Good Company

BadCoOver the years there have been thousands of stories written about heroes (super or otherwise). From Gilgamesh to Odysseus to Kal-El to Luke Skywalker, the hero’s journey continues to be an enduring monomyth encompassing drama, myth, and ritual.

In every hero’s odyssey there’s always going to be a dirty rotten scoundrel causing trouble. You can bet on it. And that’s the inspiration behind This Mutant Life: Bad Company, a collection of 21 short stories that allows supervillains, mad geniuses, monsters, and devils to share the stage with the conquering hero.

But the authors in this collection know that bad guys are a nuanced bunch. Often times they are good guys in bad situations, or waifs with little moral direction, or progeny tainted by familial obligations. Sometimes, like Nick Lowe says, they’ve got to be cruel to be kind.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a thin line that separates good behavior from bad behavior. In the book’s first story, for example, a team of supervillains does all sorts of bad things to promote their agenda. Are they thugs? Or are they champions of human rights? Later, in a story called “Shade of Melancholy,” a superhero begins to realize that her arch-nemesis is a hero, and that she (gasp!) is actually a villain.

In other stories, superheroes become dangerous when their game of freeze tag goes too far (“The Hero Garden”), a telekinetic with a bad temper works for the government (“Talented People”), an evil genius slowly loses his memory (“Mastermind”), a man steals identities by drinking vials of gooey saliva (“Spitballs”), and a superfan becomes a supervillain in order to meet his superhero crush (“Heroes and Civilians”).

Our two favorite stories in the anthology come from Frank Byrns and Lincoln Crisler. Both of these stories feature squishy (and ill-advised?) sexual relationships between heroes and villains. In “No Chance,” a pregnant supervillain is defeated by her lover’s shield of impunity. And in “Nice to Matter,” a hero’s female sidekick outwits a villain with her sexual charms (“Distracting the bad guy with your pussy just wasn’t the sort of thing that screamed ‘superhero,'” she admits in hindsight). In both cases, the consequences of sexual intimacy weigh heavily upon the story’s resolution. Love is a battlefield, after all—even between superheroes and supervillains.

[This Mutant Life: Bad Company / Edited by Ben Langdon / First Printing: November 2013 / ISBN: 9780987530820]

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