- Evolution is imperfect and often a violent process. A battle between what exists and what is yet to be born. Amidst these birth pains, morality loses its meaning, the question of good and evil reduced to one simple choice: survive or perish.
- —Mohinder Suresh, Heroes (Episode 1.06, "Better Halves")
A smash-hit NBC television show, Heroes tells the tale of several "special" people who discover they have powers and thus, every week, same bat-time, same bat-channel, must save the world from others like them, others not like them, and themselves. It is totally not a rip-off of X-Men at all. In addition to the show itself, a lot of of graphic novels and web series were released online to flesh out characters' backstories, and a tie-in novel was published.
Volume One: Genesis
The various main characters begin to discover their powers. A super-powered serial killer known only as "Sylar" is hunting down special people and brutally murdering them before stealing their powers. Following clues from paintings that seem to predict the future, Peter Petrelli rescues a cheerleader from Sylar, preventing him from stealing her regenerative immortality. Hiro Nakamura accidentally time travels to the future and witnesses an atomic explosion in the heart of New York. While he returns to the present to prevent this, the search for Sylar leads instead to Ted Sprague, a man whose body leaks radiation, and is one temper tantrum away from going fully nuclear. The plot threads run together when Sylar kills Ted and copies his power, ready to nuke New York and show the world how special he is.
Volume Two: Generations
Another accidental time-hop on Hiro's part lands him in feudal Japan, where he is disappointed to learn that his childhood hero, the legendary samurai Takezo Kensei, is an alcoholic British man. Takezo and Hiro both fall in love with the same girl, and their falling-out leads to Takezo's death. Hiro returns to his own time, only to discover that his friends are now after a dangerous man named Adam Munroe, an immortal regenerative who once went by the name Takezo in feudal Japan. After Hiro's betrayal, and ample time throughout the centuries to witness humanity's corruption, Munroe now plans to unleash a mutated virus upon the world to give it a clean slate.
Volume Three: Villains
A bunch of super-powered convicts escape from the Company, a secretive agency that monitors and polices specials while pretending to be a paper company. They enlist Sylar's help in recapturing them, which was pretty stupid, since Sylar is worse than any of them, and now has their powers. Munroe evades recapture, and his power is used by Arthur Petrelli to heal himself, and now he's a bad guy because he was apparently evil all along or something. He begins producing a chemical that could give regular people powers, which would somehow lead to the world being destroyed in a giant earthquake.
Volume Four: Fugitives
Nathan Petrelli spills the beans to President Obama about the existence of super-powers, and is given government funding to start rounding them up and imprisoning them. For some reason, the other specials have a problem with this turn of events, and enlist Sylar's help in fighting back. Unfortunately, Sylar kills Nathan, and psychic Matt Parkman is strong-armed into rewriting Sylar's memories so that he believs himself to be Nathan, complete with Nathan's face.
Volume Five: Redemption
Turns out that wasn't the best plan. Sylar's mind was left trapped in Parkman's head, and tormented him until he confronted Sylar's body and put it back to normal. Samuel, the leader of a circus of specials, is revealed to potentially be the source of the worldwide earthquake back in Villains. He is a seismokinetic, and his power grows exponentially the more specials are in his presence. Sylar finally stops flip-flopping and becomes a for-real good guy in helping to stop Samuel from amassing an army of specials that would supercharge his own powers and let his circus lead a war against normal people.
- Peter Petrelli
- A hospice nurse-turned-ultimate hero with empathic mimicry (he can copy the powers of other heroes just by being near them). Arguably the most powerful hero on the show, while simultaneously one of the most annoying characters, do to frequent manipulation from other characters and his own emotions. A fangirl favorite because he's played by Jesse from Gilmore Girls.
- Claire Bennet
- A high-school cheerleader with the power of spontaneous regeneration. Is a regular danger magnet (hence "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World"), and can regularly be accused of being Too Dumb To Live. Played by Hayden Panetierre, which means the fanboys get something nice to look at as well.
- Hiro Nakamura
- A Japanese office-worker and nerd-to-the-max who can bend the laws of time and space. Commonly viewed as "cute" by fangirls, despite the fact they would never say that if he was a real-life person. Usually comic relief, but has some surprisingly engrossing dramatic arcs. His time-traveling powers are usually the source of the "we need to prevent this bad thing from happening" portions of each season's plot.
- Nathan Petrelli
- Peter's older brother, a morally-ambiguous politician who went all goody-good in the second half of Volume Two, then swung almost all the way into villainous for Volume Four. One of the more solid, fleshed-out characters in the show.
- Nikki Sanders
- A single mom with schizophrenia and super-strength. The super-strength usually only surfaces with the schizophrenia. Has rather random, bland dramatic arcs. Her son, Micah, a technopath, is much more interesting.
- Noah Bennet
- Claire's adoptive father. An ex-member of The Company who is the ultimate in cool. He'll kill you in a heartbeat, but still has time to take his daughter to school during his busy days of breaking and entering and assault. Tends to accomplish more good than any of the special characters, despite the lack of any powers on his part.
- Mohinder Suresh
- Indian geneticist following in his father's footsteps by continuing to work on The List of supers. Has gotten increasingly bad-ass as the show has continued, thanks to Arthur's formula granting him enhanced agility and strength, but also increasingly tormented. Has a bad habit of being forced/convinced/tricked into helping the bad guys, before jumping to the aid of the good guys at a critical last moment.
- Gabriel Gray/Sylar
- The real Big Bad. A sociopathic, murderous watch repairman with the ability to intimately understand something's workings just by looking at it. He kills special people and reads how to use their powers by cutting open their heads and observing their brains (not, in fact, by eating their brains—"Claire, that's disgusting."). Has a Draco-esque following because he's played by the charismatic and very attractive Zachary Quinto.
- Matt Parkman
- A telepathic cop played by Greg Grunberg. Pretty cool, but doesn't do that much. Lives with Mohinder and person-finder Molly Walker, a set-up that has been dubbed the "House of M" by fans.
- Isaac Mendez
- Now-dead painter and ex-drug addict who could paint the future. He finally kicked the drugs and was pulling his life back together, only for Peter to piss him off and make him kill his girlfriend (to be fair, it was accidental—Peter was running around his apartment invisible). And then Sylar killed him. Great. His precognitive paintings continued to influence the plot well after his death.
- Ted Sprague
- Now-dead radioactive man who lost his wife to cancer induced by his radioactive physiology, and constantly angsted about it. Despite this, he was cool, with some of the best SFX in the series going to him. He was played by Matthew John Armstrong, whom pigeonarmy has met.
- Mr. Muggles
- A sandy-coloured Pomeranian owned by the Bennets. Some say he is the mastermind behind all the events in Heroes. Some say he is using waffles in his quest for world domination. Some say he's just a Pomeranian (but those people are liars). Evil-doers who break into the Bennet household seem compelled to stop and pet Mr. Muggles before continuing with the evil-doing. Minis in Heroes are tiny versions of this fellow.
Heroes remains a common target for badfic, notably in slash (with common pairings being Mohinder/Matt and Sylar/Mohinder, along with incestuous het Peter/Claire—Peter is Claire's birth uncle—incestuous slash—Peter/Nathan—and illogical het Sylar/Claire) and Mary Sue areas (most of whom set their sights on Peter and work like buggery to latch on to him). The show's continuing popularity will only serve to make these trends more common.
The wild and varied pairings in this fandom dominate Heroes fanfic; super-powered Mary Sues are strangely and perhaps disappointingly rare. Should agents get assigned a fic in which something happens apart from canons kissing, here are some helpful notes to keep in mind.
- Canon specials tend to have one power, which strengthens over time. They may develop new ways to use their power, but you don't see anyone flying around with laser vision and living forever. For example, Matt Parkman starts out only able to read minds, and later learns how to place ideas in others' heads. This isn't a new power, but development of his original. This is another point; pretty much all specials start out with limited control over their power after it first manifests. A Sue discovering she has ice powers and immediately running out to stop a bank robbery flawlessly is doing it wrong. Obviously, empaths like Peter or ability thieves like his father are exceptions to the "one power" rule.
- While Isaac's paintings can be prevented from coming true, the only ones that are prevented in the show are the serious disasters that the season focuses on; all others are proved true, if not necessarily the way the audience and characters were expecting. (In Volume One, a painting showed Claire being followed by an ominous shadow; this came true, but the shadow was cast by her rescuer, not her attacker.)
- As the show wore on, many fans became more and more dissatisfied with many characters' plots, and other aspects of the writing (Heroes is one of the bigger shows to suffer from the Writer's Guild Strike). AUs are common in Heroes fic, but they should not be dismissed out of hand simply because they diverge from the canon plot. The show itself showcases many alternate futures, observed through or created by mucking around in the time stream. Exploring these possibilities and others is popular for the fandom, and do not constitute a charge in and of themselves, nor are they an automatic sign that the fic is a bad one. Also, yes, you can affect the present by changing the past, and not in the "it's been like that all along" way.