Novel Concepts: #3 – Superhero in Rome


I’ve always enjoyed the twisting of time and story.  I’ve found this to be fun both in creating and receiving.  Joss Whedon’s Firefly was arguably the first to open my eyes to the concept.  Essentially Firefly takes classic Western-style stories and gives them a science-fiction backdrop.  And as anyone who was alive and liked science fiction in the last 10 years will tell you, the combination was as addictive as chocolate and peanut butter.

In a similar vein, I have been kicking around an idea for taking a superhero character (an original, not one borrowed from the comics we all know) and placing that hero in an ancient setting.

Rome seems the ideal place to house such a character.  The city in its classical period was as much a home to art, commerce, culture and crime as it ever was.  Athens or the empires of Egypt offer the only other choices.  Sparta is too popular these days.  Athens isn’t thought of as a center for corruption, and I personally don’t know Egypt well enough to center a story there.  Rome, however, allows me to draw upon my rudimentary knowledge base (3 years of Latin has to count for something).  Rome can be easily populated with characters which will allow for proper villains.  No hero is complete without an acceptable opponent.  The catch is not to fall into cliche.

The next question to tackle is the super-natural.  This is where I find the biggest problem personally.  My desire for realism, born of a disdain for the unexplained and an affection for the Nolan-verse, does not allow me to easily embrace a supernatural ability for my character.  In a similar way, I’ve always thought of the Romans as more borrowing the Greek mythology as a placeholder.  I think many ancient Romans would have expressed a skepticism for the gods and goddesses as their religion so often became a target of politics. (The Senate could literally vote on the apotheosis of a particular person. — Remind anyone of a tradition still found in Rome today?)  I’m torn therefore between involving a god or goddess from the Pantheon to imbue my hero with certain powers; perhaps earned through deeds or just granted for merit.  This would take away a sense of realism, but realism cannot be a part of every story.  In the same line of thought, a hero without a special power of some sort would likely soon either fall into military service or be used as a tool by someone more powerful.  The Romans had a way of identifying strength and using it for political ends.  More and more I think involving a deity might be better for the story.

I want to tell a story about justice in the ancient world.  I haven’t yet begun my research in this area, but I suspect that, in ancient Rome, those who were wronged were often hard-pressed to find justice.  Rome was a republic, but like any capitalist society, the rich often had an excess of wealth and power which led to social injustice.  Social injustice inevitably leads to crime and the police forces of Rome, such as they were, were more about order and military protection than they were about justice and balance.  Modern police forces are centered on crime, investigation and apprehension.  This is a relatively new concept on the world stage.  With my story, I would take an individual who has experienced a personal injustice and use that as a fuel to seek justice for all.

As ancient Rome was, like nearly all societies, a male-centric culture, I think perhaps a female center might be more interesting for this piece.

I want to bring full circle the heroic concepts that began with Homer, continued to today with our modern heroes and I am sure will always carry on into the future.  There will never be a human culture without heroes and any culture that begins without one will soon create one.  Heroes come in many forms and as our culture progresses I sense that the heroes of the future will not come with muscles or weapons or the ability to fight.  The heroes of the future will not be born of battle.  They will come with ideas and ideals.  They will be armed with courage and conviction but it will be channeled into thoughts and words rather than punches and kicks.  Future societies will be centered on intellect and technology and their heroes will reflect that.  The day will come soon where heroic violence is a concept as barbaric as slavery.  In the mean time, I will try to bring larger-than-life heroes back towards their origin.

The photo is a screen capture from a Batman: Brave and the Bold episode, but it’s a decent enough starting point.  It’s not entirely what I’m going for, but it gives a sense of the elements that I will bring to the story.


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