Monthly Archives: March 2022

Superman II 2.48: The Miracle

The year is 1981, and once again, there’s a yawning, empty space in the Warner Books release schedule. Every big movie in 1981 got a paperback novelization, one way or another — Ballantine Books published the Raiders of the Lost Ark novelization, Jove published the Flash Gordon novelization, and Avon published a novelization for the Popeye musical that included the song lyrics, which is incredible, because almost all of the songs in Popeye consist of two or three words repeated endlessly.

But there wasn’t going to be a Superman II novelization, because dumb ol’ Mario Puzo had the rights to novelize the Superman films, and he refused to have anything to do with them.

Back in ’78, Warner Books — stuck without a Superman: The Movie novelization in a novelization-friendly market — threw up their hands and said fine, we’ll publish an original novel instead. The book, written by DC Comics writer Elliot S. Maggin, was called Superman: Last Son of Krypton, and it was 238 pages of blithering nonsense about an invasion by an enormous hypnotic alien jester who was using a cosmic Xerox machine to make copies of planets, or something. It was confusing and not very good, but it had a picture of Christopher Reeve on the cover, and that was good enough.

It turned out that it didn’t really matter what you put between the covers of a paperback that looks like a Superman: The Movie novelization, because the kind of people who like to read movie novelizations would read just about anything. It appears that Maggin didn’t have much of an editor; I guess the book was published on the honor system. Maggin says that he knows absolutely nobody at DC read Last Son of Krypton before it was published, because if they had, they would have at least stopped him from using the brand name Xerox, which he did quite a bit.

So if the first book, written in a hurry without any serious editorial oversight, sold just about as well as anything else would have in that format, then Maggin knew that for the second book, he would be able to write down the craziest thoughts he ever had about Superman and they would publish it anyway, and that is exactly what happened.

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Superman II 2.47: The Snowdown

“Scruffy,” sniffs the leader of Earth, alighting at his worst enemy’s palatial polar beach house. “So morbid. A sentimental replica of a planet long since vanished. No style at all.” This, from a guy who’s still in the same outfit he was wearing in Idaho.

Superman leaps out and takes them by surprise, because this was a clever ambush and not just running back to his dad’s place. Then he stands there and waits for the bad guys to make the first move. I swear, these stuck-up Kryptonians may know a lot about early Chinese writing and Joyce Kilmer poetry, but military strategy is not their strong suit. That’s why they’re the only intelligent species in the universe to go extinct because their planet got tired of listening to their bullshit.

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Superman II 2.46: The Blowdown

It’s the ultimate battle between good and evil, or if not quite that, then at least the ultimate battle between cheerful and cranky. I don’t know if anybody’s in the market for one of those, but here it is happening anyway.

Three Kryptonian supercriminals from the other side of a twirling parallel hell have descended upon New York City, where they’ve challenged Earth’s greatest hero to a game of three-on-one grab-ass, hurling each other into things and engaging in general endangerment.

Caught between glam rock and a hard place, Superman has been knocked off the playing field for a moment, so the nearby movie New Yorkers — once again demonstrating that they’ll do anything for a good time — have turned on their snooty overlords, armed only with sticks and traffic cones.

And then the villains start to blow.

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Superman II 2.45: Things I Want to Tell You

Man, it feels like old times, right? Like, back when I was writing about the first Superman movie, I had an endless fund of boring production details to talk about, and it took me forever to get through a single scene. That drive for documentation pretty much dried up by the time they made the sequel, so I’ve been able to move along through this movie without getting too tied up on anything in particular.

But there’s a lot going on with the big New York dance number, which is giving me more than a week of material to dig into. So today, I’m going to tell you a few things that I think are interesting about this scene.

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Superman II 2.44: The Grim Barbarity of Lois Lane

But Superman was doing a lot more in 1981 than kicking the President in the face and promoting cigarettes, of course. On the comics rack, he was appearing solo in Action Comics and Superman, in team-ups in World’s Finest and DC Comics Presents, and as part of a superteam in Super Friends and Justice League of America. Superboy also had his own monthly book, and there was a miniseries called The Krypton Chronicles, so there was a lot to keep up with.

And just in case that wasn’t enough Supercontent, DC also published a bumper-sized Dollar Comic called The Superman Family, which featured an extra five stories about Supergirl, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Clark Kent and the alternate-dimension Mr. & Mrs. Superman. This is the story of how that worked out.

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Superman II 2.43: Marlboro

Okay everybody, time to light up. This week, I’m talking about the big Metropolis battle sequence, and I have to take a minute today to appreciate the staggering amount of product placement strewn around the set.

This battle is the main action sequence in the movie, the one scene that everyone remembers as the showdown between Superman and the Kryptonian villains, and that made it ground zero for advertising firms trying to get their clients’ logo onto the screen.

Now, the original intention was that the producers would film both Superman and the sequel at the same time, so I assume that the main advertising space was booked by the time they started shooting in 1977. But then there was a break in the production, and during that time, Superman became a huge hit at the box office, so I expect more companies started lining up to buy placement in the film.

I think that’s why this scene ended up so chock full of brand logos, because this was the big sequence still to be filmed, and the Salkinds could just keep making deals all the way until production started up again. I mean, there’s always more wall space, somewhere.

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Superman II 2.42: Save My Baby!!

Now, I have to admit that this one has a pretty good excuse, compared to other Save My Baby Ladies in her weight class.

Your typical Save My Baby Lady has left her infant unattended in a flammable apartment building playing with a pile of oily rags while she goes out to the pachinko parlor, and she comes home just in time to realize that she’s going to need a superhero, tout suite. “Save my baby!” she cries, and all of a sudden it’s everybody else’s problem, as seen in Backdraft, Spider-Man and Hero at Large.

In this instance, the Save My Baby Lady has made the simple mistake of going out shopping with her baby, while three sky tyrants beat the hell out of a guy in aerial warfare directly overhead. One of them just got knocked into the Empire State Building, and the radio antenna snapped clean off, now plunging in the direction of down towards this formerly carefree consumer.

Everybody else has the good sense to scuttle for shelter, but Save My Baby Ladies have a strict stand-your-ground policy. “Oh, my god!” she screams. “My baby!” And then she tries to cover it with her body, which is sweet but not a lot of help.

I mean, I don’t want to blame the victim, although to be honest, they are trending super blameable right now.

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Superman II 2.40: The Reshoots

Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are worried. Standing in Perry’s office at the Daily Planet on this unquiet night, they fret about the fate of the world.

“I can’t understand it,” Perry grouches, pacing across the room. “Where is he? I mean, he shows up every time a cat gets stuck in a tree, and now he’s decided to pull a disappearing act.”

Jimmy starts pacing too. “Yeah, well, maybe we just haven’t figured out his game plan,” he offers.

“Game plan!” Perry huffs. “It’s fourth down, the two-minute warning has sounded, and the ball’s deep in our territory. Just how brilliant do you have to be? I mean, uh —”

And then he stops, realizing that Jimmy is pacing exactly in step with him, and grimaces at the copy boy.

It’s a cute moment, which gives Jimmy and Perry one of their vanishingly few moments of cuteness in the sequel. But was it worth rebuilding the Daily Planet set?

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Superman II 2.39: Lost in Place

Enter Lex Luthor, unnecessarily.

I mean, we’re already looking at a worst-case scenario for the Earth, now entirely in the possession of three bug-eyed monsters from Planet K, who don’t really have a plan for what’s going to happen next. The trio is already bored with literally everything in the world, and since they haven’t even thought of redecorating their office, it seems like they’re not very good at cheering themselves up. Honestly, the only thing that they know is destruction, which they indulge in when they’re happy and also when they’re not happy.

So sending in Lex Luthor, the greatest criminal mind on Earth and this movie’s C-plot, is not technically necessary to move the story forward. But the movie is hedging its bets on the villainy, throwing in a more engaging character as backup just in case the three Kryptonians get boring, which they have.

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