The best superhero books that aren’t comics

Percival Constantine Author Of Vanguard: Heroes Forged: A Superhero Adventure
By Percival Constantine

Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by superheroes. Maybe it’s because as a bit of an outcast myself growing up, I gravitated towards stories of people who were outside society, yet actually more powerful because of it. Perhaps I’m drawn to the idea of people who work outside the system to make the world a better place, regardless of if it’s dangerous to them or if they don’t reap any kind of personal reward. Or maybe I just like to watch beautiful people in colorful costumes beat the crap out of each other. You can always listen to me on the Superhero Cinephiles podcast to hear me talk more about superheroes.


I wrote...

Vanguard: Heroes Forged: A Superhero Adventure

By Percival Constantine,

Book cover of Vanguard: Heroes Forged: A Superhero Adventure

What is my book about?

One day, the world was normal. The next, people all over the world suddenly developed unexplained superhuman abilities. Now, the world is a more dangerous place because of these new beings, called specials. And the world's governments struggle to balance civil rights with safety.

Despite an international ban on the use of specials for military purposes, the US government has secretly formed a team: Paragon, telekinetic powerhouse. Wraith, dark matter teleporter. Sharkskin, the human/shark hybrid. Shift, shape-changing teenager. Zenith, super-powered automaton. And led by Gunsmith, a military commander fitted with a hi-tech exoskeleton. But their mission intensifies when the ruthless Red Fist terrorist organization prepares an army of specials to launch a global revolution. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Wild Cards I

By George R. R. Martin, Wild Cards Trust,

Book cover of Wild Cards I

Why this book?

How would superheroes have changed the world if they existed? That’s essentially what George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series. After WW2, an alien virus struck the Earth, endowing a handful of survivors with superhuman attributes—some helpful, some not so much. Featuring stories written by the likes of Roger Zelazny, Carrie Vaughn, and Martin himself, this series provides a fascinating look into how superpowers would really change the world.

Wild Cards I

By George R. R. Martin, Wild Cards Trust,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wild Cards I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a TV show on Hulu!

Back in print after a decade, expanded with new original material, this is the first volume of George R. R. Martin's Wild cards shared-world series

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil.…


Sentinels: When Strikes the Warlord

By Van Allen Plexico, Chris Kohler (illustrator),

Book cover of Sentinels: When Strikes the Warlord

Why this book?

The next Avengers movie is a few years away and there’s no way of knowing when (or if) there will be another Justice League movie. So if you’re looking for some epic, superhero team action to hold you over until then, look no further than Van Allen Plexico’s Sentinels series. This is the kind of widescreen superhero action you’ve come to expect from the MCU and Plexico’s love of the genre drips off every page.

Sentinels: When Strikes the Warlord

By Van Allen Plexico, Chris Kohler (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sentinels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The power-mad Warlord stands poised to conquer-- or destroy-- the universe itself. Can anyone stand in his way? Enter the Sentinels: College student Lyn Li... Brilliant inventor and smart-alec Esro Brachis... Beloved national hero Ultraa... Flamboyant showman Damon Sinclair... and mysterious alien powerhouse Vanadium. When at last they clash atop the Warlord's floating city, can the world itself survive?

The biggest and boldest superhero novel series ever written begins here! The first book in the critically-acclaimed Sentinels superhero novel series introduces the core of the team and the most dangerous-- and insane-- villain of them all: the Warlord!

"Grandiose storytelling…


X-Men: The Mutant Empire Omnibus

By Christopher Golden,

Book cover of X-Men: The Mutant Empire Omnibus

Why this book?

If you were a fan of the X-Men animated series, then this next pick is the book for you. Magneto and his followers take control of a fleet of the mutant-hunting Sentinels with the express purpose of establishing a new mutant nation. Naturally, the X-Men have to stop him, but with half the team on a mission in space, that’s a tall order. Golden writes a story that’s perfect nostalgia bait for anyone who loved the 90s X-Men.

X-Men: The Mutant Empire Omnibus

By Christopher Golden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked X-Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing the classic X-Men: Mutant Empire trilogy back into print in a brand-new omnibus

MAGNETO'S EMPIRE WILL RISE...

They live as outcasts, hated and feared by the very humanity they protect. They are mutants, born with strange and wonderful powers that set them apart from the rest of the human race. Under the tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier, they are more than mutants. They are-the X-Men.

Magneto-the X-Men's oldest, deadliest foe-has taken over a top-secret government installation that houses the Sentinels, powerful mutant-hunting robots. The X-Men must fight to keep this deadly technology out of Magneto's hands and stop him…


Shadow Legion: New Roads to Hell

By Thomas Deja, Chris Kemple (illustrator), Mike Fyles (illustrator)

Book cover of Shadow Legion: New Roads to Hell

Why this book?

If your superhero tastes run more to the weird and dark, this is definitely in your wheelhouse. Deja’s Shadow Legion could best be described as “superhero noir.” It’s got aspects of the supernatural and horror mixed in with pulp hero archetypes and intriguing interpretations of classic super powers. Plus, it features one of the best villains in any piece of superhero media, bar none.

Shadow Legion: New Roads to Hell

By Thomas Deja, Chris Kemple (illustrator), Mike Fyles (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadow Legion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WELCOME TO
NOCTURNE, FLORIDA

There has always been something strange about Nocturne, Florida: the City That Lives by Night. It is an entertainment nexus luring tourist from around the world to its night clubs, music venues and other, more adult entertainment venues. But there is a darker side to which these carefree revelers never see; one of dark doings, violence and eldritch evil.

Now a new sinister force threatens Nocturne and only a handful of unique, gifted beings can protect the city’s innocent.
Nightbreaker; a radio star turned vigilante, he exist in a strange limbo world. The beautiful Dreamcatcher who…


Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

By Grant Morrison,

Book cover of Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Why this book?

This is a non-fiction book, so you may think that it’s odd to include it here, but you’d be missing out if you skipped this. To describe Grant Morrison as a comics legend is barely scratching the surface. Superman, Batman, the X-Men, all of these characters and more have had some of their most definitive stories written by Morrison, so they truly know how superheroes operate. One part memoir, one part love letter to the superhero genre, this is a book that will keep you glued to the page and wishing for more by the end.

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

By Grant Morrison,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Supergods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names as familiar as our own. They are on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and in our dreams. But what are they trying to tell us? For Grant Morrison, one of the most acclaimed writers in the world of comics, these heroes are powerful archetypes who reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves. In this exhilarating work…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in superheros, archetypes, and supervillains?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about superheros, archetypes, and supervillains.

Superheros Explore 59 books about superheros
Archetypes Explore 22 books about archetypes
Supervillains Explore 9 books about supervillains

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Nocturnal, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and Playing For Keeps if you like this list.