Even though superhero fiction is fairly new to the world of written novels (at least in comparison to many other genres), there’s still a whole wealth of history and established tropes from other storytelling mediums. Whether you’re a writer looking to break in, or just a curious reader, there’s bound to be resources that will prove interesting, insightful, or just plain entertaining for you. Below, I’ve listed some of the ones that I’ve found the most useful as I’ve been working with my own superhero fiction. Enjoy!
For me, one of the hardest challenges of superhero fiction is simply the act of naming things. Superhero personas, fancy tech, places… it all needs to have the right sound to it, it all needs to convey the right ideas, but most importantly, it all needs to have never been used before (or used so long ago/be so generic that it’s no longer really an issue). Enter Comic Vine and the Grand Comics Database. Plug in each of your superhero names into these search engines (plus good old-fashioned Google/Duck Duck Go), and then either rejoice at the lack of results, or—let’s be honest, more likely—scream in frustration as you discover that all of your ideas are already taken. It’s infuriating, but trust me, it’s worth doing.
Even if your superhero book doesn’t draw heavily from comics for its visual cues, it’s never a bad idea to learn about the roots of your genre. Strip Panel Naked (and the related magazine, PanelxPanel) are a fantastic, fun resource that delve deep into examining how comics use their specific visual language to convey ideas on the page. Plus, they’re just really cool, and learning the secrets of how comics work is endlessly fascinating in its own right.
For inspiration, as well as checking if something is too similar to yours or too overdone. Just be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole, because much like Wikipedia or TV Tropes, there’s a ton of information here.
Kristen is another indie superhero author (so be sure to check out her books while you’re there!), but in addition to various superhero-and-comics-themed posts, she also periodically does good wrap-ups of recent superhero releases. Even though she hasn’t done one of those in a while, it’s still worth going through her archives if you’re ever interested in finding new books to try.
Another source of indie superhero books. This site is a database started a few years ago, and it’s got a wide variety of types of superheroes and genres represented. Just pick your favorite and go!
But sometimes you’re just in the mood for some comics. In order to use hoopla, you do need your local library to be set up with them, but if you’re lucky enough to have access, oh boy is this the resource for you. Whether you’re keeping up with the latest issues, or want to try some new titles and back-catalogues, hoopla’s got you covered. I cannot even tell you how many amazing comic series and graphic novels I’ve found through here, and my TBR just keeps getting longer.
Further Reading (Books)
Still haven’t had your fill of superheroes and comics? Try any of these books. Each one explores a facet of comic/superhero history and culture from a unique and often under-represented perspective.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
Marvel: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
Why Comics? by Hillary Chute
The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson
Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca
The Ten-Cent Plague by Adilifu Nama
Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes by Adilifu Nama