Thursday, May 31, 2012

Superman: The High Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero

In addition to being a Neiman Fellow while at Harvard University and award-winning journalist for The Boston Globe, author Larry Tye has written books on railroad Pullman Porters, the Jewish Diaspora, electroshock therapy, and a biography of legendary baseball pitcher Satchel Paige. Tye also loves the character Superman, and you just can’t fault him for that, because who doesn’t really.

His latest work, “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” is a biography not just of the iconic character, but also of the creators, writers, artists, publishers and others, who’ve depicted him in various media over the last seven decades. Larry Tye very effectively reveals how Superman has changed to meet the needs of his audience in ways that always kept the famous hero at the forefront of a fluidly evolving cultural environment. Hey, I thought that I knew everything that there was to know about the Man of Steel, but I discovered trivia snippets that I had never read before, and not simply as footnotes. Ingrained within the body of the 300+ page volume is an engaging and entertaining look at the popular history of the fictional Last Son of Krypton, and the real world that warmly embraced him.

I particularly appreciated how the author covered well-known aspects of how young Siegel and Shuster originally crafted their hero and the sad legacy of how they ultimately came to lose control of their creation, and the still-ongoing legal battle to reclaim him for their estate; and Tye relates this controversial information without making harsh judgment calls on the individuals involved. You also get to tag along as the legend of Superman grew from one era to another, see the impact of major historical events against which this comic book champion played against within his own four-color milieu and like Larry Tye, recapture the imagination of youth and what it meant to have a hero like Superman to aspire to.

I am grateful to Tye’s intern Nick Catoni and the fine folks at Random House for providing me with the review copy. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially comic book fans. It is as clear and captivating a depiction of Superman as I have ever read, and it will grab you right from the start. The book was obviously a labor of love for the author, as there are over 100+ appendix, index, bibliography, and note and photo pages. Give this book a shot, folks!

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