Greetings, ComicAttackers! We have something special for you today from Titan Books. A look into the mind of creator Samit Basu, writer of the action-packed Indian superhero novel Turbulence. Though separated from our shores by a vast ocean. Samit has plenty in common with American comic book readers, as you’ll see below in his top ten list of favorite superheroes. From Titan Books:
Aman Sen is smart, young, ambitious and going nowhere. He thinks this is because he doesn’t have the right connections—but then he gets off a plane from London to Delhi and discovers that he has turned into a communications demigod. Indeed, everyone on Aman’s flight now has extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires.
Vir, an Indian Air Force pilot, can now fly.
Uzma, a British-Pakistani aspiring Bollywood actress, now possesses infinite charisma.
And then there’s Jai, an indestructible one-man army with a good old-fashioned goal — to rule the world!
Aman wants to ensure that their new powers aren’t wasted on costumed crime-fighting, celebrity endorsements, or reality television. He wants to heal the planet but with each step he takes, he finds helping some means harming others. Will it all end, as 80 years of superhero fiction suggest, in a meaningless, explosive slugfest?
Turbulence features the 21st-century Indian subcontinent in all its insane glory—F-16s, Bollywood, radical religious parties, nuclear plants, cricket, terrorists, luxury resorts, crazy TV shows — but it is essentially about two very human questions. How would you feel if you actually got what you wanted? And what would you do if you could really change the world?
And now on to Samit’s top ten list of superheroes!
1. Elastigirl – The toughest part of being a superhero, as thousands from Spiderman onwards will testify, is balancing hero work with real life, and no one does it better than Elastigirl. Fighting crime, defeating villains, dishing out punches and wisecracks, saving the day single-handed – she’d earn a roster on any superhero team on the work front alone. Managing a family of eccentric supers and keeping it from turning completely dysfunctional on top of all that? No one else gets it done quite so well. Also, no one wears a uniform better.
2. Batman – I tried consciously to keep the bigger names off this list – we’ve all discussed them a hundred times before. No JLA types, no Avengers, these were the unwritten rules. But of course he had to turn up in here, didn’t he? What is it, Bats? Not had enough attention over the last eight decades? Do I even bring up the fact that you have no, um, superpowers? Anyway, here he is. BECAUSE HE’S BATMAN. Iron Man would have showed up too, but it turns out he has a better party to attend.
3. Christian Walker – Classic hero type. Classic cop type. Classic immortal type. Christian Walker is so many tropes rolled into one body that just standing moodily on top of a building must make his head spin. What I loved best most about Powers is its smart updating of classic hero legends; to execute that so well they needed a classic hero, a rock that the currents of time could wither but not break. Splendid character, splendid distillation of what heroes – human or superhuman – stand for.
4. Jenny Sparks – The Spirit of the 20th century. Electricity-controlling, hard-living, tough-talking protector of humanity. Has hung out with Einstein, Hitler and Lennon. Led the Authority, the one super-team that actually took charge of the world and told the world’s powers to behave themselves or else. Died at the end of the century, telling her teammates to take care of the world ‘Or I’ll come back and kick your heads in.’ Innumerable lovers, victories, mistakes. What’s not to love?
5. Dr. Manhattan – In terms of pure power, there are very few heroes that can match this eerie, spine-chilling Alan Moore creation. Sure, he might not be the most pleasant super to hang out with – but would superheroes be concerned about how many Twitter followers they had? If people had superpowers, would the rest of us, our lives, our views, mean anything to them? Dr. Manhattan is a cluster of fascinating questions about man, superman, and everything beyond, packed up in the form of a rude nude blue dude.
6. The Machine Man Aaron Stack – specifically, as he appears in Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Badass robot. More stacked with machine parts for cutting things up than a Swiss Army knife designer’s greatest dream ever. Calls humans ‘fleshy ones’. Has a robot brain that needs beer. Rejected by the Celestials for being a complete and utter (unspecified word). Has unrequited crush on a super-strong demon-huntress. Cuts nuclear dragon-kaiju Fin Fang Foom up from the inside. When I finally get to put together a team of superhumans to save the world, Aaron’s on it. Hopefully he can be a microwave and fridge as well. It’ll save space.
7. Crazy Jane – There’s very little to actually like about the Doom Patrol’s Crazy Jane: she’s on my favourites list primary because of the sheer amount of imagination that went into her creation. Multiple-personality disorder where every personality has its own superpower? That could be most convenient in the hands of other writers, but put Grant Morrison in charge and you get – among many, many others – the pyrokinetic Flaming Katy, the enigma-solving Mama Pentecost and the nymphomaniac Scarlet Harlot. Of course even Crazy Jane with all her personas isn’t Morrison’s weirdest superhero. That honour goes to Danny the Street. And that’s because Danny’s a street, not because he’s a transvestite.
8. Jakita Wagner – Field leader of Planetary. It’s a strange world, and she keeps it that way. Could there be a cooler job description? All the standard butt-kicking abilities you could ask for in a superhero, plus the short attention span and direct (read: spine-breaking) problem-solving approach that seems to define the times we live in. Yes, there are any number of superheroes with greater powers, longer careers and bigger problems, but I can’t think of anyone who made as deep an impression on me in as few panels. Maybe it’s just the promise of the ‘can drop-kick a rhino across the Grand Canyon’ ability, but there’s no hero I want to learn more about.
9. Sheriff ‘Tommy’ Lindo – Yes, she doesn’t have superpowers of her own, but she carries a super-weapon, is descended from superheroes, has had romantic entanglements with superheroes and lives in a town full of superheroes that she has to keep in order, so we’re letting her in, okay? The town of Tranquility might seem like a sweet little hamlet full of quaint old retired supers, but spend a day there and you’re likely to run into mass murder and mayhem, and that’s on a good day, when the future of the world isn’t at stake. In the middle of this madhouse full of geriatric, mostly amoral powerhouses and their rebellious offspring, Sheriff Lindo does a splendid job of keeping the peace; to keep the world and herself from melting down on a daily basis requires incredible effort, and she deserves more credit for this than she gets.
10. The Hulk – Look, I didn’t think he should be here either, this party’s not on as grand a scale as he usually gets, but he wanted in, and he’s a tough man to say no to. He was very well-behaved, and didn’t want to be included for any of the times he’s saved the world, beaten bad guys to a pulp or broken planets. Specifically asked me to say he’s not even sore about how other heroes have treated him over the decades. He just pointed out that there’s one thing he wants us to remember – that moment, that scene in the Avengers film with Loki. Smash crash bash smash Puny God. Possibly the greatest moment ever in an action movie – my words, not his. He said I could leave him out after that if I could bear to, and walked away. I couldn’t.
Many thanks to Titan Books and Samit Basu for this look into the mind of an Indian comic book fan. Be sure to check out Turbulence, out this month from Titan Books!