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Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed Paperback – April 28, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Recent years have seen a multitude of books about the comic-book industry aimed at a general readership. Was Superman a Spy? is for the opposite kind of audience, hard-core comic-book fans, especially fans of superhero comics. Cronin covers familiar ground with a fine net, hoping to uncover the facts behind some of the “urban legends” in comic-book history. Was the Thing, member of the Fantastic Four, Jewish? Did Bob Kane, creator of Batman, also create Robin, the Boy Wonder? Why did artist and cocreator Steve Ditko leave Spider-Man? Cronin also traces the transference of comic-book heroes into other media, such as movie serials, feature films, and television series. He focuses primarily on stories promoted by the “Big Two” comic-book companies, Marvel and DC Comics, although he includes a section on Walt Disney and such smaller publishers as Fawcett and EC. Those just getting into graphic novels may not find much of interest here, but for hard-core superhero fans and comic-book history mavens, it will be good to the last identity switch. --Stephen Weiner

About the Author

Brian Cronin is the writer and producer of the Comics Should Be Good blog at Comic Book Resources. He has been writing the online column, "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed" since June 2005. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295322
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Brian Cronin is best known as a writer for the blog Comics Should Be Good, most notably for the "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed" column. Was Superman a Spy is a mix of half old columns and half all new material written specifically for the book. I've read the column from time to time, but I still found most of the info new to me. It acts as a sort of barman's guide to comic book arguments and legends. Ever wonder who actually created Batman? Or that Venom was intended to be a women? Or why The Human Torch was replaced by a robot in the original Fantastic Four cartoon series? Well than this is the book for you.

You also learn about some of the biggest foibles in comic book history such as why some print runs were pulped and what happened to the mysterious Warlock issue left in the back of a cab. Split into 3 sections (DC, Marvel, and Other Comic publishers) it is a light read you can pick-up at any point. Overall it was a fun read and look into the history and mysteries behind comic books. Recommend for comic and pop culture enthusiasts.
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Brian's book deals with some of the greatest myths you've ever heard about comic books--and a ton of them you probably have never heard before. Brian's work on "Comics Should Be Good" online has given us a taste of some of these weird stories (Wolverine was supposed to be an actual animal...and his claws were actually just supposed to be a part of his gloves) and great behind-the-scenes information.

If you're a serious comic book fan, you'll find so many wonderful surprises and "I never knew that!" moments in here. If you're just a casual comic book reader, you'll still find things of interest here as well (though many of the more detailed surprises may not mean as much to you since you don't know the characters). Brian did a great job here and the book is nicely laid out. Be prepared to go through this one in one sitting.
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Format: Paperback
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?
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Format: Paperback
Brian Cronin has expanded the comic book history discussions from his "Comic Book Legends Revealed" column on his "Comics Should Be Good" website into this paperback. The eleven chapters are divided into three parts: DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Other Comics Creators. Cronin offers brief histories of the major American comic book companies and then groups his trivia nuggets by main characters: Chapter 1 is "Superman"; Chapter 5 is "Spider-Man", etc. Interspersed throughout the text are over 100 small black and white graphics of comic book covers, panels and sketches. While this book is at times interesting and enjoyable, the author's approach seems to work better on his blog than in a $14 book. Much of the information seems banal compared to the explosive promises of the back cover blurbs, especially the brief accounts of DC and Marvel which are probably already familiar to most hardcore fans, the book's supposed target demographic. As with many books that are compilations of shorter works, many of these segments flow awkwardly into one another, with some points repeated throughout the book (as aptly noted by other reviewers). The author's enthusiasm for the subject ultimately helps overcome these flaws and makes this a four-star review instead of a three-star one. This book seems best for a new comic book fan ready to learn some basic history of the genre as well as be enthused by some of the more obscure information herein.
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