Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…well, it’s a Sky Shark, but we will ignore it for the time being and pretend it’s Superman to go along with today’s entry.
Superhero fiction is somewhat unique among speculative fiction subgenres in that it exists almost exclusively in visual formats. Comic books, movies, TV shows. There are the occasional radio show or novel, but they are definitely in the minority. Some alternative names for this subgenre include Superhuman and Super-powered fiction as villains tend to feature as prominently as the heroes.
It also crosses the boundary between science fiction and fantasy, like many of these subgenres do. At first glance, a lot of it is science fiction: characters like Batman and Ironman depend on advanced technology, Superman is an alien from another planet, the Green Lantern is just one of many throughout the galaxy. But there are also more fantastical characters such as Thor (who is the Norse God), and Wonder Woman, and some of the things that both the heroes and the villains get up to have absolutely no basis in science.
This is a very trope-y subgenre, for the most part. There are the Superheroes. There are their nemeses, the Supervillains. They all tend to have silly names. Most have mild-mannered (or not) alter egos. Some are more obvious than others. (Clark Kent, of course, wears glasses while Superman does not. Batman is at least smart enough to wear a mask.) Increasingly, superheroes all seem to live in the same universe, allowing them to participate in a number of crossovers with other superheroes, and leading to series such as the Justice League or the Avengers.
While the DC and Marvel characters are probably the most well-known, there are an increasing number of non-mainstream characters, produced through webcomics and indie presses.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this genre is that it is constantly evolving, the characters being re-done and updated to meet the concerns of each age they find themselves a part of. The modern Superman is very different from the 1940s Superman, because we worry about different things than they did back then. There’s also been a trend lately of creating antiheroes or adding darker twists to superheroes’ backgrounds, or more media focusing on the villains instead of the heroes.
What’s your take on superheroes, Squiders? Anything to recommend? (I’m partial to Batman myself). Read any books in this genre?