Quick, what do these have in common?
- Accidental exposure to gamma rays
- Lightning striking the rack of chemicals next to you
- A bite from a radioactive spider
- Your parents being murdered in front of you
- Test subject of a secret government project
- You're the only survivor of a dead alien world
- An alien/ancient magician/scientist gives you something
OK, I'll concede that Tony Stark saw Dr. Yinsen get shot and Peter Parker's Uncle Ben got killed. I'll also note that the Fantastic Four were exposed to cosmic rays together, not alone. However, the transformative experience is one they all survived.
The conceptual breakthrough I had was about the origin of the Grammarian, the superhero who is the main character of my WIP. His backstory had the usual freak-accident-in-a-secret-government-lab, a tired bit of creation myth which I was unhappy with. If something happened in a lab that gave somebody superpowers, the government would latch onto it and work for the next 200 years to replicate it. They've been working on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for practically forever, and it doesn't even run on antimatter.
Question: How is it that one guy can get super abilities in a freak accident, walk away from the lab and take up a life of crimefighting?
Answer: it wasn't one guy, he didn't just walk away and he didn't become a superhero, at least not right away. The key here is to make the origin much darker, much bloodier and with a much higher body count. A sole survivor is too implausible, too much like The Chosen One. So, I'll make him lucky and talented, but not miraculously so.
Question: If it was such a promising research program, why would the government voluntarily shut it down?
Answer: the program wasn't promising and the shut down wasn't voluntary. Again, the key here is to go dark. This program wasn't just viewed as a pork barrel boondoggle from the outset, superseded by advancing technology in another area. It faced the deadliest weapon ever ranged against a government program: shifting budgetary priorities when the supporting Senator lost his election.
I'm excited about this.
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