My friend Kim attended WisCon this year. WisCon is a feminist S.F. convention. As steady followers of this blog may have picked up, feminism has been a minor theme of mine this year. Kim returned from the conference with a recommendation to read Perry Moore’s Hero. Kim read it, then lent her copy to me so that she could get my opinion. At no point has Kim told me what she thought of it, I presume so that my impressions would not be tainted.
So here’s the summary. I thought this to be fun, escapist fantasy at the core. It’s not specifically a feminist work. It’s a gay male superhero coming of age novel. It’s full of teenage angst. I can’t say if it’s true to the experience of a closeted gay teen coming out since I’m straight. It does seem exaggerated, but that’s to be expected in a superhero novel, even more so in a young adult novel. Thom Creed is a likable protagonist, somewhat mixed up but personable. Overall I’d recommend it.
I bought lots of comic books as a teen. I would take the money mom gave me for the bus and buy my stash, leaving me just enough to get to and from school if I creatively cheated King County Metro. Once downtown, my time was spent at Time Travelers and Golden Age Collectibles reading the latest issues of all the Marvel series. You could find me squinting as I walked the streets, imagining that my view a quarter mile away was so much better than anyone else and I was developing super-vision. Not only did thoughts of powers give me hope from (what I thought was) a dismal life, some of the female characters were fine objects of desire. I’ve never been particularly fond of the big-bosomed Amazons that were most female superheroes. I rather preferred the quiet Kitty Pryde (though perhaps my memory of her is confused).
If I were gay, I could easily seem myself as Thom Creed in Perry Moore’s novel. Blond Uberman in a skin-tight costume would be just as enticing as Ms. Pryde was for me. Thom Creed gets to imagine Uberman to fit his fantasies exactly. The superhero is a perfect canvas.
I do wish there were some normal people in the story. I don’t mean without superpowers. I’m fine with everyone being able to do something extraordinary. I mean that every character that has any screen time is neurotic or dysfunctional. At times it feels like a bad sitcom or a Woody Allen movie.
Basic story is this: Thom Creed can heal himself. He’s just learning how to do this at the beginning of the book. He lives with his dad, the former Major Might, in disgrace after his father botched a rescue years ago. Mom disappeared, literally. She can turn invisible and left dad. Thom’s other secret is that he’s gay. Dad is homophobic, so when Thom imagines that Dad has found a beat-off picture on the family computer and it’s male, he’s done for. Before that happens, he packs his stuff and runs away. Super-villains attack his bus coincidentally, and when the League saves the day, Thom’s chance encounter with them garners him a try-out. Powers and the League and pretty much anything having to do with super-powers is a taboo subject in the Creed household. So now Thom has a third secret. Hard to battle super-villains and keep it a secret though. When will dad find out? What will happen when he does? And will it be in the middle of Thom’s fight with Dr. Octopus?
The biggest part of the story is Thom’s relationship with his father. He wants to impress Dad, and so he plays hard. He works extra jobs to supplement Dad’s income. But he’s also quite afraid of Hal Creed too. Afraid not just of not impressing Dad, but that Hal’s love is fragile. And frankly, Hal gives son Thom good reason to be afraid. While he shows up at every one of Thom’s basketball games, he tells his son nothing of his own life. And there’s no support from dad when Thom gets trashed for being a suspected homosexual. *minor spoiler* When Thom gets outed, Hal does everything short of kicking his son out of the house. Probably common for gay men when they come out. But I am a little disappointed that attaining dad’s favor and rapprochement between the two is a goal. Hal should be begging his son’s forgiveness. I read where Hal Creed was base on Perry Moore’s own father. Perhaps Moore wanted this to be similar to his own relationship. Perhaps that would have just made it cliche, to have Dad learn he was wrong by the end of the book. It seemed like Hal never gave up his homophobia, even with respect to his own son. Thom’s continued groveling before his father, while understandable, was irritating. But then, I’m not a forgive and forget type.
There are some major plot holes and logic fails in the book, but that’s to be expected whenever you’re talking about superheroes. Just exactly how does the team manage to appear in the right spot for battle right when needed? And why does the bad guy bother with all the subterfuge? However, like a superhero movie the main focus is appropriate on the fight scenes. How you get there isn’t quite as important.
The story isn’t overt with any political message. Thom Creed experiences some pretty awful homophobia in the book. There’s no moralizing though about how this is wrong. It’s just presented as the awful experience that it must be. I think the message is more subtle. Substitute a woman in for Thom Creed’s unrequited love interest and make him straight and there would be little difference between him and me. Cause there really isn’t much difference. Other than the superpowers.