Only One Can Prevail!
Posted on February 28, 2008 Posted by John Scalzi 27 Comments
Today was sent not one but two copies of Superpowers, the upcoming super hero novel by David J. Schwartz, which immediately made me suspicious. Two copies? Of a super hero novel? Nonsense! One of them is obviously from Bizarro Earth (or the nearest non-trademarked version thereof) and sent to confuse and trouble me. Either that or one of them is the evil twin, recognizable by the goatee.
And sure enough — well, as you can see here, one of the copies is clearly made of pure, hirsute nefariousness. Soon the two copies will join into an epic battle over the fate of the earth, and only one will survive, hopefully the clean-shaven one. All us mere mortals can do is witness their titanic struggle.
And the one that wins — well, I guess I’ll read.
In that photo, it really looks like “Buperpowers.” I had to zoom in to see that it’s an ‘S’.
No, I don’t know what Buperpowers would be.
Sean @ #1: I came here from my RSS feed to post the exact same content. My first thought was, “Buperpowers? What a dumb name.”
*”comment”, not content.
Blame the photographer, not the book designer. The “S” is pretty obvious on the actual book.
“Only One Can Prevail!”
er…is that kind of like “there can be only one”?
does the losing book get ‘decapitated’, and do we get to watch?
Ooooooooh! Ahhhhhhh! A superhero novel? Tell us more! Tell us more! Amazon says zilch on what the actual plot is. Just pre-order stuff. Is it a funny superhero novel? I love those. Austin Grossman’s Soon I will be Invincible had me laughing for days.
With Austin Grossman’s “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, Jonathan Lethem’s “Fortress of Solitude” and David Schwartz’s “SuperPowers”, is it fair to say that ‘super hero’ is now a distinct genre label separate from science-fiction, magical realism or fantasy?
Post-modernist leanings aside, is there any difference between these new works and George R.R. Martin’s shared world Wild Cards anthologies or Michael Moorcook’s Metatemporal Detective stories? Or is it exactly the post-modernist leanings of these novels that ultimately set them apart, somehow?
I’m sure that, if given a little time, I might have more of a vested opinion about this, myself, but this morning, I am far more interested in what other people think that the thoughts rumbling ’round inside my own head.
So, what do you think, Herr Scalzi?
And you? And you?And you?
May I use Hirsute Nefariousness as the name of my band? It’s going to be a Hair Band cover group.
Does anyone know the origin of the Evil Twin concept? I mean in pop culture Star Trek in all its forms certainly used a lot of evil twins, but does it date further back?
Hmmm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that wikipedia has an entry for Evil Twin. I can hardly believe it’s reliable as there isn’t any mention of The Evil Twin as major plot device in Knight Rider.
“Ooooooooh! Ahhhhhhh! A superhero novel? Tell us more! Tell us more!”
All right: Five college student quaff homebrew and wake up with super powers (so that’s how you do it…) and find out being super heroes is not all fighting crime and wearing spandex.
I haven’t had time to get into the book much yet, but the bits I’ve read so far are amusing.
Indeed, I think it is its own sub-genre at this point, and not just SF/F, since in YA these novels are popping up as well; I’m thinking of Perry Moore’s Hero, which recently came out.
Use it with my blessing.
It’s not usually cast in quite the same light, but Jacob and Esau would be a pretty early example. And I’m pretty sure that pre-dates Knight Rider.
Looks interesting. It would be great to get books before other people can buy them. Your hard work over the years pays off in many ways.
Please tell me that’s Photoshop.
I can’t imagine a writer defacing a book like that…
All right, it’s Photoshop.
This makes me smile. More books in the style of Soon I Will Be Invincible is a great thing (which is what this yells to me), and evil goatees just makes me think to the classic Qwantz.com comic series, where Utahraptor jumps to an alternate universe in which the cast have evil goatees, and do nothing but the bad (which is good!) all day!
John is avoiding a deadline!!!!!111!!!1
(Oh, maybe not — my “Scalzi-photoshopping detector” went off. Sorry about that, resume normal activity.)
Shawn, we must have gotten our Scalzi-detectors at the same place. Mine went off as well.
Well, I do have a deadline. But this doesn’t rate as real Photoshoppery.
The Great Scalzi (if you think about it, it kind of makes you sound like a cool vaudeville magician):
Thanks. You had me sold at “homebrew,” but I’d love to hear your further thoughts once you’re done reading. I
I tend to think of it as a sub-genre of SF/YA like Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of F/YA/H. In fact, I like to call it “Urban Scifi.” Instead of wizards, vampire hunters, “good” vampires and werewolves fighting off evil wizards, end-of-the-world cultists, and voodoo priests in settings of modern-day cities, you get super heroes fighting off crime lords, mad scientists, and super villains in real-life cities. Instead of magic being the source of their power, it’s usually explained away as coming from science in the form of viral mutation of their genes, bionic body parts, etc in a more realistic way than you’ll find in the typical comic book.
In comparing the newer books like Grossman’s Soon I will Be Invincible or Ministaur Faust’s From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain to some of the older books like Martin’s Wild Cards series, I really wouldn’t say there is a vast difference in the substance of the stories. They are still enjoyable reads that make you believe in the world the writer has created. They just have different approaches in the story telling. Grossman and Faust, sticking with my examples, use a lot more wit and satire, but you still walk away feeling like these are real people, with real problems just as you do with Martin’s shared worlds. Now, I have to admit, Wild Cards does delve deeper into more serious human problems like racism and drugs, but there are some newer books that take on more serious themes, too. The first to come to mind are John Ridley’s Soledad O’Roark books, which just came out in the last couple of years. They are much more serious in tone and are a closer comparison to the Wild Card books on that note. Plus, if you are a writer and want to read well-written action scenes to learn from, these are some great books to help you think outside the box (Ridley is also a screen writer and it shows).
Well, those are my thoughts. I’d like to hear more people express their opinions, too. I’ve probably given this way more thought than it deserves, but I do like these kinds of novels.
I guess the superhero subgenre is pulled from comic books into novels, just like the zombie subgenre has been pulled from movies. The question you have to ask is what can the novel form do for the superhero story that the comic book form can’t?
Well, for one thing it gives people who can’t draw a chance to play. “Soon I Will Be Invincible” didn’t add anything to the superhero story that you couldn’t find in comic books themselves. (Which is not a slam. I love comic books and I loved Grossman’s novel.)
“Wild Cards” adds the social unrest dimension that most spandex-swathed comic books sidestep. And the “Wild Cards” explores some superpowers that just wouldn’t work in pictures, like mind control and shape shifting. You need to stay in the character’s head to keep identifying with him and that’s hard to do when he changes appearance.
Well, I do have a deadline. But this doesn’t rate as real Photoshoppery.
John, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
Hmm, but is it the deadlines or the photoshoppery which is the problem? Oh, nevermind.
explores some superpowers that just wouldn’t work in pictures, like mind control and shape shifting.
Matt – uhhh, have you read comics? Perhaps seen any of the X-Men movies? I believe mind control and a shape shifter were pretty important in X-Men 2.
And I don’t think it worked very well.
Certainly written word can get to internal conflict better than any visual media, but your statement was that it wouldn’t work. I think it isn’t as deep, but still, it works – to some degree, in those mediums.
Re:genre, I had some similar thoughts last September, noticing the increasing number of non-comicbook works which “recontextualized comic book tropes — putting superheroes into more realistic contemporary settings or into other genre conventions”
One difference I noticed between Wild Cards and more recent incarnations is that WC still seemed more an extension of what comic books were already doing, while these newer works seemed to be putting comic elements into mainstream conventions.
Aside from Soon I Will Be Invincible, the other titles I thought of in this grouping were: Karma girl, Mystery Men, The Specials, The Incredibles, Sky High, Sidekick, My Super Ex-Girlfriend , Heroes, and maybe The Tick (live-action)
This book looks and sounds great. Glad to learn of it and can’t wait to read it. [I see the “projected publication date” is early June]
Oh, almost forgot Krrish, the Bollywood superhero movie
IIRC, the Wild Cards series evolved out of a RPG group playing a Superhero-themed game. So that’s not a novelty so much as direct derivation.
Another superhero novel (comedic) is Joe Gosh, by Tom de Haven.