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…

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..!

R&B…

As significant and reliable a gift to fandom as its sister publications Starlog and Fangoria, vintage publication Comics Scene was regarded as a pre-internet bible for the medium and its various transitions to the big & small screen.

Indeed, arguably the most compelling aspect of the magazine were ‘The Comics Screen’ found in the back pages which featured an alphabetical list of all the comic-book based films either in production or ‘development hell’ where many would languish (and remain unmade to this day).

Toward the end of the ‘S’ column in Issue #1 of the second volume (the first being a short run between 1982-83), however, Superman IV was not only listed as in release but also on the cover of the special (top pic) for the start of a revival of the periodical which would last until 1996.

Consistently running pieces on the comics industry alongside the cinematic adaptations, the Superman double-whammy would be interviews with actor Christopher Reeve and comic-book writer/artist John Byrne, who, on the back of his huge success with origin-revision Man of Steel  was now heading up the monthly Superman book.  While Byrne speaks candidly about his process of ‘clearing off the barnacles’ from fifty years of mythos to get back to basics, Reeve offers his personal insights into the development of the character and his recent intervention in the arms race (above).

Decades later, its interesting to note that Byrne’s highest hopes were that his Superman be remembered in the same regard as Neal Adams or Curt Swan’s while Reeve’s desire was the character remain a leader rather than a muscleman.  Between them, both of these ideals and many more besides would come to pass, building a better Man of Steel for the 80’s and beyond…

Welcome To The Family..?

Although originally conceived by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind as a series of movies ‘much like the Bond films’, the critical and commercial disappointment of Superman III had prompted a revision that ultimately lead to the screen debut of Supergirl.  When the spin-off failed to hit the heady heights of its predecessor the future of the franchise became uncertain.

By 1985, with Santa Claus: the Movie proving to be another misfire, the Salkinds relinquished their interest in the Super portfolio to the Cannon Group, who, despite a reputation for churning out straight to video trash, were nonetheless expanding into the mainstream at an alarming rate.  Literally buying up every comic-related property on the market at the time, Captain America, Spider-Man and Masters Of The Universe were in pre-production already but Cannon needed a sure-fire hit with a built-in audience to start the momentum, and who better than the Man of Steel?

And so Christopher Reeve was welcomed into the Cannon Family, (top pic, from the pages of Variety) with ecstatic producers proclaiming that they had managed to secure him by ‘Giving him the picture he wanted, and one that the world wanted’.  With his personal project (contemporary thriller Street Smart) greenlighted and greater creative input into Superman’s writing and direction, Reeve would become a willing Cannon ambassador ( even making a personal appearance for the opening of a Cannon Multiplex cinema in Salford Quays, England (third & fourth pic).

The infatuation with their new adoptive son would be short-lived, however, and Reeve would soon become the black sheep of the Cannon family. In an amazing show of foresight, during filming of Street Smart, Reeve chewed out an outraged Golan over the phone by demanding another 1.5 million to shoot on location in New York, stating ‘If you don’t have the money to do this, how do I know you have the 30 Million to do Superman IV?’ (watch the fantastic footage here).

Of course, history now tells us just how well-founded these concerns were as by January of 1987 Screen International covered the story of Cannon’s bailing out by Warner Brothers (second pic) but such was the extent of  the company’s losses that it collapsed altogether the following year, having slashed Superman IV’s budget and forcing Director Gary Godard to fund the closing scenes of Masters Of The Universe out of his own pocket.

It was a debacle that the Superman series, and essentially Reeve’s career would not recover from.  The Salkinds, meanwhile, incensed by the treatment of their most successful property, immediately renegotiated the rights to move forward with their foray into television with Superboy alongside a little project with the working title of ‘Superman – The New Movie’…

Too True To Be Good…

1987_Superman_IV_Lobby_CardRetro_Superman_IV_Comic_Adaptation_Print_1987_00Retro_Superman_Comic_Poster_Classic_00198800_000Superman_IV_Release_Lobby_Print_1986_0000000SUPERMANIA flies straight into the fortieth anniversary year of Superman: The Movie‘s production with a renewed pledge to bring you the most rare and obscure ephemera from the classic films as exemplified by the scarce promo’s above.

From the top – clipped from the pages of British Screen, the half page ad for Superman IV features a rare behind the scenes still of Christopher Reeve swooping in to Milton Keynes as part of Cannon Films optimistic submissions to BAFTA – A newspaper ad for the comic adaptation of Superman IV from 1987 – A DC Comics trade ad championing Neal Adams return to Superman comics in 1988 and a somewhat premature announcement for Superman V from a brochure given out at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.

Of course, in an ideal world, all of the above would be true but in fact, sadly none of these images are genuine vintage but are in fact the latest creations of artist and SuperFan Jason Leggett, whose convincing works of nostalgia have been featured on the site many times before.  Look out for more of Jason’s retro designs in the coming weeks…