The Man From Krypton

By guest reviewer, Dr. Jon Suter

Superman has received considerable attention recently; the original Superman died heroically in the comic book series "Infinite Crisis" and the movie "Superman Returns" vanished from theaters faster than a speeding bullet. Another film, "Hollywood-land", about the death of the actor who played Superman on television is about to open. Less newsworthy, but perhaps more important, is a growing body of serious criticism of the character.

Two publishers, Open Court and Benbella Books, have series that examine popular culture. Open Court is a respected publisher of philosophy books; Benbella is a relative newcomer. A recent title in Benbella's "Pop Smart" series is Glenn Yeffeth's anthology, "The Man from Krypton: a Closer Look at Superman". (Dis-claimer: your reviewer is somewhat biased since one of his students is represented in the collection.)

Although 18 of the 20 essays in the book are new, it would be worth its cost ($17.95) just to have a good copy of Larry Niven's classic 1971 essay, "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex". Niven's essay has had a profound effect on the chroniclers of Superman's exploits, and has to be taken into account to explain that mysterious youngster in "Superman Returns".

The topics in the "Pop Smart" series are very similar to Open Court's "Popular Culture and Philosophy" series. Tom Morris's "Superheros and Philisophy: Truth, Justice and the Socratic Way" contains two important essays on Superman: Mark Waid's "The Truth about Superman", and Felix Tallon and Jerry Walls's "Superman and Kingdom Come". There is an interesting essay; "The Super-Man: Displaying the Incarnation in

Superman", in Roy M. Anker's "Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies" (Eerdmans, 2004). Anker's essays cover everything from The Godfather to French and Polish movies with religious themes. The book came out too soon to include "Superman Returns" which recycles some of the religious motifs of the first Superman movies.

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