Monday, June 18, 2012

Disliking Superman

Question: If you're writing a review of a new book about Superman, why would you begin that review like this..."For a character who has been central to American pop culture for more than 80 years, Superman, it really must be said, is pretty darned boring." That's how Will Leitch of the Wall Street Journal begins his review of Larry Tye's new history of Superman in American culture.

I haven't read Tye's book yet--it's waiting on my desk and I'll probably review it here when I get through it. I don't know what I'll have to say about it, but I'm sure it won't be this...

"As is the case with Mr. Tye's book, Superman is a black hole at the center of every story. Because he is invincible, because he can do everything better than anyone else can do anything, you run out of things to do with him."

That's how Leitch ends his review. He's not terribly fond of the book, but his disdain for Superman reveals something about him as a reader: He doesn't read Superman too much. He calls Superman 'static' and boring. I've never had any desire to write Superman comics or movies, but it seems like the most interesting challenge in storytelling. As Leitch writes, he can do everything better than everybody else. That's what makes the job interesting for a writer. He provides the opportunity to push yourself, creatively. Sure, he can just solve his problems by hitting them, but it's so much more interesting to devise problems that can't be solved that way. To challenge him. He's not the black hole in the center of the story. If you're willing to put in the work, he can be the sun.

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