August 27, 2009 11:07 AM   Subscribe

ComicsFilter: I like Harvey Birdman and recently picked up Incognito. I think it's a neat question to ponder what superheroes/villains do when they have to pretend to be normal. What else can you recommend in this genre?

I'm looking for stuff about beings with superpowers that have to be mundane or retire and their struggles with doing so. Any kind of media is fine. Movies, cartoons, comics, graphic novels, regular novels.... It just occurred to me the Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul was kinda like what I'm looking for as well. The gods kinda didn't really lose their powers but sort of went into retirement.

It can be funny and silly like Harvey Birdman or more serious.

Please feel free to ask me questions about what I'm looking for in case I haven't been clear. I'm not really sure what to call what I'm looking for.
posted by sio42 to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Alias - former costumed superhero grows up and has to deal with her past in the Marvel universe.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:19 AM on August 27, 2009

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a really good book covering behind-the-mask superhero issues. 'The Venture Bros' is the same schtick as Harvey Birdman and hilarious.
posted by GuyZero at 11:19 AM on August 27, 2009

I seem to be one of few people who liked the film adaptation of Mystery Men, which definitely qualifies. It's based on the comic of the same name by Bob Burden, although I never saw more than one or two issues of the comic.

I never saw the whole thing, but The Specials has a similar take on superheroes.

And while The Tick is more of an all-around parody of the comic genre, there are definitely plenty of "superheroes in everyday situations" moments to be found. See also: Paul the Samurai.
posted by usonian at 11:20 AM on August 27, 2009

Powers features cops whose job is to investigate super-powered crimes. One of the detectives used to be a superhero until he mysteriously lost his powers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Soon I Will Be Invincible is a really good book...

Really good? This book was 100 pounds of awesome.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:31 AM on August 27, 2009

The best that I can recommend in this genre is Soon I Will Be Invincible. It is a really amazing book that delves in to the mind behind a Supervillain. It is not exactly, what do they do when they retire, but it is about why many can't from a psychological standpoint. Part of the questions raised do deal with retirement. It's also very funny.

There is also Batman Beyond, which deals with Bruce Wayne working with a new Batman; it is set in the future. It is a really great animated series.

Watchmen deals with this question as well. Also, The Incredibles
posted by skewedoracle at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2009

Bruce Jones's "Return of the Monster" run on Hulk was pretty good, especially toward the beginning. The premise he starts with is that since the Hulk is an uncontrollable monster, Banner's best bet for everyone around him is to NOT turn into the Hulk. It's pretty much just a better-done variant on the standard "Oh-I-couldn't-possibly you-wouldn't-like-me-when-I'm-angry OH-SHIT-HERE-COMES-THE-BADASS" Hulk schtick, but the pacing is sort of slow and quiet, so it actually feels like Banner's trying, rather than counting down the seconds until the writer lets him GROW SOME FUCKING FISTS. So a lot of it's just Bruce Banner, wandering around, doing his best to not be the superpowered creature we all desperately want to see.

It's been a while since I've read Threshold, but I enjoyed it when I was younger; it's about a superhero team that spends more time bickering than fighting crime:
"The Threshold heroes are definitely more at home being, well, at home. They'd rather be kicking back, chatting it up, and enjoying a pizza slice and a glass of soda. In that regard, they're more like you and me than, for example, The Fantastic Four or The Avengers."

Also, I just recently recommended Jim Mahfood's Generation X Underground Special one-shot in some other metafilter thread. As far as I'm concerned, it's really all that Generation X should have been; the teenaged team hangs out, occasionally moping, occasionally having a good time, not really doing much of the super-crime fighting that the X-Men do.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:33 AM on August 27, 2009

wow! i'm very excited to go a book/media buying spree!

keep 'em coming, mefis! i see many weekends "booked" in my future.
posted by sio42 at 11:33 AM on August 27, 2009

Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's current run on Invincible Iron Man, "World's Most Wanted," and the upcoming arc, "Stark Disassembled," deal with...

...well, Tony Stark doesn't have any superpowers to lose, but he does have something that can be stripped from him, and it's not the Iron Man armor. Requires some backplot knowledge of Marvel's Secret Invasion and Dark Reign crossovers, but nothing you can't derive from 20 minutes on Wikipedia.

Fraction's pals with Brubaker; you'll see similarities in the writing style, although Fraction's a lot more inclined towards the smart one-liner.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:46 AM on August 27, 2009

IIRC There's a good story like this in the first volume of Astro City.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on August 27, 2009

Yeah, and it's a theme hit on a lot in Astro City v.4: Tarnished Angel. A supervillain/thug recently released from prison attempts to go straight.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:49 AM on August 27, 2009

There is a manga called Sei Oniisan (聖☆おにいさん or "Saint Young Men" in English) about Jesus and Buddha living as flatmates in present-day Tokyo. There's not too much plot; it's more about how the two of them deal with the modern world. It's very sweet and VERY silly.
posted by emeiji at 12:20 PM on August 27, 2009

God Behaving Badly is a novel that has the same sort of setup as Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul.

There's a PG-rated follow-up to Alias called The Pulse that deals with the same character in sort of a news-gathering role.
posted by flipper at 12:33 PM on August 27, 2009

Alan Moore's Top Ten is sort of a flip-side of this... set in a city where everyone has super powers. They all have to deal with it, make a living, etc. A lot of it is pretty funny, for my money. Moore says Hill Street Blues was an influence on this. Might be why I like it so much.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The recent Marvel series Destroyer deals with an aging supe with a heart condition who's trying to get his affairs in order before his ticker gives out. It's written by Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead, Invincible) and though the ending is highly unsatisfying, the third issue is perhaps the bloodiest, goriest, funniest and most tragic comic I've read in some time.

The entirety of Spider-Man is pretty much about Peter Parker balancing supe life and real life.

Ex Machina is about a supe who becomes Mayor of New York City and is almost more focused on the policy issues than the whizzing about being a superhero.

Marvels and Marvels: Eye of the Camera are about a normal guy who's job as a photographer puts him in the proximity of various superheroes. Kind of a man-on-the-street take on the genre.

Kick-Ass is about a kid obsessed with superhero comics who decides to become one himself. It's completely over-the-top with violence and it's funny as hell.

Some time ago there was a series about a team of bush-league superheroes who get called in to clean up the rubble left by the big city-destroying fights between other supes. I think it was called Damage Control. Don't remember much else about it, so I probably shouldn't have even brought it up.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:07 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I recommend From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust. The story is derived from individual and group therapy sessions of several superheroes. Even with the larger messages being broadcast, the book manages to be quite funny.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 6:39 PM on August 27, 2009

'The Venture Bros' is the same schtick as Harvey Birdman and hilarious.

I'd argue that The Venture Bros leaves the rest of the Adult Swim stable in the dust because, on top of being super-fucking-hilarious, there's a real emotional core to the story. Everything's driven by the way the superhero/superscientist lifestyle made Jonas Venture, Sr. an abysmally shitty father, thoroughly fucking up Thaddeus and setting him to be an even shittier father to Hank and Dean (and, of course, eventually fucking them up even more). Even though it's really funny and occasionally features gags like The Monarch fucking a security robot in the hopes of giving it chlamydia, The Venture Bros is a tragedy at bottom. And that makes it awesome.
posted by COBRA! at 5:31 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Confirming the recommendation of Ex Machina and Astro City. These are comics about comics, and the kind of meta-issues you're interested show up in all sorts of ways. Basically, they ask what normal looks like if you're super. Kurt Busiek's Marvels offers similar insights into what super looks like when you're normal.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:02 AM on August 28, 2009

Love Fights from Oni Press is a superhero relationship comic book series. It's an urban story with "normal" people with superhero problems, as well as superheroes with "normal" problems.
posted by JDC8 at 1:06 PM on August 28, 2009

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