I recently saw Avengers: Infinity War (I know, I know, I'm super behind). It reminded me that I have a few other Marvel movies to catch up on, particularly some of the origin-story films.

I tend to have a hit-or-miss relationship with superhero stories, because so many of them are maddeningly cliché. (How many insane supervillains can we have? Plus, that's a whole other set of problems.) So way back when I saw Captain America and loved it, I started thinking about what makes a successful superhero origin story. So, for any of you who've considered writing about superheroes, here's the general outline I came up with:

  1. Protagonist starts as ordinary person

  2. Antagonist hatches plot to commit evil on a frightening scale and becomes a supervillain if they aren't one already

  3. Enter a mysterious substance, project, or technology—something that can (intentionally or otherwise) grant superhuman abilities

  4. Protagonist acquires/comes into contact with item in #3, either accidentally (e.g, Spider-Man) or intentionally (e.g., Captain America) and transforms into a superhero

  5. Superhero tests new powers

  6. Superhero's mentor dies, leaving superhero alone to learn to use powers wisely and stop supervillain

  7. Supervillain acquires/develops key information or equipment for plot

  8. Superhero suffers identity crisis—they're no longer who they used to be but unsure who they are now

  9. Supervillain learns of superhero's existence and begins plotting to destroy superhero

  10. Superhero and supervillain have first confrontation. Commonly reveals supervillain's backstory

  11. Supervillain turns out to be more powerful than superhero realized and escapes

  12. Superhero works on thwarting supervillain's efforts but doesn't confront supervillain directly for some time (may have to find supervillain)

  13. Countdown begins to supervillain's ultimate scheme

  14. Superhero locates supervillain's lair and breaks in, fighting off hordes of minions

  15. Superhero thwarts supervillain's primary plan

  16. Supervillain tries to escape, but superhero either prevents it or boards getaway vehicle

  17. Supervillain launches backup plan

  18. Superhero and supervillain fight while superhero and/or their allies try to thwart backup plan

  19. Supervillain defeated and backup plan thwarted

  20. Superhero saves the day and survives against all odds

What do you think? Accurate? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments.

Write on,


(Thanks to Ali Kokab for sharing their work on Unsplash.)