Explaining sword terminology: Longsword, greatsword, arming sword, broadsword? via Skallagrim
This is meant as an information resource for creative folk, not a complete guide. Be sure to supplement this with additional research. Find the rest of the series, including the previous posts on clergy, nobility, divination, spirit animals, mythical creatures, medieval punishments, armor, and common terms of medieval life.
Once the writer has determined whether they are dealing with a band of warriors or a trained army of soldiers, the next thing to do is decide how the units are laid out hierarchically, as well as what they’re called.
Let’s talk about: army hierarchies. Troops can be arranged in any manner of ways from the type of weapons they are trained in, length of service, level of training, or any number of other ways. The most frequently used method is that of training level. The more training (generally corresponding with how long they’ve been in service) a soldier has, the higher rank they are, the more power they wield. This may or may not have any link to how many weapons they are trained in. A veteran may be exceptionally skilled with a lance from years of being part of the lancer’s cavalry, but may not have any training with, say, crossbows, long bows, compound bows, daggers, halberds, battle scythes, etc.
Green troops refers to soldiers who have little or no training, or sometimes well-trained soldiers with no field experience. They may (or may not) have good skill with their weapon and are able to march, but they have not been exposed to real action. Without strong leadership and steady units on their flanks, green troop units are likely to break under any sort of duress. (Take the Maryland militia during the Battle of Bladensburg in the War of 1812 who broke and ran when rockets were fired over their heads.)
Regular troops will make up the bulk of a professional army. They have arms and maneuver training, with some limited action experience such as border skirmishes or putting down riots. They are likely to stand their ground during normal battlefield threats with proficient leadership, and they can be very reliable.
Veteran troops boast extensive training with considerable experience. They almost invariably have a history accompanying them and are likely to reenact their past glories via storytelling, rituals, or pageants. They may have special privileges, wear special devices on their uniforms, carry extra well-made weapons, or have extra pay. Veteran troops often function as officers for units of regular troops. (For example, the legionnaires of the Roman Empire were veteran troops with their legion’s history displayed on standards that were carried into battle.)
Elite troops are the best of the best, and they form their own units. They are not always found in armies, but are a prized commodity when they are present. Elite soldiers may be leaders of veteran troops. (A great example is the Sacred Band of Thebes, the two-hundred man unit that died defending their city against the armies of Alexander the Great, who later wept for their valor.)
Heroes, while more warrior than soldier, have extensive training, experience, and frequently come accompanied by magical abilities. These may take the form of supernatural strength, magically enhanced weaponry, magical companions, etc. They are known to lead veteran or elite troops—sometimes even entire armies—or to function independently.
Superheroes, demigods, demons, deities…all of these and more come after the above, if the writer so chooses or the world calls for them. Anything is possible, there just needs to be a plan.
Let’s talk about: things for writers to take note of. These are not rules. They’re more of guidelines, anyway. Historically, even elite troops have broken inexplicably while green troops have stood their ground under harrowing circumstances. Considering these things, truly dramatic scenes can be crafted.
Let’s talk about: naming troops. Units and troops can be broken up in a variety of ways and named according to all kinds of conventions. They may be named for the type of armor they use (Greek hoplites were named after their hoplon, a large, round shield.), a particularly esteemed commander (Sharpe’s Rifles or Arikon’s Winged Lightning), a town the soldiers are from (the Mill Village Militia), a weapon they specialize in (Lance Corp), a guardian (“White Wolves”), etc. Literally the possibilities are endless.
Let’s talk about: types of troops. Given that all of this is subject to the whim of the world the writer is using, the following information is simply basic historical examples. From these, writers can glean inspiration and a feel for how they might like to section up their armies.
Infantry: The most versatile arm of a military force are foot soldiers. They can operate under the greatest variety of conditions and with the least expense and equipment. Such troops also tend to be the least glamorous or rewarded of any sorts of soldiers.
Heavy Infantry: As heavily armored as possible (which, depending on the culture, may be very heavy indeed) with close-combat weapons and sometimes secondary hurling weapons. They are trained to fight toe-to-toe with the enemy in close formations. (The Roman legionary would be one example. They were armed with javelins, short-swords, and daggers; the Greek hoplite, armed with armor-crushing weapons like battle axes, maces, and flails also counted.)
Light Infantry: Wore light or no armor, or perhaps only shields and helmets. Typically, they served as skirmishers, launching missiles at the front ranks of an enemy force before close combat, dispatching wounded soldiers on the battlefield, or chasing down retreating foes. (Examples include the velites of Rome who were armed with javelins; the pletasts of Greece who were also armed with javelins; and the pindaris of India who sported pikes and other miscellaneous weapons.)
Missile Troops: Typically wore no armor and could not engage the enemy in close combat. Such troops were often among the most highly trained in the army. (The Balearic slingers of the ancient world and the English longbow-men of the Middle Ages were a few.)
Cavalry: Chariotry was the first effective form of cavalry. Forces of chariot troops conquered much of Asia and India in the second millennium BC. Chariots are even more limited than horses in the kinds of terrain they can operate on, however, and once horses were bred strong enough to carry an armored man, more maneuverable individual cavalrymen eclipsed chariotry around 500 BC.
Heavy Cavalry: Used swords, spears, and axes; wore heavy armor; and fought in close formation, often stirrup to stirrup. The horses of such units were often as heavily armored as the men, equipped with bard of quilted cloth, scales, mail, or plate. (Examples include the Byzantine cataphractoi; the armored knights of the Middle Ages; and the Mamluk slave soldier of medieval Egypt.)
Light Cavalry: Wore little armor and were used to skirmish against, harry, or pursue the enemy, usually using missile weapons such as javelins or bows. Prior to the introduction of the stirrup, most cavalry were this sort. (The Mongolian mounted archers, who could fire accurately from the saddle while moving at a full gallop, are the best example of such troops.)
Tomorrow we’ll talk about some common terms to refer to more specific types of soldiers.
Realistically? She won’t kill him, her guards will. (She won’t even get close to him and his challenge is meaningless.)
This is the most important thing to remember: a female noble heir is the social and economic future of their household, if your pirate captain takes her then he gets to claim her which is the equivalent of stealing Alabama, Alaska, or California. Now do you think for a second her guards or her family will allow that to happen? (The answer is no.)
If you’re using pirates, then you’re probably pulling from the Golden Age of Piracy for inspiration, so between 1650 and 1726. It’s important to remember than aristocrats in any period before the 19th century were not decorative. Today, we (Americans especially) have a habit of confusing the echoes for the gunfire. We view the nobility and royalty like CEOs and other really rich people instead of what they really were: warlords, an important part of their nation’s command and control structure. Nobles were taught to fight because they needed to be capable of defending themselves from the peasantry, from other nobles, and from attempts at political assassination. Your heir is probably living in a period where she is expected to know how to fight because someone else is going to try to kill or kidnap her. While we’re talking about a period in history where the importance of the nobility was ending, it wasn’t there yet. Fencing as recreation hadn’t quite taken hold yet and your heir’s education is going to be for realities of the world she’ll be facing. This is also a period in history when training with live blades was not uncommon.
Nobles engaged professional swordmasters as members of their households to teach them and their children. Your girl is likely to have had a fencing blade in her hand by the time she was six years old, the standard training age for an aristocrat. It’s likely she was trained on a variety of weapons, but depending on your time period her main sword is likely to be either a rapier, an epee or another variant of smallsword, all of which will turn your pirate captain into Swiss cheese before he can say “what’s that?”. She’ll possibly also know how to use a longsword (still saw battlefield use) or a heavy saber (as opposed to the later lighter version of the fencing blade) as a cavalry blade, she’ll have been trained to use it from horseback in case she was ever called to military service by her monarch. If her family employs a professional duelist to fight for her father or mother in case of another noble challenging the family, she might have also trained with them. If her family doesn’t have the money or the family patriarch prefers to handle to duels themselves, it’s likely she was grilled by them regularly. As the heir, she’ll be under direct scrutiny from whichever figure is managing her education and training to ensure she can do her job when she eventually inherits management of the household/estate.
The problem here is that you’re thinking about this in terms of her not having any practical combat experience and conflating the 18th and 19th century nobility with the 16th and 17th century is a terrible, if common, mistake. Unless your pirate captain is a former member of the gentlemen class or noble class then the weapon he’ll be using is likely to be the cutlass, which while a fantastic weapon for boarding actions, is horribly outmatched by both the epee and the rapier when it comes to dueling. They’re both longer (reach and speed advantage) and faster (substantial speed advantage) and in the hands of someone who knows how to kill with them. Weapons are a great equalizer, your heir doesn’t need to be exceptional to kill him, she’ll be armed with the better weapon for the situation and has the knowledge to know how to use it in practical combat. Even if she’s armed with a longsword, she’ll win.
Here’s your first real issue: you’re conflating all types of combat experience together while ignoring the separate skill sets and types of experience. A pirate captain is going to be experienced in ship to ship combat and boarding actions, his exceptional talent is the handling of his crew and his ability to command. This is what he needs to be good at in order to maintain his position. Dueling is not going to be his focus, he may excel at dueling other pirates both with pistols and with swords but the question is who is he dueling? The caliber of your opponent does a lot to enhance skill, so does having the luxury to devote the necessary time to developing that skill. A boarding action is a mass melee, it’s not a duel. Even if he’s used to fighting multiple enemies, it’s going to be in fighting back to back with the support of his crew. His most common opponents are going to be other pirates, most likely drunk pirates, while on shore leave. This doesn’t leave him a lot of time to come up with the skill necessary to hand a noble their ass in a one on one. A duel with your heir is going to end up looking a lot like Edmond Dantes’ first duel with Ferdinand in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). Your pirate is Dantes, she’s Ferdinand and she’s got less reason to play nice. (It’s worth noting Ferdinand isn’t even considered an exceptional duelist and, at this point in the movie, he’s just got the advantage of his training.)
Now, he could be a former naval officer or son of a merchant with a business in overseas trade. However, this would mean he comes from either a wealthy merchant family or the middle/upper class. At this point in history officers were still expected to buy their commissions which meant ships were largely commanded by the rich/gentlemen and the sailors/grunts were pulled from the poor/uneducated.
The second issue: Heirs are incredibly valuable, incredibly valuable. Female ones especially because they are the means of carrying on your bloodline. A lot of effort and work by the head of the household goes into the heir because they are the economic and socio-political future of the family. Heirs are not allowed to engage in the same sort of risky business that a second or third child can get away with. A fairly decent modern comparison is Prince William versus Prince Harry, both are in the military but only one gets to fight on the front lines. Now, you can disinherit the heir to ensure that their progeny/new husband cannot claim their titles and lands but you lose all the effort that went into them in favor of (what is likely to be viewed as) a substandard second aka the spare. So, again, it would be like stealing Alabama and she doesn’t have the free time to run off for a weekend cruise with a strange man unless she’s intending to throw away everything anyway (and no one is going to let her).
Second to the Family Head, the Heir is the most well-defended member of the family. They’re not getting out of the house without an escort, these men (and women) will be among the most loyal and skilled men (and women) the house has at their disposal. She’s not going to go anywhere without them and has probably known them (somewhere between four to six) all her life. They may know her better than her parents do, they’re always there, and they will defend her with their lives. Not being a noble, your captain has no ability to challenge her directly even if she challenges him. He is going to have to go through them to fight her and they aren’t going to bother with a duel. They’re not going to fight him one on one, they’ll fight him together. He’s outnumbered and fighting better trained opponents (it’s going to be either three on one with one guarding the girl or four on one with two guarding the girl), so he’s dead.
It’s important to remember that a bodyguard’s job is not to do what their protectee wants, it’s to do what is best for them and ensures their safety. It’s their job to keep them alive, not to keep them happy. She’s not the one paying their salary, her parents are, and even if she was it wouldn’t make a difference. While her guards are fighting him, the other one (or two) will hustle her somewhere else to keep her safe.
Third Problem: In attempting to take her anywhere, he has shown he means her harm. Whether it’s to kill her, ransom her, or claim her as his wife is irrelevant, whether he actually intends any of those things is irrelevant. From her perspective, that of her family, and her guards, he intends her harm and if she’s forced to fight him then it will be to the death. Remember, these are threats she faces from the other members of her country’s nobility. She’s primed to respond to any threats to her person with deadly force and so are her guards, all of whom are likely to face much more talented combatants from their own class than the pirate captain. She has a vested interest in being better at combat than him and she will be because nobles are not sheltered fragile flowers who have the luxury of using money instead of force to protect themselves. The French Revolution was successful because of the number of peasants and the willingness to bury the aristocrats in bodies (which was what it took). It wasn’t because they were better warriors.
Do Not Steal California: Heirs are valuable and important people, stealing them is a lot like stealing the ownership of a state. Lots of people are bound to try it and there are reasons their families take steps to ensure they won’t succeed.
A Rapier or Epee versus a Cutlass: both weapons have a reach advantage over a cutlass and are much, much faster. The pirate captain’s brain will not be used to fighting at it’s speeds and in a single unarmored bout, it will be over in one or two hits. In fact, historically the epee is so fast that it resulted in multiple double suicides during duels which is part of the reason we switched to fencing with blunted blades.
Nobles Are Not Decorative: Unless we’re discussing nobles in the 19th (excluding Russia), 20th, and 21st centuries then an aristocrat’s position was fraught with danger. Even in the 18th century when they were heading toward being obsolete, nobles were very dangerous individuals who faced a great deal of danger in their everyday lives both from the peasantry and members of their own class.
Depending on Context All Combat Experience Is Not Created Equal: while there were pirates who were very skilled duelists this was usually a skill they cultivated during the time before they became pirates (as members of the gentry). Pirate Captains needed to be skilled in naval combat, interpersonal skills, leadership, and other skills relating to raiding, theft, and seafaring leaving little time to focus on skills unnecessary to their general lifestyle.
Where the Heir Goes, The Guards Follow or Lead: A noble’s guards are never far away, they travel in packs and it’s their job to defend their master from harm. Getting through them to the protectee isn’t easy and the protectee is unlikely to thank you if you do.
Swords are made for killing: intentions are great, but swords are made for killing. The better the opponent, the less likely the option of not killing. With faster weapons, it becomes very easy to kill accidentally or a wound may become infected leading to death.
Think Leia, Not Gossip Girl: I didn’t actually throw this one out there in the above, but personality wise, you’re better off looking at Princess Leia (especially Leia from A New Hope) as opposed to modern day rich girls like Blaire Waldorf and Serena Vanderwoodsen. Think about Leia’s response to Han and Luke’s rescue attempt on the Death Star, particularly the part where she takes charge and shoots the Stormtroopers. Feisty yes, but also intelligent and capable of taking care of herself. They provide her with the opportunity to escape, but she’s more than able to act for herself when the moment comes and patient enough withstand the indignities and torture inflicted on her by Vader and Tarkin to wait it for it. She’s also all business once she gets out and is much better at providing direction than the boys are at finding it.
In short, he’s dead.
A solution: as fun as the concept of the Princess and the Pirate is most of your problems could be solved by removing the heir part from the equation. If writing a lazy layabout who isn’t interested in real work is your angle with this character then it’s best to go with a member of the family who has the unfortunate luxury of being a strain on finances simply by virtue of their birth. The third child or a bastard the Father/Mother/Family Head refuses to get rid of who gets all the privileges, none of the responsibility, and who the family doesn’t care enough about to take an active interest in their protection or their training will have a much better shot of doing what you want without all the messy complications. They also have a much, much better shot of being in a place where they and the pirate will actually cross paths. Younger children have a much higher likelihood of leaving the country to seek their fortunes or being in less savory places. (Do not have the pirate break into their house, homefield advantage is huge and estates/castles are designed to be deathtraps for invaders. Don’t do it, you can’t have a fight there without drawing twenty or more guards.)
A solution to the sword problem: they’re drunk. Your character is at a low point in their life, they’re in a bar feeling their failure, and they’re drunk when they challenge the pirate. This gives the pirate the luxury to feel sorry for them, you can subtly handicap their actual skill level, and give them the opportunity to grow as a person and a combatant without jeopardizing all the advantages a noble has access to.
Some Reading Suggestions/Historical Figures:
Julie La Maupin: The life of Julie La Maupin could quite literally fill any swashbuckling novel to rival the tales of Alexandre Dumas, her stories however have the advantage of being real. This brash, deadly, bisexual cross-dressing swashbuckler bucked the times and society to carve her own way in 1600s France.
Gurps: Swashbucklers, Roleplaying In The World of Pirates and Musketeers: The Gurps books tend be great reference material and this one is a great overview of everything you need to write about pirates and swashbucklers. It covers the history surrounding pirates and musketeers, the notable historical figures, the socio-political climates of the times, and pretty much everything else you’re going to need to build your setting.
The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. While not a book about pirates, this novel (and the others by Dumas) will be helpful for getting into the frame of mind to write about swashbucklers and nobles. It gets closer to a period when the nobility was still considered relevant and treats them that way.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy (1903), the foundation for superhero literature and secret identities, this is the novel that inspired Zorro and subsequently Batman. It follows the adventures of wealthy Sir Percy Blakeney in his adventures rescuing individuals sentenced to death by the guillotine during the Reign of Terror. In England, Percy presents himself as a dim fop to throw off suspicion that he (along with a band of merry friends) is the Scarlet Pimpernel, daring escape artist, master swordsman, and outside the box thinker. If nothing else, it’s a fun adventure novel read.
The Errol Flynn Collection: The Seahawk and Captain Blood especially, but I suggest a general review of the Golden Age Swashbuckling films.
The Mask of Zorro, The Count of Monte Cristo, anything with fight scenes choreographed by Bob Anderson for the spectacular sword work which may give you ideas.
Wikitenaur: pretty much the best resource for historical fighting manuals if you want to go outside modern fencing to get ideas for your fight scenes. You will have to slog through some older language, some of the manuals come with plates and translations. Others don’t.
Get a manual on fencing. Even if you don’t plan to take up fencing yourself, a manual for beginners will be helpful for getting the basic ideas and terminology down.
While I wouldn’t recommend Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for it’s historical accuracy (cringeworthy, especially the way it messes with and reduces the awesomeness of some very incredible historical figures) or it’s combat accuracy (also cringeworthy), it’s ship combat is a lot of fun and may help you get into the right mood for when it comes to the fun side of pirates. This depends if you want to shell out for the price tag. The same is true of Pirates of the Caribbean. Decide what pirate theme you’re going with, compare Jack Sparrow with Peter Blood for reference and do some research into historical figures to help you with your captain. If you’re doing a gender equal setting, feel free to research and export the considerations for male nobility onto your female noble.
- Leave the stabbing object in the wound! Pulling it out will increase blood loss and pushing it will cause further injury.
- Stop the bleeding. Apply pressure on – or around, if the object is still embedded – with a clean shirt or towel. Minimize contact with the person’s blood by wrapping plastic bags or disposable gloves around your hands. If you have limited supplies, place sterile dressings atop the wound and apply non-sterile dressing (clothes, dirty towels, etc.) on top of the dressing. Apply extra padding if the intestines or other internal organs are protruding. Secure the bandage with padding and push down with light pressure if the person needs to sit up or vomit. Do not lift or remove the dressing after you put it on. Moving the dressing will disrupt the clotting process. Do NOT use a tourniquet except as a last resort.
- If the wound is bleeding profusely, apply pressure to the major artery leading to the area with the pads on your fingers while your other hand applies pressure to the wound itself. Press on the inside of the arm just above the elbow or just below the armpit to slow bleeding in the arm. Press behind the knee or in the groin if the leg is bleeding.
- If possible, reposition the person so the wound is above the level of the heart. It will reduce blood loss.
- Treat shock only after stopping or slowing the bleeding.
None. There’s actually two parts to this; the injuries themselves, and the pain from those injuries.
Nearly any physical activity will eventually introduce you to managing pain. Note: “managing”, not ignoring.
Managing pain isn’t something you can teach, you can’t rationally explain it to someone. You experience pain, and push on.
This is part of the point of all those extreme endurance training exercises, it’s as much about learning to deal with discomfort and finding your actual limits as it is about physical conditioning and fitness. The trick is to inflict as much discomfort as possible (not just pain) without actually harming the participants.
Of course, this also gets warped into outright sadism by writers that don’t understand the point. So, if you’ve got a story where they’re torturing characters as “training”, that’s probably what you’re looking at.
It doesn’t make you ignore pain, but it does give you a better grasp of what pain actually means.
You can’t power through injuries. If your character’s actually been seriously hurt, they can’t ignore it. This is the point where something in their body has been damaged, and there is no way you can simply go “I’m givin’ ‘er all she’s got, Captain!” and keep fighting.
Minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises hurt, and could cause someone without any experience to think that something’s gone really wrong, but the fact is, it hasn’t. Also, remember, bruises take a few minutes to form, so they won’t really start until after the fight is already over.
Deep tissue cuts, severed tendons, torn muscles, broken bones, concussions, punctured lungs? These are things that your character will need to work around. You can’t use a broken arm to fight. It just doesn’t work anymore. The same goes for everything else on that list. These don’t automatically mean your character is out of a scene, but they’re not going to be able to continue to fight.
Don’t be sorry! Writing about fighting when you have no practical experience is a difficult challenge and writing fight sequences when you do is still time consuming. There are a lot pieces working together and figuring out how they function is difficult and something very few writers actually do well.
Here are a list some of our posts that may be helpful to you:
Also check anything in our Michael Janich tag, he is a very good instructor who teaches self-defense. I refer people to his videos for the work he does with concepts, where he actively explains what a technique is, what it does, and why it’s used before teaching the technique. As a writer, you need both technique and concept before you can put it on the page.
I plan on doing a write up on both elbows and knees in the near future. There’s a lot of misconceptions about how these techniques work.
Also check out Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series particularly First Test and Page in The Protector of the Small quartet. Tamora Pierce is one of the few authors that write fight scenes I feel comfortable recommending for reference.
Because beating the crap out of someone isn’t socially acceptable in the real world.
Our most recent post on our blog howtofightwrite covers some common flaws that most writers find when working on their fight scenes and characters. In this post, we offer five simple ways to overcome those problems.
WHAT MAKES AN ACTION SCENE GOOD?
IT’S RATHER PERTINENT QUESTION NOWADAYS. IT SEEMS ACTION SCENES ARE A COMPONENT OF EVERY KIND OF POPULAR MOVIE. AND WE BUILD HIGH-STAKES SUMMER TENT-POLE MOVIES AROUND NOTHING MORE THAN A VAGUE CONCEPT AND THEN TREAT THE SET-PIECES LIKE THEY’RE ONLY THING THAT MATTER.
FOR SOME REASON, WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THIS IS “THE WAY” TO DO THINGS DESPITE THE FACT THAT RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES CURRENTLY HIGHLIGHTING THE FACT THAT A GOOD STORY WELL-TOLD IS THE THING THAT TRULY RESONATES WITH AUDIENCES. BUT BECAUSE ACTION SCENES DOMINATE THE BOTH THE INCEPTION AND PRODUCTION OF FILMMAKING, HULK WORRIES THAT THE EFFECTS NOW TOO DEEPLY-ROOTED IN THE FOUNDATION OF MOVIE CULTURE. MEANING HULK THINKS OF ALL THE THOUSANDS OF YOUNG KIDS WHO ARE TOTALLY INTO MOVIES AND TRYING TO REPLICATE THEIR FAVORITE ACTION SCENES AT HOME. WHAT ARE THEY TAKING AWAY FROM WHAT THEY’RE SEEING? CHANCES ARE IT’S NOT THE GOOD THINGS.
THIS PROBLEM RAISES A REALLY GOOD QUESTION: IF ACTION IS SO IMPORTANT AND INGRAINED INTO OUR CONSCIOUSNESS… WHY AREN’T ACTION SCENES BETTER?
Most Superhero comics are based around two things: character-based drama and fight scenes. Many even forgo the former for the latter, under the horrible impression that they’re the same thing. This is in part due to the superheroes’ humble origins. The Pulps that most early creators drew on were often simplistic fare. This is certainly not true of all pulps, there has been many a great science-fiction story published in them, but it is true of many. Just look over collections of pulp covers and you’ll see, almost regardless of genre, hideous monsters, masculine men, monstrous foreigners, and scantily-clad women. Often there are more than just one of these components, and they’re fighting. For years superhero comics would conclude their conflicts in a fight, often made more interesting by who was fighting what as opposed to the presentation or storytelling at play.
Now I can hardly claim a definite knowledge of comic-book history, but I think it’s safe to say what the next big change in the comic book fight was the arrival of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Stan Lee’s interest in character drama and Jack Kirby’s interest in explosive mythology were a beautiful combination. Suddenly these inevitable fight scenes were dynamic again. They were firmly grounded in the very human emotions these characters had, and they were exciting and larger than live. Fight scenes (and comics as a whole) quickly evolved to meet this new standard.
The second major development in comic book battles comes from another media, film. With the popularization of action movies came a change in the way comics presented these conflicts. (If you want to read a great article about cinema fight scenes, which conforms to many of the same rules a comic has to, check out this.) With the action movie came a new kind of fight scene, one still popular today. These new scenes had even more of a focus on physicality, on martial arts, on gunplay, and on explosions and their ilk.
Comics (and to be clear this article is about superhero comics, not all comics: assume that’s what I mean when I use the generic term) are built around fight scenes. They are an integral part of the superhero genre, so why are so many of them so bad? It’s a shame, but Sturgeon’s Law seems to hold true over superhero fights. Most of them, even in otherwise excellent comics, are forgetful, uninteresting, unoriginal, or just plain bad. Anyone seeking an in depth exploration of storytelling and action sequences should read this link from before. Some of the technical stuff doesn’t hold true in comic form, but most of the storytelling principles do. I will touch on these concerns throughout the issue, but if you find yourself wanting to know more you should read that article. So- what makes for a good comic book fight scene?