Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Date: August 17, 2004
In my mailbox the other day, I was lucky enough to recieve my first-ever "comp" book from DC Comics, complete with a nice little note that read, "With our compliments."
Immediately, there came a moral dilemma. You say to yourself, DC and Mr. Simpson were kind enough to trust me with the early look at this book, and they gave it to me for free. What if it sucks? What do you say then? There's a real obligation to say something nice, but then there's also that feeling of, hey, you have to be honest, so what if you have to call a duck a duck?
Thankfully, I can say to you all with honesty, my heart is at ease. Though I got the book for free, had I seen it in a bookstore, which we can't yet, I would have bought it. It's that good. And even if they don't send me the second season book, I'm buying it sight unseen after seeing the quality of this book.
This book is a heavy paper format trade based upon the first season of "Smallville", fairly obviously, and it details the creation, production, cast, crew, and each episode in depth and detail, much like you might find in the Smallville comic book article.
A key difference, however, is the way that this book takes a divergence from the comic in a lot of ways. First off, it's not self-congratulatory, like the comic interviews tend to be, it's informative, giving you all kinds of new information, and it's also LONG, which allows the author to extrapolate and give commentary, to explain the things that the limited format of the comic, which at times reads like a teeny-bop book, fails to do. It's also just a much better, more interesting read.
For instance, I had no idea that Tom Welling worked construction before he became an actor, I had no idea that there were a few hundred gallons of fake "bees" made for drone, the list goes on and on... this is a trivia nut's dream.
And hey, I'm not a trivia nut, but I still found almost everything in this book curious and/or knowledge to me, and I'm the geek that was so meticulous about "Smallville" that he watched every episode and counted the number of knockouts in my KO Count for the reviews published on this website.
It unlocks mysteries, like why there was a preview for Jitters right after the pilot, but instead we got Metamorphosis. Because Jitters ran into problems, and had to be pushed back... and other issues of a similar type.
There are four pages devoted to each episode, starting with a very brief episode summary, and then detailing the things that went into it, including key quotes and ideas from the writers, the producers especially, the stuntment, the actors, and the crew in general.
There are also little "Did you know?" blurbs, and a little box that tells you all of the music that's in each show, which will come in handy for me, because people regularly email me asking about certain music from a certain show... that alone makes the price worthwhile.
There's a picture section in the middle with stills of all the mains, fine photographs in astounding color, some of the best poses from the show, honestly.
You also have little bits from The Torch and the Smallville Ledger online sites, some of them by the folks who write the comic, and some who write on the online columns, notably some by Jake Black, one of the writers who was goodly enough to contact me after I reviewed one of his comics, which made a special connection for me to the work.
There's an opening section on the genesis of the show, with a little connection between the movie "Eraser" and "Smallville", you'll have to read it, and there's a fine section on the cast and crew at the end, explaining a little about each actor and their role, and more about the crew.
The absolute best part of this book is that it's not phony. Usually, when you read these type books, they're self-congratulatory. But Millar and the like sometimes just step up and say, "Yeah, this episode we didn't have enough money, or we really had trouble with writing deadlines." They step forth and concede that though there are winners, some episodes fail, and they examine why, and how they worked to make things better. As the reviewer of the show, that's reassuring to me, because so often, especially in the comic industry, we see writers and editors who believe themselves wholly infallible and don't understand or seek to understand why something they did has failed, instead they blame the audience. It made me see how humble the creators of this show are, and made me respect the changes they've made in the face of the fact that they are, truly, doing their best.
The only complaint I could think of (and if you think I'm not a complainer, or very critical, check out some of my other reviews) is the fact that there were a few spelling errors (I counted two) and there's also an inaccuracy, that President Luthor has a black glove like he does in the show, but largely, that's just my meticulous nitpicking nature. They're mistakes anyone could have made, and they make the book that much more human for me.
All in all, I read this book over two nights. I was caught up rather quickly, it pulled me in, and before I knew it, I was closing the last page.
If you like "Smallville", this is probably the best resource that I've found yet that you could read. The comics have their niche, the novels are their own facet, and the internet columns add a dimension, but this is an in-depth and knowledgeable chronicle of the show by and large, and like I said, I recommend purchase.
On our Superman Homepage krypto-scale, I give this book a 5 of 5.