Howard McKay isn't really a superhero. He doesn't have any superpowers. In fact, he's a fat alcoholic, who only dresses up in a fluorescent yellow body suit (complete with pink running shorts and boots) because of an unfortunate incident in which he mooned a judge during a drunken romp through the park. As his punishment, the vindictive judge sentenced Howard to an even more unfortunate community service sentence: to patrol the city streets as a citizen watchdog, while dressed in the rather unique aforementioned ensemble.
Moreover, The Adventures of Portly Boy isn't really a novel. Rather, it is a compilation of the first 37 installments (of a total of 69) of a meandering serial narrative that author Ray Weeks posted on the Strangelands website between March 2004 and January 2007 (to go directly to the Portly Boy part of the website, click here). Because Chapter 37 ends at something of a natural (if abrupt) breaking point, Weeks evidently decided to make those chapters available as a free, convenient pdf download from Lulu (and also as a $16.67 paperback, for those who want a more corporeal embodiment of Portly Boy's adventures).
So, for many reasons, Portly Boy is not really a "superhero novel." It is, however, absolutely hilarious. Weeks has a light touch and a genuine gift for situational humor. Howard is an appealing schlub protagonist, and the supporting cast of cut-rate sidekicks and not-so-super villains are appropriately eccentric and amusing. Howard's adventures are consistently fun and, amazingly enough given the glib nature of the entire enterprise, manage to be genuinely tense and exciting at times.
To be sure, the serial nature of Portly Boy's origins, where the original episodes were stretched over a period of nearly three years, takes its toll. Certain jokes are repeated over and over. Nor is there more than the barest whiff of an ongoing plot. Yet none of that undercuts Portly Boy's essential good humor or entertainment value, and I look forward to reading the remaining uncollected adventures (nearly as extensive as the adventures collected in this book) available at the Portly Boy website.