Sunday Review: Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero

It’s said that you can read, study, and read some more and you’ll still never become an expert on any one subject. That’s because the world is ever changing. History gets a new perspective and new details are unearthed all the time. Also, the bigger the subject, the bigger the myth. There’s no bigger superhero then Superman and the stories that accompany his journey through time is just as big. In the new book Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero, Larry Tye gives us everything we could want to in a very in-depth biography of the great fictional character. From his birth in the comics to radio, cartoons, afternoon serials, TV and movies and even the stage, it’s all covered in this book.

Anyone who knows Superman has seen him in his countless forms and portrayals. But what you may not know is the story of then men who created Superman: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. It goes much deeper then the two boys collaborating in high school and trying year after year to get their hero published. Tye’s book is a decade by decade look at arguably the greatest fictional creation in history as well as a struggle for creator rights, fair pay and redemption. Sure the heartbreak of George Reeves, TV’s Superman, will get you chocked up but so will the legal hardships Siegel and Shuster had to endure year after long year. It’ll make you angry how little they got paid (or did they?). Perhaps they got the money they deserved and just spent and invested it unwisely. I found it interesting the more popular Superman got the more often Siegel and Shuster sued and sued for more money each time!

The saga of the a big screen movie Superman is equally intriguing. I knew that Paul Newman was a possibility to wear the cape but I didn’t know about Muhammad Ali! What a movie that would have made. As with the comic publishing, the egos out shined our hero, including writers, directors, producers and even Marlon Brando who, when it was all said and done, made over $1 million per minute of screen time – 19!!! Christopher Reeve was always the champ. He even stuck it out through Superman III with Richard Pryor and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace with Nuclear Man. After rereading about his life, accident and death, I truly miss my Superman.

At the core this book is about a father, Jerry Siegel and his son, Superman. The boy grew up quickly and didn’t always have his dad to watch his back. No, others who had their own plans did that. But now Superman is back on top and the right men are in charge. He’s stronger the ever. More popular then ever. And now we get the full rich history tell-all he deserves.

Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero HC
By Larry Tye
432 pages, $27.00, 2012, Random House
A copy of this book was supplied to me by Random House

Recommended reading:
Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book HC by Gerard Jones

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