Superman: The Unauthorized Biography

( 7 )

Overview

A celebration of Superman's life and history—in time for his 75th birthday

How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally ...

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Overview

A celebration of Superman's life and history—in time for his 75th birthday

How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.

  • Chronicles the ever-evolving Man of Steel and his world—not just the men and women behind the comics, movies and shows, but his continually shifting origin story, burgeoning powers, and the colorful cast of trusted friends and deadly villains that surround him
  • Places every iteration of the Man of Steel into the character's greater, decades-long story: From Bud Collyer to Henry Cavill, World War II propagandist to peanut butter pitchman, Super Pup to Super Friends, comic strip to Broadway musical, Lori Lemaris to Lois & Clark—it's all here
  • Affectionate, in-depth analyses of the hero's most beloved adventures, in and out of the comics—his most iconic Golden Age tales, goofiest Silver Age exploits, and the contemporary film, television, and comics stories that keep him alive today
  • Written by NPR book critic, blogger, and resident comic book expert, Glen Weldon
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Weldon, who reviews comics for NPR, has penned an excellent portrait of the Man of Steel, managing to be fan-crazed and critical at the same time. Starting with a look at Superman’s goody-two-shoes reputation, Weldon dares to ask, “Why has a schmuck like that endured for seventy-five years?” His answer is Superman’s motivation—he “puts the needs of others over those of himself” and he “never gives up.” Weldon wonderfully details the many twists and turns in Superman’s career, beginning with a look at how the comic’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster borrowed many traits from other comic figures in the 1930s, from Popeye to The Shadow. Weldon analyzes the shift from going after “petty crooks, crooked politicians, and those who exploited the working class” in the 1930s and 1940s to a trend towards “increasingly kid-oriented” stories after the Comic Code was instituted in the 1950s. Weldon is excellent at showing how, in the 1960s, “when Superman’s writers gave themselves license to dream up anything they could, they invariably dreamed the American dream of the fifties.” (May)
From the Publisher
"Weldon's years as a lifelong Superman fan give him superb insight into the character's central truths.... A reliable, witty, and informative guide." —NPR Books

"Breezily written and compulsively readable." —A/V Club

"An excellent portrait of the Man of Steel, managing to be fan-crazed and critical at the same time." —Publishers Weekly

"[Gathers] the sprawling, complex, and occasionally contradictory history of Superman into a rich and deeply textured story." —New York Journal of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118341841
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 387,024
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

GLEN WELDON is a freelance writer who for the past five years has served as NPR's go-to comic book guy, reviewing all things funnybook-related for their Monkey See blog, main website, Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and national shows. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, Slate, Story, Washington City Paper, the American Literary Review, and many other publications. He has received an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction. You can find him at glenweldon.tumblr.com.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1. “And So Begins . . . ” 5

2. Truth, Justice . . . (1938–1941) 26

3. . . . And the American Way (1942–1945) 53

4. “Strange . . . I . . . I Feel All the Strength Draining Out of Me . . . ” (1946–1949) 70

5. Powers and Abilities Far beyond Those of Mortal Men (1950–1959) 89

6. Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not an Imaginary Story! (1960–1969) 115

7. Kryptonite Nevermore! Briefl y! (1970–1977) 145

8. The Year of Superman (1978) 171

9. Superman Agonistes (1979–1986) 193

10. The Never-Ending Battle . . . Ends. For a While. (1986–1993) 223

11. Faster Than a Speeding Mullet (1994–2001) 255

12. Secret Origin, Re-Redux (2001–2005) 278

13. All-Star (2006–2012) 294

Epilogue: Man of Tomorrow (2013 and Beyond) 327

Acknowledgments 331

Bibliography 333

Index 341

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2013

    If you've ever fallen into the wormhole of a particularly thorou

    If you've ever fallen into the wormhole of a particularly thorough Wikipedia page, only to emerge both pleased with your newfound knowledge and slightly ashamed of the "non-authentic" way you got it, this book is for you.

    Weldon manages to form a mostly cohesive narrative of the seventy-five years of Superman history we now have behind us. The only difficulty is the sheer number of writers, artists, and editors who have been involved (not to mention the increasing numbers of alternate storylines, other Earths, reboots, and more); that information can be overwhelming to those of us not steeped in comics history (or who aren't good at keeping names straight). 

    Luckily, the flip side of that is that Weldon's approach also includes non-comic book iterations. This book is just as welcoming to people like me, whose experience with Superman has largely happened through television (Lois and Clark, the animated series, Smallville), and his treatment of those iterations as just as "valid" as the comics helps drive another stake into the particularly dumb stereotype of the overprotective, exclusive fanboy comics culture.

    Overall, this book is a strong overview of Superman and his role in DC corporate history, superhero mythology, and what exactly the changing "American way" even is, anyway (my takeaway: shoddy tenements = bad, playing tricks on your girlfriend to teach her a lesson about being a snoop = good). And it's way more fun to read than a Wikipedia page.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2014

    Asome

    Very good book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2014

    Super pewdie

    I am superpewdie i have telekeins and the power to turn into anything i can fly and i have a cape with pewdei's head on it (by on it i mean desighn) and flames under the head

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    Glen Weldon's cheeky writing style make this book a delight to r

    Glen Weldon's cheeky writing style make this book a delight to read. Filled with anecdotes and factoids that are sure to delight both casual and avid Superman fans, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in the impact Superman has had on our culture and vice-versa.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Super­man: The Unau­tho­rized Biog­ra­phy by Glen Wel­don is a n

    Super­man: The Unau­tho­rized Biog­ra­phy by Glen Wel­don is a non-fiction book chron­i­cling the fic­tional his­tory of the Man of Steel in comic books, radio, TV, the­ater, music and movies. Mr. Wel­don is a con­trib­u­tor to NPR’s pod­cast Pop Cul­ture Happy Hour.

    A short dis­claimer: I stopped read­ing the comics sev­eral years ago. I sim­ply couldn’t keep up with the com­pli­cated sto­ry­lines which ran across mul­ti­tudes of titles. One sto­ry­line I could still keep track of, but once every Super­man title (they were 5 at the time) started their own, that was it for me. I do, how­ever, get the graphic nov­els (which col­lect the sto­ry­line from all the titles in one vol­ume) and enjoy them very much. Read­ers of my blog and twit­ter feed know that I post about them as well.

    I have been a Super­man fan for many years, I was hooked when I was 8 years-old and my mom took me to see "Super­man: The Motion Pic­ture" in the big city – that was it! Ever since I try to read as much as I can about the Man of Steel, comics, nov­els and non-fiction work. So when I saw Super­man: The Unau­tho­rized Biog­ra­phy by Glen Wel­don (tum­blr | @ghweldon), I knew I had to read it.

    The book is well researched with some excel­lent obser­va­tions by the author. Mr. Wel­don traces the ori­gins of Super­man, both in the pub­li­ca­tion world and the mythol­ogy cre­ated around him. He iden­ti­fies the two ele­ments which are con­sis­tent with all the incar­na­tions of Super­man (Bryan Singer’s movie Super­man Returns broke them and it’s one of the rea­sons it didn’t work) as well as his evo­lu­tion both phys­i­cally and emotionally.

    The author cel­e­brates the silli­ness which is a man-in-tights fly­ing around, but at the same time is hum­bled by the ideals Super­man rep­re­sents. Not just “truth, jus­tice and the Amer­i­can way” but the way Super­man, over the last 75 years, embod­ied what’s good about soci­ety, paved a way to solve our dilem­mas and became a sym­bol we aspire to be.

    The book does not include any pic­tures; I can only assume that this is because of the unau­tho­rized nature of the pub­li­ca­tion. Mr. Wel­don does an awe­some job describ­ing the art­work, but I still had to put the book down and try to find the images he is talk­ing about. It would have been much more enjoy­able if I had the pic­tures on the next page or some­where in the book, but with the Inter­net at our fin­ger­tips, I would say it’s not much of a big deal.

    While the nar­ra­tive some­times gets a bit bogged down I thought it was a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into an icon which came to rep­re­sent Amer­ica and inspired mil­lions. Mr. Weldon’s lively com­men­tary and irrev­er­ent remarks make the book fun to read and remind us that after-all, the absurd is what makes super­heroes wonderful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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