The year is 1981, and once again, there’s a yawning, empty space in the Warner Books release schedule. Every big movie in 1981 got a paperback novelization, one way or another — Ballantine Books published the Raiders of the Lost Ark novelization, Jove published the Flash Gordon novelization, and Avon published a novelization for the Popeye musical that included the song lyrics, which is incredible, because almost all of the songs in Popeye consist of two or three words repeated endlessly.
But there wasn’t going to be a Superman II novelization, because dumb ol’ Mario Puzo had the rights to novelize the Superman films, and he refused to have anything to do with them.
Back in ’78, Warner Books — stuck without a Superman: The Movie novelization in a novelization-friendly market — threw up their hands and said fine, we’ll publish an original novel instead. The book, written by DC Comics writer Elliot S. Maggin, was called Superman: Last Son of Krypton, and it was 238 pages of blithering nonsense about an invasion by an enormous hypnotic alien jester who was using a cosmic Xerox machine to make copies of planets, or something. It was confusing and not very good, but it had a picture of Christopher Reeve on the cover, and that was good enough.
It turned out that it didn’t really matter what you put between the covers of a paperback that looks like a Superman: The Movie novelization, because the kind of people who like to read movie novelizations would read just about anything. It appears that Maggin didn’t have much of an editor; I guess the book was published on the honor system. Maggin says that he knows absolutely nobody at DC read Last Son of Krypton before it was published, because if they had, they would have at least stopped him from using the brand name Xerox, which he did quite a bit.
So if the first book, written in a hurry without any serious editorial oversight, sold just about as well as anything else would have in that format, then Maggin knew that for the second book, he would be able to write down the craziest thoughts he ever had about Superman and they would publish it anyway, and that is exactly what happened.