Movie Reports…

sutghf6ytgft67ty5t4df5t4r546trdg6yrtgstr4trsdfSUPERMANIA is proud to host these fascinating long-forgotten yellowed pages from deep within various Silver Age DC Comics.  Collated and contributed by Superfan Ethan Clark from (the top), Worlds Finest #251 & #252, House Of Mystery #257 and Batman Family #18 & #19 respectively, they form a valuable documentation of the buildup to release of Superman: The Movie.

With the advent of what would become the ‘Event’ movies of the late ’70’s early ’80’s and the most revered fictional character of the all making his cinematic debut, what better forum to generate advance word than within the comic-book readership?

In what would be so much rapidly-circulated internet noise today, these well written and researched reports profile everything from the Producers, (third pic), actors, (second and fifth) and even the Special Effects (where we learn for the first time Reeve’s cape flapping device was the creation of John Richardson).

However its the advance screening writeup by Mike Gold (top) that really fires the imagination.  Though as we all know the picture didn’t meet its planned release date of Summer 1978 I envy the excitement of any child old enough to read and comprehend that article and the anticipation it creates, and for once, having the finished product more than exceed the initial promise…

Decker’s Dissection Pt.2…

CJ5CJ6CJ7CJ8SUPERMANIA presents the concluding part of Dwight R. Decker’s exhaustive review of Superman: The Movie from the vintage pages of The Comics Journal.

Pulling no punches as established in Part 1, Decker’s continued observations are at once barbed as they are complimentary.  Having passed judgement on the Krypton scenes through the eyes of a comic-book devotee, Decker notes that the Smallville scenes (short of the era represented by the established timeline) are equally strong.

A favourite quote from the late Tom Mankiewicz was “Bam! You get to Metropolis and you’re in the comic book” may be true but this is where Decker begins to take exception.  Besides the obvious praise for newcomer Reeve (no mean feat for a die-hard comic fan) the casting choices of Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper and especially Gene Hackman in his view are at odds with the characters represented on the page.  While a case could be made for the descent into camp of the Luthor scenes( being reminiscent of the Batman TV series) the commentary on Margot and Jackie is harsh and the romantic, whimsical themes portrayed in the picture are clearly wasted on him.

In his summing up Decker enforces a common myth by claiming Superman is several movies in one.  As the narrative is clearly a play of three very different acts he manages to undo some of his sharper insights when he claims the movie commits ‘dramatic suicide’ with the Luthor plot and that Lois should’ve stayed dead…

Decker’s Dissection…

CJ1CJ2CJ3CJ4From the Comic Reader to the Comics Journal, SUPERMANIA continues its retrospective on vintage reviews of Superman: The Movie through the eyes of comic-book purists.

And Dwight R. Decker’s essay (Part one of which presented above) is arguably a definitive review, or at least the most exhaustive.  Found beneath a splendid cover by Joe Staton (showing Superman through various incarnations through the ages) Decker’s words are nicely arranged alongside stills from he movie and random art from the likes of Fred Hembeck.

Surmising early on that the movie is “An erratic collection of disparate scenes that individually range from the utterly splendid to despicably camp” its enjoyable to share the early anticipation/dread of the prospect of a rehash of the Batman TV legacy (or indeed the Broadway show ‘Its a bird, its a plane, Its Superman..!’).

Indeed, one finds themselves empathising with many of the points Decker raises about the Krypton scenes in regard to production design.  For all its frigid glory as represented onscreen its easy to forget what made the demise of Krypton so tragic was its flourishing and youthful culture as depicted in comics by the art of Wayne Boring et,al.

To be concluded in Part 2 coming soon..!

Ordway’s Super-Debut…

Comic_Reader1Comic_Reader2Comic_Reader3Comic_Reader4The genesis of an artistic partnership that would thrive for decades to come, the collage above (top) represents the first published Superman piece by one Jerry Ordway.

Found on the impressive wrap-around cover of pulpy but highbrow magazine ‘The Comic Reader’ for its November 1979 issue, Ordway’s dynamic but realistic style was a perfect compliment to the characters as represented in Superman: The Movie.

Of arguably more interest, however, were the contents of the magazine and in particular, the views of comic-book purists on this fresh take of what was, at the time, a 40 year-old beloved flagship character.

Indeed, the excellent review of the movie (cropped and reformatted here for ease of continuity, click for larger) is referred to by Mike Tiefenbacher as ‘refreshing & wonderful’, highlighting the major differences between the movie and the comic book but interestingly not to its detriment.  In fact, many of the observations here (modelwork on the dam/turning back the world) are still hotly debated today and some are even prophetic (describing it as a benchmark/suggesting a Superboy TV series/longer TV edits) all of which make for great reading.

Tiefenbacher’s follow-up piece is an insightful, personal critique of the character’s evolution which incorporates everything from ‘The Great Superman Book’ by Michael L. Fleisher to Elliot S! Maggin’s Superman: ‘Last Son Of Krypton’.  The latter notable for its mistaken identity as the novelisation of the movie.

If this has whetted your appetite for vintage reviews by comic journalists you may want to check back soon for scans from from the ‘Comics Journal’ – a monster review spread over two posts..!

The Prequels…

Prequel1Prequel2Prequel3Prequel4In continuation of the posts dedicated to recommended comics reading for fans of the classic Superman Movies comes this unique offering from – of all people – the creative team behind the 2006 movie Superman Returns.

Tasked with bringing the Man Of Steel back to the forefront of popular culture with their upcoming movie, screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris (along with director Bryan Singer) would bridge the cinematic gap through DC Comics and the four-part miniseries Superman Returns: The Prequels.

For anybody under the Illusion Returns as released was intended as a standalone reboot/ remake/homage to Superman: The Movie, like it or not, it may come as a surprise to find that (in the context of these issues anyhow) that Singer’s picture is a bona-fide sequel set firmly in the continuity of the classic franchise (or at least the first two) and on that basis alone is being acknowledged here at SUPERMANIA.

For an exhaustive (and I do mean thorough) well-written overview of the collection go here – for those more intrigued by how The Prequels exploit and capitalise on aspects of the Donner pictures – stick with me.

Pandering directly to the nostalgic eye with Part 1 – Krypton To Earth – we actually open on a panel featuring the unique Action Comics cover from the first movie next to a splash page of the red Krypton sun (having never been referred to onscreen as Rao).  Though the trial of the Phantom Zone Villains has been omitted, what follows is a wordier but otherwise unchanged adaptation of STM’s first act (concluding in Kal-El’s arrival on Earth).  Some expansion on the notion that the Red Sun is in fact the main contributor to Krypton’s demise along with the abilities of the crystal technology are key to the writing here which is fairly seamlessly incorporated into Brando’s dialogue. And for once on the comic page, all the hallmarks of John Barry’s design, Geoffrey Unsworth’s lighting and Yvonne Blake’s costumes are unashamedly embraced here in the art (by Ariel Olivetti) which makes up for the tentative likenesses of the actors.

With the exposition neatly setting the tone of what was to follow, its a pity the subsequent chapters fail on most every level to maintain Part 1’s quality.  Instead the following chapters are a series of dull vignettes of how supporting characters have spent their time during Superman’s five year absence.  The first, Ma Kent (already in violation of the classic series continuity having passed sometime between Superman II and III) is a bittersweet, mostly internal monologue about her loneliness (with some flashbacks to scenes from STM) concluding with Kal-El’s (somehow undetected) crash landing as seen in the film.  The trend continues with Part 3 as Lex Luthor waxes similarly lyrical during his incarceration and eventual release also with lingering STM flashbacks except this time the art (by Rick Leonardi) is so cartoonishly hideous you’d be pressed to recognise them.

Its left to Lois Lane in Part 4 to conclude proceedings with her descent into bitterness having taken Superman’s absence personally to the point where, quite out of character, she writes a Pulitzer Prize winning piece on ‘Why the world doesn’t need Superman’ after falling for another man and having a child.  Though again interspersed with memorable scenes from STM (including the helicopter rescue and the flight around Metropolis) the flashbacks seem to serve only as a catalyst for misery.

While The Prequels on paper was a great idea and a worthy endeavor,  In execution the run is hurt badly by inconsistency and as a collection fails to engage past the opening chapter. Though Singer, Harris and Dougherty take (large) cover credit, in fact none of the actual comic writing was done by them (Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray for Parts 1&3, Marc Andreyko for 2&4) and the art veers from sublime to ridiculous.  Though its a thrill to see scenes from Superman: The Movie finally, legitimately in print, their treatment here as a springboard to the events in Superman Returns, like the movie itself, leaves much to be desired...

From the top – Cover and pages from The Prequels softcover collection released by DC Comics in 2006…