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Opening with the young Clark Kent on a date, the novel takes an entirely fresh approach to the emergence of his superpowers and the start of his newspaper career, following him from rural 1930s Kansas across America to Hollywood in its golden age and then to New York City. He meets a worldly Lois Lane and conniving political boss Lex Luthor, and begins his battles against criminal masterminds, mad scientists, and super villains inspired by fascists.
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"Comic noir with a super-keen edge, in De Haven's best book yet." (Kirkus Reviews)
"One of the finest interpretations of Superman in any medium." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"Delightful....De Haven's cartoon world will entertain readers for a long time to come." (New York Times Book Review)
Be forewarned: This is not written with the same continuity or sensibilities of any recent Superman movie or comic. The team of Tom De Haven and Scott Brick have made the Superman story new again with a creditable feel for the time and culture of America in the mid-1930's. Sometimes naive, sometimes rather violent (this is not for younger listeners), the story is told with style, sympathy and grace. De Haven writes this book in third person-present tense which places the listener in an unusual relationship to the story. Scott Brick handles regional accents and makes distinctions between male and female characters effortlessly. His phrasing as the omniscient narrator smacks of newsreel and radio announcers. This book is different and all the more interesting and enjoyable for it.
58 of 60 people found this review helpful
One wouldn't expect a book based on a comic book character to be a good slow read, but this one is. Scott Brick was definitely the right reader for this one.
If you are expecting a "canonical" Superman novel, you are going to be upset. There is no "Metropolis" other than Manhattan, the movie, and a photo exhibit. Clark's Mom doesn't make The Suit. It's not even 30's canonical, although there are a couple of sly references to the first issue of Action Comics. (Bonus points to the author for how well the iconic cover shot is worked into the story.)
But Clark is more human in this story than any other I've read, seen, or watched.
Amusingly, my non-comic-fan wife also enjoyed it.
28 of 29 people found this review helpful
This novel is extraordinary.
On long journeys as a representative for my company I have listened to many audio books, my favorites have been "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon (both unabridged). A third now joins these two, "It's Superman" by Tom DeHaven.
If it is the superman of the comic books, the big screen action hero you admire then this book is not for you, for this is a complete and utter reinvention of the superman mythos. Gone is the broadly drawn world of Smallville and Metropolis and the cast of one dimensional characters, instead we have Clark Kent, a boy learning to be a man, a person set apart searching for a place in the world.
If it is action and heroics you desire, then you will not be disappointed, but be warned in this superman, action is not the star.
This is a character driven story. The four main players, Clark Kent, Willie - replacing the Aw Shucks, Gee Whiz Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, are all exquisitely drawn complex human beings.
The writer takes us on an epic journey through the backwaters of 1930's USA to a New York placed at the centre of the world.
Through the trails and tribulations of the four main characters (and an inspired cast of bit players), the writer weaves a complex plot, slowly but surely bringing all the various threads masterfully together, leaving us at a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
This story is about friendship, love, redemption, life and purpose. It is about growing into adulthood and all the difficulties this implies.
The pace of the narration is perfectly pitched.
Through the voice of the narrator, the characters are fully realized, a place in time is established. The nuance of conversation between characters is outstanding.
This is superman as I always hoped it could be, but never was. I loved this book, why did it have to end?
49 of 52 people found this review helpful
Tom De Haven and Scott Brick have managed to transport us back to 1935 and introduce us to a different Clark Kent than we've known all these years. A Clark that goes through all the angst just about every teenage boy does. A Lois Lane who's not the pris of the 1950's Superman TV shows. Lois is the liberated woman of today.
Superman has his doubts about what his legacy will be and how he fits into our world.
I loved the new 'history lesson' and highly recommend this book to Superman fans who are looking for something different.
15 of 17 people found this review helpful
I love graphic novels--the action, the physical conflict, the over the top powers, etc. This book doesn't have that. What it does good is depict America in the 1930's and create a rounded Clark Kent. This is closer to a novelized season of Smallville than a Superman comic.
17 of 20 people found this review helpful
This was a great read! I'm not a huge fan of Superman stories, and have always found the character (as portrayed in movies and recent comics) to be quite one-dimensional and boring. This book definitely added life to the character and helped me understand where he came from.
Written as if Smallville (the television show) had continued past Clark's high school years and taken place in the 1930s, this book establishes the relationships of Clark, Lois and Lex in the setting of a murder mystery or crime novel. Lex is the manipulative politician and businessman who begins to show signs of his mad scientist phase. The characters (including those who did not appear in the comics) were interesting and likeable. I actually cared what happened to these people.
I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy/superhero tales, as well as to anyone who loves the feeling of 30s noir and pulp stories. It really made me feel as if I was in the 30s, watching as a superhero developed.
16 of 19 people found this review helpful
In June 1938, two men from Cleveland, Ohio made history by giving birth to an alien. Although such a feat is remarkable, these men, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, did not even make the front page of their local newspaper. They had to settle for their offspring to be debuted in Action Comics #1. Little did they know that their creation would grow up to become the greatest hero the world has ever known—Superman. Since his inception, Superman has taken the world by storm and his adventures have been featured in radio serials, TV shows, and movies. After seventy years, Superman has remained alive in our world, but despite his old age, this character seems to have remained just as simple and two dimensional as the day he was born. That is, until 2005, when writer Tom De Haven took on Superman in the novel “It’s Superman!” In this novel, De Haven does a fantastic job of making Superman and the world that he lives in, deeper and more realistic. This new three dimensional perspective of Superman is brought to life through the setting, supporting characters, and an exploration of Superman’s internal personal struggle.
In the Superman comics, Superman lives on Earth, but it is not “our” earth. On his earth, technology is far superior, extraterrestrial villains are a common occurrence, and other superheroes are a dime a dozen. De Haven begins his story of Superman on “our” Earth, back where he first began—the 1930’s. Baby Superman crash lands in rural Kansas, and is found by a married couple, who decide to adopt him and raise him as their own son. They give him the name Clark Kent and teach him the values of an average god-fearing farmer. In De Haven’s exploration of the setting, in which young Clark is raised, the reader is granted access to a look at our past and is able to see the simplicity and struggles of a 1930s mid-American farming family. In one passage, De Haven even describes Clark’s father. Jonathan Kent, and his reluctance to rewire their house for electricity because that is a luxury that they just don’t need in their lives. As Clark gets older, he decides to accompany another character on a journey that takes these two across the United States. Throughout this journey, De Haven is able to take Clark and pit him against historical events and themes, such as racism in the South and the booming movie industry in the West. With each step into a new setting, the reader is privy to the emotional growth of Clark’s character, and by the end of the book, the reader is able to understand that Superman is not just a small town boy with small town values, but a hero that is made up of the best (and worst) of our country as a whole.
As young Clark struggles to grow up to the hero we all know he will be, he comes across many different characters. These characters, as De Haven so eloquently uses, are the spark to Clark’s outward growth as a real person. Having been raised by small town farmers, Clark is not familiar with the outside world, except for what he sees in the newsreels at the movie theatre, so he has yet to experience any sort of external opposition. He has simple ideas and small town dreams, but this all changes when he comes across Willy Berg, a big city photographer turned wrongly accused murder suspect. Willy is from New York City and has lived with nothing but the fast paced lifestyle of a big city. When they first meet, Willy’s big city attitude is something as a shock to Clark. Clark doesn’t like him very much, but is intrigued by Willy’s suspicious nature and lack of mid-American values. Willy represents the exact opposite of Clark’s upbringing, and De Haven uses this as a way for Clark to balance his own nature and moral code against that of a “normal” person. These two agree to take on a job that takes them on a tour across the country, and in doing so, come in contact with more people of different persuasions. Over the course of this tour, Clark writes letters to his father, describing his adventures with Willy. De Haven uses these letters as a unique way to show and describe the growth of his character and the new perspectives that he has had the opportunity to come across. In the climax of this story, it is Clark’s memories of the characters he met and the adventures he had with Willy that help him to discover his true identity as a hero, and we, as the readers, are able to see the rich evolution of Superman’s character by way of his friends and supporting characters.
As an infant, baby Kal-El was sent from his crumbling home planet of Krypton to Earth, to live out a life of peace as the last surviving member of their civilization. This baby was adopted as Clark Kent and raised as a human. He is not human (Shuster, 1938). In this novel, De Haven describes in very great detail Clark’s inner struggles of loneliness and isolation, as well as his difficulty coming to terms with his powers. This aspect of Superman identity has rarely ever been explored is the backbone of De Haven’s story. Clark is alone in full of world with people who look like him, but are not like him. He wants to be normal but knows he isn’t and that he can’t hide his true nature forever. Though out the book, Clark’s only genuine moments of happiness come from when he finds others that share physical characteristics with him, such as being left-handed or having blue eyes. He clings to any feeling of acceptance or thoughts of being common, but knows that ultimately, he is alone. This feeling of Clark’s isolation is explored very well, but it is never resolved. Along with his loneliness, Clark struggles with his powers. He doesn’t see them as a gift, and is uncomfortable when characters, such as Willy, attempt to exploit them for personal gain. De Haven even delivers a scene where Clark is so embarrassed by his powers, that when questioned by a sheriff after an altercation with a gunman, that he just mumbles his story and keeps hidden the bullet that he caught with his bare hand. By the end of the story, Superman becomes Clark’s true identity and his powers become an extension of his will, but his inner struggle becomes his one true weakness. De Haven’s exploration of the inner Superman became one of the most interesting aspects and has really given this character the depth that most fans have longed for.
Over the last seventy years, Superman has fought evil scientists, aliens, and even clones of himself, but he has never faced the foe De Haven presents him with— three dimensional character developments. Throughout this novel, De Haven gives a stunning and deep portrayal of Superman’s beginnings as Clark Kent and his evolution to the hero we all know and love. It is through the world he lives in, the people he meets, and his path of inner self-discovery that makes this version of Superman so compelling and exciting. Having read this book several times, I would implore anyone, even if you’re not a fan of comic books or typical superhero tales, to pick up this novel. It will have you sitting on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
41 of 52 people found this review helpful
After about two hours into this book you will probably realize that this is not your traditional superman - man of virtue and steel, nor is Lois Lane the modern, charming yet moral person.
First, Clark Kent is a rather weak minded individual. His actual role in the book is very limited. One thing is certain Clark Kent is a self-proclaimed atheist - "I don't believe there is a God" - exactly what would expect from our superhero. But what else should we expect when early on we are told Clark's father is a pagan.
My dear Lois is a fairly loose woman, having sexual encounters with at least 3 different men, but not Clark. If fact Lois sleeps with a guy who is to be Clark's best friend. Sleeps with another guy who is to be the husband of one of Lois's best friend. And lets not forget the older professor. Of course as Lois says "A modern girl should have experiences with a variety of men, including older men"
The only thing that draws you into this story is the excellent narration and the hope that the story will actually take you somewhere.
The narration is awesome and really the only redeeming quality of this book.
63 of 87 people found this review helpful
This is a very different version of a Superman origin story, the twist being that it is set in a realistic version of the 1930s. And, boy, is this novel set in the 1930s. There are books written IN the 1930s, written ABOUT the 1930s that are not set in the 1930s nearly as much as this book is. You could pick up "The Grapes of Wrath" after reading this book and you'd say, "Gee, I wonder what decade this novel is set in? I can't tell, because Steinbeck doesn't mention Benny Goodman every three f---ing pages."
It is obvious that Tom De Haven did a tremendous amount of research about the 1930's before writing this book. But it would have been better if he had left some of out. He name-checks nearly every celebrity who lived during the period. This gets annoying early on and become intolerable later. Plot points and character backgrounds frequently exist for the sole purpose of dropping the names of minor jazz players or historical personages from the WPA. There is a minor plot-line in "It's Superman" about people going around the country to write a travel guide and this is very much what "It's Superman" is------ a travel guide to the United States in the 1930s, with lots and lots of local color.
The actual Superman story here IS intermittently interesting. But there just isn't very much of it. This book is more interested in 1930's music than it is in the characters of Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. As a result it never really comes together into a coherent novel.
Scott Brick gives a pretty good read. He does great 1930's characterizations.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
This listening experience of this audiobook was the best part of reading this book. If it had not been for Scott Brick's charming performance of this novel, I would have put the novel down almost halfway through it.
Which character – as performed by Scott Brick – was your favorite?
Scott Brick did a fantastic job with the Midwestern voice given to most of the characters from Smallville, but Brick really shined with the one character I felt the author got right: Lex Luthor.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
I was very disappointed in a novel called "It's Superman!" that barely had the titular character in the story. The supposedly major characters felt like underdeveloped supporting characters while De Haven spent much of his time developing the original "supporting" cast, who felt more like the main characters.
Any additional comments?
This is definitely a novel to avoid if you are hoping to read a novel about Superman. I would rather recommend "The Last Days of Krypton" by Kevin J. Anderson.
10 of 14 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
It was a distracting noise but little more. The story kept me going as I was expecting something cool to happen but alas I was disappointed.
What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)
The ending was not spectacular. It's a shame as with a character like Superman one can have a lot of fun.
What three words best describe Scott Brick’s performance?
Not particularly horrible.
Any additional comments?
This wasn't a bad book but in my fanboy opinion, it devoted far too much time to how Clark was feeling etc and far too little time to cool super power stuff. Also Clark's friend Willy wasn't particularly likeable so it just ended up being a story about a guilt ridden super boy and his depressing, selfish friend. Having said all that however, there is something about it which kept me reading. In short, it's worth listening to if you are at a loose end but don't expect a magical adventure.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Well that was a long slog. Over embellished, plain boring & not enough actual Superman. It should have been called 'It's everyone but Superman!' I understand the narrator was trying to present a comic book style but it was hard to listen to for the whole book.
I vaguely remember the film where Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor as a kind of campy villain. In this version he is more sinister, in office and associating with the Mafia etc. Lois is a much more capable, albeit annoying, woman and Clark is the same old, geeky, loveable farm boy.
Excellent 'different' take on the origins of Superman without the nice family values of the 50's. Can honestly say this is one I couldn't turn off, however the ending was a little bit of a let down.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Scott Brick does a magnificent job reading a nostalgic version of Jerry Sergey & Joe Schuster's Superman fable. Tom de Haven has woven an atmospheric version of the Man of Steel. This is a tremendous sweeping tale of America, of jazz, blues and the seedy side of crime. Lex Luther, Lois Lane and many more beside take a bow as the curtain comes down on what might have been the origins of Action Comic's best hero.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful