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Book Review

Book Cover

The Essential Superman Encyclopedia


Authors: Robert Greenberger and Martin Pasko
Titan Books
RRP: £18.99, US $30.00
ISBN: 978 0 85768 106 5
Available 03 September 2010

His incredible powers are legendary, his famous red-and-blue costume is unmistakable, and the S-shield emblazoned across his chest is iconic. Born Kal-El on the doomed planet Krypton, rocketed to Earth, and raised by the kindly Kents, he was destined to battle evil as Superman, the Man of Steel. Here’s your guide to absolutely everything about the high-flying hero who’s been thrilling comics fans for more than seventy years: an A-to-Z compendium that spans the spectrum of all things Superman, including biographies of all the classic Superman characters; his membership in the Justice League of America; his early adventures as Superboy; and his numerous incarnations across the multiverse of worlds...

If you’ve ever turned the page of a Superman comic to be greeted by the surprise revelation of a returning character that you’ve never actually heard of before, then this could be the book for you.

Building upon the foundations laid down by Michael Fleisher’s authoritative 1978 guide The Great Superman Book, Robert Greenberger and Martin Pasko have compiled this weighty tome - which you might need superpowers to be able to lift. The authors have strived to reference every recurring character and concept that has appeared at least twice in the Superman family of titles since 1938, from regulars such as Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen (who get several pages each) to obscure characters such as Amalak, Cor-Lar, Moonman and the Yellow Peri. Superman himself is described in detail, including his origins, abilities, weaknesses, secret identity, costume and counterparts. There are also lengthy entries on Metropolis, Smallville, Krypton and the Fortress of Solitude.

The entire history of Superman in comic books is represented, taking into account the various retcons and universal upheavals that have taken place over the decades. The entries clearly indicate whenever a character is specific to Earth-1, Earth-2 and so forth, or whether the events being described took place pre- or post-Crisis - and indeed which Crisis, because nowadays there has been more than one. Thus you can get to grips with the complex histories of Lana Lang, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Jor-El and Lara, Krypto the Super-Dog, Bizarro, Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and the various Superboys, Supergirls, Nightwings and Flamebirds that have existed.

Crossovers with other comic series and characters are not so exhaustively included. There are entries for the likes of Batman, Robin, Batgirl, the Joker, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash, all of whom the authors feel have made a substantial contribution to the mythology of Superman, but there are none for Booster Gold, Dr Fate or the Spectre.

Adventures in other media - movies, radio and TV, as well as comic-strip adaptations thereof - are not referenced at all, which is understandable. This book is solely about the world of the comics.

The text is illustrated with black-and-white artwork from more than seventy years of comic-book publishing, as well as two 16-page sections in full colour.

Though the development of the Superman legend will continue unabated, doubtless adding new characters and events to the mix, gradually rendering this work out of date, this is undeniably a super book. With 500 pages of densely packed text, this is one heck of a lot of Superman for your money.


Richard McGinlay

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