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I came up with an idea for some fanfic in the DC/Superman universe. I'm not going to use the name of any DC characters, just allude to them to try to stave off any legal issues, and I don't plan on selling the stories anyway. But that's not the question.

My character is a second or third tier super hero. He has a bunch of super abilities similar to Superman, but nowhere near the strength or stamina. He can fly, but only a couple of miles. He can see through some things, but not very well and not through any metal. He also has a few abilities Superman doesn't have, so not a straight ripoff.

Part of the story will be about how he fights crime in his small-ish town of 200k-300k people, but generally stays within 100 miles of home, not doing anything international or even national. This is also his full-time job, so he only uses his real identity when he wants to relax or otherwise be incognito. The other part of the story is about how he is a bit of a screwup, as he's still learning his powers, what their limits are, and how to expand them. It's intended as a comedy, rather than a serious "superhero" story, if that makes any difference.

I'm trying to figure out how he pays rent, buys and fixes his "uniform" (it's not costume, pfft), and feeds himself without being rich. He grew up middle class and I don't want any financial windfall to "deus ex machina" his modest lifestyle. I also don't want him eating ramen all the time. He's not a genius, he graduated high school normally, and went to some college, but decided it wasn't for him as he couldn't focus on schooling while learning of and about the new powers he got the day after he graduated high school.

I've considered bounties for the criminals he brings in, but first time thieves and murderers aren't going to have a bounty. And he isn't the type to go after deadbeat parents, either. I doubt a small time vigilante would be able to land a deal with the local police department, and I don't want him to be a cop, either. "Private eye" is so over done, it's not even funny. Again, "super hero" is his one and only gig.

Rewards are good, but not everyone gives a reward, and he's not going to be sniffing around for a lost pooch, either. I could go with a semi-rich, private backer, but there's a lot of strings to that. Maybe I can play those strings into plot points, but I'd rather my hero be independent.

He's also not the mafia, requiring protection money from the city or individuals. I don't have any plans for a local "super friends" kind of thing, but even if I did go that route, it would have to be internally funded through legal means and one of them not "just happening" to be rich.

So what other ways can my hero support himself by catching bad guys, and without skimming some off the top of what he returns or protects?

In other words, how can this guy be a superhero without some other full time employment supporting his crime fighting efforts?

Edits:
I forgot to mention that I don't want him to be like Captain Amazing in the Mystery Men, who has NASCAR-esque patches on his outfit. Besides, he's a bit too small-time and local to get any real sponsors. Ok, so maybe local sponsors, rather than Pepsi, like Lance Hunt lost, but it's a bit too commercial for my/his taste. Then again, it might be funny to have "Bob's Bass and Tackle Shop" as a sponsor.

Also, my hero isn't impervious to pain or injury. He can get burned, broken bones, bleed, feel pain/cold/heat/, and more, just at a higher threshold than a normal human, but not at a Superman level. He also gets tired and needs to eat. He might be able to carry a grand piano up 5 flights of stairs by himself, but he'll also need a drink of water, eat a snack, and take a 5 minute rest before doing anything else. He can carry someone with him during a flight, but only for short hops.

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    $\begingroup$ (1) When speaking of clothes, uniform is short for "uniform dress", meaning that all the soldiers of a regiment, all the cleaning-maids of a hotel, all the police people of a town and so on are dressed alike. A one-of-a-kind costume worn by a specific person is not a uniform. (2) Why doesn't he take an honest job? Butcher, baker, candlestick maker, tinker, tailor, web developer... Or with his talent to see through clothes he could be a talent spotter for modelling agencies, or top-notch bodyguard etc. And VTC because the question is about the actions of character, not about the world. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 4, 2022 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP, my hero thinks the word costume is a little too cliche and wants to legitimize himself. Does Superman consider his outfit as a costume? "Honest job", really? That's so politicized it's not even funny. Many people IRL don't believe web dev or any IT as an "honest job". Some don't think being a LEO is an honest job, since they pretend they are all "on the take". Besides, he's become obsessed with crime fighting since he got his powers. He can't think of doing anything else. And preventing crime isn't just a "nights and weekends" kind of thing. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ "This is also his full-time job" - this is a bit of a problem. Traditional superheroes have alternate identities that have "daytime jobs" (which pay money). Alternatively, they are independently wealthy (or at least well-provided). Can this superhero have a real job (or trade) that does not require full time employment? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Feb 4, 2022 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ What could possibly be a better answer than having "Bob's Bass and Tackle" as a sponsor? I think it makes even more sense if he is stopping criminals from robbing these local stores as well. I think your idea of local sponsors is super interesting and I'd actually read a story about that. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @John the OP states that "he can fly, but only a couple of miles". so i doubt it. not to mention it'd also depend on how far he can carry (potentially) heavy loads while flying $\endgroup$
    – somebody
    Feb 5, 2022 at 8:46

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Social networks AND a fundraiser

He is a real dream of golden-era comics - a superhero accountable to the public. He wears an action cam when fighting crime, and uploads the records to YouTube. He is getting views (and is paid for that) and he explicitly asks for donations. It would be an interesting balancing act to keep his act public, but his real identity secret. To suffer the trolls online and not to give in to unethical proposals for quick cash.

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    $\begingroup$ This is similar to another answer, but I think it's a different enough of an angle to work as it's own answer. I can definitely see some comedic aspects of this. "Did you just shoot my webcam? Cr@p, my sponsors aren't going to like that." I'm wondering how annoying it would be for my hero to end each fight with "Don't forget to like and subscribe! And you can also donate to my Venmo account." Lol. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ worth noting that depending on target audience, potentially a large proportion of their profit could come from merchandise sales $\endgroup$
    – somebody
    Feb 5, 2022 at 8:47
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Youtube/Instagram/tik tok

-Everyone will think what your superhero does is a stunt/CGI/act.

-Sponsor money, Adverts money, Funneling clients (sell superhero programs like training routines and all that stuff, plenty of people on youtube already sell training routines to look like superheros or skin routines to look like disney princesses)

-A surgeon posting videos on youtube can easily make more money than a surgeon who does actual surgery on people, 10'000 dollars a month is a low end growing youtuber with good marketing but not a big following, can easily get to 200'000$ a month for medium-big youtubers.

-Pay a good video editor and your superhero will only need to work on his youtube career 3-4 hours per week, the editors will take care of the rest.

-Youtube can be anonymous, no one forces you to show your face and you can wear a superhero mask.

this is an estimate of how much an youtuber like Shadiversity makes in a month from video advertisments alone, an upper end of 13k. With sponsorships and book sales and other merch, plus the patreons and other form of donations someone like that can easily get around 15k to 20k a month with very little work.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ I forgot to mention that I didn't want him to be like Captain Amazing in the Mystery Men, who has NASCAR-esque patches on his outfit, but it's a good idea. Making money off YouTube and other social media seems a little "sell out"-ish, but still a good suggestion. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ It's still a good idea, but you severely underestimate how much work it takes to make a good video. I have a YouTube channel, but I rarely post the videos I made, because it takes so much time to do even what little editing I do. I'd rather be "doing the thing" than editing the video of me doing that thing. ;-) Hiring someone else to do the video editing is a good idea, but then you need to raise twice the funding. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @computercarguy you can find professional editors, actual pros with a high end job that just need a lil bit more money on the side on Fivver, they can edit videos for as little as 150$ per hour. $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Feb 4, 2022 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ I'm paid pretty well as a software dev, but I make less than a third of that an hour. And making a good video with multiple camera angles, clear audio during fights, and more is going to take more than a couple hours worth of editing. Maybe he could higher someone on Fiverr.com for $10-20 an hour. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @computercarguy I guess it's a return on investment thing, the more money one makes the more they should invest in the thing that makes them the money.. look at YouTubers like MrBeast who invest back about 70-90% of all the money they make from videos, and they end up in the green most of the time. Some videos flop but at the end of the month they always make more than they spend. $\endgroup$
    – user89947
    Feb 4, 2022 at 23:06
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He works construction.

And he is with the union, who is very happy to have him. His super powers make him a huge asset especially with certain types of demolition jobs - he is very durable and the jobs are less dangerous for him, and certain types of job are a good fit for his powers.

The union limits how much he does because they want the regular workers to get some work. That is fine with him. Also the fact that he is with the union means that job sites that want him must use all union for their other jobs.

But it is a good gig for him and also great for the union and the workers they represent. The bosses like him because he keeps the union relevant. The workers like him because besides doing the dangerous stuff, several times he has saved people on job sites and one time got pretty messed up doing it. Plus he is a good guy and not full of himself.


This would be good for your story too because his regular gig is construction. He is there every day and he has his buds that he talks with at lunch. His friends from work sometimes help out with his crime fighting.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer for someone else, but I specifically said '"super hero" is his one and only gig.' I like the idea, though, so I'm not going to DV. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Right; I got that. The union sends him for dangerous demolitions, moving big stuck things and other super hero type jobs, and they pay. Is it less super if he is helping a construction crew and there are no crimes? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Feb 4, 2022 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ I like the thought, but I'm not sold yet. Yes, it's being "super" to help out like that, but not "hero". And if he's moving construction equipment around, then he's not preventing the convenience store across town from being robbed at gun point. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ @computercarguy Arguably, doing a dangerous job that could kill several people is more heroic than preventing a mugging. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Feb 5, 2022 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ really a superhero is mostly useless in a small town, there is not enough crime to keep them occupied and much of the crime there is is not something you need or would even want a superhero for. so he will need something else to do much of the time anyway. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 5, 2022 at 2:18
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Deliver Boy:

This guy does a food delivery service, one where he can pick up orders anytime he's free and drop off food. If he can fly, he makes record time and bypasses all the traffic to pop over to the next delivery house. If you want him to use his fame, he can have his OWN service (since it's local) and people can have the privilege of getting their delivery from the local superhero.

Personal appearances:

Timmy's having a birthday this week, and Timmy's dad promised Timmy he'd have a real live superhero at the party. Certain wealthy women might want to be seen dating a superhero to bolster their ego or intimidate an ex-husband. And who can forget the local steel mill who has an annual picnic with a prize for the strongest man to bend a bar (it's not like a bigger superhero is going to show up).

Besides, there's always the fun when a local drug lord or highjacking crew decides to hire the hero to lure him into a trap. I suggest getting the money in advance and having a firm cancellation policy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your order delivered to your door under 3 minutes or it's free. That's great!!! $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2022 at 4:58
  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer for someone else, but I specifically said '"super hero" is his one and only gig.' I like the ideas, though, so I'm not going to DV. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2022 at 16:14
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There are a bunch of superhero compliant ways to earn money on the job.

Corporate sponsors.

Crime sells, and lots of corporations would love to sponsor someone who goes to crimes, says some pithy statements, and beats up bad guys. If you're reasonably good you could go for more ethical sponsors aligned with your goals, like a home security one, and you could advise people on how to secure their homes against supervillains.

Security

Supervillains know that the best way to get lots of cash is to attack rich people, so you could certainly get jobs protecting rich people from supervillains. This gives you political influence as well to fight crime. Flying some rich person from place to place and giving a speech about how crime is bad and people need to fund the police more and end poverty is pretty superheroy.

Donations

They could set up a patreon or a gofundme page to help pay for their superheroing, and collect donations. People are often willing to pay to fund their heroes.

Taking criminal's stuff

Criminals have lots of money. The superhero can beat up drug dealers and take their cash for their own uses.

Ask people for cash

If they're stopping supervillains from doing millions or billions of dollars of damage they can just ask people for cash. Go to community centres after big attacks like churches, town hall meetings, whatever and just say you need a couple thousand to repair your costume and equipment. People aren't stupid. They can pull together to get a couple thousand if it means a supervillain not destroying their city.

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  • $\begingroup$ Stealing from a criminal is still stealing. It's also preventing the proper owner from reclaiming their lost items, even if it is cash. And asking people for cash at "churches, town hall meetings, whatever" is very much like asking for protection money. I specifically said my hero wasn't going to do that, as he isn't the mafia. There's still some good ideas here, so no DV from me. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ Superman has halls of trophies from supervillains, and supervillains don't have to steal all their stuff. So, superman is fine with stealing from criminals. Protection money is controversial because the protection is based off whether you pay or not. They don't have to predicate their protection on if people pay or not. They can just ask people for cash. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Feb 4, 2022 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ When asking for cash like that, especially around a significant event like a super fight, then the "pay for protection" is implied. It's not the same premise as busking, where someone performs an act and expects a handful of change afterwards. And stealing is still stealing. A car, TV, yacht, mink coat, or whatever bought with stolen money is still something that can be sold to recoup the loss to the victim. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Have you been to churches? I've seen police officers ask for support and donations for injuries there. It's not generally seen as paying for protection. People recognize that cops (and superheroes) can ask for support from others. Your hero is free to be more ethical than superman, but you should add that to my question. I was writing it based on him being as ethical as superman. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Feb 4, 2022 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ The difference is that cops are the legal form of protection that get money from taxes and fines. What they ask for is a supplement to that or specifically to go to an injured officer's family to help with expenses during a hospitalization. A superhero is a vigilante working outside the law. Superman is a very ethical person, yet he's still breaking the law, even though he usually isn't portrayed that way. But Batman is and so are many other supers. I haven't had enough time to think about ethics, but my hero is human who had a series of accidents to make him this way. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 23:36
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Many jobs

Q: "I'm trying to figure out how he pays rent, buys and fixes his "uniform" (it's not costume, pfft), and feeds himself without being rich"

Artist and stunt man in low budget movies

One property superheroes have: they are handsome. Your superman will have roles in movies, the real thing instead of special effects allows for a low budget production.

Security

Trivial. People with superpowers would have a great career serving as police, work for private security companies, or detective agencies.

Museum guard

Superman would do great in museums of modern art, to protect the modern artworks from vandalism. Superman is very quick !

Kryptonite dealer

Little known fact: Kryptonite is a fantastic hair growing formula. Superman knows where to find unlimited amounts. He can put advertisements and make money treating e.g. Bezos.

Power pylon repair man

Superman can do some jobs quicker and with little effort. The electricity won't matter, it does not have to be switched off while Superman does the repair.

Cleaning windows on skyscrapers

For Supermen, cleaning sky scraper windows this is peanuts, of course.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer for someone else, but I specifically said '"super hero" is his one and only gig.' My hero isn't Superman, so isn't as perfect or handsome. He also likes Superman and looks up to him as a role model, so wouldn't want kryptonite around to slowly kill off his hero. I didn't specify healing powers or the ability to feel pain, but he's not entirely impervious to pain or injury, so the electricity would still need to be turned off on a high voltage power line for my guy to work on it. I like your ideas, though, so no DV from me. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ Actually It would not need to be turned off, they mostly don't turn it off, they just work from helicopter, he won't need the helicopter. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 5, 2022 at 2:14

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