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It’s Superman! : A novel, by Tom De Haven

Superman, the novel

What? Does this review talk about a novel portraying a comic book superhero? Yes, it does.

If you are like me, you grew up reading simple comic books, with a clear beginning and ending. Lately, perhaps, you decided, like me, to pick up a comic book and were totally confused: too many characters, too many time lines, too many alternate universes, too many plots… too many…

These days, it seems you need a PhD to understand a simple comic book. Sometimes you need to go back several issues or even years to understand a simple twist on the plot. Is it worth having to study Wikipedia to understand the latest Superman adventure?

Enter Tom De Haven and his novel about Superman.

Back in the 1930s, Clark Kent, from Smallville, Kansas, is beginning to understand his wonderful powers and how can he use them. While Clark is trying to be happy being the only real reporter in his small town, he meets Willy Berg, a terrible influence who makes him leave his father and his farm and travel with no real goal.

While Clark travels from Kansas to Hollywood and then to New York in a journey of self-discovery, slowly becoming what will be known to the world as Superman, Louise Lane studies in Columbia and grows up in New York, the home of the Daily Planet and the corrupt Lex Luthor.

Eventually, the paths of Louis, Superman and Luthor will have to clash in the eternal, traditional fight.

De Haven has respected some of the traditional myths and has totally trashed some others, introducing new characters and retelling the story in his very own way, but It is always delightful to see how he has gone back to the very basics most of the times, putting us in a much simpler and likable universe.

While the book seems slow at times, it beautifully captures the spirit of the US during the depression and the prose is always carefully crafted and polished.

I specially loved the last two pages, where everything finally falls into place. Reading all the book was worth just to get to the part that De Haven starts saying: “And here, at last, is the point where our version of the story merges with all of the others…”

The book is definitely worth reading, not only as a superhero book, but as a great story being told again.

You can grab your own copy of the book here.

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