Up and Onward…Confessions of a Super Hero is a tongue-in-cheek look at the real life of "Citizens of the World." It is what you would call a "fictionblog" or a "character blog." Generally a fiction blog is a serialized story told from the first person perspective of a main character. A character blog, though I'm making this distinction up on the spot, is more like the observations of a world from the point of view of one person that doesn't follow one major plot line. There may be other recurring characters, or a theme that is addressed frequently…you get the idea.
The premise of Up and Onward… is that us mere citizens have got it all wrong when it comes to the reality of what it's like to be a superhero. Our hero, Exemplar, gives us an inside look at what it really takes to combat crime, as well as the "dirt" on some of the more famous superheroes in the cultural consciousness. For example, did you know that the real Superman:
Clark Zupfermann was born in Kent, Iowa in 1893 to a couple of immigrants from Warsaw, Poland. His parents were in their 50’s when he was born (they had thought they were unable to have children). He was more then the usual “miracle baby” in that he had a rare genetic disorder. His body had an unusual mutation that caused increased muscle growth and strength, as well as a type of psoriasis that made his skin virtually impenetrable. His skin was basically a natural version of Kevlar.
Superheroes have to deal with the same problems as the rest of us. Exemplar explains they have just as many problems at the aiport since 9/11, as superheroes are "Citizens of the World" requiring them to be fingerprinted when leaving the country, which can become quite complicated when wearing a body suit. And just in case you thought everything is free and easy for our altruistic friends, you should know that "Superhero money is no better than that of a mere citizen." That's right folks, they usually have to ride coach on those transatlantic flights.
Superheroes also have to combat the less glamorous drama of interpersonal relationships and co-workers:
AmazeMan is still mad that Gamma Girl was making his codpiece glow orange and green while he was hitting on Shelly from accounting. (btw, Shelly is TurboTron’s cousin). It was all in good fun, but he never forgave her. Oh, and little known fact. Most guys keep their wallet in their codpiece. I tell you, if you don’t have a utility belt, there aren’t that many places to hide your ATM, BlockBuster, and AAA cards. Poorly hidden keys have been a real problem in our industry. I think the real reason that AmazeMan is mad is that all that radiation erased his membership ID at Bally’s and they charge you $25 to replace them.
As an added treat Exemplar's friends occassionally fill in for him when he's on assignment and can't get to a computer. Invisagirl lets us know that "being invisible has it’s ups and downs. Great for getting into concerts, finding out what people are saying behind your back, and all kinds of sundry mischief (plus I never have a bad hair day). The downside is more mundane. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve knocked over while reaching for them because I can’t see my own hands."
What makes Up and Onward… a delightful read is that Exemplar takes on some of the problems that arise when you try to apply the standards and mores of the comic book universe to the real world. He lets us know exactly what he thinks of superheroes that shave their chests, and the impracticality of a man in tights on a crowded airplane. And he's not afraid to criticize the way in which heroes and villians are encouraged to interact with each other: "Now “M” is terribly consistent in his methods, which is typical in this business. If I had to give one piece of advice to any up and coming criminal genius, it would be to alter your methods once in a while."
Up and Onward… gives the reader the satisfaction of seeing the conventions of the comic genre addressed by the characters themselves. It becomes an amusing "fourth wall" experiment which takes advantage of the conversational style of the blog format. Rather than trying to bend the blog to the standard literary conventions of books, Up and Onward… does what I'm finding is the key to success in fictionblogging, taking advantage of the format. The posts aren't too long and meandering, trying to recapture epic battles between good and evil, but rather they act as a sidebar to action we can gather from what we all already now about the battle of good versus evil. Blogs that simply try to narrate for the audience the animation cells of a comic book or the action sequences of a film fail because they are boring, we've seen this all before and we don't really need their help. However reading a superhero's explanation of why they always let the villian have a chance to get away becomes an interesting comment on the kind of stories we like to see as an audience.
Exemplar is charming, funny, and writes about things that audiences can relate to enough that you don't have to read the blog from the first post to last to care about the action or the "character." Each post unto itself is interesting (see the one about his mother's obsession with getting him married, "Guilt from Association"). Blogs don't carry plots that well. Blogs do, however, work well as character sketches, and a writer has to have the ability to develop a character without relying on the conventions of other forms of literature. That is the distinct challenge to the writer and seeing how the writer achieves this is what makes Up and Onward... worth the hit.