Glenn Yeffeth, editor,
The Man from Krypton
(BenBella, 2006)

Superman might not seem like an enigmatic fellow. After all, he flies around in a bright blue-red-and-yellow costume and his exploits are certainly on public display. But it turns out the man has layers -- and I don't just mean the spitcurl and glasses that are all that stand between Superman and his alter-ego, Clark Kent.

In its continuing exploration of pop culture, BenBella Books turns its X-ray vision on the Superman mystique in The Man from Krypton, edited by Glenn Yeffeth. While obviously sparked by the release of a new Superman movie, this book looks more upon the hero's many previous years as a comic-book, TV and movie icon.

There are numerous topics to explore, and this deceptively slim volume is packed with a lot of interesting angles on the Man of Steel. Lawrence Watt-Evans explores Superman's Linus-like reliance on his baby blanket, while David Hopkins takes a look at his more violent tendencies. Sarah Zettel pays homage to Superman film star Christopher Reeve, while Keith R.A. DeCandido takes a keen look at the various actors who have donned the tights over the years.

Larry Niven, in a classic essay reprinted here, puts Superman's sexual limitations under the microscope and explains the inherent dangers in allowing the Kryptonian to mate, much less breed. Paul Lytle digs into Superman's image problem, while Adam Roberts contrasts Superman to the ideals of Nietzsche's superman and Peter B. Lloyd pokes at the hero's moral evolution. Adam Troy-Castro reveals certain nonsensicals in the mythos. Evelyn Vaughn touches on the curse of a dramatically tense romance, while Joseph McCabe reveals the gradual liberation and decline of Lois Lane.

And so on.

The essays here are well chosen and well reasoned. Some are more interesting, more humorous, more analytical than others, as will always be the case in a volume such as this. But anyone with a fondness for the Big Blue Boy Scout -- or for four-color superheroes in general -- will definitely enjoy the writings collected here.

by Tom Knapp
23 December 2006

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