Peter Parker. Scott Summers. Daniel Dreiberg. Clark Kent. Lois Lane. Lex Luthor. Bruce Banner. What’s with all the alliterative names in comic books?
Quick English lesson – alliteration is what happens when two or more words are strung together (or closely strung together) that begin with the same consonant sound, though not necessarily the same letter. Take Clark Kent for example. The repetition of sounds is very comforting. It’s easy on the brain, on the tongue, to the ears. We humans are attuned to like alliteration in moderation.
Now back to comic books, why so many alliterative names?
While not the origin of the trend, Stan Lee made it famous (or infamous?) He admitted in an interview with Kevin Smith that he had a very poor memory for keeping all his character’s names straight. Alliteration has long been used as a mnemonic device for memory.
via Comic Book Resources. “It would be hard for you to believe this, because I seem so perfect: I have the worst memory in the world,” Stan said. “So I finally figured out, if I could give somebody a name, where the last name and the first name begin with the same letter, like Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Matt Murdock, then if I could remember one name, it gave me a clue what the other one was, I knew it would begin with the same letter.”
Somewhere along the way the rest of the comic book world took hold of this device and now it is so commonplace that people who’ve never read a comic in their life can tell you Superman or Spiderman’s secret identity, even if they couldn’t tell you how they remember something they’ve probably only heard once in their life.
However, like all good things, it must be used in moderation or the device fails and unless you’re Stan Lee, you can’t repeat sounds for different names or it won’t work.
In my current manuscript I have a news anchor that comes up on occasion, Dina Delaney, and one minor hero character named Falon Fatone.
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