The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #7
"Stand By For Mars!"
July 2006

Non-Fiction Book Reviews
by Ryan Brennan

The Man From Krypton
edited by Glen Yeffeth
Benbella Books

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The Thunder Child Superman Sourcebook:


  • Interview with Tom DeHaven, author of the 2005 novel It's Superman


  • Review: Truth, Justice and The American Way, the biography of Noel Neill
  • Review: It's Superman, by Tom DeHaven


  • The Chris Reeves Superman Quatrain, an analysis


  • Review: The Adventures of Superman, complete first season DVD


  • Superman, The Musical: A Photobook of the 1975 TV show
  • The Man From Krypton, A Closer Look at Superman ($17.95; Benbella Books; 2005; Trade Paper; 229 pp.) arrives in time to capitalize on the heightened interest attached to the Superman comic book character thanks to this summer's just released blockbuster film Superman Returns.

    Edited by Glenn Yeffeth, this collection of essays and ruminations on The Man of Steel cannot comment on the new film or Brandon Routh's portrayal (the book having gone to press before the film could be viewed) but both are mentioned and advice is even given.

    Twenty writers in as many articles are given free reign to explore the world of Superman in all its incarnations from comic book to movies.

    Questions and issues that may have nagged at fans for years are laid out and discussed:

  • How does Superman control his great strength?
  • How does he keep from accidentally killing people when he pats them on the back or sneezes?
  • Why would it be dangerous for Superman to procreate?
  • Which actor was the best Superman?
  • Why does no one but Jimmy Olson have a special watch to summon Superman?
  • Who is smarter: Superman or Batman?
  • Why isn't Superman ever depicted dealing with real life disasters?

  • Writers such as Larry Dixon, Larry Niven, Evelyn Vaughn, Lou Anders, David Hopkins, Peter Lloyd, and Gustav Peebles are among the scribes who tackle these subjects.

    In "The Golden Shield: Image As Superman's Greatest Power," Paul Lytle posits that the best weapon a villain can use against our hero is to destroy his reputation. Using examples, Lytle demonstrates that the most effective manner of sending Superman into retreat is to turn public opinion against him; Superman's image is his Achilles heel.

    Adam Roberts applies Nietzsche's concepts to ask "Is Superman a Superman?" and proves that the superhero fits the bill.

    With "A Word Of Warning For Brandon Routh," Lou Anders points out the perilous fate that awaits an actor who plays Superman using the death of George Reeves in 1959 and the terrible riding accident of Christopher Reeve in 1995 (get it -- '59 and '95 are mirror images?).

    "Jewel Mountains and Fire Falls: The Lost World of Krypton" is an extremely interesting look at the development of Krypton's history. Chris Roberson explores the reworking and refinement of Superman's and Krypton's backgrounds. Roberson looks at the Golden, Silver and Bronze age versions of the planet, the effects of several editors and special editions that vie to tell the definitive story. The world of movies and television are a parallel universe in which Krypton is defined by the 1978 Christopher Reeve movie and, for the most part, at odds with the print version. The 2001 "The Man of Steel" even presented a sort of comic book counterpart to the famous TV season of Dallas that turned out to be nothing more than a dream.

    Larry Niven's "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" lays bare the preponderance of obstacles preventing Superman from mating with an Earth woman like Lois Lane (Superman is an alien, after all). Even if she survived the act of lovemaking -- remember the opening radio and TV show narration that states "faster than a speeding bullet" -- it's unlikely she could survive the first kick of the embryonic Superkid.

    Readers will learn some Superman trivia that may or may not have been known to them. For instance, Superman's costume is made from the baby blanket that accompanied him on his intergalactic travels to Earth. That means that the Man of Steel wears a baby blanket. Superman must be a virgin given the dangers of having sex with a human as mentioned above. Superman could rule the planet but chooses not to do so. Superman's Kryptonian name breaks down into "Kal" = "all" while "El" = "God." Lois Lane was based on a movie character, Torchy Blane, played by actress Glenda Farrell.

    Lois Lane was based on a movie character, Torchy Blane, played by actress Glenda Farrell.

    The very provocative "God, Communism and the WB," by Gustav Peebles, examines the battle between Communism, Capitalism and Christianity that he sees in the TV show Smallville. Peebles draws our attention to the values expressed in Superman's hometown, that of community and sharing. Metropolis, with its emphasis on the individual, becomes the ultimate symbol of capitalism, the place from which evil emanates. Lex Luthor's father, Lionel, becomes the chief villain as the central representative of the capitalistic system. All the bad women are from Metropolis while the wholesome ones hail from Smallville.

    Peebles also sees a strain of Christian propaganda running through the program. In one instance he points out how the football team becomes an ersatz representation of Pilate and the Roman Guard to Superman’s Christ figure. In this interpretation the Kents are Mary and Joseph.

    Paul Levinson offers reasons why Superman could not win WWII...or become involved in events such as the Hurricane Katrina disaster

    Other articles provide interesting fodder for thought. John G. Henry explains why Superman needs Clark Kent to give him perspective and keep him on track. Peter B. Lloyd notes Superman's moral evolution through the decades. Paul Levinson offers reasons why Superman could not win WWII (shades of that old Saturday Night Live skit) or become involved in events such as the Hurrican Katrina disaster. Moving further into this last mentioned subject, Larry Dixon contrasts the efforts and reactions of real-life volunteers in such relief efforts to those of Superman. A couple of humorous offerings discuss the problems of TV shows in which the two lead characters are in love (and how ratings usually drop once the tension is dissipated by marriage) and how buildings in the Superman comics never seem to be connected to plumbing, phone lines, or electrical conduits (nor does anything get knocked out of place when Superman is moving them around).

    The Man From Krypton is a fun and informative read. The Superman fan is sure to want it but others less familiar with America's favorite comic book hero can benefit too. (And who is considered the best Superman? Tune in again next week for another exciting adventure of The Man of Steel.)

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    All text © 2006 The Thunder Child unless otherwise credited.
    All illustrations retain original copyright.
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