Bow, Yield, Kneel…

Jillan Freisen, DAILY PLANET 15:00 ET July 30th 2017

METROPOLIS – The Man of Steel is reunited with fallen dictator and fellow Kryptonian General Dru-Zod during a visit to a top-secret Government facility. Zod and his cohorts, Ursa and Non were imprisoned in 1981 after an attempt at world domination was thwarted by Superman during a battle in an undisclosed location in the Arctic.  The trio were sentenced to five consecutive life-sentences each, reduced to three after it was discovered they had been stripped of all their unearthly powers and been rendered mere mortals.  Zod, now 79, and subject to decades of rehabilitation has had numerous appeals for his release rejected despite claims of repentance for his crimes, which included the murder of three astronauts and collateral damage to the cities of Washington DC and Metropolis estimated at $3.6 Billion.  After their brief private conversation, Superman was challenged about his motivation for the meeting and said “While the General’s crimes were terrible and many of his actions unforgivable, he and his associates are nonetheless a vital link to my former homeworld.  I have absolute faith in our Govenrment and legal system and support their efforts to ensure their incarceration is carried out appropriately.” (Photograph by James Olsen)

Last week’s London FIlm & Comic Con at the Olympia scored an unprecedented coup for fans of the classic Superman Movies by announcing the first ever reunion of all three villians from Superman I &II, and almost delivering.

In a guest lineup that promised no less than Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran and Margot Kidder, Showmasters had done what many thought was impossible and had managed to secure legendary British actor Terence Stamp for his Convention debut.  Besides the obligatory autograph signing, the bill included a group photo session of all the Super-stars and a talk with Q&A.  It was, in short, a once in a lifetime opportunity and of course, SUPERMANIA was there.

Despite best laid plans, however, the show was dealt a series of blows in the form of guest cancellations right up to the last minute meaning the organisers could not fulfil their promises and were made to improvise in ways that unfortunately left many advance paying fans disappointed.  First to go was Jack O’Halloran, who had to drop out for health reasons (get well soon big man!) and then in the irony of Ironies, poor Margot Kidder missed her flight and never made it to the UK.

There was great relief on the Saturday as Terence and Sarah’s arrival was confirmed by a photo on social media so happily photo sessions and the talk would go ahead, but not exactly as intended.  The group photo session (costing over £100 paid in advance) was cancelled in favour of a joint picture with Terry and Sarah (third pic) which would’ve been a great alternative had it been organised and promoted correctly.  Instead, fans that had bought group photos were turned away with a promise of a refund and could only purchase a ticket for the double pic there and then for £70 in cash only.  This outrageous action was followed up with a poor queuing system that meant anybody without a Diamond Pass (Over £200) had little chance of obtaining Terence Stamp’s coveted autograph.

In fact, the show was evidently massively over-subscribed and it was everything one could do to bounce from location to location to obtain what you had, in most cases, already paid for. This, and the excessive crowds did not make for a pleasurable experience and were it not for the class act that is Ms.Douglas (bottom pic signing a replica of the Phantom Zone) being the standard by which all other con guests should be judged, it would’ve been worse.

So thank goodness for Mr. Stamp, who maintained an unflappable aura for the entire proceeding.  Softly spoken and gentile, his iconic intense gaze was as sharp as ever now found under a shock of white hair.  This was what hit me first as I approached for my photo wearing the Superman costume (top pic) as he glared at me up and down, it seemed to me, completely in character!

Drawing up next to him whilst feeling a combination of awe and dread, he extended his hand to shake mine and whispered, ‘Hello, lovely to meet you thanks, for coming’.  Now, as you can imagine, for a fan of the Superman series since childhood this was a powerful significant moment.  The General, it turns out, is a total gentleman and if you ever get the chance, as many people did that day, I can’t recommend meeting him highly enough.

There was still one hurdle to overcome before the day could end and that was obtaining Terence’ autograph.  During the day I’d been so gratified that many Super-fans had come up to me to say hello and compliment me on the costume and for the first time at a con a had real sense of community – it was great to put names to faces including Mark Cookson, Filip Biesmans and Graham Holden.  One fan, it would turn out, would turn out to be the biggest hero of all as it looked like we weren’t going to get the much-coveted autograph after all.

A serious contender for No.1 Superfan in the UK, Andrew Hanton was already in the queue for Terence and saved the day by getting a photo signed on my behalf (second pic) made all the more significant by way of his alternate signature (where you can actually make out his name).  Quite why he elected to do this rather than the standard two lines is a mystery but I was overjoyed with the result and it is now a key piece in the SUPERMANIA collection.

While I would be reluctant in the extreme to attend the London show again, rumours persist about plans for an ultimate celebration of the 40th anniversary of Superman: The Movie next year.  If anybody can do it, Showmasters can but I would hope that many learns have been taken on in the meantime from the LFCC 2017 experience…

Coming On Strong…

SUPERMANIA marks the 30th anniversary week of the final entry in the classic Superman series released in Cinema’s across the world with an unprecedented trio of posts (one for every 10 years!) of rare and unseen material.

Despite ‘Coming On Strong’ (according to the US tagline) in July 1987, Superman IV: The Quest or Peace continues to be divisive decades later.  Critically mauled on initial release leading to audience indifference and disastrous box-office, the Cannon Films production would be a franchise killer long before the term was properly coined.

However, against considerable odds, the film somehow endures to this day.  Despite its reputation as one of the worst comic-book films ever made, something about the beleaguered production and deeply-flawed 90-minute (un)finished product still resonates and manages to retain a small but dedicated fanbase.  Those who can see beyond the cut-price visual effects and clunky plot to embrace it as a pure translation of comic-book to film are rewarded with some classic Superman Movie moments and at its heart, as always, the performance of the late Christopher Reeve.

Much maligned as it may be, the film is the guilty pleasure that refuses to fade away, clinging firmly to its cult status.  But don’t take my word for it, go here to read a fabulous new retrospective written by Bill Williams, where you’ll discover the real legacy of this film is that it got made at all.  Indeed, until such time as the complete and uncut edition is pulled from the WB archives and restored, we literally have don’t yet have the full picture…

From the top – The exciting latest addition to the SUPERMANIA archive is this authentic, production-used Stunt Double black satin crew jacket!  This was acquired from Propstore and is most likely attributed to Christopher Reeve’s stuntman Mark Stewart (Reeve himself wore a very similar one onset).  Paired with a genuine crew cap, this represents a complete ensemble as worn by personnel at Elstree Studios in 1986…

Above, more never-before-published pages from the volume of storyboards pencilled by Martin Asbury as scans resume from the Big Red Book last posted over three years ago!!  There are many more to follow this sequence of the battle for the Statue of Liberty and it should be noted this vast binder houses the complete version of the film, so future updates will document the epic Metropolis battle as it was meant to be seen, including yellowcabs tossed around like rocks!

Below, a brand-new set of fanmade vintage style promotional ads for Superman IV presented by Jason Leggett, giving us an insight into what might have been had the advertising budget matched those of previous instalments…

From Slater With Love…

Showmasters Collectormania finally came to Birmingham this month after a long absence from the UK Midlands.  A show nestled somewhere between a Con and a Collector’s fair its consistent crowning achievement is the calibre of guests it manages to attract.

SUPERMANIA has attended the show for years, starting in arguably its best suited venue, Centre:MK, where such Super-Alumni as Jack O’ Halloran, Sarah Douglas and Brandon Routh would appear and later, in the Ill-judged transition to The MK Dons Stadium Marc McClure would be meeting and signing for a multitude of fans.

So it was with particular excitement that it was announced noneother than Helen Slater would be flying into the second city as this time there was an opportunity to have a picture taken together by a pro photographer so what better excuse to dust off the costume after Superman IV: Redux?  

Every bit as demure and age-defying as the pics above suggest, Ms. Slater seemed totally unfazed by the many cosplayers who had donned the cape for the event and seemed flattered when complimented on her contribution to the Superhero genre – with her appearances in Smallville and the current Supergirl series being aired on the CW.  The 10×8 selected for signing had been bought in advance (notice the flap hanging down beneath the armpits on a Chris Reeve cape!) and the result (top pic) was a very happy fanboy.

Next month marks a historic occasion in Super-Fandom as Showmasters have managed to do it again by assembling no less than all three supervillians from Superman II for the very first (and most likely last) time as Terence Stamp attends his first-ever Sci-Fi convention.  SUPERMANIA will of course be there and will deliver a full report and hopefully a group photo!  Stay tuned…

Happy \S/ Day…

What better way to spend World Superman Day than a marathon screening of the original and best Superhero Quadrilogy – still the standard by which all others are judged?

SUPERMANIA admits one and all by way of the latest addition to the collection – these super-rare Japanese tickets issued exclusively for each release.  Why not watch a DVD or Blu-Ray tonight to celebrate the ever-enduring Man of Tomorrow?

And if you haven’t already look to your right and click on the all-new SUPERMANIA Scrapbook on Instagram.  There you will find an archive of rare and unusual images not found on the site – this will be updated constantly so keep checking back..!

Toes Pointed…

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With 50 years in the business, its inevitable that you will have seen Mr. Paul Weston in numerous genre classics and most likely not even realised.

With an impressive (most impressive) resume that boasts seminal pictures like ALIEN, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Return Of The Jedi, Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves and Bond films The Living Daylights, Octopussy and Moonraker to name but a few, it should come as no surprise Paul would also lend his talents and expertise to the big screen adventures of the Man of Steel.

“I worked on Superman’s one, two and three, the veteran stuntman, co-ordinator and second – unit Director revealed to SUPERMANIA this past weekend at MCM Comic-Con –  

“Chris Reeve was just lovely.  He came in and he was so young – just a kid – and he was tall and broad but he had no chest, it was flat.  I remember they made him up a padded suit, like the Batman ones now and he wouldn’t have it, he went straight to the gym.  After a while they brought in Dave Prowse and when he was ready he looked fantastic.

When we had him up in the air the first few times he was learning how to hold himself so he was streamlined.  We found that unless he pointed his toes it didn’t look right but it was hard to do, hold yourself like that.  We’d be down on the ground shouting up at him ‘POINT YOUR TOES CHRIS!’ and when he did he’d got it.  It became so much of a thing on set that when he eventually went home on Concorde, we had the pilot announce over the tannoy ‘Would a Mr. Christopher Reeve remember to keep his toes pointed in flight’.  He loved that.

“Everything you see in the Junkyard battle in Part III that isn’t Chris himself is me.  We worked really hard on that scene.  There were instances where we both had to be in the same shot and they super-imposed his face over mine.  In The Making Of Superman III you can see me on the swing being thrown into the car crusher.

I had Superman belt and a pair of boots – I kept them for years but eventually I just threw them away.  Same with ALIEN, I had a costume, pipes on the back and everything but that was thrown too.  Back then these things had no worth, its all different now.  I heard the ALIEN costume would’ve fetched literally thousands but there you go…” 

Obviously not one for hanging on to souvenirs, very few pictures of Paul on the Superman sets exist so he was kind enough to sign a still of his late friend Chris for SUPERMANIA (top pic) while the remainder of them are borrowed form Paul’s fantastic website – these rare pics show Paul on the Chemical Plant set (second from top), consulting with fellow Stuntman Roy Alon in Calgary for the fire hydrant crash and celebrating in the early days at Pinewood (bottom) with the news of Chris Reeve’s impending fatherhood.

Still very much active in the industry, Paul finds time to attend conventions and give talks on his fascinating career and is always happy to share stories with fans.  Should you wish to catch him he has an upcoming event in December at GATA where he is hosting an evening called ‘My Life In Stunts’ which is sure to be another Super-Occasion…