Creating a superhero character for a TV show is much more difficult than creating a regular character as extra layers of characterization need to be made. The everyday alias and the superhero often have to be two distinct characters while still having shades of the other personality present. If writers are able to overcome the hurdles successfully, a comic book-based show or superhero show can become very successful.
The ComicsComic book writers will often create two main characters in the same person. In The Amazing Spider-Man comic, fans follow both the worrisome Peter Parker and the quick-witted Spider-Man even though they are both the same character. Peter's personality is distinctly different from Spidey's even though shades of Peter worry and concern are still apparent while he is masked and Spider-Man's personal strength still occasionally shine through when the mask comes off. This has been mastered by comic book writers but is something fairly unfamiliar to TV writers.
Why Is It so Hard?Writers have to create two separate personalities for the same character and this can be very difficult without making the character appear insane. Comic book readers automatically suspend disbelief when they pick up an issue as they know people are going to be flying around and picking up tanks. Viewers do not start out watching a show with the same suspension of disbelief so the writers have to take extra steps to get around the issue. Sometimes, they will even skirt the traditional rules to make sure they are not cast aside by the network or viewers.
Skirting the IssueWhile watching "The Greatest American Hero," viewers knew Ralph did not have power unless he was wearing his suit. He was rarely out in public with the suit so he did not need a secondary personality as he was not known about in the general public. On "Wonder Woman," Diana only appeared as the Amazonian princess for a few minutes in each episode and rarely said anything while in the costume, so she did not need a secondary personality either. The original version of "The Incredible Hulk" was easier on the writers as Dr. Banner and the Hulk are completely separate characters who are not direct reflections of the other.
Upcoming ShowsSince superhero movies are so prominent right now, people are not going to stand for the writers skirting the secondary personality issue. "No Ordinary Family" crashed and burned because it did not follow the "traditional" rules of secondary personalities for superhero characters. While the new version of "The Incredible Hulk" will allow the writers to skirt the issue as before, other upcoming superhero stores will not permit the relaxed writing styles.
"Arrow" on The CW would be the perfect example of how writers are going to have to create two separate characters that are reflective of each other played by the same person. Oliver Queen is very different from the vengeful vigilante of the Green Arrow. Queen will sometimes carry out the actions of the superhero and the superhero will still contain the compassion for the weak and drive to be the best of Queen. If these characteristics are not present in the upcoming show, people will be quick to turn it off. More superhero shows are on the horizon so writers are going to have to learn new tricks as soon as possible.
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