Just the Usual Superpowers: A Superhero Girl Collection
I’m breaking one of my rules here, because I am a total Faith Erin Hicks fangirl. I love her work. She even got me to like a zombie comic. So even though this collection of her webcomic The Adventures of Superhero Girl is only available from her at convention appearances, I’m still talking about it. (Normally, I only review comics that are easily available to readers.)
Just the Usual Superpowers collects the first 55 Adventures of Superhero Girl strips. (The name change was to avoid trademark issues.) Superhero Girl was originally created for The Coast, a free weekly newspaper in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and it updates on Tuesdays and Fridays online.
I often wonder how younger creators, those who came of artistic age where there are so many diverse options for comic careers, view superheroes. This collection helps answer that question — there’s a remarkable lack of traditional heroics, with the focus instead on being nice in daily life. Superhero Girl gets a cat out of a tree (in her own indomitable way), goes shopping for a new cape, and visits the bookstore in the first strips. We more often see her talking on the phone with mom than battling. It’s a very modern take on life — just because you have abilities doesn’t mean you know how to use them, and being special in one area doesn’t solve all your problems. You still have to do laundry and pay rent.
Of course, it’s all very well drawn, with just the right attitudes. I especially like the way Hicks punctures all the expectations early on, with an annoying boy telling the character she can’t be a real superhero because her past isn’t full of tragedy. Well, why on earth not? Superhero Girl has powers, so if she calls herself one, she can be one. And it’s very refreshing to see the clichés deflated, whether it’s ditching the cape after a bit or back-talking a space monster. It’s an excellent strip, all the more so when read this way.
Superhero Girl fights annoying hipsters, puts up with Skeptical Guy, and tries to find a job. There’s also a cute kitty to make up for public ingratitude. Just the Usual Superpowers is an excellent combination of daily life comedy and playing with genre expectations. The book also includes an author’s note on the genesis of the concept as well as the very first superhero comic she made. It’s worth hunting down — I hope the book becomes available through mail order at some point.