Whats in a name? If youre talking about the names of heroes and villains of action thrillers and superhero stories, a good character name can often mean the difference between a popular character and an anonymous one. After all, could you imagine Spider-Man being as well-known if he called himself Insect Man (a name allegedly toyed with by Stan Lee when he first created the wall crawler)?
Here are some suggestions on good places to look for a memorable character name for your storys next superhero, super villain, or supporting character.
Study Character Names in World Mythology
For many, superhero comic books are a form of modern mythology so its only natural that so many comic book characters are named after (or in many cases are) the gods, goddesses, and/or monsters of legends and myths. Marvel Comics version of Thor is a prime example as is Peter Davids superhero team the Pantheon (which features members with Greek character names like Ajax, Atlanta, and Perseus). And of course super villain names frequently have roots in legends and myths DC Comics Prometheus and Circe are just a few examples.
While many comic book characters do tend to be named after Roman and Greek gods and goddesses, comic book creators shouldnt limit themselves to these mythologies especially when there are so many incredibly rich cultural myths out there. Try looking into stories from Irish, Hindu, Chinese, and Inuit mythology for some truly unique legendary characters.
Be sure to really study these myths and get to know Manga the heroes, villains, and other characters featured in them their stories may easily inspire and influence the backstories of your own characters.
Use the Unique Names of Friends
Kitty Pryde wasnt always the name of the X-Mens intangible mutant super heroine. Al Simmons wasnt always the true identity of Todd McFarlanes demonic antihero Spawn. Before either of these names became linked to comic book characters, they were the catchy names of a fellow student in future X-Men artist John Brynes art class and a semi-professional baseball player on the same team as McFarlane.
Keep your eyes and ears open sometimes the catchiest and most memorable character names could already be used by your friends, co-workers, and even family members.
A word of caution be sure to get your friends permission to use their names and be prepared for some backlash. While some may love being the namesake of a comic book character, others may be less than thrilled, especially if that character becomes popular. (According to a 2003 article in the Calgary Sun, the real Kitty Pryde became so tired of being hounded by comic book fans that she began going by K.D. Pryde).
Search Baby Name Lists
A great resource for any writer, baby name lists not only provide unusual character names but also often offer information on the meaning and origins of names, which can serve as a way of communicating certain traits of a character. For instance, knowing that the name, Arashi is a Japanese name/word meaning storm might inspire a writer to instill storm-related traits into his or her character (Indeed, Arashi has already been used as the name of several Japanese manga and anime characters).
Coming Up with Unusual Character Names
Like any aspect of writing, coming up with a memorable character name often involves both research and inspiration. And while a name alone doesnt guarantee a great character, by investing time studying names and their namesakes, writers can often find ideas to make their characters more memorable and multi-faceted.
Not all superhero or super villain names need to inspire awe or dread. Check out the unique names of some truly bizarre heroes and villains at Unusual Superhero Names, Unusual Names for Super Heroines, and Unusual Names for Super Villains.
Hobson, Louis B. The Real Kitty Pryde To Kitty, the real one X-Woman the Pryde of Calgary. Calgary Sun. 2003.
Lee, Stan. Introduction. The Ultimate Spider-Man. New York: A Berkley Book/Byron Preiss Multimedia, 1994, ISBN: 0-425-14610-3
Todd McFarlane Complete Biography. Online Posting. Spawn.com.