For years superhero fiction was a marginal subgenre lurking at the bottom of the science fiction and fantasy barrel. No one took The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker too seriously back in 1967 (for good reason), and follow-up novels didn’t try too hard to reach an audience beyond the easy-to-please comic book community.
But now we have Masked, an outstanding collection of short stories by a batch of writers who are committed to the genre. Most of them have experience writing comic books and they understand what make superheroes tick. They get it. To paraphrase author Bill Willingham, “A new age of superhero fiction has begun.” Readers Assemble!
Editing a short-story collection can be tricky, but sometimes all it takes is picking the appropriate mix of talent. Gold star to editor Lou Anders for reaching out to the right people. Every one of these stories is a celebration of secret identities, super powers, and “towering colossi.” Matthew Sturges kicks off the fun with “Cleansed and Set in Gold,” and Mike Baron gives us the ups (and downs) of a masked vigilante’s first night on patrol. The book ends with a loopy (and wildly inventive) superhero slugfest that could easily inspire its own four-color spinoff.
Without a doubt there have been great superhero novels in the past. Books by Robert Rodi, Austin Grossman, and Tom De Haven come to mind immediately. Rarely, however, does a book come out that defines a genre so thoroughly, setting it on an upward trajectory into the future. Congratulations to the men and women of Masked. Mission Accomplished.
[Masked / Edited by Lou Anders / First Printing: July 2010 / ISBN: 9781439168820]