Category: Book Culture

It’s Superman Day! Let’s Take a Look at What Many Consider to Be the First Superhero

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Who can achieve these remarkable feats! You all know him and you love him: Superman!

Superman is a cultural icon and in many ways, the first superhero of American media. He’s the Man of Steel, the Last Son of Krypton, the Man of Tomorrow, and the Big Blue Blur. You all know Superman, from his iconic wardrobe, to his fantastic array of powers, his supporting cast (Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl), his villains (Lex Luthor, Braniac, General Zod, Doomsday, Bizarro), and his setting of Metropolis. Superhuman is a fascinating character, both as a cultural icon and what he represents. Let’s take a closer look at this famous superhero of American myth!

 

Superman, in the famous cover to Action Comics #1, raises a car over his head and smashes it against a boulder as men around him flee

Image via Wikipedia

Superman made his sensational debut in Action Comics #1 in 1938. He made a strong impression, headlining the cover of the book, raising a car over his head and smashing it against a boulder as men around him fled in terror. The man himself was created by the duo of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Siegel wrote the storylines, while Shuster drew the art. The creators, both Jewish, initially wanted to create the superhero as a villain(!) but later redesigned him to be a hero instead. They drew inspiration from the Golem of Judaism, circus strongmen, and movie stars. His costume most obviously incorporated the strongman ideas, both for Superman’s feats of strength and his fabulous supernatural feats. Superman began as a figure to the lower class, a symbol of fighting back against the ‘man’, appropriate considering America was just pulling itself out of the Depression. As such, Superman tackled authority figures, fighting against men of the establishment like corrupt governors, oil tycoons, and con-men. His status quo was quickly established, with Lois Lane entering the picture as the object of Clark Kent’s affections, while Kent himself posed as a reporter at the Daily Planet.

Superman’s popularity exploded overnight, with his comic books selling more than any other comic book character in history. Due to his popularity, Superman was followed by a host of imitators such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Shazam!, the Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, the Spectre, Hawkman, and many, many others. From all this came the foundation of the DC Universe, a host of imprints that DC eventually folded under one label, with Superman now sharing his world with dozens of other superpowered people. In fact, he became a founding member of the Justice League, the most famous team in comics history that brought its assorted heroes together.

 

Superman, showing off his power as bullets bounce off him

Image Via Alex Ross 

Superman’s popularity allowed him to expand from the comics, first in a radio show entitled The Adventures of Superman in 1940 and ran until 1951. The radio serials were fifteen minutes in length and aimed at a young audience but it made a huge cultural splash when it dared to go against a real life foe: the Ku Klux Klan. Seeing the Klan experience a resurgence, human rights activist Stetson Kennedy contacted the radio show and shared with them his research on the Klan. A storyline was created, entitled ‘the Clan of the Fiery Cross’ where Superman took on the Klan, stripping away their mystique of the organization and making them experience a severe drop in membership thereafter. So, Superman has always been a force for good, even in the real world. It didn’t hurt the storyline earned spectacular ratings as well.

Superman’s first cinema appearances were in the Superman theatrical shorts, each made for very lavish budgets of 50,000 to 30,000 for the time. The result was spectacular animation that blew audiences away and showcased Superman’s power on the big screen. The shorts were highly popular, created between 1941 and 1943, contributing to Superman’s ongoing popularity. He also had a TV show called Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves as the titular hero and was highly popular in its hey day.

 

The three actors to play Superman stand side by side

Image via Comicbook news 

 

In 1978, the first big budget Superman film was produced, known as Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Marlon Brando as Superman’s father Jor-El. The film was directed by Richard Donner and lauded for its impressive special effect sequences, as well as Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the titular superhero. Reeve managed to embody the classic character completely, making Clark Kent and Superman feel like truly different people, making Superman feel like a real character, rather than a archetype. The second highest grossing film of 1978 behind Grease, the series spawned three sequels, all of diminishing quality. But it remains a classic and Christopher Reeve, along with John Williams iconic score for the film, remain the definitive, enduring representations of the hero in the public eye.

Superman was portrayed further by Brandon Routh in Superman Returns and Henry Caville in Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justiceand Justice LeagueBoth portrayals found themselves on the brunt of criticism, however, and neither reached the acclaim of the classic series. The character has further appeared in dozens of cartoons and video games, such as Superman the Animated Series, Justice League Unlimitedand Young Justice. However, his actual comic sales are in decline these days, although this is common for most comics these days, unfortunately. He’ll doubtlessly continue to be in even more adaptations, always flying onward into the future!

Superman remains a classic of iconography and will always be a classic! We can’t wait to see what the future brings for the Man of Steel but for now, celebrate Superman Day by reading his comics or watch one of his cartoons, TV shows, and movies! As the man would say: this looks like a job for Superman!

 

 

Featured Image Via Wikipedia 

 

 

The Other Books You Need to Read This Summer

By now, we have seen a plethora of Summer reading lists, including my own right here on Bookstr.  As I have perused the round-ups of print and larger publications, I am struck once again how the same books are recommended or mentioned on Today and Good Morning America.

Trust me, I could not be happier to see such amazing female writers soaring to the top of the charts. The Female Author Dream Team this Summer is clearly: Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, Elin Hilderbrand, Mary Kay Andrews, Dorothea Benton Frank, Beatriz Williams, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mary Beth Keane, Sarah Blake, Martha Hall Kelly, Laura Lippman and Sally Rooney. I have read most of their books, and I can safely say each has earned/reached an even higher level of fabulous this year.

Yet even these unbelievable hardcover books will have to compete for spots on the NYT Best Seller List with the likes of Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and books by the ever-prolific James Patterson, David Balducci, John Sanford and George RR Martin not to mention the latest Danielle Steel. And on the paperback side, Lisa Wingate, Celeste Ng, Heather Morris, E.L James, Gail Honeyman, Ruth Ware, Kate Morton and Pam Jenoff all wrote amazing novels that rightly deserve their places atop lists with wonderful books that deserve their praise.

But what about the other books of Summer? The ones that came out in May and earlier June that weren’t on every list, but still linger with readers. Plus, it is only June 11th.  So many more great books are forthcoming but have yet to make “the” lists.  Let’s look at some titles that I believe easily deserve their place in the sun and for months to come. I am hoping you agree and propel these titles to join the ranks of the books listed above.

 

Incredible Thrillers

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger

The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

 

 

Each of these should be atop all the lists.  You will want to read each in one-sitting. In Dear Wife, I assure you that you will gasp out loud at one point and then marvel at Belle’s brilliance. Girls Like Us and The Arrangement are both page-turners that show the struggles of young women fighting to survive in New York. Both are believable yet shocking and so well-written.

 

Summer Greatness

Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland.

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig

 

 

While I have seen a few comments from esteemed authors lately about Summer books being categorized as light fluffy women’s fiction, I disagree. Any book can be a beach read or Summer Read. See my Female Author Summer Dream Team above as Exhibits A-Z on this subject. There is everything to be said about books set on vacation or in Summertime. These three are prime examples of Summer greatness.

In the vein of Elin Hilderbrand, Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner takes us to Sag Harbor and The American Hotel. Brenner delves into the mother daughter relationship and examines what makes a family. Brenner again delivers a cast of characters , some we love, some we don’t but all we will remember. In The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland, an extended family takes a cruise. And who cannot relate to a dysfunctional family vacation? Friedland does a masterful job creating a large cast of characters. Her writing soars in this novel. The Summer Country by Lauren Willig takes us to 1854 Barbados in a  sweeping, dramatic Victorian epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados. No one can create a setting quite like Willig.

 

A Swoon Worthy Romance

 

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston hit the NYT list for one week. I would argue that this book should be a very long-term occupant there. I love a world where a gay romance novel between the fictional first son and the Prince of Wales immediately soars to best seller status.  Even if you say, “I don’t read romance.” Trust me, read this book.

 

ANDREA PESKIND KATZ IS AN AVID READER, A BOOK REVIEWER, AND FOUNDER OF THE BOOK BLOG GREAT THOUGHTS AND GREAT THOUGHT’S GREAT READERS BOOK SALON ON FACEBOOK.

 

The Owners Didn’t Want The Strand to Be Made into a Landmark. NYC Did It Anyway.

The famous Strand Bookstore has been declared a landmark by New York City, despite the owners; objections.

 

The Strand

Image Via Yelp.com

Located at 828 Broadway, at the corner of East 12th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, the Strand Bookstore is two blocks south of Union Square. Opened in 1927 by Benjamin Bass as a small used bookstore on Fourth Avenue, the store was passed down to Fred, who passed it down to Nancy, the current owner.

 

Interior of The Strand-1

Image Via New York Times

 

The Strand has been around for decades while the rest of New York’s “Book Row” on Broadway and East 12th Street has disappeared and occupies a stunning 55,000 square feet while also employing 238 people. With the company’s slogan reading “18 Miles Of Books”, has been the cream of the crop when it comes to bookstores or book merchandise.

 

Interior of The Strand-2

Image Via Trip Adviser

In fact, The New York Times wrote The Strand “the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores”.

 

Nancy Bass-Wyden

Image Via Your Tango

Given its importance, it’s no surprise that city officials decided to grant the store landmark status, but it wasn’t an award in the shop’s owners’ eyesThe New York Post quotes Nancy Bass-Wyden, the owner of the Strand, as saying back in December during a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission that:

Landmarking our building will only make it that much harder for us to survive and pass our treasured family-owned business to [our] children, and hopefully to theirs.

Her reasoning is quite sound. When a building is given a landmark designation, the owners are then forced to use pricey historic materials when fixing and maintaining buildings, making it extremely difficult, expensive, and time consuming to pay for even the smallest of damages.

 

Interior of The Strand-3

Image Via am New York.com

Now New York has declared the Strand an historical landmark despite objections from the shop owners.

Here’s their official statement made via Twitter.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Metro.us

George Clooney Reveals Why He Returned to the Small Screen for ‘Catch 22’

In an interview with the BBC, George Clooney reveals how he was lured back onto the small screen for Catch 22.

 

George Clooney

Image Via Hollywood Reporter

The dark comedy, based on Joseph Heller’s beloved novel, appeared on Hulu as a miniseries, with Clooney directing two of the six episode, including the finale.

 

George Clooney, Hulu

Image Via Engadget

Heller’s 1961 novel  infamously coined the term ‘catch-22’, which refers to a situation that’s impossible to win. Clooney’s series currently holds an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.

From a distance, Clooney’s name to the cast list wasn’t shocking at all. Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon all had roles in the show….

 

Catch-22

Image Via www.twincities.com

…but Clooney was unique,  because not only was he an executive producer and director on the show, but he was acting in the series as Scheisskopf.

There was a previous adaptation of the source material, a two-hour 1970 film directed by Mike Nichols, but it received a mixed response from audiences and critics with critic Lucia Bozzola writing “Paramount spent a great deal of money on Catch-22, but it wound up getting trumped by another 1970 antiwar farce: Robert Altman’s MASH.”

Since then there have been many film with the same Catch-22 name, but they have been unrelated. The only related media is a pilot episode for a Catch-22 series that aired on CBS in 1973, starring Richard Dreyfuss of Jaws fame, and now this six part miniseries.

It seems that Catch-22 is at home on the small screen, and thankfully Clooney had a better response to streaming services than many of his colleagues, noting “…it’s not such a bad thing to be able to do these kinds of stories on streaming services, so it’s great”.

 

George Clooney

Image Via Hollywood Reporter

This is an interesting response, considering while Clooney originally made his name in the 1990s medical drama ER, he had since been only involved the silver screen with box office smashes like Gravity and Ocean’s Eleven. But this show lured him back in….

“A lot of the type of stories that I like to tell don’t involve superheroes,” he told BBC News.

Why wouldn’t Clooney want to be involved in a superhero movie. His last one went swimmingly…

 

Batman!

Image Via CinemaBlend

Oh, yeah, that movie.

 

 

Featured Image Via IndieWire

Bob Dylan’s Best Friend Louie Kemp Writing Memoir

Bob Dylan is one of the most legendary folk singers ever, with many iconic songs and albums that are still revered today. Through all of his concerts and life changes, one person stood by his side: his best friend Louie Kemp. The relationship between Kemp and Dylan will be explored in Kemp’s new memoir.

Dylan and Me: 50 Years of Adventures offers an intimate look at the relationship between Kemp and Dylan through Kemp’s perspective. Since meeting in 1953, Kemp kept a tight bond with Dylan both before and after he achieved stardom. The book recounts many different moments in Kemp and Dylan’s life as the latter becomes a big star.

 

Image Via Rolling Stone

 

One of these moments was the Rolling Thunder Revue, a concert tour which Kemp was a producer on. A large focus of the book is Kemp planning the famous concert, as well as deciding which songs can be filmed an archived.

But Kemp promises that the book will primarily focus on Dylan:

 

“This book shows you Dylan’s down-to-earth side. To me, he has always been Bobby Zimmerman and these are all Bobby Zimmerman stories. Bob Dylan is his commercial side. I wanted to show a totally different perspective on him than anyone has ever heard before.”

 

Kemp’s memoir will release on August 15th.

 

 

Featured Image Via Moment Magazine