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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's that Kid from Algebra Class?

Everyone’s heard of Superman, Wonder Woman, the X-Men, and the Avengers. But not all superhero books are about famous caped crusaders. Some books feature characters with superpowers who are otherwise ordinary people, with ordinary lives. They go to school. They have jobs. They worry about an upcoming math test, the school bully, and how to keep their super powers from hurting others. Some don't even want their superpowers.

It was a customer using our What Do I Check Out Next? service that clued me into to the surprising number of books about ordinary superheroes. Our What Do I Check Out Next? service offers readers personalized reading suggestions based on each customer's individual interests. In this particular case, the customer was asking for books about kids with cool super powers. While looking for books to answer the customer's question, I came across more material than I'd expect about ordinary superheroes. 

Book cover of the graphic novel Powers by Brian Michael BendisMost books featuring ordinary superheroes tend to be children's or teen books. There are, however, adult titles as well. There is an adult graphic novel series, for instance, called Ex Machina. It's about a civil engineer, Mitchell Hundred, who becomes the world's first superhero. Dissatisfied with the limited good he can do as a superhero, he puts away his tights, runs for mayor of New York City, and wins. The first book in the series is Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days. There's also a new graphic novel, which as been called a "cops and capes mashup," titled Powers. It's a police procedural about two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, assigned to cases involving superpowers. Finally, there's Soon I Will Be Invincible. Doctor Impossible, evil genius and would be ruler of the world, languishes in prison, wondering if there was something better he could have done with his life.

Book cover for Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon
The are more children's books that feature ordinary kids with superpowers. Some focus on individual kids, some are about superhero schools, and some offer a twist, such as featuring the child of a supervillain as the main character. For instance, not only does Joshua Dread have to deal with the usual troubles of middle school, like bullies and homework, he also lives with a dreadful secret. The villains trying to take over the world are his parents. How embarrassing! When Joshua discovers he has powers of his own, life gets really complicated. The NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society series is more Batman-esqe in that it's got heroes with gadgets. A group of five awkward misfits run a spy network out of their elementary school, battling a former junior beauty pageant contestant turned assassin. Finally, for the aspiring kid superhero, there's the Big Book of Superheroes. This how-to guide covers many aspects of becoming a superhero, from acquiring powers and finding a secret lair, to breaking the news to your parents that you have super powers.

Book cover of Who Is AC by Hope LarsonThere are also ordinary superhero books for teens. In Steelheart, David joins a group of resistance fighters dedicated to killing super humans and ending their tyranny. The supervillains of Vindico find they are getting too old to keep on fighting. They kidnap five teens with the intention of training them to become the next generation of villains. There's also the teen graphic novel Who Is AC?. Average teenager Lin acquires super powers after being zapped by...her cell phone. Now she has to learn how to use her powers, fight the villain, and still make her curfew.

You can find stories about more ordinary superheroes in our catalog. A subject search of the word superheroes will bring up the most complete least. You'll have to wade through the many items on more well known superheroes though. I haven't found a way to remove the best known superheroes from the results list and leave just their ordinary colleagues. Information staff at any of our branches can help. Or, you could try our What Do I Check Out Next? service. For those of you who like rooting for the bad guy, you're in luck. Just use the term supervillains.

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