I’d never heard of Superfolks until only a few months ago. As I’ve said here before I like superhero prose novels that aren’t necessarily about Marvel and DC characters…plus, Superfolks was originally printed in 1977, so it’s not exactly a new book. I enjoyed the Marvel books put out around the same time (and yes, I own the set of 11!) so I thought this might be a good addition.
In browsing around a little about the book, I read posts which claim it is an influential book. I can’t argue with certain writers who claim it inspired them, but if the book was so influential, why am I only hearing of it today? After all, I was a comic fan from around the middle 70s well past the time I got involved professionally, which was in 1989. So, though it may have been “influential” to some writers, why didn’t they claim it before? I mean, I’ve always said how influential Stan Lee was on my own writing.
Superfolks is written by journalist Robert Mayer (who makes a cameo in the book as a young reporter Bob Mayer) and is at times very funny. While there’s nothing on the book’s cover to indicate it as such, this book is not for children and in fact, many scenes were not for me! Gratuitous sex scenes were peppered throughout. What makes the book so funny is that Mayer tackles the subject with a very straight face while tossing in incredibly funny pieces. For instance, the hero’s (Indigo) secret identity is David Brinkley. Like Superman, he’s the last survivor of his home planet, Cronk. The only thing that can harm Brinkley is Cronkite. He was found and adopted—like Superman—by his parents Archie and Edith.
Part of the humor comes via all the names Mayer throws in. For instance, as an adult, after retiring, Indigo’s neighbor is Kojak, a bald cop. The superhero tailor’s name is Max Givenchy. Billy Button is Captain Mantra (Billy Batson=Captain Marvel) and many, many other comic and pop culture stabs. Again, Mayer pulls it off with a straight face and it is very effective.
One of the funniest bits is Indigo’s gamma vision which gives him the ability to see through things. Yes, Mayer addresses the issue that most 13 year old Superman fans always asked: Can Superman see through Lois Lane’s clothes? Indigo discovers that he could, but every time he did something like that, something happened to him that would make him appear clumsy (bumping into a table, tripping over a desk, dropping his books—or, flying smack into a telephone pole and knocking himself out!). At least there are some ramifications for the misuse of his power.
The book begins in the mid-life crisis of Indigo. His powers, once awesome, have faded to almost nothing. He finds himself caught up in part of the Cold War with the Russians, however. Attempting to disarm the nukes, the Russians claim that if the nukes are destroyed, the US will still have Indigo. The US government sets out to remedy that. Much of the “retired hero” bits we saw presented in The Incredibles, which I do heartily recommend!
The biggest hesitation I have about recommending this book is the language (which seems to be becoming all too common in modern fiction) and the occasional gratuitous sex scene—there weren’t many, but they were explicit. Had I known this about the book, I probably wouldn’t have purchased it or read it.