Superhero Novels: With Great Power Come Great Stories

“All superhero fiction is defined by the villain,” said Gini Koch, author of Touched by an Alien. “Batman is nothing without the Joker.”

And so it went Friday morning at Comic-Con as a riot of authors gathered to discuss the challenges and rewards of writing superhero prose.

On board were the aforementioned Koch; the writers of Black and White and Shades of Gray, Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge; Chris Roberson, author of the upcoming novel, Book of Secrets; a couple of Wild Cards contributors; and Lou Anders, editor of Masked, a recently released collection of short stories.

Masked, in stores for less than a week, is already getting a lot of attention and garnering praise from critics. It is a collection of stories, says Anders, that unabashedly embrace the superhero genre. “I never met a trope I didn’t like,” he said with a laugh.

In fact, all the panelists seemed comfortable wrestling with the tropes inherent in the genre. Superman and Batman may be well-worn archetypes. But that doesn’t mean writers should pack up their laptops and get a day job. “It’s all about making clichés cool,” said Roberson.

Unfortunately, the panel lost some of its focus once audience members were allowed to ask questions. If people want personal advice and writing tips, they should join a workshop or enroll in classes at their local community college. They shouldn’t hijack a panel at Comic-Con for their own personal reasons.

Superhero fiction is an emerging genre, one that’s on the cusp of attaining shelf space in the mainstream. It’s an exciting time. And it’s too bad the assembled authors didn’t have the chance to fully discuss the topic at hand.

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