Here's the best part about writing the definitive book on the Man of Steel:
You get to be 10 years old again.
"For two years, I got to be a kid," says Larry Tye, author of "Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero" and a longtime fan. "It was a return visit to my childhood. I had a blast."
Tye plans to take his audience on a high-flying adventure Sunday as the opening speaker for the Tampa Jewish Book Festival at the Tampa Jewish Community Center. Organizers are calling it "Super Hero Sunday," with dual events for adults and kids.
"You go to these Jewish book festivals and you see a lot of books on topics that are important but depressing. I didn't want to bring another 'woe is we' book to the table," says Tye, 57, a former reporter with The Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. "This is something different. It's been an easy sell wherever I've gone."
So what's the Caped Crusader's Jewish connection? Plenty. The character's creators — Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — were Jewish, as were the publishers. And based on Siegel's unpublished memoir, obtained by Tye, it appears Superman could have been as well.
"It's my theory, but it's a pretty solid one," Tye says. "Our hero has been embraced by every religion, and he's evolved more than the fruit fly, but there are some indications that make a case for his Jewish roots."
Among them: He was put out in space by his parents, who were trying to save him from the destruction of their planet, Krypton. His Kryptonian name was Kal-El, which in Hebrew roughly translates to "Vessel of God." He was rescued by two gentiles, Martha and John, from the Midwest, who save him when he lands on Earth.
"If that's not the story of Exodus and Moses, I don't know what is," Tye says.
Superman's tale may be one of triumph over evil, but the same cannot be said of his creators. Seigel and Shuster ended up signing away the rights for their character when they got their first publishing deal — for $130.
"It seemed like a lot of money at the time, considering they had been shopping for a deal for five years. It turned out to be one of the worst contracts of all time, considering the billions generated by their creation," Tye says.
The two men made a decent living off Superman, who sprang out of comics and into radio, television and movies. But they never regained ownership of the superhero — resulting in numerous lawsuits against the publishers and eventually Time Warner. Now they're both dead, and their heirs are continuing the legal battle.
But Tye says one can't forget the upbeat side of the most famed superhero of all time.
"He knew immediately the difference between good and evil," the author says. "And he never killed his enemies. He put them out of business, but he didn't kill them."
Super Hero Sunday
What: Dinner and presentation/book signing by Larry Tye for adults; pizza dinner and movie for children ages 4 to 12. All kids get a goody bag.
When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tampa Jewish Community Center, 13009 Community Campus Drive, Tampa
Cost: Center adult members $5; nonmembers, $10. Children's tickets are $3 for members and $6 for nonmembers.
Information: For tickets or details on the Tampa Jewish Festival lineup for the week, see www.jewishtampa.com or call (813) 769-4725.