Brian Cronin’s Comics Should Be Good blog delves into comics mythology—the real-life kind. He debunks false stories, examines true one, and basically just presents the story behind the stories. Was Superman a Spy? collects some of his best entries, all in one compulsively readable volume.
Did I say compulsively readable? You bet. The stories are short enough that you find yourself saying, “Just one more” time and time again, until you’ve finished the book faster than you imagined you would. Was Superman a Spy?covers decades of comics lore, including the creations of its most pivotal and defining heroes. Along the way, it covers the whys and hows of many industry decisions, shows how business motives often trumped creative ones, examines the “could-have-beens” and “almost weres” of the format, and looks at how human foibles and strengths played into the creation of comics.
The book is divided up into three sections: DC, Marvel, and then a roundup of all the other companies. Some might see this as a slight to the indies and the lesser-known publishers, but at least Cronin gives ample time to many different characters, creators, and companies. That his book mirrors the focus of the marketplace seems natural.
Some of the stories inside are well-tread for most longtime comics readers (the creator of Wonder Woman, and her truth-cajoling magic lasso, was also the inventor of the lie detector; the sad and complicated story behind EC Comics’ troubles), but many are fascinating looks into the behind-the-scenes discussions and battles that went on in the industry (the creation of gay comics characters, for example).
Because Cronin is such a swift storyteller, one who gets to the point quickly and without cheekiness or coy rambling, Was Superman a Spy? is one of the easiest and most fun reads about comics. There’s tons to learn here, an array of things about the craft that prove why and how it has always been so interesting.
Reviewed by John Hogan on April 28, 2009
Was Superman a Spy?