Comic Clichés, Part VII: Geography and Outer Space


All Europeans who are not British, French, Spanish, or Italian wear pretty much the same style of lederhosen and live in kingdoms filled with castles and thatched-roof cottages.

All Latin American countries are tiny island nations run by corrupt administrations and leaders who use the drug trade to maintain their hold on power.

All Asian nations are tiny and mysterious lands that are either (1) home to reclusive sects of monks and mages just itching to bestow fantastic powers on the first white dude who finds their front door or (2) wretched hives of scum and villainy that make that place on Tattooine look like a garden club.

Rents be damned, heroes and villains exclusively make large metropolitan areas their bases of operation.

Corollary: No mention of what effect their battles have on the city’s real-estate prices and insurance rates is ever made.

In stories set before 1991, all comic-book Russian superheroes are either fiercely loyal and unquestioning lackeys of the Soviet government or troubled dissidents who require the merest whiff of American-style freedom to cause them to defect and fight for truth, justice and the American Way.

All amusement parks are abandoned because their only purpose in a superhero universe is to provide appropriate headquarters for super-villains with panache.

All sewers are gateways to underground kingdoms of social outcasts.

All buildings in major cities have flagpoles on them for any falling hero to grab onto in the event of a sudden fall.

All European despots rule tiny mountainous countries whose precise location is never fully known.


Heroes that hail from countries outside the U.S. have powers and costumes that are indicative of their country of origin. An Irish hero, for example, will dress in green and have the power to cause extremely good luck, a British hero will sport the Union Jack on his/her chest, a Canadian hero will display a maple leaf on his uniform, etc.

Evil masterminds with secret bases in the middle of major cities never arouse suspicion from people living in the area.

Evil masterminds who build secret bases on remote mountaintops, mysterious islands or under the ocean are able to build their lairs without ever worrying about minor details like how to power their machines, hook up their plumbing, get a decent Internet connection, etc. The hundreds of workers needed to construct such a place in a remote area are never mentioned and can be counted on never to reveal the location to the authorities.

There is ALWAYS a way for heroes to travel to outer space, whether it’s a teleporter, a friendly alien, a space shuttle that no one happens to be using at the moment, the super team’s jet plane (which just happens to be able to support life in a vacuum and operate outside of Earth’s atmosphere)…


In any storyline involving a cosmic villain threatening to destroy/enslave the entire universe, it will be left to the heroes of Earth to defeat him. Although cute in their own way, no non-Earth race ever has the heavy-duty muscle required to save the universe.

All aliens from other worlds possess certain characteristics — telepathy, super-strength, etc. — that make them superior in some way to the average human.

Corollary: When aliens who have no super powers on their home worlds receive super powers simply by visiting Earth, there will be some part of Earth — a rock, an element, etc. — that will prove fatal to their race.

All members of alien races will adhere to the Gene Roddenberry Code of Conduct by:

  • appearing primarily as two-legged, two-armed humanoids
  • possessing universal translators that instantly understand any language (except when a plot demands some language barrier)
  • coming from planets with homogeneous cultures, with the same language, religion, uniform and hairstyle shared by everyone else on that planet.
  • having zero problems adapting to Earth’s environment, despite the many gravitational and other environmental differences that exist between different planets.

Whenever a group of heroes must venture into space, there will be at least one hero among them whose powers allow the others to survive in a vacuum and communicate with each other without the need for spacesuits or bulky equipment.

Despite the fact that heroes regularly travel through space, visit strange alien worlds, etc., there will be no indication that their explorations have resulted in any difference to the average Earthling’s standard of living or understanding of the universe.

No character EVER gets spacesick, despite the fact that they have never been in a gravity-free environment before.

Corollary: If a character does get spacesick, it is for comedic purposes only and will last no more than a panel or two.

Spacesuits never run out of oxygen unless it is critical to the story’s plot.


All it takes for your average superhero to survive in the vacuum of space is a glass bubble helmet. Any kind of spacesuit or protective gear that might cover up their trademark costuming is strictly verboten.

There’s always an interplanetary language that either the characters know or can learn quickly. Failing that, the use of magic or technology to create “universal translators” is a given.

Whatever planet the characters go to, the food and atmosphere will keep them alive, and there is zero chance of any hero picking up an exotic disease.

All communication between spaceships and planets is instantaneous, despite the time lag that would affect communication efforts in real life (e.g., any transmission from Earth to Mars would take about 10 to 20 minutes, making it slightly difficult to carry on a conversation).

In all superhero universes, humans are the last species in the universe to master faster-than-light space travel, and are apparently not in a hurry to learn how to do it (based on the number of chances they have to ask visiting aliens for a look under the hood and never seem to do so).


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