Creating a Protagonist

For our first chapter, we’re going to focus on character design. When it comes to making a comic book you need characters. We will discuss three factors that make a great protagonist. After all, your protagonist will drive the story.

The first factor is making sure that the protagonist is not perfect by giving them problems. The protagonist should always have some kind of problem. Batman has a whole bunch of problems. Batman saw his parents get killed as a child. This is what drives him to become a vigilante. In the manga series, Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward, and Alphonse performed human transmutation. This resulted in Edward losing an arm and Alphonse losing his body.  Problems make your characters relatable and add drama to any conflict.

The second factor is giving the protagonist a goal or want. Edward’s goal is to find the Philosopher’s Stone. He wants to find it to return his and his brother’s bodies back to normal. Batman wants to prevent what happened to him as a child from happening to somebody else. Having a want or goal for your characters gives the audience something to get behind. It allows them to cheer for that protagonist and to feel sadness when that character doesn’t achieve it. The goal forces their entire thought process into making decisions when encountering problems. Edward Elric’s goal to find the Philosopher’s Stone is so great, that he almost crosses the moral lines. If you want people to care about your characters, they need a goal or a want.

The third factor is having the characters learn a lesson. They need to realize that they’re going about things the wrong way. This needs to be a life lesson and this need is most likely related to the theme of your story.  Spider-Man is another good example he changes from being selfish to being selfless.  These changes don’t have to be grand, it could be as simple as getting over self-confidence. Think about single issue comics from the nineties. There is always some minor problem that may affect the major problem, which the character overcomes. They then proceed to succeed at the major problem.

Here is how creating a Spider-man story would go. 

  • Theme/Premise: With great power comes great responsibility.
  • Spiderman’s Goal (wants): Is to always save others
  • Protagonist Arc (needs):  Spiderman goes from judgemental and accepting.
  • Antagonist Arc: Kingpin has the opportunity to go from evil to good
  • Antagonist Goal (problem): Kingpin wants to rule the new clubs in New York.

The external problem is Kingpin wants to rule new clubs. Spider-man’s inner problem is he still feels guilt over not stopping the crook who killed his uncle. Thus, when Spiderman becomes aware of Kingpin’s activities, he attempts to stop him. 

These three factors will help you create characters that an audience will get behind. Ensure you have given your protagonist problems. They need a goal. They need to learn a lesson and change with the story.

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