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Literature / In Hero Years, I'm Dead

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In Hero Years, I'm Dead is a 2010 "superhero noir" novel by Michael Stackpole which follows a superhero, named Coyote, returning to his city after a 20-year absence. He finds that the world has changed greatly since he left. Superheroes and villains have become commercialized, and combat between them is a ritual followed on the level of professional sports, complete with fantasy leagues. Facing a system where he'll never fit in, Coyote is forced to decide whether to change, to retire, or to do what he does best: break the system.

Stackpole has released the novel as a digital download with sample chapters on his Web site, here.

Contains Examples Of:

  • Arc Words: "Be Good", "Kyrgyzstan".
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Revealed to be the key to Coyote's success. In this world, superheroes are much more realistic about the measures they take to protect their identities, but Coyote has specialized in ferreting out the identities of heroes and villains. He caught the Superman analogue while temping as an accountant by noting no sunscreen was ever purchased despite Grant Stone being fair skinned and going to tropical destinations.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Superman-expy Gravitor is revealed to have lost his powers because he has Jadeite shards embedded into his heart.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The world is an alternate history where large bills are called Reagans and videoscreens are called Murdochs.
  • Character Overlap: Coyote becomes Revenant, the character who also appears in PS238 and other fiction by Michael Stackpole.
  • Clark Kenting: Grant Stone always wears aviator glasses. Graviton doesn't.
  • The Cowl: Nighthaunt, Coyote, and Puma all operated in this manner due to being "Felix" heroes who lacked powers, and therefore had to cheat to win.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Coyote notes this to be the key to being a "Felix", an unpowered superhero with a bag of tricks from which you can always pull one more.
  • Dating Catwoman: Literally. Coyote dated and fathered a daughter by the Catwoman expy.
    • It's mentioned that even before that it was common for the media to speculate that she and resident Batman expy, Nighthaunt were a couple, though they never actually were.
  • Dead Man Writing:
    • Puma's granddaughter, Diana, has a number of letters from Puma passed out after his death. The only one identified is to Dr. Sinisterion. The contents are never stated.
    • Subverted. Nighthaunt leaves a bottle of whiskey with attached clue with Coyote shortly before he's ostensibly found dead in his mansion.
  • Disappeared Dad: Coyote had to leave abruptly. For 20 years. He learns upon his return that he has a daughter.
  • Evil Counterpart: Both Nighthaunt and Dr. Sinisterion were made orphans after their parents were shot down in an alley. Nighthaunt became a superhero while Dr. Sinisterion became an (alleged) criminal mastermind.
    • It is eventually revealed that Nighthaunt's father paid for the hit on Dr. Sinisterion's parents and Dr. Sinisterion's uncle returned the favor.
  • Evil Plan: Nighthaunt's attempt to overturn the system by masterminding a villain uprising while convincing three factions of heroes that the other faction is behind it.
  • Expy: Multiple. Graviton is Superman. Nighthaunt and Redhawk are Batman and Robin. Colonel Constitution is Captain America, just to name a few examples.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • Dr. Sinisterion, subverted in that its actually not him, but Selina in a nanite costume to make her look like him.
    • Nighthaunt
  • Gas Chamber: The memorabilia room and its vacuum pump.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Coyote himself thanks to efforts of Puma.
  • I Have Many Names: Coyote has multiple secret identities, with accompanying name. His real name is unrevealed, other than the obvious last name.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Whatever you think of Colonel Constitution's methods - a blank warrant?? - he is dead right about somebody being out to break the system while Redhawk is in denial.
  • Legacy Character: A couple of examples in-universe, like Captain Constitution, and Coyote/Kid Coyote.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Coyote knows that (alleged) super-villain Dr. Sinisterion is his father, but it's not widely known to the public and is an incredible shock to Coyote's daughter.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Panda-moanium has sonic powers, which he unleashes at the convention.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Puma dies protecting Coyote and a bystander from Panda-moanium. Subverted in that he's a bit senile at the moment, and probably didn't realize he was protecting his former pupil.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Sinisterion, who is revealed to have a doctorate in divinity.
    "One who deserves to be worshipped as a god ought to have the background for it, shouldn’t one?"
  • Old Superhero: The novel doesn't shy away from the fact that older super-heroes typically find that years of heroics or strange empowering chemicals tend to leave one in very bad shape after a certain age. The successful ones frequently parlay this into a living selling memorabilia and autographs, but many of the older heroes never thought to try to control video footage of them and therefore have nothing left to sell but themselves.
    "Average age of death, fifty-six years. That’s the toll the stress takes on the body. I guarantee you, any hero over fifty-six is a mutant, an alien, or got out early."
  • Passing the Torch: What Coyote winds up doing with Kid Coyote, who'd uncovered one of Coyote's equipment caches.
  • Reckless Sidekick: Nighthaunt reveals to Coyote that he accidentally made Redhawk this by being a bit too competent. Redhawk knew he'd always get rescued, so his modus operandi was to rush in half-cocked and his reaction in a hopeless situation was to give up and wait for rescue.
  • Renaissance Man: Forced onto Coyote by Dr. Sinisterion as he attended numerous schools to pick up numerous skills.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Played with. Coyote wants to retire, his girlfriend wants him to retire, his daughter wants him to retire. The Big Bad doesn't want him to retire in order to draw him into his Evil Plan.
  • Retired Badass: Coyote eventually tries to settle into being one of these. He's... working on it. At first, he wants to get right back into the game. Even after he realizes he's too old for it, he continues to fight crime when In Harm's Way. Even when he decides to not do super-heroing, he still finds himself being The Chessmaster in analyzing the superhero industry and finding ways to manipulate or break it.
  • Revenge by Proxy: A non-lethal version. Sinisterion's enemies kidnapped and held Coyote hostage for twenty years because he was Sinisterion's son. Didn't really work out because the extent of Sinisterion's caring was whether or not his son died in a way that could be harmful to his own reputation.
  • Title Drop: Mentioned by Coyote in a conversation with Grant Stone.
  • Utility Belt: Fairly standard for "Felix"-type heroes in the world. Puma's utility belt serves as a Chekhov's Gun at one point in the book.