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  Hero by Perry Moore
Review by Dennis R. Upkins
 
 

Thom Creed is a high school basketball star. His mother abandoned the family and his father is a former masked crimefighter who retired in disgrace following a national incident and now works as a lowly worker in a factory. Thom's own superpowers are beginning to manifest themselves, as is his homosexuality. But Thom must keep his powers a secret, for fear of further disgracing his father and risking his hometown's homophobic wrath.

But as Thom's sexuality becomes more troublesome, he decides to run away from home. He immediately becomes mixed up in a battle between some villains and The League, and does well enough to be invited to try out for the team. Thom is accepted as a trainee, and assigned to work with a group of other probationary heroes. The stress of keeping so many secrets from his father exacts a painful toll.

Soon, however, the world's superheroes begin dying under mysterious circumstances. In order to solve the mystery, Thom must reunite with his fellow outcast trainees and deal as well with society's prejudices when his secrets are revealed.

I won't lie, I was very reticient about reading this novel. More often than not, gay media (be it books, movies, music, etc.) plays to every derogatory stereotype there is and it induces far more homophobia in society than ultra-conservatives ever could.

Despite my trepidation, I still kept hearing a lot about this book and my curiosity got the better of me and this led to much research. In various interviews, author Perry Moore explained explained that part of his inspiration for writing Hero was because he wanted to portray gay characters (gay superheroes specifically) in a positive manner and debunk the offensive caricatures that inundate the media. The Chronicles of Narnia executive producer also wanted to show that despite the hardships that LGBTs face, being gay is not a tragedy. Moore has also campaigned to bring awareness to the bigotry LGBT characters face in comic books. Always eager to support a fellow minority who is striving to do positive works and defy convention, I decided to pick up a copy.

As a writer, a comic book junkie, and a double minority, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this novel. Moore gets it. He didn't write a gay story about a gay character for a gay audience like many writers do. He wrote a story about a character for a universal audience. A character who just happened to be gay. And that's why this story works. Any self-respecting minority will tell you that we're more than the sum of our parts. Our minority (be it race, gender, or orientation) contributes to our character but that isn't all there is to us. Moore gets this. For the most part, this story could've worked just as well if the character had been heterosexual. Gay or not, most audiences can either relate or sympathize with Thom whose story is based loosely on Moore's adolescent years. Just as Hal, is based loosely on Thom's father, a veteran who faced societal rebuke upon returning from Vietnam.

Thom is an affable protagonist. A star athlete, he's quirky and at times a spaz. Think Peter Parker with a hint of Connor Kent. The story's mythos is a blatant satire/parody/homage of both DC and Marvel Comics, much in the spirit of the film Sky High. While I personally would've enjoyed more development with said mythos, I get the intent behind it. It's a fun story that doesn't take itself too seriously. Ironically, one of the things that makes Hero successful is the light-hearted prose which is juxtaposed against the heavy social issues it addresses. We're talking everything from homophobia to divorce, healthcare, war, racism and poverty.

This coming of age tale is also candid and honest. One of my favorite scenes is when Hal nearly walks in on Thom who is masturbating to gay porn on the laptop in such a matter-of-fact manner. Because as a matter of fact, jerking off to porn is something teen boys tend to do. A LOT!

Moore does an excellent job fleshing out many of the characters who would've otherwise been one-dimensional. Ruth is an outright riot who steals every scene and following Thom, she's my favorite character in the novel. While Hero is certainly a stand-alone novel, there are a few loose ends which lends nicely to a sequel.

According to reports, sequels to the novel are planned and Moore has teamed up with comic books legend Stan Lee to do an adaptation for Showtime.

Having achieved the seemingly impossible in creating a compelling gay character (a superhero no less), Moore has become my personal superhero.

Hero is a conscious engaging dramedy and a fun read at that. I highly recommend it for comic book fans or fans of a very good story.

 
  Dennis R. Upkins

Dennis R. Upkins was born and raised in Nashville, TN. Currently Upkins serves as a college professor where he teaches computer animation as well as freelance writer/artist/digital photographer. His writing has appeared in Art&Prose Magazine, the Dabbling Mum and Sniplits. His art has been featured in the Madison, TN and the Scarritt Bennett art museums. In his spare time, Upkins enjoys drawing, photography, rollerblading, martial arts and of course creative writing.

   
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