By. Steve Caldwell
Since I was a kid back in the 70’s, I have always had an interest in comics. I remember my first comics were old Archie comics my parents got me, and I soon discovered comics like Ghost Tank and Sgt. Rock. It’s when I found an old beat up copy of the Son of Satan comics that I discovered superheroes. The story of the son of the “devil” who turned his back on evil and used his powers for good turned me on to a whole new world of comics.
Spider Man was next, and then when I discovered the X men, it was off to the races. I always appreciated more obscure comics as well, like the Defenders, Justice Society of America, and the Legion of Superheroes. I have always been driven by good stories and characters, and when I got into reading indie fantasy and sci-fi, I discovered a growing subgenre of superhero and villain novels, both serious and comedic, enough to satisfy any taste. This is my top 10, in no particular order, of supers novels and series. It’s a wide range of stories and characters, serious and comedic, on both sides of the aisle of hero and villain. I hope you too can find some stories on here that will pique your interest.
The Rules of Supervillainy by C.T. Phipps
Blurb: ENJOY THE BEST-SELLING SUPERHERO PARODY!Gary Karkofsky is an ordinary guy with an ordinary life living in an extraordinary world. Supervillains, heroes, and monsters are a common part of the world he inhabits. Yet, after the death of his hometown’s resident superhero, he gains the amazing gift of the late champion’s magical cloak. Deciding he prefers to be rich rather than good, Gary embarks on a career as Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy.
But is he evil enough to be a villain in America’s most crime-ridden city?
Gary soon finds himself surrounded by a host of the worst of Falconcrest City’s toughest criminals. Supported by his long-suffering wife, his ex-girlfriend turned professional henchwoman, and a has-been evil mastermind, Gary may end up being not the hero they want but the villain they need.
Review: This is the series that got me into superhero prose stories. Taking something that works in a visual medium like superheroes and translating that into one that’s non visual like prose novels takes skill, something this author has in abundance. Taking that skill and creating a fully realized superhero based universe and centering it around a snarky supervillain whose main goal is to get rich, all while remaining somehow likable, is quite the trick. Take a wild ride with Merciless, the Villain Without Mercy, as he enacts his plans for world domination. Or getting rich, whichever comes first.
Dr. Anarchy’s Rules for World Domination (Or How I Became God-Emperor of Rhode Island) by Nelson Chereta
Blurb: Dr. Anarchy is a man with a simple dream, to conquer and rule the entire world. While he has yet to achieve his goal, he has managed to become absolute lord and master of one small corner of it. This is the story of what one man was able to achieve though hard work, dedication, careful planning, unhealthy obsession, giant robots, disintegrators, remote controlled grolem dolls, a horde of disposable henchmen, killbots, an annoying cyborg ninja, and thirty-six rules every supervillain should follow!
Review: As much as I love the Supervillainy books, this is probably my favorite Supers book. This story follows the infamous villain Dr. Anarchy, famous for his attempted theft of the Empire State building, although that SNL skit about it is going to get someone on that show a visit from a disintegrator ray. He is a true genius, and his decision to rescue Raven, an injured ninja assassin, and turn her into a cyborg has consequences he could never imagine. Now if only his “Arch Enemy” Dark Detective would recognize the Doctor’s true evil genius!
The Age of Heroes by C.C. Ekeke
Blurb: Every hero has a beginning.
So does every villain.
Titan, the world’s greatest superhero, has been murdered by his longtime archenemy Lord Borealis. And from the ashes rises a new generation.
Gifted with powers on the night of Titan’s death, fifteen-year-old Hugo awakes to the strange world of superheroes. A world he isn’t prepared for.
But with godlike powers and a history of tragedy, will Hugo become a guardian of justice…or agent of chaos?
Choose your side in Age of Heroes, the first book of The Pantheon Saga superhero series. Start reading today.
WARNING: This novel contains moderate swearing and big damn superhero action. If you’re not a fan of moderate swearing or big damn superhero action, this novel might not be for you.
Review: This series is set in a world where superheroes are out in the open, licensed and a regular part of society.When the world’s version of Superman is somehow murdered, it’s an incredible mystery that a local reporter is desperate to solve, as is the world’s equivalent of Batman. The fact that his powers have transferred to a bullied teenage boy with a superhero fixation creates some really interesting arcs to the story, as you follow four separate POV characters as they try and solve the mystery, and see the rise of a new villain who features throughout the series.
Dane Curse by Matt Abraham
Blurb: For a guy like me, who can shrug off bullets and lift seven tons, there’s no better profession than powered crime, and no greater burg to practice it in than Gold Coast City. But after ten years of tossing Buicks at heroes I wised up, took the black cape off my back, and hung out a shingle. Only instead of Dark Deeds Done Daily, this one reads Dane Curse, PI. Now I work cases for the dark denizens I was once counted among. The problems they got aren’t the kind that cops care about, so I do what I can, because sometimes even the unjust deserve a little justice.
At least that’s how it was before the world’s greatest superhero was mysteriously murdered, an act so terrible it threatens to start a war that’ll tear my home apart block-by-block, unless I find the killer in five days’ time. But getting to the truth won’t be so easy. I’ll have to contend with black capes whose powers and pulse cannons can shred my hide. An army of technologically advanced armored lawmen led by a power-mad government schemer. And white caped heroes whose abilities and intentions are both less than pure.
No simple task for a small time PI, so I’ll need every bit of my strength, guts, and powers if I’m going to find the killer, save my city, and maybe even get some justice for the greatest hero the world has ever known.
In Dane Curse, Matt Abraham, winner of Pulp Detective’s 2015 Newcomer of the Year Award, takes us on our first trip through the powered underbelly of Gold Coast City in a fast paced adventure you’ll never forget. If you like white knuckled action, devious dames, and heroic villains then get your copy today, and saddle up with the most exciting detective since Harry Dresden!
Review: This series is a bit more gritty and noir than the others. Set in the Gothamesque Gold Coast City, it follows Dane Curse, a Private Investigator who specializes in working for supervillains and other criminals. He’s uniquely qualified to do this, since he used to be a super powered villain himself. The story kicks off when Dane is called in to solve the case of the murder of the world’s greatest superhero, and has five days to do it, and he seems to be opposed by villains, heroes and politicians alike. This one has some great twists and turns.
Confessions of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer
Blurb: “Being a supervillain means never having to say you’re sorry … Unless it’s to the judge or the parole board. Even then, you don’t really have to. It’s not like it’s going to change the outcome or anything.”
Those are the words of Calvin Matthew Stringel, better known as Mechani-Cal. He’s a sarcastic, down on his luck armored villain. Follow his exploits as he gets swept up in a world domination scheme gone wrong and ends up working for this weak willed, mercy loving heroes. Immerse yourself in his epic battles and see what it’s like to be an outsider looking in at a world that few have ever experienced.
Climb into Cal’s battlesuit and join him on his journey. Will he avoid selling out his principles for a paycheck and a pardon? Can he resist the camaraderie of being on a super team? Does he fall prey to the ample charms of the beautiful Olympian Aphrodite? How will he survive the jealous schemes of Ultraweapon, who wears armor so powerful it makes Cal’s look like a museum piece?
See the world of “righteous do-gooders” through the eyes of someone who doesn’t particularly care for them.
And remember – Losing an argument with a group of rioters isn’t a good excuse to start lobbing tear gas indiscriminately at them. You’ve only got so many rounds and it’s going to be a long day, so make sure you get as many as possible with each one.
Review: This is another foundational series for me. I discovered the misadventures of Cal Srengel, a.k.a. MechaniCal, shortly after discovering CT Phipps’ Rules of Supervillainy. Chronicling his story as he starts a life of crime after a super “hero” basically ruins his life, we get to see Cal’s transformation from a petty armored powered criminal to a guy trying to survive a world threatening event brought about by a fight between supers way above his level, all the way to Cal making a discovery that changes his life completely, straddling the line between supervillain and hero, with no idea which side of the line he will eventually fall on.
Blackjack Villain by Ben Bequer
Blurb: Now with our own Patreon campaign!
I’m Blackjack. A small-time villain. I know I’m not a big leaguer, but more than one wannabe hero has ended up in traction after getting in my way. I mostly stick to easy stuff, though, like popping banks and armored cars, and make a little money where I can. Living good is nice, you know? I thought I had it all figured out, until I found a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: A slot in a big time super villain team.
The gig seemed like a dream. Steal bits of dusty old crap from different parts of the world and make serious cash. But little would I know that what would start small would end up sending me halfway across the galaxy (or was it to a different dimension?), and at the end of it all the fate of our planet, and everyone living in it, would be in my hands.
Oh, and I met a girl.
A girl that changed everything.
Review: Blackjack Villain and its sequels hold a special place in my heart. It is one of my favorite series of any genre, not just supers, taking so many of the tropes of the genre and turning them right on their head. Blackjack is a different kind of villain, because he is super strong and durable, and yet he’s a super genius who is an archer with a variety of trick arrows. The Green Arrow type is just not usually associated with the Luke Cage powerhouse kind of character, and it makes a great dynamic. Blackjack ‘s journey from a guy who robs banks to fighting some of the world’s biggest heroes is fantastic, and he has one of the best character arcs in the genre.
Wearing the Cape by Marion Harmon
Blurb: Who wants to be a superhero?
Hope did, but she grew out of it. Which made her superhuman breakthrough in the Ashland Bombing, just before starting her freshman year at the University of Chicago, more than a little ironic. And now she has some decisions to make.
Given the code-name “Astra” and invited to join the Sentinels, Chicago’s premier super-team, will she take up the cape and mask and become a career superhero? Or will she get a handle on her new powers (superstrength has some serious drawbacks) and then get on with her life plan?
In a world where superheroes join unions and have agents, and the strongest and most photogenic ones become literal supercelebrities, the temptation to become a cape is strong. But the price can be high – especially if you’re “outed” and lose the shield of your secret identity.
Becoming a sidekick puts the decision off for awhile, but Hope’s life is further complicated when The Teatime Anarchist, the supervillain responsible for the Ashland Bombing, takes an interest in her. Apparently as Astra, Hope is supposed to save the world. Or at least a significant part of it.
Review: Wearing the Cape is a coming of age superhero story centered on Astra, a young woman who discovered she had supergirl type powers when she was caught in a terrorist attack and a bridge fell on her, and she walked away without a scratch. Taking place in a universe where supers are established as heroes and celebrities, she is in the top tier of powers and joins the premier super team as trainee of the worlds greatest superhero, Atlas. Her adventures and growth as a person and hero is just a fantastic journey, and the author is not afraid to mix in some tragedy for Astra and the world at large in some excellent ways, creating a flowing story arc that feels completely organic and never forced. I suspect this book has some great appeal across multiple genres.
Villains Rule by M.K. Gibson
Blurb: Hi, how are you? Yes, I am talking to you, the reader of the this book’s description. It’s rude not to answer a person when they ask you a question. OK, I get it, 4th wall breaking is overdone. Get over it. This book, Villains Rule, is a fantasy action-comedy which you have to read. Not because it redefines the genre, far from it. But rather for what it contains. A villain’s tale. How often do you get to read a story where the villain is the protagonist? No, not an anti-hero, or a brooding monster, nor a hero thinly disguised as a villain. And not evil. If you want evil, take that nonsense to therapy. No, I mean a villain’s villain. The ones who use their power because they can, while morality is only a philosopher’s complex. This is the story of Jackson Blackwell, the Shadow Master and the top villain adviser. Sadly, even the top villain occasionally gets double-crossed. Trapped in one of the fantasy realms, Jackson has to use his skill and wits to exploit the rules, points out the genre flaws, undermine godly authority, and win the day. Because, that is what villains should do, shouldn’t they? Read this book, have a few laughs, and find out.
Review: Villain’s Rule is a little different from the others, in that it crosses genres depending on the book. The story revolves around Jackson Blackwell, The Shadow Master, the brains behind the multiverses greatest villains, regardless of the universe being a fantasy, sci-fi or superbeings type. He is the guy a struggling villain comes to in hopes of learning the methods to conquer their enemies/universe by exploiting the rules of their home universe. It’s all fun and games until someone close to him betrays him and he is forced to use his skills to survive in a world he never expected to ever visit, all while his enemies try to put an end to the Shadow Master. The story crosses multiple genres as the series progresses, including one Stan Lee could have created himself. This series has a surprising amount of twists and turns, and keeps the reader on their toes.
Sensation by Kevin Hardman
Blurb: Like millions of other kids, Jim grew up wanting to be a superhero. Unlike most of his contemporaries, however, Jim actually had the goods: a plethora of super powers that would have been the envy of any meta on the planet. But when his tryout with the Alpha League – the world’s premier group of supers – goes disastrously wrong, Jim basically becomes an outcast.
Two years later, Jim is still bitter about what happened to him. However, he soon finds himself the centerpiece in an odd turn of events that gives him a second chance at his dream. But nothing is as easy as it sounds, as Jim soon discovers. Among other things, he’s made an enemy of a prospective super teammate, he’s being stalked by an unknown pursuer, and a shadowy cabal bent on world domination has identified him as the only obstacle to their plans.
It’s a lot for one super to handle, even with a smorgasbord of abilities. But if saving the world were easy, everyone would do it…
Review: Sensation is a book I picked up on a whim on an Audible sale in between fantasy books, and I have never regretted the decision. It tells the story of JIm, a kid who dreams of becoming a superhero, and actually has a bunch of powers, so has the potential. Potential that is seemingly wasted when he absolutely blows his tryout for the premier superhero team, that could have been his end, but an opportunity comes up a couple years later that lets Jim, a.k.a. Kid Sensation, to redeem himself, all while stopping a threat with world wide consequences. He has an excellent character arc, showing that just because you have great power does not mean you will immediately find success. I think this coming of age story will have a lot of appeal, and it is a longer series for those interested in a continuing adventure.
See These Bones by Chris Tullbane
Blurb: Now a 2020 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner in the Fiction – Dystopia genre
Some superheroes want to save the world. Damian is just hoping to save himself.
In the post-Break world of superpowers, necromancy is the one gift nobody wants. Everyone knows what happens to Crows; they go mad and they go bad. That’s the story of infamous mass murderers like Crimson Death, Gravedigger, and Sally Cemetery. It’s also the story of David Jameson, an otherwise unremarkable man who came home one day and killed his wife, orphaning their five-year-old son, Damian.
Thirteen years later, Damian has inherited more than just grey eyes and a beak of a nose from his father. He too is a Crow, doomed to become a killer unless he can find a way to avoid the violent madness endemic to his powers. When a Finder offers enrollment at Los Angeles’ Academy of Superheroes, he jumps at the chance, believing training could be the key to changing his fate. His classmates despise him, the majority of his teachers want him expelled, and his mom’s ghost hasn’t said a word since reappearing when he was nine, but Damian isn’t the kind to give up. He’s going to take control of his destiny or die in the process.
It’s that or end up like his father.
See These Bones is a post-apocalyptic, superhero, coming-of-age ghost story… with expletives.
Review: See These Bones is a little different from the others on this list. It is a post apocalyptic superhero story, taking place in the reconstituted remains of the US, which in this case means about the six most western states, after the fall of the planet due to what amounts to the first super having a dream where he imagined a world where some people have superpowers, and it happens. Unfortunately, those with powers tended to abuse those powers and ended up destroying society for the most part. Only a determined effort from a group of heroes recovered the small part of the US, while the rest lies in ruins or under various super powered warlord’s control. This is the world Damien finds himself in, with a power no one wants. That power is necromancy, and its users are called crows, and it always ends up driving its users into murder and mayhem. Damien is invited to the premier supers academy to become the first crow to try and become a hero, and prove being a crow doesn’t have to lead to a path of evil and murder. Damien has a great character arc, having been raised in an orphanage, trusting no one, and he can’t really use his abilities except to see the occasional ghost. There is more to the story though, and as it progresses, you see there is more to Damien than meets the eye, and he is obviously part of someone’s agenda. Now if he only could figure out who’s, and what it all means.
Supreme Villainy: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Most (In)Famous Supervillain Memoir Never Published by King Oblivion PhD and Matt Walsh.
Blurb: For eons, King Oblivion, Ph.D., was one of the most ruthless supervillains the world has ever known. As the CEO of the ISS (International Society of Supervillains) for half a century, he was personally responsible for numerous nefarious acts, including Nixon’s presidential election, stealing the country of Japan, Star Wars: Episode I–III, and Milli Vanilli, just to name a few.
Since his untimely (and inexplicable) passing, Matt D. Wilson, who was found rotting in one of Oblivion’s numerous dungeons, has discovered in his giant lair (located in the Earth’s mantle) what seems to be the early workings of the villain’s ultimate manifesto. Though in-depth research (and paper cuts), Wilson reviewed endless documents and has compiled numerous unedited chapters, email correspondences, and various threats which combine tell the “life story” of this anti-hero.
Supreme Villainy is an intimate look into the mastermind who once ruled the globe with an iron fist (and ray gun). For the first time ever, readers will learn of his birth (which has never been noted on record), rise to power, and domination of the world as we know it today. Revealed inside are never-before-seen notes, illustrations, and personal letters which, now collected, show a glimpse into the once-infamous villain’s uncompleted manuscript, and maybe a hint into who the real man was behind that horrible mask.
Review: This one is the memoir of the world’s greatest supervillain, from his early life to his greatest crimes and successes! A parody of the highest order, I think anyone with an interest in supers and a sense of humor will find something to love in this.
Heroes Fall by Morgon Newquist and Thomas Plutarch
Blurb: Victoria doesn’t need a cape and a name to be a hero.
Living and working in the slums of Serenity City, she has become its faceless and nameless defender. She turned her back on the glittering world of professional superheroes years ago. If she has her way, she’ll never go back.
But the young and forgotten teens she helps are disappearing from the street, and nobody seems to care. As Victoria unravels this mystery, she is lead back to her old life in the star-studded glamourous superhero circles. No matter how much she hates it, she can’t abandon the helpless when they need her the most.
All clues point back to The Rampage, the terrible day when their mightiest champion Achilles fell to darkness. Will Victoria uncover the truth of what actually happened twenty years ago in time to help her lost boys and girls?
And what will happen when the fallen hero Achilles escapes, and Victoria is the only one who can stop him?
Morgon Newquist blazes on to the Superhero scene with the first Serenity City book, bringing nuance, emotion, and superpowered fights in spades. A solid, engaging launch to the brand new shared Heroes Unleashed universe, Heroes Fall will hook readers right in and leave them wanting more.
Can Victoria solve the twenty year mystery of Achilles’ fall from grace in time to save Serenity City? Or is there another, more sinister player who will destroy the very idea of superheroes?
Unravel the mystery and fight the villains with Victoria. Buy Heroes Fall today!
Review: This is another story set in a universe with established supers. The main character is Victoria, a former super trainee living in the seedier side of town trying to help and protect young supers living on the edge of society. She is a powerhouse type, blessed with strength and durability, and she has become involved in a conspiracy about the true events of the Rampage, the day years earlier when Achillies, the world’s greatest superhero, turned to the dark side. Or did her? This is the question, as Victoria goes on the run and tries to discover exactly what happened, and how it ties into her former mentor, and her reasons for leaving this tutelage. It’s a fast paced story with some great characters and a great character arc for Victoria especially.