Super-Folks is a 1977 novel by Robert Mayer (hb ISBN 0-207-95814-9, pb ISBN 0-417-05460-2). The novel satirizes the superhero and comic book genres, and was aimed at a more adult audience than those genres typically attracted.

Super-Folks also examines comic book conventions and clichés from a more serious, "literary" perspective. The novel was influential on many writers of superhero comic books in the 1980s and 1990s, notably Alan Moore and Kurt Busiek. Although the book's pop culture references clearly date it to the 1970s, its influence on the deconstruction of the superhero genre is still felt through Moore's Watchmen and Miracleman.

A modest success upon publication (also featured as a special book club edition), Super Folks eventually fell out of print. It was republished in 2003 in limited quantities by About Comics with a new cover by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons and an introduction by Busiek. It reprinted again in March 2005 by St. Martin's Griffin with a new cover by Mike Allred and an introduction by Grant Morrison (ISBN 0-312-33992-5).

Plot summary

The novel's protagonist is a Superman analogue named David Brinkley. His superhero codename is never fully given: various intelligence agencies refer to him as "Indigo" (the color of his mask) and "der Ubermensch" (Overman) and the original book jacket refers to him as "Everyman." He hails from the planet Cronk and is vulnerable to the substance Cronkite (again, no relation to another famous news anchor), in an obvious reference to Superman's home of Krypton and weakness to Kryptonite.

Brinkley gradually lost his superhuman powers due to the influence of an unknown enemy, and all of the other superheroes (Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Snoopy, among others) have retired, disappeared, or died. It's later revealed that this is a plot made by Pxyzsyzygy to kill all heroes. This is a list of how they died, retired, or disappeared.

  • Superman is missing and presumed dead when a meteor of Kryptonite fell on Metropolis.
  • Batman and Robin died when the Batcar (Batmobile) crashed into a school bus carrying African-American children to school.
  • Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Black Adam, and the other members of the Marvel family died when they were hit by a bolt of lightning.
  • Wonder Woman retired to become an active feminist, giving speeches constantly.
  • Snoopy was mentioned to have died in the beginning, but in fact appeared later to be alive, even though he was only given a short cameo.

Brinkley's powers gradually return, years later, in the midst of a mid-life crisis, and as criminals swarm Manhattan.

The loss of Brinkley's powers is discovered to be because his enemies--unsure of his secret identity--had introduced minute amounts of Cronkite into many common products, as well as the water supply. The return of his powers is later revealed to be a CIA-sponsored attempt to lure Brinkley out of retirement so that they can assassinate him as required by a nuclear disarmament treaty with the USSR.

With the assistance of the institutionalized Captain Mantra (Captain Marvel) and a grown-up, flamboyantly gay Peter Pan, he relearns how to use his powers and ultimately defeats his enemies: gigolo "Stretch" O'Toole, aka Elastic Man (Plastic Man); the incest-born Demoniac (reminiscent of Captain Marvel, Jr. and Black Adam); and the millionaire Powell Pugh, a.k.a. the alien elf Pxyzsyzygy (Mr. Mxyzptlk by way of Howard Hughes).

Super Folks is also notable for examining how superheroes might affect human sexuality--a topic then rarely (if ever) examined in mainstream comics (though the topic was undoubtedly the subject of much speculation among comic fans). Brinkley occasionally uses his "gamma ray vision" to peer through women's clothing, and is heartbroken to learn that his high school sweetheart has become a stripper and a bisexual superhero groupie.


  • David Brinkley/Rodney, the main character. A Superman analog from Cronk, he is married and has two beautiful blonde children. By the end he has another child, a son, with his blue hair.
  • Billy Button, aka Captain Mantra, is an ex-superhero who claims to be crazy. Like Captain Marvel he becomes a superhero after saying a magic word. In Button's case the word is "tomato-herring."
  • Mary Button, aka Mary Mantra, is an analog for Mary Marvel died before the story begins after being run over by a train. She and her brother, Billy, had a child.
  • Peter Pan is now older and homosexual, and gave Rodney some tips on flying.
  • Demoniac, a villain who is the product of incest between Mary and Captain Mantra. He is a mix of Captain Marvel, Jr. and Black Adam.
  • Elastic Man is an analog for Plastic Man, and serves as a villain for the series.
  • Pxyzsyzygy is an analog for Mxyzptlk. He serves as the main villain for the story.

External links

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