Superman: An Unauthorized Biography, by Glen Weldon.
I try very hard to not be the person who says “normally, I don’t like this thing, but I like your version of this thing.” I mean, if I don’t like that thing, why am I reading/watching it? And if I do like your version, what have you done that is so different (wrong? terrible? missing the point?) that I like your version? It’s meant to be a compliment, of course, but it doesn’t necessarily come across as such.
Yet I feel I need to say something very close to that statement when discussing Glen Weldon’s history of Superman. Because the thing Mr. Weldon has done is make me care about Superman. He has translated, explained, and represented Superman to a life-long comics fan who has just never cared for the big guy before.
In short, I have never cared one way or the other about Superman. And what Glen Weldon has done in this book — that is different from other people talking about Superman — is describe Superman’s history so lovingly, so thoroughly, with such humor and passion and joy, that I have come to appreciate Superman.
Superman: An Unauthorized Biography is not a history of the making of Superman properties, though it touches on that. Nor is it a history of the Superman canon, though that canon is a large part of the book. What Weldon has written is exactly what it says on the tin — a biography of a fictional character, delving first into the canon, then looking at creators, back and forth. We learn not only what Superman was, what he was doing, during decades past, we learn why he was those things and what the people creating him meant.
This book is sociology, history, and biography. Moreover, it has that quality that makes all the good histories great. Weldon loves this subject, that much is clear. But more than that, he want you to understand what there is to love. Too many specialists bludgeon the reader with information, hoping to drown any objections in a deluge of fact. Weldon deftly stays away from that trap. He tells you just enough, and no more.
If you have any interest in Superman, obviously you should read this book. But I also encourage you to read it if you do not have an interest in Superman, and have always wondered what the big deal is. Weldon’s Superman: An Unauthorized Biography explains it to you. And while you may not love Superman at the end, you will understand.
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