When I started writing Secondhand Origin Stories, I was told by multiple people that there was no market for superhero prose books. They told me that screens and comic pages had saturated society and we had all the superheros anyone could want.
Obviously, books like Not Your Sidekick, Dreadnought, and the YA adaptation of Spiderman have debunked that. And with the world the way it’s going, I don’t think we’re going to stop needing heroes any time soon.
But back then I didn’t know whether or not superhero books really were “over.” All I knew was that I still hadn’t gotten the heroes I wanted. It’s harder to wholeheartedly love billionaire heroes like Batman and Iron Man when so many people are getting crushed by the injustices of poverty. It’s hard to completely root for Captain America when his policy seems to be that he and his (mostly white and mostly American) friends should be able to go anywhere in the world and blow stuff up without really answering to anyone. And I’m not prepared to pin my hopes on royalty, either.
Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy a lot of the superhero stories that Marvel and DC put out there. I have the ridiculous Funko POP! collection to prove it. But at the end of the day, I’m not scared of aliens or infinity stones or mutants. I’m scared of politicians, the billionaires who own them, and cruelties that come their systems. I’m scared of the hate and ignorance in my community, and I’m afraid that the ablism, anti-queer bigotry, and racism of these systems will hurt me or the people I care about.
I’m not content anymore with superhero properties that belatedly realize that they left people out, or ones that might maybe eventually allow minor queerness to actually show up on screen. I want heroes that start from a place of wanting to fight the injustices I see in the real world.
I want to tell stories about heroes that aren’t just about bravery. Heroism takes courage, but only empathy can turn courage into justice.
So I wrote Opal, whose arch nemesis is a broken criminal justice system. And I wrote Yael, who has to contend with the painful reality that loyalty to those you love and commitment to doing the right thing sometimes conflict. And I wrote Issac a story about disability that accidentally hit much closer to home for me than I’d meant it to. And I wrote Jamie, who has no superpowers and who feels as helpless in the face of the worlds evils as I sometimes do. That’s the team that I wanted to save the day. They face complexity and difficult choices that can’t be punched away, because that’s what we’re facing.
And when I wrote their story, and when I read it, I feel like maybe these villains are defeatable, and I feel a little bit readier to keep fighting even though I don’t have superpowers. I hope that readers will feel the same thing when they read it, and the other books I’m writing for these characters I love.
I couldn’t, with the three books planned in this series, give heroes to every injustice we face, or every horrible thing we have worry about. I wish that I could. But I wrote what I could and I encourage anyone without the heroes they need to do the same. Because when you invent a hero you’ve created hope. You’ve envisioned change, and that makes the fight a little easier to bear.
I want us all to have the heroes we need.