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

92%

16 Critic Reviews

It’s Tye’s (Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, 2009, etc.) merry, dizzyingly detailed history of America’s first and greatest superhero.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

Seventy-five years after he came to life, Superman remains one of America’s most adored and enduring heroes. Now Larry Tye, the prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author of Satchel, has written the first full-fledged history not just of the Man of Steel but of the creators, designers, owners, and performers who made him the icon he is today.
 
Legions of fans from Boston to Buenos Aires can recite the story of the child born Kal-El, scion of the doomed planet Krypton, who was rocketed to Earth as an infant, raised by humble Kansas farmers, and rechristened Clark Kent. Known to law-abiders and evildoers alike as Superman, he was destined to become the invincible champion of all that is good and just—and a star in every medium from comic books and comic strips to radio, TV, and film.
 
But behind the high-flying legend lies a true-to-life saga every bit as compelling, one that begins not in the far reaches of outer space but in the middle of America’s heartland. During the depths of the Great Depression, Jerry Siegel was a shy, awkward teenager in Cleveland. Raised on adventure tales and robbed of his father at a young age, Jerry dreamed of a hero for a boy and a world that desperately needed one. Together with neighborhood chum and kindred spirit Joe Shuster, young Siegel conjured a human-sized god who was everything his creators yearned to be: handsome, stalwart, and brave, able to protect the innocent, punish the wicked, save the day, and win the girl. It was on Superman’s muscle-bound back that the comic book and the very idea of the superhero took flight.
 
Tye chronicles the adventures of the men and women who kept Siegel and Shuster’s “Man of Tomorrow” aloft and vitally alive through seven decades and counting. Here are the savvy publishers and visionary writers and artists of comics’ Golden Age who ushered the red-and-blue-clad titan through changing eras and evolving incarnations; and the actors—including George Reeves and Christopher Reeve—who brought the Man of Steel to life on screen, only to succumb themselves to all-too-human tragedy in the mortal world. Here too is the poignant and compelling history of Siegel and Shuster’s lifelong struggle for the recognition and rewards rightly due to the architects of a genuine cultural phenomenon.
 
From two-fisted crimebuster to über-patriot, social crusader to spiritual savior, Superman—perhaps like no other mythical character before or since—has evolved in a way that offers a Rorschach test of his times and our aspirations. In this deftly realized appreciation, Larry Tye reveals a portrait of America over seventy years through the lens of that otherworldly hero who continues to embody our best selves.

Praise for Superman
 
“Engaging, fun, inspiring—like the Man of Steel.”—The Huffington Post
 
“Powerful . . . wonderfully readable.”—The Plain Dealer

“A story as American as Superman himself . . . The best origin story pulsing through Superman is not the one about the Krypton-to-Kansas alien baby, but rather the one about the superhero’s mortal and sometimes star-crossed creators.”—The Washington Post
 
“Fun, enlightening pop-cultural history.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A rich history full of lively heroes and villains‚ much like a comic book. Essential for Superman fans.
 

About Larry Tye

See more books from this Author
Larry Tye was a prize-winning journalist at The Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. An avid baseball fan, Tye now runs a Boston-based training program for medical journalists. He is the author of The Father of Spin, Home Lands, and Rising from the Rails and co-author, with Kitty Dukakis, of Shock. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.
 
Published June 12, 2012 by Random House. 432 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Comics & Graphic Novels, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Superman
All: 16 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on May 15 2012

It’s Tye’s (Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, 2009, etc.) merry, dizzyingly detailed history of America’s first and greatest superhero.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by JAMES PARKER on Jul 05 2012

For me the story lessens in excitement the closer it gets to the present: the predictably gritty reboots of the comic book, the megabucks ’70s and ’80s movies.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by ManOfLaBook on Sep 26 2012

The research in the book is excellent and the book itself is fascinating.

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by WILL LEITCH on Jun 15 2012

...attempts to track the history of an icon that has no real history. The story of his creation, by high-school friends Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, is in many ways the beginning and ending of his journey.

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National Post arts

Excellent
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Jul 26 2012

Even Tye, a lucid writer and journalistic pro, seems slightly unhinged by his subject. Superman...

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Cavna, on Jun 29 2012

...wide-ranging survey of the Man of Steel. For there is poignancy beneath the pop culture, and the Man of Tomorrow is best understood through the prism of yester-century.

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Ethan Gilsdorf on Jun 24 2012

...gives us the backstory, front-story, inside dirt, and more. The author, Larry Tye, treats Superman as a biography-worthy superstar icon.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by David D'Arcy on Jun 27 2012

Tye's chronicle follows two parallel lines - the evolution of the Superman character, and the fortunes of the men (they were mostly men) who created the superhero and sold him to the masses.

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Denver Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Hill on Jun 17 2012

...is a cultural biography of Superman that tracks the famous character over the decades and gives voice to the many creators who shaped Superman on the page and screen, starting with Siegel and Shuster.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Jaime Weinman on Aug 03 2012

is mostly a story of how this simple concept has survived so many changes in popular taste. He covers the various reboots and changes in the comics... to the headline-making “death of Superman” ’90s storyline.

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Seattle PI

Excellent
Reviewed by ManOfLaBook on Sep 26 2012

The research in Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye is excellent and the book itself is fascinating.

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Tulsa World

Excellent
Reviewed by Glenn Altschuler on Jul 08 2012

...Tye tells the stories of the men and women who invented - and re-invented - the visitor from Krypton, his alter ego, Clark Kent, and the cast of characters from The Daily Planet for comic strips, comic books, television and the movies.

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The Huntsville Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Press-Register Correspondent on Sep 30 2012

Tye tells the story of a character nearly left on the cutting-room floor, of a life fraught with plagiarism, court cases, shady business deals, censorship and, ultimately, success like no other creation before him.

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The Financialist.

Excellent
Reviewed by TERRENCE MURRAY on Aug 03 2012

...crafts a unique narrative that reminds us that the world’s proverbial hero is steeped in a deep humanity, shaped by vulnerability and loss.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Jul 20 2012

There is no doubt, however, that the figure of Superman has had an astounding life in popular culture...

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Speedreaders

Good
Reviewed by Bill Ingalls

The book is well written and draws its data from a very wide and comprehensive list of sources. Everyone associated with Superman, including comic book writers and illustrators...are all quoted and worked into the story line.

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