I have obsessed over character names. I recently spent a few hours coming up with one that alliterated and had a sound that exposed the character’s character. I have recently found two ways that character names should not be used.
First, in the A-Force comic book, Marvel’s first all-female superhero(ine) team does a bad habit: characters announce their superhero titles when they show up in a scene. I think that once upon a time, some Marvel editor-in-chief mandated that writers have the superheroes announce themselves by their titles every time they entered a room. Imagine the Avengers living room. “Hello Hawkeye, I see you on the couch watching the news! It is I, Captain America, returning from a mission!” “Yes, Captain America! I see you are five feet nearer to the refrigerator than I! Mind grabbing me a beer? This is an adult comic book, after all! Hey, who is that my eagle eye now spies in the doorway? The Mighty Thor!” “Yes Hawkeye, it is I! The Mighty Thor! Hey ho, Captain America, I see you approaching the fridge! Any mead in there?”
Okay, A-Force did not do this THAT much. I am going to give it another chance. A new creative team, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Ben Caldwell, will be taking over soon. I think Ben’s art looks great, and I have high hopes for Kelly’s writing. But Kelly, please, go easy on the title announcing. I have been guilty of similar name-bombing myself, so I know of what I speak. Real people don’t talk like that!
Second, I am in a nice critique group where one person wrote on one of my stories that I could make a list of characters at the start of the story. Comic books have done that. It can be entertaining. The first page of Metamorpho #13 listed the characters: “Rex (Metamopho) Mason–Leading (Element) Man! Simon Stagg–Character (Harrumph) Actor? Frank Zorb–The ‘Heavy’–and is he ever!”
I used to do this years ago when I handed out chapters to critique groups. But even with a sugar coating (Alfred Hitchcock’s advice), a character list at the story start now feels too expositiony. I now give my super guys and gals their names and powers within the story itself, as in any prose story. I break enough rules already.