L’Art de DC…

As a great editor once said – ‘Well if Paris is gonna go gablooey I want my best reporter right in the middle of it’ – and so SUPERMANIA brings you the lowdown on the gleaming new exhibition in France which opened to the public this week.

Quite out of nowhere and “In collaboration with DC Entertainment and with the participation of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, The Art Ludique Le Musee presents “The Art of DC – The Dawn of Super Heroes,” a unique world first exhibition that pays tribute to the story of DC and its iconic Super Heroes and Villains such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Joker at the origin of a true contemporary mythology. 

An original creation of the Art Ludique-Le Musée team, “The Art of DC – The Dawn of the Super Heroes”, unveils more than 250 original historical plates and more than 300 works of research from the cinema and many Costumes and genuine props from the films

We also present the authentic costumes created for the great DC movies such as the mythical costume worn by Christopher Reeve in Superman and the famous costume worn by Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman in the 1970’s…”

While this may be an all-new installation some of the artefacts shown may look familiar.  Indeed, the Superman costume (Top pic, on loan from WB archives) is the same one remounted from the 75th anniversary showcase at comic-con in 2013.

The Clark Kent ensemble, however (second pic) is more of a mystery and may be comprised of genuine suit pieces over a screenused Superman tunic completed with replacement glasses and hat.

The real finds here though are the miniature costumes for special effects flying models of Reeve & Kidder for the ‘Can you read my mind’ sequence in ‘Superman – The Movie’ (third pic).  These wonderful, intricate creations were never seen in the finished picture but remain a  testament to the ingenuity of the art dept. as the Superman costume, for example, is made form the same fabric as the full-size outfits.  Set in a glass case surrounded by hand-drawn storyboards, its as fine a collection of Super-movie history collected in one place you’re ever likely to see…

  • From  March 31, 2017 to September 10, 2017
  • Address : 34 Quai d’Austerlitz – 75013 Paris (metro station Gare d’Austerlitz, parking paying opposite)
  • Prices : 16.50 € (regular rate), 13.50 € (reduced rate), 11 € (children from 4 to 12 years or group +20)
  • Opening hours : Monday: 11:00 – 19:00, Wednesday: 11:00 – 19:00, Thursday: 11:00 – 22:00 – Nocturne, Friday: 11:00 – 19:00, Saturday: 8 pm, Sunday: 10 am – 8 pm

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…

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…

‘He’s My Cousin…’

reeveslaterslater-by-noblesg1

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…