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


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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: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

INTRODUCTION

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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Customer Reviews

I'm not sure what this is, but it's not well-written stories.
W. Hellinger
I mean, to set up a plot for 95% of the story, then suddenly drop that plot line and resolve the story in a backhanded, anticlimactic way.
nude 0007
I only have a couple stories left to read and I haven't read a bad one yet!
dr j.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elmore Hammes on October 20, 2008
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Seay on August 22, 2008
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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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 15, 2008
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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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Titrant Ranger on December 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
The cover of "Who Can Save Us Now" is an homage to the quintessential comic book, Action Comics #1. The primary colors arranged just so, the burst effect around the graphic, even the brown tape along the spine, all combine to elicit a primeval attraction within a comic book fan. However, where Action #1 has as its main focus the introduction of Superman, complete with that iconic pose of him smashing a car on a boulder while bad guys flee in terror, "Who Can Save Us Now" has a portrait of a pensive man dressed in a leotard and cape gazing out of an office window. This should have been the first clue that these weren't going to be stories about superheroes that your grandfather read as a child.

A comic book is a lot like a soap opera, only with capes and cool codenames: At the end of an action-packed episode, the main players cannot come out changed. Superman will always be 29, Spider-Man will always be down on his luck, Aquaman will always be lame. Too much change tends to isolate fans, who are usually either OCD afflicted individuals that need all change in their lives to be submitted in triplicate three months beforehand, or emotionally stunted boy-men that still can't accept they aren't thirteen any more. This leaves comic book stories as the ultimate anecdotes. Fun and adventurous anecdotes, sure, but anecdotes nonetheless. Short stories are different. What they typically lack in action, they make up with the life lessons or universal truths exposed through the changes that occur to the characters. A short story should pack an emotional punch and leave the reader feeling like they have been decked by one of the superheroes in the aforementioned comic books.
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