Book Review – “Adapting Superman: Essays on the Transmedia Man of Steel”

Adapting Superman

Review by: Barry Forshaw

Although Batman comfortably rules the roost of DC superheroes today (particularly in light of the success of the new Matt Reeves/Robert Pattinson movie), the character who held sway for many years was the original, groundbreaking entry in the field: Siegel and Shuster’s durable Superman, who has enjoyed a variety of reinventions over the years since his creators dumped their Kryptonian immigrant into a Kansas wheatfield (in fact even the latter fact came rather later in the Superman mythos). And part of the reason for the continuing success of the character in comics, films and television is his protean nature (there is currently a highly successful television series, Superman & Lois, which places the character back in his unexciting home town of Smallville as opposed to the bustling New York substitute, Metropolis), and the variety of reinventions of Siegel and Shuster’s creation is forensically examined in the fascinating Adapting Superman, subtitled ‘Essays on the Transmedia Man of Steel’.

Although there is (inevitably) some repetition among the variety of contributors examining the way in which Clark Kent’s alter ego has been treated in a variety of media, there is much that is new and valuable here – particularly an intelligent and sympathetic treatment of the character as seen in the Zack Snyder film sequence that began with Man of Steel, a trilogy that – despite its controversial reception (and relatively underperforming box office – has proved to have a particularly passionate following which continues to grow exponentially.

Whether your interest in Kal-El of Krypton is based on a nostalgic enthusiasm for the character or simply the fashion in which a fertile franchise can be reinterpreted, this is a valuable volume.

Barry Forshaw

“Adapting Superman: Essays on the Transmedia Man of Steel” is published by McFarland Books.

Almost immediately after his first appearance in comic books in June 1938, Superman began to be adapted to other media. The subsequent decades have brought even more adaptations of the Man of Steel, his friends, family, and enemies in film, television, comic strip, radio, novels, video games, and even a musical. The rapid adaptation of the Man of Steel occurred before the character and storyworld were fully developed on the comic book page, allowing the adaptations an unprecedented level of freedom and adaptability.

The essays in this collection provide specific insight into the practice of adapting Superman from comic books to other media and cultural contexts through a variety of methods, including social, economic, and political contexts. Authors touch on subjects such as the different international receptions to the characters, the evolution of both Clark Kent’s character and Superman’s powers, the importance of the radio, how the adaptations interact with issues such as racism and Cold War paranoia, and the role of fan fiction in the franchise. By applying a wide range of critical approaches to adaption and Superman, this collection offers new insights into our popular entertainment and our cultural history.

Adapting Superman: Essays on the Transmedia Man of Steel [Paperback]
by John Darowski (Editor)
Publisher: McFarland
(May 21, 2021)
Language: English
Paperback: 287 pages
ISBN-10: 1476677255

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