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Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories

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Edited and with contributions by Owen King (We're All in This Together) and John McNally (America's Report Card this anthology enriches the superhero canon immeasurably.

Twenty-two of today's most talented writers (and comics fans) unite in Who Can Save Us Now?, an anthology featuring brand-new superheroes equipped for the threats and challenges of the twenty-first century -- with a few supervillains thrown in for good measure. With mutations stranger than the X-Men and with even more baggage than the Hulk, this next generation of superheroes is a far cry from your run-of-the-mill caped crusader.

From the image-conscious and not-very-mysterious masked meathead who swoops in and sweeps the tough girl reporter off her feet; to the Meerkat, who overcomes his species' cute and cuddly image to become the resident hero in a small Midwestern city; to the Silverfish, "the creepy superhero," who fights crime while maintaining the slipperiest of identities; to Manna Man, who manipulates the minds of televangelists to serve his own righteous mission, these protectors (and in some cases antagonizers) of the innocent and the virtuous will delight literary enthusiasts and comic fans alike.

With stunning illustrations by artist Chris Burnham, Who Can Save Us Now? offers a vibrant, funny, and truly unusual array of characters and their stories.

408 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Owen King

37 books1,499 followers
I'm the author of the novel Double Feature and We're All In This Together: A Novella and Stories, co-editor (with John McNally) of the anthology Who Can Save Us Now, and co-author (with Mark Poirier) of the graphic novel Intro to Alien Invasion. I also co-wrote the novel Sleeping Beauties with Stephen King. My writing has appeared in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Subtropics, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Ploughshares, and One Story.

My next novel, The Curator, is arriving in bookstores in the United States on 3/7/23!

My wife is the beautiful and mysterious Kelly Braffet. She has written four wonderful books, and the newest is The Broken Tower.

Here are what a couple of my favorite authors were nice enough to say about Double Feature:

“What a kinetic, joyful, gonzo ride—Double Feature made me laugh so loudly on a plane that I had to describe the plot of Sam's Spruce Moose of a debut film (it stars a satyr) to my seatmate by way of explanation. Booth and Sam are an unforgettable Oedipal duo. A book that delivers walloping pleasures to its lucky readers.” - Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

“Sharp, hilarious, and irreverent, Double Feature is not only a love-letter to cinema, but also a moving exploration of what it means to be an artist. This novel is brilliant, and Owen King is a magician.” - Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia

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5 stars
44 (11%)
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119 (32%)
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145 (39%)
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48 (12%)
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15 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,452 reviews12.8k followers
January 6, 2013
“Who Can Save Us Now?” is a 2008 anthology of short stories by non-comics writers about superheroes edited by Stephen King’s son, Owen. I bought this solely because of Scott Snyder’s story “The Thirteenth Egg” which he revealed in a recent podcast interview with Kevin Smith (“Fatman on Batman #19” - highly recommended!) was the spark that set him on the path to writing superhero comics, so this is a review of that one story rather than the 22 stories as a whole.

Snyder’s tale is set in 1946 and features Everett Batson (wink wink), a young man recently discharged from the Navy and returning to his small American town back to his sweetheart and his loving family. But something happened to Batson when he was stationed overseas. He was exposed to a massive atomic explosion and was somehow the sole survivor. And now he’s back home, his skins burning all the time... and he’s slowly changing.

Snyder’s writing is fine, I just wanted a bit more action from his story which really isn’t a superhero story. For most of it we find out about Everett and his girlfriend’s relationship while Everett and his dad make a speed racer for a local derby. It’s only in the last page that anything resembling a superhero story emerges, like a flare, but just as briefly it appears and then disappears and the story’s over.

I was hoping to find a small gem in this short, a glimpse maybe of a character in utero or indications of the kind of stories he would go on to write in “Batman” and “American Vampire” but was disappointed with this somewhat dull slice of Americana. Reading other reviews of this collection, I’m not encouraged to take on the other stories which seem similarly written, that is they’re also not really superhero stories and are more than a bit literary (read: pretentious). Chris Burnham’s illustrations accompanying each story are excellent though. “The Thirteenth Egg” isn’t a bad story but reading it wouldn’t make you think Snyder would go on to become one of the best superhero comics writers just a few years later.
Profile Image for Matthew Budman.
Author 3 books51 followers
October 13, 2015
Even with the recent explosion of Marvel- and DC-based superhero product on TV and in theaters, we see an extremely limited range of perspectives. What about sidekicks, journalists, neighbors, even support staff? After all, the presence of people with special abilities, whether or not they spend their days fighting crime, would create a lot of ripples. That's the premise of Who Can Save Us Now?, and it's a marvelous read. Indeed, it's a real feat of editing to solicit and compile twenty-two original stories, covering a tremendous amount of ground in 400+ pages, and produce a collection of such consistent quality (especially when read one or two stories at a time). Any multi-author compilation is bound to be hit-and-miss, but somehow none of these is a total dud or an experiment gone awry.

That said, it's easy to understand why some Goodreads reviewers complain that these stories aren't real superhero tales -- none of the authors aims for wonder and delight and magic and thrills, or to capture the joy of discovery that's integral to most superhero origin stories. These stories aren't exactly downers, but they're resolutely uncinematic, almost jaded, as though deliberately undermining the classic tropes we know so well. (Tellingly, none of the authors sets up the reader for a sequel.) So the pleasures of Who Can Save Us Now? aren't quite what you might expect. But they're very real.

101 reviews
January 24, 2009
I've read a few anthologies, and this one did not live up to my expectations. The person who choose these stories took a very wide view of the term 'superhero'. One of the stories obviously wants to be another take on Superman, but couldn't because of copyright or something. I would not consider a lot of the main characters in the stories heroes as most of the characters in the stories are just dealing with having powers, and they end up being emo.

Who can save us now? Not many of the 'superheroes' in this book.
Profile Image for Taco Banana.
232 reviews3 followers
August 12, 2014
This wasn't what I expected, many of the stories leaned toward the tragic, but for such a large collection of different authors I found most stories good, if not great.
Like all collections I read I find favorites. There were very few that didn't do it for me, but there were others that stood out for me...

5 - The Meerkat - This story was an unexpected heart-warmer in the end, fun all the way through, travelling far reaches to collect a superpower. Wonderfully original. Very good stuff... as always.

4 - The Thirteenth Egg - This story was somewhat grim, start to finish the hero wasn't exactly heroic. Unfortunate and as the story progressed hopeless. It really stirred with me and then BAM! Time for comeuppance. Great.

3 - The Somewhat Super - I found this story funny and awesomely ridiculous. The pointless powers were really what sealed it for me. It was so asinine, yet written with quality it would be impossible not to really enjoy the story. Fucking hilarious.

2 - Girl Reporter - My runner up to favorite was a wonderful story to start the collection with. It was funny, touching and smart. Complete and wonderful on all sides.

1 - The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children - Lastly, my favorite of the bunch. This story struck me, stirred me and ultimately made me smile. Fucking perfect. The imagery was fantastic. The outcome was of superhero quality on its own.

This collection is definitely worth reading and I can image for the superhero loving crowd it might even settle better. I enjoy great writing, great stories. I enjoyed this collection.
Profile Image for T.L. Barrett.
Author 33 books23 followers
August 21, 2013
I love superheroes, and this anthology has just what I wanted. The stories range from tragic stories of abilities gone wrong, to heroic moments with people who do what they can with the meager abilities they have been given. The stories range from moving and memorable to the head-scratching and plotless. There was enough great work included, however, to have me tearing through this anthology in a way I rarely do with these collections. The stories are thematically tied together in sections: I believe my favorite were the "Beast Within" and "The ordianary superhero" sections- But then, I love these stories in general. The best stories were full of pathos, humor and ingenuity, the worst with pompous attempts at literary gusto that had scrapped the idea of a plot. My favorites were:
"The Lives of Ordinary Superheroes" by David Haynes- The story of a grown sidekick to a retired street-level super who comes to say a final farewell.

"The Meerkat"- By Owen King- a lovely tale of a man that proves that meerkats just aren't so cuddly.

"Man Oh Man- It's Manna Man"- by George Singleton- a man uses his power to distantly control televangelists.

"The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children"- by Will Clarke- when a flying super fathers dozens of bastards in a town, how does the town cope?

I enjoyed many more. If you love supers, or the fabulous question: "What if?" then you will too.
Profile Image for M.E..
339 reviews12 followers
April 20, 2009
I got this book because I wrote a short story about a super hero -- well, about a normal person's relationship to a super hero who has failied him -- and thought that I would be well served by reading what real writers have written about super heroes. I was wrong. I got through about six and a half stories in this collection and gave up. None of these stories seemed to say anything really substantial about super heroes. They all just seemed to be toung and cheek treatments of people with really wierd powers, who may fight crime, but are really just butt-holes in their personalal lives. One story was good -- "Release the Horses" -- but it's hard to say that it was about a super hero, but I got too tired of the jerk super heore idea. This might sound like egotism, but I think my story has more to offer than these stories do.
Profile Image for Don.
Author 5 books22 followers
September 2, 2008
Solid writing so far, 1/5 of the way in. Not sure exactly what to make of it so far, though. The more I read, the more I liked! I wondered if this was going to be a collection of "literary" writers writing down to the "genre." I couldn't have been more wrong. Having read this, I can't wait to get to The Darker Mask, which claims to follow in the footsteps of McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. I have a theory that this collection might do that a little better.
Profile Image for Michael.
405 reviews23 followers
March 21, 2009
A few really good stories (Owen King's and Elizabeth Crane's are probably the best) mixed in with some poor-to-middling ones. An OK anthology, but not one to seek out. If you're looking for light superhero fiction, "Soon I Will Be Invincible" is a better bet. Or if you want something meatier, go to the granddaddy, Kavalier and Clay.
Profile Image for Daryl.
443 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2013
An entertaining collection of off-beat superhero stories, with most of the characters just barely resembling superheros. The best stories are the weirdest ones (Manna-Man, Karma girl, the girl reporter), and there are plenty of those. There are some clunkers as well, but with this many authors that was inevitable.
Profile Image for E.D. Martin.
Author 14 books207 followers
July 6, 2012
A decent mix of stories. "The Meerkat" was my favorite, followed by "Bad Karma Girl Wins at Bingo."
Profile Image for Sarah Bauer.
184 reviews5 followers
February 28, 2022
The stories are hit and miss, definitely more on the literary side than most superhero fiction, in that they mainly focus on characters and ordinary life. If you're looking for comic book stories, these aren't it. I like those kinds of stories though, so I enjoyed a lot of the short stories in this collection. They were clearly written within the zeitgeist of the late aughts. Some have aged well, some are dated. Pretty interesting time capsule of that time period and the changing views of superheroes. I had to remember at a few points that superheroes didn't become huge icons until shortly after this book was released.
215 reviews15 followers
May 21, 2020
Here are the stories that stood out to me:

"The Lives of Ordinary Superheroes'" by David Haynes was the most heartfelt.

"Roe # 5" by Richard Fooling was the most suspenseful.

"Bad Karma Girl Wins at Bingo" by Kelly Braffet was the most humorous.

Other standouts were:

"Quick Stop 5" by Sam Weller

"Pentecostal Home for Flying Children" by Will Clarke

"My Interview with the Avenger" by Tom Bissell
Profile Image for Sarah.
54 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2011
Overall, a great collection. As with all collections, there were some good, some great, and some awful. Some stories didn't even have much to do with superheroes. I had never heard of most of the contributing authors, but anthologies are one of my favorite ways of finding new writers to love!
The good: The first story, Girl Reporter by Stephanie Harrell, is a nice twist on the superhero. Told from the perspective of the damsel in distress (if you believe the narrator, she's not always in distress when the superhero shows up), the story follows the evolution of a superhero from a mullet-haired, badly-dressed flying man to the personification of Justice.
The Meerkat, by Owen King, was strange, funny, and absolutely unique. Meerkats are a great device for a superhero story: they look cute and cuddly, but they are ferocious hunters with sharp little claws and teeth who eat scorpions for breakfast. The Meerkat is no Batman, for sure, but I'd read his comics!
The bad: Roe #5, by Richard Dooling, is well-written, I'll allow, but it really has no place in a superhero anthology. The story concerns a pampered, headachy housewife visited by the fetus she thought she aborted, scientifically enhanced and fully grown. Not a great story, and perhaps better suited to a science-fiction collection.
On the other side of the coin is The Quick-Stop 5, by Sam Weller. The story has great promise: five schmucks working at a convenience store, transformed by experimental biofuel into superheroes. Unfortunately, it is clumsily written and ends so abruptly, I thought I skipped a page at the end. I'd like to read a better-edited version of the story.
The great: Hands-down, my favorite story of the collection is Man Oh Man--It's Manna Man by George Singleton. Manna Man's unique talent is to take over the minds of televangelists and, instead of asking for money for their church, they ask for donations to worthy causes: a food bank, a humane society, a hospice. Man, oh, man, the world needs a Manna Man.
Profile Image for Wendy.
62 reviews7 followers
July 24, 2009
The book is billed as being a collection of short stories about superheroes for the 21st century. As superheroes are meant to represent our best, then, if the billing is true, we in the 21st century need a lot of help. The supers depicted in these stories were often mean, petty, shallow, and vindictive. More than one story dealt with issues of impotence, both sexual and social. What the stories often lacked was any sense of the honor, pride, or sense of greater purpose that is so important to the superheroes who have become cultural icons.

Understanding that some of the superheroes in these stories are meant to be supervillains does help rebalance the story selection. That the line between hero and villain was deeply blurred does not.

As with all anthologies, the stories are a mixed bag. There were no truly bad ones, but there were quite a few where the authors didn't seem to know if they were writing a hero or a villain, or, indeed, what a superhero/villain even are. Fortunately, there are also some excellent stories that offer the sense of majesty that true superhero stories require.

It's fine to deal with the human side of the superhero--in my mind, that's as required an element as the superpowers--but one needs to remember that what makes a person a superhero or supervillain isn't that s/he has a power or strange ability; it's how s/he chooses and has chosen to use it. For a few of the authors in this anthology, that was an ungraspable concept.
Profile Image for Trin.
1,749 reviews549 followers
November 18, 2008
Anthology of short stories featuring original superheroes (and villains). On balance, I liked this collection—there were more stories I felt positive toward than ones that annoyed me. Tom Bissell’s entry was possibly my favorite and made me want to investigate more of his work; in contrast, Jennifer Weiner’s tale made me feel pretty good about the fact that I haven’t yet bothered to check out her books, even when I find them at sales for $1. In general, I wish this collection had concentrated less on superhero angst and made more room for superpower joy; I feel like that the idea of superpowers and superheroes is so saturated in pop culture that everyone’s forgotten that to suddenly be able to fly or run fast or be super strong would be awesome—in the original sense of that word. I’d like to produce a collection of superhero stories in which absolutely no emo is allowed.

I’m listening to Death Cab For Cutie as I write this, but that’s beside the point.
Profile Image for Brett Starr.
175 reviews3 followers
June 18, 2018
Finally finished it!

"Who Can Save Us Now?" is good, not great!

If you were to only read the best stories, it's a five star quality book, but everyone has their own opinion on which stories were best, so your stuck reading them all and deciding for yourself....

It seemed to me that alot of the writers didn't quite grasp what a super hero story is and got totally off course & to make matters worse, their stories were long winded!

The book has twenty two stories, eight of which I thought were exceptionally written:

Remains of the Night by John McNally (* 1 of 4 best)

The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children by Will Clarke

The Thirteenth Egg by Scott Synder (* 1 of 4 best)

The Snipper by Nora Jablonski

Man Oh Man - It's Manna Man by George Singleton (* 1 of 4 best)

My Interview w/ the Avenger by Tom Bissell

Mr. Big Deal by Sean Doolittle

The Somewhat Super by David Yoo (* 1 of 4 best)

Start with one of those 1st and proceed with caution on the other stories not mentioned~
Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,041 reviews201 followers
June 24, 2009
There were three stories in this anthology that I thought were stand-outs. "The Sisters of St. Misery" was original and beautifully written though if you thought The Da Vinci Code was shocking, this probably isn't the story for you. I loved "The Rememberer" almost entirely and identified with the central character though I vehemently reject the ending. I also really liked "My Interview With The Avenger" which I thought was clever, insightful and emotionally powerful.

On the other hand, there were also a great many superficial tongue in cheek stories. Poking fun at superheroes is making the fantastical seem fantastical. That's redundant. A writer accomplishes more by making the fantastical seem real which is what the best stories in this anthology did.
Profile Image for Lincoln.
Author 27 books40 followers
February 26, 2010
Who Can Save Us Now? is a great collection of short fiction exploring a wide-range of the effects superpowers can have on humanity in general, but also on heroes, villains, sidekicks and bystanders. I'm a huge superhero fan, a comics reader for over a decade and creator of a comic of my own that should see publication by year's end if I play my cards right. This book scratches an itch I oftentimes find no cure for; superheroes dealt with in a mature and innovative manner. I still read comics but my tastes run towards either the older superhero stuff or Vertigo and Avatar titles. Editors Owen King and John McNally assembled a great superteam of fiction that I shared with a friend as soon as I finished the last page. 4.5/5
Profile Image for Rachel.
102 reviews28 followers
November 20, 2012
This is a very unevem collection of literary short stories about superheroes. Some of the stories are engaging, others are just downright dull and hard to get through. Most are just a bit too long. This book took me nearly a year to read because I kept losing interest and shelving it. What made it difficult to give up on was the thought I might miss out on a real gem of a story, of which one or two exist at the end. I'm also stubborn and I was already 2/3's of my way through the book when I started thinking about giving up.
Profile Image for Debbie is on Storygraph.
1,700 reviews117 followers
December 25, 2015
I was really excited when I found this book. I am such a superhero junkie and I was really looking forward to an entire anthology of superhero short stories. What a letdown. Most anthologies are a mixed bag but this one contained more stories that I didn't really enjoy than most. Honestly, I can probably only remember a few of the stories - and the one I remember most vividly I hated. I should have checked this out of the library instead of buying.
Profile Image for Jason.
555 reviews26 followers
December 15, 2008
Thought I liked the concept of modern-day Super Heroes facing modern-day evils, I couldn't help but feel that the stories were left incomplete and the characters just a bit bland. It was also disappointing to see how much language and sex the authors threw in, as if that alone might legitimize their "authenticity" for the current era. That being said, there were a couple shorts in the volume that I did enjoy.
Profile Image for Eric.
627 reviews27 followers
July 10, 2020
Eleven of these short stories are written by college professors. What can you expect when academics start writing superhero fiction? Let's see... you get a little bit of wanking, some bad New Yorker mimicry, a smidgeon of genre awkwardness, and scattered amounts of literary flimflam. But you also get a whole bunch of inventive, well-written prose that aims higher that most anthologies of this nature.

Profile Image for Ashley.
40 reviews
October 26, 2015
The missing star is for the fact that I like the build up of the myth of the super hero... I liked the idea of this book, but it did leave me wanting more as an avid comic book reader. I like to read a book from start to finish. I would hate to discourage anyone, so I'm saying that for ME personally I would have liked FULL stories. I did like the humanization of these super folk.
Profile Image for Andy.
67 reviews
January 11, 2015
By the time I got to Owen King's story, I'd read one very good short story, three mediocre ones, and three awful ones, including what had to be the worst-written short story I've ever seen in print. King's story was a little better than mediocre, but I'm not willing to give the book any more of my time.
Profile Image for Evad.
41 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2015
So far the stories in this book have been hit or miss. Some I've really enjoyed, others were of no interest. That's the beauty of short story collections, though. Overall, it's been well worth the price of admission
Profile Image for J. Else.
Author 7 books88 followers
February 19, 2010
Fun mix of different stories on new superheros and superpowers. Some stories left you wanting more as the ending was just not enough! Some stories did not make total sense. But overall, an interesting and fun quick read here and there of a collection of short stories.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews

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