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Superfolks Paperback – February 10, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“What if you were a superhero going through a mid-life crisis? Your tights are in a bunch. You've lost your hair. Your powers have a mind of their own... You'll never look at superheroes the same way again!” ―Stan Lee, comic legend and creator of Spiderman, X-Men, and The Fantastic Four

“What Robert Mayer has done, and done with real aplomb, is carry off a smart satire and a very funny novel while at the same time caring enough about his characters that the reader's investment is respected and paid dividends. Without being derivative, it reminds me of early Vonnegut--Vonnegut through Cat's Cradle--as well as the first couple of the Hitchhiker's Guide. It's always satisfying when an influential but neglected work--in any genre, in any field--is "rediscovered" and given its proper credit.” ―Tom de Haven, author of Funny Papers, Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies, and Dugan Under Ground

Superfolks is an irreverent look behind the mask of superheroes wrapped up in a cutting lampoon of late 70's attitudes.” ―Paul Dini, writer and producer of Batman: The Animated Series

Superfolks was the book that showed me you could do more with superheroes than adolescent power fantasies. Without Superfolks I doubt there'd have been an Astro City.” ―Kurt Busiek, Multiple Eisner Award-Winning Creator of Astro City

“...sharp, funny, and ultimately moving, with a plot that could be the R-rated version of the current hit movie The Incredibles... a cult novel that inspired a generation of comic book writers and anticipated books like The Fortress of Solitude and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. ” ―Kirkus

“Infectiously funny.” ―Los Angeles Magazine

“It is gorgeous. It is splendid. It is funny as hell... He writes like an angel.” ―Newsday

About the Author

Robert Mayer is a former, award-winning journalist. He lives in New Mexico. During a mid-life crisis, he got in touch with his inner superhero and created Superfolks, his first novel, which was originally published in 1977.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (March 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312339925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312339920
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Mayer bio

Born in the Bronx, N.Y., Robert Mayer attended the City College of NY, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After a brief stint at the Washington Post, he joined the staff of Newsday. He spent ten years there, six as a reporter and four as the paper's New York City columnist.

In 1968 he won the National Headliner Award as the best feature columnist in the country. In 1969 he won the Mike Berger Award for the year's best writing about New York City. In 1971 he received the Mike Berger Award again, becoming the first person to win it twice. He then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to write books and articles.

Mayer is the author of nine books -- seven novels and two works of non-fiction. Three of the books have been reissued in new editions during the past few years. They include Superfolks, which (for better or worse) altered the treatment of super heroes in comics and movies forever; Notes of a Baseball Dreamer, a memoir about growing up as a wannabe major leaguer in the city; and The Dreams of Ada, the true story of two men spending life in prison for a murder they did not commit
Between writing books Mayer served six years as managing editor and then editor of The Santa Fe Reporter, an alternative weekly. His journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Condé Naste Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Metropolitan Home, Rocky Mountain Magazine and numerous other publications. Currently he is completing a new novel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Unknown Binding
Having just discovered Superfolks almost 30 years after its original publication, I'm mystified that I'd never heard of this book before, because this is a must-read book for any hard-core superhero junkie. It's an insanely funny parody of superheroes, but also has a genuine emotional heart. You feel for the plight of David Brinkley, the novel's protagonist, once the world's greatest hero, now just a middle-aged suburbanite nobody with only the faintest echo of his once mighty powers. He's an alien, feeling all alone, yet somehow this makes him even more human. A good example of something that is at once funny and terribly human is, as a teen, David develops "gamma-eye vision" that lets him see through walls and also, if he concentrates, girl's clothes. He tries to resist the temptation to use the power, not just because of the dubious morality of being a peeping tom, but also because when he's using this superpower, he can't see where he's going with his normal eyesight. You know he's given in to temptation when under David's photo in his yearbook, it reads, "Clumsiest Boy in School."

The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is that the book is filled with 1970's pop-culture references that haven't aged terribly well. Bella Abzug jokes were probably funnier in 1977 than they are now. On the other hand, some of the political satire still feels dead on. In the book, the people who really run the country are based out of Dallas and steer the country via the vice-president, while the president is left out of the loop on many of the nasty schemes being cooked up by his administration.
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Format: Hardcover
I understand they are going to reissue this. It is well worth hunting down.

Copywrited in 1977 the author, Robert Mayer, deconstructs the super hero mythos that in many ways paved the path for such books as Watchmen and Miracleman. Sometimes the book can be serious and at other times comes close to Kurtzman's Mad Magazine.

Superman, Batman and the Mavel Family are dead (the last killed by a lighting strike. A man named Brinkley (last survivor of the planet Cronk, parents Archie and Edith, told you there was some Madesque satire) was once the world's most powerful hero, now he wanders around, middle-aged, his dreams unfufilled, ala Moore's Miracleman.

Civil unrest in the streets and a super-powered menace show up, gradually he gains back his god like powers, only to be forced to make a choice that may destroy him and his family.

Don't let the sometimes silly tone distract you from one of the great superhero novels. As with all great stories you will find this to be equal parts tragedy and comedy.
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Format: Paperback
If you like superhero comics, or if you liked them back in the day and remember the feeling fondly, you will enjoy this book enormously. Robert Mayer's writing is clever, funny, and humane-- as witty as the book is, as much as it plays (havoc) with the genre, it never veers all the way toward parody; in fact, its protagonist is more painfully human than any of his avatars ever were. I won't assume that all of the current greats (besides Morrison, obviously) have read this, but it's easy to imagine the humanity of some of Moore's, Bendis's, Morrison's, Robinson's and Gaiman's "flawed" gods to have been inspired by Mayer's book.

There's also a bonus for readers over 40, especially New Yorkers and those who came of age in the New York metropolitan area in the countless sly references to people and events that made up the fabric of the early 1970s here in Metropolis. But don't be put off if you don't fit that profile-- those particular pleasures of recognition aren't in any way crucial to the reading experience, and there's a whole lot to savor besides them.
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Format: Paperback
Fun, twisted, hip. This little book's got it all. Written twenty years ago, but fresh as new born razor blade. SUPERFOLK was a fast enjoyable read. I'm old enough to get a lot of the pop culture references, and I can see where this little book might have sparked Grant Morrison's budding imagination. Fans of THE INCREDIBLES, pop culture, political humor, human nature, and just plain good writing will want to snap this baby up. I applaud St. Martin's for resurrecting this sleeper hit. Up, up and a way up yours, Hollywood, this is the movie you should have made!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a 34 year old lifelong comic book fan, and I thought I knew all there was to know about the history of comics. Now I am not saying I have read EVERY book, or new EVERY character story line, but I consider myself quite well versed in the history of comics. So imagine my surprise when I was introduced to Robert Mayer's Superfolks here in 2013... 36 years AFTER it was released!!! I had never ever even heard a peep of this book, and the fact that this is the case is a travesty on itself. The book is fantastic... so why wouldn't comic book writers, artists, and fans extolling its virtues? Probably because most of the writers & artists in the comic industry have 'borrowed' (or outright stole) most of the ideas that Mayer had put forward in his book. It is amazing how much has been lifted from Mayer's pages, and I can only believe that the lack of popularity of this book in a world that depends on word of mouth recommendations can only be tied to the fact that it is apparent that people have stole from it.

The book focuses on a retired Superman type hero who has hung up his cape. All the other heroes have also done the same. (Sounds a bit like Kingdom Come). Now all of the sudden there is a crime wave and he gets the urge to get out there and fight crime again... but in this case the crime wave is just a ruse to get him to go back to work as a hero so that he can be killed by his enemies (very similar story lines to Watchmen). This is the first time I can tell where superhero characters were portrayed as broken human beings, with regular vices like alcohol (Demon In the Bottle), drugs, and even inappropriate sexual actions. This is not the cookie cutter super hero stories that we were used to back in the 70s...
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