Guest Blog: Ian Healy
Lowered Expectations: Tropes in Superhero Fiction
Superhero stories have always been the redheaded stepchild of the speculative fiction genres. People hear “superhero” and they immediately think “comic book” or more recently, “graphic novel.” It's almost a given when someone first hears that I write about superheroes that they ask “so is it a comic book?” And then I have to explain myself. No, they're not really science fiction, although there are definitely science fiction elements in many superhero tales. Jackrabbit, for example, features an alien spaceship, laser pistols, and an honest-to-goodness U.S. Air Force Flying Saucer. No, they're not really fantasy stories, although again, there are many elements of the fantastic among superheroes. Where do the powers come from? Magic, right? Or in Jackrabbit, they come direct from the gods themselves. That's pretty fantasy. The bottom line is that a bookstore owner would have to figure out where to shelve the Just Cause Universe tales, as well as their thematic brothers by my fellow authors of the Pen & Cape Society (which is a real thing that we have just started). At least Amazon has gotten it right and given Superhero Fiction its own genre listing.
People think superheroes and immediately certain tropes come to mind: Spandex costumes with their underwear on the outside, bulbous manly muscles and bulbous womanly boobs, trite dialogue. Superheroes are brightly colored like Superman, and fight their battles in the light of day, or they're dark like Batman, and lash out from the shadows. They have secret identities, headquarters, sidekicks. Jackrabbit embraces many of these tropes while simultaneously poking fun at them. First of all, the book is an origin tale. I haven't written many of those, because they're cliché. Pretty much every superhero movie is an origin tale, whether it's Iron Man or Spider-Man. It's how the character gets his or her superpowers, and then how they have to answer a higher calling. If there's a higher calling than having a god select you to be his Herald, I don't know what it is. That's what happens to Jay a.k.a. Jackrabbit. Everything else from the tropes is there in the book as well. He has powers and has to learn how to use them. He has a costume, made by his two gay sidekicks Bunny and Spence. He even has a Jackrabbitmobile, which is just Bunny's VW cabriolet. The trite dialogue? Well, it's there too, although Jackrabbit spouts it fully knowing that's what he's doing. He's the closest thing to a self-aware character in the Just Cause Universe. He doesn't know that he's a character in a story, but he might suspect it.
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Jackrabbit releases in print and ebook versions worldwide from all online retail outlets on April 1, 2014 (honestly!). Check out the Goodreads Giveaway at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/81665-jackrabbit (runs from Feb. 14 through March 21, 2014, with three signed ARCs as the prizes). Visit my Facebook page for more information.
Jackrabbit ebook editions can be preordered from Kobo (http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/jackrabbit) and Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/406990