October 12, 2006 at 09:00 PM EDT


TV Show
Current Status
In Season

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I’m not taking potshots at Heroes or impugning its originality. I like Heroes. A lot. Besides, why debate any TV show’s originality? It’s an inherently derivative storytelling form. We already know that Heroes boldly goes where the X-Men and (to a lesser extent) Salman Rushdie have gone before. And what of it? Lost has attracted myriad comparisons to novels, comic books, movies, etc.  This only enriches its appeal, expands obsessive fan scholarship, and encourages outside reading. Same with Heroes: When I speculate about creator Tim Kring’s inspirations, I do it out of respect. So let’s not play the flame game unless it’s absolutely necessary. Which I’m sure it will be by the end of this post — knowing me, knowing you.

That said… anybody heard of the Wild Cards books? It’s a long-running series of novels (which are themselves collections of storytelling experiments by various SF authors) about a world where an alien virus has jump-cut evolution, killed 90 percent of the world’s population, and divided the remainder into three groups: Superpowered ”Aces,” suffering mutant ”Jokers,” and ”Deuces,” people with basically useless abilities (like, say, blogging).

Wild Cards is an alternate-history of the 20th century, a Watchmen-esqueattempt to reconcile golden-age comic book fantasy with jadedcontemporary reality. Like most contemporary superhero fantasias, it’sabout cataclysm, exceptionalism and social Darwinism. And while weprobably won’t be seeing Fortunato in prime time, the Wild Cards character roster does bear some superficial similarities to the Heroes lineup. (Consider Shad, for example: an Ace with a murderous multiple personality disorder — sounds a bit Niki-esque, no?)

Full disclosure: I’m not terribly familiar with this series, havingreceived this tip from a source identifying herself as Sparrow (an Aceon the extreme DL). So nerd it up below: Have you read the books? Arethere any keys to the Heroes mythos therein? Should I just give up trying to be even minimally cool and buy a 23-sided die? Answer me!

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