What does this have to do with a recent M/M romance release? Everything when that romance is based in a world with superpowers, villains, and heroes.
After Vertigo is Urban Fantasy, but specifically, a superhero story. I love superheroes. I’ve been a comic nerd—and devourer of superhero tales in other mediums—all my life, ever since growing up on the Spider-Man and Batman cartoons of the early 90s.
So today, I’m going to run through my top 5 favorite superheroes and why they mean so much to me.
I can’t help it, as much as Spidey is everywhere these days and an easy, popular choice, he truly was my first comic book love. I adore how deep-down he’s a nervous nerd who quips to hide the fact that he’s actually scared out of his mind every time he faces a villain. I adored his villains, and how with the Venom storyline, he can be his own worst villain when he is taken over by the symbiote. I adored his love interest, Mary-Jane, a knockout redhead with some serious chops in every iteration they’ve created of her.
Spidey is also the heart of the Avengers—once he became an Avenger. He’s the conscience of the Marvel universe who’s always trying to do the right thing over the smart or legal thing, even if it doesn’t always turn out well for him. For me, growing up, he was that symbol of a true, selfless hero, even if his moniker is that of one of the things that makes me run screaming from a room. ^_^
I might actually say these days that Flash gets my #1 spot, though I didn’t really want to order these that way. If Spidey was my first love though, then Flash was the true love who came later.
Initially, I was all about Wally West, the sidekick who got to grow up and become the main hero. For those unfamiliar, Wally went from being Kid Flash to The Flash in 1986 and held that spot for twenty years before the return of Barry Allen. I grew up with Wally and always considered him more The Flash than any other version. I loved that he was a redhead (noticing a theme?) and that he was quipping and fun and caring and basically the heart of the Justice League the same way Spidey is the heart of the Avengers. Really, they’re a lot alike, but many of Flash’s storylines take him to places that engaged me more than Spidey.
His villains, specifically the Rogues and Captain Cold, are the most unique in any comic universe to me, because as much as Flash’s city and the people around him love him, his villains love him too. They’re protective of him, they’ll team up to face a bigger threat together if it means protecting the city, and they follow a code that fits in line with The Flash himself so perfectly. I mean, Flash had a museum created after only one year as a superhero. Spidey and other heroes in other universes are almost always just barely staying ahead of being considered a menace.
The fact that I have The Flash symbol tattooed over my heart also proves my love. And there are definitely some parallels to him in After Vertigo, since one of the MCs, Grey, also known as The Streak, is meant to be a nod to him, but Streak is definitely not The Flash, more a reluctant hero in training.
My favorite X-Men and favorite female superhero ever. She’s also part of the reason why I like Ms. Marvel so much, because the version of Rogue I first knew and admired had her power set. Rogue can take powers and memories from the people she touches. She once touched Ms. Marvel for such an extended period of time, that she had her strength, durability, and flight powers for years.
I just loved that Rogue could kick as much butt as any Superman like hero. She was at the front lines, able to dish out more than anyone, and her actual mutant ability to take powers was both fascinating and tragic in that she couldn’t touch people when she wanted without hurting them.
This created an amazing dynamic with her main love interest, Gambit, who was always willing to risk passing out for a kiss. I love how her character has evolved over the years to finally being able to truly control her powers, but I’ll also always have a special place in my heart for the version who stole what made Ms. Marvel so great and became iconic herself because of it.
I have to give love to Booster. He might not be as recognizable to casual comic fans, but he is one of my favorites. He became a hero for all the wrong reasons, just to be famous really, without any of the characteristics that I normally look for in a favorite hero, but that’s what makes him special, because his character is all about the arc and growth and becoming a true hero even if his original intentions were flawed.
I love his friendships with other heroes, particularly Blue Beetle. I love the way time-travel is so integral to his character, and the tragedy inherent there that isn’t always explored in other time travel stories. I love who his son turned out to be, and how there is always more to learn about Booster, even if half the time, he’s mostly enjoyable because he’s fun, a little ridiculous, and someone to shake your head at—until he steps up and proves he does deserve his place as a hero.
Finally, I have to give credit to the original hero. You’re a fan of Batman? Me too! But the old noir quality of the original detective in the shadows will always be special to me. I have a background in radio, so the old radio dramas are such a fun pastime if you’ve never looked any up to listen to.
The Shadow, while often thought of as a comic book character, started as a radio drama, then became serials in a pulp magazine, and then became a comic book character, the inspiration for Batman and many characters like him, and seen in multiple film adaptations too, though not a in a long time, as the most recent was in the early 90s.
So many of my favorite heroes are the light in their universes, even if tragedy touches them. They’re funny and hopeful and the kind of hero that just lifts your spirits, while The Shadow’s catchphrase is, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”
It’s a crazy departure maybe, but the style, the voice, that old detective pulp storytelling is all so much fun, and even today, The Shadow, as part of the DC universe, is a fascinating read who hasn’t gone away just because he was the oldest and original. There’s something to be said about our roots, and I love giving nods to all my favorite comic book characters, especially when dabbling in these types of stories myself.