‘He’s My Cousin…’

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Now that the long-awaited team-up of the Man of Steel with the Maid of Might has finally made its successful screen debut, (albeit on television) SUPERMANIA goes once upon a time-warp to investigate just how & why the opportunity to do this some thirty years earlier on the big screen was lost.

With the latest addition to the collection of a second-draft script (Dated November 1982) produced by Alexander Salkind and written by David Odell, could the mystery of Christopher Reeve’s 11th hour decision to pull out (forcing last-minute script rewrites) be solved?  Would the film have been better received had Superman remained part of the story as originally planned?

By late 1982 filming was concluding on Superman III with the general understanding that this would be the last of a ground-breaking, phenomenally successful movie trilogy.  By part III, the saga was flailing in terms of concept and script quality and its star was also keen to move on to pursue other roles.  Not yet ready to put their cash cow back out to pasture, however, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind (cannily having made the deal for the rights to the entire Superman family back in 1976) decided to mount a spin-off series of pictures based on the adventures of Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El.  Supergirl.

With Jaws 2 and Somewhere In Time Director Jeannot Swarzc attached and Dark Crystal screenwriter Odell on script duties, to say nothing of a gargantuan budget for the time and the same talented team of SFX technicians the Salkind’s must have been assured of another blockbuster franchise…

Its surprising for a second draft just how much material made it unchecked into the finished picture – the plot, structure and dialogue in key scenes survived what would have been countless rewrites after Superman’s exit.  So what of his role in the story?  Evidently, the lack of a Superman forced the creation of the Omegahedron, the power source Kara pursues in the movie to save her home Argo City, from destruction.

Keen to capitalise on Reeve’s established audience to springboard their new, unknown star, Superman was supposed to be ready and waiting for Kara’s arrival so he could introduce her to a new world.  As for insights into what made Reeve reject the script – arguably it may still have been to early to return to the part having publicly made his decision to retire but beyond that, the material presented here was, for want of a better word, garbage.

With all the rich story potential this opens up (to say nothing of Supergirl’s comic-book history) it seems incredible Odell produced such a confusing nonsensical mess based around the weak concept of ‘Magic’.  The Superman here is not developed in any way and lacks the charm and warmth we associate with the character .  In fact, Kal-El and Kara are afforded little time together to build any kind of releationship before Superman gets relagated to a bizarre sub-plot, abandoning Earth for- I kid you not – the ‘Planet of the Healers’ not to reappear until the end.  His one big action scene, (the battle with the invisible Shadow Beast shot with Supergirl in the final cut) is played out exactly as in the film ‘Leave this place and do no harm!’ but renders him weak and powerless having been exposed to Selena’s spell.

This, alongside the odd Zoltar character (a confused self-involved artist – not yet the scenery-chewing incarnation he becomes) and Jody (not yet Lucy) Lane and poor Jimmy Olsen showing up in once scene do little to advance proceedings.  Conversely, the Selena character is given a far more sinister background here as the newly-elected leader of an occult sect – but without the desire for the Omegahedron’s power she’s given no more motivation to take over the world than to win the affections of her dimwit gardener and destroy Supergirl in the process.  Its possible the witchcraft illustrated here (including using a severed ear as a communication device!) made the producers nervous about appealing to a family audience so was diluted to the cringeworthy camp which it became.

In short, its not difficult to understand why the movie failed on so many levels and why Reeve was smart enough to turn it down.  Today, as a cult curio if little else, Supergirl has its fans and is fondly remembered but hardly the cinematic titan it was intended.  Had Odell adhered more to the science fiction aspect without fully embracing the fantasy elements (Innerspace/Outerspace? What?) we would surely have gotten a better take (a road the producers of the current Supergirl series have wisely taken) and who knows?  A Super-sequel guest starring the Man of Steel may have been the premiere Super-Hero team-up we deserved…

From the top – Christopher Reeve & Helen Slater meet at a Premiere in 1984, Unpublished poster art by Lawrence Noble, Front cover and select script pages featuring Superman from Odell’s 132 page screenplay…

Going Once…

image-0223image-0227image-0230image-0231image-0232Going under the gavel in in a matter of days and currently on display at the IMAX Odeon in London’s Waterloo, this unprecedented collection of production/screenused treasures from the series of Superman films is presented in catalogue form by Propstore here on SUPERMANIA.

High-end pieces all with estimates set to suit a modest or high budget, this gathering of production ephemera and screenused props represents the finest collection of Superman related material to hit the market since the Ilya Salkind collection was offered by Profiles in History in 2007.

Chief among the lots is the full-size Starship ruin from Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, first positively identified and documented on SUPERMANIA here and presumed lost to storage after the closure of the London Film museum in 2013.  ‘Superman’s Pod’ was obtained by Propstore and now offered in exactly the same condition as it was seen on display (then incorrectly listed as originating from Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie) and is a completely unique piece of Super-history.

Other highlights are the Cosmonaut suits (made by costumiers Bermans and Nathans) from the opening scenes of Superman IV and storyboards from Superman III.  Fans of the original movie and its sequel are catered for also by a pair of scripts and photographic contact sheets and even Supergirl is represented by a superb piece of (ultimately unused) concept art by Chris Achillieos.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bid and own these pieces starts at 2PM (GMT+1) on 23rd of September.  SUPERMANIA would like to extend an advance invitation to the lucky new owners to have their purchases showcased here along with their stories…

Not a Man…

8897955940_14d19f8d66_oSupergirl_Double-001Supergirl_Crew-001SGflyBWWe interrupt our scheduled posts in the wake of the brand new viral promo from CBS currently polarizing comic fans across the globe – for the Maid of Might has taken to the airwaves once again.

In this unprecedented six-minutes of footage we see much of the established comic -canon has been given a contemporary makeover (for better or worse).  While it may be galling to see a character as iconic as cub reporter Jimmy Olsen upgraded from ginger hair & freckles to tall black man, Kara Danvers (apparently not Linda Lee) thankfully seems to have most of her character traits intact.

Amid all the camp, teen angst and homages to The Devil Wears Prada, there does seem to be some compelling action, decent effects, great costume (courtesy of designer Colleen Attwood) and most importantly an acknowledgement of previous ‘Super’ stars – exemplified by the appearance of Dean Cain and Helen Slater in as yet unidentified roles (Earth Parents??).

And so in true SUPERMANIA fashion we go retro to 1984 to revisit and celebrate the Salkind’s mega-budget incarnation of Supergirl on the big screen with these scarce behind the scenes portraits above – firstly with a studio shot of Helen Slater perfectly cast as Kara Zor-El (top) and alongside her stunt double (Wendy Leech?) On location in Scotland with ‘cape wrangler’ to hand (If anybody can identify the crew here it would be appreciated!) and finally a magnificent front projection shot in-flight.

Supergirl will fly again in November…

“These are my clothes…”

5536567034_a626cec308_o5536431172_d49658758a_o5509960244_4e7531b01d_o5448263280_29c9cd35e6_oWith the unveiling of the latest live-action incarnation of the Maid of Might going viral faster than a speeding bullet, SUPERMANIA leaps ‘once upon a timewarp’ to compare Super-Fashions thru the ages.

While the new small-screen ensemble leans heavily to the modern trend of muted, almost blacked out colours (influenced by, and therefore canon with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel) its interesting to observe that the basic format of the suit has transcended any excessive studio revisionism and still echoes the movie version years later.

Emerging from a decade where the Superhero costume in live action was considered passé and decidedly uncool (pioneered by the producers of Smallville and their ‘no flights, no tights’ rule) its refreshing have the source material embraced fully once again.

Indeed, given the creative freedom afforded to other recent DC Comics adaptations like Arrow and The Flash with their ultra-modern twist the fact the mini-skirt and even the classic ‘S’ shield survived intact signifies a welcome return to classic comic iconography.

The translation of a comic-book costume to screen is traditionally subject to infinitesimal changes as designer Emma Porteous discovered in creating Helen Slater’s look for Supergirl in 1984.  Literally adapting the style seen in the comics of the era, early versions of the costume (as seen in the Making of Supergirl) had the young actress screentest in a baggy suit resplendent with red headband. Successive fittings would eventually realise a feminine version of the Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve (even utilizing his production-used capes) with the subtle additions of yellow waistband and a two-tone skirt in place of red shorts.

In 2011 The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was host to a multitude of screenused treasures in their ‘Incredible Costumes from Film & TV’ exhibition, where an original Supergirl costume (on loan from the Azerian collection) was paired with one of Lynda Carter’s surviving season 2 costumes from Wonder Woman (top pic).  Exclusive images courtesy of their flickr album permit detailed inspection of the costume as it was prepared for display confirming the fabric used was indeed the same ‘Bridal weight spandex’ from the Superman series and that the capes were trimmed considerably (second pic).

As the boots were not present to complete the outfit its notable that the tights actually had boot-esque stockings attached to be worn beneath them in exactly the same design with the yellow trim.  Construction-wise the suit retains the same patterns as the Superman costume with the exception of the chest shield, which in this instance is so small the complex method of inserting the negative shapes gave way to simply stitching the ‘S’ directly onto the yellow background.

With the new show debuting this year and rumours of Helen Slater making an appearance it seems the Supergirl fairytale is set to continue for years to come…

SFX Superhero Special Pt.2…

SIISIIISGSIVIn conclusion to the Superheroes On Screen series started with this post, the 2003 UK SFX Magazine Superhero Special Collectors Edition turns its attention to the Super-Sequels and their much-lamented spin-off.  If you were hitherto unaware of the cheeky but clever special effect highlighted in the trivia box on the Supergirl page I recommend watching its conception in the excellent ‘making of’ special found on the Limited Edition DVD