Category: comic book names

Comic Book Names: The Pow Factor!

Guest blogger ALISA GILBERT suggests that there might be some tricks used to name comic book characters that could be applied to making memorable baby names.

Some of the most powerful and memorable names in popular culture are to be found in the pages of comic books.  So could there be some tactics used by their creators that could be used to craft a strong, easily remembered baby name?  Here are a few techniques you might apply:

1.  ADOPT ALLITERATION!

One of the most common comic book tricks to making a name stick in your mind is alliteration, one that works because it inserts a repetitive element into the name, giving it a sing-song quality that makes it easier to remember.  In fact, Stan Lee, the creator of classics like Spider-Man, often used alliteration to name his major human characters (Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Pepper Potts) so that he himself could better remember their names. Not only did he find it relatively easy to recall those characters’ names, but so did his loyal fan base and even people who knew little about comics. After all, even if you don’t know that Spider-Man gained his powers from a radioactive spider bite, chances are you recognize and remember his civilian name: Peter Parker. This is one adaptable technique that would be a way to make your baby’s name a memorable one — using a first name that begins with the same consonant or vowel sound as his last name.

2.  DO DOUBLE FIRST NAMES!

Using two first names to make up a character’s name is another trick that comic book writers use to make a name stick—but obviously  this is one that will only work if you happen to have an accommodating surname.  Unlike first names, many last names are less familiar and therefore less memorable, but by using two names that are familiar as firsts, it’s easy to mash them together to create a full name that is easily recalled. This method is evidenced in many DC Comics characters such as Batman’s Bruce Wayne, the Green Lantern’s Alan Scott and Hal Jordan, and Superman’s Clark Kent. If your baby happen to have a last name that could also double as a first, you are in luck: he will end up with a memorable name as long as you give him a familiar first name.

3. KEEP THE NAMES SHORT!

This is another technique that will only work if your last name cooperates. Comic book character creators usually would keep the first and last names short, with each no longer than two syllables. There are exceptions to this rule, but many of the most memorable comic book names are no more than four syllables in total. This method keeps the name short and snappy, reducing the possibility of mispronunciation and recall error. If your baby will have a long last name, consider giving him or her a shorter first name in order to make the name more memorable. With  a short last name, you have more options, depending on just how much you want to adhere to the comics four-syllable maximum method. (Note: Check the Nameberry message boards for some interesting discussions on ideal syllable rhythm and balance.)

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Blame L’il Abner, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Andy Griffith and even The Simpsons, for the fact that some names have long been stereotyped as aw shucks, rube, hick, hayseed, country bumpkin names.  Well, one of our causes here at nameberry is the slaying of stereotypes, and we think there are names here that are definitely worthy of resuscitation.  Some of them are already making their way back from that cartoony pigeonholing—there have, for example, been starbabies and civilian named Chester, Gus, Homer, Jasper, and certainly lots of Lukes—but they all deserve a second look–I think several of them have a nice, down home, funky appeal.

Not included here are labels like Bubba and combo names like Billy Bob, and we’re sticking with the boys, as the girls’ equivalents tend to be mostly combos like Ellie Mae and Bobby Jo.

ABNER

BARNEY (has other problems related to prehistoric purple)

BO

CAL

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With the possible exception of Jay, no first name has been in more headlines in the past few weeks than Conan.  Which got me to thinking about all the image reversals this name has gone through over the years.  In our first book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, for example, it was listed between Clarabell the Clown and Ebenezer Scrooge as a definite no-no, because of its barbaric associations.

But that in itself was a turnaround from its one-time saintly aura.  The original St. Conan— then pronounced kun-awn– was a zealous 7th century Irish missionary—also known as Mochonna—one of the earliest bishops of the Isle of Man,.  He was followed by a few other minor Irish saints by that name, including St. Conan of Assaroe and St. Conan of Ballinamore.  And in Irish legend, Conán mac Mórna was a member of Finn MacCool’s warrior band.

For centuries the name remained within the confines of Ireland, except for gaining some middle-name recognition via Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who, though born in Scotland, was of Irish heritage and who, as a struggling young doctor, had so few patients that he took to writing stories to make ends meet

Then, in the 1930s, a pulp magazine writer named Robert E. Howard created a wandering barbarian hero who eventually became a Marvel comic book character in 1970.  At first a sword and sorcery hero in a magical world, within a few years he had morphed into the more familiar muscle man materialized by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian.

That remained Conan’s seemingly immutable image until the lanky red-haired O’Brien came on the scene as a writer for Saturday Night Live in 1988, occasionally appearing in sketches.  When he got his own late night show in 1993, suddenly the witty Conan O’Brien became CONAN—a single name celeb—overshadowing his hulkier fictional predecessor.

Despite or because of all this, Conan, unlike such Irish mates as Connor and Colin, has never appeared on the US top thousand.  Is it because of the lingering barbarian association?  I’m curious to know if it’s a name you would ever consider using, and if not why. Do you see it as just another Gaelic possibility or forever tied to one of those two personas?

And what about  the other names on that old  J&J taboo list?   Some of them have managed to escape their stereotypes:  Felix is no longer only a cat or fussbudget, little Lulu a comic strip character, Olive Popeye’s girlfriend, or Oscar still just a grouch. And there are signs of hope for Kermit, Casper, Linus and Grover.

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Cat Names from Alonzo to Zizi

You don’t have to be a cat fancier to appreciate a name with a sleek feline feel.  These cool cat names range from cute kitten names to powerful panthers and tigers, and can be looked at from several points of view: names with cat-related meanings (starring the extended Leo family), cats in books, movies, television—real and animated–and cats named by well-known humans.

First of all, the most obvious:

CALICO

CAT, KAT

KITTY

PUMA

TIGER

Then there are:

NAMES WITH FELINE MEANINGS

ARI, ARIEL, ARIELLA

FALINE

LAVI

LEANDER, LEANDRO

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Rescuing Names from Old Stereotypes

It doesn’t seem fair.  Why have some perfectly good names become permanently tainted by their links to a particular fictional character while others haven’t?  How come Olivia is OK despite her porcine persona, all Oscars aren’t considered grouches, and even Dexter‘s popularity seems to be rising in spite of his avocation on TV as a serial killer, while Jemima and Jethro, Elmo and Eloise remain somewhat stigmatized?  I say let’s take another look at some of these names and see if we can’t get them out of quarantine.

The first place to look is on Sesame Street.  Seems that once a name is tagged to a  fuzzy multi-colored Muppets, it becomes his exclusively.  Here are some reasons why they shouldn’t have to be:

ELMO–A lively O-ending saint’s name, Elmo is the patron saint of sailors, and the legendary St. Elmo‘s fire is a bright glow that sometimes appears on ships during thunderstorms, as well as being the name of a seminal 1980’s Brat Pack film.

GROVER–A fine upstanding Presidential and nature-ish (originally given to someone living near a grove) surname crying out to be considered for its own spunky self.

KERMIT–Enough with the ‘It isn’t easy being green’  froggy references.  Instead think of its relation to the well-liked Dermot, Kermit evolving from the Irish surname MacDermot, or son of Dermot.   And Teddy Roosevelt used it for his son

And a couple of others with kiddie references:

ELOISELong associated with the imperious little 6-year-old who ruled the Plaza Hotel, Eloise is the most likely on this list to redeem herself, what with the growing popularity of similar names like Eloisa and Elodie.

LINUS–No, using this name does not condemn your baby boy to clinging to his security blanket for life a la the Peanuts character.  Linus has considerable grown-up charm and some interesting associations: in Greek mythology he was the inventor of rhythm and melody who taught music to Hercules, and a distinguished modern namesake is Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel prizes.  And, believe it or not, cinema characters named Linus have been  played by Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Matt Damon and Harrison Ford.

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