A Few Things To Remember To Improve Your Marvel Characters, Roleplays, & Fanfics
Basically, the following is a list of things that are often overlooked by fans of Marvel (particularly, the movies and the Agents of SHIELD TV series) that end up resulting in a work or a character that strains or even completely breaks credulity, along with some pointers on how to handle them to make them more believable.
Table of Contents
- How Stark Tower/Avengers Tower would actually work.
- How air vents actually work.
- That governments, organizations, and individuals take extraordinary measures to protect against extraordinary people.
- That SHIELD doesn't chase down and lock up relatively harmless people with superpowers.
- That fire is highly overrated as a superpower.
- When World War II happened.
How Stark Tower/Avengers Tower would actually work.
I've observed people attempting or doing things with Stark Tower/Avengers Tower that really don't make a lot of sense. For example, characters knocking on or walking through the front door for to be let into the penthouse, or people acting like there's pretty much nothing between the penthouse and ground floor at all, and even the entire tower being utterly shut down and abandoned because Tony Stark went back to Malibu. I've even seen a character who was described as being so drunk she could barely stand climb her way up the stairs to the penthouse.
Now, Stark Tower/Avengers Tower was remodeled from the MetLife Building, which has sixty floors - and if you compare stills of The Avengers to New York, you can see that the penthouse begins where the MetLife Building originally ended. So, we can safely ballpark that Stark Tower has about sixty floors minus the penthouse. That's quite a lot of stairs to try climbing up, even without being inebriated.In The Avengers, Tony Stark says that the "top ten floors are all R&D" - that's right, the ten floors below the penthouse are all for research and development. So that's ten floors of employees working right there. As for what's on the other fifty floors, you might find legal (including a section for intellectual property/trademark), accounting, advertising, risk assessment, human resources, conference services, charitable giving, in-house IT, analysts, visitor information centers, tech support, product information, security, mail, document control (crucial for engineering firms, which deal with large amounts of paperwork and deliverable documents), conference rooms, supply rooms, break rooms, reception rooms, and possibly even in-house cafes or coffee shops.
At the ground floor you'd find an entrance lobby where employees, consultants, maintenance staff, salesmen, security guards, sundry representatives (such as from other companies that Tony Stark, Stark Industries, and the Avengers in general work with as well as from various governmental offices), and visitors would be coming and going, particularly during business hours.
None of this would stop functioning if Tony packed up and headed back to Malibu. In fact, none of it would stop functioning even if he up and died. After all, Apple didn't shut down when Steve Jobs died.
Finally, there's the misconception that the penthouse is publicly available, or that pretty much anyone who wants could enter it. Not likely - initially, it was set up as Tony Stark's private living quarters, and Phil Coulson had to override security protocols to enter it. In Age of Ultron, although Tony Stark hosts a party there it's still set up to be a headquarters for the Avengers, which means it's not a place you'd want to allow random people to walk into unsupervised.
Also, people occasionally write out "Stark Towers," as in the plural. Nope - just "Stark Tower," singular.
How air vents actually work.
I have very often seen people handwaving their characters' presence in Stark Tower by saying their character snuck in through the air vents.
In reality, air vents range from extremely risky to utterly impossible to climb around in. First, they're made of relatively thin metal that bends and flexes under the weight of someone ambling around on it - and that bending and flexing means a LOT of noise. (Quoth Adam Savage, when Jamie Hyneman attempted to climb up an air vent using a pair of supermagnets on Mythbusters: "Why, Thor, the god of thunder, is trying to break into my building!")
Air vents are often as not too small for your standard or even smallish-sized human to get around in. While some of the air vents may be large enough to crawl through, air vents tend not to remain the same size throughout. What's more, they can turn at angles that cannot be negotiated, or worse - take very sudden and very long drops. And unlike in the movies where vents are at least dimly-lit, in real life they're completely dark. Also, they're usually chock full of dirt and filth.
In real life, people who try to sneak in through air vents often end up getting stuck in them. Just by searching Google, you can see just how many would-be thieves ended up having to be rescued from air vents.
For sneaking in through vents to be really plausible, your character would need to have some kind of superpower, such as shape or sizechanging. Otherwise, one of your most believable bets is to disguise as someone who is supposed to be there, such as maintenance staff.
That governments, organizations, and individuals take extraordinary measures to protect against extraordinary people.
A lot of players have the general mindset that as long as they have superpowers or super-intelligence, they can do or get away with whatever they want with no consequences of any kind, because there's no way the muggles can stand up to them. Get put in jail for using your superstrength to break into a museum to steal an ancient artifact? That's easy, just break the jail bars and escape.
Or maybe not.
You need look no further than The Avengers to see what would actually happen to a superstrong criminal if caught - xe'd be put into a proportionately-strong holding area. In Agents of SHIELD we see that as soon as there's a superpowered person loose causing trouble, the non-super folks are quick to come up with a way to stop and contain that person. When the mysterious evil organization decided to kidnap a guy with fire powers, they sent people in fireproof suits.
Remember how Agent Coulson overrode Tony Stark's security systems to get into the penthouse in The Avengers? You can bet that as soon as Tony had a minute to spare he got to work fixing whatever programming or hardware oversight allowed SHIELD to do that in the first place. And likewise, when Tony Stark hacked the Helicarrier, you can bet that SHIELD immediately had their tech guys figuring out how to patch whatever hole Tony exploited to prevent him (or someone else) from doing that again.
That SHIELD doesn't chase down and lock up relatively harmless people with superpowers.
Yes, SHIELD is actually a pretty creepy organization - they hack into people's mobile devices for the purpose of espionage, after all. However, Agents of SHIELD shows that they aren't all that invested in chasing down and locking up (or even forcibly recruiting) random people with superpowers. The aforementioned fire-powered guy was pretty much left up to his own devices, though he was required to check in with an agent stationed to keep an eye on him and make sure he stayed out of trouble. His personality also made it clear why SHIELD deemed it necessary to keep an eye on him, too - he was too willing to use his powers recklessly, even using them to intimidate others.
But what about Bruce Banner? I can hear some of you asking. First, SHIELD never went after him - that was General Ross. If anything, SHIELD probably protected Banner from General Ross, implied by Fury's line that they "kept a few interested parties" away from Banner. As for the tank in the Helicarrier? If Banner got out of control, it would definitely be handy to have around, but they didn't build it with chasing Banner down and putting him into it in mind. Also, as proven by the fact they put Loki in it, putting the Hulk into it wasn't its only use.
That fire is highly overrated as a superpower.
Pyrokinesis has long been one of the more popular superpowers among those new to the business of creating OCs. (For the curious, it's followed up by general elemental control and telekinesis.) Now, there's no question that fire is great for things like lighting candles or starting campfires. However, when it comes to actual combat situations, fire becomes a highly questionable power.
The use of napalm and other incendiaries against civilian targets was banned by the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Protocol III, in 1980 because it was deemed too inhumane. Assuming someone is lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive a fire attack, we're talking permanent disfigurement and disability - horrifying scarring, loss of vision, loss of digits and limbs, etc. (If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and do an image search for "burn survivor.") It'd be a good idea to respect the ban on incendiaries unless your character wants to suffer the same stigma as a war criminal. While the use of fire in combat might be appropriate for a villain or a grim antihero who just doesn't care, it's hardly conducive to being a superhero. In fact, in makes your character look like a complete ass.
Next, there's the risk of collateral damage. Outdoors, this would mean accidentally igniting things such as buildings and trees. Indoors, this means a risk of setting a building on fire. Even assuming the superhero is heat-proof, getting caught in a burning building could still be very bad. The fire would send dangerous chemicals and particulates into the air where the character could still inhale them, plus the fire would also burn up available oxygen. And if the building collapsed, the character could still end up trapped or even killed by debris.
When World War II happened.
It happens with rather worrying frequency that people have characters who are tied to WWII events or figures without taking into account that WWII took place from September 1, 1939 to September 2, 1945. In 2015, September 1st will be the 76th anniversary of the beginning of the war, and September 2nd will be the 70th anniversary of the end.
If you really need a character tied to something war-related and WWII is a bit too far in the past, there are plenty of other conflicts. If your character is supposed to be American (as many of these characters are), you can use Wikipedia's list of wars the US was involved in as a starting point in your research.
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