22 March 2013

Review: Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye

Trade paperback, 410 pages
Published 2012
Acquired June 2012
Read March 2013
Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero
by Larry Tye

This book pitches itself as a "biography" of Superman from a writer who has written many biographies by this point, but it's not a fictional character biography or anything like that; Tye's book covers the publication history of Superman, but not just comics, tracing the development of the character throughout all media, including radio, film, and television.

I know a lot about Superman, but not as much as is present in this book, and much of the facts that Tye presents in an ordered fashion I only possessed in a random scatter: the attempts by young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to create and refine their character, Action Comics's early unprecedented success, the way that Siegel and Shuster lost control of their character and finances. Much of the book is organized around those two's highs and lows, especially their attempts to gain recognition for their work. The end of their lives was saddening, but the battle continues, and I think that Tye presents it fairly evenhandedly, letting the reader draw their conclusions on who's right between Siegel/Shuster and DC Comics.

It's not just about them, though, but everyone who had some kind of impact on the Man of Steel, from his original publishers Harry Donenfield and Jack Liebowitz to director Bryan Singer. Tye has clearly done his research: this book draws on tons of comics as well as many unpublished letters and memoirs from key figures in the Superman story. Tye calls Superman America's "most enduring" hero, and he makes a good case: Superman has always been a key figure in American culture, never really going out of style, whether he appears in comics, on film, or even in Smallville. Superman is probably one of my favorite superheroes, and this is an incredibly strong tribute to him, filled with both fascinating facts and stirring tributes. A fun, worthwhile book.

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