Before he was doing "The Game of Thrones," George R. R. Martin was the editor and writer over one of the most successful shared author series ever. "Wild Cards," is the first book of the series and sets the tone for superheroes with all the sex and violence they didn't put in the comics.
The story starts just after WWII when a space ship lands. Out pops out the foppish Dr. Tachyon with wild stories of a canister containing a plague that can do anything. Well the authorities are slow to act and so said canister wound up exploding over New York City.
The plague called the Wild Card virus is nasty indeed. Most people who get die because sometimes a little super powers is a bad thing. Consider super strength. Pretty cool right? Now imagine if just your HEART became super strong. First pulse and blood shooting out at 50,000 PSI turns you into a blood bag. The end.
Now some people survive. Most though are left as freaks. They will be later dubbed jokers. Some few jokers at least get a little extra powers which help. It might be awkward looking like a big lizard but folks are less likely to tease you about it when you pick up a car with ease. A very few survivors are granted true super powers and they'll be called Aces by the media.
The novel weaves the saga of the Wild Card into the history we know of, so for example there was an Ace in Korea and Jokers would later become part of the civil rights movement. One cute way this is cemented together are little essays done in the style of other writers like Hunter S. Thompson addressing various wild card issues. It also introduces us to various characters that will become important as the series progress. Ranging from the paranoid Croyd to the Fortunato master of sexual magic, to the all powerful Turtle. All the characters are interesting to say the least.
This is definitely a good series to rediscover. The authors work hard and Martin keeps this wild circus in line. I don't know about the late books in the series but at least the first four are worth rereading.