The Supernots: A Conversation with Leon Ardkin

Leon Ardkin has written a novel about a morally challenged scientist and his family of flawed superheroes. The Supernots is funny, but it’s more than just a “clash of the nuts.” It’s a smart, farcical novel that includes a bit of Biblical subtext.

“I set out to write a funny superhero novel,” says Ardkin in a recent interview with “But at the same time, I wanted to write a story with no clear-cut good vs. evil. I wanted there to be some good and evil in every character. It wasn’t simply to humanize or trivialize supermen, but to show that they can be just as complex as the rest of us.”

But Ardkin admits that his book is top heavy with villains. Uno, Meg, Zukemeister and Timothew are all super corrupt. Alpha is the only hero of the bunch, and he’s not exactly a Cracker Jack prize. “I always see the heroes in superhero fiction as lacking that extra dimension. The villains tend to be more driven and, therefore, more compelling. That’s why The Supernots is full of them. I just could not resist turning every character into a villain of sorts.”

The story begins with Timothew, a mad scientist whose reading preferences shy away from science journals in favor of children’s books. In pursuit of the elusive God Particle, his two lab assistants are accidentally transformed into human gods. What follows is a madcap adventure that some readers might see as a Biblical parable. The cover of the novel, in fact, has an image of a superhero rising, savior-like, into the heavens.

“Yes,” says Ardkin, “there are Biblical allegories and references all over the book. However, these references have no overt connotations except to elevate the characters (and the plot) onto a grander scale.”

After downing a vial of “Supermordial Soup,” one of Timothew’s assistants falls into a coma. Seven days later he rises. “With an otherworldly lucidity, his first act as a (super) man was to fly.” The second assistant rises a day later.

All the Bible stuff is tongue-in-cheek, says Ardkin. For example, the scene above was written to establish the imperfection of the villain. If the “hero” rises on the seventh day, the villain must therefore rise a day later. “It underscores the opportunities of his existence and how his destiny was never in his hands,” explains the author.

More than anything, however, The Supernots is about taking the hero-villain relationship to its logical conclusion. “An immovable object and an unstoppable force can only lead to the complete destruction of human civilization,” says Ardkin.

After destroying their hometown in one final cataclysmic battle, the supermen are pelted with sticks, stones, and shoes (!) by angry citizens. “The city doesn’t need any heroes!” they scream. “And we don’t need any villains either!”

But why do human gods rage so much? Why do they destroy everything they touch? “We are supermen,” says Uno, the city’s No. 1 villain. “There is nothing else better to do.”

[The Supernots / By Leon Ardkin / First Printing: May 2011]

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