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A Brief Overview of Superhero Fiction

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A Brief Overview of Superhero Fiction[edit]

by Fritz Freiheit

April 26, 2011 -- (Updated November 9th, 2011 see 'discussion' tab for details, updated again in mid-June of 2012 with many more book cover images.)

In the past fifty years I would venture to say that less than fifty novels and anthologies have been published that fall within the superhero genre, excluding Marvel and DC media spinoffs. If you include Marvel and DC, I think the number is somewhere between 100 and 200. So I set out to prove or disprove this supposition. The following overview of superhero fiction is the result. In this overview, I won't be including graphic novels.

Classifying Superhero Fiction[edit]

In order to be classified as a 'superhero' fiction, a story must have a minimal subset of genre tropes. These include:

  • superpowers
  • costumes and masks
  • secret identities
  • hero vs. villain
  • genre blindness
  • crime fighting / vigilantism
  • 'super' plots
  • superhero culture

Most of the superhero tropes I listed above are self explanatory. Genre blindness, as a trope, may need a bit of an explanation, while the idea of a 'superhero culture' needs more. Genre blindness is when the characters don't recognize that they are operating within a genre, a common example of this is found in horror genre, where, we as readers or observers know that it is generally a bad idea to go down in the basement or out in the woods by our lonesome, the characters in question blithely proceed to do so. For more information on tropes, see the Supplemental section Common Superhero Genre Tropes below.


While some of the fiction I found during the survey have several of these superhero genre elements, such as superpowers, they do not have a constellation of them. See Borderline Superhero Novels below.

Classification Elements[edit]

Superhero Culture (as a Trope)[edit]

For the trope 'superhero culture', I think the following attributes are reasonably descriptive:

  • The general populace knows about the existence of supers.
  • The general populace expects supers to intervene in bad situations.
  • There is a general awareness of many of the superhero genre tropes, such as Crime Fighting, Secret Identities, and Secret Lairs. There is an assumption of 'truth' about common knowledge tropes.
  • Culturally formalized relationship between supers and normals.

Superhero Culture Level[edit]

SCL
Superhero Culture Level Description
0
None. Even the idea of superheroes doesn't exist.
1
Minimal; The idea of superheroes exists, but is considered entirely fictional.
2
Some people are aware of supers, but there is little public acknowledgment by the mainstream.
3
Many people acknowledgment that supers exist, a significant minority does not.
4
General acknowledgment that supers exist and there relationship between supers and normals is generally known.
5
Full scale; Everyone knows about the relationship between supers and normals.

 (e)

Superhero Power Level[edit]

ShPL Superhero Power Level Description Examples
0
None. Only the insane think they have superpowers.  
1
Minimal; Superheroes are basically normal humans, with some possibly only believing that they have powers. Watchmen universe (without Doctor Manhattan).
2
Minor powers;  
3
Significant powers;  
4
Major powers; Watchmen universe (with Doctor Manhattan).
5
World/reality shaping powers; DC Universe, Marvel Universe.

 (e)

Supervillain Power Level[edit]

SvPL Superhero Power Level Description Examples
0
None. Only the insane think they have superpowers.  
1
Minimal; Supervillains are basically normal humans, with some possibly only believing that they have powers.  
2
Minor powers;  
3
Significant powers;  
4
Major powers;  
5
World/reality shaping powers;

 (e)

Superhero Genre Level[edit]

SGL Superhero Genre Level Description ShPL SvPL ShPL + SvPL SCL
0
None, which means it won't even appear here.
0
0
0
0
1
This is most commonly stories that have characters with 'superpowers' or are übermenschs, but few, if any, of the other superhero tropes.
1
1
0-2
0
2
A handful of superhero tropes
1-2
1-2
1-4
1-2
3
Significant number of superhero tropes, approaching critical mass for superhero genre
2-4
2-4
3-4
4
The full spectrum of superhero tropes; superhero fiction that is science fiction.
3-5
3-5
4-5
5
Full blown, anything goes, superhero tropes; superhero fiction that is, essentially, fantasy.
4-5
4-5
5

 (e)

Superhero Novels[edit]

  1. Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers
  2. Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
  3. From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust
  4. Hero by Perry Moore
  5. Icarus Project 1: Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
  6. Icarus Project 2: Shades of Gray by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
  7. Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey
  8. Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty
  9. Quantum Prophecy 1: The Awakening by Michael Owen Carroll
  10. Quantum Prophecy 2: The Gathering by Michael Owen Carroll
  11. Quantum Prophecy 3: The Reckoning by Michael Owen Carroll
  12. Sentinels 1: When Strikes the Warlord by Van Allen Plexico
  13. Sentinels 2: A Distant Star by Van Allen Plexico
  14. Sentinels 3: Apocalypse Rising by Van Allen Plexico
  15. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
  16. Superfolks by Robert Mayer
  17. Wild Cards 10 : Double Solitaire by Linda Snodgrass
  18. Wild Cards 12: Turn of the Cards by Milán


Devil's Cape (thumbnail).jpgEx-Heroes (thumbnail).jpgFrom the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (thumbnail).jpgHero (2007 novel) (thumbnail).jpgBlack and White (thumbnail).jpgShades of Gray (thumbnail).jpgNobody Gets the Girl (thumbnail).jpgPlaying for Keeps (thumbnail).jpgThe Awakening (thumbnail).jpgQuantum Prophecy 2 -The Gathering 100x153.jpgWhen Strikes the Warlord (thumbnail).jpgA Distant Star 100x150.jpgSoon I Will Be Invincible (thumbnail).jpgSuperfolks 100x148.jpg (e)
See Superhero Novels (Annotated) for more information.

Superhero Anthologies[edit]

  1. The Darker Mask: Heroes from the Shadows edited by Gary Phillips & Christopher Chambers
  2. Masked edited by Lou Anders
  3. Superheroes edited by John Varley
  4. Wild Cards edited by George R.R. Martin
  5. Wild Cards 2: Aces High edited by George R.R. Martin
  6. Wild Cards 3: Jokers Wild edited by George R.R. Martin
  7. Wild Cards 4: Aces Abroad edited by George R.R. Martin
  8. Wild Cards 5: Down and Dirty edited by George R.R. Martin
  9. Wild Cards 6: Ace in the Hole edited by George R.R. Martin
  10. Wild Cards 7: Dead Man's Hand edited by George R.R. Martin
  11. Wild Cards 8: One-Eyed Jacks edited by George R.R. Martin
  12. Wild Cards 9: Jokertown Shuffle edited by George R.R. Martin
  13. Wild Cards 11: Dealer's Choice edited by George R.R. Martin
  14. Wild Cards 13: Card Sharks edited by George R.R. Martin
  15. Wild Cards 14: Marked Cards edited by George R.R. Martin
  16. Wild Cards 15: Black Trump edited by George R.R. Martin

See Superhero Anthologies (Annotated) for more information.

Borderline Superhero Novels[edit]

These novels include super-powered characters, but they're not full blown superhero fiction.


  1. Brave Men Run by Matthew Wayne Selznick
  2. Code Duello by Mack Reynolds
  3. Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann
  4. Jumper: A Novel by Steven Gould
  5. The Lab by Jack Heath
  6. The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry
  7. Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
  8. Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell
  9. The Roar by Emma Clayton
  10. Ryder Hook 1: Whirlpool of Stars by Tully Zetford (aka Kenneth Bulmer)
  11. Monster by A. Lee Martinez
  12. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
  13. Those Who Walk in Darkness by John Ridley

See Borderline Superhero Novels (Annotated) for more information.

Roots of Superhero Fiction[edit]

Superhero fiction before 1960 is nearly non-existent. Here I have collected a number of references to novels, series, and characters that form, in my opinion, the roots of comic book superheroes, and thus the roots of superhero fiction. From Clark Savage Jr., aka Doc Savage, who shares the same first name as Superman and has the first Fortress of Solitude, to the Scarlet Pimpernel who is, as far as I know, the first doer of good deeds and fighter of evil (if you consider the excesses of the French Revolution to be evil) who had a secret identity, namely Sir Percival Blakeney.

Justice Inc - The Avenger 100x166.jpg The Count of Monte Cristo 100x164.jpg The Man of Bronze - Doc Savage (pulp cover) 100x143.jpg Gladiator (1930 novel) 100x146.jpg Jim Anthony - Super-Detective (pulp cover) 100x143.jpg Grey Lensman (Astounding) 100x142.jpg The Scarlet Pimpernel 100x164.jpg The Shadow (Dec 1st, 1939) 100x137.jpg Sherlock Holmes (Original Illustrated Strand) 100x160.jpg Slan (Astounding) 100x140.jpg Tarzan of the Apes (All-Story) 100x143.jpg The Mark of Zorro 100x163.jpg

v  d  e

See Roots of Superhero Fiction (Annotated) for more information.

The Numbers[edit]

Superhero novels and anthologies counted above total to 34. If you add in those from the "to be classified" (see Novels and anthologies to be classified) set that are probably superhero we arrive at a total of about 44. With the borderline (including the rest of the "to be classified" books) the number soars to a whopping 68.

To derive numbers for Marvel and DC, I looked at Wikipedia, more specifically, the List of novels based on comics at. This resulted in 112 for DC, and 126 for Marvel superhero novels and short story collections were published between 1960 and 2010 with 14 or so based on other comic books and another 20 or miscellaneous references based on the Wikipedia category Superhero novels. , we end up with a total of 320. Which is more than 50% above the high end of my guess of 200. It turns out that there have been a lot more DC and Marvel based books than I had thought there were.

Novels and anthologies to be classified[edit]

The following novels and anthologies are referenced or listed in the context of superhero fiction.

  1. After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
  2. Chance Fortune and the Outlaws by Shane Berryhill
  3. Code Name: Silence by Kirstin van Dyke
  4. Count Geiger’s Blues: A Comedy by Michael Lawson Bishop
  5. Cyber Age Adventures by Frank Fradella
  6. Doctor Diablo by H. G. Martin
  7. Dull Boy by Sarah Cross
  8. Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
  9. Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask by Jim Munroe
  10. Invasion: Book One of the Secret World Chronicle by Mercedes Lackey, and others.
  11. Other People's Heroes by Blake M. Petit
  12. Paranormal by Christopher Andrews
  13. Phenomenal Girl 5 by A.J. Mendan
  14. Superpowers: A Novel by David J. Schwartz
  15. The Amazing Adventures of Kavilier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  16. The Legacy of the Silver Scorpion by H.G. Martin
  17. The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
  18. The Scent of Shadows (Sign of the Zodiac, Book 1) by Vicki Peterson
  19. The Sovereign Era: Year One edited by Matthew Wayne Selznick
  20. Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories edited by John McNally & Owen King
  21. Will Super Villains Be On the Final? by Naomi Novik

See Novels and anthologies to be classified (Annotated) for more information.

Superhero Novels (Annotated)[edit]

Note that this has been updated since the blog posting on April 26th, 2011. Updates have been primarily the addition of links.

Title Author Year Read SGL Notes Links
Devil's Cape
Devil's Cape (thumbnail).jpg
Rob Rogers
2008
No
5
 
[A][I][L]
Ex-Heroes

Ex-Heroes 199x300.jpg

Peter Clines
2010
No
5
Superheroes and a zombie apocalypse.
[A][I][L][S]
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (thumbnail).jpg
Minister Faust
2007
Que
4-5
 
[A][I][L][W]
Hero

Hero-by-perry-moore 400x600.jpeg

Perry Moore
2007
Que
4
YA; Contemporary setting
[A][I]
[W]
Icarus Project 1:
Black and White
Black and White (thumbnail).jpg
Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
2009
Cur
4
SF setting
[A][I][L]
[S][W]
Icarus Project 2:
Shades of Gray
Shades of Gray (thumbnail).jpg
Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
2010
Que
4
SF setting
[A][I][L][S]
Nobody Gets the Girl
Nobody Gets the Girl (thumbnail).jpg
James Maxey
2003
Yes
4
SF; Contemporary setting; Superhero culture is limited, but the hero vs. villain struggle is inherent to the world.
Playing for Keeps
Playing for Keeps (thumbnail).jpg
Mur Lafferty
2008
Yes
4
SF setting; Set in the future with superhero culture based around an Institute.
[A][L][O][P][S]
Quantum Prophecy 1:
The Awakening
The Awakening (thumbnail).jpg
Michael Owen Carroll
2006
Yes
5
YA; Contemporary setting; Has two sequels: The Gathering; The Reckoning.
[A][I][L][R][T]
Quantum Prophecy 2:
The Gathering
Quantum Prophecy 2 -The Gathering 100x153.jpg
Michael Owen Carroll
2006
Cur
5
   
Quantum Prophecy 3:
The Reckoning
The Reckoning (cover).jpg
Michael Owen Carroll
2007
Que
5
   
Sentinels 1:
When Strikes the Warlord
When Strikes the Warlord (thumbnail).jpg
Van Allen Plexico
2008
Yes
5
Contemporary setting
[A][L]
Sentinels 2:
A Distant Star

A Distant Star (cover).jpg

Van Allen Plexico    
5
 
[I][S]
Sentinels 3:
Apocalypse Rising
Apocalypse Rising (cover).jpg
Van Allen Plexico    
5
   
Soon I Will Be Invincible

Soon I Will Be Invincible (cover).jpg

Austin Grossman
2007
Yes
5
Contemporary setting
Superfolks
Superfolks 100x148.jpg
Robert Mayer
1977
Yes
4-5
Contemporary setting
[A][I][L][T][W]
Wild Cards 10:
Double Solitaire
Double Solitaire (cover).jpg
Linda Snodgrass
1992
No
4
   
Wild Cards 12:
Turn of the Cards
Turn of the Cards (cover).jpg
Victor Milán
1993
No
4
   

Update: 2014/11/04  (e)

Superhero Anthologies (Annotated)[edit]

Note that this has been updated since the blog posting on April 26th, 2011. Updates have been primarily the addition of links.

Title
Author
Year
Read
SGL
Notes
Links
The Darker Mask: Heroes from the Shadows
The Darker Mask 100x151.jpg
Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers
2008
Que
4-5
Including stories by: Walter Mosley, L. A. Banks, Naomi Hirahara, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes, Mike Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ann Nocenti, Jerry Rodriguez, Reed Farrell Coleman, Doselle Young, Mat Johnson, Peter Spiegelman, Alexandra Sokoloff, Christopher Chambers, Gary Phillips, Victor LaValle, and Wayne Wilson.
[?tag=fritzfreiheco-20 A] [B] [I] [L]
Masked
Masked 100x157.jpg
Lou Anders
2010
Yes
4-5
Authors include comic-book authors.

Contributors include (Wikipedia links): Matthew SturgesJames MaxeyPaul CornellMike CareyMike BaronDaryl GregoryGail SimoneStephen BaxterChris RobersonPeter David and Kathleen DavidJoseph MallozziMark ChadbournMarjorie M. LiuIan McDonaldBill Willingham

[A] [I] [L][O] [S]
Superheroes
Superheroes-Varley 100x152.jpg
John Varley
1995
Yes
4-5
 
[A] [I] [L]
Wild Cards
Wild Cards 1 (cover).jpg
George R.R. Martin
1987
Yes
4
Wild Cards #1
[?tag=fritzfreiheco-20 A] [I] [L] [R] [T] [W]
Wild Cards 2: Aces High
Wild Cards 2 - Aces High 100x151.jpg
George R.R. Martin
1987
Yes
4
   
Wild Cards 3: Jokers Wild
Wild Cards 3 - Jokers Wild 100x164.jpg
George R.R. Martin
1987
Yes
4
   
Wild Cards 4: Aces Abroad George R.R. Martin
1988
Yes
4
   
Wild Cards 5: Down and Dirty George R.R. Martin
1988
Yes?
4
   
Wild Cards 6: Ace in the Hole George R.R. Martin
1990
No?
4
   
Wild Cards 7: Dead Man's Hand George R.R. Martin
1990
No
4
   
Wild Cards 8: One-Eyed Jacks George R.R. Martin
1991
No
4
   
Wild Cards 9: Jokertown Shuffle George R.R. Martin
1991
No
4
   
Wild Cards 11: Dealer's Choice George R.R. Martin
1992
No
4
   
Wild Cards 13: Card Sharks George R.R. Martin
1993
No
4
Wild Cards #13 / New Cycle #1  
Wild Cards 14: Marked Cards George R.R. Martin
1994
No
4
Wild Cards #14 / New Cycle #2  
Wild Cards 15: Black Trump George R.R. Martin
1995
No
4
Wild Cards #15 / New Cycle #3

Updated: 2011/04/29 (e)

Superhero Series (Annotated)[edit]

Note that this has been updated since the blog posting on April 26th, 2011. Updates have been primarily the addition of links.

Title Author / Editor SGL Notes Links
Icarus Project
  1. Black and White
  2. Shades of Gray


Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge (authors)
4
In a world where the 'Corp' controls superheroes.

Future SF setting with an Institutional Heroes

[I]
Quantum Prophecy
  1. The Awakening (2006)
  2. The Gathering (2006)
  3. The Reckoning (2007)


Michael Owen Carroll (author)
5
In a world where supers mysteriously disappeared almost a generation ago.

UK series name: New Heroes

[A][I][T][W]
Sentinels
  1. When Strikes the Warlord
  2. A Distant Star
  3. Apocalypse Rising
  4. (and some more)


Van Allen Plexico (author)
5
Contemporary setting with cross-dimensional travel.
[I][O]
Wild Cards
  1. Wild Cards (1987)
  2. Aces High (1987)
  3. Jokers Wild (1987)
  4. Aces Abroad (1988)
  5. Down and Dirty (1988)
  6. Ace in the Hole (1990)
  7. Dead Man's Hand (1990)
  8. One-Eyed Jacks (1991)
  9. Jokertown Shuffle (1991)
  10. Double Solitaire (1992) (novel)
  11. Dealer's Choice (1992)
  12. Turn of the Cards (1993) (novel)
  13. Card Sharks (1993)
  14. Marked Cards (1994)
  15. Black Trump (1995)


George R.R. Martin (editor)
4-5
The Wild Cards setting is a shared universe with an alternate history that diverges from ours with the arrival of (very) humanoid aliens and a plague virus that kills most people exposed to it, but a lucky, or unlucky, few draw the "wild card" and mutate. If you got a useful power, then you drew an Ace, if you got something useless or disfiguring, then you drew a Joker. 20th century alternate history.
[A][I]
[T]
[W]

 (e)

Superhero Short Stories (Annotated)[edit]

Title Length Author Year Read SGL Notes Links
"A Clean Sweep" short story Laurell K. Hamilton
1995
Yes
5
Source: Superheroes
[I]
"A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows"   Chris Roberson
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)"   Bill Willingham
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Accidentally, Like a Martyr"   Reed Farrel Coleman
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"And the Sea Shall Cast Him Out" short story William Marden
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"And What Shall We Call You?"   Gary Phillips
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Avatar"   Christopher Chambers
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Avatar"   Mike Baron
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Basic Training" short story Jerry Bingham
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Bicycle Superhero" short story Dennis O'Neil
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"By My Works You Shall Know Me"   Mark Chadbourn
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Call Her Savage"   Marjorie M. Liu
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Captain Asimov" short story Stephen L. Antczak (as by Steve Antczak)
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Cleansed and Set in Gold"   Matthew Sturges
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Contract Hit" short story Richard A. Knaak
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Died"   Jerry A. Rodriguez
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Downfall"   Joseph Mallozzi
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Dream Knights"   L.A. Banks
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Empowered" short story Alan Dean Foster
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Four Tales of Many Names" short story Gerald Hausman
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"God Save the King" short story P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Handing on the Goggles" short story B.W. Clough
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Head Cases"   Peter David and Kathleen David
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Heatseeker"   Gar Anthony Haywood
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Henchman"   Mat Johnson
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Housework"   Doselle Young
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"In Vino, Veritas"   Peter Spiegelman
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Message from the Bubblegum Factory"   Daryl Gregory
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"One of the Boys" novelette Lawrence Watt-Evans
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Origin Story" short story Dwight R. Decker
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Peer Review" novelette Michael A. Stackpole
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Press Conference" short story Brad Linaweaver
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Reflected Glory" novelette Paul Kupperberg
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Secret Identity"   Paul Cornell
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Shadow Storm" short story Mickey Zucker Reichert
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"She Who Might Be Obeyed" short story Roland J. Green and Frieda A. Murray
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Super Acorns" short story Mike Resnick and Lawrence Schimel
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Switchback"   Ann Nocenti
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Tat Master"   Naomi Hirahara
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"The Angel of Loneliness"   Victor LaValle
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"The Defender of Central Park" short story Josepha Sherman
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"The Edge of Seventeen"   Alexandra Skokoloff
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"The Long Crawl of Hugh Glass" novelette Roger Zelazny
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"The Messenger"   Wayne L. Wilson
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"The Non-Event"   Mike Carey
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"The Picket"   Walter Mosley
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"The Strega's Last Dance"   Lorenzo Carcaterra
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"The Whores of Onyx City"   Michael A. Gonzales
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Theme Music Man" short story Jody Lynn Nye
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Thug"   Gail Simone
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Time for a Hero" short story Brian M. Thomsen
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Tonight we fly"   Ian McDonald
2010
Yes
  Source: Masked  
"Trickster"   Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
2008
No
  Source: The Darker Mask  
"Truth, Justice and the Politically Correct Socialist Path" novelette John Varley
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Tu Quoque" short story John DeChancie
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Vacuum Lad"   Stephen Baxter
2010
Yes
4
Source: Masked  
"Vets" short story Richard Lee Byers
1995
Yes
  Source: Superheroes  
"Where their Worm Dieth Not"   James Maxey
2010
Yes
5
Source: Masked  

 (e)

Borderline Superhero Novels (Annotated)[edit]

These novels include super-powered characters, but they're not full blown superhero fiction.

Note that this has been updated since the blog posting on April 26th, 2011. Updates have been primarily the addition of links.

Title Author Year Read SGL Notes Links
Brave Men Run
Brave-men-run-novel-sovereign-era-matthew-wayne-selznick-paperback-cover-art 100x150.jpg
Matthew Wayne Selznick
2008
Yes
2
YA; Contemporary setting; Mutant powers, but no superhero culture, and there never will be according to the author.

A Novel Of The Sovereign Era

[A][L][O][P][S]
Code Duello
Code Duello H-103a 100x173.jpg
Mack Reynolds
1968
Yes
1
SF setting; Band of oddball super-spy agents. Fourth book of the "United Planets" series. This appeared as half of an Ace Double, the half of which, I can't resist adding, was Age of Ruin by John M. Faucette. Both of which are favorite novels of mine.
[I]
Ghosts of Manhattan
Ghosts of Manhattan 100x145.jpg
George Mann
2010
Que
2
Pulp era setting; proto-superheroes with steampunk-esque setting.
[A][I][O][S]
Jumper
Jumper (1992 novel) 100x150.jpg
Steven Gould
1992
Yes
2
YA; Contemporary setting; Mutant powers, but no superhero culture; Sequel: Reflex (2004).
[A][W]
The Lab
The Lab (2006 novel) 100x150.jpg
Jack Heath
2006
Que
2
YA; Mutant powers
[A][L][W]
Living Next Door to the God of Love
Living Next Door to the God of Love 100x156.jpg
Justina Robson
2005
Yes
Added: 2011/05/26
[L]
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
Maximum Ride - The Angel Experiment (cover).jpg
James Patterson
2007
Yes
2
YA; Mutant powers, but no superhero culture. First book in the Maximum Ride series. Series at isfdb. Currently 7 books in the series.
[A][I][W]
Modesty Blaise
Modesty Blaise (1965 novel) (cover).jpg
Peter O'Donnell
1965
Yes
1
Spy-Fi; Übermensch level main characters.
[A]
The Roar
The Roar (cover).jpg
Emma Clayton
2009
Yes
1
YA; SF setting; Mutant powers, but no superhero culture
[A]
Ryder Hook 1:
Whirlpool of Stars
Whirlpool of Stars (cover).jpg
Tully Zetford (aka Kenneth Bulmer)
1974
Yes
1
Ryder Hook series:
  1. Whirlpool of Stars (1974)
  2. The Boosted Man (1974)
  3. Star City (1974)
  4. The Virility Gene (1975)

Later books in the series, (not listed here) were published only in German, under Bulmer's real name. Series at isfdb.

Boosted Man Series.png
[A][I]
The Man Who Never Missed
The Man Who Never Missed (cover).jpg
Steve Perry
1986
Yes
1
SF setting; One man army taking on a galactic government using his highly developed martial arts. First book in the Matador series.
[A][W]
Monster
Monster (2009 novel) (cover).jpg
A. Lee Martinez
2009
Yes
1
Contemporary fantasy setting; the main character has a kind of (random) superpower, similar to Dial H for Hero, but it changes whenever he sleeps.
[A]
Sandman Slim
Sandman Slim 100x142.jpg
Richard Kadrey
2009
Yes
1
Urban fantasy setting; Superpowered main character and to one degree or another so are the villains, but power is supernatural in origin; no superhero culture. First book in the Sandman Slim series.
[A]
Those Who Walk in Darkness
Those Who Walk in Darkness (cover).jpg
John Ridley
1999
No
Viewpoint is not powered, no superhero culture.
[A][W]

Updated: 2014/11/04

 (e)

Novels and anthologies to be classified (Annotated)[edit]

Note that books added since original blog posting on April 26th, 2011 are marked in the Notes section as 'Added' and a date.

Title Author Year SGL Notes Links
After the Golden Age
After the Golden Age 100x151.jpg
Carrie Vaughn
2011
4-5
Released in April 2011. Probably Superhero (despite the main character apparently not having superpowers)
Broken
Broken 100x150.jpg
Susan Jane Bigelow
2011
  Added 2011/05/05; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com; Probably Superhero; Only ebook edition available
[A][S]
Chance Fortune and the Outlaws
Chance Fortune and the Outlaws 100x151.jpg
Shane Berryhill
2006
4?
The Adventures of Chance Fortune; YA; Probably Superhero
[A]
Code Name: Silence
Code Name Silence 100x156.jpg
Kirstin van Dyke
2009
  Probably Borderline
[A]
Count Geiger’s Blues: A Comedy
Count Geiger's Blues 100x152.jpg
Michael Lawson Bishop
1994
2
SF setting; Probably Borderline
[A]
Cyber Age Adventures
Cyberage Adventures 100x151.jpg
Frank Fradella
1999
  Probably Superhero
[A]
Doctor Diablo
Doctor Diablo 100x143.jpg
H. G. Martin
2003
  Probably Superhero
[A]
Dull Boy
Dull Boy 100x151.jpg
Sarah Cross
2009
4
Probably Superhero
[A][S][W]
Evil Genius
Evil Genius 100x137.jpg
Catherine Jinks
2007
1
YA; Contemporary setting; Probably Borderline
[A]
Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask
Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask 100x155.jpg
Jim Munroe
1999
  Probably Borderline
[A]
Graceful Blur
Graceful Blur 100x154.jpg
Ian Thomas Healy
2010
  Added 2011/04/27; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com; Probably Borderline
[A][S]
Hero
Hero (2010 novel) (cover).jpg
Mike Lupica
2010
  YA; Added 2011/04/27; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com; Not enough data.
[A][L][S]
In Hero Years... I'm Dead
In Hero Years I'm Already Dead 100x133.jpg
Michael Stackpole
2010
  Probably Superhero; Added 2011/04/27; Source: Amazon 'Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought' link from A Matter of Size
[A]
Invasion: Book One of the Secret World Chronicle
Invasion (2011 novel) 100x152.jpg
Mercedes Lackey, and others.
2011
  Forthcoming this year; 20th century alternate history; shared universe; Probably Superhero
[A][S]
A Matter of Size
A Matter of Size 100x130.jpg
Robert T. Jeschonek
2011
  Probably Superhero; Added 2011/04/27; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com;
[A][S]
Nothing to Lose
Nothing To Lose 100x134.jpg
Steve Vernon
2007 / 2011
  Added 2011/05/01; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com; Only ebook (2011) version available at Amazon;
[A][S]
Other People's Heroes
Other Peoples Heroes 100x150.jpg
Blake M. Petit
2002
  Right down the middle. I'll go with Borderline
[A]
Paranormals
Paranormals (2006 novel) 100x160.jpg
Christopher Andrews
2006
  Probably Superhero, but it's not clear from the description that there is a superhero culture.
[A]
Phenomenal Girl 5
Phenomenal Girl 5 100x161.jpg
A.J. Mendan
2008
  Probably Superhero
[A][I]
Powers
Powers (anthology) 100x139.jpg
Jay Faulkner (editor)
2010
  Added 2011/04/27; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com; Probably Superhero
[A][S]
Super Human
Super Human 100x151.jpg
Michael Carroll
2010
  YA; Added 2011/05/05; Probably Superhero; Prequel to The Quantum Prophecy series; Sequel: The Ascension: A Super Human Clash
[A][S]
Superpowers: A Novel
Superpowers (2008 novel) 100x100.jpg
David J. Schwartz
2008
  Probably Borderline
[A][L]
The Amazing Adventures of Kavilier and Clay
Kavalier and Clay 100x152.jpg
Michael Chabon
2001
  Probably Borderline
[A]
The Girl Who Could Fly
The Girl Who Could Fly 100x150.jpg
Victoria Forester
2008
  YA; Added 2011/05/05; Source: review on SuperheroNovels.com; Probably Borderline
[A][S]
The Legacy of the Silver Scorpion
The Legacy of the Silver Scorpion 100x150.jpg
H.G. Martin
2009
  Probably Borderline
The Rise of Renegade X
The Rise of Renegade X 100x151.jpg
Chelsea M. Campbell
2010
  Probably Superhero
[A][L][S][W]
The Scent of Shadows
The Scent of Shadows 100x159.jpg
Vicki Peterson
2007
  Sign of the Zodiac, Book 1; Probably Borderline
[A][I]
The Sovereign Era: Year One
Sovereign Era - Year One 100x150.jpg
Matthew Wayne Selznick (editor)
2010
2-3
Probably Borderline (for the same reason that Brave Men Run is Borderline)
[A][S]
The Strand Prophecy
The Strand Prophecy 100x155.jpg
J.B.B. Winner
2007
  Probably Borderline; No superhero culture. Added 2011/04/26; Source: The Glory of the Superhero Genre (Amazon ListMania!)
[A]
The Supernots (A Superhero Comedy)
Supernots 100x128.jpg
Leon Adkin
?
  Added 2011/05/05; Source: link on SuperheroNovels.com; Probably Superhero; Only ebook edition available
[A]
The Young Guardians and the Genesis Spell
The Young Guardians and the Genesis Spell 100x150.jpg
Grady P Brown
2009
  Probably Borderline; No superhero culture. Added 2011/04/26; Source: The Glory of the Superhero Genre (Amazon ListMania!)
[A]
Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories
Who Can Save Us Now 100x150.jpg
John McNally & Owen King (editors)
2008
  YA?; Probably Superhero
[A][L]
Will Super Villains Be On the Final?
Will Supervillains be on the Final 100x140.jpg
Naomi Novik
2011
  YA?; Upcoming release in April 2011. Probably Superhero
[A]

Updated: 2011/05/05 (e)

Roots of Superhero Fiction (Annotated)[edit]

Title
Author
Year
Notes
Links
The Avenger
Justice Inc - The Avenger 100x166.jpg
Kenneth Robeson (a house pseudonym)
1939
Pulp; Created by Lester Dent
[W]
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo 100x164.jpg
Alexander Dumas
1844
Notable for a plot revolving around and extended and extravagant revenge, powered by great wealth and discipline.
[W]
Doc Savage
The Man of Bronze - Doc Savage (pulp cover) 100x143.jpg
Kenneth Robeson (a house pseudonym)
1933
Pulp; Created by Lester Dent
[W]
Gladiator
Gladiator (1930 novel) 100x146.jpg
Philip Wylie
1930
SF; considered one of the influences leading to the creation of Superman.
[W]
Jim Anthony, Super-Detective
Jim Anthony - Super-Detective (pulp cover) 100x143.jpg
John Grange (a house pseudonym)
1940
Pulp; Created by Victor Rousseau Emanuel
[W]
Lensman
Grey Lensman (Astounding) 100x142.jpg
Doc E.E. Smith
1934
Space Opera
[W]
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel 100x164.jpg
Baroness Orczy
1905
Action-Adventure during the French Revolution; First hero with a secret identity.
[W]
The Shadow
The Shadow (Dec 1st, 1939) 100x137.jpg
Maxwell Grant (a house pseudonym)
1930
Pulp Action-Adventure; Created by Walter B. Gibson
[W]
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes (Original Illustrated Strand) 100x160.jpg
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1887
Mystery; Notable for his seemingly fantastic powers of deduction.
[W]
Slan
Slan (Astounding) 100x140.jpg
A.E. Van Vogt
1940
SF
[W]
Tarzan (series)
Tarzan of the Apes (All-Story) 100x143.jpg
Edgar Rice Burroughs
1914
Action-Adventure
[W]
Zorro -- The Mark of Zorro
The Mark of Zorro 100x163.jpg
Johnston McCulley
1919
Action-Adventure
[W]

Updated: 2012/06/17

Acknowledgments[edit]

I would like to thank the following people for their input and review of this article:

  • Chris Hocking

Supplemental[edit]

Table Column Descriptions[edit]

Column Label Column Description
Author Author of the work
Editor Anthologizer
Length Length can be (in descending order of word count ranges): Novel, Novella, Novelettes, Short Story
Links [A] for Amazon; [G] Google search; [I] for the Internet Speculative Fiction Database; [O] for Official website of the book; [P] for a Podcast of the book; [R] for review; [S] SuperheroNovels.com; [T] for TvTropes.org; [W] for Wikipedia.
Notes Additional info that doesn't fit in the other columns.
Read Yes, No, Cur, or Que. Cur indicates that I'm currently reading (or started, but haven't gotten back to it recently). Que indicates that I haven't read it yet, but I have a copy and it's on my (very long) list of things to read.
SCL Superhero Culture Level (rated from 0-5)
SGL Superhero Genre Level (rated from 0-5)
ShPL Superhero Power Level (rated from 0-5)
SvPL Supervillain Power Level (rated from 0-5)
Title Title of the work; italicized for novels and anthologies, double quoted for short stories, novelettes, and novellas; this may include a leading series title and work number, such as Wild Cards 2: Aces High.
Year First year of publication / copyright year.

 (e)

Links[edit]

Amazon Links[edit]

Fritz's Delicious Links[edit]

FritzWiki Links[edit]

TvTropes Links[edit]

Wikipedia Links[edit]

The Rest of the Links[edit]

Common Superhero Genre Tropes[edit]

I've attempted to collect some of the more common and/or important superhero tropes below. For more, and quite a bit of entertaining reading, I recommend checking out TvTropes.org .

Trope
TvTropes Name
Description
Links
Alternate History   If the setting or Origin Event is in the past, this is almost certainly an important or even dominant trope.  
Brick      
Costumes      
Crime Fighting      
Genre Blindness   Genre blindness is when the characters don't recognize that they are operating within a genre, a common example of this is found in horror genre, where, we as readers or observers know that it is generally a bad idea to go down in the basement or out in the woods by our lonesome, the characters in question blithely proceed to do so.  
Institutional Heroes   An Institution or Company is the origin or source of the superpowered. Crime fighting may or may not be part of the Institution's mandate. This trope may also include Superhero School.  
Masks   A facial covering that is intended to make it difficult to discern what the hero or villain's secret identity is.
[T]
Mutants      
Mutant Powers      
Origin Event   All superpowers trace their origin directly, or indirectly, back to a single event. If this event is in the past, then the Alternate History trope is also in play.  
Origins Super Hero Origin    
Patrolling      
Secret Identities Secret Identity An alter ego that for a hero or villain that has not been linked back to the costumed identity.
[T]
Secret Lairs      
Superhero Culture   For the trope 'superhero culture', I think the following attributes are reasonably descriptive:
  • The general populace knows about the existence of supers.
  • The general populace expects supers to intervene in bad situations.
  • There is a general awareness of many of the superhero genre tropes, such as Crime Fighting, Secret Identities, and Secret Lairs. There is an assumption of 'truth' about common knowledge tropes.
  • Culturally formalized relationship between supers and normals.


 
Superhero Schools Superhero School    
Superpowers      
Sworn Vengeance      
Übermensch   An unpowered human of exceptional ability.  
World Threatening Plots      

 (e)

DC Superhero Novels[edit]

According to List of novels based on comics at Wikipedia, between 1966 and 2010, 112 DC superhero novels and short story collections were published.

Theses lists are incomplete (and currently drawn from Wikipedia categories under DC Comics novels as of April 15th, 2011).

Batman[edit]

  1. Batman: The Ultimate Evil
  2. Dead White (Batman novel)
  3. Enemies & Allies
  4. Fear Itself (Batman novel)
  5. The Forensic Files of Batman
  6. The Further Adventures of The Joker
  7. Batman: Gotham Knight
  8. Inferno (Batman novel)
  9. Batman: Knightfall
  10. No Man's Land (comics)

Superman[edit]

  1. The Adventures of Superman (novel)
  2. Enemies & Allies
  3. It's Superman!
  4. Lois & Clark: A Superman Novel
  5. Miracle Monday
  6. Superman Returns, the Novelization
  7. Superman: Doomsday & Beyond
  8. Superman: Last Son of Krypton

DC Miscellaneous[edit]

  1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (novel)
  2. The Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Marvel Superhero Novels[edit]

According to List of novels based on comics at Wikipedia, between 1967 and 2010, 126 Marvel superhero novels and short story collections were published.

These lists are incomplete (and currently drawn from Wikipedia categories under Marvel Comics novels as of April 15th, 2011).

  1. Spider-Man: Down These Mean Streets
  2. Tomorrow Men
  3. X-Men: Dark Mirror

Marvel Comics in prosean unofficial guide has a good reading list broken down by main character(s).

Miscellaneous novels categorized as superhero in Wikipedia[edit]

According to List of novels based on comics at Wikipedia, between 1984 and 2005, 14 novels and short story collections were published based on non-DC, non-Marvel superheroes.

From the Wikipedia category Superhero novels as of April 15th, 2011.

  1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
  2. Amphibian Man
  3. Ariel (novel)
  4. Axiom-man
  5. Black and White (novel)
  6. Death in Silver (Doc Savage)
  7. List of Doc Savage novels
  8. Dull Boy (novel)
  9. The Fortress of Solitude (novel)
  10. From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain
  11. Gathering Grace
  12. Gladiator (novel)
  13. Hero (novel)
  14. Hero.com
  15. Villain.net
  16. Heroes: Saving Charlie
  17. Jumper (novel)
  18. Jumper: Griffin's Story (novel)
  19. The Lab (novel)
  20. Maximum Boy
  21. Melvin Beederman Series
  22. More Than Human
  23. The New Heroes
  24. Ordinary Boy (novel series)
  25. Phantom (comics) novels
  26. Psi-Man
  27. The Quantum Prophecy
  28. Reflex (novel)
  29. The Rise of Renegade X
  30. G. Xavier Robillard
  31. Sakkara (novel)
  32. List of The Secret World of Alex Mack books
  33. Slan
  34. Soon I Will Be Invincible
  35. The Story of the Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks
  36. Superfolks
  37. Those Who Walk in Darkness
  38. What They Did to Princess Paragon

Also see[edit]


Backlinks[edit]


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