Superhero fiction is a sub-genre within the broader speculative fiction (or simply "science fiction") genre. "Superheroes" and "comics" are not equivalent. Comics are a literary and art form which uses sequential art, accompanied by text, to tell a story. Comics is a medium, analogous to "film", "sculpture", or "novels." The medium does not dictate its subject matter. The comics medium is most often associated with superheroes, but has been used for all types of subject matter, including romance, westerns, historical, contemporary, etc.
Although fiction classified within the superhero sub-genre has most often been presented in comic books, it has also been presented in popular television series and movies.
A medium emerging in popularity with this sub-genre is the novel. Prose novels based on superheroes popularized by comic books date back at least to 1942, with Random House's publication of The Adventures of Superman, by George Lowther.
During the 1970s Pocket Books published eleven novels based on Marvel comics. Coinciding with the first major superhero feature film, Superman starring Christopher Reeve, Warner Books published Elliot S. Maggin's Last Son of Krypton (1978) and later Miracle Monday (both featuring Superman, but not based on the films).
Beginning in 1987 a group of science fiction writers led by George R. R. Martin wrote a series of interconnecting anthologies (called "mosaic novels") featuring original super-powered heroes and villains. Eventually this series, "Wild Cards", would encompass fifteen books. A similar but smaller project was the anthology titled simply Superheroes, edited by John Varley and published in 1995.
Beginning in 1994 Marvel Comics emerged as the current powerhouse in superhero novels with a new line of novels and anthologies featuring mainly its most popular characters: Spider-Man and the X-Men. Other novels feature characters such as Captain America, the Avengers, Iron Man, Generation X, the Hulk and others. Berkley Boulevard as been the main publisher of these, working closely with Marvel Comics editors.
DC Comics appears to be re-entering the current superhero novel scene as well. While dozens of Marvel novels are now available, only a small number of DC novels are in print. Other web sites have been created with extensive coverage of Marvel and Wild Cards novels. Selected important novels based on DC superheroes are listed below, but this is not yet a comprehensive list.
DC Superhero NovelsSuperman
NOTE: This page is somewhat off-topic for this website, and since we created this page, other, better resources have emerged which cover the topic of superhero novels and have much larger listings. This page lists some notable early and influential entries in the genre, but this page is far from up-to-date or comprehensive. We have no plans to expand this page or update it further.
Web page created 18 September 2000. Last modified 28 January 2006.