Sunday, April 1, 2018

13 Superhero Novel Recommendations

    Superheroes are a medium that should go hand in hand with books.

    They just don't.

    It's such a visual medium that we innately associate them with comic books, even though they've since gone on to be part of television, movies, and video games. Literature has never really had its superhero success, however. The closest thing it had was the 30s pulp era when comics didn't exist yet but we had people like the Shadow or Doc Savage. The great literary superhero just sort of never happened as fantasy and science fiction became the mainstays of genre fiction.

    That doesn't mean that superhero fiction doesn't exist, of course. Far from it. There's a thriving independent superhero scene with a few major publishers having dipped their toes into the setting. I, myself, was surprised to find out that I was selling ten times the number of all my other books combined with the Supervillainy Saga. People just loved the adventures of Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless the Supervillain without Mercy.

    Since that time, I've benefited from being sent and reading the works of many other superhero writers. Some of it I've purchased myself and others were gifted to me by people in the business. Some of it was great and others less so. I've probably read more than a hundred novels in the genre since releasing my own. But how does one separate the creme of the crop from the less awesome? Well, for that I've decided to release a top thirteen of my favorite superhero novels for you guys to look over.

    Obviously, this is not something that can cover the entirety of prose superhero fiction as a whole but is designed to share some favorites of mine which I've picked up over the years. I think everyone who gives them a chance will like them and be enriched for the experience.

13. The Reluctant Hero by S.J. Delos


    I'm always a sucker for a good redemption story and I'm very fond of this series by S.J. Delos. I very much enjoyed the adventures of Crushette before she becomes the superhero Kayo (K.O). The books are written for an adult audience and the opening is really harsh, more The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo than Batman, but I really came to love how she rose up above her circumstances. The book is a bit on the "indie" side of formatting but I don't hold that against it.

12. Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell


    In a city where everyone with superpowers is given a mark that shows them to be a "villain" or "hero" depending on their lineage, the son of the world's greatest supervillain is displeased to find he has an "X" that shows tendencies toward both. Determined to discover the no good hero who knocked up his mom, he proves to be an obnoxious but lovable protagonist. Sort of like Draco Malfoy with more charm. I really enjoyed this series for its not-too-serious take on the genre.

11. Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn



     This is a book I went back and forth on rating higher in the list because it's a lot of fun but very, very silly. It's the story of two Asian American women living in San Fransisco as well as their lifelong friendship. One is the city's biggest superhero and the other is her overworked publicist. Unfortunately, their dynamic of "all take and no give" is disrupted when the former breaks her leg and the other has to fill in for her with her newly discovered fire powers. It's a story with love, movie obsessions, friendship, and murderous demon-possessed cup cakes.

10. Forging Hephaestus by Drew Hayes


    Forging Hephaestus is a story about supervillains who have established an uneasy peace with the heroes. It's allowed them to become fat and lazy as well as avoid the worst psychopaths who might threaten the world to run free. Unfortunately, this peace has left extremists on both sides uneasy and they've begun to plot against it. Overall, this is a huge (700+) pages work that was a bit slow at times but is still among my favorite superhero reads. The characters are stock archetypes but that just makes them all the easier to understand and project on.

9. The Omega Superhero and Superhero Detective by Darius Brasher



    The Omega Superhero and Superhero Detective novels are two four book (so far) series which I have to give major props for. They establish a setting and proceed to build upon it from two different perspectives. Theodore Conley is Kinetic (later Omega), a 17 year old idealistic superhero with the potential to be the next Superman-level big leaguer. Truman Lord, by contrast, is a hydrokinetic private detective who has seen the worst of the superheroes as well as the supervillains. The books are entertaining as all get out and ones I think are great for those looking for classic heroism under scrutiny.

8. Broken Nights by Matthew Davenport



    What if Batman didn't have any money? That's the easy way to describe the adventures of the Darden Valley Guardian. As a hobby shop owner with his computer whiz sister, he opens the story trying to catch some thieves in his crime-ridden hometown only to fall off a building. He gets better but the story has a nice "Heroes meets Batman" feel that I think makes it one of the most enjoyable stories on this list. The sequel, Strange Worlds, just dropped and I think people looking for an easy and entertaining read should pick this one up.

7. Velveteen Vs by Seanan Maguire



    Seanan Maguire remains one of the best writers for short enjoyable urban fantasy and superhero works I read. However, I remain most addicted to her Velvteen Vs. series. Following a young girl with the power to animate toys who grew up to be a bitter ex-sidekick that hated the corporation who exploited her image, Velveteen Vs. is a series about growing up as well as all the regrets you might be stuck with even in your twenties. It's also got the first volume of short stories online for free.http://seananmcguire.com/velhome.php

6. Wearing the Cape by Marion G. Harmon


    Wearing the Cape is one of my all-time favorite superhero series. Part of this is due to the fact it stars a clear stand-in for Supergirl, a protagonist who used to be all but forgotten until her unexpected new series. Hope Corrigan is blessed with the powers of a flying brick in a world full of superpowers created by an event called the Breakthrough. The first book in the series is easily the best but I've enjoyed most of the series as well as its spin off around artificial vampire Artemis. What can be said about a book with a villain named the Teatime Anarchist, a villain who is genuinely terrifying?

5. D-List Supervillain series by Jim Bernheimer



    I freely admit I'm biased here since I know Jim Bernheimer in "real life" and he's a publisher of mine so take this recommendation with a grain of salt. Despite this, I feel the need to recommend the first bit of superhero prose fiction I've read. Cal Stringle a.k.a Mechani-Cal is a low-level supervillain who everyone makes fun of. However, when the apocalypse happens due to a supervillain's mind-control experiment goes out of control, he's one of the few people in the world unaffected. Cal saves the world but finds out humanity may not be willing to accept him regardless--or at least give him all the fame and fortune he believes he deserves.

4. Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines



    Like peanut butter and jelly, some things are just inherently good together. In this case, it's the zombie apocalypse and superheroes. In this case, the premise of Ex-Heroes is that the zombie apocalypse has happened and while the heroes weren't able to stop it--they have created a little protectorate for the survivors of humanity in the ruins of Los Angeles. The personalities in this book are great and while the first book has some iffy moments, they are mostly retconned away to create a really fascinating collection of ideas for how survivors would deal with being utterly dependent on heroes.

3. The Wild Cards universe as conceived by George R.R. Martin



    George R.R. Martin conceived the Wild Cards universe to be a open-world collection of short stories to write around superheroes created by the "Wildcard" virus. It grew into something deeper with a metaphorical analysis of the AIDs virus, treatment of gays, and society from the late seventies through eighties. It's since been revised and has analyzed many other fascinating other real-life things. The R-rated stories follow numerous oddball and outcast chaarcters who have tales that go in odd directions.

2. The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson



    What if Superman was evil? That's a very common storytelling trope but Brandon Sanderson does it better with the very act of gaining superpowers being something that drives you insane. The Reckoners are the last line of defense for humanity as the rest of the world has fallen under the control of the evil superheroes who dominate the planet. It is an excellent trilogy that I loved from beginning to end.

1. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman



    We finally reach the last of my recommendations with my favorite superhero novel. Doctor Impossible is mentally ill. He is an evil genius. Literally. As a sufferer of Malign Hypercognition Disorder, he is unable to stop himself from trying to take over the world. The heroes aren't much better off and we get to follow the background of their lives.

Honorable Mentions: Crimson Son by Russ Linton, Superhuman by J.A. Cipriano, Kid Sensation by Kevin Hardman, Villains Pride by Michael Gibson, Sad Wings of Destiny by Thom Branan, Blackjack by Ben Bequer, and SCPD by Keith de Candido.

3 comments:

  1. I remember enjoying a fair number of the Marvel novels back in the day. Obviously, none of them are high art, but, having followed you here from the lit section of the Jedi Council Forums, I think it's safe to say that you're not against franchise tie-in literature :)

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