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Literature / The Rules of Supervillainy

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It's good to be the bad guy.
The Rules of Supervillainy is the first book in The Supervillainy Saga series by C.T. Phipps. The series is published by Jim Bernheimer, author of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain.

Gary Karkofsky is an ordinary guy with an ordinary life living in an extraordinary world. Supervillains, heroes, and monsters are a common part of the world he inhabits. Yet, after the death of his hometown's resident superhero, he gains the amazing gift of the late champion's magical cloak. Deciding he prefers to be rich rather than good, Gary embarks on a career as Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy.

But is he evil enough to be a villain in America's most crime-ridden city?

Gary soon finds himself surrounded by a host of the worst of Falconcrest City's toughest criminals. Supported by his long-suffering wife, his ex-girlfriend turned professional henchwoman, and a has-been evil mastermind, Gary may end up being not the hero they want but the villain they need.

The sequel, The Games of Supervillainy, came out on December 19th, 2015.

This book contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Cindy, Ultragoddess, Black Witch, Ninjess, Guinevere, the Human Tank, the Red Schoolgirl, and many more. There are a lot of superheroines and supervillainesses in this world and all of them are badass.
  • Affably Evil: Gary Karkfosky may qualify, if you consider him evil. Diabloman and Cindy also qualify.
  • Alliterative Name: Tom Terror.
  • Anti-Hero: Gary zig-zags between this and Villain Protagonist for much of the book before finally choosing which he is. He's an anti-villain.
    • The Extreme and Shoot-Em-Up are antiheroes as well, though they kill numerous innocents and are much further down the scale than Gary.
  • Anti-Villain: Namechecked. Gary says this is what he aspires to be after a long period of soul searching.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Reaper's Cloak is this, though Gary and the Nightwalker are both able to use it for good.
  • The Atoner: Most of the supervillains working in the Shadow Seven.
  • Ax-Crazy: Cindy is literally this once she gets a fire ax. Psychoslinger is a much darker version of this.
  • Big Bad: Tom Terror is the likeliest candidate. Subverted as he doesn't appear until the final third of the book and is summarily defeated by Ultragod once Gary removes his superpowers.
  • Big Good: The Society of Superheroes fills this role in the setting. Which sucks for Gary when he draws their ire.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Gary is a supervillain-in-name-only who fights evil superheroes and even more evil villains. Averted with the arrival of Ultragod, Ultragoddess, and the Society of Superheroes who are every bit as good as they are believed to be.
    • Gary's conflict with the Society of Superheroes is more a Gray-and-Gray Morality conflict, though, with the Society draconianly punishing Gary for killing the Extreme in self-defense.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: Gary fancies himself one of these. In fact, he is really just extremely left of center. It's just, well, he's a left-of-center supervillain.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Gary rapidly develops into one of these amongst supervillains. He's shockingly dangerous.
  • Cape Punk: The book Deconstructs the '90s Anti-Hero and The Dark Age of Comic Books by having Gary disgusted by heroes who kill and overly psychopathic villains. It also serves as a Decon-Recon Switch because Gary, himself, is a well-written '90s Anti-Hero. The book, notably, treats Lighter and Softer superheroes significantly more sympathetically than most examples of the Capepunk genre.
  • The Cape: Ultragod is this sort of hero to the world. Gabrielle is viewed as one but she's more a Pragmatic Hero.
    • Sunlight acts more like a parody of this and is as strange to other superheroes as Gary is to supervillains.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Gary proudly proclaims himself to be a supervillain. Other villains find this quite weird.
  • Captain Ersatz: Necromongers are not just Expies of the creature from Alien but actually the inspiration for them in-universe.
  • City of Adventure: Falconcrest City is certainly full of this, even if it's also a Wretched Hive.
  • Clock Tower: The Nightwalker was based in the Falconcrest City Clock Tower.
  • Cool Car: Subverted by the fact Gary drives a white minivan. The Nightwalker owned one of these but never used it since, ironically, low profile vehicles were actually better for moving around in secret.
  • The Cowl: The Nightwalker was one of these. Gary is actually one as well, though he'd never admit it.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ultragod just flies down, puts Gary in a bubble, and takes him off into space and there's not anything he could do about it. Given the way Gary fights Magog, it's entirely possible he COULD have but didn't want to hurt Ultragod.
    • The way Tom Terror is defeated.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Gary is revealed to be suffering from one of these. His brother was murdered in front of him by Shoot-Em-Up despite the former having reformed. Gary then tracked down the villain and killed him—at the age of fourteen.
    • Cindy has one of these too, which is only alluded to. At one point, having been forced to serve as a prostitute in high school.
  • Dating Catwoman: Both Mandy and Ultragoddess consider their relationships with Gary to be this way.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Despite being from the perspective of a man who idolizes supervillains while disdaining superheroes, it becomes very clear that villains are bad people and superheroes are (generally) good.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy! The cloak gets a lot of mileage out of making fun of Gary for this.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Ultragoddess for Ultragod. Justified given she's his daughter with the same powers. It also annoys her to no end as she was raised to be this rather than allowed to assume her own identity.
  • The Dragon: Diabloman settles into a combination of this role and The Mentor.
  • invokedDude, Not Funny!: Gary's reaction to Iron Cross' "ironic" use of Nazi paraphernalia as part of his battlesuit.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Magog and Gog are monstrous creatures the size of Skyscrapers and what Nephilim apparently look like in this world.
  • Endearingly Dorky: Lampshaded in-universe as one of Gary's qualities by all of the people who know him.
  • Expy: Tons, as befitting the medium.
    • Gary Karkofsky is one for the Hood crossed with Peter Parker.
    • The Nightwalker is one for Batman as the Society of Superheroes reflects archetypes of the Justice League (Ultragod for Superman/Green Lantern, Guinevere for Wonder Woman, Prismatic Commando for Captain America).
    • Cindy Wakowski a.k.a Red Riding Hood is one for Harley Quinn and Diabloman is a down-on-his-luck combination of Deathstroke and Bane.
    • Ultragoddess is one for Supergirl with Green Lantern's powers and the Shadow Seven are stand-ins for the Suicide Squad.
    • Tom Terror seems to be a combination of the Red Skull, Doctor Sivanna, and Golden to Silver Age Lex Luthor.
    • The Extreme seem to be one for Youngblood, X-Force, the Authority, and every other 90s Antihero superhero team.
    • Sunlight seems to be a parody of the Burt Ward Robin from the 1960s Batman series.
  • Guile Hero: The only reason, aside from creative use of his powers, why Gary lasts a single day as a supervillain.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Tom Terror appears to be a Wicked Cultured mentor-like figure to Gary. He's not.
  • Freudian Excuse: Played with. The death of Gary's brother and the traumatic consequences including killing his brother's murderer at age fourteen, certainly contributed to Gary becoming a supervillain. However, it's also clear Gary always admired supervillainy and had extremist political views as well.
  • Kaiju: Enough of a problem the Nightwalker had a special gun for dealing with them.
    • Gary has to deal with two at the end of the book.
  • Knight Templar: The Extreme are a collection of these. As is Shoot-Em-Up and other in-universe antiheroes.
  • Lawful Stupid: Sunlight acts like this and it is initially played as a source of humor before its revealed he's suffering from PTSD and drug addiction.
  • The Mentor: Diabloman plays this role to Gary. As does Cloak to a certain extent.
  • Mission Control: Mandy takes on this role with Gary, providing him valuable intelligence through the power of the internet.
  • Monster Clown: The Ice Cream Man has elements of this. It becomes doubly so when he becomes a zombie.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Not Gary but Shoot-Em-Up. An Anti-hero in the Nineties who wanted to kill supervillains to make sure they stopped menacing people, targeted a bunch of reformed and mostly-harmless ones in front of their families. The effect of this is, after killing Gary's brother Keith (a B-list supervillain named Stingray), he sets Gary on his path to supervillaindom. Which results in Gary shooting him in a hotel later that year, despite the former being only fourteen years old.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: The book shreds these mercilessly (no pun intended). Shoot-Em-Up is the first and he inspired Gary to become a supervillain by murdering his brother after he reformed. The Extreme, an entire team of them, are even worse.
    • Gary is deeply troubled when he starts to realize, after killing numerous villains and getting praise for it, he's morphed into one of these himself.
  • Nominal Hero: The Extreme and Shoot-Em-Up don't do anything good but kill supervillains. Reformed or harmless or not.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Most supervillains assume Gary is a Harmless Villain due to his laid-back demeanor, Card Carrying Villainy, and rambling. He really comes off more as a demented cosplayer than a supervillain. Then the bodies start dropping.
  • Origin Story: Averted as the story begins with Gary already being Merciless. Admittedly, for only a single day.
  • Police Are Useless: Gary thinks so. Given there's 400 supervillains in the city and many have superpowers or super-tech, it's more like, "police are completely outmatched."
  • Pragmatic Hero: The Nightwalker makes numerous references to how he subverted being The Cowl for practical reasons. He's also subtly directing Gary against supervillains and for the public good now that he's a ghost.
  • Psycho for Hire: Psychoslinger is, apparently, this. He's a spree-killer, serial killer, and all round lunatic the other villains use.
  • Refuge in Audacity: A large part of why Gary is so successful. People can't compartmentalize Gary more or less just walking up to people, announcing he's a supervillain, and then carrying out his plan without hurting anyone but fellow villains.
  • The Reveal: Mandy was intended to have the Cloak, not Gary.
    • Cloak was the Nightwalker's ghost all along.
  • Servile Snarker: Cloak has this relationship to Gary, constantly pointing out the flaws in his very twisted logic.
  • Shout-Out: The streets in Falconcrest City are named after famous comic book writers.
    • Ultragoddess is playing a clear homage to Injustice: Gods Among Us while wearing a Star Wars t-shirt.
    • The phone to the Chief of Police's office is an homage to the 60s Batman tv series.
    • Gary makes frequent references to the Alien movies when fleeing an extraterrestial predator.
    • Gary says his costume looks like a combination of a Sith Lord and Ring Wraith's outfit.
    • Sunlight is said to have done a lot of drugs with Hunter S. Thompson.
    • A blink and you'll miss it reference to Grant Morrison's X-men is Gary's fourteen year old self is described as dressing nearly identical to Quentin Quire.
    • When Cloak debates Gary's claim that an Anti-Villain is a thing, Gary argues that he looked it up on TV Tropes.
  • Space Base: The Society of Superheroes headquarters and the prison they take supervillains to is on the moon.
  • Spicy Latina: Averted with Ultragoddess who is both black as well as Latina but the most sensible woman in the cast aside from Mandy.
  • Straight Gay: Bronze Medal has nothing camp about him whatsoever. This also applies to Mandy and the Black Witch.
  • The Un Chosen One: Gary finds out he's this and Mandy was meant to be the new Nightwalker.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Revealed to be a code of ethics most superheroes follow. It's Justified when Ultragod points out it avoids a lot of problems both legally, ethically, as well as practically. Furthermore, it can be bent if there's absolutely no other resort. Those superheroes who don't care about murder are called antiheroes in-universe.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Gary, being Jewish, doesn't find a superhero who incorporates their iconography the least bit funny.
  • Tradesnark™: Gary is ''Merciless: The Supervillain without Mercy™.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Gary isn't a very powerful supervillain but he has a lot of very versatile abilities he makes intelligent use of. He also then becomes MUCH more powerful once he makes a pact with Death.
  • Villain Protagonist: It's in the title. Gary is a supervillain and proudly so. He, eventually, becomes an antihero instead.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: This starts happening with both the public and superheroes when they start to note Gary's "victims" are all evil.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: How Mandy stays in touch throughout the story.
  • Women Are Wiser: Mandy has elements of this, especially in comparison to the complete lunacy of Gary and his crew. As does Ultragoddess. Subverted by the fact it's really just Gary and his crew who are insane. We just see more of them (plus Cindy is arguably more deranged than Gary).
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A bank teller when he robs the bank within minutes of saving the employees from being killed.
    • And then does it again the next day.
  • World of Badass: Gary lives in a world where four hundred supervillains in one city is just really-really high.
  • Worthy Opponent: Gary seems to have this sort of feeling for the Society of Superheroes. They seem more confused why a non-psychopath wants to be a supervillain.
  • Weaponized Teleportation: Gary kills one '90s Anti-Hero by going intangible, then leaving his car keys inside his opponent's chest.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: What will happen if Gary doesn't use his powers often enough. He thinks it's a minor disadvantage.