Stalmannen..!

Join SUPERMANIA as we spin the world backwards in time to 1979, where Superman reigned supreme at the box-office and ABBA ruled the airwaves.

And speaking of our Swedish friends, DC Comics in Europe at the time were being published by Semic Press as the adventures of Stalmannen – featuring reprints of ‘current’ stories mostly featuring art by Curt Swan and translated accordingly –

Free from the restrictions of DC in the US however, opportunities were provided for awesome photo covers (top pic) and contained unusual features like a page dedicated to snapshots of kids in their finest Super-Costumes.

For the February’79 release of Superman: The Movie in Sweden the publishers celebrated by holding a competition (or lottery) to attend the premiere (second pic) and in a later issue (third pic) the back cover featured an ad for some pretty unsavoury looking confectionery based on the film – the packaging for which making them somewhat of a scarce collectors item today…

The Big Palooka…

15674412844_507e143127_o16110687069_5d4b9c165a_o (1)16270889756_e9166034a3_o16295037591_92f498d16f_oAt the dawn of DC Comics properties conquest of the silver screen, modern day successors Marvel would gamely go along for the ride in early 1979 with both this fun publication above and its more highbrow twin Starburst (to be featured in an upcoming post).

While Pizzazz may well have been ‘humour in the Marvel manner’, the articles featured about ‘The Big Palooka’ were very well-written and offered some great insights into the upcoming movie and probably best of all, a preview of Richard Donner’s Superman II, where actress/stuntwoman Ellen Bry (fresh from her appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man TV pilot, or feature if you lived in the UK) speaks out regarding a scene that wouldn’t surface publicly for another thirty years…

Squaring Up…

Pictures9-001Shreddies_Front-002Pictures10SUPERMAN SHREDDIES AD SEPT83In an era where cereal premiums and movie promotions really gained momentum, the Nabisco Company had wisely remained faithful to the Superman movie franchise after a successful campaign backing Superman II a few years earlier.

Always looking for new gimmicks to push product out to kids (and ensuring its longevity by making their giveaways a collectable series) the ‘Action Replay Games’ found in special packs of Shreddies were a cunning use of nothing so special as laminate cardboard that would wipe away felt-tip pen.

Based on various scenes from Superman III this handsomely illustrated (with art provided by the stalwart Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez) series of six cards were an instant hit but by their very nature would deteriorate quickly (quicker still had you not read the instructions & used ball-point pen) and so would ultimately be disposed of, making them a rarity in the years to follow.

SUPERMANIA therefore, is proud to present not only the comic book ad (bottom pic) but scans of an original pristine Shreddies cereal box detailing all the fantastic artwork (and some rare stills) used in the promotion.

And coming soon – the complete set of ‘Action Replay’ games reproduced front & back in resolution suitable for printing…

50 Years On…

Midweek1-001Midweek2Midweek3Midweek4Presented as a companion to reccommended comic reading for fans of the classic Superman features, enjoy this vintage piece on Superman’s 50th anniversary from the pages of UK Midweek magazine.  Beneath the splendidly colourful cover illustrated by John Byrne is Rob Ryan’s informative but somewhat cynical piece, managing to condense the highlights of an American icon over almost two pages.  While the Superman Movie series gets a very brief mention (including still from Superman IV) the biggest revelation to SUPERMANIA is that Superman’s birthday is February 29th..every four years…

Action #900…

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A DC Comics milestone suitably celebrated with a 96 page spectacular, 2011’s Action Comics #900 would court considerable controversy, but not in the tradition fans may have expected.

Unusually for the comic-book universe, one of the many anthology stories in this issue would cross over into international news headlines due to Superman’s renouncement of one of his defining attributes – upholding ‘Truth Justice, and the American way.’

Ironically in a collection also featuring Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner as a guest writer, this publication slams the book firmly closed on the ‘classic’ Superman interpretation and in retrospective, clearly paves the way for what would evolve into the ‘Man Of Steel’.

David Goyer (yes, that one) in a short story entitled ‘The Incident’ manages to plunge Superman into real-world controversy (something the late screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz always insisted the character should always avoid) by attending a peaceful protest in Iraq.  When questioned about his actions by US Officials, Superman at once declares that the world is now a smaller place and ‘Truth and Justice isn’t enough anymore’ (third pic), effectively ending his status as a representative of the US.  While the story is well-crafted, the notion of Superman becoming politicised and being anything other than ‘A Friend’ seems somewhat irresponsible writing given the ramifications.

Continuing SUPERMANIA’s series of posts for recommended comic reading for fans of the classic Superman series is a challenge in this instance, not least by the contribution of two of its greatest contributors (Donner and artist Gary Frank) but for what a wasted opportunity this was to unite them.  Indeed, Frank’s wonderful art (still shamelessly channelling Reeve) is relegated to a few pages (second pic) in a large chunk of otherwise poorly illustrated Saturday morning cartoon silliness that is the first story ‘Reign Of Doomsday’ (the finale of the ‘Black Ring’).

The worse news is that Donner’s mini-screenplay (written with Derek Hoffman) somehow manages to be utter tripe, a poor soulless attempt to merge Superman with the movie ‘Hancock’ (even acknowledging Superman’s nemesis as ‘like Will Smith’) and similarly failing to engage at every turn. Presented as storyboards (feebly rendered by Matt Camp) with accompanying dialogue and story notes (bottom pic) its astonishing to think that Donner may have had anything to do with it.  It has to be read to be believed.

There is little more to be enjoyed beneath the moody cover (by David Finch) but the absolute highlight of the whole issue is a somewhat abstract story entitled ‘Life Support’ with mature, sharp dialogue (by Damon Lindelof), lavish art (by Ryan Sook) and an indisputably epic, cinematic tone.  Amazing how something as simple as Jor-El’s recruitment of an aide to build a part for will become Kal-El’s StarShip can be told so elegantly and effectively.

Only this and the tiny vignette ‘Friday Night In the 21st Century’ by the always-dependable Geoff Johns (coupled with Gary Frank’s art) emerge worthy of the ‘spectacular’ status as declared.  A landmark issue to be sure, proving, if little else, June 1938 was a long time ago…