December 21, 1998 12:00 PM

by Les Daniels

It has been 60 years since two Cleveland teenagers, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, unveiled Superman, that brightly costumed fighter for truth, justice and the American way. This volume marks the occasion by revisiting the origins of Krypton’s most famous son, tracing his various incarnations on radio, film and television—does anyone remember the 1966 Broadway musical?—and in all manner of merchandise, even a first-class U.S. postage stamp. However, there’s little hint here about what makes Superman such an enduring part of our culture. In the ’90s he proposed marriage to Lois Lane, revealed to her that he’s actually Clark Kent and was even killed, yet Daniels reports all of this unblinkingly, concluding that “he’s clearly not approaching retirement. ” A little more reflection and a little less fannishness might have helped this colorful tribute to the Man of Steel soar. (Chronicle, $29.95)

Bottom Line: Superhero’s compendium falls victim to superficiality

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