I recently purchased the new superhero RPG Icons (not remotely recommended, by the way, as it’s largely a rip-off of the 1980’s Marvel Superheroes RPG with a few random bits of Mutants and Masterminds thrown in) and I rolled up my first character. Everything was going along swimmingly — until I had to name him. That’s when a sudden realization hit me.

All of the good superhero/villain names have already been taken.

It’s true. Go ahead — try to come up with a completely new and unique name for a character. I dare ya. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the name’s been used somewhere, even if only for a character in an obscure Atlas comic which ran for one issue back in the 1970’s.

You’ll recall an earlier blog post in which I mentioned an old Villains & Vigilantes campaign from the early 1980’s in which one player insisted that his character be named “Phoenix” despite the house rule that no names of existing characters be used. That game was played in 1982 (almost thirty years ago) and in those days you could have a character with a unique name. Looking back on the names which were chosen, at least three of them later became names of actual comic characters.

Of course, Marvel Comics certainly hasn’t helped — at all. During their “mutant explosion” a few years ago they were introducing multiple new characters in every issue of their “X” books, largely (I suspect) just so they could trademark the names and thus deprive other companies of their use. I’ll come up with a really kick-ass name for a character, check it online, and much of the time it winds up being the name of a character who appeared in a whopping two issues of X-Men circa 1999 or so.

A major villain of our V&V campaign is named Toxin. Oops, Marvel villain. Jack Victory? That’s already been used by a professional wrestler. Deep Freeze (my own character, created in 1982 and played ever since)? A character in some book called Rocket Girl in 2003. Revenant (of the Justice Federation)? Name a superhero RPG of the last decade which hasn’t included an NPC named Revenant and I’ll eat the rulebook.

So after hacking around with names for my new Icons hero, a stealthy wall-crawling investigator with mental attack powers, I finally came up with the name Nightfall.

You guessed it. Justice League of America #234, January 1985.

Tough. I’m using the name. Deal with it.

Have fun! — Steve