Superhero fiction

Superhero fiction

Superhero fiction is a subgenre of fiction that deals with superheroes, supervillians, super-powered humans, aliens, or mutants, and their adventures. Distinct from (but often derived from) comic books, animated films, and graphic novels, these are prose stories and full-length novels. Superhero fiction is a type of speculative fiction. This subgenre is often considered part of the genres of science fiction, fantasy, action, adventure, horror, or detective mystery fiction.

Some are stand alone novels, some books in a series, and some are anthologies. Some are individual or unique creations while others are corporate product or promotional tie-ins. Some are also the novelizations of films or television series. The largest and longest running of the corporate series are those associated with the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe.


Superheroes have been known by humanity since civilization itself. The earliest versions appear as gods and heroes in myths. Early superhero fiction developed out of the rich amalgam of mythic tales, dime novels, and Pulp Era action that dominated popular fiction in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. In this way, superhero fiction is a stepchild of pulp fiction.

Probably the earliest superhero novel was Gladiator, by Philip Wylie. Written in 1930, this tragic story featured a super strong protagonist who served in large part as the template for Doc Savage and later Superman. During the next decade of the heyday of the pulp magazine, Doc Savage, The Shadow, the Spider, and other crime fighters and masked vigilantes dominated the markets and were most likely the immediate ancestors of modern superheroes and superhero fiction. For example, Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, was called both a superman and a super hero and used a secret Arctic laboratory called the Fortress of Solitude long before the Superman comic books ever saw print.

During World War II, due to printing supplies and paper shortages, the pulp fiction industry was severely impacted and declined forever. Much cheaper to produce, comic books took their place in the decades that followed. Excepting some spy series (such as James Bond, Matt Helm) and detective series (Nero Wolfe, Mike Hammer), popular action-adventure novel series did not return until Don Pendleton's The Executioner sparked a revival in the 1970s.

One of the earliest superhero novels of the new era was Otto Binder's work, Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker.

The advent of George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards novels lead to multiple novels starring comic book superheroes. Following the rise of popularity of superheroes in pop culture in the early twenty-first century, occasional superhero novels have started to appear, often on the young adult market.

In recent years, many superhero fiction creators have also taken to the internet to produce their work on websites such as Metahuman Press, A Thousand Faces, and Starharbor Nights.


Authors who write superhero fiction include Stan Lee, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Diane Duane, Peter David, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, George R. R. Martin, Pierce Askegren, A.P. Fuchs, Christopher Golden, Adam Troy Castro, Dean Wesley Smith, Greg Cox, Nancy Collins, Frank Dirscherl, Jon Klement, Eric M. Cooper, C. J. Cherryh, Roger Stern, Elliot S! Maggin, Frank Byrns, Van Allen Plexico, and Frank Fradella.

Fan Fiction

Superhero fiction, due to its nature, is a very popular subject of fanfiction. Both forms of fanfiction (original creations by fans or non-commercial writings with established characters and universes) apply here. Numerous clubs, groups, sites, and zines exist dedicated to various versions of superheroes, public and private.

Fanfiction has been a bedrock part of superhero fiction. It has kept the subgenre "alive" during periods when corporations for various reasons have ceased publication of popular superhero fiction series (such as what happened after the 1980s following Marvel's decline or what happened after 2000 when Byron Preiss Multimedia was almost bankrupted in the dot-com bust). Fans have kept the stories and books coming out over the years despite what happened "officially" with various corporations.

With the advent of POD publishing and other forms of easier self-publishing in the Internet Age, many individually created superheroes have now moved from private fanfiction to published products.

External links

* [ A Thousand Faces]
* [ Metahuman Press]
* [ Star Harbor Nights]
* [ Wild Cards (official site)]

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