10 Superheroes You Won’t Find in Comic Books

Wonder Woman. Black Panther. Wolverine. Captain Marvel.

Everyone knows the names of these superheroes—and they’re enjoying a new heyday because of their explosion onto the big screen. But if you’re more in the mood for a book than a comic book or a movie, here are ten superhero novels that we think you just can’t miss.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Every superhero needs a good supervillain: Batman and the Joker, Magneto and Professor X, the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom. Eli and Victor were best friends until a terrible accident ripped them apart and they became worst enemies. V.E. Schwab’s twist on the superhero genre turns its tropes on their head and takes a hard look at what it means to be a hero—or a villain.

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner

Three newbie heroes—they don’t even have a team name!—find themselves desperately trying to counter a diabolical scheme. This romp through a world of monsters and superpowers has all the fun of traditional superhero comics in a fresh setting.


Wild Cards edited by George R.R. Martin

This series, edited by George R.R. Martin, takes place in a world where an alien virus wiped out huge swaths of the population, and gave one percent of humanity superpowers. A shared-universe series written by a broad range of incredible authors (including Roger Zelazny, Sage Walker, and George R.R. Martin himself), Wild Cards tells the story of the world ever since.

Good Guys by Steven Brust

It may not be available until March, but keep an eye out for Steven Brust’s novel about a team of people who learn they have superpowers, and find themselves working for a secretive organization known only as The Foundation putting their abilities to work. As it turns out, though, those who look like good guys at first…might not be that at all.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Doctor Impossible is a mad genius, but he just doesn’t quite seem able to pull off any of his grand plans. This novel is from the point of view of a man just trying to achieve his dreams of world domination, only to be perpetually thwarted by the heroes. Austin Grossman provides a look into the daily trials and travails of a struggling supervillain.


Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

While being a superhero might be a challenge, being a superhero’s assistant is even harder. Sarah Kuhn’s fun and action-packed novel is the answer to your female-superhero-seeking prayers. Evie Tanaka is good at her job as backup dancer to her childhood friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. When she poses as her boss for a night, though, her life is about to turn upside down.

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Superheroes known as ex-humans versus an army of zombies. What’s not to like? With the plague of living dead spread around the globe, a ragtag team of disillusioned and scarred heroes struggle to defend a small group of survivors. Unfortunately, it turns out that the zombie horde may not be the only threat.


After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

Celia West is the daughter of two famous superheroes—but she doesn’t have any powers of her own. A favorite target of crime bosses and supervillains, Celia wants nothing more than to reject her family’s legacy and make her own life out of the shadow of her famous parents, but she learns it’s not that easy to escape the world of capes and immortals.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

In this twist on superheroes, Brandon Sanderson presents a world where great powers aren’t used for good at all. Those people who were gifted with powers in a catastrophic event called the Calamity might have superpowers, but they aren’t heroes: instead they use their strength to subjugate everyone else, and only a group of ordinary humans are fighting back.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer, author of the beloved Lunar Chronicles series, turns to a world where the Renegades, a group of individuals with extraordinary powers, overcame a pack of villains to establish truth and justice. Adrian is a Renegade boy who believes in their cause, and Nova is a girl seeking vengeance against them. Their lives are about to collide.

25 thoughts on “10 Superheroes You Won’t Find in Comic Books

  1. If you don’t have time for a novel, Tansy Raynor Roberts’ novella Girl Reporter (Book Smugglers) is a lot of fun.

    Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahumans series (4 books plus a couple of short stories) is good also.

  2. Um whoever wrote the blurb for “Ex-Heroes” books didn’t read it, obviously.

    In the book, no one really wanted to say “zombies” at first, so a government official used the term “ex-humans,” and it stuck. They are quickly branded as such, then shortened to “exes.”

  3. If you’ve a lot of time on your hands, the web serial Worm is absolutely fantastic.

  4. I have to recommend “Wearing the Cape” series by Marion G. Harmon. He’s up to seven novels and two short story collections in the series and they have some great characters, fun in-jokes and lots of action.

  5. Kurt Clopton’s book ‘SuperGuy’ is very funny. It’s got a cool twist on government created superheroes with the main character stuck with a generic theme.

  6. *furiously scribbling notes*
    Annnnd my To Be Read pile just grew another few inches…
    I’d like to add a couple recommendations of my own, but from the other side of the cape: C.T. Phipps’ “Supervillainy Saga” is the frequently-hilarious adventure of Merciless, the Supervillain Without Mercy™. Excellent humor and characterizations throughout the series (four novels and counting).
    Jim Bernheimer’s “Confessions of a D-List Supervillain” is equally recommended; its (anti)hero, Mechani-Cal (nom de supervillainy of Calvin Stringel), is placed in the embarrassing (for him) position of having to save the world when all he wanted was to terrorize it. Again, consistently funny and well-written characters throughout.

  7. Velveteen vs series by the incomparable Seanan McGuire is the best superhero series I have read.

  8. The “Super Powereds” series by Drew Hayes is definitely a must read in the superhero genre.

  9. I stumbled across “Prepare to Die” by Paul Tobin, and have reread it several times since. Smart, fun, very well written, and deeply affecting. I was disappointed by “Soon I will be Invincible” – PtD is the fulfillment of what I hoped you get from that one.

  10. Let me ditto the “Wearing the Cape” and “Velveteen Vs” series. Also, “Villains Don’t Date Heroes!” and its sequel by Mia Archer

  11. Both Superpowereds (and it’s spinoff Corpies) and Confessions of a D-List Supervillian were great audiobook listens I thought. Superpowereds is basically going to college to be a liscensed hero).

    Also the Kid Sensation series is a light read. Where a young man’s first attempt at joining a superhero team goes so very wrong.

  12. Super Powereds is definitely a must. Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell is also fantastic, and very funny particularly the audiobooks.

  13. There’s the “The Galilee Falls Trilogy” by Jennifer Harlow. It’s set in a city full of superheroes and supervillains, but the POV character is a non-super police detective who hates all the supers for the damage their battles cause and the heroes’ disregard for police procedures. I don’t want to spoil the other complications in her life. Book 1 is “Justice”.

  14. Dreadnought by April Daniels is also very good. Danny is a trans girl who is given superpowers which let her have the body she always dreamed of but also put her in the crosshairs of some powerful enemies. I generally prefer my superheroes to be adults rather than teenagers but I found this one really compelling.
    It’s e-book only but well worth a read

  15. ‘Flyboy Action Figure Comes with Gasmask’ by Jim Munroe may have jump-started the genre of postmodern superhero lit. Super funny stuff. On the literary side, Michael Chabon’s ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ might leap to mind, though the comic book heros make a meta-appearance, but more on track- Johnathan Lethem’s ‘The Fortress of Solitude’ has a real superhero (postmodernly of course). I’d recommend all three of those books as fabulously inspiring.

  16. Lexie Dunne’s books “Superheroes Anonymous”, “Supervillains Anonymous”, and “How to Save the World” should also be added to this list. A non-powered human drawn into the world of the super powered as she became known as Hostage Girl for the number of times she was kidnapped by supervillains.

  17. I’m going to second The Minus Faction series from Rick Wayne. Amazingly well written, complicated, and impossible to put down.

  18. Matthew Cody’s “The Supers of Nobles Green” trilogy (Powerless, Super, Villainous) is well worth your time. Some of the children have powers…until their thirteenth birthday, when they awake with no powers, and no remembrance of ever having them. See interview with the author, and read lots of reviews here:

    John David Anderson’s two books: “Sidekicked” takes a great look at a Super-hero sidekick who isn’t near as good as the rest…so he thinks, and “Minion” examines the life of a boy with very persuasive powers, whose dad just happens to be a villain. Both are very emotionally charged, and quite satisfying. Find out more at

    Blake M. Petit’s “Other People’s Heroes” asks the question, What if all the massive super-battles were actually just staged by people with powers? And what happens when a new hero arrives, dedicated to truth, justice, and honoring the memory of Lionheart–the last of the REAL superheroes? This book is available as a free audiobook podcast, read by the author (which is where I came across it). There are four sequels in the “Heroes of Seigel City” series.

    R.A. Jones (himself formerly a professional comic book writer) has written two volumes in his “The Steel Ring” series. It follows several superheroes from the long-defunct Centaur Comics line (which Jones also brought to life back in the 1990s for Malibu Comics’ “The Protectors” series), and their loose connection with each other by means of being members of a secret society known as “The Steel Ring.” An interview with Jones and his editor, Jeff Diescher, discussing this series, can be found at

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