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  • Superhero Literature

    We did some discussing of this here, but I figured I'd open a topic here.

    I'm about halfway through Hero Worship. It's good, but definitely a deconstruction. It could be described as a slightly less exaggerated version of Garth Ennis's The Boys with superpowered individuals being all too human, and often corrupted by power. The idea that certain powers would be designated as undesirable to the point where people were banned from using them kind of makes sense, as does the actual reasoning behind "dirties", of which our protagonist is one. After that, the next planned book is Tinker which I've heard variously described as urban fantasy, an excellent example of what a comicbook supergenius might be like, and just quite fun.
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  • #2
    Re: Superhero Literature

    Ooh, thanks, Fuzzy, I just ordered the book. I was looking for something new to read and this gets great reviews!

    Linky: Hero Worship
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    • #3
      Re: Superhero Literature

      I finished Hero Worship. It was good. Much less cartoonish than The Boys as it turns out, with a hook for the next book.
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      • #4
        Re: Superhero Literature

        Huh. I'm enjoying Tinker, but it's definitely not superhero fiction, much more of an urban fantasy thing.
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        • #5
          Re: Superhero Literature

          Originally posted by FuzzyBoots View Post
          Huh. I'm enjoying Tinker, but it's definitely not superhero fiction, much more of an urban fantasy thing.
          I've always been baffled to why people think those two are the same genre. The amount of urban fantasy books being marketed as "super hero" novels is astounding. The two genres have nothing in common.
          “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

          -Doctor Who

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          • #6
            Re: Superhero Literature

            Originally posted by saint_matthew View Post
            I've always been baffled to why people think those two are the same genre. The amount of urban fantasy books being marketed as "super hero" novels is astounding. The two genres have nothing in common.
            Well, except for the whole thing where there are heroes with a secret that must be kept from the world, using special abilities beyond those of ordinary men and women to battle evil and protect innocent people from harm. There's more than enough of a blurred line between them, especially when you consider that many of the best urban fantasy characters are in fact superhero characters who've been members of the Avengers or Justice League. Doctor Strange and Zatanna, for instance.

            The way I view it is that most urban fantasy stuff is self conscious superhero stuff that hasn't yet learned to stop worrying and love the spandex.

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            • #7
              Re: Superhero Literature

              Originally posted by Narsil View Post
              Well, except for the whole thing where there are heroes with a secret that must be kept from the world, using special abilities beyond those of ordinary men and women to battle evil and protect innocent people from harm.
              Except that is rarely ever the case in urban fantasy. Usually it just one predatory species in-fighting against a different predatory species, or a different ideological version of the same predator species. Its rarely if ever to protect the innocent people from harm, that's usually purely accidental to ones own purposes.

              Originally posted by Narsil View Post
              There's more than enough of a blurred line between them, especially when you consider that many of the best urban fantasy characters are in fact superhero characters who've been members of the Avengers or Justice League. Doctor Strange and Zatanna, for instance.
              I think you may be mistaking magical for urban fantasy: One is a power source, the other is a genre of fiction. Doctor Strange and Zatanna are magical, not urban fantasy, with the exception of Justice League Dark, which is Urban Fantasy, but IS NOT super-heroes.

              I mean take books like The Angel Experiment: A Maximum Ride Novel. This book was billed as a superhero book, but it really is just human angels versus werewolves in new York city, there's nothing super-heroish about it. Or Mist, which also was just norse mythology running around San Fran. Or the "Wearing the Cape" series of novels, which was just vampire in-fighting, in which strangely NO ONE wears a cape.

              I'm sure many of these books may be decent, but if your selling point is "this is superheroes" & then I read it, only to find it contains no superheroes at all, then you have lied to me about the contents of this book. Its like if I sold you a hard boiled detective novel & told you it was a wild west novel.... An I then justified it by saying that its the same thing because both contained people with guns, who bring criminals to justice. This might be true, but we both know a hard boiled detective novel is not a wild west novel.

              Urban fantasy =/= Superhero.

              Yes you can have a superhero who is a mythical creature, but that doesn't mean that urban fantasy is super heroes.... In the same way that all thumbs are finger, that doesn't mean my fingers are now thumbs.

              Please fiction, stop lying to me: If you are not about superheroes, stop telling me you are about superheroes.... Because if I read you & find out that you contain no superheroes I AM going to review you negatively on goodreads & amazon.
              Last edited by saint_matthew; 06-11-2014, 09:27 PM.
              “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

              -Doctor Who

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              • #8
                Re: Superhero Literature

                There's a lot of superhero literature on the indie market, almost none on the mainstream. Believe me, I explored this A LOT when I was writing my superhero novel.

                If you want the few gems which exist, here you go.

                Ex-Heroes
                by Peter Clines: Superheroes vs. Zombies in a Land of the Dead style situation. The superheroes are analogs of Batman, Superman, the Flash (only with electricity), and Iron Man but all are very distinct with different mixtures of personalities as well as genders/races. Now 4 books. REALLY well-written and funny too.

                Sad Wings of Destiny by Thom Brannan: Batman meets Tony Stark decides to fix all of the world's problems with superhumans. It backfires. Badly.

                Wearing the Cape: Randomly in 2001, the world suddenly developed superpowers. Superheroes emerged. This is about Astra who develops powers similar to Supergirl, making her the strongest superhero in the world potentially. Probably the straightest example of good superhero literature out there and a very-well defined mythos.

                Confessions of a D-List Supervillain: Somewhat flawed due to being a Freshman effort, the book is still extremely funny. A guy who is more or less the Beetle before he joined the Thunderbolts (i.e. a armored supervillain who SUCKS at it and is a giant joke) is the only guy in the world free from another supervillain's mind-control plot due to sealing himself up in his bunker to try and build a better suit.

                If you want to find more superhero novels, look under "Capepunk"
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                • #9
                  Re: Superhero Literature

                  Originally posted by Charles Phipps View Post
                  There's a lot of superhero literature on the indie market, almost none on the mainstream. Believe me, I explored this A LOT when I was writing my superhero novel.
                  While I'm not writing, I too have read to much of the self published dros in this genre & unfortunately a lot of it is in fact dros. Even the few mainstream releases have been pretty terrible & I think much of it is the constantly repeated fiction short cuts, that show up in wannabe super hero novels a lot that kind of misses the point of the genre.

                  The origin story: If you waste 90% of your book getting to the point where there is a superhero in your book, that's potentially 200+ pages of not being a superhero your reader has just been dragged through. Where as if you skimp on the origin in an origin story it just feels rushed.... The best bet is to not start your novel with the origin story, the origin story is your book 3 story.... Its the story you allude to in the first 2 books but don't go into detail with, instead teasing your readers with its details. Its not until book 3 when something connected to it shows up do you use flash backs to tell that story, as part of a larger story.

                  Always the first or last superhero: This is one that shows up in an overwhelming majority of these novels. Either the character is the first ever, or the last, or the first new superhero after a disaster that killed off the other super heroes. When I read about a superhero, I kinda want to be reading about a superhero in a superhero universe otherwise what's the point. I want to know more about the larger world, I want to be enchanted by an entirely new universe & I want the larger world an its characters not to be a thin pastiche of Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman, I want the book to woo me with its voluptuous full bodied details.

                  All one origin: This always baffles me. Why would anyone make every super being in a universe all come from the same origin. Multi-origins is one of superhero fictions greatest features. I can understand it if you are trying to tell a very specific story, but most of the time its just author laziness.

                  Superheroes should be an aspect of the universe, not the universe itself: If the universe is not recognisable from the stand point of a normal person you have an uphill battle. Or as Robert Heinlein use to be fond of telling wannabe authors, when writing science fiction the science is not as important as the people. The more outlandish & unsustainable the universe, the harder the sell & the faster it falls apart.

                  Take off that damn costume: your hero must have a life outside of the cape and cowl, or a life in the cape and cowl that crosses over: Love interests, on-going desired outcomes, a supporting cast of interest people. All the things REAL novels have.

                  The thing is that the existence of comic book tie in novels pretty clearly demonstrates that superhero novels can exist without doing any of these things, so really all it boils down to is that no one has done anything with the genre to a sufficient level of technical quality that its become a hit. You are right in some of the other things you've said on this topic, that the genre is just waiting to blow up big, but it takes that first hit book to be popular enough to appeal to adults. The second you get a Janet Evanovich, or Sue Grafton level of novel success & possibly a movie (4 books into the series), suddenly everyone will be attempting to ride its coat tails, or coat TALES I suppose in this case.

                  But until then its just silly kiddy novels of poor quality or worse yet, poorly written porn novels (don't get me wrong I have no problem with adult material, just not poorly written porn material), with a few one off novels like "soon I will be invincible" & yes the "Ex heroes" series of novels (all of which I own), that exist as mocking counter points to the trashy novels.

                  Its only a matter of time.
                  “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

                  -Doctor Who

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                  • #10
                    Re: Superhero Literature

                    Ah... I think I got the recommendation for Tinker from a general book recommendation thread on a forum dedicated to superhero fiction, so the confusion was all mine. I've downloaded the sample for Playing for Keeps, which got good recommendations from the guy who does the Grrl Power webcomic for versatile use of powers. I'll let you guys know what I wind up with from that. Anyone else read it?
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                    • #11
                      Re: Superhero Literature

                      Originally posted by FuzzyBoots View Post
                      I've downloaded the sample for Playing for Keeps, which got good recommendations from the guy who does the Grrl Power webcomic for versatile use of powers. I'll let you guys know what I wind up with from that. Anyone else read it?
                      Unfortunately yes. Its plot without spoilers has been summed up thusly by some reviewers; "run to the bar, reach the bar, run to the street, reach the street, expository monologue, run to the bar, reach the bar, expository monologue, run to the street, reach the street, expository monologue."

                      Now just to make sure you haven't done something silly like purchase this book, you are aware that it is available in its original podcast format free at http://podiobooks.com/title/playing-for-keeps/
                      “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

                      -Doctor Who

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                      • #12
                        Re: Superhero Literature

                        I've got the trials of renegade x on the way.... Not very adult fair know, but the first one was good enough to make it to my private library.
                        “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

                        -Doctor Who

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                        • #13
                          Re: Superhero Literature

                          While I'm not writing, I too have read to much of the self published dros in this genre & unfortunately a lot of it is in fact dros. Even the few mainstream releases have been pretty terrible & I think much of it is the constantly repeated fiction short cuts, that show up in wannabe super hero novels a lot that kind of misses the point of the genre.
                          I agree, though, to be fair, some of those can work quite well.
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                          • #14
                            Re: Superhero Literature

                            I believe "dross" is the word you are looking for, saint_matthew. As regards Playing for Keeps, thank you for the link. I'm a few chapters in. The occasional bumper music is a bit annoying, but I'm enjoying the story. I would agree that it's not superhero literature per se. The characters aren't really heroic, merely bystanders who are getting pulled in. I see parallels between this and the genre of espionage/mystery fiction where an ordinary bloke gets pulled in and is focusing more on surviving than on some grand gesture.
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                            • #15
                              Re: Superhero Literature

                              I listened to the podcast of "Playing for Keeps" a few years back.

                              It wasn't really a superhero story as much as it felt like they were bystanders with unique but limited powers.
                              My favorite parts were actually the points where they were thinking up ways to use these powers in new ways.

                              Sadly my biggest problem with the series is that the end seems somewhat abrupt. There is a large amount of unresolved plots that are just kind of shrugged off. It really seemed like it was the end of "part 1" and not then end of the entire story.

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