I’ve blogged elsewhere about superhero fiction -Â but I wanted to say a little more about the genre, which has grown considerably over the past decade or so.
Superheroes have fascinated me for a long time.Â Like many other writers, I have a trunked novel. I wrote it in 1991-1992, and it is a superhero novel, THE FURIES,Â which involved seven female superheroes who set up a Justice League of their own. At some point I mean to pull it out and see if it’s salvageable, but I wince at the thought of looking at it, and it’s not in hard copy but here on a back-up disk taken from a Macintosh that was at least four computers ago and you know, I have plenty of other things to be procrastinating on instead. Oh, Ms. Liberty, Dr. Arcane, the Sphinx, Zanycat, Rocketwoman, and X, someday your day will come. I know it.Â And of the few pieces of academic writing I’ve retained from that pre-Rambo stage in my life, one deals with superheroes and the idea of masks, one with Tank Girl, and the most pretentious one with Alan Moore’s Watchmen and the philosophical idea of the sublime. (The fact that my most successful paper was a Marxist analysis of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer may say something about why I didn’t stay in academe. But man, was that one fun to write.)
I said in that other piece:
Superhero fiction appeals on several different levels. For one, it allows spec fic to do one of the things it does best: literalize the metaphor. A man whose secret identity physically attacks him, a woman whose temper causes her to burst into flame, a relationship imperiled by one partnerâ€™s telepathic manipulation of the otherâ€”all of these possibilities and more are presented. And on another level, it is possible to utterly geek out with superhero fiction, to go nuts invoking the rich history of comic books or creating convoluted supervillain names. Superheroes are fun; theyâ€™re the stuff of lasers and giant robots and sorcerer supremes and full out gonzo neatness.
But in thinking about it, there’s even more built into it. We are drawn to heroes because they are what we would like to be, I think, and it’s interesting that if you ask someone what superpower they’d pick, the answer is often psychologically revealing. And the idea of a secret identity speaks to us all in that we all have secret identities, pieces of our psyche we reveal only to a trusted confidante — if we ever reveal them at all.
Beyond that, in the world of superheroes and villains, people are easier to figure out than they are here in life outside comic books. Wouldn’t it be simpler if we could blame the current American economy on Dr. Evil? And wouldn’t he be easier to fight than the more complex entities of greed and cynicism gone too far — or corporations, for that matter? Is that the reason why superhero fiction is on the upsurge, because we crave that simplicity and the ability to know a person by the costume he or she wears, while knowing in our heart of hearts that it’s never as easy as all that?
P. S. James Maxey, whose NOBODY GETS THE GIRL is an example of the genre will be giving away copies this month in return for superhero haiku. The book’s worth reading, and heck, who can’t cough up a superhero haiku or two?