Thursday, June 22, 2006

Getting to Know the Man of Steel

So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "League, i've already pre-purchased my tickets online. I'm camping out front of the theater. What else can a Superman fan such as myself do to get prepared?"

In this installment, I shall suggest some fun Superman media you can consider enjoying to enhance your Super Summer.


Superman: The Movie

Perhaps the definitive comic-to-film adaptation, Richard Donner's 1978 film Superman: The Movie busted open the post-1960's camp Batman idea of what comic characters were about. The original 500 page script handed in by Mario Puzo (that's about 350-375 pages longer than most scripts, Leaguers) served as the template for the epic films that Donner and Co. would produce between Superman I and Superman II.

The film remains visually stunning with practical effects that today's film-makers wouldn't have the cajones to consider, let alone pull off. A terrific love story, a diabolical villain, space opera, romantic middle America... there's a little something in this flick for everybody.

And it redefined what Superman would be in comics and television for the next 30 years.

Superman II

"The problem with Superman" we are repeatedly told, "is that you can't come up with a reasonable threat." Try three Kryptonian supervillains hell-bent on subjugating the Earth.

The film lacks the epic resonance of the first film and interrupts it's spectacular action sequences with some hammy comedy, but there's a lot to like in this sequel. Questions abound whether the replacement of Donner and subsequent reshoots by Richard Lester made for a lesser film, but we'll have some of the mystery solved this December with a restored "Donner Cut" of Superman II coming to DVD.

I personally like Lois in this film, even if her feminine whiles convince Superman to give up his mojo and have some seriously weak blow-dried hair. It's all worth it, int he end, to see Superman pop open his can of whoop-ass.

Superman: Man of Steel by John Byrne

Post Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne re-told the origin of Superman and re-established the Superman mythos in a model which both reflected the movies and openly rejected other concepts. Krypton took on a new design, but mirrored the cold society of the films. Meanwhile, Clark Kent was no longer portrayed as a goof, instead he was an accomplished journalist and author, and a believable foil for Lois. Luthor was no longer just a scientist, but a corporate mogul using others to do his dirty work (perhaps a combination of Robert Vaughn's villain from Superman III and Hackman's Luthor).

Wonderfully drawn and briskly paced, really the first Superman comics to turn me on to the character.

Superman: Peace on Earth by Paul Dini and Alex Ross

A beautifully told story of Superman's attempt to assist the Earth in overcoming hunger and need. Expertly written by Paul Dini and perfectly rendered by Alex Ross, this heart-breaking tale may be one of the most human stories ever told of The Man of Steel.

The Superman Chronicles #1

DC Comics and Marvel Comics are no dopes when it comes to milking the fan base for more coin. DC has a prestige collection of books, printed in hardcover on archive paper, and dubbed them "Archive Editions". I love these books. But I cannot afford them.

In 2005 DC launched the "Chronicles" editions of their reprints, which are paperback collections, in color, on half-way decent paper. (The lowest tier are the "Showcase Presents", printed on newsprint in black and white. But also $16 for 550+ pages of comics.)

Superman Chronicles has only seen one release, but it's the origin of Superman told in order, reprinting classic Siegel and Shuster work. This is the "circus strongman" Superman, clearly designed to look like an aerialist with a cape, and who spends a lot of time making jokes at crooks' expense while dangling them from atop telephone wires.

Also, Lois is one brassy dame in these comics.


The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves, Noel Neill, etc...

The thrilling 1950's-era TV series which brought a new kind of adventure to a medium in it's infancy. The half-hour program featured the adventures of the crew at the Daily Planet as they uncovered gangs of mobsters, out of control robots and shady mining operations. Fortunately, no matter the danger, Superman is always near-by to save our team of erstwhile heroes.

Superman: A Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

A story set in Superman's earliest career and including scenes from his youth in Smallville. A fantastic take on Superman coming to terms with genuine evil in the world. Sale's art is a wonderful compliment to nostalgic story.

Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu

A recent re-telling of Superman's earliest days in Metropolis, meant to bring Superman back into line with Smallville and certain Silver-Age elements. A bit confusing how it fits into continuity, but beautifully rendered and well told.

Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told by various

A collection of some of the best Superman stories of the past 70 years, pulling from all eras in DC's extensive publishing history. A terrific snapshot of Superman through the years.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness

Probably a good place to check out an all-out action story with Superman and Batman against the world. If you aren't sure how Superman and Batman would work together, here's a good place to check out the World's Finest at their best.

Leaguers, there's 70 years of material out there. I'm sure you can find something to enjoy.

1 comment:

Carla said...

For a newbie like me this is just great. Thanks!