S I T E M A S T E R
M A R T I N – E L
It may or may not have been the first time I ever saw it, but its the one event I remember most. That’s what they were called, you see. The ‘Event Movie’. Its a term lost to time now, (a little like ‘Blockbuster’ in more ways than one) but in the age of the silver screen epic, few things were more anticipated by my generation. In his recent book ‘Watching Skies’ Author Mark O’ Connell describes us as ‘Skykids’ – which is as good a collective noun as any for adolescents born in the early to mid-seventies whose first exposure to Cinema would be the epics as mentioned. If I have to name a single one of them you’re probably on the wrong site.
So imagine, if you will, the excitement back in the day when it was announced there would be a showing – at my school, no less – of Superman (we never called it The Movie in the UK- only later did it become Superman I) in the Main Hall. I’d seen the visiting projectionist a few times before at various children’s birthday parties, he was always polite and fielded many a ludicrous request for as-yet unreleased (or imagined) films from manic kids but never strayed from his 16mm reels as they unspooled. Over fifty kids sat entranced before the pull-down projection screen as the film played out (years before attention-spans were bred out of children entirely) and I was amongst them, most captivated of all.
I remember the collective gasp as Pa Kent collapsed and the silence in the room during the helicopter sequence. Once the picture was over I recall doing a Clark Kent impression as I timidly weaved through the crowd to get to the exit and walked home with my parents looking at the stars above.
During the next few days my mom came home with a couple packets of what we now call Trading Cards. Beneath the dusty stick of rock-hard pink chewing gum were spellbinding images of the Man Of Steel against the city skyline. This, twinned with the envy of a schooolmate who owned the coolest Superman figure I’d ever seen pinpoints the start of the obsession. Forty years later my enthusiasm for what became the Superman Motion Picture Series has yet to wane. In fact it grows with every ‘new’ discovery and the collection of memorabilia has seemingly no bounds.
Growing up in the Video age was incredibly exciting as technology advanced but would equally usher in the decline of the Event Movie as, with VHS, every day could now be an event. We didn’t know it yet, but every viewing on home video further diluted the family occasion that was the highly-anticipated ‘Big Movie’ at Christmas or New Years Day. Indeed, by 1989 and the release of Batman (arguably the very last true Event Movie) the period between theatrical and home video release was shorter than ever and movies became ever more disposable.
For obsessive skykids like me though, repeated viewings on Home Video would yield so much missed detail and hours could (and would) be spent simply watching the blue streaks of the (still unsurpassed) main title sequence with its thumping soundtrack, or fast-forwarding for the thrill of Superman’s first night. By this time, the sequels had also arrived so it was not unusual to watch all three films in a day (whilst also keeping a blank tape in close proximity to the Toploader should anything Superman-related pop up).
For a uniquely American icon I have always taken great pride in the fact the movies that defined him for generations to come were predominantly British-made, by UK craftsmen at the very top of their game. Say what you like about contemporary Superhero (a term I despise, btw) movies but even today, few walk away with an Academy Award for Special Effects and a BAFTA for its leading man on only his second feature. Indeed, this site was created to honour the likes of everyone from Denys Coop to John Barry and Wally Veevers to Derek Meddings, Les Bowie and back to maintain their legacy.
By that reckoning, outside of the classic movie series I have little interest in any of the character’s numerous incarnations. For me, there is only ever one continuity (now affectionately termed the Donnerverse) so the features and memorabilia showcased here are mostly from that era. However I can’t help but occasionally recall the other Salkind ventures like Supergirl and the SuperBoy TV show. I also have a great deal of affection for the comic-books of the Bronze Age, where it seemed artists like Curt Swan, Neal Adams and Jose Garcia-Lopez reached up to the screen to pull Superman back onto the page every month.
And we can’t continue about legacy without acknowledging the late, great Christopher Reeve. I often get asked ‘Why Superman?’ by folk and while it might really be too big a question to answer I always prefer to let Chris’ iconic image and performance speak for itself. It took a classically-trained newcomer to treat the subject matter ‘like the bible’, but the earnest young actor managed to transcend everything published or filmed to date by simply making the Man of Steel real.
The SUPERMANIA mission is to preserve and celebrate this era of the Superman Legacy and thankfully I’m not alone in this endeavour. Somehow, the fanbase for the Donnerverse is as omnipresent as it is strong and long may it continue. I must therefore acknowledge the continuing efforts and inspiration provided by my friends Jim Bowers of CapedWonder.com,