How to be a Superhero by Mark Edlitz

(No Series)
Arc Provided from Netgalley
Published June 1, 2015

How to Be a Superhero takes the reader behind the scenes of the most popular superhero movies and television shows of the past seventy years. The book includes 35 penetrating interviews with actors and actresses who have played the world's greatest superheroes, supervillains, antiheroes and sidekicks, as well as 70 photographs. "To be, as Chris Reeve put it, 'a temporary custodian' of these stories (myths really) is a very subjective experience. To be taken into the minds and thought processes of others who have had that experience is a fascinating journey. How to Be a Superhero really takes you into what it means not only to the people who play them, but into the minds of superheroes." - Richard Donner, director Superman "Edlitz's impressive knowledge of not just superhero movies and TV shows, but of the comics that they're based on, enables him to ask incisive questions that get the actors talking about their super-roles in a way not many interviewers can do.

How to Be a Superhero is an excellent fangirl/fanboy concept - getting the own words behind the people who played superheroes we either grew up on or experience for the first time today. Batman, Superman, The Flash, and a host of other heroes are covered with in-depth chapter introductions, followed by interviews with the actors, some years old and others more recent. Accompanied by these interviews are pictures of the stars, over 70 to flesh out text.

The usual questions focus on the actor's feelings on initially being offered the role, what it was to be in the suit, how they were treated in the suit, what it did for their future career, and of course their personal thoughts on the superhero.

Adam West opens up the book, using a lot of humor and going in-depth with his answers, letting us know he still wears 'bat-jammies' every night, likely tongue in cheek (hopefully or not hopefully?)

Some of the other interviewees were just as funny, especially some lines such as Jackson Bostwick on playing Captain Marvel (that entire interview was one of the best):

On speaking of dating and ending the evenings: "However, toward the end of the evening I assure you, kinky or not, they would all be howling, "Shazam!" Just kidding!

The questions and answers pertaining to the costumes were interesting. Some felt like it changed the way they felt emotionally, while others like Nicholas Hammond described how uncomfortable the suit could be, especially with the heat, but points out how it was interesting that behind a mask you could really get into a role hidden and how that was an intriguing experience, how masks could be freeing.

Then you get some interviews like for John Newton as Superboy who goes deep, philosophical, and introspective on approaching life, personality, the character, and lots of details on the psychology of why superheroes appeal so much to us. He even includes a thought-provoking quote which inspired him, "On the last day of your life, Hell is meeting who you are and not who you could have been."

I've never been a big fan of certain heroes, like Captain America, but learned a lot about him through the book:

Matt Salinger goes on to say that "Superman was a superhero. I don't look at Captain America as a superhero because he wasn't super-human. He was extra-human." Most of the answers of the interviews were honest, insightful, and many of them surprising. As an example, Matt Salinger says Captain America hurt his career more than helped it.

I especially loved the interview with Dean Cain because I'm a fan of everything Superman (the writer makes a note that Dean shone more brightly as Clark than Superman). He says season five didn't happen because Terry was pregnant and couldn't continue work (didn't know that.) He gushes about how much he liked Clark Kent as a character and that unlike so many other comic characters who come from a dark place, he comes from goodness, but that Clark Kent as the man was more interesting to him. He makes an intriguing note:

For me, Clark Kent was the real character and that's really who he is, and Superman is what he did.

(On the other hand Tim Daly says he sees Superman as a sad being from a distant, dead planet, and that Clark Kent is a sad guy who can't be himself, has unrequited love, and knows he can do more but can't. Interesting reading those two interviews back to back...)

Also was happy to see James Marsden since I'm a fan (although haven't seen his particular work with Cyclops)

I was ridiculously excited about Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor on Smallville since that's my favorite villain and I think he brought perfection to the role in Smallville. The writer opens up differences on Lex Luthor's history with Superman, to Smallville's ideas on it, wrapping up with the ending conversation between the two on the series finale and how much this helps propel and transform Clark into that final line to cross on who he is meant to be.

He notes that he didn't have as much hope for the show when he first heard about it because of the network and concept but wanted to go forward when he saw some of the script; he says he thinks Smallville is the first show that gave the network some credibility. He brings up the importance of having Lex be a credible, three-dimensional person who has vulnerability and kindness which slowly evolves and was against rushing the "evil" transformation to keep it interesting and convincing. I happen to agree with that and, considering how long the show went on, wish they had slowed it down as well.

I was also interested in his response on leaving the show:

"I didn't quit the show. The contract was for six years and I worked on it for seven years. That always bothered me. I've never quit anything in my life. I don't quit. Ever. After I did my seven years, I did an extra twenty-two episodes. I felt that I was too old now and that they could've wrapped up this story easily. It should have been wrapped up after six years - seven years tops. But for purposes of monetary gain, they decided to go year after year."

The book is a good one and must-get for superhero fans. I do wish more villains would have been included or some of the big names with movies, but I realize that's not always possible.


  • Adam West - Batman
  • Bob Holiday - Superman
  • Jackson Bostwick - Captain Marvel
  • Nicholas Hammond - Spider-Man
  • John Newton - Superboy
  • Matt Salinger - Captain America
  • John Wesley Shipp - The Flash
  • Kevin Conroy - Batman
  • Dean Cain - Superman
  • Tim Daly - Superman
  • James Marsden - Cyclops

Heroic Women
  • Yvonne Craig - Batgirl
  • Helen Slater - Supergirl
  • Laura Vandervoot - Supergirl
  • Malin Akerman - Silk Spectre

  • Lou Ferrigno - The Hulk
  • Rex Smith - Daredevil
  • Chip Zien - Howard the Duck
  • Alan Cumming - Nightcrawler

  • Noel Neill - Lois Lane
  • Jack Larson - Jimmy Olsen
  • Marc McClure - Jimmy Olsen
  • Stacy Haiduk - Lois Lane

  • Michael Rosenbaum - Lex Luthor
  • Tom Hiddleston - Loki

Heroes in Hiding
  • Alex Hyde-White - Mister Fantastic
  • Carl Cairfalio - The Thing
  • Joseph Culp - Doctor Doom
  • Rebecca Staab - Sue Storm
  • Adrianne Palicki - Wonder Woman

Not all heroes are super
  • Leonard Nimoy - Mr Spock
  • George Lazenby - James Bond
  • Roger Moore - James Bond
  • Clark Gregg - Agent Coulson

Conversations about Superheroes
  • Jim Simon
  • Stan Lee
  • Kenneth Johnson
  • Tom Makiewicz

The book also wraps up with quotes and sources on such noticeables as Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale at the end.