Saturday, February 2, 2013


It should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I just finished reading a book about Superman. The book is SUPERMAN: THE HIGH-FLYING HISTORY OF AMERICA'S MOST ENDURING HERO by Larry Tye and I recommend it to one and all. It's a history of Superman as if he was a real person and it covers his incarnations in several different media: comic books, comic strips, radio, television, movies and more. It's a broad based, general history written for a general audience. As such, it's a good book and is well worth your time.
However, if you're a hardcore comic book fan, there's not going to be much material in these pages that's new to you. I didn't learn much I didn't already know about Superman but I enjoyed reading the book. There has been a great amount of comic book history written over the last couple of decades including books and magazine articles. A lot of interviews have been conducted with almost every still living person who ever worked in the comic book business in some capacity: writer, artist, editor, inker, letterer, colorist, publisher, etc. Tye benefits greatly from the work done by other comic book scholars. While Tye does cite some original interviews that he conducted for the book, many, many other people did the bulk of the heavy lifting on this project. Tye does acknowledge this but the bottom line is that he doesn't bring much new material to the table.
And some of what he brings is incorrect. For instance, Titano, the giant King Kong inspired ape that has appeared many times over the years in the pages of SUPERMAN and other comics featuring the Man of Steel, is not a survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, nor was the big monkey ever a member of the Legion of Super-Pets as Tye implies. Also, there was never a single issue parody comic book published entitled STUPOR-MAN. The story, "Stupor-Man" that Tye references, appeared in an issue of Marvel Comics' NOT BRAND ECHH, a short-lived 1960s humor comic that parodied both Marvel and DC characters. By the way, NBE ranks as one of all-time favorite comics. I loved it when I was I kid and still admire it today. 
When mistakes like these appear in a work of non-fiction it causes me to suspect the rest of the book. After all, if the author got these "facts" wrong, what else did he state that was incorrect? Of course, it's not always entirely the authors' fault. A good editor is supposed to be there to catch mistakes like this but there are very few editors (good, bad or indifferent) left in the publishing business these days.
These are relatively minor and insignificant flaws that I'm more than willing to overlook and they didn't impede my enjoyment of the book in the least. If you're a fan of Superman, I urge you to read this book. If you're not a fan, give it a read anyway and see if it doesn't change your mind.

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