Marvel hires many, many different writers to handle their plethora of characters. However, the brand as a whole follows many of the same principles, regardless of writer or property. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot about constructing worlds, building teams, writing fantastic characters, and perfect plot pacing.
1. World Building
Marvel is known for bringing multiple properties together for big-scale epics, and they do this by leaving loopholes and backdoors in their individual worlds. These loopholes may be shared cities, space-bending artifacts, etc. However, each hero has their own, unique world. Even if they share a planet with multiple other heroes, their environment has to be different. Think of the Defenders. They all have roots in New York, but their worlds are wildly different. Their physical difficulties, histories, economic statuses, and other defining features lead to a physical and social position that sets them apart. Since each character is unique, they find themselves in unique places.
2. Team Building
If you want your characters to team up, make sure they actually work as a team. They must serve different functions, and they must all be relevant to the plot. Some of the biggest critiques of superhero team flicks stem from a lack of coherency in the story’s direction and team dynamics. A lot of critics hated Iron Fist’s role in The Defenders, for example, because he just didn’t seem to fit as well with his teammates as they fit with each other. Still, he was at least relevant to the plot.
The most important lesson is this: don’t add characters just because you want them to be there. Figure out how they will add friction, how they can help the team overcome the villain, and what their unique background will lead them to think about their cohorts. They need to be active characters, not props.
3. Stand-Out Heroes
Marvel heroes team up well, but that’s only possible when each character stands out in their own right. Developing great superheroes relies on a balance of whimsy and originality. Consider what makes your character stand out and develop them from that point. Be careful not to always take your story too seriously, though. Even Marvel’s darkest heroes have moments of levity, comedic characters, or laughable juxtapositions in their stories.
Your pace will depend on your plot, so plan carefully and be ready for revisions. Superhero stories are somewhat formulaic. That’s part of the genre, but remember that there’s a difference between genre expectations and clichés. Kidnapped girlfriends aren’t that exciting anymore. Even origin stories are beginning to fade out of mainstream narratives. It’s okay to jump straight into the action. Find new ways to develop characters after they’ve grown comfortable with their powers. Introduce new elements, and consider twisting real world concerns into a tangible nemesis your hero can fight. Superheroes, after all, can be very cathartic for readers. Remember that superhero stories need to move quickly, though. Even when your hero isn’t in a fight, pacing depends on actions, reactions, and progressions. Keep things moving at all times.
Remember that practice makes perfect, even when you’re writing superheroes. Although this genre gets a lot of flack from critics, it’s popular for a reason. You can use Marvel’s formula for pacing, character development, and team building to construct your own universe.