mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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One Thousand & One Kryptonian Nights. (122)

Our Hero: Superman on Earth by Tom De Haven.

Ego & Alter.
Which is Clark? Which is Kal-El?
Ego & Altar.

I bought this book because of targeted advertising! It is a perfect example of how I want advertising to work, actually-- yes, please, tell me about products I might actually want! A university press book about Superman? That is exactly the scene I'm into. I didn't realize it till I started reading Our Hero, but I've read this author's work before-- he wrote a Superman novel that I didn't really enjoy called It's Superman! My diary says I thought it was crap, but my dim recollection of it is that it just...didn't quite fly, no pun intended. Our Hero is superior, but ends up being a rather rote history of Superman, as a fictional construct. De Haven seems to admire the earlier, self-invented Superman-- the Superman who comes into being without any coaching from Ma & Pa Kent, without the distant tutelage of Jor-El. I get it! I don't agree, but I get it. I mean, I understand the secret history of Superman better than most-- the Outsider from Cleveland who leaves to move to New York? Yeah, I am down with that. I get growing up in the Wasteland & becoming yourself in Metropolis, since that is what I did. De Haven starts from Siegel & Shuster, stops off on an aside to let you know Jerry Siegel ends up with the girl who modled for Lois Lane, Joanne Kovacs, goes from there into the Fletcher Hanks-like early period of comic books, & onward & upward into the Golden Age, the Silver Age, George Reeves, the Bronze Age, the Dark Age-- I'll never forgive Larry Niven for "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex"-- & ends up touching the hem of the Renaissance. He's a good historian, with an easy tone, but we never quite get around to seeing eye to eye. Tom De Haven doesn't like the Krypton bits of Donner's Superman: the Movie. How is that even possible? The crystalline Krypton is brilliant. Any of the Flash Gordon science-fiction would seem incredibly camp & dated; Donner's Krypton is utterly alien & beautiful. & the movie meandering all over the temporal map of American history? That isn't accidental! Sure, Superman lands on Earth during the Depression, he grows up in Kansas during the Fifties, & is a young man in Metropolis during the Eighties. That isn't accidental, that isn't a lack of internal structure, that is a use of mythological structure! Towards the very end, De Haven mentions Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, but only briefly, only in passing, & then he goes on to talk about the timeless components of the Superman story...without mentioning Morrison & Quitely's perfect four panel open. A missed opportunity, but De Haven does understand, he does get it. Really, the biggest problem this book has is that it came out a year before Supergods, & you can't help but compare the two. Ultimately, whatever criticisms I might have are only friendly, are only arguments of doctrine amongst people who fundamentally agree. You can add things to the Superman mythos. You can take things away. But there is just something that makes it Superman. Something you can't alter or destroy. He even goes so far as to call Superman a tulpa, & now finally, we are on the same page. Our hero.

Tags: books, comics, de haven, haiku

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