Lists: Superhero Fiction

Superman,  Batman,  Wonder Woman,  Spiderman . . . Unless you’ve been completely out of touch these last few decades, you probably recognize these iconic heroes.  Even if you’ve never picked up a comic book or graphic novel, it’s almost impossible to avoid the movies, cartoons and marketing.   While there are plenty of  speculations on how Superheroes are the modern forms of older stories and myths,  superheroes as we know them started with a particularly coveted comic published in 1938.

Part SF, part Fantasy  these denizens of our universe (or a universe a lot like ours) possess amazing powers that set them apart from the everyday person.   But the superhero mythos is about a lot more than a character graced with amazing powers.  It’s about responsibility, choices, and value.    Superhero stories constantly remind  readers that it’s only the line of choice that makes the difference between a superhero and a supervillain.  And that even the mightiest heroes have a weak spot or flaw.  These stories embrace the idea of being special, being different that so many kids (and adults) can identify with.  And they recognize that being special isn’t enough.

There are plenty of graphic novels and comics out there featuring superheroes.  Fiction works? Not so much.  And middle grade fiction only has a handful of decent superhero stories that are not spun off from DC and Marvel characters.  So, my list is a short one, but hope remains  that we’ll see more quality super hero stories in the future.


Powerless by Matthew Cody (Knopf, 2009)

The town of Noble’s Green has an incredible secret.  Until they turn thirteen, some of the kids in town are mysteriously gifted with amazing powers.  Some of them have super strength, some can turn invisible, and some of them can fly.  But at thirteen, it all ends.  When kids reach their thirteenth birthday, their powers disappear–and so do the memories of those powers.  Daniel is the new kid in town, the one ordinary boy with extraordinary friends.  But a lack of super powers won’t keep Daniel from uncovering the truth about what (or who) is behind  the supers losing their abilities.  A  solid adventure-mystery with classic superhero powers and some solid investigation.  Lots of fun, but with a fairly dark and dangerous villain.   Matthew Cody has continued his story of Noble’s Green and Daniel Corrigan  in Super (Knopf, 2012).  Ages  9-12.


The Cloak Society by Jeramy Kraatz (HarperCollins, 2012)

Along with superheroes there are always super villains.    And in this book, our protagonist is training to be one of them.  Alex Knight grew up in the super secret bunker that is the Cloak Society–home to the most dangerous and lethal super villain community in existence.  Raised to hate the heroes and love the ideals of his  parents,  Alex is taught that he and other super powered villains like him are destined to rule.  That is, until in the middle of a  battle with the hated heroes, he actually saves one of them.  Suddenly Alex is questioning everything he is, and whether what he knows is the truth.  Somewhere between Good and Evil two super powered kids try to sort out their differences . . . and maybe just save the city.  A worthwhile look at the opposing side that doesn’t devolve into silliness or terrible cliches.   The second book in this The Cloak Society: Villains Raising series is expected out in October 2013.  Ages 9-12.


Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung, illustrated by Mike Maihack

In this action-packed comic adventure, Vincent Wu is one of the founding members of the Captain Stupendous unofficial fan club.  Granted the club is just him and his friends, but Vincent knows everything there is to know about his hero of choice.   Nobody takes him seriously. That is until the Captain starts acting strangely  . . .  and Vincent is the only person who can help him.  But helping the captain is going to involve talking to his long time crush, Polly, defeating Doctor Mayhem and finding a way to keep the city safe.  Is Vincent up for the challenge?  A fun and funny look at superheroes, fan clubs, and boy-girl relationships.  Ages 9-12.


Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon (Delacorte, 2012)

This one’s another look at the supers through the eyes of a young man on the side of villainy.  Normal sixth graders might be embarassed if their parents make the news.  In Joshua Dread’s case, however,  his parents are the Dread Duo–the villains that everyone is rooting against, even his best friend.  In the midst of trying to hide his identity, it  doesn’t help that Joshua’s suddenly showing some strange abilities himself.    But when super villains start going missing, it may be up to Joshua and his friends to actually save the day!  While it doesn’t quite live up to the writing of The Cloak Society, there’s plenty of action and mayhem for readers to enjoy.  Look for the second book:  Joshua Dread: The Nameless Hero.  Expected publication in September 2013.  Ages 9-12


Hero by Mike Lupica (Philomel, 2010)

Mike Lupica is probably more well-known for his middle grade sport fiction than superheroes.  But in this story he introduces us to Zach Harriman.  Fourteen year old Zach’f father has just died, and suddenly he’s going through changes: incredible strength, incredible speed, and the confidence to go with them.  But where are these powers coming from and what is Zach supposed to do with his newfound abilities.  Lupica delivers a solid book about a boy facing choices . . . and learning what it takes to become a hero.  A great dramatic thriller set in New York City.  Ages 9-12


Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening by Michael Carroll (Philomel, 2007)

Ten years ago, all the superhumans vanished.  No one knows if they were all wiped out in battle, lost their powers or simply vanished back into ordinary society.  Most thought that was the end of the superhumans.  That is until thirteen year old Colin and Danny start developing some stranger powers of their own.  Suddenly it’s a race against the clock to discover their super-powered heritage,  and what really happened ten years ago.  Because people are watching, and some of them want to stop the boys at any cost.  The first book in a dramatic near future story about a new generation of heroes.  The other books in the series are  The Gathering ( 2008),  The Reckoning ( 2009),  Super Human  ( 2010),  The Ascension: A Super Human Clash (2011) and  Stronger: A Super Human Clash (2012).  Ages 9 and up.


Sidekicked by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, 2013)

Just read this one and loved it!  Thirteen year old Drew is one of several middle-schoolers involved in a program  called H.E.R.O.  Here they secretly meet and train their unusual abilities, becoming sidekicks to some of the city’s most notable supers.  Drew’s hero is the Titan, one of the most awesome heroes ever . . . or at least he was one of the most awesome heroes.  These days, Drew is dealing with the fact that his hero isn’t going to show up and save him.  Despite being only a middle schooler  with an odd set of abilities that doesn’t allow him to leap tall buildings or repel bullets, Drew has the true heart of a hero, and if his hero can’t save him . . . well then Drew might just have to save himself along with the rest of the supers.  A great story with compelling writing that manages to perfectly toe the line between being an ordinary kid, and doing things that are extraordinary.  Review to come soon!  Look for this book in  June 2013.  Ages 9-12.

So there’s my list–if you have any good ones to add that I missed, pleased don’t hesitate to comment on them!

Happy reading! ^_^

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 1, 2013, in General Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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