Superheroes have busted out of their pulpy roots, and now they're boldly leaping into a whole new era of postmodernism. It started with creators like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, but now the postmodern trend has made the jump to actual literary authors of literature, who use the "modern mythology" of superheroes to explore themes of identity and responsibility. But what you really want to know is, would any of these pomo super-warriors win in a fight with Thor?
The answer, sadly, is no. If the story of modern superhero comics is escapist power inflation (with even powerless Batman becoming more and more unstoppable) then postmodern superhero lit is your bitter antidote. The classic pomo superhero novel is about the hero's inadequacy and feebleness. Levitate yourself downwards, into the abyss, with our roundup of the lamest superheroes of postmodern lit.
Moisture Man. The hero of the title story of Charles Yu's collection Third Class Superhero, Moisture Man's power is to generate moisture. Not a flood or anything, just a little bit of dampness or vapor or whatever. He longs to join the equivalent of the Justice League on his world, but he's next to useless unless you're stuck in a desert somewhere. And then when he finally does get the chance to join the A-list heroes on a mission, he sells them out in exchange for a real superpower.
David Brinkley. (No, really, that's his name.) The hero of Super-Folks, the original pomo superhero novel from 1977, which Grant Morrison accused Alan Moore of stealing all his ideas from. A Superman analog, David Brinkley comes from the planet Cronk, and his only weakness is the substance Cronkite. He loses all his powers because criminals dosed all sorts of common consumer products with a small amount of Cronkite. And then he has a mid-life crisis and loses his hair, and mopes. And mopes. Finally, he does get his powers back thanks to the CIA, just in time to save the day one last time.
Elphin. Soon I Will Be Invincible by io9 contributor Austin Grossman is full of crappy-ass superheroes, including the drug-dependent Rainbow Triumph, who has to keep taking her meds every few hours or she loses her abilities. But Elphin, the fairy princess from the 10th century, is the lamest, with her childlike whispers and her beauty products. She keeps changing her story about where she comes from and what her abilities are, and always comes up with ridiculous excuses for why she can't use her powers in a particular situation, like she can't use her powers on iron due to fairy laws. Whatever, Elf girl!
Power Grrrl. From The Notebooks Of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust is another book that's chock full of lame superheroes facing a collective midlife crisis in psychotherapy — from the crappy Batman knock-off Flying Squirrel to the jive-talking Spider-Man clone Brotherfly. But the one you'd least want to have your back is probably Power Grrrl, a post-feminist Spice Girls-esque heroine whose main power is to turn other people into clones of herself, in a parable of super-narcissism. Just in case you miss her lameness, she talks in bimbo speak, punctuated with lots of "Like, duhs," and all of her statements are questions. And she smacks chewing gum a lot.