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Helping a new generation discover Superman

David Wilson/credit David Wilson

Lexington author Larry Tye wrote “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” out of love for the character. Unlike the darker Batman or the complex, tortured Spider-Man, Superman is “a hero of the light,” Tye says, one “who instinctively knows the difference between right and wrong.”

The book was published last year and just came out in paperback — the same month a new movie about Superman, “Man of Steel,” premiered. We were curious, naturally, how Tye felt about this latest attempt to capture the hero on film. “Man of Steel,” the former Globe reporter told us in a phone interview, “was disappointing in a number of ways,” from an overlong final fight scene to a transparent setup for sequel opportunities.


But Tye’s deeper complaints refer to that constant touchstone: Superman’s character. “As a Superman fan,” he says, “I wish they had played out more of the human story.” Worse, part of Superman’s enduring code has included avoiding lethal violence and protecting innocent bystanders — Tye cites his penchant for luring an enemy into the skies over a desert or ocean to avoid injuring civilians — a quality missing in this new incarnation.

Still, Tye says that the fans he saw at “Man of Steel” seemed happy. “They couldn’t have cared what reviewers said,” he says, “couldn’t have cared about the things that concerned me.” Part of Superman’s DNA is an ability to evolve — “every era gives us the Superman that seemed perfectly suited to that era,” he argues — and as far as Tye’s concerned, “if it draws in a new generation of fans, that’s a good thing.”

Tye reads Friday at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 98 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.