Tom Brevoort’s blog: http://marvel.com/blogs/Tom_Brevoort/entry/1674.Emotional_Truth
He mentions an “emotional hook.”
The hook is what brings people into the story. Usually it’s a plot device. Here, he’s using emotion instead. How quickly we forget that.
Or, like someone said in “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” “I don’t care if he’s a god-damned wolverine, what’s his reason?” (Paraphrasing how they were trying to find the motivation for their character, and how the motivation was more important than gimmicks like costumes or gadgets.)
I often look for a hook in one of my stories. Something that it has that nothing else does. However, this could be taken as a gimmick, too. And a gimmick isn’t nearly as strong as an emotional hook.
What’s the difference?
A gimmick is meta. High concept. You can throw “post-modern” or any other 3-cent words into the mix to try to class it up. “These are realistic super heroes, deconstructed in a modern setting.” Very self-aware. They work on the conventions of comic books rather than within them. You don’t have to even like the character. You just have to like the concept.
Emotional hooks involve a choice. There’s a character you like. And he’s going to make decisions, and they might not always be the right one.
This isn’t to say that a story can’t be both. High concept with emotion. That’s probably key. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.
It’s probably true that the gimmick is more of an initial draw, but the emotional hook is what keeps readers around. Your book has to promise something different than what’s already out there-that’s the gimmick. But after you read the first issue, there has to be something emotional there to make you want to read the next few.