15 December 2010

Worlds Are Colliding

From Tom De Haven’s authorized novel It’s Superman!:

Clark Kent is more than just passingly familiar with robots.

As a boy, he read all of L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels, and from his introduction in Ozma of Oz, Tik-Tok the Clockwork Man became Clark’s favorite of all the series characters.
I’m still mulling over the rest of It’s Superman! Usually the tension in Superman coming-of-age stories is between Smallville and Metropolis. De Haven takes the whole country as his setting, with episodes in Hollywood and elsewhere, and Clark and Lois ending up in La Guardia’s New York instead of its shiny comic-book stand-in.

Among other touches I think are new is Clark as science-fiction fan. A Kansas boy of the 1920s reading the Oz books makes sense. Clark writing sci-fi stories like Jerry Siegel—that made me pause.

4 comments:

Richard Bensam said...

It's not entirely new. In Elliot S! Maggin's Superman novel Miracle Monday, we learn that a fifteen year old Clark Kent was so impressed with The Martian Chronicles he flew to California to meet Ray Bradbury. The relevant excerpt is quoted here. (N.B.: There's more to Clark's encounter with Bradbury in the novel than is quoted in that article.)

J. L. Bell said...

I was hoping a Superman guy would comment on that detail!

It fits with our modern conception of what it would mean for Clark to be a nerd, but I wasn’t so sure it worked thematically in It’s Superman! The Clark in this book is embarrassed about his mysterious powers and origin, but I kept thinking that a young sci-fi reader and writer would be more excited about the possibilities.

But perhaps De Haven meant that writing—which comes before Clark learns details about the Kents finding him—to signify Clark’s true nature bubbling to the surface.

Richard Bensam said...

I haven't read It's Superman...but while Clark Kent writing SF sounds like a step too far into cutesy self-referentiality, the idea of young Clark trying his hand at writing is not a bad idea at all, especially if one were looking to justify/explain/foreshadow his later career as a newspaperman.

J. L. Bell said...

The novel shows Clark struggling as a reporter at his home-town newspaper, which makes perfect sense to me. Then he takes some years off from writing before trying to become a reporter in New York.

Unlike the comics of the 1950s, this Clark never goes to college or has a mermaid girlfriend. Instead—and I think this is the departure from the “canon” that made me wonder the most—he bums around Depression-era America, developing his super skills, with a photographer who’s an old boyfriend of Lois Lane.