Tom De Haven

Last updated
Tom De Haven
Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
  • Author
  • professor
  • private investigator
Alma mater Rutgers University (1971)
Bowling Green State University (1973)

Tom De Haven (born 1949) is an American author, editor, journalist, and writing teacher. His recurring subjects include literary and film noir, the Hollywood studio system and the American comics industry. De Haven is noted for his comics-themed novels, including the Derby Dugan trilogy and It's Superman .


Life and career

De Haven was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. [1] He attended Catholic school, where he was a classmate of fellow author George R. R. Martin, though he notes that they weren't friends, even though Martin was an editor of the school newspaper where he was a cartoonist. [2]

De Haven originally wanted to be a cartoonist before attending college, [3] but by the time he graduated from the university, he realized that he would never be a professional cartoonist, and considers the realization "the First Great Disappointment of My Life". [2] He received a Sociology degree from Rutgers University in 1971 and an MFA from Bowling Green State University in 1973.

An avid reader of comic books and graphic novels, De Haven considers himself a narrative writer, and considers the storytelling style of comics to have been a major influence on his writing since he was a child of almost six or seven. [3]

He began teaching creative writing part-time at Hofstra University in 1981, before moving in 1987 to Rutgers to teach American Studies (including one of the first college courses on American comics) before relocating to Richmond, Virginia to become a full-time teacher.

De Haven is currently[ when? ] a full professor of Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia in the MFA program, and often teaches at least one American Studies course, including "The Graphic Novel". [2] De Haven is also the co-creator with author Laura Browder of the VCU's First Novelist Award, honoring the best debut novel published during a calendar year. He is also a licensed private investigator.[ citation needed ] He considers himself a Democrat, and has been criticized for anti-Republican statements he has made over the years. [1]

The author noted in an interview that he agreed with Robert Crumb's observation that the Thirties was the pinnacle of American culture. He also notes in the same interview that he finds truth to Art Spiegelman's statement "that we are, for whatever reason, most nostalgic for the decade before the one we were born in", as he was born in the Forties. [1]

As a freelance journalist, he has written criticism for publications such as the New York Times Book Review and Entertainment Weekly . De Haven's novels include the Funny Paper trilogy (consisting of Funny Papers (1985), Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies (1996) and Dugan Under Ground (2001)). The trilogy's storyline stretches from the beginnings of the newspaper comic strips in the 1890s to the 1970s.

The New York Times Book Review called the Derby books "a mighty accomplishment: John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy for comic geeks." [4] The Boston Globe hails the trilogy as a "wild ride" [5]

In 2005, his novel It's Superman reinvented the early years of the well-known superhero of the same name amidst the Great Depression. The author noted his initial apprehension when he was contacted by DC Comics in 1997 in regards to writing a novel about Superman: "[S]hould I do a novel with a character that I don't own? So I had to think about it, but I didn't think about it very long, really. I just thought [...] this is too good to let go [...] they were giving me carte blanche." [3] He states that his prior novels about comic strips are what prompted DC to contact him about writing the period piece. For the novel, he took as his inspiration the early Superman stories of the 1930s through the 1950s, in which the hero is less concerned with super-villains and Lex Luthor and more with clearing slums in the New Deal era and exposing corrupt politicians. [3] De Haven says he was aiming for his hero to develop a social conscience during the Great Depression. His only intentional departure from creators' Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster conception of the character was to relocate the character from Cleveland, Ohio, where some of the earliest Superman stories had given as his home. De Haven changed this to "Metropolis" of New York City. [3]

Awards and honors

De Haven's awards include a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and he has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. [6] His novel, Depression Funnies, received an American Book Award in 1997. Dugan Under Ground received the Library of Virginia Fiction Award (also called the Library of Virginia Literary Awards.


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  1. 1 2 3 Caroline Miniscule. "The Thunder Child Interview". interview. The ThunderChild. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 Caroline Miniscule. "Tom DeHaven's Biography". ThunderChild. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Michaux Dempster (Fall 2005). "An Interview with Tom De Haven". Vol 4, No. 2. Blackbird. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  4. "Mighty Accomplishment". New York Times Book Review. 2001. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  5. "It's Superman!" (PDF). Pressroom. Chronicle Books. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 March 2006. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  6. Michaux Dempster (November 2005). "Tom De Haven". Interview. Blackbird. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  7. De Haven, Tom (1979). Freak's Amour. NY: William Morrow. p. 276. ISBN   0-14-008679-X.
  8. De Haven, Tom (1980). Jersey luck: A novel. NY: Harper & Row. pp.  193. ISBN   0-06-011087-2.
  9. De Haven, Tom (February 28, 1985). Funny Papers. NY: Viking Press. pp.  368. ISBN   978-0-670-33251-9.
  10. De Haven, Tom (1996). Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies. NY: Metropolitan. ASIN   B000UCZNNC.
  11. De Haven, Tom (2001). Dugan Under Ground: A Novel . NY: Metropolitan Books. p. 304. ISBN   0-312-42101-X.
  12. De Haven, Tom (1988). Joe Gosh. Ralph Reese (Illustrator). NY: Walker. ASIN   B000VZDF7E.
  13. De Haven, Tom (1990). Pixie Meat. Charles Burns, Gary Panter, Susan Moore (Letterer). Sudbury, MA: Water Row Press. p. 12. ISBN   0-934953-23-6. Archived from the original on 2008-01-12. Retrieved 2008-11-12. (illustrated by Charles Burns and Gary Panter)
  14. De Haven, Tom (June 1, 1990). Walker of Worlds (Chronicles of the King's Tramp, Book 1. NY: Broadway. pp.  350. ISBN   0-385-26430-5.
  15. De Haven, Tom (1991). End-Of-Everything Man (Chronicles of the King's Tramp, Book 2. NY: Doubleday. ASIN   B000P3HDHU.
  16. De Haven, Tom (November 1, 1992). The Last Human (Chronicles of the King's Tramp, Book 3. NY: Spectra. pp.  276. ISBN   0-553-37066-9.
  17. De Haven, Tom (September 15, 2005). It's Superman!. NY: Chronicle Books (Random House). p. 384. ISBN   0-8118-4435-8.
  18. De Haven, Tom (October 1, 1992). The Orphan's Tent. Christopher H. Bing (Illustrator). NY: Atheneum. pp.  192. ISBN   0-689-31967-3.
  19. De Haven, Tom (1987). Top Secret U.S.S.A.: Book. Avon Books. ASIN   B000ILMT5U.
  20. De Haven, Tom (1989). Neuromancer: the Graphic Novel, Volume 1. NY: Epic Comics/Marvel Enterprises. ISBN   0-87135-574-4.
  21. De Haven, Tom (April 1, 1997). Green Candles: Volume 1 (Paradox Graphic Mystery). NY: Pocket Books. p. 304. ISBN   0-671-00467-0.
  22. De Haven, Tom (January 3, 1990). Sunburn Lake (Contemporary American Fiction). NY: Penguin (Non-Classics). p. 304. ISBN   0-14-008549-1.
  23. Tom De Haven (2008-08-10). "In Flagrante Dilecto". Sunday Book Review. New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2008.
  24. Tom De Haven (October 31, 2008). "Out in the Big Empty Spaces". Sunday Book Review. New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  25. De Haven, Tom (2011). Our Hero: Superman on Earth (Icons of America). Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0-300-17124-2.