I've written but not posted about five different blog posts weighing the pros and cons of using licensed universes for superhero RPG's, but I realized each time that the article's content was so obvious that it didn't really need to clutter the blogosphere (short version: licensed universes are familiar to players, yet difficult to shoehorn new PC's into).
My deliberation back and forth had me to the point where I wondered if I should even more forward on running a Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game when I had a bit of brainwave (no pun intended) thanks to the good people at DC Comics, namely Earth 2.
For those who don't know, as part of the wholly loathsome "52" quasi-reboot/retcon/fiendish-plan-to-alienate-readers. DC Comics started from scratch with their characters, but then promptly created an alternative universe in order to continue to milk money from people like me who liked the Justice Society of America. Hence, Earth 2.
The basic plot is that the three greatest heroes of Earth: the ersatz Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are all killed during an invasion of Parademons from Apokolips. There are a handful of other heroes (Supergirl and Batman's daughter Helena, aka "Robin," who got knocked over to the main universe to become Power Girl and the Huntress) but no one of serious note. Five years later, new heroes begin to appear: the Jay Garrick Flash, Hawkgirl, the Atom, and the Alan Scott Green Lantern. Side note: DC Comcis decided to make the new Scott Green Lantern a homosexual, beating Marvel for "least important character possible coming out of the closet" and even making their gay superhero in another dimension, lest his gayness infect the mainstream universe. Dorks.
Like so much of the 52 reboot, I am sorely disappointed, especially because of the weird way that most of the superheroes in Earth 2 have to wear bicycle helmets for some reason. Possibly because in Earth 2 they have stricter OSHA standards. But, BUT...!
I like the idea of a "new generation of heroes" as the groundwork for a superhero campaign, especially if I can make it one that straddles the two universes of DC Comics and Marvel Comics, making my universe have faint "echoes" of those universes. Think the Amalgam Universe from a few years ago, with the serial numbers filed off.
I also like the idea of having a trio of fairly iconic-style heroes dying, then leaving a huge gap in the world for new heroes to emerge. My trio will be largely figures of mystery, with the public knowing very little about them aside from their heroic identities. That way player PC's can make up their own connections to the heroes (e.g. the Huntress to the Earth 2 Batman) or use them for future plotlines.
For villains, I'm going to assume that most villains were, until five years ago, either captured by the original trio, killed during the invasion fighting for Earth, or off the radar. That way I can introduce villains without working too much about backstory, but maybe allowing PC's to use some "transition scene" time to research their opponents.
More later, comments welcome.