It is hard to talk about super powered prose fiction in the United States without bringing up the Wild Cards franchise. Conceived by George R.R. Martin in the late eighties and based on a Superworld campaign by some of the original authors, it was the first major work to put original superheroes into prose form.
Now decades old, in many ways the series defined superhero prose fiction. It also proved that a cohesive universe shared by multiple authors was not only feasible but could also be incredibly compelling.
While the first volume in the series was published in 1987, I didn’t discover the series until the very early 1990s however through six hardcover reprints produced by the Science Fiction Book Club and available at my local library.
When I read that first volume, now renamed Wild Cards I, a major revelation hit me. I could combine my love for superheroes and prose into something wholly original. My terrible artistic attempts pretty much ended when I finished that first book and reveled in the adventures of Jetboy, Tachyon, The Great & Powerful Turtle, Golden Boy, The Sleeper, Fortunato and more. They weren’t like the characters in comics. They were far more adult, far more violent and far more real.
The books decision to never hide sex and violence from its pages is a major influence on Walking Shadows. If I wanted to tell the real lives of these young people, I knew I needed to never shy away from their real lives. With that in mind, I set out to make this a series aimed at younger readers with a mature bent while still having some of the high drama of superhero stories.
At the same time, Wild Cards I also did much to encourage the history of the Quadrant Universe. The book stretched across four decades of the twentieth century, interwoven through a subtly altered history. It was a concept I embraced when designing the thousands of years worth of history that make up the backstory of my world, much of which still waits to be revealed.
But if you have never read Wild Cards, go give the first book a chance. The new edition first book even has some new tales by modern authors in it for long time readers. I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you gave it a try.