Monday, March 17, 2008

Episode #9: Featuring the book: "Superman at Fifty! The Persistence of A Legend"

Since this year is the 70th anniversary of Superman's publication, as well as the year that a new young reader's book aboiut his creators will be published, I thought I would feature a book that was published during Superman's 50th anniversary, Superman At Fifty! The Persistence of A Legend", edited by Dennis Dooley and Gary Engle. It was published by Collier Books in 1988.
The editors collected essays from a group of people who each explored an angle of Superman's history and his influence on pop culture.
The book was divided into four parts, each illustrated by a title page from a Superman story from the golden or silver ages of comics:
Part I: The Origins
Part II: The Evolution
Part III: The Persistence of A Legend
Part IV: The Unanswered Questions

Part I: The Origins contains one chapter, written by Dennis Dooley, titled, The Man of Tomorrow and the Boys of Yesterday. It is a short history of the creation of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. It details the inspirations the two teen-agers drew from in creating Superman, one of the first such accounts for a mass market audience. Other accounts were written previously in various newspaper articles or comic book publications.

Part II: The Evolution contains the majority of chapters which detail his development in mass market media and various influences on pop culture.
Chapter 2: Drawing Superman by Curt Swan, is an essay where he reminisces about his thirty year career drawing Superman and how he fell into a comic book art career after his service in World War II. This chapter was the feature of this episode of Superman Fan Podcast, since Curt Swan, as detailed in a previous episode, is my favorite Superman artist.
Chapter 3: The Man of Steel and Me by Dennis O'Neil. He looks back to how he was hired by Julius Schwartz to write for Superman after Mr. Schwartz was appointed Superman editor after Mort Weisinger retired. Mr. O'Neil describes the unique problems of writing for an all-powerful super hero.
Chapter 4: The Man Who Changed Comics by the editors, Dennis Dooley and Gary Engle, explores another Cleveland native who infuenced and changed comic books, Harvey Pekar. (Check out his comic book series, American Splendor, and the movie by the same name.)
Chapter 5: From Panel to Panavision by Phillip Skerry and Chris Lambert, is a history of Superman on firm: the Fleischer Studios cartoons, the Kirk Alyn Saturday movie serials, the George Reeves TV show and the Christopher Reeve movies.

Part III: The Persistence of A Legend explores Superman's influence on pop culture.
Chapter 6: What Makes Superman So Darned American by Gary Engle, explores Superman as the Great American Hero.
Chapter 7: A Flag With A Human Face by Patricia L. Engle looks at Superman as defender of Truth, Justice and the American Way.
Chapter 8: Reading Superman by Fredrick N. Smith, who searches for the literary roots of Superman and reading his stories from a literary perspective.
Chapter 9: Spuerstar, Super Mom, Super Glue, Superdooper, Superman by David Guralnick is a grammatical search of the use of the word super in the English language.
Chapter 10: Female Meets Supermale by Joanna Conners looks at the relationship between Lois Lane and Superman from a Freudian perspective.
Chapter 11: Pop Goes the Hero by David Galloway; a look at Superman's influence on pop art.
Chapter 12: St. Clark of Krypton by Edward Mehok compares the deeds of Superman to saints of the past.
Chapter 13: The Art and Science of Leaping Tall Buildings by John D. McGervey examines Superman's powers through the laws of physics.
Chapter 14: Superman and the Dreams of Childhood by Jane W. Kessler, looks at Superman as seen through childhood fantasies, and reading his stories from the perspective of a child.
Chapter 15: The Good, the Bad and the Oedipal by Lester Roebuck explores Superman through his villains, highlighting a story in Superman #70, July 1964, where Lex Luthor travels into the past, to woo a still single Lara away from marrying Jor-El, thereby eliminating Superman from existence.
Chapter 16: Necessary Heroes by Lee K. Abbott. This last chapter looks at Superman's influence on the son of a dysfunctional family next door, and on the author.

Part IV: The Unanswered Questions, the final section of the book contains a number of questions tackled by a group of Cleveland natives from different walks of life. They ask questions like:
Is Superman the only human being who can fly? by Buster Jackson
Who would Superman have voted for for President? by John J. Boyle
What breed of dog is Krypto? by Melissa Spirek
Is Superman Jewish? by Scott Raab
The sectionends with a fun Superman trivia quiz, Are You A True Fan of Superman?, by Tim Gorman, with the answers on the next page.

During this anniversary year for Superman this might be a fun book to check out, and see what Superman was like twenty years ago. I haven't found any current edtions of this book on, so you might have to check out your local library, used book store or e-bay.

Don't forget to pre-order the book: Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, written by Marc Tyler Nobleman, and, and illustrated by Ross Macdonald, The book is published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, and is scheduled to be released on August 26, 2008. This book can be pre-ordered online at

The Superman Fan Podcast web site can be found at: Send e-mail about the podcast to

Also check out my other comic book blog, My Pull List at Send e-mail about this blog to

Thank you for listening to Superman Fan Podcast, and as always, thanks to Jerry and Joe.

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