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Author Topic: ** SPOILERS ** - "It's Superman" Novel  (Read 9520 times)
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Great Rao
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« on: October 19, 2005, 05:45:10 PM »

This thread is a continuation of the discussion in this thread about the recently published novel by Tom De Haven, It's Superman.

Be warned that I'm posting my observations and thoughts about the book as I read it - so there are going to be LOTS OF SPOILERS.


You should hit your back button right now if you don't want to know all sorts of details about the book.







some space









I'll start off with an excerpt from the excerpt that's on the back cover of the book.  This paragraph describes how Clark is in a canyon, experimenting and playing with his newfound ability to leap.  The leaps get longer and longer until:

Quote
He doesn't notice when yet another long jump becomes a very high jump, but all of a sudden he's rising straight up into the air, the clouds.  A small tickling electrical charge starts pulsing around his body, his velocity becoming so extravagant so quickly that his shirt and trousers and shoes all seethe from the friction.  Without conscious thought, Clark tucks his head toward his left shoulder, makes a fist with his left hand, and his body immediately follows that direction.  A few dozen starlings burst apart just moments before he passes through the flock.

He can fly!


This one section has some fantastic imagery with brilliant writing, and I think De Haven has also made some great additions to what it's like to fly (perhaps the electrical charge thing is from Smallville, I don't know, not having seen much of the show), and the left fist leading Clark's direction is right out of the first Chris Reeve movie.


So far I've only just started chapter two and I may post more as I read more.  I've already mentioned how strange it was at first to find a lot of contemporary elements (Police Chief Parker, etc) of the Superman mythology transposed back to the 1930s - to a realistic 1930s - and I'm continually surprised by it, then I'm surprised by how well it works and how natural it feels, and then I'm surprised by what a great job the author has done in merging modern elements with the past and extrapolating.

The Pete Ross character (here named "Alger Lee", "Alger" presumably being a nod to author Horatio Alger - who wrote great boys' books and was mentioned by Maggin as being one of teenage Clark's favorite authors) seems to have been influenced by Smallville - ie, Alger is a black kid who discovers Clark's secret powers, and he's probably the only black kid that Clark knows.  And Alger lives in the poor black shanty section on the outskirts of the town - a realistic element of our history.  He's not a close friend with Clark either, probably because of the unbelievable class and race barriers that existed at the time.

Lois is introduced in chapter two, and here she immediately reminded me of Margot Kidder's Lois and of Maggin's hyper-competent and driven Lois (that we saw in Luthor's Gift) with her eyes on the prize.  She's still a young girl of 17, but has skipped four grades of school, graduated college, and taken graduate courses in journalism.

S!
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"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2005, 04:40:57 PM »

Lex Luthor.

Very interesting.  It's a tough call, but I don't think I like De Haven's take on Luthor.  It's basically the Byrne/Wolfman/Lois & Clark Luthor - an ingenious, ruthless, and power-hungry leader of organzied crime who is running for mayor.  Curruption, murder, cover-ups, etc.  All hands off, Lex just bosses his flunkys around.  Not my cuppa tea.  There is a dash of Maggin's Luthor tossed in - Lex has had many different identities, his family life growing up was very unstable, he has a bunch of assistants, and he has many different operations going on - but not much of it.

There is no hands-on Lex-the-scientific-genius (or any kind of genius) and no corporate front for his operations.  There is no personal history between Luthor and Superman, either: Lex never knew Clark when they were growing up, and Lex never even lived in Smallville.  At least, none of this is mentioned yet in the 2nd chapter - it could still be revealed later as backstory, but it doesn't look likely.  I'll find out when Superman arrives in the Big City.

Luthor is basically just an irredeemable mob-boss with political aspirations, climbing over bodies that get in his way.

This is a character that could have existed in the 1940s Superman comics, but not one going by the name of Luthor.  Seeing some of Siegel and Shuster's "mad scientist" Lex, or some of the Kirk Alyn serial Luthor would have made this character much more interesting.  I know that the author is striving for 1930's realism, and in most places he's done a fantastic job of it.  I think that if he had just added a 1930's technological cutting edge and vision to the character, it would have been a vast improvement.  I'm not talking "giant robots" or anything, but real cutting edge of the time:  Have Lex use radio, airplanes, etc., in ingenious and clever ways and maybe have a few secret inventions under his belt.

S!
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"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2005, 04:57:45 PM »

Well, couldn't there still be room for giant robots?  Cheesy

What I liked about sci fi of that era was the conceptions of the "heights" of science...a strange imagination...
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Kuuga
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2005, 06:10:08 PM »

I'd be all for robots, but maybe that's the Japanese entertainment fan in me talking. Still, for any of you who saw Sky Captain you know how cool those retro style robots are. The ones in Sky Captain are almost verbatum the ones that appeared in the Fleisher Superman toons.
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2005, 06:19:28 PM »

They're way cool...I was always intrigued by why so many people thought robots should be bipeds, when designing that sense of balance is so obviously difficult...
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Captain Kal
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« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2005, 01:01:46 AM »

It's a human chauvinism.

Notice how our religions have gods that are basically human in form.  In a sense, god was made in the image of man.

Asimov predicted the coming of Computer Assisted Design or CAD.  But his SF stories had a full-blown robotic man at a drafting board instead of the purely software version that actually developed.  He pointed this out himself in one of his after-the-fact writings on what actually developed.

The tendency to imprint our own image on our creations is historically very strong.

On another hypothetical world where another intelligent species was dominant, I can see their gods and robots mimicking their alien forms not our human ones.
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« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2005, 01:05:33 AM »

Yep, its just fun to see it play out...
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Gangbuster
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2005, 07:05:22 PM »

Loving the book so far. I agree, Re: Luthor, though.

Still, this is a fantastic work of historical fiction.
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