If you already know about Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” – you’re well ahead.
Basically, “The Hero’s Journey” is the basic framework by which all the greatest mythological stories that deeply resonate with us are built.
So what does that have to do with Mutants and Comic Books? Actually, quite a lot. Part of the reason Marvel’s comics do so well is that they often use that mythic framework. This is how you tap into the first phase of the “Hero’s Journey” with your character…
The Call to Adventure
Your character is a Mutant. You’ve written up your Backstory in the previous step. At some point your character first experienced his or her Mutant powers (the Primary Mutation). Something happened. Something went really right, really wrong, or both. There was some event that rocked your world and sent your expectations about what was true/false/real/imaginary spinning. You discovered that you were different from “normal” people… maybe you knew you were a Mutant, maybe not.
What was your character’s “Call to Adventure” like?
Refusal of the Call
So how did you react? How did your friends react? How about your family? Probably not very well. Did you try to hide it? Forget it ever happened? Did you flee from it by running away (or flee into something like drugs/alcohol/bad relationships/schoolwork/etc.)? Was it some combination of all of the above? Did those you turn to for help actually help you… or did you discover they weren’t who you thought they were? Very very few heroes completely embrace The Call to Adventure at first. Usually they try to back away from it and go in a different direction… and honestly it makes for a better story when they do.
How did your character “Refuse the Call” at first? (or did you?)
Eventually you ran into another Mutant. One that knew how to use his or her powers. Somebody that was powerful, cool, composed, and everything you weren’t. Specifically, you encountered one or more of the X-Men. At some point they found out what you were (or maybe they already knew and found you). You found out that you weren’t alone in all this craziness. There was a school for Mutants! There were others like you and wanted to help you learn to both ‘deal with’ and ‘become more’ than what you were at the time.
- Faculty of the School (please keep it to this list)
Who was your Supernatural Aid? What was said? What happened?
The Crossing of the First Threshold
This is a major step in the Hero’s Journey. This is where the Hero makes the fateful choice. Go one way, and you try to return to “a normal life” (or at least the way things were before). Go the other way, and your life changes forever. The Hero of course always chooses to cross that first threshold, thus too does your character. In the case of the X-Men mythos it is a literal threshold. It happened the day you chose to walk through one the doors of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester County, New York.
Maybe it was literally the front door of the mansion, as you got out of the cab or your parent’s car after a long drive. Maybe it was when you walked into Professor X’s office to talk with him the first time. Maybe it was when you walked into your very own room and set your stuff down. Maybe it was the first time you entered The Danger Room. Maybe it was when you walked up the ramp of The Blackbird jet to fly to New York (assuming that’s how you got there the first time). One of the various thresholds there at the X-Mansion is very important to your character… it was THE doorway you walked through that – afterwards – you look back and know that you had left your old life behind and are now entering “the unknown.”
What was your character’s First Threshold? What was he/she thinking at the time?
The Belly of the Whale
This is the last of the “first phase” of the Hero’s Journey. It is “the low point.” It represents your character dealing with the consequences of your new path and the separation from all you knew before. Think of it as the first major internal conflict on your road to being a Hero.
Maybe your body is in constant pain from the physical conditioning or the combat training in The Danger Room. Maybe you’re just not adjusting to life in a school full of Mutants. Maybe you’re so used to running away that when faced with challenges that push your limits, you flee into something. Maybe you literally fled the school (only to be found and talked into returning). At some point… there in the Belly of the Whale your character makes THE commitment. YOU are going to stick it through. YOU are going to endure and push through all the pain and grief. YOU chose to become an X-Man one day.
What was it like in the Belly of the Whale for your character?
Now that you’ve made your choice, you gain 1 point of Starting Determination. These are the special points spent to do all the awesome stuff that you’ll be able to do as you play.
Now that you’ve written your character’s “Hero’s Journey” … anything stand out from your backstory that would make a good Aspect or two?
A really good one to pick up at this stage is a Challenge related to Training. Can you come up with some way that your Mutant powers are erratic? Maybe you have Training (“That’s not what I meant to do!”) … maybe your fireballs sometimes miss or when you turn into your super-form stuff usually gets broken! This is a GREAT sort of Challenge Aspect that you can self-Compel often for Determination points from the GM.
Another really good Aspect would be related to how to view the X-Men (or maybe only a couple of characters at the school). Found true love (or at least your first love)? Made an enemy in a student or a teacher? Driving yourself to be the best? Screw up something and now need to redeem yourself in the eyes of your peers? Discovered that you’re a bookworm?
When in doubt something like Personal (Team Player), or “We few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers,” or “All for One, One for All” are good generic ones representing loyalty to those who fight with you/are your friends.