Delirium, the alcoholic superheroine who saves Madrid with the power of friendship

Delirium is the world’s first female superhero. One, as is becoming relatively common in Spanish fiction, protector of Madrid. She wonders about duty and responsibility, the power of friendship and the ability to maintain a more or less functional personal life while she saves the world. But there is something that makes it different from Spiderman: Delirium is always drunk. Fart. Sewing the street She shakes hands with him twice. And not out of irresponsibility, but quite the opposite: she only has powers if she drinks alcohol. A lot of alcohol.

The world needs Delirium (Ed. Contraluz, 2022) is the first novel for adults by the journalist and writer Rosa Gil, a superhero comedy that turns her into a small Rare avis of recent Spanish literature. It tells the story of Lola, civil identity of the aforementioned Delirium, and her best friend and Leticia’s adventure partner. In order for this superheroine to inflate the supervillain of the day —in her case, a large-scale thief with powers similar to hers, nicknamed Redpunzel for her long red hair— she has to drink alcohol, and depending on the type of drink she receives different superpowers. Something that will be very useful for public order, but destroys his liver and his personal life.

“The character came to me at a book challenge with a friend, in which we came up with a comical superhero story. A kind of parody of all the solemnity they usually have”, explains Rosa Gil

“The character came to me at a book challenge with a friend, in which we came up with a comical superhero story. A kind of parody of all the solemnity they usually have”, explains Rosa Gil to El Salto. “I liked it because it had a comedic dimension, because someone with powers who is always drunk is going to screw up a lot, but also dramatic, because that person is actually destroying themselves for the sake of that commitment to do the right thing.”

The consequences of this self-inflicted alcoholism end up showing themselves quite crudely at some point in the novel, and Gil sums it up like this: “Alcohol is our most dangerous drug: cheap, legal, socially acceptable… It seems that whoever drinks every days does not have a problem. Although it was a comic device at first, I didn’t feel comfortable treating it just like that. I didn’t want to take it lightly. So that’s one of the underlying issues: social and personal tolerance for alcohol, which ends up permeating and becoming something socially accepted. We are surrounded by functional alcoholics, even the protagonist has been for a long time.

It is a twist on the eternal theme of superheroes, in which their duty prevents them from having an orderly life, taken to the extreme. In the case of Delirium, his “helper” and best friend Leticia is the one who makes him a conscience, because the other theme of the book, in fact for Gil the main one, is long-term friendship. “The protagonists —explains the writer— are two girls who have known each other since they were little, a very peculiar relationship is created. The friends of many years know you very well, they support you a lot… but they don’t take you very seriously, precisely for this reason. It is very irritating and on the other hand very relaxing, because you are in a very trusting situation. There is no romantic plot or anything like that, which would have been typical, because the fundamental thing is that relationship between the two, which catches them at a moment of vital change at the end of their thirties and in which their friendship is toxic ”.

Spanish superheroines live in the novel

The world needs Delirium is a Rare avis, yes, although not exactly pioneer or exception. To begin with, it is published at a time when it coincides with a small boom of Spanish superheroes, with the series adaptations of the comics The neighbor either Garcia! and the movie secret origins taking over from Superlópez, among others. But it is also that it has two immediate precedents in novels written by women and starring superheroines: Miss Fifty (Kingdom of Cordelia, 2015), by Rosa Ribas, and Wendolin Kramer (Seix Barral, 2011), by Laura Fernández. They have in common the leading role and female authorship, the tone of comedy… and even the social commentary. Miss Fifty de Ribas is a Treasury official who is in her fifties and is married with two children who is recovering from cancer. An accident in the last radiation therapy session gives her super powers, thanks to which she enjoys a series of adventures that she thought impossible at her age. “In her house, she talks about the invisibility of women after a certain age and the ways to get out of that life,” says Gil.

Cover of the novel'The world needs Delirium', with illustration by Natacha Bustos

Cover of the novel ‘The world needs Delirium’, with illustration by Natacha Bustos.

For the creator of Delirium, “writing superheroes is easy, I’ve read them since I was little and I know them. Surely the same story of friendship, responsibility and alcoholism could be told by removing that factor, but it is as I have written it. I could give you another justification, but the answer is that superheroes are fun and I like them a lot. In part “because it was my first novel for adults [es autora de libros infantiles y juveniles como Bruno Dhampiro, también de género fantástico] and for me it is a genre in which I feel at home”, but also “I wanted a superhero taken down from his pedestal, who is close to us, who lives in Madrid and in our world today, with the concerns of two women young people today: a precarious job that you don’t like, managing your relationship with your family, sharing a flat…”.

The novel has a cover by the Spanish cartoonist Natacha Bustos, who has drawn collections for Marvel such as moon girl Y devilish dinosaur. Gil does not believe that the publication of The world needs Delirium has as much to do with the fact that female authors have made their way into fantasy novels —“that too”— as with the fact that “superheroes are now mainstream”. “Being a woman and that you like superheroes when I started reading them was to be very very Rare avis”, he comments. “Now, luckily, we are more. I don’t feel any complex. Now, if you want a niche, to a superhero and comedy novel you add being a woman who writes superheroes and comedy”.

Delirium, the alcoholic superheroine who saves Madrid with the power of friendship