Superman has always been a hero of mine, and when Christopher Reeve brought the character to the big screen back in 1978, I was a fan for life. At that age, I was completely enchanted by the first film, and it’s follow up in 1980, Superman II.
I had the Superman: The Movie Book, I had an oversized, a super-sized(?) colouring book that I remember getting while my family was out visiting my grandparents in New Brunswick one year. Which leads me to my grandparents, my grandfather, Kenneth, was a voracious reader, he always had a book on the go, he would sit in his upholstered rocking chair next to a stove in the living room, pipe pressed between his lips, glasses perched on his nose, reading page after page.
I remember one of the bedrooms in the huge sprawling house he had built had piles of paperback books, everywhere(!). He read so much, and like me was loathe to be separated from them. He had piles he’d read, piles to read, and piles, and piles more.
Amongst those piles, I remember coming across this one in the early 80s. I tried to read it then, but my only real context for Superman, outside of a couple of the comic books, were the two movies I had seen, and this was not that Superman.
Reading this one now brings a couple images to mind. I can see Chris Reeve’s Superman in some of this, but more of it feels like one of the rapidly and occasionally oddly-paced and strange stories of the 1950s, when they told whole adventures in one issue, instead of telling ongoing sprawling stories as they do now.
In fact the way in which this story is written, and unfolds, I could literally see comic panels in my mind’s eye telling me the story, and the art would change depending on what was being said. For instance, Superboy is referenced as well as his early friendship (which turned sorrow) with Lex Luthor, and I could see images from 50s comics, and then when Clark Kent is mentioned as being a television news anchor, I see the stories of the 70s comics when Kent transitioned from the Daily Planet to the television newsroom.
And then there were moments that seemed to be all Chris.
The story follows Superman as he encounters an historian from the future, Kristin Wells, who has been taken over by a supernatural entity of supreme evil, just short of Satan himself, who is seeking to destroy Superman by corrupting his innocence, and forcing him to make an impossible decision.
Maggin’s writing style is curious, wandering from a punchy prose style to self-indulgent wanderings that makes nods to many things in the Superman, and DC Universe. By mentioning things like the Green Lantern Corps, and Bruce Wayne, you have to wonder why none of them helped deal with some of the issues later in the story as the disasters take on an international, and planet-threatening scale.
The climax is a bit of a let down, but everything else reads and entertains like a comic book.
It’s an interesting story, for Supes, but also fires the imagination to make me wonder if I could tell a truly engaging Superman novel that wouldn’t just be about fan service, but would also be a great story.
I loved going back to this book, it was fun revisiting the character as he was, and also helped me reminisce about my grandfather.