Although CHAMPIONS is a pen-and-paper role-playing game, it emulates comic books and graphic novels — a highly visual medium. If you ever need inspiration for a superhero character concept, a background, secret identity, or other complication, you have a vast number of resources available, including comic books, cartoons, movies, and computer games.
What follows is a list of suggested inspirational sources, and a few videos to get the ideas flowing. I recommend you watch a few of these videos; not only are they entertaining, but they provide powerful visual examples of concepts our campaign will explore.
Superhero Movie Clips
Thanks to computer animation, there are many cinematic trailers and cut-scenes for superhero adventures. Take a look at some of these videos for inspiration and ideas.
There are many different superhero movies. Unfortunately, there are far more bad ones than good. Until the (fairly recent) availability of high quality computer animation, most live-action superhero movies looked pretty awful. In addition, many older superhero movies suffered from sub-standard acting and writing and low budgets.
These days, however, the superhero movie has come into its own. Movies such as Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight rank among the most popular and beloved comic book movies ever. What follows is a brief list of suggested movies in this genre. Some of these may not be to your taste, but many of these movies are simply great to watch, or at least offer some nifty special effects. Not all the movies on this list are actually good, but they all have something to offer. Some take themselves serious (Dark Knight), while others not so much (Sky High).
Batman (1989; Dir. Tim Burton)
Batman Begins (2005; Dir. Christopher Nolan)
The Crow (1994; Dir. Alex Proyas)
The Dark Knight (2008; Dir. Christopher Nolan)
Fantastic Four (2005; Dir. Tim Story)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007; Dir. Tim Story)
Green Lantern (2011; Martin Campbell)
Hancock (2008; Dir. Peter Berg)
Hulk (2003; Dir. Ang Lee)
The Incredibles (2004; Dir. Brad Bird)
Iron Man (2008; Dir. Jon Favreau)
Iron Man 2 (2010: Dir. Jon Favreau)
The Incredible Hulk (2008; Dir. Louis Leterrier)
Kick Ass (2010; Dir. Matthew Vaughn)
Sky High (2005; Dir. Mike Mitchell)
Spider-Man (2002; Dir. Sam Raimi)
Spider-Man 2 (2004; Dir. Sam Raimi)
Spider-Man 3 (2007; Dir. Sam Raimi)
Superman: The Motion Picture (1978; Dir. Richard Donner)
Superman II (1980; Dir. Richard Lester)
Superman Returns (2006; Dir. Bryan Singer)
X-Men (2000; Dir. Bryan Singer)
X2: X-Men United (2003; Dir. Bryan Singer)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006; Dir. Brett Ratner)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009; Dir. Gavin Hood)
Wanted (2008; Dir. Timur Bekmambetov)
The Watchmen (2009; Dir. Zack Snyder)
On the other side of the fence, I strongly urge you to avoid movies like Catwoman, any version of The Punisher, Daredevil, Elektra, any of the Joel Schumacher Batman movies, and either Superman III or IV, among others. Of course, individual tastes vary, as will your mileage…
Historically, most superhero fare on TV consists of animated shows. The few live-action superhero series have, for the most part, been low budget with little relation to their comic book counterparts. That being said, here are a number of TV shows that have something to offer (this is not a complete list). Again, individual tastes will vary — some people loved the TV series “Heroes,” while other people hated it, especially after its freshman season.
Heroes (NBC; 2005-2010; created by Tim Kring): There seems little to no middle ground with this series; people either love it or hate it. Even if it wasn’t your cup of Jolt Cola, however, this TV series contains a large number of character ideas and plot elements that are part and parcel of the superhero genre.
Smallville (WB; 2001-2011; created by Alfred Gough): This series offers a different take on the origins of Superman. It is remarkable for surviving 10 seasons — almost unheard of in TV these days, especially for a genre show.
Angel (WB; 1999-2004; created by Joss Whedon): A spin-off of Buffy (see below). Darker, more serious in ton. Although not a standard superhero show, it features many themes that are similar.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB; 1997-2003; created by Joss Whedon): Although not technically a superhero series in the classic sense, it nonetheless contains a heroine with superhuman powers, monsters aplenty, and (spoiler alert) vampires.
Supernatural (WB; 2005-2011; created by Eric Kripke): Another genre show that, while it does not involve superheroes in the traditional sense, nonetheless deals with many staples important to the genre, including demons, ghosts, monsters, and the like.
Greatest American Hero (ABC; 1981-1983): Pure, classic superhero cheese. A great mix between adventure and comedy with a good chemistry between the two co-stars.
There are many other superhero-related TV shows that have come and gone over the years, including the iconic Adam West “Batman,” Lynda Carter as “Wonder Woman,” and The Incredible Hulk. These TV shows have some interesting plots and ideas to them, although they can be difficult to watch these days.
Not surprisingly, superheroes have thrived in the computer/console game category for many years. If you are interested in superhero MMORPGs, there are currently three:
City of Heroes/City of Villains —> The first superhero MMORPG and still the most popular. The graphics have become a bit dated, but overall a fun game.
CHAMPIONS —> You can play this game for free (a paid subscription nets you more “goodies”). Yes, this is named after the game we are playing!
DC Universe Online —> Brand new to the superhero MMORPG realm. This, like City of Heroes/Villains, is a monthly subscription service to play. This setting is home to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and other famous DC characters.
There are literally dozens (and probably hundreds) of superhero video games for the computer and/or for console systems. Since I have little to no play experience with them, however, I won’t suggest any. I have heard some good things about the ARKHAM games for Batman, and the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series.
Comic Books/Graphic Novels
It might surprise you, but you can actually find inspiration for superheroes in comic books and graphic novels! All joking aside, this category comes last for one simple reason: if you are a comic book fan, you will have already read just about anything I could recommend, and if you aren’t a comic book fan, I can practically guarantee you won’t go out and buy or read anything I suggest. Of course, that is your loss, and not my problem!
Still, here is a brief list of fantastic graphic novels you should consider reading. There are many other recommendations I could make, but a complete list would be enormous.
The Watchmen (Alan Moore)
V is for Vendetta (David Lloyd)
Identity Crisis (Brad Meltzer)
The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller)
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (Chris Claremont)
Batman: Year One (Frank Miller)
Batman: Hush (Jeph Loeb)
Crisis on Infinite Earths (Marv Wolfman)
Wolverine (Frank Miller)
Infinity Gauntlet (Jim Starlin)
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