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Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories Paperback – July 15, 2008

3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Owen King is the author of the novel Double Feature, We’re All in This Together: A Novella and Stories, and the co-editor of Who Can Save Us Now? Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories.

John McNally is the author of two novels, The Book of Ralph and America's Report Card, and a short story collection, Troublemakers. His next book, Ghosts of Chicago, a collection of short stories, will be published this fall. A native of Chicago, he lives with his wife, Amy, in North Carolina, where he is associate professor of English at Wake Forest University. The first word he ever spoke was "Batman," who has remained, in his darker incarnations, his favorite superhero. John's first creative work, a play written in the fourth grade, featured an overweight superhero who gets stuck inside a phone booth while changing into his costume. He is happy to return to the genre, albeit thirty-four years later.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


In 1938 a gawky, bespectacled man walked through a door, and when it opened again, a benevolent giant in red and blue tights emerged, gave a wink, and lifted right off the pages of ACTION COMICS #1 and into the sky. As the years have gone by, countless other champions have joined this remarkable gentleman in the firmament of the popular imagination, and created a mythology for the twenty-first century.

However, in the sixty years since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, our collective story has grown a good deal more complex. The black-and-white conflict of World War II is a speck in the rearview mirror, and the road ahead is a smashed causeway north of Baghdad. Racial and sexual politics have been radically transformed. Technology has made our planet miraculously and terrifyingly small. It's more apparent than ever that the worst of the bad guys don't wear spandex and live in underground ice palaces in Antarctica, but can generally be found in three-piece suits at the head of gleaming boardroom conference tables.

The raccoon-eyed purse-snatchers of the Golden Age comic books are the least of our problems. We have suicide bombers, dwindling oil reserves, global warming, and an international community in complete disrepair. Not even the biggest and broadest bulletproof chest could stop all these out-of-control locomotives.

To put it bluntly, Superman just wasn't built for times like these. The antidote? You're holding it in your hands!

Within these pages, you'll find twenty-two brand-new stories about men and women whose amazing abilities reflect and address our strange and confusing new conditions. These superheroes are different from the Technicolor do-gooders you remember from the rack at the drugstore. These heroes are conflicted, frustrated, freaked out, and desperate; they're brave and afraid and not sure; they're a little nuts. In other words, you're going to recognize these people -- they're a lot like us.

And the supervillains? We've got them, too. And maybe they're even more familiar, those carnival glass reflections of our murkiest compulsions.

Who Can Save Us Now? introduces a plethora of origin stories (How does a girl with bad luck come to shape the events around her? How did a band of Quick Stop drones become an unlikely team of superheroes?); stories of heroes whose powers derive from nature's most peculiar creatures (A flock of flying orphans, anyone?); stories of the sinister draw that unbelievable power has on all-too-believable men and women (Why is it that this little town never had any trouble until that band of superheroes showed up? What becomes of a man whose soul has been lit on fire?); and stories in which the extraordinary is used to help the ordinary and protect the innocent (What awesome power is capable of manipulating televangelists into assisting those truly in need? What vast strength empowers the hero of this city's disregarded streets, the defender of its disregarded people?).

You'll meet the Big Guy, the Rememberer, the Meerkat, Mr. Big Deal, the Silverfish, Bad Karma Girl, Ghetto Man, and, yes, even Bob Brown. You'll see submarine monstrosities, fiery conclusions, reporters searching for answers, and neighborhood taverns destroyed. Whether your own origin story includes an obsession for comic books and a penchant for the darker worlds of graphic novelists like Frank Miller and Alan Moore, or a love for superhero-inspired literary fare like The Fortress of Solitude and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, we promise that within these pages you'll find stories that suspend your disbelief without insulting your intelligence.

How are we going to stay alive in this world of trouble?

Read on!

Can anyone save us now?

We repeat: Read on!

What use is all this fancy in the face of so much real darkness?

If we're honest, we have to concede that it's probably no use at all. The sky is falling. And yet if we're courageous enough to see things as they aren't -- to believe that a flying man can catch a flaming satellite before it destroys the city -- then maybe we can summon enough heart to see things as they could be. This is just a book, a few hours' diversion, but we believe in heroes, and we need them now, like never before.

...And look! There's one now -- Copyright © 2008 by John McNally and Owen King --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Free Press Trade Pbk. Ed edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416566449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416566441
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Most short story collections I have read have been fairly even in the stories contained within the particular collection, as far as how much I have enjoyed them or how well I felt they were written. Who Can Save Us Now? is an exception to that.

There are several very good stories that I enjoyed quite a bit - notably Tom Biessell's My Interview with the Avenger and Owen King's The Meerkat.

However, others were not up to par for me, with weak, obvious or missing plots (In Cretaceous Seas, Mr. Big Deal).

The good ones were worth getting through the not-so-good ones, none of them are overly long to feel your time was wasted. Four or five stars for the good ones, two or three for the others, average rating for the book of three stars.
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Format: Paperback
Usually when I'm reading an anthology I'll find a few outstanding stories sandwiched in between tales of varying quality. So you can imagine my surprise as I made my way through this collection and found story after story after story that delighted and impressed me. The origin stories were definitely my favorite, but I appreciated all the different takes on the superhero genre, and was happy to experience characters that were new and immediately accessible. If you like fantastical tales, but don't want to deal with the decades of continuity attached to folks like Spiderman, Superman, and the X-Men, this collection is your answer. It proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that superheroes are more complex than we give them credit for, and gives comic book fans a new form in which to experience their preferred method of storytelling. Chris Burnham's illustrations are an added bonus, capturing the essence of each piece with his skillful hand.
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Format: Paperback
"Who Can Save Us Now?" is a 2008 anthology of short stories by non-comics writers about superheroes edited by Stephen King's son, Owen. I bought this solely because of Scott Snyder's story "The Thirteenth Egg" which he revealed in a recent podcast interview with Kevin Smith ("Fatman on Batman #19" - highly recommended!) was the spark that set him on the path to writing superhero comics, so this is a review of that one story rather than the 22 stories as a whole.

Snyder's tale is set in 1946 and features Everett Batson (wink wink), a young man recently discharged from the Navy and returning to his small American town back to his sweetheart and his loving family. But something happened to Batson when he was stationed overseas. He was exposed to a massive atomic explosion and was somehow the sole survivor. And now he's back home, his skins burning all the time... and he's slowly changing.

Snyder's writing is fine, I just wanted a bit more action from his story which really isn't a superhero story. For most of it we find out about Everett and his girlfriend's relationship while Everett and his dad make a speed racer for a local derby. It's only in the last page that anything resembling a superhero story emerges, like a flare, but just as briefly it appears and then disappears and the story's over.

I was hoping to find a small gem in this short, a glimpse maybe of a character in utero or indications of the kind of stories he would go on to write in "Batman" and "American Vampire" but was disappointed with this somewhat dull slice of Americana. Reading other reviews of this collection, I'm not encouraged to take on the other stories which seem similarly written, that is they're also not really superhero stories and are more than a bit literary (read: pretentious).
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Format: Paperback
The last decade or so has seen a remarkable "legitimization" of graphic storytelling, be ranging from indie "comix" to the superhero genre. The latter is a genre that's come to dominate the summer movie season, and with literati such as Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon as its paladins, it shouldn't be surprising that more and more fiction writers find it intriguing. This collection of twenty-two stories, six of which appeared previously in such places as Virginia Quarterly Review and One Story, gathers some of these experiments in an attempt to reimagine the superhero's place in our everyday real world. One note of caution is necessary: though the word "superhero" appears in the subtitle and on the jacket, it might convey the wrong message. The protagonists of these stories are not so much heroes as they are people with paranormal abilities or attributes -- which are sometimes put to heroic purposes and sometimes not. So, if you're looking for new takes on the traditional Superman/Batman/Wolverine/Etc. superhero, you might be disappointed.

However, if what you're looking for are interesting writers taking on an interesting premise, then you won't be disappointed. I tend to measure anthologies by their ratio of stories I'm glad to have read vs. stories I'm not glad to have read, and that usually works out to roughly 1:2. In this case the ratio is reversed, and there are really only two or three stories I really didn't care for.
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