Superhero comics from an ordinary schlub's POV?
July 10, 2012 10:54 PM   Subscribe

Comic book readin' friends: What are some well-known series where the protagonist(s) is a "normal" who exists in a world of "super" beings of one kind or another? Research for something that maybe could someday be a thing.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Batman, in the Justice League context, comes to mind. Batman's not super powered, unless money is a superpower.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:05 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marvels was a limited run series about a normal photographer running across the paths of superheroes. There was a sequel called Eye of the Camera.

Also, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen is a classic.
posted by inturnaround at 11:07 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a comedy and "well known" may be stretching it, but PS238 fits the bill.
posted by bswinburn at 11:10 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

There was a nice series by Marvel called Damage Control, about a company that offered cleanup and rebuilding for a price after any of the big superpowered brawls. As I recall, practically all the staff were normal humans.

Also, Warren Ellis cooked a dystopic and shockingly grim version of Marvels called Ruins, with the same protagonist but in an alternate reality.

(If you're willing to accept Batman, then there's dozens upon dozens of series where similar humans that try to cope with the supers by just having mad training, the best tech, or whole secret organizations dedicated to keep track and even under control all the supers.)
posted by Iosephus at 11:16 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender has no powers, but all the other people in the merry band can control various elements.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:18 PM on July 10, 2012

In a world of tiny robot companions, sentient space stations, vespa-riding vigilantes and broadsword wielding baristas, Martin Reed is a library assistant.
posted by sarastro at 11:41 PM on July 10, 2012

martEn reed, damnit
posted by sarastro at 11:42 PM on July 10, 2012

Mary Jane AKA Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, the Western shoujo love of my life. (I own signed hardcovers!)
posted by nicebookrack at 11:43 PM on July 10, 2012

You might want to check out Badass Normal for Batman-types. The Team Normal also applies.

I wouldn't say Martin really counts; it's not like any of the other characters really have superpowers or anything. There's just a lot of weird shit that happens around him. I mean, he has a tiny robot computer himself. And he's weirdly talented with a broken-off stop sign, IIRC, and that's about as "powerful" as any characters in QC get.
posted by NoraReed at 11:48 PM on July 10, 2012

His thoughts were red thoughts: My love for Sokka is such that I have written sappy songs about his awesome, but he is not the protagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the sarcasm-and-planning sidekick guy, at most the tetragonist, ranked in focus behind (in order) Aang, Zuko, and Katara, all of whom have supernatural powers.

But he is still awesome and I love him and would read Avatar's Pal Sokka of the Water Tribe any day.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:51 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:05 AM on July 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

They are superhero media, not superhero comics, but the novel After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn and the movie Sky High have exactly such protagonists. In both works, the protagonist is the "normal" child of high-profile "super" parents.

SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading now if you don't want to know whether or not the "normal" character in each work conveniently gains superpowers after all along the way. Are you still reading? In the first work mentioned, no. In the second work, yes.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:07 AM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

The first thing that came to mind is Jessica Jones from Alias by Brian Michael Bendis. It's kinda funky as an example because she has powers and is a former superhero but chooses to live as a 'normal' detective.
posted by beekept at 12:14 AM on July 11, 2012

Gotham Central - regular cops in Batman's world.

Powers is a similar setup, but I beleive one of the cops is an ex-supe.
posted by Artw at 12:15 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stormwatch: Team Achilles
posted by benzenedream at 12:38 AM on July 11, 2012

Y: The Last Man. From wikipedia: "The series is about the only man to survive the apparent simultaneous death of every male mammal (barring the same man's pet monkey) on Earth."

Maybe not typical "normal vs. super" - but he's definitely unique in that world.
posted by alchemist at 1:30 AM on July 11, 2012

Not a full series, but worth a look:
You're dating a new girl and things are going great. Then one day she asks you to meet her ex...who just happens to be Superman. Can a mere mortal ever live up to the Boyfriend of Steel?
(Originally via Mefi)
posted by Rhaomi at 1:58 AM on July 11, 2012

Aaaaaand the main link has been taken down. (Stupid book deal).

There isn't a good source for the (admittedly crude) art, but you can read the original text story the comic was based on here.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:06 AM on July 11, 2012

The Punisher is part of the Marvel Universe--I don't know how much specialized skills/training are blurring the line, but no superpowers or access to super-tech or super-secret-fictional-fighting-techniques, just paramilitary training and a lot of guns.
posted by kagredon at 2:59 AM on July 11, 2012

Andi Watson's Love Fights.

There's a character called Kev who's sort of…adjacent to The Authority who turned into a whole weird running joke thing with multiple series' of his own.

Alice in FreakAngels [WikiPedia] is a major character, though not specifically the protagonist.
posted by Su at 4:22 AM on July 11, 2012

posted by mtarbit at 5:10 AM on July 11, 2012 - I'm not sure how well known PS238 is, but it is about the life of a regular joe born with no powers with superhero parents.
posted by TrinsicWS at 5:26 AM on July 11, 2012

Anyone in Watchmen who isn't blue and naked.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:47 AM on July 11, 2012

Look into Gaiman's Sandman. There are a lot of normals running into things beyond their ken in there. Watchmen is a good one too.

Hawkeye? Green Arrow? Some of the SHIELD people?
posted by Jacen at 6:07 AM on July 11, 2012

This is actually an important subtheme in Watchmen, even though there's only one Ethan in that world. It's also important in Superman: Red Son, and in anti-villain depictions of Lex Luthor more generally.

Buffy did an episode on this subject called "The Zeppo" you may want to dig out.
posted by gerryblog at 6:24 AM on July 11, 2012

Only one Ethan? Now you're just messing with me, iPad. Only one metahuman.
posted by gerryblog at 6:24 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marvels, mentioned above, was written by Kurt Busiek. His Astro City series often has stories written from the viewpoint of "normals."
posted by soundguy99 at 6:46 AM on July 11, 2012

Gotham Central is about normal police officers who work on superhero-related cases. They're often out of their depth. Powers covers similar ground. Both are excellent works. Gotham Central would be more well known since it obliquely features Batman. Powers is all new characters who are sometimes spins on existing mainstream characters.
posted by davextreme at 6:47 AM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe not quite what you're looking for, but -- Alan Moore's Top Ten is set in a city where everyone has superpowers of one sort or another, but although one of the main characters -- Robyn "Toybox" Slinger, has no powers, she does command a cadre of little robots who do her bidding.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:08 AM on July 11, 2012

Seconding Andi Watson's Love Fights. In the vein of Man not Superman story someone else linked above, it's about a normal guy who lives in a city full of superheroes and feels insecure in love.
posted by Aliera at 10:23 AM on July 11, 2012

I love this genre!

- Astro City
- Marvels
- Gotham Central
- Powers
- Stormwatch: Team Achilles
- Top 10

- Sleeper
Secret agent stuck undercover in a super-powered criminal empire
- Incognito
Depowered supervillan in witness protection
- Global Frequency
A secret network of regular people with special skills dealing with weird crises.
- Promethea
A college girl channels an immortal spirit, inaworld with "Science Heroes" and supervillans
- Raised By Squirrels / Death Cold as Steel / Darkness from Warsaw
Stories set inaworld where a parallel project to the Manhattan project created superpowered people/agents, told from the perspectives of non-powered people/agents (full disclosure: I've worked on these) :)

These have more of a super-powered-and-normal-people-in-gritty-real-world-type-environments-maybe-with-secret-government-agencies, also a favorite genre:
- The Hellboy And BPRD series
- Chew
If chicken was outlawed, and an FDA agent got psychic flashes from anything he ate
- The Interman
If the government had a secret program to genetically engineer superpowered people
- Ex Machina
If the Mayor of NYC was a "retired" vigilante-type superhero
- X-Force/X-Statix series
If an X-Men team was run as a reality TV show
- The Silencers
- Superpowered hit people, working for the mob
posted by mon-ma-tron at 6:32 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody! These are some awesome recommendations. Excelsior!
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 7:24 AM on July 12, 2012

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