10 books starring hapless heroes

Published on: 12 March 2024

Rise of Invisidog author Stuart Heritage recommends 10 stories with heroes who are irresistible in their hopelessness or chaotic energy.

A photo of Stuart Heritage sitting at a table holding a mug, and the front cover of Rise of Invisidog

1. Captain Underpants in the books by Dav Pilkey

The timeline of these hilarious books gets incredibly complicated towards the end, so let's concentrate on the earliest version. Captain Underpants is the creation of two naughty school kids, who hypnotise their head teacher into thinking that he's a superhero. He isn't, and things go wrong very quickly.

Fun fact: I wrote Rise of Invisidog because my children loved Captain Underpants so much that it made me jealous.

2. Loki in the books by Louie Stowell

The conceit of Louie Stowell's Loki books is that the Norse god of mischief has been sent to Earth as an 11-year-old boy as punishment for all his tomfoolery. As you'd expect, this version of Loki is lazy and selfish and resentful. And yet somehow he's managed to save the world three times in a row. Weird.

An illustration from the front cover of Monster Doughnuts - a girl pointing upwards next to a grinning green cyclops

Pic: Sarah Horne

3. Mr Harris in Monster Doughnuts by Gianna Pollero

I love Mr Harris so much. Like Loki, he's rude and self-interested. Unlike Loki, though, he's a cyclops who enjoys eating people. His journey throughout the Monster Doughnuts series, from villain to very reluctant hero, is such a treat to read.

4. Looshkin in the books by Jamie Smart

Is Looshkin a hero? Maybe not. He's more an agent of chaos, who makes the entire world revolve around whatever unpredictable, full-blast nonsense he happens to ever say or think. Nevertheless, he is so magnificent that I am willing to formally declare him a hero.

An illustration of Looshkin

5. Agent Moose in the books by Mo O'Hara and Jess Bradley

If you have ever wondered why James Bond is a human being and not a giant elk subspecies, the Agent Moose books provide all the evidence you could ever need. It isn't that being a moose makes Agent Moose a terrible secret agent. It's that he's a moose who is dangerously preoccupied with coming up with his own theme tune.

6. Mr Snake in The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabley

In theory, any of the Bad Guys could qualify as a hapless hero. But the sad fact of them is that many of the team are actually highly competent, especially the incredible master of disguise Mr Shark. So instead the award here goes to Mr Snake, primarily for eating hundreds of guinea pigs that he was meant to be saving.

7. Bat Pig in the books by Rob Harrell

Much like Dog Man (a dog's head surgically transplanted onto a man's body), Bat Pig has a very normal origin story. His was that he was a normal pig who was bitten by a bat. Also he loves sandwiches. He really loves sandwiches.

An illustration of Batpig

8. Sir Wayne in The Dragon with the Blazing Bottom by Beach

I'm going to move to picture books here, since Beach's Blazing Bottom books are so incredible. Sir Wayne is the hero in them, tasked with restoring the fire to his arch-enemy's breath. But, obviously, things don't go as planned. This book isn't called The Dragon with the Blazing Mouth, is it?

9. Knight Sir Louis in the books by The Brothers McLeod

It might be a little unfair to label Knight Sir Louis as hapless, since he's quite often the only sane character in these books. However, I'm willing to include him purely based on the haplessness of everyone around him. A haiku-spouting robot horse. A talking boar. A sword named Dave. You have to be a little bit hapless to surround yourself with people like this.

10. Remington Furious III in Mutant Zombies Cursed My School Trip by Matt Brown

Remington Furious III is one of the best book characters of all time: a swaggering, colourful acrobat (and best friend to the meek Ian Ianson) who has the bravery to say whatever he thinks at all times. Obviously, it doesn't help that Remington Furious III is imaginary, and therefore does not actually exist, but still.

Rise of Invisidog by Stuart Heritage, illustrated by Vincent Batingole is out now.

Topics: Features

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