It's funny because on a recent podcast, the question came up whether there were any superhero novels. Samuel Sattin's League of Somebodies is just that. Chances are you may have seem traditional heroes in novel form but Sattin's story is completely original and is packed with much more than just the traditional idea of superheroes.
What exactly is this book about and why should you check it out? You'll find out after seeing his answers to our questions.
COMIC VINE: How would you describe the story?
SAMUEL SATTIN: It's an unconventional superhero story. It's kind of one that attempts to take the superhero genre, which I love, to just try to see what happens when you strip some of the traditional hero narratives away. You see what you have left.
That's kind of the story of League of Somebodies, it's a superhero without victories. What happens when you have a superhero that doesn't get noticed and has a messed up family life. I took that and also put it with the filter of a novel about a father and son and family. What it means to raise children, what it means to have a passed down, generational knowledge and tradition.
In a nutshell, it's a book about, not only superheroes but how we carry on and pass on tradition to our kids like the idea of family, religion and whatever tradition has passed.
CV: Did you always want to write a superhero novel?
SS: Yeah! I love comics. I'm a huge comic book reader and love the genre. I remember when I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon back in 2000. It kind of changed my way of looking at the world. I liked the fact that it gave a lot of importance to comics and superheroes in general. I always wanted to write a book about superheroes and comic books but I thought it would be interesting not to just write about comics but about actual superheroes. It'd be a superhero as the main character. I really tried to put it through a literary lense.
CV: Besides the idea of being a hero, you also cover a lot of different themes. Did you ever feel you were putting in too much?
SS: I think that the writing of the book just came a little organically. If there were a lot of themes in there, it wasn't intentional. I think it was more just how it ended up coming out. It's funny, one of my cousins actually ended up approaching me with this huge litany of questions about the book. As she was asking me all these questions I realized, yeah, there's a lot more going on in here that I originally even thought about. When you write something, you're not really sure what is actually happening on the page until you take a step back and let other people take a look. Then you realize, oh wow, there is a lot. The only thing I was really thinking about was the father/son relationships and the idea of superheroes. A lot of other things sort of made their way in there on their own.
CV: The book basically has two different 'main characters' (with the father and son). What made you decide to split the book up rather than focus more on Leonard's youth?
SS: When I was writing it, at first I was just carrying on the narrative thread with Leonard as he grows up, as he steps into his shoes and following a narrative line. When I was doing that, it didn't end up working as well as I thought it was going to. It got a little stuck and started slowing down. I just decided to see what would happen if I split the narrative into Leondard's perspective and then Leonard's son's perspective, Nemo. It turned out it wired thematically because it helped and retold the first part of the story through the main character's son's eyes. It seemed to really reinforce the themes of tradition and passing down generational knowledge. The form ended up working for the theme that way. As opposed to when I was doing it traditionally, I don't think it really did anything to help the theme along.
CV: What comics or characters were you into "growing up" or currently?
SS: I was a big Batman fan. Batman and Superman for sure, the DC mainstays. Also I read a lot of X-Men growing up. I also kind of came into comics around the time a lot of different minds were coming up, like Image and Dark Horse. So I was reading a lot of alternative comics as well in that time period.
Then I got back into comics, superhero comics in particular, about six or seven years ago. I'm a huge Batman fanatic and started just reading everything that came out in the past twenty years. As of now, I'm into some different characters. I'm into Azzarello's WONDER WOMAN. I think it's an interesting take on Wonder Woman and elevating her to the status of a god. That's been really interesting to me. I'm also really looking forward to Grant Morrison's upcoming Wonder Woman graphic novel that is going to be coming out. She's been in the media a lot lately since she's going to be in the new Batman/Superman movie. I'm just fascinated with her character and what's been done with her and what the problems are that people seem to find with making her interesting. But I'm all over the place. I pretty much like anything that has panels and borders. I'll read anything.
CV: Have you thought how League of Somebodies could be adapted into a comic?
SS: I thought about it for sure. It would be a different sort of structure. It would reinvent the whole entire story to do it that way but I think it would be a really interesting experiment. I'd love to see that done at some point. I think it'd be really cool to look at how that could be done.
CV: The audio book is narrated by John Keating. Were you involved in the selection process?
SS: Not the selection process but once they got him, he and I went back extensively for a good month just talking about the different characters and getting things nailed down. He was really interested in trying to maintain the truth of the characters' voices. The thing is, in the actual novel, there are some visual scenes and drawings. We had to figure out how to maneuver those for an audio book. I actually had a lot more involvement than I thought I was going to have. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
CV: Is there room for more of this world or are you focusing on another genre for your next book?
SS: I definitely thought about it because there is room for expansion. There's definitely stories that haven't been told and that could be expanded upon. Now that I've written an entire novel in that realm, I think I could really do justice to some other narratives. So I'm definitely thinking about it. I'm also at work on a couple different projects that don't involve League of Somebodies but it's something I've been thinking about for the last six months. It's something that I might revisit.
Samuel will be a guest on an upcoming episode of The Invincibly Super Massive Comic Book Podcast of Stuff. Be sure to include any questions in the comments below.
Samuel Sattin is the author of “League of Somebodies,” a debut novel about one family’s efforts to create the world’s first superhero. (Spoiler: It doesn’t go so well.) Imagine The Doom Patrol cross-pollinated with Philip Roth and then remixed by Mel Brooks. The novel is currently available in paperback from Dark Coast Press; Audible released the audiobook performed by John Keating earlier this month. Sattin is 31 years-old and lives in Oakland with his wife. His work has appeared in Salon, io9, Kotaku, The Good Men Project and he’s currently a contributing editor at The Weeklings.