives. Less cheery than the contemporate "Mystery Men," "The Specials" offers no super-heroic action at all, just people in tights, suffering through personal doubts, grudges, marital problems, and PR. Sort of a "Spinal Tap" style mockumentary.

"X-Men" (2000)
Fresh and charismatic take on the classic team of super-powered outcasts. Bigotry casts storm shadows in the background while tragic Magneto plots revenge on the world of normal men. Cool costumes, cool fights, cool special effects.

"Spider-Man" (2002)
Comic book inspired, inventive visuals, winning acting performances, great action, and lots of heart make this one a winner, perhaps the best all-ages superhero film ever made.

"Misfits of Science" (1985)
A made-for-TV pilot featuring way-cool, slightly oddball superheroes.

"The Flash" (1996)
A made for TV movie to kick off the series of the same name. True to source, fun, visually astounding, Danny Elfman score, essential.

The Bits Box

Tights and capes, weird radiation, mind control, millionaire playboys, eccentric inventors, alien armadas, criminal psychologists, corrupt police officers, sidekicks, unlimited transportation, self-made millionaire inventors, crime bosses, superhero fortresses, supervillain syndicates, blackmail attempts, secret identities, pompous names and titles, nanotechnology, secrets of kung fu, ancient magicians and wise men, lost cities, weird alloys and elements, dying or injured relatives, love triangles, brash teenagers, nemeses, losing your powers for an issue and getting them back, world mythology, cyborgs, killer robots, giant monsters, mistaken identities and set-ups, museums of captured weapons, death traps, nosy friends, lost advanced civilizations, god-like alien beings, cooperative police authorities, heroes afraid of becoming the very evils they face, sexual dimorphism, loyal servants, ethnic and national stereotypes, dream sequences, adopting the legacy of a previous hero of the same name, revolutionary gadgets that don't cause technological revolutions, mysterious seers and harbingers, villainous relatives, energy blasts, dimensional travel, blocking bullets, magical words of power, cosmically powerful artifacts, emergency signals, fighting with other heroes before discovering they are on the same side, reluctant heroes who would give up their powers gladly for a normal life, alternative universes and time lines, apes, trophy rooms, indestructible robot bodies, robot toys, fictional terrorist states, taunting clues, tigers, flying cars, domino masks, cavalier boots, meteorites, living planets, living machines that hate organic life forms, gypsies, orphanages, slums, physical trainers, danger rooms, alien technology used to create one-of-a-kind devices, mysterious lands hidden underground or surrounded by inhospitable terrain, weird chemical compounds, venoms, alien symbiotes, time travel, What If's, battle cries, national superheroes under the thumb of political hard-liners, pocket dimensions, mutant prejudice, Nazi breeding programs, heroes addressing the UN, bank robberies, villains who pretend to reform as part of a scam, hostages, and galactic border patrols.

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