Our Hero Superman on Earth Mark Crispin Miller, Tom De Haven

Icons of America
Publication date:
02 Mar 2010
Yale University Press
240 pages: 210 x 140 x 19mm
13 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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From the author of It's Superman!, an exuberant and original exploration of America’s most iconic comic book hero

Since his first appearance in Action Comics Number One, published in late spring of 1938, Superman has represented the essence of American heroism. “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” the Man of Steel has thrilled audiences across the globe, yet as life-long “Superman Guy” Tom De Haven argues in this highly entertaining book, his story is uniquely American.

Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the midst of the Great Depression, Superman is both a transcendent figure and, when posing as his alter-ego, reporter Clark Kent, a humble working-class citizen. An orphan and an immigrant, he shares a personal history with the many Americans who came to this country in search of a better life, and his amazing feats represent the wildest realization of the American dream. As De Haven reveals through behind-the-scenes vignettes, personal anecdotes, and lively interpretations of more than 70 years of comic books, radio programs, TV shows, and Hollywood films, Superman’s legacy seems, like the Man of Steel himself, to be utterly invincible.

Tom De Haven, author of the novel It's Superman!, is professor in the department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Midlothian, VA.

“Super-geeks rejoice! This witty collection of meditations on the Man of Steel is as cleverly encapsulated as the Bottled City of Kandor.”—Chip Kidd, author of The Cheese Monkeys

"Our Hero: Superman on Earth is cultural criticism of the first order that strikes home like a speeding bullet. With the stylistic skill of the novelist, the authority of the scholar, and the passion of a lover of the comic arts, Tom De Haven explores and explicates with keen insight one of the world’s favorite icons."—M. Thomas Inge, author of Comics as Culture

“A smartly written analysis of what Superman means to us as individuals and as a culture.”— Matthew J. Smith, co-author of The Power of Comics: History, Form & Culture  

"A terrific piece of work. I suspect that Our Hero will itself become something of an icon over time."—Michael Rockland, author of Stones

“Lively . . . De Haven traces the qualities of change and endurance that have shaped the man of steel through comics, radio, movies, and television shows.”

--Nina Ayoub, The Chronicle Review

“Pointed and insightful observations . . . De Haven makes a convincing case that the Man of Steel still speaks to us.”--Gordon Flagg, Booklist

“A smart, satisfying, book-length essay on the pop-culture impact of Krypton’s most famous orphan. . . . Like a long lunchtime conversation with a fellow comic-book geek . . . one who really, really knows his stuff.”--Rod Lott, Bookgasm


“De Haven’s personal, conversational and good-humored voice makes this book an entertaining and interesting read. There’s also enough detail and gossipy surmise for the inner geek appetite.”--William Kowinski, North Coast Journal


“De Haven contends that since his creation in 1938, Superman has seen many reinventions, but he always represents a uniquely American desire: to have ‘the freedom to act in ways that are satisfying to him. It makes him feel good, dammit.’ This book will make you feel the same.”

--Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly (with an “A” rating)

"Insightful and authoritative . . . engaging and exciting . . . a valuable addition."--M. Thomas Inge, The Key Reporter

“[The author’s] conversational, frequently humorous prose makes this book appealing to a broad audience.”