Superhero Stories

Superhero child reading a book.

Superhero stories are popular with kids everywhere. Heroes are inherently appealing because they may have special powers or supernatural abilities that assist them with their daily duties, but they also live regular lives and face common problems just like everyone else. The classic conflict between good and evil is at the root of almost all superhero stories, which is part of why they're so compelling to such a great variety of people. Kids, especially boys, are drawn to the human foibles of superheroes and the great amounts of action that are traditionally in their stories.

How to Find Superhero Stories

Aside from the influx of comic books and classic character spin-offs, there aren't very many children's books that focus on original superheroes. Children's librarians and bookstore employees will likely be most familiar with the offerings that are available. One good strategy is to explain what you're seeking and check out the books that a professional can manage to dig up for you. If your child is more interested in characters that are already established and widely known, consider taking him or her to a comic-book store to explore the material there.

Where to Start

Figuring out what kind of book you want can help streamline your search and save you lots of time.

Comics and Graphic Novels

Comics and graphic novels are the most common type of superhero story. They traditionally feature characters that are already established, such as:

  • Superman
  • Spider-Man
  • Batman
  • Wonder Woman
  • The Fantastic Four
  • Catwoman
  • Captain Marvel

Typically, a comic book will follow one episode in a superhero's life and won't be as long as a regular children's chapter book might be. Though most comics are appropriate for kids of many different ages, some do contain mature content or violence, so it's always advisable for parents to screen comic books or graphic novels first to make sure that the books are suitable for their kids.

Also, parents should note that graphic novels are a distinct category of literature and are not the same as comic books. Graphic novels are often just as long as chapter books or even longer. They are bound like books, rather than with staples. Graphic novels are illustrated in a serial style, like comic books, but the illustrators may have more depth or detail.

Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants is the most successful mainstream superhero book series for kids. The author of the series, Dav Pilkey, uses laugh-out-loud humor and quick pacing to draw in reluctant readers and hold their attention throughout each story. The main characters of the Captain Underpants series are two fourth graders, George and Harold, who enjoy pulling pranks and happen to turn their school principal into the title superhero after they hypnotize him. Kids in elementary school and even middle school are likely to howl at Pilkey's outrageous humor and the book's comic-style illustrations.

Picture Books

A good picture book will take all of the positive qualities in most superhero stories and present them in a way that's fun and appealing for a very young child.

  • Superdog: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner is a great pick for kids who like animal stories. The main character is a dog that wants to be a superhero and needs to overcome bullies and a few tough situations to get through his initial training.
  • Superhero by Marc Tauss is designed for very young children and tells the story of Maleek, an African-American boy with superhero tendencies. The book doesn't have as much action as some other hero tales, but the plotline and illustration style are compelling.
  • Brian Pinkney, a Caldecott Honor artist, is the creator of Sparrowboy, a book for young children that features an African-American paperboy as its title hero.

Chapter Books

Aside from Captain Underpants, there are a few notable chapter books for kids that star superheroes.

  • Magic Pickle is an unlikely superhero who teams up with a human boy to fight the evil Ray Sin, who wants to turn everyone in the world into a grape.
  • After a field-trip mishap, Max morphs into MAXimum Boy in Dan Greenburg's series of superhero books.
  • Melvin Beederman, Superhero is a series of books by Wendelin van Draanen. Unlike some other kid superheroes, Melvin graduated from Superhero Academy and always had a desire to fight evil and help others.
  • Wendelin Van Draanen is the author of the Shredderman series, beginning with Secret Identity. Main character Nolan isn't exactly a hero at school, so he develops an alter ego to expose his enemy's shortcomings.
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy by William Boniface is designed for kids who have already plowed through all the Captain Underpants books and may be looking for more material. It features Ordinary Boy, a silly superhero who is ready to take on any villain.
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Superhero Stories