I interviewed Black Lightning’s creator about 15 years ago and he said that he’d kiss Sinbad for the job he did on this one.
Posts Tagged ‘Superman’
A joke on “Archer” made me aware of the death of Michael Findlay. A sexploitation film director of the 1960s and 70s, he was slashed to death by a helicopter on top of a New York City skyscraper. While boarding passengers and preparing to take off, with the blades spinning, the accident caused the helicopter to suddenly lurch. Three people, including Findlay, were killed as the blades smashed to bits, another passenger died later, and a woman on the street below was killed by debris.
Then I noticed the year this happened: 1977. The year before “Superman: The Movie” debuted, in which Superman’s first public appearance happens when Lois Lane boards a helicopter on a rooftop, which then spins out of control due to a fault and threatens the lives of people both in the copter and on the streets below.
Maybe this was an obvious connection at the time; I was only a kid, unaware of all but the biggest news events. The writers of the Superman movie had to think up a first appearance for Superman that would be a real grabber. The helicopter accident always struck me as a bit underwhelming, but to a public that had helicopter crashes on its collective mind, that might make more sense.
In the comic books, aside from the 1938 story where he first appears lifting a car full of gangsters after they kidnap Lois from a dance, there never really was a canonical “first appearance of Superman” that all the fans knew like gospel. The reason was: Superboy, “The Adventures of Superman When He Was A Boy,” became part of the canon in the early 1940s. This meant that Superman was first introduced to the world as Superboy. A 1984 mini-series finally filled in the first appearance of Superman when, in the middle of fighting Lex Luthor, a college-aged Superboy decides it’s time he called himself Superman. So…ta-da, I guess?
Come to think of it…I don’t even know if there’s a “world gets introduced to Superboy for the first time” story. There either isn’t one…or there are 40 competing stories! Either way, like I said before, there wasn’t a really legendary tale of Superman/boy’s first appearance that we all knew by heart.
In comic book canon, Superman’s first “reveal to the public” moment was in John Byrne’s “Man of Steel #1” that relaunched Superman and reinvented him for the post-Crisis era. For the first time since 1943, there was no Superboy. Superman makes his first appearance at age 25 when he rescues a damaged “space plane” with Lois Lane aboard. That 1986 mini-series happened the year of the Challenger disaster. Whereas the Findlay accident may have inspired Superman: The Movie’s helicopter scene, this story was already in the works when Challenger exploded and (reportedly) the story was hastily rewritten to use a gigantic space plane that in no way resembled the shuttle. Though he isn’t in costume, everyone recognizes that this was Superman when he later shows up in the cape, so it is accepted as his debut appearance.
In 1993’s “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” which draws heavily from the Byrne-era continuity, Superman first appears in costume stopping a bomb on a new spaceship. He swallows the bomb, then assists with the successful launch.
An air disaster is again part of the first appearance of Superman in The Animated Series (1996) episode The Last Son of Krypton (Part 3), though he first fights robo-suits stolen from LexCorp. An errant missile fired from a LexCorp suit strikes a plane, causing Superman to save it. (There’s just something about a flying man catching a weighty flying machine that comes across as iconic.)
20 years later, the movie “Superman Returns” would have Lois on a genuine space shuttle which Superman has to rescue as part of his first public re-appearance after a five year absence. Very likely this was cribbing a bit from the John Byrne story. I can’t complain since the entire sequence is one of the highlights of the film.
The finale of Smallville, which I did not see (gave up on that show after season 1), has Superman rescuing Air Force One in his costume for the first time.
Every single one of these stories has one thing in common: the sudden appearance of a super-powered brightly-costumed flying man who saves lives, lifts heavy objects, does a good deed, smiles at the public, and flies away leaving everyone in awe.
So, of course, the “Man of Steel” movie charts a new course by doing none of that. Superman’s just a laundry-stealing nobody who wanders America destroying personal property in ways that cannot be explained. Man of Steel’s defenders stress that Clark doesn’t know who he is and is still figuring out his way in life, which is why he hasn’t decided if he’s a guy who kills people or not. (Yeah, except that he’s 33 years old! Granted, they chose that age just to over-emphasize the Jesus angle, but it really does make it odd that he doesn’t have a career yet. It’s not like he’s 19 and backpacking across Europe. Oh, and the whole point of being raised by salt-of-the-Earth middle Americans is that you get raised with a moral code and a sense of responsibility, so that you aren’t a wandering bum…but I’ll save that argument for another time. Still…a moral person doesn’t let his dad run into a tornado to save the family dog in his place and then let him die just to protect his own ass.) Clark is only revealed to the world because Kryptonians who intend to kill everyone on Earth need a vital codex that he’s secreted somewhere, so they demand that he turn himself over to the military. He’s just an alien in hiding who first appears standing in the desert wearing a weird costume to surrender himself to the military. All the public knows is that some aliens went to Metropolis and began flattening millions of people on both ends of the Earth into mush. (The filmmakers want it to be horrific, though they don’t show you a single dead or mangled body, so you could be forgiven for thinking it was all abandoned buildings and vehicles.) Then one of the aliens started fighting the others, caused skyscrapers to be destroyed, and finally snapped the neck of the alien leader.
Side note: I never really thought about it before, but these new Kryptonians are keeping with the Zeitgeist of the times. Instead of ostentatiously flying around showing off their powers, a la Superman II, they just send out low-quality video messages of blackened figures making demands of the public, and then later they begin destroying towers and firetrucks and killing massive amounts of people without warning as part of their campaign where everyone who isn’t part of their new order will be dead. You know. Like…well, the terrorists who’ve been fighting us for decades. I won’t say what they are, but it rhymes with Babical Bizlam.
Anyway, this is a horrible way to introduce Superman. Granted, he fights Zod. We don’t see him rescue anyone during the fight, or rescue trapped people afterward, or clean up debris (remember the months it took to search for survivors and then remains while carting away all the wreckage at Ground Zero, which was just a relative handful of tall buildings?), or fly someone to a hospital, or even simply smile that Superman smile one time! He then destroys valuable military property that we all pay for out of our taxes just to be a jerk about it.
The entire premise of this new Superman vs. Batman movie is about how miserable the first movie was in establishing Superman’s persona, that it couldn’t even get across the idea that he is a good guy! It’s a plot, sure, but how far do you have to go from the general concept of Superman? Why, in the 20 languishing years of Superman’s development, does Superman get bounced back and forth amongst writers, producers and directors who hate that the product is about a big blue flying boy scout in a red cape and shorts who follows a moral code and lives his life for others? Why can’t Superman be an inspiring fantasy, like Harry Potter or Star Wars, instead of an angsty, humorless, brooding loner in dark armor? We’ve already got Batman for that!
Superman Returns was a disappointment due to Lois Lane being a 22-year-old single mom with a five year old kid in a distracting subplot that didn’t make either Lois or Superman come off particularly well, but that airplane scene knew what Superman was all about. I got more of a giddy thrill from seeing Superman facing off against the minigun-wielding criminal at the bank than I got from the entire Man of Steel movie.
Superman is supposed to be iconic, not so dark that he can be mistaken for Darth Vader from afar, an experience I had when seeing a standee at the grocery store. See, the red shorts are part of that icon, a point which DC and the filmmakers seem to loathe but Warner Brothers knows well enough since most of the general-public merchandise they produce still includes the bright costume with the yellow belt and red shorts. The public LIKES the bright smiling guy! We don’t want midnight-blue Underoos for our kids; why do they think we would hate the big blue boy scout if he was on the big screen?
Here’s hoping the new movie can show us a more inspiring Superman. Although the frowny, humorless, dark-tinted looks of Wonder Woman and Aquaman don’t give me much confidence.
Michael Hutchison discusses the new Man of Steel movie with Erik Burnham, writer of Ghostbusters, TMNT, and Scarlet Spider.
Just in time for Superman’s 75th Anniversary, here is our podcast about the Superman movies. It was recorded in early 2010..so forgive my foolish yearnings at the end to see a Green Lantern movie. This is probably the best-sounding and most ambitious podcast, although I actually didn’t bother to go through and remove ums and ahs like I usually do.. It has music and I learned some new Adobe tricks. Believe it or not, the original MP3 file of this 75 minute recording was 108 megs! I shrunk it down to 18, but it’s still huge. I hope this will tide you over for a little while.
This will be the last of our Lost Podcasts, and Erik and I will be recording some new material soon. What do YOU want us to discuss? Leave a note in the comments!
If you want to subscribe, the Feed links are in a box on the right-hand side.
I really don’t like this new change to Superman’s origin. Not one bit.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I have a hard time letting go of my skepticism regarding some issues when I’m reading a comic book.
The whole secret identity thing is getting a bit impossible to believe. It used to be that the only people snapping Superman’s picture were Jimmy Olsen and the ubiquitous Japanese tourist, but now EVERYONE has cell phones that can take pictures.
Back in the 1980s, John Byrne tried to explain that Superman was careful to vibrate his face when he was in public so that no one got a good look at him. But Superman now must contend with the Japanese mega-nerd.
Of course, even back in the 1980s, I thought it odd that Superman is twisting steel girders in his bare hands, leaving fingerprints all over Metropolis.
So…millions of photos taken of Superman every day as he pulls school buses away from suspension bridges and stops bank robbers who have futuristic tanks. And all of those pedestrians immediately upload their pictures to Facebook. Then Facebook uses its new facial recognition program and spits back, “We have auto-tagged Clark Kent!”
Then Facebook finds the photos of Clark Kent with Bruce Wayne, and adds, “We have also found Matches Malone! Would you like to add Matches? Yes? We have now tagged Matches and Carmine Falcone! Carmine, would you like to add Clark Kent to your friends list? You have 83 friends in common!” (And there it displays the entire Justice League membership.)
Spoilers, I guess, if anyone cares.
As I buy old trade paperbacks from Scott Beatty, it has allowed me to catch up on some comic books I wasn’t buying even when I bought comic books. (I haven’t been to a comic shop since Blackest Night ended.)
So, I read this TPB that was all about Ruin, a new villain who had lots of insight into Superman’s personal life. It is heavily implied (too much, really) that it is Pete Ross, but the ID was not revealed in that book. Ruin is at one point captured, but he kills all of the policemen in the paddywagon with him (gorily so; there’s blood everywhere) and escapes.
The story is, sorry to say, not all that good. I don’t want to buy another book just to see who it is, so I look up “Ruin” on Wikipedia.
It’s Professor Emil Hamilton. Now, this is a guy who held a handgun on a young “strumpet” in order to compel Superman to do his bidding in only his second appearance, but he was stressed from Lex Luthor stealing his work and I always had the impression he wouldn’t really commit murder. He did his time in prison and had been a friend and asset to Superman ever since.
Then he started believing that Superman was a drain on the sun and would bring about the death of humanity in only 4.5 billion years instead of 5 billion. That’s why he suddenly turned into a mass murderer.
If he’d turned against Superman because he thought it would reunite him with Ray Palmer, I’d have said he had a better motivation.
To go from kindly absent-minded scientist to a man willing to rip apart police officers with his bare hands just doesn’t seem that believable. And I think they only did that because he was a traitor in the Justice League animated series, where his actions made total sense.
Topless Robot’s blog gives the details: Batman Peed His Pants. (Language warning for the blog’s content.)
Kevin Smith takes one of the most awesome scenes in Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” and has Batman recap it. For the effect, Batman wired up some explosives. One of them went off too hot and it caused Batman to pee his pants.
Now…if Batman was having an out-of-his-weight-class battle with Killer Croc or Bane, and the rascal punched Batman so hard in the gut that he lost bladder control… I might quibble that that is a little TMI for a Batman comic, but it also conveys the dirty tactics of the opponent or how tooth-and-nail the fight is getting. If Batman was on stakeout for hours, perched on top of a gargoyle, and in his thought balloons he said that he needed a bathroom break, I’d be surprised that DC permitted such a reference, even though it shows his human vulnerability. (After all, Superman processes 100% of what he eats, which means he doesn’t need to use the bathroom.) But recounting years later how he had an accident in his costume during one of his great set pieces? Appalling. Adam West is rolling in his grave.
But, what do you expect from Kevin Smith? Sadly, his name has enough cache to generate sales even though his comic book writing is fanzine-level at best.
Over on Chuck Dixon’s message board, contributor DesScorp made this point:
Honestly, how far are we from someone on JLA monitor duty rubbing one out to pass the time? Or being caught watching porn by his relief? We’ve already had Speedy and Hawkgirl with after-sex scenes. How long until everyone realizes that these are no longer mythic heroes as much as they’re instruments of writers and artists self-fantasies? It’s like the very horniest fanboys have been handed the reigns at the major companies, and they think a scat joke would be just awesome in print.
It seems like Garth Ennis is the chief editor at DC a little more every day.
Frankly, there isn’t far to go on that front. A similar scene has already played out.
Not just that Red Arrow and Hawkgirl were having sex, but Red Tornado (at the time inhabiting the satellite’s computer) was watching them. When he told this to Kathy Sutton, his common-law wife, she said, “All these monitors up here and you don’t get porn?”
In the JLA comic book, this happened!
There’s been something I have wanted to say all year, and I’ve been holding back:
Comic books were better under the Comics Code Authority.
Censorship can chafe, I know. But I now honestly believe it made people better writers because they had to find a way around sleazy shocks and low humor.
It’s dumb when you can’t show a dead body in a war comic; but drop the CCA and suddenly Gorilla Grodd is eating the severed limbs of superheroes while laying around on their piles of corpses, Black Adam shoves a gold mask through Psycho Pirate’s skull, Black Mask makes Catwoman’s sister swallow her husband’s gouged-out eyeball, entire families with little children are getting high-speed shredded in JSA, and Green Lantern Corps members get showered in a rain of hundreds of eyeballs from their dead relatives. Restrictions on the portrayal of sex under the CCA may have made it difficult to even show Green Arrow and Black Canary having a physical relationship out of wedlock (as recently as 1986, they showed Black Canary sleeping on Ollie’s couch), but say good-bye to the CCA, and now under-aged superheroes are having sex in Pa Kent’s barn, Sue Dibny’s getting abused so graphically that it makes the attempted rape in Watchmen look quaint, and Superman comics (SUPERMAN COMICS!) now have a Kryptonian villain who has brutal sex with Earth women until they’re dead from the hours of punishment. Red Tornado watching a couple have sex because he doesn’t have access to a porn channel is one of the tamer examples.
Maybe comics were never just for kids, but now they are not for kids. If I saw a kid in a comic book store asking for a Superman comic, I’d have to alert his parents that they need to read it first to see if there are any women getting ripped apart in Preus’ bedroom. I can’t tell you how sad that makes me feel.
Podcast 5 is up…and it’s still 2009! I promised Erik Burnham that I would have all of our older recordings published before the end of 2009… and I have 1/2 hour left to make that promise KEPT. This one’s less than 10 minutes long. Just a brief recording that wasn’t worth throwing out, despite some audio problems, because I relate to Erik an old TV Special that I enjoyed.
I don’t even have any Amazon links for this one, because sadly enough, it was never released on video.
UPDATED: Coding corrected.
The latest direct-to-video DCU Trailer is up on YouTube. An adaptation of the first arc of Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuMcGuinness’ Superman/Batman monthly.
I’m amazed at how well they’ve brought McGuinness art style to the screen. Marvel & DC have both promised in the DTV movies that they will bring us adaptations of our favorite comic book artists style to the screen. Disregarding the creative merits of that promise for a moment, this certainly seems like the closest they’ve come to delivering on that promise.
The Arthur Effect is the process in which the things that make an intellectual property unique are smoothed out in order to gain a wider audience. For example, the original Lee-Ditko Spider-Man was a very angry and moody young man. He lived in a moody, atmospheric world and fought bizarre villains, like the Vulture and Doctor Octopus. He resided with his Aunt May and was very lonely.
After Ditko left, Peter Parker moved out of his aunt’s place and became damn near gregarious. Bland, “normal” villains like the Rhino or the Kingpin were more likely to crop up than the more colourful ones. The mood of the title under Romita was more romantic, both in terms of interpersonal relationships– Peter now had a real honest-to-God girlfriend– and in terms of storytelling: big, Kirby-esque superhero battles.
In short, everything that made Spider-Man Spider-Man was gone, and as a result, he became more popular. The Spider-Man of the hit Sam Raimi films is Romita’s– not Ditko’s.
I call this the Arthur Effect because of the Marc Brown character, Arthur Read the Aardvark. In the first book, Arthur’s Nose, he looked like this:
Arthur, unhappy with his long aardvark’s nose, goes to Dr. Louise, the rhinologist (who is, naturally, a rhino). In the end, he decides that he likes his own nose the best: “I’m just not me without my nose!”
But now let’s take a look at a more recent book in the Arthur series.
What happened to his nose? The whole point of the first book– that we should accept, and celebrate, the things that make us different– is completely invalidated by the rest of the series. And it’s this noseless Arthur– more bear than aardvark– that makes up the bulk of the series, stars in chapter books, has his own television program, toys, oversized plush dolls, backpacks, lunchboxes, stationary, music cds, and posters. Nothing differentiates him from all the other cute, cuddly children’s book characters– and so he’s more palatable to a wider audience.
I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, nor is it always a direct result of trying to capture a wider market. Because of the Comics Code, the friendly Silver Age incarnations of Batman and Superman are vastly different from the brutal Golden Age originals. And in the case of Superman, I think that’s an assest: no one wants to see him hurtling war criminals like javelins.
With these rough edges and quirks gone, they became more acceptable to the mainstream audience, and more-or-less codified the concept of the superhero. Really, the Arthur Effect is one of refinement.
But what a character or story might gain in beauty, clarity, and thematic unity– all very attractive to the widest possible audience– they often lose that most mysterious and precious of things: vitality.