Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, September 10, 2021

What if a certain spacecraft from Planet Krypton fell to Earth not in a Kansas wheatfield, but rather in a Bavarian forest? And the Metropolis that the passenger of said spacecraft eventually migrated to wasn’t a fictionalized version of New York, but rather a fictionalized version of Berlin — with Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime ascendant?

That’s roughly the idea behind Kim Newman’s short story, “Ubermensch!”. It’s one of my favorite alternate history works, not the least because it blends superheroes, German impressionist cinema, and the Cold War into an entertaining yarn. Rather than me trying to explain it, read the first few pages and savor the flavor of a 1930s Germanic Man of Steel.

And after that — and hopefully, after you’ve tracked down a copy of the full story — check out this annotated list of the inside pop cultural references embedded into the story. Some enticing examples:

“That used to be East Metropolis” — the city we see is an amalgam of German Impressionist futurism and real-world Berlin reality…

“He remembered the old uniform, so familiar in the thirties. The light brown body-stocking, with black trunks, boots and cloak. A black swastika in the red circle on the chest. He’d grinned down from a hundred propaganda posters like an Aryan demi-god, strode through the walkways of Metropolis as Siegfried reborn with x-ray eyes.” — this version of the uniform dispenses with the standard coloring, rather evoking the vigilante Brown Shirts of Nazi Germany…

“Avram remembered, the names bringing back Tages Welt headlines. Most of the stories had borne the Curt Kessler byline. Everyone had wondered how the reporter knew so many details.” — Tages Welt translates as Daily Planet, where Kessler is employed as a reporter.

When I first read the story, a decade-and-a-half ago, I got all the comic-book references right away. I got probably half the cinematic ones back then; reading the annotations just now completed the remaining blanks.

Maybe the best/most ironic part of all: In the real world, the Nazis weren’t all that crazy about the Cleveland boys’ version of Superman.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/10/2021 06:08:44 PM
Category: Publishing, Pop Culture, Creative
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