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Richmond Writer Reinvents “Superman”

Superman has been an American archetype since he was invented in the 1930s by a pair of New York teenagers (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, for those keeping score). He is probably the world’s best-known superhero, featured in countless TV shows, comic books, strips and films.

Recently, Superman hit the Hollwood gossip pages when a planned revival of the character in the movies — one ballyhooed title was “Batman vs. Superman” — fell apart when the director couldn’t cast the lead role.

De Haven, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, is the author of several acclaimed novels set in the world of comic-book writers and artists. As a result, he says, he was approached by an editor at DC, the publishers of “Superman” comics, who proposed putting Superman in the America De Haven had portrayed in his fictional “Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies.”

De Haven agreed, worked up the proposal, had it approved by DC and wrote most of the Superman novel this summer at a writers’ residency in Maine. He plans to deliver the manuscript to San Francisco-based Chronicle Books in September.

To stay true to the character as he was depicted in the 1930s, De Haven has given his Man of Steel the relatively limited powers the superhero had in his earliest comics — not the godlike powers he acquired in later stories. Besides, he adds, a character who can be defeated is “way more fun.” — Greg Weatherford

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