Monday, November 9, 2009

Short fiction about Superheroes

This is the second of my posts on short fiction that superhero comic readers would enjoy. The first featured a link to a single online short story that didn’t really feature superheroes, but that would (in my opinion) hit the spot for many a comic reader (ala Hellboy or Buffy or Angel or Wetworks). Today, I’ll focus on print short fiction anthologies that actually feature superheroes.

First, I put forth POW!erful Tales: Super-Powered Stories from Beta City, edited by Michael and Christina Lea (2009). The anthology is 210 pages long and contains 18 stories that explore the lives of the heroes and villains of Beta City, the site of a catastrophic event. For a review of this anthology, read this.

Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories, edited by Owen King and John McNally (2008), is another such anthology of the super-powered variety that contains 22 stories. It runs at eclectic 320 pages and has been reviewed here and here.

Another anthology in this rare short fiction genre is Path of the Bold: An anthology of superhero fiction, edited by James Lowder (2003). This anthology is 208 pages and contains 15 tales set in Empire City. For reviews of this anthology, read this and this.

Of course, there is also its prequel, Path of the Just: An anthology of superhero fiction, also edited by James Lowder (2003). This superhero antho also racks up 208 pages and boasts 15 tales, again set in Empire city. For a review of this anthology, click on this. Both of these anthologies are based on an RPG, which is line with my views stated here.

Please note that I haven't read these anthologies yet - this will change soon, though.

Another good deed for the century completed...


  1. Coolness! I'll have to check these out. I'd like to see more prose about established heroes, though. These look like originals. (I'm sure there's some legal reason in there somewhere.)

    While it's not short fiction, it is prose...I read "No Man's Land" by Greg Rucka and really enjoyed it. If you like Batman and you've read the NML trades it gives you a better view of what's going on. Plus Rucka writes Two-Face pretty darn well.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I read Kevin J. Anderson's "Enemies & Allies," a Superman/Batman story set during the Cold War. It had a lot of potential but it feel flat, in my opinion. Perhaps because I'm so biased from my love of Martian Manhunter: American Secrets, which I think is the definitive comic tale about Cold War sci-fi paranoia.

  2. I remember a strange incident (almost exactly a decade ago) involving me reading - and remember this was before I got into short fiction - a Turok Dinosaur Hunter novella (or novelette) by Fabian Nicieza (spelling?) online. I think it was called "The Empty Souls" - remember the characters more than the plot, though. It was while Acclaim owned all those Valiant characters.

    Rucka has written some great stories for other Leaguers - bringing out some other parts of their personality.

    Speaking of Martian Manhunter, I've come up with possible names for your comic blog...You are under no obligation to choose one of them. At the very least, they could serve as inspiration, maybe? Should I do a post on them or post a comment after this one?

  3. http://evestrange.blogspot (You like Adam Strange, right?)

    http://from_rann.blogspot (Another Adam Strange-themed blog title, if humourous it could be ‘from Rann with snark’)

    http://jltf_leader.blogspot (If one considers that the original definition of the Task Force included every single hero on Earth, then this title gives your blog huge scope and fits in well with your preference not to focus on one hero. In a different sense, it refers to Martian Manhunter, your fave hero, no? Channeling Rocket Red there...or was that Gambit? Cajuns and Russians sound alike when asking rhetorical questions)

    http://rann2mogo.blogspot (Also DC universe-spanning...AdamStrange and a planet-come-gl. Yeah, Hal may attract people to him via his magnetic (?) personality, but Mogo can attract people, meteors, and all manner of space junk through its gravitational pull. Ha!)

    http://retconreject.blogspot (This would be a blog where you could challenge the retcons and any other type of continuity-altering changes DC has made...Wait-a-minute, did I come up with that for you or for me?)

    http://jjstrangekord.blogspot (Your 3 favourite heroes merged in a phonetically memorable title: Martian Manhunter, Adam Strange, and Ted Kord)


    Of course, all of these titles assume that you’re only obsessed with DC comics.

  4. Eve Strange instead of Adam Strange...that's kinda clever. They're all pretty do you think of this stuff? Retcon Reject is cool but I'm not well-versed enough in continuity to pull that off.

    I like Rann 2 Mogo...but I'm not sure if enough people would get that.

    And I am only obsessed with DC, so that's fine.

    JJ Strange Kord...I think I'll use this as my secret identity from now on. :) Though you made a really close guess, JJ Strange & Kord (doesn't that almost sound like a law firm?) aren't quite my top three. The list keeps changing depending on how I'm feeling and as I discover new character, so it could be different three weeks from now, but as of now, my Top Ten Heroes are:

    1. Batman (I have to give him the top spot out of sentimentality...I grew up with the Tim Burton movies, and he was the one who got me reading comics.)
    2. J'onn J'onnz. (Powerful, compassionate, and under-appreciated.)
    3. Blue Beetle (Plucky comic relief, all heart, pure fun.)
    4. Adam Strange (Smart, devoted, resourceful.)
    5. Booster Gold (he's just like a big dumb shiny dog I can't hate.)
    6. Dr. Will Magnus & The Metal Men (hey, I got a weakness for loud suits...)
    7. The Flash (Barry Allen) (Another smart guy. And running real fast is just cool.)
    8. The Atom (small=adorable! Plus he's smart.)
    9. The Question (conspiracies, philosophy, and sarcasm.)
    10. The Phantom Stranger (The ultimate Man of Mystery.)
    11. Hal Jordan. (He just had to be on the list. His ego couldn't take it otherwise.)

  5. Nice top 10 but Batman doesn’t count. He’s on everybody’s top 10 list. But you knew that – you selected 11 for that reason. So, your top three actually reads:
    1. J’onn J’onnz
    2. Blue Beetle
    3. Adam Strange
    Therefore, JJ Strange Kord is the winning title? Score!

    How I come up with this stuff? Practice, practice, practice...Seriously, I’m tapped into something weird and otherworldly that gives me this uncanny ability...Like right at this moment I was thinking about how I plot better than I write and...boom!...I’m thinking of a headline / banner for a non-existing comic (writing/scripting) blog, “You don’t get a hero to plot for you...You get a villain.” (This is heard in a creepy Ben Linus [from Lost] voice)

    Well, actually, I’m not that well-versed either, but when they mess with my favourite heroes...Retconreject is good enough to auction off, but wouldn’t it be great to give away if we found the perfect blogger. I imagine scenarios like the following: “DC’s not doing Ted Kord: Rebirh?! Retconreject, take them down hard...internet style!”

    Btw, I actually remember one of my other reworkings of Blue Beetle. Basically, it’s about Ted (not a hero but an engineer at the time) inheriting the estate of some DA Vinci / Milo Rambaldi-wannabe great grand uncle who was obsessed with attaining immortality. Once at the manor, he discovers that the estate is heavily in debt, but at the same time he can’t seem to discern what his ancestor bought with all his money. After stumbling upon a secret lab under the manor, he gets the answer: d.i.y. scientific research and unsuccessful research as far as Ted can discern from the scribbled lab notes he finds.

    However, it is also in this lab that he discovers that his great grand-uncle wasn’t the only one obsessed with immortality. No, it seems that it was somewhat of a family obsession. One of his ancestors believed that the only way to achieve immortality was to wear a beetle costume and do something truly great. Unfortunately, said ancestor’s idea of doing something great was pulling of art and artifact heists. In fact, he pulled of a major heist, but his beetle persona was never connected to the crime. "Beetle robber" met an untimely end soon after the robbery. Strangely enough, a reward is still being offered for the return of the items.

    After Ted dons the costume just to see if he can pull of the look, he discovers a cryptic clue sewn into the blue beetle costume as well as the eye lenses’ capability of revealing the invisible ink clues left all over the manor. At this stage in the story, Ted thinks that the reward could save the estate, so he pieces the clues together. The search leads him to the unexpectedly public location of the stolen items (the roof of a library or something similar), but he is interrupted by a stand-off between a super-villain (capable and likely to destroy the location and everyone inside) and Special Crimes Unit operatives. Ted has two options: One, continue hiding and let the location be destroyed along with the stolen items or, two, risk his life by using his position to get the drop on the villain. Hey, he's already wearing the costume underneath his coat. So, Ted kind of falls into being a hero.

    My top 10 (order is subject to change):
    1] GL Kyle Rayner [creativity, bravery, and willingness to sacrifice]
    2] Backlash [longevity, thinking man’s hero, ninja-esque, cool alien powers]
    3] Azrael [history, unpredictability, ruthlessness]
    4] Wolverine [longevity, loyalty, never say die even against outrageous odds, usually is on the right side]
    5] Blackbolt [quiet, fearless, powerful]
    6] Ash [origin, cooler fire-based hero than Human Torch]
    7] Metamorpho [sarcasm, powers, cool archaelogical expertise]
    8] Batman [thinking man’s hero, every non-powered hero should have a utility belt]
    9] Vision [thinking man’s hero, intangibility is a cool power for a non-ghost]
    10] Martian Manhunter [thinking man’s hero, cool-headed, good leader, intangibility is a cool power for a non-ghost]
    11] Die Hard [origin, fearless, cyborg]

  6. You have an "eclectic" mind. I think that's what I'm going to call it. I have a friend who thinks in a very similar manner. Give her a jumping off point and she's expanded it into so many directions with all these ideas bouncing around in her mind starting from the original topc. I'm the direct opposite of her...give me a place to start and I stay on topic, obsess over it, explore it as far deep as I can go to "perfection," and then eventually leave it for the next thing.

    Oooooh, Benjamin Linus. I love that guy. *rubs hands together gleefully* So evil and yet so charismatic.

    I'm embarassed to say I only know five characters on your list. Maybe that's because I'm only a DC. Azrael, the angel, right? I like seeing religious characters and issues of spirituality occasionally pop up in comics. And I do like Metamorpho...for the express reason that he's not a classically-handsome hero, and he doesn't let his "freakishness" get to him, he turns a positive into a negative. I like pretty much everyone comic character, really. Even that poor purple-haired guy who announces when a world's going to end in COIE. (Pariah.)

    BTW, the introduction to one of the JLA trades mentions Kyle as taking over for Hal as "The One True GL." So you're not the only one who thinks so!

    You have so many ideas for Ted. I think you could easily create some original characters out of all those ideas. Is your script based on established characters or ones you've invented?

    I don't know about JJ Strange Kord. I could work it into my blog somehow, but I don't want to be limited just to my favorite heroes. There's a loooot of villains out there that I like, too, and some of whom are past-due for a good story. I should compile a list of my favorite villains...

    I don't know, I might stick with Comics Make Me Happy. I need all the happiness I can get right now, and I think the world does, too. But I want to work JJ Strange Kord into there somehow. Maybe he can be a fictional blog contributor.

    I forgot to mention that one of my favorite aspects of J'onn J'onnz is the telepathy. (In addition to the "gentle giant" persona, my other favorite trait of his.) Though there's little in the way of consistency in how his telepathy is written, and plot holes ensue. Very few writers have addressed those plot holes to my satisfaction.

  7. I also just realized I could've just looked at what action figures are on display on my dresser to figure out my Top 10: The Question, Adam Strange, Booster and Beetle (not action figures but Minimates packaged togeter...they must never be separated!!!), and *two* different versions of J'onn J'onnz. Hal Jordan (Minimate) is hanging out on my desk out of view along with Star Sapphire. Since she's packaged with him, she just came along for the ride and doesn't count for my Top 10.

    And not a Batman figure in sight....

  8. Azrael was named fr the angel of Death. He replaced Batman after 'Knightfall' and during 'Knightquest'. Basically, he's been programmed/trained with all the martial arts and heroing skills he'll ever need by the Order of St. Dumas and these skills get released when he needs them (for the first time).

    JJ Strange Kord could also me part of fake dialogue blogpost (whenever you want to paly devil's advocate in a humorous way).

    Forgot to mention Black Adam (as hero/villain type). He's way cooler than Captain Marvel, i think.

  9. Oh, Jean Paul Valley, right? Now I know who you mean. I got him mixed up with the fallen angel who joins the JLA. Now I can't remember his name...ok, looked it up: Zauriel. Whoops.

    Black Adam is awesome in 52. He is more interesting than Captain Marvel. But the ripping people in half thing...he's gotta stop doing that....