I just got a copy of "The Darker Mask" in the mail, and I’m really looking forward to checking it out this week when I hop on a flight to Florida.
The book is part of percolating subgenre right now: Comics-inspired tales that tell their stories without pictures. So it’s pure prose, but the spirit is out of the four-color cousins with the word balloons. This is hardly a new idea, of course.
"Hellboy: Odd Jobs," an anthology of short stories about Big Red, came out eight years ago, and waaay back in 1990 was "Words Without Pictures" (a hard-to-find book now), which was edited by Steve Niles and had wonderful work in it by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Jon J. Muth others. Those are just two I can see sitting on my bookshelf from where I’m sitting.
Anyway, "The Darker Mask" (edited by Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers) has impressive names attached. Here’s a rundown of the book from Tor Books:
Expanding on the concept behind Byron Preiss’s Weird Heroes from the 1970s, George R. R. Martin’s Wild Card series, and Michael Chabon’s McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, The Darker Mask is a collection of original prose stories recalling the derring-do of the beings we call Superheroes and the worlds they fight to save.
But unique to The Darker Mask stories is that these plots and characters color a literary universe outside of what has been predominantly white, idiosyncratic and male in previous homages to pulp. This is the stuff of urban legends, new mythos, and extraordinary folks who might live in a soon-to-be-gentrified ghetto, the dreary rust-belt of the city, or in another dimension. The Darker Mask offers an eclectic mix of popular fiction writers exploring worlds gritty, visceral and fantastic.
Including stories by: Walter Mosley, L. A. Banks, Naomi Hirahara, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes, Mike Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ann Nocenti, Jerry Rodriguez, Reed Farrell Coleman, Doselle Young, Mat Johnson, Peter Spiegelman, Alexandra Sokoloff, Christopher Chambers, Gary Phillips, Victor LaValle, and Wayne Wilson.
Please join contributors Doselle Young, Edgar-award winner Naomi Hirahara, Wayne Wilson, acclaimed mystery writer Gar Anthony Haywood, supernatural writers Tananarive Due and Alex Sokoloff, science fiction writer Steve Barnes, and co-editor Gary Phillips as they discuss all things super heroics from their new collection, "The Darker Mask" anthology of edgy, prose super-hero stories from Tor.