Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Superman!, by Tom De Haven

It’s Superman! A Novel, by Tom De Haven

Smallville is the popular TV show about Clark Kent before he becomes Superman. This novel is a similar take, but done in a pulp-noir treatment and set during the time when Superman was first created by Siegel and Shuster in the 1930’s. The language and setting strongly evoke the imagery of the old Fleischer shorts; even the cover is an animation cel from one of the cartoons. While the modern material has a more polished look, this older stuff has a style all its own.

Clark is not the confident master-of-all-trades we all read growing up; here he is a B student—not because he was intentionally dumbing-down while trying to fit in but because that was the best he could do—and the kind of guy that “can’t read his own stupid handwriting.” He wants badly to be smarter; in fact, he starts wearing glasses simply to appear more intelligent. Superman isn’t nigh invulnerable here either; bullets still bounce off (leaving a bruise, though), but he gets cut and bleeds a bit when a powerful bomb goes off in his hands. A far cry from the hero that could do everything up to and including super-ventriloquism in the comics when I was a kid!

This was an enjoyable read. The differences to the standard Superman mythos are large enough that there was still a sense of wonder as to what was coming next, and the plot lines were a lot of fun. I mean really, how can you go wrong with giant robots, death rays, and super heroes!

First Sentence:
Our version of the story opens on the last Saturday of May 1935 with the arrival of Sheriff Bill Dutcher at the police station in Smallville, Kansas.

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