If you ever found yourself curious about what it would be like to play a superhero (or villain) on the big (or small) screen, Mark Edlitz’s How to be a Superhero will totally beat that curiosity into submission and make you a sudden expert. The almost 600-page book offers a series of interviews between Edlitz and dozens of actors known for either playing these characters or helping bring them to life from behind the camera.
I’m not kidding, either. Edlitz got a pretty strong bench of participants for the book. From current big names like Tom Hiddleston and directors like Jon Favreau to old school heroes like Adam West and Lou Ferrigno, How to be a Superhero’s greatest strength is the sheer number of people to whom Edlitz gained access.
Many of these interviews have value for their obscurity alone. Edlitz talks to people you wouldn’t even think of like Jackson Bostwick, who played Captain Marvel on TV’s Shazam! and John Newton, who played Superboy on TV in the late ‘80s. He also spends a whole section of the book on movies that were never released, which includes almost the entire Corman Fantastic Four cast as well as Adrianne Palicki who played Wonder Woman in a pilot that didn’t get picked up.
Edlitz colors outside of his own lines a bit by including a chapter that focuses on figures that aren’t quite superheroes. This particular list includes Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, and two James Bonds (Roger Moore and George Lazenby). Here and elsewhere in the book, you can feel Edlitz reaching for a reason to include interviews that aren't always applicable.
This “everything everything everything” approach represents one of the book’s main faults - there’s just too much. The number of interviews held within is quite impressive, but the interviews themselves are far too long, displaying a strong resistance to editing. Edlitz frequently introduces each interview with multi-page essays that feel heavily padded. Furthermore, the interviews often return to the same questions, particularly “Who would win in a fight?” superhero queries and questions about how it felt to wear the costume. The book is exhaustive but at the cost of focus.
Nevertheless, How to be a Superhero’s nature as an interview book makes it perfect to pick up and browse as you wish. There’s no reason to read it straight through, and you can easily cherrypick which interviews interest you most. As I said before, there are plenty to choose from, and you’ll end up learning more than you ever thought you’d need to know about what it’s like to wear a costume and pretend to save the world.