Along the tortuous route of human progress, there have been specially-gifted spirits who have banded together with singular purpose. Though often public figures, the groups as such often celebrated, the true work of these luminaries was rarely made public. They were often fronted as “literary circles” or “artistic movements” and their members forced to produce “works” that would justify otherwise idle lifestyles. Idle, that is, in appearance only. Behind the scenes, these gifted individuals were doing much more than scribbling silly stories or pictures or navel-gazing the meaning of life. They were fighting crime and/or defending the planet. The shroud of well-meaning deceit will now be lifted, for the world must know of the sacrifices of these brave heroes.
Episode Two: The Literary Brat Pack aka The Superhero Club: To the Max!
Origin and History:
Not all teams worked.
Thrown together in a haphazard fashion, a la Marvel’s original Defenders (Doctor Strange, Hulk, Silver Surfer and Submariner – ?!), this group of young superhero recruits never quite gelled. During the 80s, the US government was struggling to find a solution to the growing drug problem, and conventional police work against drug traffickers was failing. When ultra-cool novelists like Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney arrived on the literary scene with an apparent insider’s understanding of the “demand” side of the slick, party lifestyle, some chowderhead in Washington DC had the bright idea to mash them together into an undercover super squad.
Publically, they were awkwardly dubbed The Literary Brat Pack, in an effort to connect them with the filmic Brat Pack. Covertly, they were known as The Superhero Club. The authors wanted no part of it. But it was the 80s, so they took the money and went thru the motions. Though Ellis, Janowitz and McInerney developed a friendly connection with each other, they also demonstrated a blatant lack of commitment to their missions. Any of them. For example, when deployed in Miami, tasked with infiltrating and disrupting a local drug distribution ring, the team instead hung out with Duran Duran, who happened to be there on tour. The government’s answer was more: more money, more heroes. Similarly successful young writers were grafted onto the team: Donna Tartt, Mark Lindquist, Susan Minot, Peter Farrelly and David Leavitt all spent time with The Superhero Club, accomplishing nothing. Not a single mission was ever successfully accomplished by this team, but they all had a totally rad time and made a ton of money.
The team was eventually disbanded with little ceremony.
(note – usually at least one member of a team can be identified as the leader, but The Superhero Club is different in that at no point did any member offer a shred of leadership in their training or missions – there was a clear “every man for himself” vibe.)
Bret Easton Ellis aka Mister WhoZitZ? – A cloud of ambiguity has always surrounded Ellis. Indeed, you could say this is revealed in his writing, in the layers of secrets of Glamorama or the unreliable narration of American Psycho for example. In fact, on the few missions actually attempted by the Club, Ellis would pull himself into the background, saying “I’m here, but not really – I’m going ‘cameo’ on this one”.
Superpower: Shape-shifter. Sometimes has trouble controlling the shape-shifting.
Tama Janowitz aka Zazzle – Janowitz got an early start in the literary scene, with a flurry of awards, a stack of unpublished novels followed by an explosion of short story publications, straight into orbit with New York stars like Andy Warhol. Suddenly, she was everywhere and unstoppable. The book of stories that made her famous (and drew the attention of the Feds), Slaves of New York, were drawn from those days of zigzag activity.
Superpower: Energy manipulation. Janowitz can collect and disperse energy, making things blow up a little or disrupting electronic equipment and so forth. Sometimes has trouble controlling the energy.
Jay McInerney aka Lil’BigMac – Bright Lights, Big City captured a certain empty quality of the 80s, with its 2nd person narrative of a jilted husband losing himself in piles of cocaine and the NY club scene. McInerney has struggled to build on the heady acclaim it brought him. It was neither his fairly prolific writing nor his enjoyment of success that distracted him from his work on the team; it was his not giving a crap.
Superpower: Density manipulation. McInerney can change his density and, to some extent, his shape, from completely flat and heavy to large and balloon-like, but very light, then back to heavy, but perhaps now just the size of, say, a wine cork. Sometimes has trouble controlling his density.