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How To Design Believable Superhero Character


Superhero is in! Yes, since 2012 theater was full with superheroes movies. And, the trend continuous in year 2013. Out there, there are hundreds maybe thousands new comics, games or movies that need new superheroes for their titles. We’d love to share tips and trick to design believable superhero character. Let’s get it on!

Before we begin, this article was meant to give you tips and tricks to design superhero characters from character design point of view. So, we’re not going to teach you about how to create superhero character’s personality. Of course we’re not meant that you cannot warn your story writer if they missed a thing or two personality on the characters. So, here we go.

Superheroes not have to have bodybuilder looks

Yes, almost all superheroes have bodybuilder looks. The character with big body will make you feel safe and trust that the superheroes indeed very powerful and will be able to save you. But, if you take a look at Japanese superhero characters, it’s not always the case. Superhero can be a cute animal, beautiful boy, lazy girl or small child. Look at Astro Boy, he’s a superhero with small child appearance. That doesn’t mean Astro Boy less powerful than bodybuilder type superheroes, right?.

Astro Boy Reluctant Hero by KicsterAsh

Always start with superhero’s superpower

Why we call them superhero?. because they have special power of course. Superhero stories was always emphasized their superpower rather than daily life. Superhero’s power determined their body shape. For example, if your superhero’s power is more magical type, then it’s totally OK if they have small and skinny body type. But, if the superpower required your superhero to have an axe weapon that bigger than its own body, then its have to have a big body.

Facial appearance is very important

No matter what the media was, facial appearance always have more scenes than full body appearance. That’s why you have to make sure that your superhero have a very good look looking from all side. Give more attention to its facial assets like eyes shape, teeth and cheek. Childish characters would look cuter with round cheek. Rabbit teeth might make you become a bully victim in real life, but it can give your characters a unique features.

before watchmen dr manhattan #1 cover by Adam Hughes

Pay more attentions into character’s lifestyle, origin and past life

Lifestyle, origin and past life really affect your character’s physical appearances. If your character is a girl comes from conservative Asian family, it’s more likely she has long black hair, not funky pixie cut pink hair. If your character’s past was a drug addict, its might have many small scars in their face or hands. If your character love junk food, then most likely its do not have flat belly. Yeah, you know what I mean.

Do background check like a police officer

I read many comic books with superhero characters who were very believable in their superhero mode, but totally nonsense when they were on civilians mode. Look at Bruce Wayne, he’s super rich. It’s very believable if he wears designer suit every single day. But, if he wears casual style clothing like Peter Parker, how can we believe that he’s rich?. Usually, superhero in civilians mode have a regular daily jobs, and daily jobs really affect clothing choices. Wise clothing style choices is all you need to make your character become believable.

Ironman Armored Adventures by skottieyoung

Gestures create personality

Gestures will make your audience understand what type of person actually behind the mask. Sexy female superhero character, will likely to walk like she was in catwalk and stand in supermodel pose. Childish characters might like to squat or sitting on fences or tree branches. If you make your high school student superhero character posing like your dad, nobody will believe that he’s just under 20 years old.

Superhero signature pose

Every superhero should have their own unique (and most of the time, silly) signature pose that they usually use before and after their actions. Personally, I don’t think superhero signature pose is necessary. But, it’s very important for marketing. Unique signature pose can make your audiences remember your superheroes. It will look good on cosplay events. Your fans will likely to re-draw it on their fan arts. Just to name a few advantages that you might get.

Spidey vs Hulk by ChristianNauck

Cool costumes is an appropriate costumes

The reason I put costumes as the last things on this list is because I believe costumes isn’t as important as what we usually think. Yes, costumes make your superheroes look super cool. But I met many cases when designers spend too much time designing costumes rather than give more attention to more important features. Usually, costumes design was based on your superhero’s power. Don’t give them costumes that will make them die for ridiculous cause. Like, having your character dress-up in bikini like costumes in the middle of winter and her superpower is firearms mastery. The most logical thing to happen is that she’s going to die of hypothermia.