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Book Review: ‘Voices From Krypton: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of Superman’

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Superman is arguably the first superhero. And he’s certainly the first comic-book superhero. He’s been helping people in comics since 1938, which is a long time. Edward Gross attempts to present the entire length and breadth of Superman’s history. From when he was first conceived by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel up to today’s newest movies and comics, it’s all in this unauthorized history. It’s a long story that takes a while to get through, but Voices From Krypton: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of Superman is an interesting dive into the long life of Superman.

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Nacelle Books.]

The long history of how Superman became a super sensation

Superman was created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel. He was by no means an instant success. It took Shuster and Siegel years of shopping him around and repackaging him before Detective Comics finally included him in Action Comics #1 in 1938. No one thought Superman would be that big of a character but boy did he prove them wrong! He has remained at the top of the comic and pop-culture world for many decades.

I found it interesting that in Superman’s earliest form, he didn’t fight supervillains, he fought for social justice. He also wasn’t the boy scout that we’ve come to know and love either. In the beginning, Superman had no problem killing criminals, and he killed lots of them. It wasn’t until five years after he was first published that he adopted his code that keeps him from ever killing a human under any circumstances. 

Action Comics Superman #1
Action Comics #1 featuring Superman.

Then came World War II, and Superman underwent some huge changes. He starts looking to the world beyond the United States for problems to solve. He gets his first super villains and he becomes a bastion of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. He’s the personification of goodness now. And he stays this way for decades through many different comics and movies. In more recent years writers have tried to show a darker side to the Man of Steel but the image of him as pure goodness, a “boy scout”, is how most people see (and want to see) him still.

A different presentation of Superman’s history by Edward Gross

Instead of just offering a straight presentation of facts or weaving the facts into a story, Edward Gross created an oral history. He interviewed hundreds of people involved with different aspects of Superman’s history. Gross also gathered all the facts that I mentioned before. He then presents the story of Superman in short bursts, a few paragraphs at a time. Gross liberally sprinkles in his interviews with different people associated with the relevant time in Superman’s story.

Most of Voices of Krypton is interview excerpts. Gross interviewed everyone from the co-creators themselves, Shuster and Siegel, to actors that have portrayed Superman or the actors who did, like Brandon Routh and Ben Affleck. These many different stories and viewpoints combine to give a deeper view of Superman and his place in pop culture. 

Hollywoodland Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck as Superman/George Reeves in Hollywoodland. (Miramax).

Edward Gross shares the interviews as straight quotes. He has a really different style from most histories. The pages and pages of interview quotes were a very new and different style for me. Especially when Gross would have multiple people commenting on the same incident. Sometimes Voices From Krypton felt a little repetitive because the different people would basically say the same thing, just in a slightly different way. And sometimes it was confusing because it different people would present different truths that didn’t always agree. But I guess that is how life often is, we all see things a little differently and the truth is somewhere in the overlap.

A fun foreword and afterword in Voices From Krypton

Edward Gross managed to find two of the biggest Superman fans around to write a special foreword and afterword for Voices From Krypton. Brandon Routh, who played Superman, is a lifelong Superman fan. He writes a very touching foreword about how Superman influenced him and his life. The stories he shares of his own real-life Superman moments are really cute, especially the one about moving a tree that was downed during a storm. We all have stories of times when we felt like Superman. It made me chuckle to realize that even the actors that played him have those stories.

Mark Waid considers himself the biggest Superman fan on the planet. He initially approached Gross’ book as something that was slightly beneath him. He thought that Gross’ efforts were commendable but was sure that he already knew everything there is to know about Superman. After all, he writes Superman, surely Gross couldn’t have learned anything that would be new to him. But to his amazement, Gross was able to uncover things that even Waid didn’t know. It impressed Waid enough that he wrote a very flattering and amusing afterword. After all of Gross’ interviews and history, I quite enjoyed reading his afterword and having a few laughs. 

Voices of Krypton is a big history for the big fans

Gross has compiled a colossal history of the Superman character in Voices From Krypton. It is very in-depth and broad at the same time. With over 250 different voices included, it can be a little overwhelming at times. Fans of Superman will love Voices From Krypton. Especially if they’re history buffs.

Those who have a more superficial interest in Superman are probably not going to want to sign up for such a long journey. Voices From Krypton has over 700 pages, it’s not a light read. But if Superman is your thing, then it will be enjoyable. Big Fans of Superman should definitely check out Edward Gross’ Voices From Krypton: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of Superman.

My Rating: 7/10

Voices From Krypton: The Complete, Unauthorized Oral History of Superman by Edward Gross is available now! Will you be checking this out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 223 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier