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How to write contrasting philosophies to define characters

I like to write these commentaries as a peaceful release from the shit show going on outside my window. Hopefully, reading the commentary is for you too.

Which is why I’m doubling up on commentaries today and Friday. And because I forgot to post these last week. But win-win?

A lot happened in a week, but not much of a jump for Tony Stark as he wraps up his presentation for some of Gotham’s brass. Afterward, he gets some one-on-one time with Gotham’s favorite son, Bruce Wayne.

For those keeping scores, this is Chapter Six in my “Armored Underworld” fanfiction.

Shall we?

Gordon turned away from Stark. Hill stood.

“An interesting show, Mr. Stark, but some of us do have to do the people’s work in the morning,” Hill said. “Have your people send my office the numbers on these drones.”

“No problem,” Stark said.

“Meanwhile, I’d like Mr. Wayne’s people to look at the viability of your tech,” Hill added.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man
I’m not as familiar with the comic book Stark, so here ya go.

Stark nearly choked on his martini. “All due respect to Bruce’s people, but I’m not sure they’d understand the delicate mechanics behind the Mark Twos. I mean, how long have you been out of the war machine game, Bruce?”

“Waynetech keeps a special projects division,” Wayne said. “They can look over the Legionnaire under the supervision of Tony’s people.”

“Then it’s settled,” Hill said. He approached the raised stage where Tony stood. “Once my people have the numbers and the report from Waynetech, we’ll decide, Mr. Stark.”

Stark came to the edge of the stage. “Guess I can’t ask for more,” he said. “Unless you’d like to join me at the Iceberg Lounge. Getting a few bottles.”

Stark is always one step away from a party. I have him as the drunken reveler, but you can see in his command of his equipment and the sales pitch that he’s not a total lush. Redeeming?

“I’ll have to pass,” Hill said, his tone hinting he wasn’t about to join Stark on one of his tabloid-fodder adventures. He reached up to shake Stark’s hand. Stark accepted. Hill then turned toward the exit. Gordon did the same, leaving with Hill.

“Opening another market before Lex pushes you out of Metropolis?” Wayne asked.

Stark took a long draw on his martini. “You caught me. Lex put in a competing bid with his version of a robot drone. Side note — my lawyers are still litigating possible patent infringements. Surprise there.

I haven’t done a story with Lex nor Metropolis, but this is an excellent way to paint them into my comic book fanfiction universe. I’ve established the Lex versus everybody rivalry and his possessive nature for Metropolis.

When I do get to showcase them, readers of my world will already have a taste for them.

Of course, using established characters does that for you too. This technique is good practice for later when I stumble through an original world and need to add color or foreshadow future conflicts.

“But this isn’t completely about that,” Stark continued. “The Legionnaires can do some good. Despite what Gordon thinks.”

“Jim Gordon is a good man working in a city that actively tries to destroy good men. But I am curious why you chose Gotham.”

“Why not?” Stark said as he returned to the lectern. “After NYC, Metropolis and Gotham are the two big cities needing protection. New York has not one but two Spider-Men, not to mention Daredevil, and, when I’m in the mood, Iron Man.

“If stuff really craps the bed, SHIELD steps in. Or there’s the X-Men when they’re not unfairly hunted just for being genetically superior.”

And in just a few sentences, I’ve lined up a bunch of heroes to use in future stories.

Christopher Reeve as Superman
I grew up on Christopher Reeve and he will always be “my” Superman

Superman is conspicuously absent. At the time of writing “Armored Underworld,” I wasn’t sure how I was going to bring in comic book’s most iconic hero. So, best not to mention him at all save for references to his home city and archnemesis.

Just have to make sure in my fanfiction bible (yes, I have one of those; more on it later) that I don’t insert Superman into the Ultron thing since I mentioned it without him.

The X-Men is another thing altogether. I have a rich history for them that crosses paths with Themyscira and Wonder Woman. One day I’ll get to that story.

But I gotta work some original stories into my writing somewhere! Daddy gotta find a new career now that live events are dead!

“Gotham has Batman.”

Stark heard a bit of an edge in Wayne’s voice. He looked at the man. No, still the same casually slack Bruce he’d always known.

“Yeah, that’s a safe bet,” Stark said. He turned back to the lectern and poured himself another drink. “Guy who wears a mask and doesn’t play well with others. Unless you’re a kid in a bright yellow uniform. Good city camouflage that.”

Keep in mind that in this world, everyone knows Stark is Iron Man. Still, nobody knows that Wayne is Batman — not even Wayne’s fellow billionaire inventor Tony Stark.

I had some fun with Stark taking the piss out of Batman (unknowingly) to his face. It’s good to get the point of view of another character (particularly one who takes himself WAAAAAYYYYYY too seriously) from a character with a contrasting viewpoint.

The technique defines not just the character talked about (or ridiculed in this case) but the character doing the describing/ mocking too.

“He’s worked well with Gordon.”

“Until he doesn’t. Even the Mayor had his reservations on that one.” After taking a sip of martini, he added, “I went public as Iron Man out of a sense of trust.”

“You did it so you could take the spotlight,” Wayne shot back.

Point of view descriptions goes both ways. Wayne gives as good as he gets.

Stark thought on this for a moment. “Not gonna lie. The spotlight is nice. But the public knows who I am. They know where I’m coming from. They can then trust me. Can’t say that about masked guys like Batman.”

“But you trust New York to masked individuals.”

“The first Spider-Man’s was a kid,” Stark replied. “A kid with good intentions who grew up to be a good man. One whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting without the mask.”

Stark’s revelation gave Wayne pause. Off his look, Stark said, “He doesn’t want to go public, for fear of what his enemies may do to his loved ones. I respect that, so I keep his identity to myself. Haven’t met the new kid, but the older Spidey vouches for him.”

Civil War helped me learn to write. From Marvel and Mark Millar
Imagine “Civil War” but with DC Comics characters too.

The verbal sparring between Stark and Wayne also sets up the potential to do a version of the infamous Marvel “Civil War” storyline.

The lines are already drawn with Wayne sticking to the shadows and Stark coming out as a matter of trust. I’ve even inadvertently put Spider-Man in the middle as a trusted figure who hides behind a mask.

I introduced a still frozen in ice Captain America at the end of “Doppelganger,” so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into this new dynamic.

Maybe one day.

As for Wayne’s reaction to Stark knowing Spider-Man’s identity, it’s just a seed for later. Wayne doesn’t know the Web-Head’s identity, presumably because he doesn’t need to know. Batman stays in Gotham and hasn’t ventured out. Spider-Man hasn’t come to Gotham.

Should either of those things change, bet your ass the Dark Knight Detective will figure out who Spider-Man is.

An interesting twist would be if Dick Grayson or Barbara Gordon ended up in high school or college with Peter Parker. Too late for that in this timeline — but Miles Morales could end up on some field trip to Gotham or Bludhaven!

But I digress.

“Batman is there when he’s needed,” Wayne said.

“Yeah. That infamous bat-signal you guys have. He’s still just one man. Granted, he’s got some great toys I’d like to check out, but still one man.”

Stark raised a hand, cutting off Wayne’s next words. Stark continued. “And before you say the same of Iron Man, let me let you in on a trade secret. Not every Iron Man appearance is me.”

Wayne’s expression darkened. “I thought you discarded AI and robots after the Ultron affair.”

Batman and his team weren’t involved with Ultron, nor the Skrull encounter. However, you can bet Batman paid attention to both as potential threats to Gotham. I didn’t have him go all “Zack Snyder RAAAAAAGGGEEE,” though.

However, when Stark mentions there are still potential Ultrons running around because Stark’s ego is running unchecked, that’s something he’ll note for later. I’d imagine it also lessons Stark in Batman’s eyes.

As if the drinking weren’t enough. Speaking of —

Stark downed the rest of his martini. “Well, the stuff for public consumption, yes.” He looked to Wayne. “But crime never sleeps. Neither can Iron Man.” Stark looked thoughtful for a moment. “Iron Man probably shouldn’t be fighting evil with a hangover either.”

Shrugging, Stark picked up the shaker and drank directly from it. Putting both his glass and the shaker back on the lectern, he went to the side of the stage and descended the stairs. Wayne stood to meet him.

Note the positioning of the characters. Stark is on stage, the showman! Wayne is in the audience, taking in the story. Their difference in the high and the low ground is symbolic: Stark sees himself above it all while Wayne as Batman is right in the shit with the people Stark puts himself above.

Now, a common thing is for audiences to see a creator do something like that and go “Wow! What a genius!” Full confession: I positioned them way because of the presentation. It just worked out to be a genius move. We creators aren’t always that smart.

“Seriously, though,” Stark began. “It’s nice we live in a world where people have super-powers and want to do some good. But they must be held accountable to the everyday joe, or those joes are liable to rise and do something stupid. Like, vote that orange jackass Trump into office. You have any idea how many wars Iron Man is gonna have to stop because of him?”

Wayne gave a wry smile.

I published this one either right before or right after the 2016 election.

I hate that orange bastard. Any sane hero would too. I was going to have a reference to how he’s f-ing stuff up throughout the stories but kinda backed off as subsequent stories took place in space or well before his tenure.

Stark put an arm around Wayne’s shoulder in a show of friendship. “But enough about all this heavy stuff, Bruce, my boy! I have a booth at the Iceberg with vodka chilled and women to warm it up! We haven’t torn up a town since last year at Cannes!”

Wayne politely removed Stark’s arm. “Thanks, Tony, but I have to check in on a student I’m mentoring.”

“Really? What’s her name?”

Christian Bale as Batman is a good inspiration for when you want to write
I could see Christian Bale saying that “platonic” line.

Wayne shook his head. “Platonic. She’s studying conflict resolution in urban business settings.”

Tongue in cheek way of saying, “I have to go meet Batgirl for a debrief on her patrol.”

Stark gave Wayne a sly smile. “Whatever you say, Bruce.” He headed toward the exit. “Just the same. Iron Man suit only holds one.”

Stark turned (awkwardly due to the alcohol) and looked to Wayne while walking backward to the exit. “But when I come back, we’re hitting the town. Can’t stay holed up in some cave all the time!”

“Hold up, Mark!” you say. “I thought Stark didn’t know about Bruce as Batman!”

Stark doesn’t know, but I can throw in tongue-in-cheek references to humor you and myself.

Turning from Wayne, Stark added, “Give my best to Alfred!”

With a wave, Stark exited.

Mentioning Alfred and Cannes hints the two have more than just a business relationship. Again, that relationship doesn’t extend to revealing Wayne’s life as Batman.

Wayne looked after Stark for a moment. He then turned his gaze toward the Iron Legionnaire. His eyes narrowed.

You know Batman has to know everything about anything that could pose a threat to his city! But that’s for another chapter!

Ah, my first Stark/ Wayne meeting! It’ll be even more fun in a couple of chapters when we meet them again as Iron Man and Batman!

I hope you learned a few tricks for your stories from this. Any ideas to add, leave them in the comment section (there actually is one of those!)

For the full “Armored Underworld,” my other fanfiction stories, and my original “Shadowdance” action stories with vampires and Neo-Nazi sorcerers, check the links below.

Look for another, not one but TWO installments of the “Armored Underworld” commentary this Friday!

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