The Value of Twins in Comics

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NOTE: This is in response to Amegashita's blog entry: "Twins: The Redundancy." It's well researched, so I recommend giving it a look. I posted this as a comment, but it got long, so I figured I'd use it as a blog as well. That said, my response...

HIV Positive: Can it be more than a sales gimmick in fiction?

I'm all for more realism, but sometimes, you just don't want to deal with stuff. I don't know what Turner syndrome is, but would it really be something I want to write about? More importantly, would it be something a majority of people would want to read about? I will go out on a guessing limb, and say 8 out of 10 people would only want to read about a character with a disease if it's a disease that has affected them or someone they know. For instance, look at AIDS. It's a hot button topic, but personally, not knowing anyone with the disease (that I know of) it's not something I care to read about. Mia having AIDS in Green Arrow just didn't seem right, because I just have a hard time seeing a disease as anything other than a sales gimmick in comics, no matter how true to life it is.

Trigger Twins

Twins though... twins get your attention immediately - especially in a comic. They're great for the much used "evil twin" story, awesome for the "mistaken identity" story, and classic for those moments when it seems that Joe has died on panel, but it turns out to really be his twin, Jon. Oh no! (or Oh thank God, depending on which brother you liked better). Twins are great for the way they play off of each other too. Unless you really have them haggle over which one is two minutes older (or whatever amount of time), you pretty much eliminate the older/younger rivalry, and just focus on sibling rivalry. This seems to really allow for development of the two characters, because when they're identical, the only way you can tell them apart (in fiction) is to get to know their characterizations.

Northstar & Aurora

I don't doubt your research, but I have a hard time thinking of male/female twins as uncommon, because the first twins I ever met were my male/female twin cousins. I grew up a couple doors down from a female/female twin set, went to high school with them and another fem/fem twin set, and a fraternal male/male twin set (did you know male/fem twins are still called "fraternal?" Weird.) - they would have been identical, but one was shorter than the other, and his fingers weren't fully formed on one hand. Okay, putting aside this aside... (yeah, I just said that to be confusing).

Jan & Jayce

I've been creating my own characters for... twenty years, give or take two, and I've found that it's really easy to wind up with them for fiction. Especially if there are super powers involved. I develop my characters with generational continuity in mind, meaning they grow old, fall in love, make babies, die, and the next generation takes over. I've found several times that I put Super A with Super B, and get Super C&C twins - often male/female twins - because I'd like a male to get one power, and a female to get the other power. This could be for any number of reasons. Maybe one power seems to me to be more masculine and the other feminine. Maybe I've come up with two super-names for the children, and one of those seems more masculine and the other feminine. Maybe I need two children at a point, because I have them marry down the line, and need something in that line to happen at the same time. Sometimes, it's just so one can die. I have a set of twin girls - one accidentally kills the other, when her powers first manifest. The guilt she carries from that gives her the drive to become a hero. There's any number of reasons to create twins in fiction.

Zan & Jayna

Boy/girl twins work well for a number of reasons. I think one of the biggest reasons is (again) it takes away the older/younger issues. Once that's out of the way, everything else becomes more complicated for the readers. When they are boy/girl twins, you have to come to grips with some things in yourself, when issues come up for the characters. They're the same age, from the same DNA, and for the sake of argument, let's say they have the same powers (if any). Twins often dress the same and do the same things, up to a certain age. Then they start trying to establish their own identities after awhile. Which one is right, then? Assuming neither twin is doing something morally reprehensible, how do you decide who's right? Can you look at the argument or difference from both characters' perspectives? Do you find yourself leaning more to the view of the twin who is your sex? Can you admit to yourself when the other-sex twin is right? I think with boy/girl twin characters, it is so much easier to get to the reader. They'll reveal to you your own social prejudices, because it will almost always boil down to which personality you like better. If the story doesn't go your favorite's way, especially if they are proved wrong about the issue at hand, you are forced to ask yourself why did you side with the character in the wrong? Were you right or wrong to do so, since they turned out to be wrong?

As I write this, I'm starting to think that twins are a way to write couples' issues, without having a couple. Siblings - especially twins - probably spend more time with each other than anyone else does, outside of romantic couples. In the early days of comics, I can see that being a very valuable writing tool, because you can go through all kinds of relationship issues, and totally avoid having to play down sexual issues, because there are none. In a time when comics had to skirt that issue, that had to be really appealing.


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Thanks again!

Posted by Amegashita

  Twins are great characters, but they're only great when there was actual thought put into them.  No one likes knowing a character was made just because of some passing phase.

Posted by cbishop
@Amegashita: "Passing phase?"  Are you referring to the last paragraph, about the couples issues thing?  I don't know if that's fact or not - I was just speculating.  Honestly, in earlier comic book years, the comics were written by pretty young guys, because the older guys got drafted into wars, so I doubt there was much more thought than "this would be a cool idea."  For support of that theory, I point you to fanfics of today, most of which seem to be written by younger readers.  There are very few great ones out there, but almost all of them start out with an interesting idea (whether it stays interesting or not is another story).
Edited by Amegashita
@cbishop:  I probably should have used a better analogy.  A fad makes more sense.  Now-a-days an idea gets thrown out and some writers go "Meh.  Sure why not?"  Nothing against today's writers, it just seems that a lot of the things that are done today, be it characters or story lines (I'm looking at you Marvel) are done with very little thought and more impulsiveness or what seems to be going well now-a-days.
Posted by cbishop
@Amegashita: That's sort of a blanket statement, but mostly accurate, I think.  If we look at zombies, it seems like what happened is Walking Dead started doing really well at Image, and a few independent things did moderately well, like Living Corpse, from Zenescope.  Then Marvel hit it big with Marvel Zombies and a bazillion zombie-variant covers to other titles, Dynamite chimed in with Army of Darkness minis, and then DC said, "Sure, why not," and jumped in with Blackest Night (which I think has driven the whole zombie thing into the ground).  So yeah, one-upmanship seems to be a driving factor in comics, producing a lot of similar comics. 
Back to twins though, it's always been a visual oddity thing, and the individual characterizations are usually lacking.  I think probably the best use of twins I've seen in comics is in the Vertigo Losers series, but you have to read all five trades to see it. ;)
Posted by Amegashita
@cbishop:  Hmm, then I'll give it a look.
Posted by cbishop

l'd recommend getting them from the library, if you can, first.  They read kind of quick for me, so I was glad I had found them used.  I'd have felt a little ripped off if I'd paid full price.  I thought they were good, but I get a little irritated when I blow through a trade really quickly.  Just a heads up for you, in case you feel the same way.

Posted by Aria_belle

1 set of twins for every 35 Births give or take, so not too uncommon, and both of my parents are twins so I it is familiar. 
I like the idea of twins. Come on, who did not try to be the Wonder Twins as kids, not teh best comic twins, but fun was had.  
And being either so closely linked or uncommonly not linked at all is great a for  a good story, twist.....
Posted by cbishop
@Aria_belle: Both of your parents are twins?  How cool!  I've gotta know though: are their twins married to each other as well?
Posted by LP

I haven't seen any other twins in comics besides the "Cukoo" Twins. (probably misspelled i'm sure.) But I liked them. Maybe people should write twins more.

Posted by Black Lantern Mar-vell
Edited by cbishop

@LP said:

"I haven't seen any other twins in comics besides the "Cukoo" Twins. (probably misspelled i'm sure.) But I liked them. Maybe people should write twins more. "

@Black Lantern Mar-vell said:


There's also the Tracy Twins from the Boy Scout's Boy's Life Magazine, the Kabuki Twins, Siam, and some acrobatic twins in yellow costumes who fought Nightwing. There's the Wonder Twins, M Twins, Trigger Twins, Mauler Twins, Jungle Twins, Ritter-Twins, Summers-Frost Twins, Murphy Twins, Comet Twins, Dee Dee Twins, Entropy Twins, Zombi Twins, Sun Twins, Tinker Twins, Strange Twins, Mad Twins, Wire Twins, The Twins, and that's just the ones with "Twins" in their duo name.