TROPES in Malaak

"Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations." They can involve characters, locations, plotlines, and so on. Tropes are not clichés: rather, clichés are tropes that have become dull and trite through overuse. Except for a few one wants to avoid, tropes are not intrinsically good or bad, and every story has at least a few. The following examines Malaak through some of the tropes specific to comic books and the superhero genre (for the complete list, see
Note: this essay is for the benefit of Comics Theory afficionados, and may contain spoilers

If you're familiar with the TVtropes wiki you can contribute to Malaak's page on the site itself!

The trope names below are linked to the full articles on, which contain many user-added examples. If you'll take my advice, though, don't click any before you're done with this page. Every time I wander into, I only emerge 3 days later (I wish I were kidding.)

Brought To You By The Letter S

Superheroes, especially earlier ones, have a tendency to adorn their uniform with single letters of the alphabet (cf. Superman, Captain America, Aquaman, Green Arrow...)

In Malaak's case: Averted. Not only does Malaak not have a chest insignia she doesn't even have a code name until well into the story (people start referring to her as the Guardian in vol. 2). Realistically, I didn't see her giving herself such a name or need to come up with one. If the mysterious helper was successful and was noticed by the public, it is the latter that would find a way to refer to their hero.

Comes Great Responsibility

Classic superheroes maintain high moral standards that essentially stop them from abusing their powers (it also helps with the plot-writing when a character would otherwise be too powerful to be threatened by anything.) The definition of "abuse" varies.

In Malaak's case: Malaak destroys Jinn without a second thought but does not harm human fighters, explaining that "their retribution will not be through me." The twist is that these human fighters, not knowing that their leaders are JInn, have no way of knowing this. As far as they're concerned, the Guardian will blast them to oblivion if she gets a chance, so they are terrified of her – for now.

Fictional document

A fictional world often has its own set of newspapers, TV channels etc, which may or may not be derivatives or spoofs of real-life media

In Malaak's case: In part 2 we see a collage of fictional newspapers, all of which are subversions of real Lebanese newspapers.

Impossibly Cool Clothes

For some reason (actually, it's called Fan Service), heroes and particularly heroines always seem to wear clothes that are super-flattering, if not downright revealing, at the expense of practicality, comfort and common sense. Tops that should logically expel bosoms at the slightest movement, skirts that one wouldn't dare walk in let alone high-kick a villain in, shirts that look painted on rippling pectorals, and never mind wearing underpants over one's clothing. All these super-costumes also seem unstainable and unrippable, unless something really dramatic is going on.

In Malaak's case: Lampshaded! Her superhero outfit was designed and made by a man (Adrian), which of course explains everything. But, in the interest of drama (and my sanity when coloring), I do keep the suit largely clean and undamaged unless she's in big trouble.

Marked Change

A visual indication that somebody has activated their superpowers or hidden potential: physical transformation, glowing (especially the eyes), or the like.

In Malaak's case: Used straight. Malaak's hands glow when she activates her power – but with subtle changes. The size of the glow is indicative of how much energy she's emitting, and her eyes only start to glow when she's thoroughly ticked off. In part 2 she also starts glowing white instead, a phenomenon that has yet to be explained.

Miss Robinson Boy Wonder

Traditionally, male superheroes get younger sidekicks of either gender. Superheroines on the other hand don't get a male sidekick. They don't get a younger one because of the underlying feeling that heterosexual hero-sidekick relationships present a certain ambiguity that was not acceptable between a woman and younger man or boy (bearing in mind that superhero comics developed in American society at its most uptight and hypocritical period) and they don't get an older one because subordinating a man to a younger woman is presumably more than the male readership could stomach (it only works if he's also a love interest, to balance things out. I'm not making this up.)

In Malaak's case: Subverted. While not strictly a sidekick, Malaak's helper is both male and older, without being a love interest nor "subordinated".

Photographic Background

"For a lot of artists, the amount of detail on characters is seemingly proportional to the amount of detail in the background. Assuming your artist loves his detail, but actually has to get the book out before the end of the month, some will actually use filters on actual photographs or prepared backgrounds. But these don't always mesh well, creating the paper equivalent of Conspicuous CG."

In Malaak's case: Used successfully, I dare say, for the purpose of conveying the reality of the setting and of the effects of war.

Puberty Superpower

More often than not, superpowers are only acquired at puberty. Though this tradition began in the genre with the creation of the X-men, it ties in with coming-of-age myths and rituals since the dawn of time. These powers reveal themselves fully formed and the subjects seem to instinctively know how to use them.

In Malaak's case: Malaak's coming of age in the human world corresponds to the activation of her formerly dormant powers by the Hippocampus she encounters on the way. The trope is subverted in that this activation in no way makes them fully operational: she has to work hard to understand them, develop them and access deeply hidden self-knowledge.

Rich Idiot With No Day Job

Superheroes who wish to keep their identity secret often pose as someone that nobody would imagine to have a double life fighting crime and saving the world. Superman poses as awkward Clark Kent, and Bruce Wayne pretends to be a brainless playboy.

In Malaak's case: Partially used. To her classmates, Malaak poses as an introverted and timorous girl that stays home after dark for fear of militias and shelling. This gives her an alibi to be unavailable after school so she can patrol the streets at night. It also gives her a good excuse to take up martial art classes, officially as "an effort to gain self-confidence." She is however of simple means, still sponsored by the orphanage and living accordingly: state university, student "foyer" and going about mostly on foot.When you think about it, the best Secret Identity a superhero can have is that of the Rich Idiot With No Day Job. Plenty of time to devote to smiting evil, plenty of money to spend on wonderful toys -- and if anybody becomes suspicious about these advantages, they'll be forced to admit that you're such a feckless layabout you couldn't possibly be Scaryanimalman.

Secret Identity

For one reason or another, a superhero develops a secondary persona so that his private life is not associated with his public exploits. This can go in either direction: in Superman's case, Clark Kent is the second persona, while Batman' is the mask developed by Bruce Wayne.

In Malaak's case: It's Adrian that points out to Malaak the necessity to keep her identity secret so that her prey doesn't come after her or those near her, and who designs a suit to "make them shake in their boots."

Secret Keeper

Someone around the main character will know his or her secret and help him/her keep it a secret from both friends and enemies.

In Malaak's case: Adrian alone knows Malaak's secret after happening on her vaporizing two Jinns... and it turns out he has a secret as well, which he confides in her as a matter of making them even.

Slave To PR

Reputation is everything, to heroes and villains alike. Heroes have to be good at all times lest they lose the public's trust, and villains have to be consistently ruthless so their minions or partners won't think they've gone soft.

In Malaak's case: Reversed. Colonel Ibrahim and others who have seen her in action, save Adrian, believe "the Guardian" to remorselessly vaporize people. Malaak is forced to accept this reputation because the only way to explain that she would never actually harm a human is to reveal the existence of the Jinn, which would do more harm than good.

Do you have additions to make? I'd love to hear them!