Minister Faust has one of the cooler names in science fiction and I will admit that alone was enough to get me to give his 2007 standalone novel From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain a try. The novel examines a question that arises all too infrequently in superhero universes: having finally taken the initiative, defeated their super-villainous enemies, and consigned their former foes to eternal prison, what the superheroes do next?
Without super-villains to distract them from their crippling personal issues, the current members of the Fantastic Order of Justice — Omnipotent Man, the Flying Squirrel, Iron Lass, X‑Man, Brotherfly, and Power Grrrl — turn to a new distraction: discovering just how much they loath each other. The bickering that results has been effective enough that the FOOJ’s governing board has ordered all six active members of FOOJ to report for mandatory psychotherapy.
Each superhuman has more than enough personal issues to keep Dr. Brain busy for years. Good for the shrink biz. Tackling all six members at once could just be a guarantee of full employment for life. Getting the six superhumans to admit to their own foibles is hard enough. Getting the heroes to do anything about their issues may be impossible.
News that retired FOOJ leader King Hawk has died may sabotage what little progress the group has made. King Hawk is literally a god, a god who is supposed to be immortal. How could a god die? Of natural causes, apparently. But superheroes are a paranoid lot; once a superhero’s thoughts turn to murder, the obvious suspects are the other faces looking back across the FOOJ conference table.…
Our author, Faust, may be thinking of the end of the Cold War here. Having won their battle with the legitimate bad guys, the FOOJ is at a loss what to do next. One solution is to find some new set of bad guys, villains who cannot be easily rounded up because they are largely imaginary. Another is to define the villains so vaguely that almost anyone could to be targeted. Or both. By the end of the book, the surviving members of FOOJ have managed both. Just as the end of the cold war eventually gave rise to the War on Terror. Full employment forever. For the ones who survive.
I’ve read a number of superhero parodies; most of them parody DC characters like Batman and Superman. Not so much riffing on Marvel characters. Perhaps that’s because the DC characters tend to be more … iconic, more fertile ground for parody. Faust’s characters seem to have been drawn from a variety of sources: the Flying Squirrel may be Batman’s (more openly) racist granddad while Omnipotent Man is Clark Kent’s dimmer cousin. Brotherfly and Spiderman would probably get along; Iron Lass and Thor would have much to discuss; Power Grrrl and Dazzler might commiserate about being inspired by ephemeral music fads.
Dr. Brain is unambiguously a Marvel-style character because, for reasons that have never been clear to me, DC psychologists and psychiatrists are almost invariably villains: Hugo Strange, Harley Quinn, Zoom, Scarecrow, and so on. If you want more heroic therapists, look to Marvel’s Doc Samson or Brother Voodoo. At least, I assume Brain is not a super-villain. Though her methods are self serving, her confidence clearly ill-founded, she’s not in jail near the end.
I am sorry to report that this was not my thing, which makes me sad. It’s the whole “humour present only in homeopathic quantities” issue, plus Faust’s parodic style is a bit more heavy-handed than I prefer. It is true that his book has a nice strong signal; maybe it will appeal to some audience that does not include me. And perhaps some less willfully comedic Faust novel will appeal to me more.
There is a recent edition of this, retitled Shrinking the Heroes.
The publisher is Narmer’s Palette, who seem to be fairly specifically publishing Minister Faust’s books. I was unable to find a website for them so Amazon may be the way to go.