Red Jacket: A Novel with a Superhero

Red Jacket: A Novel with a Superhero by Michael Canfield bookcover

One day you discover your gift, find yourself better than the common strain of humanity—not in some moral way, not in some fair way, or just way, and not because you earned it. Simply better equipped in one, maybe two, measurable ways. You’re smarter. You’re stronger. Or more impervious to injury. Or you can leap, or fly, or talk to birds, or breathe underwater, or run faster than sound. You wonder, you marvel, you exalt. Then, in time, you learn it doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t mean what you thought it meant, anyway. You never asked for it, it came despite your own little desires for life, your small ambitions. Those things belong to yesterday, when you thought you knew yourself. When you thought of yourself as one thing and the ability as something separate.

That stage can go on for years. Some never get passed it, but most do. You are the ability and the ability is you. You have to stop hiding then, stop seeking a cure, because to cure yourself of your power means curing yourself of yourself. You did not ask for the power, but you did not ask to be you either. No one does. The powerless don’t ask for powerlessness, nor do they deserve it—any more than we powered deserve our powers.

So you start to help. Sometimes you mess it up; some superheroes spend their whole careers, long or short, as screw-ups. Those who aren’t that bad, the marginally helpful, the tolerably heroic like me, stick around awhile.
You don’t walk away from what you can do, not in this world. Everyone has a part to play and that’s the story.

New York in the early 80’s. Tough place for a struggling young African-American
superhero like RJ (kinda strong, sorta hard to kill) to fight crime, make the
rent, and hold on to his love life. Tough enough, that is, even before the
city’s mightiest champions enter a trans-dimensional rift, answering a
call-to-arms against alien invaders. Now it’s up to Red Jacket and a handful of
other “rear guardians” to hold the world’s greatest metropolis together.

Or die trying.


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