'Superman,' by Larry Tye: review SupermanThe High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring HeroBy Larry Tye(Random House; 409 pages; $27)Superman has the name recognition and approval rating that politicians would kill for, plus the income. He's been eclipsed in wisecracking irony by Spider-Man and the X-Men, out-camped by Batman and given a reality check by Everyman Homer Simpson. In a world where young people are locked between the smirking sensibilities of Matt Groening and Quentin Tarantino, Superman is as indestructible as the cockroach. The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero, Larry Tye is in thrall to a character who, for all the good that he's done, has as much humanity as the Oscar statuette. The former Boston Globe reporter's homage reads like a marathon newspaper article fueled by sustained ardor for a boyhood love. Superman, true to form, weathers every shift to a new medium as if it's a costume change - from comics, to ingenious animation by Max and Dave Fleischer, to radio (voiced by Bud Collyer from the TV classic "To Tell the Truth"), to television's wooden George Reeves, back to comics, to camp on Broadway, to cinema, to television again and to film sequel after film sequel. Mort Weisinger, an obese autocrat who terrorized the writers and artists of Superman comics from 1957 to 1970, had a "know your readers" rule that Superman's market was boys from 8 to 12 years old, who would grow out of their ardor for superheroes fast enough to justify recycling stories every few years. Yet his blue suit seemed drab, as comics from the 1950s on explored more real and more frightening worlds than anything the Man of Steel faced, into Mad magazine spoofs, R.

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