The Pullman Company “does more than any other organization in the world to make the negro a beggar and a grafter,” the New York Press wrote in 1911. “More negroes are demoralized each year by the Pullman Company than are graduated by Tuskegee, Hampton and some other negro educational establishments.”29
Some selections from what I've been reading this summer.

From The Millionaire Rig Vedaby Timothy James Brearton.

“The only way we can judge art for art’s sake,” Rig Veda was saying to the group, ‘is if we can first accurately surmise the objective of the artist, and then ask–'did they achieve it?’ I say 'they’ not just to mean he or she, but to mean the artist and God. Because, like Gide said, 'All art is a collaboration between God and teh artist, and the less the artist does, the better.’ So, then, wow–are we judging God? Well, no. The art critics might be–they’re a little bit from hell…“ 

A most astounding realization from my graduation present from my former boss, Robert Viscusi, from the second page of the preface to Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye:

Lex Luthor, Superman’s most persistent foe, likely came from Jerry Siegel’s boyhood. The day after Jerry’s father died, his hometown newspaper published a letter denouncing the kind of vigilante justice that would become Superman’s early signature. The letter writer: A.L. Luther.

I have to say this blew my mind instantly. 

Larry Tye

Keeping It Real With the Man of Steel

by Ronald Sklar


Copyright ©2013  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 30, 2013.

We need Superman more than ever. So the least we can do is understand him.

Good thing Superman has strong shoulders, because he carries the weight of the world on them. We project all of our cultural fears and anxieties onto him, constantly ask him for help and rescue, and although times change, we prefer him not to. 

Nevertheless, we tell his story over and over again. It never gets old. The Daily Planet has yet to go digital, and Clark Kent could no longer find a phone booth for a quick change, yet Superman remains stronger than Kryptonite. We continue to want to know what makes him make us tick.

In Larry Tye’s new book, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero [Random House], we learn why we have Superman on the brain, and how the Superman story is actually Biblical (even more specifically, Jewish). We also examine why, in this digital age, Superman continues to outsell all the other sucker superheroes.

We think of Superman as a constant, but how can any character continue to inspire millions through so many decades?

It’s his never losing the sense of right from wrong. Dark heroes like Batman had a problem with that, and [Superman] was never fraught like Spiderman. He was always the familiar Dudley Do-Right kind of character.  In times of trouble, like what we are going through right now, I think he is really reassuring to people.

In your book, you theorize that Superman’s story is actually based on a biblical theme.

Superman is — in my firm opinion — Jewish. I knew that his creators were Jewish and his publishers were Jewish, but everything from the fact that his name — when he came down from the Planet Krypton — was Kal-El, which in Hebrew suggests the vessel or the voice of God. His “truth, justice and the American way” were strained out of the Jewish book called The Mishna [which instructs that] truth, justice and peace are what Jews must strive for. He floats in from outer space and is rescued by his parents — two Gentiles named John and Martha Kent. They adopt him and raise him in the Midwest. If that’s not the Moses and Exodus story, I don’t know what is. Most compelling of all to me, any name that ends in “man” is either a superhero or a Jew. In this case, it’s both.

In the Fifties, conservative America was spooked by the immorality of comic books. This led to comic books being tossed into bonfires and burned, which was a troubling reminder of Nazi Germany. At that time, was even Superman considered immoral as well?

What we now refer to as The Comic Book Scare coincided with The Red Scare. The idea that the PTA and various clergy were going after comic books was surprising to me. The fact that one of their prime targets was Superman was even more surprising. He was the most straight-laced and un-sexiest of all the comic book characters. But they couldn’t make a compelling case for comic books polluting the minds of kids unless they went after the titan of the comic books, and that was Superman. The fact is, he outlasted the scare.

We often think of a Superman curse, inflicted upon actors like George Reeves and Christopher Reeve, who both played Superman. Do you subscribe to this theory?

I would say that it certainly is compelling. Starting with George Reeves and his suicide, continuing with Christopher Reeve and his accident. On the one hand, you look at it logically and you say that there were tens of thousands of people involved with Superman in various media over the years, and bad things would happen to some of them. It’s just a matter of chance. On the other hand, the notion of a curse is too compelling to throw away. Too many bad things happened in too dramatic a fashion that, even given chance, is an awful lot of bad stuff.

Why does Superman continue to be so popular today? Aren’t we more sophisticated and jaded now?

What we know for sure is, in the 1990s, the bestselling comic book of all time was The Death of Superman issue. So when we tried to get rid of Superman, people were shocked and outraged. I think, when next summer  we come upon Superman’s 75th birthday, and with the new Man of Steel movie, we will show that we need Superman now more than ever. Guys like me would like to think that behind my Clark-Kent-nerd exterior is a Superman. I think that everybody still can relate to that. There are more Clark Kents than there are Supermans or Batmans out there. And each story is still as compelling and as hopeful as it’s ever been. 

Watch on

Awesome. Yes, I’m a nerd about this research I’m doing for Arena Stage's Pullman Porter Blues by Cheryl West for this upcoming season…

BUT there’s a really cool story about boys and a baseball that just got me at the end of this segment.

Satchel Paige Sunburn

I spent yesterday sitting on the beach reading Larry Tye’s biography of Satchel Paige, and I’m sporting a pretty sweet sunburn because I was so engrossed that I forgot to reapply sunscreen. It’s that good. 

Tye chronicles Paige’s life and legendary career, from his very humble beginnings in Mobile, Alabama, to the reform school that changed his life, to his barnstorming in the Negro Leagues and finally, to the Major Leagues at the age of 42, when most of his contemporaries had long since hung up their cleats. 

It’s unbelievable how well Satchel pitched, and for how long. He was an incredible talent, with a rare combination of velocity, accuracy, and longevity, and Tye gives legend his due while still portraying Satchel’s human side - his equally legendary antics, his struggles, and his painful decline into old age. 

The book’s title is Satchel, but it’s impossible to tell his story without also telling that of “blackball” in America. Reading it, I could only imagine what it must have been like to watch Satchel play, decades before I was born, but far too many people who were alive during his time and could’ve seen him missed out, because he and countless other talented ballplayers were forced to remain in the segregated Negro Leagues. 

It’s fascinating reading stories about Satchel’s interactions with white ballplayers, long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and it’s hard to comprehend how segregation in the sport lasted as long as it did, when you consider that white players and executives knew firsthand the kind of talent that was waiting in the Negro Leagues.

If you love baseball or sports history, I highly recommend giving this biography a try. It’s a wonderfully thorough and interesting picture of one of baseball’s most intriguing and entertaining characters. 

Superman by Larry Tye

I definitely didn’t know much about Superman going into this, but now I feel like an expert! A really educational book that manages not to be dry at all!

It is a most unhappy and pathetic gesture; for Abraham Lincoln freed Negroes from economic exploitation as chattel slaves; whereas his son, Robert T. Lincoln, has lent his influence and name to the notorious exploitation of Negroes as Pullman slaves.”80 What did