One thing I like about tales of super-powered beings is their flexibility. While most of them are written as action-adventure fiction, stories of SPBs really can fit in to any genre. I believe it was writer Steven Grant that explained that superheroes aren’t really a genre, but a “setting”, a window dress that fits over other forms of fiction.
And one of the most influential of those over me is soap opera. I grew up on Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men (which could be several Influential columns on its own) but I feel the superheroes meet soap story that most contributes to Walking Shadows is Jay Faerber and company’s Noble Causes.
The Image series followed the lives and tribulations of the Noble family, an extended family of superheroes and their interpersonal relationships. Faerber created a fascinating team out of whole cloth from super-scientist dad Doc to robotic strongman Rusty to normal human Liz Donnelly-Noble, our entry point character.
The book does nothing to hide its soapy influences with death, cheating and scandal front and center. Noble matriarch Gaia has a bastard son in Frost while Rusty has an ex-wife in Celeste (who of course keeps the Noble name) and almost everyone has a secret (or three) to keep.
The layered histories of the characters and their interpersonal relationships proved a major inspiration for me when I started writing Walking Shadows. While the familial aspect of the Nobles doesn’t appear in Walking Shadows (yet), the complex interpersonal relationships between characters that have just met and their own supporting casts will come into play more and more as the story continues to evolve. I have only started to tap the full story of the sundry cast of characters in Walking Shadows.
Noble Causes sadly ended a few years back, but the series is still easily available in two massive Archive editions from Image Comics. Both books, over 50 issues total, can be purchased for under $50.
One last note on how influential Noble Causes is on me? The entire Influential column series is inspired by Faerber’s “Under the Influence” that ran in the back of later issues. Go check it out.