As the very proud custodian of the ‘Big Red Book’, any follower of SUPERMANIA will be aware of my affinity for the UK national treasure that is Martin Asbury. Most notable for his long-running newspaper strip ‘Garth’, Asbury went on to storyboard some of the most popular movies of the last few decades, culminating in the as-yet-unreleased latest Bond film ‘No Time to Die’.
Last seen here in vintage footage working in his studio at Elstree, a catch-up with the man himself was long overdue and courtesy of Superfan Philip Hawkins, we finally got the chance to ask the burning questions in the Superman IV Live Watch Along Event. Laughingly referring to it as ‘The Greatest Film Ever Made’ Asbury’s candid and frank recollections are a fascinating insight into the production. As if this wasn’t enough, during the Zoom call another Hollywood legend logged on to contribute – Mr Harrison Ellenshaw! To hear the old friends reminiscing was a joy in itself but for Superfans there were revelations aplenty about the making of Superman IV. For example –
• Asbury was credited as concept and Matte artist but for not his main duties as storyboard artist.
• He designed the opening credits of the film under the direction of Sidney J. Furie – Clive Mantle’s credit as Nuclearman 1 was cut.
• Storyboarding was completed before the role of Nuclearman was cast, explaining why he’s drawn like the ‘Silver Surfer’
• Asbury was also the artist for the matte painting of the Volcano – it’s still in his possession and is currently used as a ramp for a catflap at his home(!) The Lava in the Volcano scene was porridge lit from below.
• Harrison Ellenshaw brought his father Peter out of retirement to help finish the Matte paintings due to the tight schedule
• According to Asbury, besides Lex Luthor’s lair, most of the sets for the film were ‘tiny’
• Sidney J. Furie couldn’t watch the test screening and sat waiting in a restaurant across from the theater. Harrison Ellenshaw said the audience were ‘throwing things at the screen’ in protest
• The test screening was a ‘rough cut’ of 134 minutes. Based on the audience response, Warner Brothers immediately ordered ‘whole reels be dropped’ to bring the runtime down.
• Even though he knew the picture was collapsing around him, Christopher Reeve ‘Never had a bad word to say about anybody’ and ‘was a very pleasant and approachable man – not grand in any way’.
• The production began shooting at Pinewood Studios as the first three had done – it was then re-located to Elstree
• Christopher Reeve suffered an allergic reaction to his new Superman costumes and came out in an uncomfortable rash all over his body
• Mark Pillow had twisted his ankle during filming so an insert showing Superman stamping on Nuclearman’s foot was shot to explain the limp.
• Nuclearman’s demise was filmed at the now-demolished Didcot Power Station and the entrance to the Boys School where Lenny is dropped off are the gates to Elstree Studios
Philip will be making an edit of the event available on Facebook shortly – I urge both Superfans and anybody with an interest in the movie business to give it a listen….
SUPERMANIA brings you a first-hand report from the halls of the Art Ludique-Le Musée in Paris, currently housing the largest archive of DC Comics related exhibits from both page and screen ever to be assembled.
First reported here and now extended until January next year, word on the museum’s Facebook page is ‘The Art of DC – Dawn of the Superheroes’ is destined for the UK in 2018, just in time for the 40th anniversary of Superman: The Movie.
For now, however, please enjoy the superb images and insights from Superfan Graham Holden as he takes you on this exclusive walkthrough…
“Having heard about “The Art of DC – Dawn of the Super Heroes” exhibition around the time it was originally due to close in September, I was excited to hear it had been extended to early January 2018 so I had to pay a visit. The only concern I had was that the exhibition itself was being held at the Art Ludique-Le Musée in Paris and not closer to me in the UK.
When I walked into the exhibition, I was immediately thrilled to hear John Williams’ classic Superman theme playing on a continuous loop – and soon as I turned the corner, there stood the holy grail I had come to see above everything else…a near perfect Superman The Movie costume as worn by Christopher Reeve. The Superman costume colours were vibrant and in great condition, with a small bit of wear on the oval belt buckle. I was very surprised by just how great the costume looked, you’d never have guessed it was over 40 years old. Alongside it stood a Clark Kent suit with unbuttoned shirt and Superman tunic beneath it from Superman II, It’s a moment any fan of Superman – especially the Christopher Reeve series – will get goosebumps seeing these iconic costumes with the iconic theme playing around you at the same time.
I felt like a kid standing face to face with the Man of Steel himself and was very happy I’d made this pilgrimage to see this exhibition. Around the same area were a number of storyboard drawings and preproduction designs from both Superman I &II, including an alternative look at Krypton technology and The Phantom Zone with Jor-El and the villains sketched out.
There were also small Superman and Lois Lane models side by side in a display case, used for their romantic night time flight over Metropolis. You could tell from the detailing on the Superman model that the same fabric used to make the costumes worn by Reeve had also been used in the miniature.
As I spent considerable time taking in these exhibits and looking over them again and again, numerous visitors were entering and the reaction to seeing Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume was the same as mine, pure joy and excitement with lots of photographs and selfies taken.
As for the rest of the exhibition, we were treated to much more original comic book artwork from the world of DC Comics, as well as costumes, props and production artwork from Superman Returns, the unmade Superman Lives and Batman ’89, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin and The Dark Knight trilogy.
Thank you DC Comics, Warner Brothers and Art Ludique-Le Musée for creating this exhibition and allowing this fan from the UK and many others, the chance to enjoy such a priceless experience…”
SUPERMANIA is proud to present the first of what will hopefully be a series of custom projects to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Superman: The Movie in 2018.
A longtime collaboration with Alexei Lambley-Steel has once again yielded an item of superior quality for the discerning SuperFan in the form of a replica necktie as worn by Clark Kent in his first scenes at the Daily Planet.
The ‘City Beat’ has been meticulously recreated from the original costume as originally supplied by Barney’s of New York. Using newly-discovered reference material (Bottom pic) the tie also features a reproduction Bermans & Nathans costume tag with handwritten details (just like the originals!) of the scene number for which it was used (as per the script) and the number from its Limited Edition of 50.
Response to this superb retro accessory has been phenomenal and very few remain. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further info.
Coming soon, Clark Kent’s iconic Tortoiseshell eyeglasses…