In great anticipation of the full reveal of the hopefully-soon-to-be-finished Superman 1:1 display I’ve been working on, lets turn the world back (at super-speed!) to the year 2007 and the fantastic creation pictured above that started it all.
Having tackled many a unique and complex project most wouldn’t dare even attempt often resulting in fabulously accurate prop reproductions (from Star Wars through Flash Gordon) – my good friend and Superfan Chris King next turned his attention to recreating the now classic Superman costume. Arguably now the godfather of all current Super costume reproductions, Chris would refine his designs over no less than six attempts to reach his goal of the closest screen-match possible.
Along the way Chris also tinkered with display options that would include a full 1:1 clothed statue. As the options for this at the time were limited in the extreme, Chris took the typically ambitious measure of commissioning an artist to sculpt a definitive bust with a view to grafting it to a suitable mannequin later (should one ever materialise).
“I’d like to commission a Christopher Reeve lifesize sculpt that has “life” to it with an expression that captured Chris Reeve’s portrayal of the character”.
While the result was irrefutable (see above and more here) and all the more astonishing for not having been completed with reference of a lifecast, (Stuart Freeborn’s master was years away from resurfacing) the euphoria would be short-lived as only a precious few casts were ever produced.
So even as this post serves as a nostalgic tribute, its also a cautionary tale to fans who may have seen this same bust offered more and more frequently on popular auction sites. Like so many pieces of original prop art, this has also fallen victim to the crime of recasting and will have suffered inherent degradation in quality. As with all high-end Superman props both screenused and replica I continue to lobby for the consumer to do his research before buying, and hope the provenance offered here deters yet another Superfan from purchasing anything other than the real deal…
Another fascinating exhibit featured in the recent ‘Superheroes’ display at Indianapolis Children’s Hospital is this cape pertaining to be screen-used wardrobe from Superman: The Movie. Keen eyes will perhaps notice something strange about this particular piece in regard to the proportions and conclude that the distance between the shield and the hem is way too short.
While it would be easy, then, to dismiss this as mere replica two things lead me to believe it is not and that its history may be even more colourful.
Firstly, thanks to SuperFan James Sawyer’s clear photography it becomes apparent in higher resolution the weave in both shield applique and cape body fabric are a match to other screen-used wardrobe and secondly, according to James there were slits in either side of the cape at waist level, the purpose of which he was unsure of.
All of which leads me to speculate that this is indeed a Christopher Reeve worn ‘flying’ cape that had survived use in the original ’78-’83 trilogy only to have a quarter of its length hacked off for use in Supergirl.
As we know, all production-made Superman capes were catagorized for use by their state of degradation. Therefore what would start as a ‘Hero’ or ‘Walking’ cape would wind up being used as ‘Effects’ or ‘Stunt’ capes depending on their condition throughout filming. We also know they were maintained on-set and in many instances ‘remade’ to enure their longevity. This process was used throughout the Superman series and clearly later on in Supergirl where surviving examples were adjusted as noted above…
Many thanks to James for use of his pics and bringing this great discovery to my attention..!
SUPERMANIA extends its sincere thanks to SuperFan James Sawyer for providing the superb pictures above taken from the recent ‘Superheroes’ exhibit at the Indianapolis Childrens Hospital. Among some of the awesome exhibits on show was this unique special effects portrait figure of Christopher Reeve as Superman not seen since its sale at auction in 2008. Most of this fantastic creation can be attributed to the legendary Stuart Freeborn, who was responsible for the unmistakable sculpt (the mold for which and other flying figures discussed here) and also presumably Derek Meddings for the mechanical cape flapping device. At over 30 years old its a wonder this 26″ long puppet and tribute to moviemaking genius has survived in such pristine condition for everyone to enjoy. Check James fabulous Pop Culture blog Action Features for the full tour featuring other Super-items (the cape being covered here in the next post) and also take a moment to check out James ’89 Bat-Blog brother site to SUPERMANIA here…