Monday, December 3, 2007

Superhero Romances -- I'd Read 'Em!

This week at the Diner, we're going to be tackling superheroes and supervillians. Well, we're not going to tackle them literally, because we'd never be able to catch them, but we're going to talk about the influence of comic book and similar heroes and villains on popular culture, in particular their influence on paranormal romance.

Paranormal romances had a fling with readers in the late 80's and early 90's with a spew of futuristics and some angel and time-travel stories. There was an ebb, and now, as we all know, there's a flow. A torrent of vampires, werewolves, magic users, aliens of the outerspace variety, gents and ladies with psychic powers, secret paranormal agencies, you name it, it's available for purchase! One thing there hadn't been as much of, and which I hope is about to come into its own, is the use of the traditional "superhero" in romance fiction.

First, let me define traditional superhero. Or do I need to? Comic books and their characters have been so deeply ingrained into popular culture, especially here in the United States, it would surprise me if someone wasn't familiar with at least a few of the gang. The two primary companies that publish traditional superhero comics right now are Marvel (Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Captain America, Fantastic Four) and DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern). Here's the Wiki for "Superhero". The basic definition there, with footnotes: "A superhero (also known as a super hero) is a fictional character "of unprecedented physical prowess dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest."[1] Since the debut of the prototypal superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes — ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas — have dominated American comic books and crossed over into other media."

This link leads to a brief history of comic books that describes their evolution into the incredibly varied art form they are today. Comics aren't only about superheroes and villains. There are also horror comics, romance comics, teen comics -- in fact, here's a brief history of romance comics if you're in the mood for a tangent.)

God, I love surfing the internet. Anyway, back to my topic.

The first romance genre books with traditional superheroes I remember reading are the very funny Aphrodite books by Julie Kenner which debuted in 2001. In 2007, we've had a few more superhero romance stories make it to print, like Jennifer Estep's cheeky Bigtime series. When you're talking traditional superhero stories, which we are, more appear in science fiction, young adult fiction and from smaller publishers, like the superhero pax at Amber Quill Press called "The Lusty League" and the antho at NCP called "Ultimate Warriors". Author Eilis Flynn has "Introducing Sonica" coming out from Cerridwen quite soon, December 13, I believe. I am drawing a blank on those YA novels, but some were along the lines of the movies "Sky High" and "Zoom".

Trends in popular culture all begin somewhere--sometimes simultaneously, sometimes bleeding from one medium to another. In my opinion, the popularity in recent years of converting traditional comic books to movies and television started with "Batman" in 1989. The Donner Superman films were huge, but until "Batman", special effects were more challenging, and it was harder to make the superhero stuff "really cool", as my husband just explained. He also said, "In the late 80's, superheroes became darker. When Frank Miller did "The Dark Knight Returns", that was a completely new spin on the Batman mythos, and it was his take on Batman that influenced comics and went on to influence the 1989 movie to be darker and more serious." Then, with the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man on the screen (which had similarly dark overtones), the result is the era we're currently in--an era ripe for a superly heroic romance genre uprising!

I know of at least one author whose agent loves her excellent superhero romance, which I hope gets published soon so we can all enjoy it. I mean, with fascinating, powerful and conflicted characters like Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and Wolverine, how can we not write romances about our own superheroes?

If anyone can add to this kind of list of superhero romances in the comments, please do and I'll update! I know there are more titles out there I am forgetting.

Jody W.
So much cyberspace, so little time! *


  1. Fun theme this week. I never really thought of superhero romances. Hmmmmm.....

    So Jody, what would your superhero's power be in a superhero romance?

  2. How can you NOT love superheroes? I grew up with superheroes, married a superhero (fan) -- superheroes are the modern god myth! Bob Mayer's "Super-Folks" inspired me when I was a kid to eventually write a few stories for DC Comics when I was in college, and since comics then were basically for guys, I had to finally write a combination of superheroes and romance.

    My own (and first in a series), INTRODUCING SONIKA, is, as Jody mentioned, coming out on December 13 from Cerridwen Press. It was referred to as a mesh of Buffy and Superman from an early reviewer, and who wouldn't love that?

  3. Maureen Child's MORE THAN FIENDS is kind of a superhero romance (I haven't read it yet), and Gena Showalter has PLAYING WITH FIRE. Both of those seem to be origin stories, dealing with how the main character discovers or gets her new powers.

    My agent told me she was in a workshop earlier this year by an author who told her superheroes are the next big thing! I hope so, because of love the combination of ultra-powerful on the outside, super-vulnerable on the inside. :)

  4. Yay for the superheroes! And they're usually all angsty and conflicted, which I love. I've got PLAYING WITH FIRE in my TBR pile, and that'll be my first "super" romance, I guess. Looking forward to it...and to hearing more about all this during the next two weeks! Now I just have to figure out who to choose:-)

  5. Great blog post, Jody! You brought back some good memories of the superheroes I loved growing up(and still do)!

    I would love to see superheroes storm the literary front in upcoming books. I am noticing a bit of a trend with the current "urban dark fantasy" titled books featuring strong heroines with vulnerability as they save the world from other dark creatures. Much of these stories feature a romance or two inside and I can't help but wonder if urban dark fantasy is perhaps the contemporary interpretation of superhero(ine) centered stories?

    In any case, bring on the superhero romances of the future! Can't have too much speculative. :-)

  6. Sorry to comment on such an old post, but it's one of Google's top hits for "superhero romance," a genre that's close to my heart. :- ) I'm kinda hoping that maybe some good ones have come out since 2007 and I've just missed them somehow.

    I got sick of waiting for the romance novel industry to get on the superhero train, and just started writing them myself. The stupid capes, the silly powers, the fun tropes of the genre, all of it.

    Anyway, apologies for the plug, but since you did say you wanted to keep the list updated, for the sake of completeness, you can add "Yesterday's Heroes," "The Son of Sun and Sand," and "The Guy Your Friends Warned You About" by Elizabeth Gannon to your list.

    Oh, and you can add Nora Robert's Night Shadow to your list as well. He's got a cool Batman thing going on that really worked.